Category Archives: people

Women in Horror: Angela Yuriko Smith

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?WiHM11-Scalples-wv

The first poem I remember reading was “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. I think I must have been around 2nd or 3rd grade. I was going through a bandits and pirates obsession and the way Noyes put together the story as a poem intrigued me. I was breathless after absorbing such an intense tale distilled into verse. Not long after I stumbled across “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. I fell in love with him and the way poetry could cut the fat from prose and leave the reader with only the essentials. In my mind, poetry heightened the reader’s discover and could play outside the normal rules of fiction.

Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry because some stories need to be told that way. I love the way you can show an alternative perspective with poetry and turn a few thoughts into something to mull.  Poetry sparks revolution, soothes pain and reawakens the spirit.

Dark Matters

It’s all dark matters
in the space between the stars.
Inverted brilliance.

## 2019 winner of SFPA poetry contest in dwarf form

smith clawsWhat do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

Finding an authentic voice and staying true to it. Allowing the poem to be what it wants to be makes me nervous sometimes. Often I tell a poem “You can’t say that!” but until I let the poem say what it wants in the way it wants, it won’t let me rest.

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

A lot of my poetry (and prose) hopes to give readers a different way to look at fears. Are monsters, death and destruction really so terrible? In my poetry, it’s often just the way you look at it. I’ve been told this is how “the Antichrist” communicates and I find that immensely flattering.

Parade of the Raven Prince

He stands at the head
of a carnivalistic parade…
hungry and bizarre with
hollowed, craven eyes.

His sharp beak pierces
the dark side of my heart.
His ebon feathers tickle
my fancy and I blush.

His misshapen troupe
watches from behind
licking cracked lips
waiting for reactions…
will I run or stay?

I stay, hypnotized
by his compelling dark
gaze laden with promises—
annihilation for adoration
seems a good exchange
in the woods at night
when face to face with
the Raven Prince and
his possessive posse.

His stance says enough.
I am already owned. He
is the scavenger of souls…
the claimer of carcasses.

Boneless, helpless
I drop to the leaves
adding my humanity
to the detritus there….
cast it off like a girl’s
outgrown, faded frock
and open my chest
inviting him to dip his
razor beak into my soul
and drain me to a husk.

Somewhere, a witch’s tears
mar her silver scry as she
witnesses wilted and sad
girlhood fall forgotten to
the forest floor and her
child prisoner rise to join
a different twisted family.

I see her eyes in the mist
watching me from shadows
cast from my new master.
With no love lost I wave
soft and secret for her
that watches, blinded
as her monkey joins
another circus.

##

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?

Speculative poetry is the mirror we hold up so we can safely see Medusa. The world is Medusa. The speculative genre allows readers to dip into unsafe worlds where there are no rules, protections, or assurances and view our own through them. A fictional viral zombie apocalypse allows us to think about the very real coronavirus, but in a safer way. We can dip our toes into our fear, have a peek into its eyes and see how we might slay it.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

My next poetry collection is Altars and Oubliettes which is an exploration of the things smith bookwe want to remember on our mind’s altars and the things we’d rather forget. I’m currently working on a collection I’ve called Sugar Skull Songs about the darker side of femininity. I am nearly done with the follow up to my Bitter Suites, my 2018 Bram Stoker Awards finalist and of course Space and Time magazine keeps me busier than I ever thought possible. I have a few short stories popping up in different anthologies and magazines over the next year as well.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about horror or poetry or other dark inspirations?

One of the areas I look forward to exploring in the next decade is my Okinawan background. Family lore has stories about my relatives there, the Ryukyuan religion they followed and how they were yuta, a kind of female medium or shaman. These influences were important factors as I grew up. I’m planning a trip to Okinawa in the next few years to visit some of these places and perhaps get some personal answers that I’m sure will show up in my writing.

smithAngela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher and author. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for a 2017 Elgin Award. Her novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards Finalist. In 2019 she won the SFPA’s poetry contest in the dwarf form category. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine, a 53 year old publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction. For more information visit SpaceandTimeMagazine.com or AngelaYSmith.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/angelayurikosmithsmith pain
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AngelaYSmith
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/angela_yuriko_smith/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/dandilyonfluff
Amazon: amazon.com/author/angelaysmith

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Writing

Women in Horror: Michelle Scalise

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteMy guest today is Michelle Scalise. Her poetry punches hard and all the more wrenching for its reality.

