Chilling Chat Episode 153 Lori Safranek

Lori Safranek spent several years as a newspaper reporter in Nebraska before trying her hand at fiction writing. In addition to her Freaked Out series, she’s contributed to the anthologies Simple Things, Final Masquerade, Dead Harvest, Fifty Shades of Decay: Zombie Erotica, Cellar Door II, and Slaughter House: Serial Killer Edition. She also contributed a short story to Tim Baker’s novel, Unfinished Business, and has published stories in The Sirens Call eZine.

Most recently, Lori put her sideshow characters into the Zombie Apocalypse with her story, “Freaked Out Zombies,” which was featured in Tales from the Zombie Road.: The Long Haul Anthology.

Lori has a great sense of humor and a quick mind. We discussed several things, including: her past occupation, the creation of characters, and her love of zombies.

NTK: Hi, Lori. Thank you for chatting with me today.

LS: No problem!

NTK: You were a newspaper reporter before you became a fiction writer. How did this occupation shape your work?

LS: I believe, and found to be true, that every person has a story to tell. An interesting story! So, I love hearing those stories, from the person I sit next to while waiting for a haircut to an old college friend. If you listen, everyone has done something that makes a great story.

Fiction of course, can be anything I create, but I tend to call from the stories I’ve heard over the years and use them for inspiration.

NTK: Did these stories inspire your Freaked Out series?

LS: Yes, in a lot of ways. I met a woman tattoo artist on a visit to New Orleans. She was pretty much covered in tattoos, but I also met a young man who is in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the most tattooed man ever. His name is Matt Gone and he was a cook in Cooper’s, a great bar/restaurant in the French Quarter. He, like so many people, left the city after Hurricane Katrina. He’s been on TV many times. He’s a very nice guy. Anyway, their willingness to devote themselves to all this beautiful artwork inspired my character, Smudge, The Tattooed Man in the Sideshow.

The Snake Handler, Lily Dean, came from a cousin’s love of snakes. And, my fascination with the snake handling churches back in the Appalachians. I’d see TV shows about those churches and found it fascinating. And, I’ve written articles about people who own snakes and how they keep it safe, etc.

Steiner, the owner of the Freak Show, his name comes from a bar in the neighborhood I grew up in. My parents thought that was hilarious.

NTK: You also have a character called Marie. Where did she come from?

LS: Oh, Marie! I have to admit, she’s got a lot of me in her. Sassy, fat, and not willing to be ashamed about it. But, years ago, I found a graphic I was going to use in some artwork I was doing. It was a painting of a fat lady from the circus, her name was “Sweet Marie.” I fell in love with the image. She was eating in the painting but her hands were dainty and she was quite pretty. So, when I decided to do a Fat Lady, I made her lady-like and sexy, and also confident. That was important to me. I made sure Marie wasn’t stuffing food in her face on stage. And, I made her have a successful online video cam career, because wow, do you realize how many men are into big girls? I never knew until I joined Facebook!

Marie’s tattoo of wings on her back comes from my nephew’s wife, who has the same tattoo and I love it.

And, the reason I had the other character attack Marie out of jealousy was representative of how women are so often jealous of one another. We think it’s based on attractiveness but Marie weighs nearly 500 pounds! And, she’s still pulling in male fans all the time! It makes her attacker so jealous she comes to hate Marie. I think that’s so sad. Marie is my favorite character in the Freaked Out series.

NTK: Do each of your characters allow you to explore a different theme?

LS: Yes, they do. My snake charmer, Lily Dean, is a lonely person. She’s rejected by her father because she refused to use her abilities to trick churchgoers, thus making her dad and the preacher money. When Lily Dean shows up in the Side Show, she’s down to her last dollar and all she cares about is feeding her snakes. She needs a family and luckily, she is hired and pulled right into the Steiner group. Marie mothers her, of course.

One of the things about the series is that I have Steiner insist that all his freaks be honest. No trickery. If you say you can charm snakes, no tricks! Lily Dean can use her mental powers to get the snakes to do what she wants them to do. Smudge, the tattooed man, can prove his tattoos really do move around on his body. And Jason, that Alligator Man, does indeed have skin that looks like alligator hide. He has a medical condition (I looked it up, it’s real!) that causes his skin to look that way.

NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters? Some writers are god-like and decide everything their characters do, while others give their characters more free will. Where do you fall in the spectrum?

LS: They really don’t give me that much choice, the little devils! They tend to do what they want. I’m kidding. But, it does feel sometimes like the character takes over. I can have a plan in my head, but I start typing and suddenly the character is smarter than I gave them credit for or possessing traits I never even knew about. That is a wonderful feeling for a writer.

NTK: So, they become real not just to you but to the reader as well?

LS: I hope so. I have people tell me they really love Marie. And, my husband thought Smudge was a very authentic character. Smudge is a rather rough guy, covered with tattoos and very tall and built. And, he swears quite a lot. He reminds me and my husband of some of my family members, which is why he says it’s a realistic character. It’s hard not to use those characteristics, I think.

Oh, but I did get a bad review on Amazon, that said Marie was a terrible book because it was obvious the writer (me) had never been fat. Of course, I’m pretty darn big and I have no idea what she meant. Evidently, Marie did not seem real to that reader. I got a kick out of that, though.

NTK: What got you interested in freakshows? Why did you use this as a background for your horror?

LS: Good question. My good friend, Jim, is constantly going to rock concerts and when we were in college, he would often stop by my house after the concert to give me his review. One night, he tofreakshow-lori-safranek-7ld me about this really different opening act that was a freakshow. It included fire eaters, sword swallowers, people who could hammer nails into their tongues—all kinds of things. It was called the Jim Rose Circus. I thought that was amazing. It seemed after that this Circus was everywhere I looked. I watched a documentary about it, read a couple magazines about it. Pretty soon, I couldn’t get freak shows out of my head.

I also read a true crime book about a man who was known as “The Lobster Man” (Grady Stiles.) His son and wife conspired to kill him. It was a fascinating look into the circus world.

I kept thinking about the freakshows and like I said, I had that Marie graphic. One thing led to another.

NTK: Do you find your newspaper background affects your style? Hemingway and Jack London wrote like reporters. Do you write with a Who, What, Where, etc. mentality?

LS: It really does affect my fiction writing and sometimes that’s not a good thing. It can become dull. My editors have told me to “add description!!!” more than once. I sometimes challenge myself to be flowery and overly descriptive just to kind of break my “just the facts, ma’am” style. I don’t really enjoy reading overly descriptive fiction though.

Having been a reporter also impacts my ability to suspend disbelief when reading and writing horror. I’m often thinking, “Wait! That could never happen!” And, of course, it’s FICTION! Anything can happen! (Laughs.)

NTK: Were you interested in horror before writing the Freaked Out series?

LS: Sure. I had a couple short stories published in horror anthologies before I wrote Marie. And, I’ve read horror all my life.

I’m not into horror movies, though. They scare me too much.

NTK: Who are your favorite authors? Who inspires you?

LS: That changes over time, I think.

The last few years, I’ve read a lot of zombie fiction, which I love. Mark Tufo is wonderful, of course, I love how he tempers the violence with humor. His characters are well done, too. David Simpson is a new favorite, really good writer.

I’ve always been a big mystery fan, and people like Lawrence Block (who writes dark stuff) influence me.

One of my biggest influences, since I’ve been on Facebook, is Trent Zelazny. He’s been a good friend and his writing is unique and just inspires me to strive to write more clearly and with less muss and fuss.

NTK: Is Trent related to the writer, Roger Zelazny?

LS: Yes, Trent is Roger’s son.

NTK: Are zombies your favorite monsters?

LS: Yes, zombies are my favorites but I do like vampires. I was really into werewolves for a while. Zombies, though, they’re the big deal.

NTK: What is it you like most about zombies? Is it the apocalyptic aspect?

LS: That is really important to me, it creates great tension, of course. I like the driving hunger of zombies. Shoot them in the guts, they keep seeking brains! Chop off their arms, still, they move forward! It’s hard to survive them. I don’t like fast zombies, really. I like them slow and dumb. Like my men. (Laughs.)

NTK: You recently wrote a short story about zombies featuring your Freaked Out characters. Tell us a little about that?

LS: Now, that was fun! David Simpson, author of the Zombie Road series, created an anthology where he allowed writers to use his world to write a short story. He invited fans, whether they were writers or not, to contribute. The proceeds went to the Wounded Warrior Project, which is a great organization.

I love David’s books which are about a group of truck drivers, mostly vets, who survive the apocalypse and travel to Oklahoma to set up a small town. These truckers are resilient and smart. Anyway, I used my characters, Jason, Blade the Sword Swallower, Lily Dean, Smudge, and Gypsy the psychic/medium. Jason, Blade, and Gypsy were traveling to pick up Lily Dean and Smudge in an RV. They bring weapons (Blade’s swords and knives) and in exchange, get some fuel to get back to their fellow freaks who are holed up at Marie’s home.

David’s characters are all so down to earth and pretty tough and mine are really…um…freaky! It worked pretty well, though.

NTK: You said you don’t watch horror movies. Do you watch Zombie movies? What about The Walking Dead?