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

I was taught dull, unrelatable poems in grade school but when I started high school I discovered Edgar Allan Poe on my own. “Annabel Lee,” in particular, made me obsessed with the art form. My work now is influenced by everyone from Charles Baudelaire to Sylvia Plath to Anne Sexton.

Why do you write poetry?

Besides poetry, I also write short stories but I can express myself and my life through poetry in unique ways. I love the way poetry lets a writer play with the sounds of words and the rhythm they make to create an image and feeling.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

The most difficult part of writing is getting the feeling across to the reader but leaving enough room for them to relate to a poem in their own way.

MISTY WAS AN UGLY DOLL

When she grew weary
stubbing out cigarettes
on the old lady,
who paid dearly for
adopting a sewer rat,
Mama would come for me.

She’d lift me onto the stepping stool.
It didn’t help to beg and weep,
humiliation was a sound for the weak.

With giant antique sheers,
She’d chop off my hair muttering,
“Pretty girls are blonde like me.”

Upstairs in the shadows,
a box with my favorite doll
“Beautiful Misty” it read in bold print.
But they were wrong,
her hair was red
and grew long with the turn of knob.

Misty cried when I cut her locks.
I had no mercy for a toy that lied.

Sometimes Mama slapped too hard
but I couldn’t make Misty bleed.
So I colored bruises on her cheeks.
Now she’s dead inside like me.

## from Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

scalise bookMy latest collection, DRAGONFLY AND SONGS OF MOURNING (LVP Publications 2019) is about the death of my husband, novelist Tom Piccirilli, of cancer. Most poets who write in the horror genre use death a lot but this is personal. It was also the only work I’ve ever done that was painful to write. My last collection THE MANUFACTURER OF SORROW (Eldritch Press) doesn’t have a theme. I am always writing about scarred childhoods and turning the image of mothers into monsters. That’s my way of fighting back at my past. Both of my short story collections also contain poems.

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?

Life is dark and awful for everyone at times. There is something soothing about reading a poet one can relate to.

WORDS HE REMEMBERED

He couldn’t see her anymore
Morphine shuttered his eyes
And cobwebs hung from his lashes
But he heard her whispering
And her prayers became a chapter
On the white walls of his cell.
Words dripping from the ceiling
To languish on the cracked linoleum floor.

His writing was his hunger.
Words black as the poison inside him
Spun into strings of sentences.
Both the horror and the beauty
He longed to type.

Ideas drowning in an IV bag.
Page after page
Streaming from his brain
Too quickly to catch.
He cried watching them fly away.

But he didn’t grieve his own loss,
She’d do that for him.
It was the stories
He’d forgotten to tell
That ran like deer in the mountains
Through the silence he’d leave behind.

## from Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

I have started something new but it won’t have an actual theme, at least so far. When I go back I may discover something similar running through the poems.

Is there anything else you would like to say about horror or poetry?

My love for horror began when I was a little girl. I would watch old horror movies with my father. He died young but his memory is always in my work.

Since 1994, Michelle Scalise‘s work has appeared in such anthologies as Unspeakable ScaliseHorror, Darker Side, Mortis Operendi I, Dark Arts, The Big Book of Erotic Ghost Stories, Best Women’s Erotica, and such magazines as Cemetery Dance, Crimewave, Space and Time, and Dark Discoveries. She was nominated for the 2010 Spectrum Award, which honors outstanding works of fantasy and horror that include positive gay characters. Her poetry has been nominated for the Elgin Award and the Rhysling Award. Her fiction has received honorable mention in Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her fiction collection, Collective Suicide, was published by Crossroad Press in 2012. In 2014, Eldritch Press published a collection of her poetry, The Manufacturer of Sorrow in paperback and ebook. It became a bestseller in the women writers category on Amazon. In May of 2019, her latest collection of poetry, Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning, was published by Lycan Valley Press. It has made the preliminary ballet for the Bram Stoker Award. Michelle is an active member of the HWA and the SFPA.

Leave a comment

Filed under family, fantasy, horror, life, people, poetry, Writing

Women in Horror: Sara Tantlinger

WiHM11-Scalples-wvToday’s guest in Sara Tantlinger, another pretty amazing poet.

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

Like many others, Edgar Allan Poe was one of the first writers to really lure me into the world of poetry. I remember reading “The Raven” in middle school and having the imagery stick with me for a long time. Additionally, Sylvia Plath, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman were my biggest classic inspirations that took me deeper into my love of poetry. My more contemporary inspirations are all the wonderful horror poets out there, along with Sierra DeMulder and Richard Siken.

Why do you write poetry?

I love that poetry forces you to create something sharp and poignant in a small space. You have a short amount of time to grab the reader’s attention, exploit the senses, create vivid imagery, and hopefully, have the reader go back to the beginning and discover new aspects of the poem on a second or third read. I love those types of poems that you can come back to multiple times and feel all over again. When I write poetry, I want to evoke all of that within a reader.

Blood Clot Passenger

1886, late summer, early morning
a man steps off a train
thirty-five years old, five foot eight
blue eyes
striking against
miasmic city filth
striking against
his well-dressed body

hearses roll by, iron-clad wheels rattling,
urging city rats to scamper
past bluebottle flies
hovering over animal corpses
littering over the city streets
like masses on an artery

a man walks through the city
as summer rots
locomotive steam pluming upward,
conjoining with polluted clouds,
soot and smoke
thickening a blockage from the sun

1886, late summer, early morning
a man steps off a train,
the clot breaks free, travels through
Chicago’s body,
this dark-mustached swindler,
this charmer who pied the snakes
swallowed them whole,

emits musical poison from his throat
walks past death without blinking
thirty-five years old, five foot eight
blue eyes
hungering over
the sight of maggots
wondering how squirming larvae
would look
inside the body of the pretty woman
he had sat next to on the train.

First published in The Devil’s Dreamland, Strangehouse Books, 2018

##

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

It can be difficult not to rely on the same words or imagery, especially in horror. It is a fantastic challenge to study new words and think of innovative ways to describe something like blood or death or darkness, but I always have to watch and edit myself for how many times I might rely on a certain word or image. The last thing I want to do is check over a collection of my poems and realize I used the same word 70 times or something like that!

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

I love themed poetry! Lately, historical horror has been the niche I’ve been drawing a lot from. I also really enjoy nature-themed poetry. Taking something beautiful or terrifying from nature and turning it into a horror poem is always a delight.

My first collection Love For Slaughter centers around obsessive, bloody love. It was inspired by the idea of “madness shared by two” and I’ve dubbed it a “horrormance” collection — a little romance and a lot of blood.

The Devil's Dreamland full rezAnd then my collection The Devil’s Dreamland, which won the 2018 Bram Stoker Award, was inspired by the life and lies of serial killer H.H. Holmes. The poems dip into his point of view pretty heavily, but I also included poems from the perspective of his victims, the city, and his murder castle in 1800s Chicago.

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?

Dark and speculative poetry is such a great rabbit hole to get lost in. I’ve heard from many readers before that they weren’t really into poetry until they discovered horror poetry. While I love an array of poetry, from classic sonnets to more contemporary free verse, I can understand why studying certain poems in school might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but dark poetry offers something a little different. The poems are like bite-sized bits of horror that readers can digest and then come back to for more.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

I am currently working on my third poetry collection titled Cradleland of Parasites. It will be out this fall from Strangehouse Books, and it draws inspiration from the Black Death and other plagues! I love historical horror, so this project has been a fascinating one to work on so far. Coming up, I have a few poems in Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts, a charity anthology to raise funds for the Australian bushfire victims — all sale proceeds will be donated to the Australian Red Cross and matched dollar-for-dollar by Microsoft (up to $50k) as part of their Giving campaign.

Is there anything else that you would like to say about  horror or poetry?

Though it isn’t poetry, my first edited anthology will also be out this fall from Strangehouse Books, Not All Monsters. The collection is made entirely of stories by women in horror, and it features some of the most stunning artwork from Don Noble. I am so proud to share the authors’ stories. Keep an eye to the horizon for pre-order info and other things soon!

Sara Tantlinger is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Devil’s Dreamland: Tantlinger2020Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA. Her other books include Love for Slaughter and To Be Devoured. Her poetry, flash fiction, and short stories can be found in several magazines and anthologies, including The Twisted Book of Shadows, Sunlight Press, Unnerving, and Abyss & Apex. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under crime, entertainment, fantasy, horror, nature, people, poetry, Writing

Women in Horror: Amanda Crum

WiHM11-Scalples-wvAmanda Crum is my next poetry guest for Women in Horror Month. I’m not the only one who thinks she’s talented. See for yourself and enjoy her poem as well.