LS: I don’t watch The Walking Dead. I watched a couple episodes and I didn’t like it. I do like Z Nation, even though it can be silly as hell. I recently binge-watched iZombie. It’s a pretty interesting concept, but not realistic based on the usual zombie tropes of unthinking zombies. The main character eats brains, but also other foods, which isn’t normal for zombies. It’s good, though.

And, zombie movies—I loved Sean of the Dead and The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. And, of course, the George Romero movies.

My favorite, horrifying horror movie I really enjoyed was 30 Days of Night. Awesome.

Psycho was the first horror movie I saw and it scared the pants off me. I was about 12.

NTK: What are your future plans? What do we have to look forward to?

LS: I have a couple ideas for books but the first idea just hasn’t blossomed and I may have to give up on it. The other is about the zombie apocalypse but it’s a comedy. And, I’ll keep writing short stories, which I enjoy so much. My stories have been published in a few anthologies.

NTK: In your story featuring Smudge, he must deal with a curse. And, as you know, Season 12 of HorrorAddicts.net is CURSED. Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

LS: I think curses have to be individual. As in, if I wanted to curse someone, I’d have to know them a little and make it their worst nightmare.

If someone wanted to curse me, they’d say, “Lori, you are cursed forever to watch sports on television, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!” I would just curl up and die.

I think, with most people today, the worst curse would be to make their cell phone not work. Or, only work sporadically.

NTK: (Laughs.) Thank you for the chat, Lori.

LS: Thanks so much!

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Chilling Chat Episode 152: Valjeanne Jeffers

valjeanne-jeffers-author-picValjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College and author of ten books including Immortal and Mona Livelong I and II. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies including, Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures, Sycorax’s Daughters, and The City and Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. She was honored as a “Seer” by the HWA Diverse Works Inclusion Committee in 2016 and is a screenwriter for the horror anthology film, 7 Magpies (in production.)

Valjeanne is a remarkable woman. During our interview, she shared some interesting facts about her early life, creating characters, and her upcoming projects.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Valjeanne. You have a varied background. Your parents are English teachers and you have an MA in Psychology. How does this inform and affect your work?

VJ: Because my parents were English teachers, I came in contact with writers at a very early age. They were in and out of our house wherever we lived. I remember my mother cooking for them…poets, writers, artists and I got a chance to sit in on their discussions.

NTK: Wow! What writers?

VJ: This was years ago, so I can’t remember very many names. Quincy Troupe was one I remember. Another regular visitor to our house was Eugene Redmond. I re-connected with him about nine years ago and he published me in his anthology Drumvoices Revue (poetry.) It’s been a huge honor because my poetry appeared in an anthology with some really famous folk.

We did have a library and I was reading Richard Wright and Chester Himes from age 9 or 10. The authors I read had a huge impact on me. Himes and Wright’s use of magical realism influenced my writing horror and science fiction.

NTK: Did this interest in Himes and Wright lead to your writing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective?

VJ: Yes, and I had other influences. Mona Livelong is an urban novel. And, Robert Beck (believe it or not) and David Goines brought this out. You know Robert Beck as “Iceberg Slim.” He’s notorious for his anti-heroes but he’s also a brilliant writer.

Tananarive Due and Brandon Massey are also huge influences, especially when it comes to writing horror.

NTK: Which of their works are your favorite?

VJ: For T. Due, it’s My Soul to Keep (the series.) For B. Massey, it’s Within the Shadows and into the Dark.

NTK: You’ve spoken of Stephen King and Dean Koontz as favorite authors. Which one do you like best?

VJ: Stephen King. Definitely. He has been a huge influence.

NTK: Which of his books do you like the most?

VJ: The Talisman and The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three.

By the way, earlier, you asked about how my MA affects my work. It helped me construct personalities and also “character careers.”

NTK: What made you choose the career of “paranormal detective” for Mona?

VJ: I had been toying with the idea of a paranormal detective for a while and I decided to take the plunge and just do it.

NTK: What’s the process of creating a character like that? Do you decide what she’ll do and won’t do? Do you decide what powers she’ll possess?

VJ: Characters for me are based on people I have known and sometimes, those I see on TV that week. I take someone and add and subtract the things I feel they should have. And, some, (Tehotep from Immortal, for example) come straight out of my unconscious. Both Mona and Karla (Immortal) are based upon a young woman who babysat me in California. She was coping with the death of her mother and brother and raising her two remaining siblings.

NTK: Did Tehotep come from a dream? Or, did he just come to you?

VJ: Tehotep came to me in waking dreams, bit by bit. As far as their [character] abilities go, that’s a process of imagination. Since I decided early on that Mona would be a sorceress, I had to decide what she could and couldn’t do. Her powers had to be limited. If that makes sense.