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

I started writing poetry as a kid, but I always disliked the rhyming kind that was so prevalent in children’s writing. I loved Shel Silverstein because his use of language was so different to me. He was writing for the daydreamer kids like me.

Why do you write poetry?         

Poetry is a way to pull all the best words from the atmosphere and play with them. I love that. I love that it can tell a story or just a fragment of one.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry? 

For me the most difficult part is getting organized, because I have so many ideas that it’s hard to distill them all into something cohesive.

From my book of horror poetry, Tall Grass, which made the preliminary ballot for a Crum coverBram Stoker Award nomination this year. “Sheets On A Line” is inspired by Dolores Claiborne.

Sheets On A Line

It comes to you as you hang the last piece,
knuckles cracked and bleeding
in the glacial air:

there are no borders too hard to fracture,
only cages with keys.
You’ve been hemmed in,

wary and circuital,
but even the cons at Shawshank
can’t be held forever.

There’s no weapon forged
that could do the job cleanly,
but these hills whisper

with every wave that breaks cliffside.
They say that opportunity is
veiled inside their curves,

that the sun holds shadows to her breast
that are yours for the taking.
Your eyes rove east to west,

regarding the line of billowing white sheets
laid out like a ligature across the landscape.
They twist in the wind, content to stay secure

even if it means dodging brutal currents,
but now you can see how easy it is
to break the pins and set them free.

##

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

I like to get into the motivation behind things, and I tend to write a lot about grief and facing mortality because those are things that are on my mind a lot. With my latest book of poetry, Tall Grass, I took a look at a lot of famous horror characters and tried to get into their minds a bit. What was Dolores Claiborne feeling when she first thought of a way out of her abusive marriage? I want to look at the stories and characters that shaped us through a different lens.

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it? 

So many of us are living with anxiety, we’re waking up to awful news everyday, and the thought of getting lost in beautiful language and stories that carry us away is too good to pass up.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?   

I’m working on a full-length horror novel, and it’s my first attempt at something like that so it’s exciting and terrifying. I want to do it right!

Amanda Crum is a writer and artist whose work has appeared in publications such Crumas Eastern Iowa Review, Barren Magazine, and Corvid Queen, as well as in several anthologies such as Beyond The Hill and Two Eyes Open. Her books of horror poetry, The Madness In Our Marrow and Tall Grass, have both made the preliminary ballot for a Bram Stoker Award nomination. She is also a nominee for the Best of the Net Award and the Pushcart Prize. Amanda currently lives in Kentucky with her husband and two children.

https://twitter.com/MandyGCrum

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2904138.Amanda_Crum

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Writing

Women in Horror: Lesley Wheeler

WiHM11-Scalples-wh

I’m quite blown away by the talent of the writers I’m featuring for Women in Horror Month. Today, another multi-published, amazing writer joins me: Lesley Wheeler. I’m sure you’ll see why she’s been honored so many times.

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

I’ve been obsessed with poetry since childhood—I always had a strong attraction to the sound of it. Studying Romantic poetry in high school, Modernism in college, and late-twentieth-century poetry in graduate school shaped my aesthetics pretty strongly.

Why do you write poetry?

I can’t help it. When I don’t make time for it, too, I feel bad and even have nightmares. Working centers me and helps me focus my attention like prayer and meditation.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

Closure! Finding an ending that is both satisfying and surprising is really, really hard. Sometimes you have to dig into your most uncomfortable thoughts and feelings to get there, too.

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

Wheeler coverI’ve always been interested in sound, place, gender, and the question of what’s real (when and for whom, too). The fifth and latest book, The State She’s In, epitomizes those obsessions: it takes on what it means to live in Virginia right now, in light of the state’s terrible history and its beautiful more-than-human features. There are some spell poems—I’m still writing those, maybe for the next book?—although a good share of the horror is political. It’s also about menopause. I’m here to testify that turning 50 has some terrifying moments and can be major hinge in a person’s life.

From The State She’s In, first published in Cascadia Subduction Zone Vol. 8, No. 4, 2018

Racketing Spirits
Brownsburg, Virginia, 1825

She careened from kitchen house to dining room,
bare brown feet quick in the frosted yard, crying
of the old woman with her head tied up. Nobody’s
chasing you, Maria, Dr. McChesney chided, helping
himself to a glistening slash of ham. His daughter
Ellen giggled and pinched Maria under the table.
Mean. Also eight years old but freckled as a biscuit.
Free. Maria cast a chilly eye on her, stepped away
from the fragrance bread makes when you break it.
Nobody’s here, she thought, and soon you’ll know it.

A few weeks later, charred rocks began to fall, sharp
as fists, scorching hot. They volleyed against the roof,
blackened grass, cowed the family. Bewildered,
the McChesneys sent Maria to nearby cousins.
She strolled the miles so slow she could almost see bloom
come to the Judas trees, till the final rise. Then twitched
and charged, wailing of witchery. She found the Steeles
already stirred, starring the lawn, their backs to her,
as they stared toward a clatter in their house. A peek
showed furnishings piled up like sticks, of a sudden,
in the parlor, cupboard glass smashed by stones
from nowhere. Mr. Steele commanded her back home.

Now the whole county gossiped. Mischief likes
ventriloquy. If Dr. McChesney peered out the door,
earth-clods pummeled him. His sister, Miz Steele,
kept visiting even when rock cut her scalp to the bone.
Almost dear in her dumb persistence. When Maria howled
of being pricked with pins, slapped by invisible hands,
Miz Steele clutched her in whispering skirts and flailed
to beat off an unholy presence. It didn’t work.
Nothing worked. Her hands as soft as pudding.

Nobody stopped food from going missing, or
the field hands’ tools. Bottles of madeira danced.
Embers jumped from the hearth to bite ankles. The doctor
retreated to his fireless upstairs room, his rows of books
and guilty medicines. In the closet, a skeleton. Whose?

For peace, they sent Maria across water. Not the sea.
The muddy green of the Mississippi, supposed to short
her electricity. Clever spell they conjured, the sale
to Alabama. Some say she fell on the way and died.
Girl with a scar on her head, and what a mouth.

She lasted longer than Ellen, anyhow, who married young
out of the fancy carriage envied by neighbors. Unfolded
those red velvet steps, pranced down, and chronicles
mislaid her. Like Maria, who could negotiate with land itself,
persuade the stones to rise and heat and hurtle
in revolt. There are other powers, better, though
they may not get your name engraved in books. Some say
she acquired them. Returned to haunt the child she’d been,
head tied up in red, to stop the future burning through.

##

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?

The former poet laureate Tracy K. Smith once said something to the effect that we’re metaphysical people. We’re always asking ourselves what’s real, what matters, and other peoples’ answers help us figure out how to live. Speculative literature can be really, really good at giving us new angles on those big old questions. Plus people need song and story to survive.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

Aside from the new poetry book, my first novel, Unbecoming, will be published by Aqueduct Press in May 2020. It’s a weird tale involving a changeling and a woman who thinks she’s developing magical powers with menopause. I think it straddles that interesting boundary between so-called literary and genre fiction. I’m really excited to see if people like it. In 2021 I’m publishing an essay collection called Poetry’s Possible Worlds about world-building in contemporary verse and I’m exciting to share those ideas with people, too.

Is there anything else you would like to mention about horror or poetry?

I think the campus I teach at is probably haunted; Robert E. Lee’s crypt is just downhill from my office. It’s haunted by a horrifying history, for sure.

Wheeler (002)Lesley Wheeler is a writer and professor born in New York, raised in New Jersey, and residing in Virginia. Her first novel, Unbecoming, is forthcoming from Aqueduct Press. Tinderbox Editions will publish her next poetry collection, The State She’s In, in 2020 as well as an essay collection, Poetry’s Possible Worlds, in 2021. She is Poetry Editor of Shenandoah. Wheeler’s previous poetry collections are Radioland (Barrow Street Press, 2015); The Receptionist and Other Tales (Aqueduct, 2012); Heterotopia, selected by David Wojahn for the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize in 2010; Heathen (C&R, 2009); and the chapbooks Propagation (Dancing Girl Press, 2017) and Scholarship Girl (Finishing Line, 2007). Heterotopia was a finalist for the Library of Virginia Award. The Receptionist was named to the Tiptree Award Honor List and nominated by Ms. Mentor at The Chronicle of Higher Education for an Ackie (both rarely given to speculative campus novellas in terza rima). Her poems and essays appear in Gettysburg Review, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Cimarron Review, Ecotone, Crazyhorse, Poetry, Strange Horizons, and many other journals. The Henry S. Fox Professor of English at Washington and Lee University, Wheeler has held fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation (New Zealand), the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and the American Association of University Women. In 2011, Wheeler received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia. She teaches courses in nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first century poetry in English as well as creative writing and speculative fiction.