NTK: Let’s talk a little about Sycorax’s Daughters. How did you become involved in that project?

VJ: Two of the editors, Linda Addison and Kinitra Brooks, contacted me. They said they were publishing Sycorax’s Daughters and asked if I’d be interested in submitting something. Of course, I said yes!

NTK: How did it feel to be included among such original voices? Sycorax’s Daughters is an anthology like no other. All the writers are women of color.

VJ: I was blown away! We made (are making) history and to be a part of this—it’s incredible!

NTK: It was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

VJ: Just to be nominated was incredible.

NTK: Could you talk a little about 7 Magpies?

VJ: Yes. What would you like to know? It’s still in the works.

NTK: Is it an anthology film? What is the significance of the Magpies?

VJ: It’s a film anthology. Each person involved contributed a story or poem. We got the Magpies from the creator, Lucy Cruell. It’s based on a nursery rhyme. “One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told.

I contributed an excerpt from Immortal III: Stealer of Souls to the film. All the screenwriting will be done by screenwriters Lucy chooses. Here’s a description of the film from the website:

“The first horror film anthology written and directed by Black (or African-American) women. Authors include: Tananarive Due, Sumiko Saulson, Eden Royce, Crystal Connor, Valjeanne Jeffers, Linda D. Addison, and Paula Ashe. The directors are: Lucy Cruell, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nicole Renee, Robin Shanea, Lary Love Dolley, Meosha Bean, and Rae Dawn Chong.

NTK: What did you think of the adaptation process? Was it difficult bringing your excerpt to the screen?

VJ: Actually, I looked at what Lucy wanted and chose stories I felt were appropriate. She picked the Immortal III excerpt. That one was my favorite too.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What work do we have to look forward to?

VJ: Quinton Veal (my cover artist and guy) and I are planning on releasing Scierogenous II: An Anthology of Erotic Science Fiction and Fantasy. Scierogenous I was well received.

I’m also writing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III: The Case of the Vanishing Child.

NTK: Will you include horror stories in Scierogenous II?

VJ: Maybe. We’ve got a great crew so let’s see what they come up with.

NTK: As you know, season thirteen of HorrorAddicts.net is CURSED. Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

VJ: Sorry, I don’t have one.

NTK: If you were to have Mona face a curse, what would it be?

VJ: (Laughs) Girl, I don’t know.

NTK: (Laughs) Ok, thank you for chatting with me, Valjeanne. It’s been a pleasure.

VJ: Thank you so much.

NTK: You can find Valjeanne’s work at the following link:

http://tehotep.wixsite.com/immortaliiiaudiobook

And, you can follow her on Twitter here at: @Valjeanne

Chilling Chat Episode 151: Tara Vanflower

 

taraTara Vanflower is a vocalist whose music has been described as ambient, experimental, and darkwave.

In October 1994 she became a vocalist for darkwave outfit Lycia. She married fellow band member Mike VanPortfleet.
Her debut solo album, This Womb Like Liquid Honey, was released in 1999. This was followed in 2005 with My Little Fire-Filled Heart.

Vanflower appeared on the Type O Negative song “Halloween in Heaven,” off their 2007 album, Dead Again.

She has also appeared with side projects Black Happy Day with Timothy Renner, Secondary Nerve with Daniele Serra and numerous collaborations including Oneiroid Psychosis, Numina, The Unquiet Void, Falling You, and Methadrone. The majority of her creative energy is spent these days writing. She has released Lives of Ilya and Violent Violet Part One and Two and will continue the Violet Series with several installments in the future as well as several other series that are still unfinished.

Tara is a fascinating woman and was kind enough to sit down me recently. We discussed the past, her writing, relatable fears, vampires, and her favorite curse.

NTK: Hello, Tara, thank you for chatting with me today.

TVF: Thank YOU!

NTK: You have a background in music. Do you feel it inspires your writing?

TVF: Yes. Though I also think that writing has inspired music. When I work with Lycia, I am generally given a piece of music to write to, so sometimes the music itself inspires the lyrics. But when I do solo music a lot of times, I take something I’ve written and build the sound around that.

I will say, other people’s music is an integral part of my writing though. I generally have a soundtrack of music in my head that sets a mood within the story.

NTK: What band do you listen to the most?

TVF: Wow, as of late I would say Chelsea Wolfe and Soft Kill. I listen to Drab Majesty and Black Mare as well. A lot of the music that inspires me is played by the same bands I’ve been listening to for decades now.

NTK: Did music get you interested in horror?

TVF: Not really. As a child, for some reason, my parents let me watch stuff on television that I probably shouldn’t have been watching so young…seeing as how it scared me a lot! But, I was always drawn to the old vampire films and The Omen…scared me to death but I was drawn to it.

NTK: Is The Omen your favorite horror movie? If not, what is?

TVF: I had a lot of detailed dreams when I was young about the apocalypse. I can still see some of the images in my head when I think about them. So, The Omen REALLY scared me. It’s definitely one of my favorite films. But, my all-time favorite movie is The Shining. Everything about that movie is perfect to me.

NTK: Is it the dream-like quality of The Shining which attracts you?

TVF: I love that aspect of it. I also love the lighting, the score, the absolute desolation. My favorite scene in the film is where Wendy finds Jack’s manuscript…pages and pages and pages of the same line over and over and over…and you realize right then he had been gone for a very, very long time. To me, that notion is absolutely terrifying. That this whole time she thinks he’s been more or less normal but THAT was going on behind her back. For me, one of the scariest things is the idea of losing touch with reality. It’s probably why I suffer from anxiety so much. (laughs)

NTK: You’ve spoken of your fears regarding writing and have said, “I rarely talk in detail about my editing because, truthfully, I’m insecure about it. Music I know and I’m comfortable with, for the most part. Writing? It’s like opening a diary. I am always fearful of people drawing conclusions and assuming things about what’s in the story. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to put yourself out there to be cut down.” This statement resonates. It’s like Jack’s typewritten pages in The Shining. His writing bares all. How do you use your fear and anxiety to frighten others?

TVF: That is all something I really struggle with and it’s hard because I have a pretty supportive base for my music. So, venturing off into writing has been scary, but also rewarding obviously. I think there’s a lot of moments in my books where the characters have to confront things about themselves, their situations, etc., that most of us either get to avoid or are forced to deal with and do so poorly. I think I write a lot of my own insecurities into characters (fear of death, getting older, physical insecurities, etc.) probably as a way to deal with it myself. I don’t know if I’m scaring others or scaring myself! Most of my horror, I would say, is almost more internal. That whole, “losing touch with reality,” thing I mentioned earlier…afraid you’re going to lose yourself and never come back from it. I also have moments where actual monsters are confronted, but I think the characters’ bigger horror moments involve confronting their own fears and realities. There are moments in a couple stories I actually went through, though amplified. I hope people relate to those types of fears.

NTK: Speaking of relatable fears, what’s your favorite horror television show and what’s your favorite horror novel?

TVF: Oh man, my favorite horror novel? Is it too cheesy to say I really just like dorky vampire books? (laughs) I just love it. I don’t care if it’s “good” writing or bad. Same for films. I’ll literally watch anything vampire related and find something enjoyable about it. As for good horror shows, I really enjoyed The Leftovers, which to me is horror. I like Carnivale a lot. I don’t know, to me, “horror” is a bit like being detached from reality rather than blood and gore and such. The Walking Dead, for example, was great but has gotten…um…not as great the past few seasons.

NTK: Are vampires your favorite monsters? Do you admire the way they deal with the types of fear you’ve spoken of?

TVF: Vampires are definitely my favorite monster and have been since I was pretty little. I guess because I’ve always had a fear of time passing.  I can remember being very small and sitting in my bedroom thinking about how everyone was getting older and going to die, and I made myself cry. Geez, cheery little kid. But for me, vampires have always represented absolute power. No fear of death. No health problems. Control of their environment. I’ve always sort of been jealous of that, I guess, because those are my biggest fears. I’ve always seen them as more of a sympathetic character, at least a lot of them. Some of the ways they’re portrayed are obviously more “evil” and less “human,” but I’ve always preferred the more human vampires, at least those are the kind I identify with. I envy their power and timelessness but also see the angst all that would cause, which I also relate to being the Gloomy Gus I am.

NTK: Do you bring “human” quality to the vampires you write about?

TVF: I do. To me, it’s just more interesting trying to figure out how a being with limitless time and a whole lot of power would deal with the same sort of human emotions and frailties we have. They have to have the same questions…why am I here, what is my purpose, where do I belong, etc., and to me, it’s interesting thinking about that. What would a being think who has killed countless humans, seen more years than any human gets to see—how would they react to change? What would be new or surprising to them? It’s all fascinating to me. A being that’s jaded and yet still discovering something new through someone else’s eyes unexpectedly. It’s all interesting. Of course, they would have the same types of existential questions humans have. Or, they would be deluded that they are all powerful. Or, varying degrees of both. It’s interesting to consider it all. I try really hard to make my characters react like people actually react. I try to put myself in their shoes and react the way which seems logical and natural to them.

NTK: Essentially, you’re creating a vampire philosophy. So many people ignore that aspect when creating vampire characters. I have to ask—what did you think of Twilight?