 

1 Comment

Filed under entertainment, fantasy, history, horror, people, poetry, Writing

Women in Horror: Sèphera Girón Part II

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteSèphera’s back today, talking about earning a living as a writer and specifically about Patreon and how it works.

One of the things that help people like me, single people who don’t have a partner to support me financially or emotionally or even with posting a tweet and trying to figure out how to earn a living and keep all the balls in the air and get the work flowing again, is a Patreon.

Nowadays, a lot of people can turn to fund-raising events like a Go Fund Me or a Kick Starter for a specific project and things like that. I myself had a very successful Go Fund Me a few years ago. I had hoped to go to the Stanley hotel for a writers’ retreat to try and get back on track with my writing and I wanted to pay my own way, but the recession was huge here with no jobs at all, not even Starbucks would hire me. I took Amanda Palmer’s advice and laid out some of my story on Go Fund Me and asked for help. People were very generous and kind and understood how important that this retreat was. It wasn’t just me trying to go to a retreat every year and make people pay for it. It was important for my mental health to really try to get there to be with horror peers and to see where my favorite book originated, there was rumour of casting for new horror TV show, and things like that. So, I got to do the retreat through incredible generosity from the horror community and I have been very grateful!

I saw another platform called Patreon which seemed to be a different approach. The first Patreon I started, I was trying to do it more like a Kick Starter and that was not successful at all. I was trying to write a book about ghosts and ghost hunting with major emphasis on the Lizzie Borden house and I also wanted to do a New England tour. I was trying to get funding for that through Patreon and I didn’t. Patreon is not for those things but back then it wasn’t really clear what Patreon was.

Giron_APennySaved_VR3I found Patreon because I kept seeing Amanda Palmer coming through the various aspects of my social media talking about “don’t be afraid to ask for help.” I saw her blogs and TED talk and she talks all the time about not being afraid to ask for help, being on Patreon, interacting with fans and so on. For those of you who don’t know, Amanda Palmer is married to author Neil Gaiman, so theoretically he reaps the rewards of her hugely success Patreon platform.

I tried my Patreon again, taking her words more to heart than I did for the Go Fund Me and the first Patreon attempt. I restructured my Patreon and I’ve had it for over three years now.

When I first started it, I thought, “OK, I’m too depressed to write horror and so I’m going to write science fiction and I’m going to work on a space opera.”

For the first year I wrote a chapter a month for my space opera and I had one patron for the longest time (and I didn’t even know him in real life!) but then I started to realize from reading market reports that where I want to send it won’t take work that is previously on the Internet and specifically named Patreon as being previously published so I removed my monthly installations from my Patreon.

Now, my main goal is to show people the crazy writer’s life that I lead since a lot of people tell me my life is weird and it is and so I share my life with my patrons. I write or video several blogs a week, I talk about if I’m on a TV show or movie, I discuss what’s Giron2bugging me, I am disgusted with my weight, weird things happened to me such as I burned myself waitressing. Patrons of a certain level got to see pictures of my horrible burns and scars. I get weird allergies, so my patrons get to see my face all puffed up with hives and silly things like that. I might sing or do other stuff but it’s all part of the writing process, part of the being a creative human being process and so I like to amuse my patrons with various things. Sometimes I’m able to share short stories I’m working on, depending on which market I’m writing them for. Sometimes I’ll just put up rough drafts. Sometimes I’ll just put up the cue cards for the character notes, it depends on the project. There are three books I keep working on and off on for over the last few years. When they are finished, my patrons of a specific level will be acknowledged in the professionally published books. All of my patrons are thanked whenever I can on some YouTube videos. I did thank some patrons in a couple of books I republished that had been published long before I ever had a Patreon (A Penny Saved, Captured Souls, Gilda and the Prince). My patrons got to see the rough version of this blog post!