TVF: What did I think of Twilight? (laughs) Well, I actually read the books and thought they were entertaining enough. There are many holes and aspects that are illogical and cheesy to me, however, they were “fun.” The movies are great cheese! And, anytime I’m surfing the channels and they’re on, I stop if I can. Do I take it seriously? No, but I applaud Stephenie Meyer for doing her thing and getting hers. The bottom line is, I’m not one of those snobs that has to only like things that are “cool.” So, I can appreciate all levels of awesomeness, from Only Lovers Left Alive to Twilight.

NTK: You have a real appreciation for vampires. Let’s talk about some of your own. Earlier, you spoke of dreams. Violent Violet came from a dream. Can you describe the creative process from dream to printed page?

TVF: Dreams have a major impact on my life. I have really detailed dreams like movies all the time. So, a lot of times, I’ll tuck them away for future use. I had a dream one night that my friends and I were hanging out and this ominous stranger was around and vampires were running amuck. It was so detailed, again, I can “see” the places in my head still, and when I woke up, I started recalling it to my husband. About halfway through, I just said, “Man, I’m just going to write this.” It was too cool to let go. Parts of Violet Misery were also from a dream, i.e. the creepy pumpkin farm out in the middle of nowhere. I draw tons of inspiration from dreams.

NTK: You spoke of apocalyptic dreams. Do you plan to write an apocalyptic story or book of your own?

TVF: I haven’t really thought about writing in that sort of style yet. I think it might be too bleak for me at the moment. (laughs) It’s something I seriously dread, especially now that I have a kid. I don’t like thinking about being in scenarios like that. I just get panicked thinking about keeping my child safe anyway, let alone imagining what I’d have to do during a zombie apocalypse. (laughs) That having been said, who knows! Everything I write from music to lyrics to books are all about love and death.

NTK: What do you have planned for the future? Any new books, stories, or music?

TVF: We are halfway through the next Lycia recording and I have a couple solo songs coming out on comps and I contributed some vocals for some other bands. I have three books currently in the editing process which I plan to release at the same time because they’re related. And, then a couple after that to release. I have some vague ideas for future books but have been sort of avoiding them because I know they’re going to be complicated with interwoven characters and timelines to figure out. All of my books are interconnected with characters so it can be confusing trying to put them all in the right place at the right time. (laughs) I’ve got a full plate!

NTK: As you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts.net is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

TVF: Oh boy! I don’t personally believe in curses! Is that bad? However, my husband has teased me in the past that someone cursed him because, back in the 90s, I made these ragdolls and stuffed them with all his hair he shaved off. That sounds super creepy now, but I didn’t think so then for some reason! Anyway, people bought these things and in the course of a couple years, tons of really bad things happened. Life altering things. The joke has been that someone took one of those dolls and cursed us.

NTK: Tara, thank you for chatting with me and putting yourself out there with your writing. It’s been a pleasure.

TVF: THANK YOU! This has been exciting for me because it is my first interview about writing. I’m so thrilled to be included.

Where Nightmares Come From, The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre: A Review

Where Nightmares Come From, The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre

Review by Stephanie Ellis

This novel was received free in return for an honest review

4 out of 5 stars

As a writer gradually developing her craft I am always open to hearing and reading the views of those at the top of their game, those who have ‘made it’. Like most, I think we approach such articles in the hope that we’ll discover the magic ingredient, the key that turns a novel in the drawer into a published piece of work. I didn’t get that from this book, nor is it something I discovered from my go-to motivational source, On Writing by Stephen King, who also appears in this particular publication. What I found, which was equally valuable, was the same story from all contributors—whether they be a filmmaker, author, poet, director, publisher or editor—the rule of three: read, write and finish what you start. No exceptions. I learned from Ramsay Campbell that you don’t need different notebooks from different projects, he—like me—makes notes on one thing, goes on to another, then returns to that first project … in the same notebook! I learned that daily word counts don’t always matter—unless you’re trying out for that annual marathon, NaNoWriMo. I learned that you should write for yourself. I mean, if you don’t enjoy it, why bother? In truth, and in my heart-of-hearts, these horror giants were merely stating what most of us already know, the only rule is that rule of three. Whilst the book was geared towards those who write in the horror genre, much of what was said can be applied to writers across the whole range of fiction and even non-fiction. And when it comes to nightmares—everybody is different but the contributors reinforce the idea of developing horror from the everyday and mundane, from the what ifs? There doesn’t have to be blood and gore, it can be subtle, darker and slow-building—again, another reassurance as that is the style of horror I prefer. So what did I take away from all this? A lot of reassurance and a reading list … oh, and the determination to keep on writing. And now I’m off to read Patricia Highsmith’s The Snail-Watcher.

http://www.crystallakepub.com/

 

#NGHW News Episode #144

Hello, Addicts!
This week was way more brutal than I think we or the contestants thought it would be. Creating an original character can be tough, but having to write 900 words, mostly of clear character description and have some story to it … that, my horror-addicted friends, is super difficult.
But our writers still did it. They saw the challenge through, even though it lived up to its name – “challenge.”
Episode #144 brought us six semi-finalists.

  1. Silt and bone by Jess Landry
  2. Kerry Anne by Harry Husbands
  3. Changeling by Daphne Strasert
  4. Dr. Sonya Quillius by Jonathan Fortin
  5. Selkie by Adele Marie Park
  6. Cerebus by Sumiko Saulson

This week’s mini prize was pretty awesome. Using the description the author gave, an anime sketch will be drawn of the character they portrayed. This will be done by the amazing artist, Alyca, from Pixel Ghost Creations.

Creative jobs, although they may seem fanciful and relaxed, can be some of the toughest out there and artists often do not get the recognition they deserve. Artists have to create something out of nothing, giving life to where there was none before. Then they have to sit back and see if people like it or even see it at all. Wading through the sea of criticism and self-doubt searching for the buoys of validation can be exhausting and as much as we say we don’t need validation, sometimes it is a necessary evil. Artists have to eat too.

This can be doubly difficult when life happens to us. As it does to all of us. Whether this means your day job getting in the way, relationship issues, sickness, and all the other stray, flaming, Frisbees life likes to throw at us while our backs are turned, this can all inhibit creativity.

Which brings us to this week’s question! This time, I asked our Evil Eleven, “Do you have anything to help you stick with your writing? Even though it is something we love to do and can be therapeutic, when life happens it can be hard to make the time. How do you adult and be a writer?”

“I write on my phone using google docs while I’m on the train to work in the morning. Try to find the little moments in the day to get a little done.
Sometimes I write more if I think of everything else as “that thing I have to do,” rather than my writing. Maybe someday there’s an episode of a show I want to watch. I think of the show as “that thing I have to get done,” and then my writing becomes an act of fun rebellion against myself. It’s weird but effective.” – Jonathan
“I stick with my writing because my heart desires. It wants me to write my dreams down, and to express the things that it deems interesting. The need to create and communicate is what drives me forward. It is my passion, after all, to tell stories.

Also, maybe my secret is that I don’t adult. Sure, my body has grown, and as time goes by, I have a better understanding of things and situations, but I’ve always tried to remain young in my heart and mind. Also in my soul, if such a thing exists. I try to keep things as simple as possible, never take anything too seriously or personally, and remember that growing up is a thing we never stop doing.” – JC

“I eliminate all distractions. No TV. No Facebook. No internet (unless it’s for research). No husband walking around without his shirt on. (In fact, my husband is required to dress in loose, long-sleeved shirts until I have finished writing for the day.) no cute children in the room, no cute puppies or kitties, and no cute ice cream cones or cherry bonbons.” – Naching

Our finalists for episode 144 were, in no particular order, Jess, Daphne and Sumiko. The judges were also quite taken with Harry and Jonathan’s entries also, but the points decided the contestants.

Last week, Daphne took home her first win. This week, there was another first for this comp. Daphne took home her second win! One win after another. Congrats, Daphne! You can read Daphne’s full entry here.

The scores are getting very close. Jonathan is still in the lead, but Daphne is now hot on his tail with only eight points between them. Third place is a tie between Jess and Naching with 29 points between them and Daphne. But it could still be won by anyone. One turn of the tables and everything could change.

So, until next episode, stay spooky!
Hugs
Adelise

#NGHW News Episode #143

Hello Addicts,

This episode opens up with a little more sad news. We are down to eleven contestants now. Timothy has now left us. But hopefully it will not be the last we hear of him.

We do still have our Evil Eleven and competition is getting fierce.

Episode #143 brought us some true stories of horror that the contestants personally experienced. And the mini prize was full publication on this very blog.

So, let’s get straight into this episode’s seven semifinalists, shall we?

  1. Black Death by Naching T Kassa
  2. A Day at The Beach by Harry Husbands
  3. Calling The Dead by Cat Voluer
  4. Sin Scope by JC Martinez
  5. Into The Grave by Daphne Strasert
  6. My Life as a Young Adult Urban Horror Heroine by Sumiko Saulson
  7. Dogs and Sand by Jonathan Fortin

It is so important for authors to blog, these days, and it is good to see such talent and honesty in our Evil Eleven. It is difficult for most people to be honest and open with someone that you are close to, let alone be open and honest with the world. And that is what the contestants have demonstrated here.

Unfortunately, we only got a snippet as always, but I think it was enough to get a feel for the piece and the writing style. Plus, we got to hear our authors’ voices, real voices. They spoke about why they deserve to be the next great horror writer, and the difficulties they have had to face.

Next episode will show the 8th challenge. It is a 900-1000 word Horror Character description. The Eleven have to describe an original character in a story telling way. So, it cannot sound like an instruction manual. The winner of this challenge will have the amazing prize of having their character brought to life by the amazing Anime artist Alyssa from Pixel Ghost Creations. Seeing their character in front of their eyes and not just in their head would be amazing.

Which brings me to the question I asked the contestants this week. I asked the contestants about book covers. We all know that old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but do any of us actually follow this? As exciting as it may be for an author to see their characters brought to life, having a character on the cover of a book can be distracting and, sometimes, deceiving. Here is what some of the authors think.

“I’m picky about book covers. I know they say not to judge, but you only get one first impression. If an author (publisher, etc.) took the time to create a good cover, then I assume they took that same care with the story inside. I love covers that show a character, but only if they’re well made. I’m not a fan of stock photo manipulation. Artist renderings (like those for Patricia Briggs’ novels) are my favorite.” Daphne

“Graphic design is my day job, so covers are definitely very important to me!
As far as the design of the book covers, I think whatever fits the story best is a-okay. If your cover shows a character–great! If not–that’s great, too! But the readers should definitely get a sense of what your novel is about based off its cover.” Jess

“I think readers often make determinations about whether or not to buy a book based on its cover. When I answer calls for submissions for anthologies, the cover art is often a factor. The cover art for Mocha Memoir Press “Death’s Cafe,” Colors in Darkness “Forever Vacancy” and HorrorAddict’s “Clockwork Wonderland” attracted me to those anthologies – I have work in all three.” Sumiko

“I look at a book cover much like an album cover. A bold exciting cover will get people’s attention, holding that attention is then all up to the content. Put shiny wrapping paper on a gift it’ll catch people’s attention but what’s inside is what they’ll remember. No one remembers the wrapping paper once the gift is opened, all they remember is what was inside.” Feind

“Book covers are very important. Even though they tell you not to judge based on them, covers are what catch your eye, and in a world where there are so many choices, covers are the first thing that sets your book apart from others.
Truth be told, I’ve never given too much thought to character-centric book covers. I think the most important for me is that a cover has an understanding of the content of a book, and accurately conveys it with simple yet powerful images.” JC

“They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Unfortunately, many people do. Most won’t even read a book unless the cover intrigues them. Good art does a lot for a story. Bad art can hurt one.
Suppose you’ve written a story about a brave Knight battling a dragon and you illustrate it yourself. Unfortunately, you have no talent when it comes to dragons. Every time you draw your cover, the dragon resembles a mutant spider fighting a stick-figure with a top hat. You publish the story with said cover and no one buys it. Do you need to wonder why? Bad art shows a lack of quality. It’s a disservice to your work. You may have written the best thing in the world but no one will touch it because they think it’s about a man with a hat walking his spider.
By the way, this never happened to me. If it did, I was much younger and my access to art supplies consisted of three crayons, two of which were broken.” Naching

“I am so picky about book covers. I LOVE pretty book covers but ugly covers can detract from the entire experience of reading or make the book seem less professional. I can’t stand covers where we see the character, but not their eyes or forehead. Or only from the neck down. Anonymous Naked Man Chest is also a variety of this. Some of my favorite books have decidedly boring covers (American Gods, Perdido Street Station, Name of the Wind)–covers that aren’t necessarily BAD but aren’t exactly GREAT either. On the other hand, when I see an absolutely BEAUTIFUL cover it makes me want to buy the book. Original, well-crafted, aesthetically pleasing works of art created specifically for the book are my favorite.” Jonathan

What are your thoughts on book covers? Do you agree with any of the contestants?

Our finalists this episode were Harry, Daphne and Jonathan. And don’t forget, addicts, that every challenge brings points to every contestant. The points are close and the big prize of a publication contract could still be anyone’s. You can check out the overall scores here.

Without further delay, if you didn’t already know, I will reveal this episode’s winner. #TeamDaphne got her first win of the series! Congrats to you, Daphne! You can go and read the whole blog post right here.

Come and join in the discussion at the HorrorAddicts.net Facebook page, a community of freaks, weirdos, goths, vampires, and general horror fanatics. We’d love some fresh meat. (insert maniacal laughter here) but seriously, come and have a chat, talk to the contestants and the staff and other addicts in the community.

Until next episode, Addicts, stay spooky!

Hugs xxx

Adelise

#NGHW News 138

 

Hello, Addicts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay spooky!

Hugs xxx

Adelise M Cullens