A lot of people consider Patreon to be begging. This means they don’t understand what it’s about. There are, I think, over a million creators on Patreon now. When I joined, there were a couple thousand, now there are over a million.

There are a lot of very important famous people on Patreon who have thousands of patrons in that they make thousands of dollars a month on Patreon. There are huge writers on Patreon who make thousands of dollars a month. Everybody expects something different with what they want to give and with what they want to receive.

I like to think that since I do a lot of things, I offer different experiences. Patreon is only one of many ways I attempt to earn an income so that I can get back to the business of creating actual novels and other entertainments for people. I do love to entertain other people. But when I see people calling Patreon creators “beggers” I always find that upsetting.

Patreon is more like a subscription service. There are writers who write books in a month on there. There are musicians who will create songs for you. Artists who will draw for you. YouTubers who will mention you. It’s endless in what you can offer and receive. I would bet many of us creators on Patreon work pretty hard for your subscription.

Giron7I look around on Patreon sometimes. You can only see so much if you’re not actually paying however, I do notice that some writers have Patreons and they haven’t even posted for their followers in over a year, sometimes many months, and yet they still are getting thousands of dollars. So this shows that those of you who are thinking about setting up a Patreon but not sure what to offer, some fans just want you just to get those books written and out in the world and they don’t care if you actually post on the platform, they just want to support you in your career and help you get some dental work done or see a doctor or whatever.

Speaking of which…here in Ontario, yes, we have free health care as in going to the doctor but if anything’s wrong with you, you have to deal with it. I’ve been be so grateful to my patrons that I’ve been able to get prescriptions when I got bit by a dog, had to get various prescriptions and bandages for burns and allergies, when I didn’t have money in my bank account for such things. I dream of the day I can see the dentist for the first time in ten years if my teeth stop falling out so that I have some teeth left to fix. Whether it’s through an influx of pledges from Patrons (I’d need a few hundred patrons!) or whether it’s from advances and royalties from work I’ve been inspired to create because I have patrons rooting for me doesn’t matter.

I have some health issues, a shaky hand for a few years that is growing worse every day, so my waitressing days are over. One can’t discount the impact that emotional illnesses can have on a creative person and yes, we have free “healthcare” here in Canada, but we have to pay for dentists, eye doctors, prescriptions of every kind, birth control, psychiatrists and psychologists, therapy, counsellors, chiropractors, and more. We can get diagnosed by a family doctor and can get “free” surgery, but god help you if you have anything you need to take drugs for and don’t have insurance. I’ve had dozens of jobs over the decades and have never once had insurance as it’s not a given widely here as it is in the States. I’m supposed to be on a few prescriptions like anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication and something related to the gall bladder operation, but I can’t afford them, so I just plow on through and lose days/weeks/months of work when the Black Dogs bark.

When you’re going through trauma, “going out and getting a job” isn’t so easy and when you have no present-day skills and are over fifty, well…

These days, everyone is an editor and the fees that hobby editors charge are destroying the industry much as writers who write for free destroy opportunities for all writers to get paid better. It also seems that everyone is now a tarot card reader as well so my tarot business has also been destroyed when people can get cheap/free tarot readings everywhere including from apps instead of paying a proper wage for skilled, professional work. My safety guard backup careers are just as unreliable as writing at this point. Background work pays minimum wage and I usually work one day a month. So, what do you do when you’re pushing sixty and divorced and lost everything you ever had?

So, my longwinded point in this blog, is that, ladies, especially single ladies (even if you’re married) who get nothing from the government, nothing from any spouses−I don’t get any support from anyone except my patrons−ladies, consider starting a Patreon. Patreon is a blessing for me, emotionally and financially.

I’m happy to see more people join the platform. Everyone who has joined my Patreon has stayed on the ride. Only one person ever quit on me ever in all the time I’ve had my Patreon.

Giron5So maybe I’m doing something right. I don’t know but it’s a fun platform for me. It keeps me from being depressed and from spending days going “what the fuck is my life?” because I have to answer to my patrons. I do make schedules and I try to hit them. I take pictures and videos at events, knowing I’ll be sharing them with my patrons. It’s helping me get back on my feet, really helping me focus on having most of my space opera finished, most of my next Witch Upon a Star book is nearly finished and I’m almost halfway through my next horror book.

My Women in Horror Month wish for all of you is to start a Patreon if you don’t have one. And if you have some extra money kicking around, consider supporting an artist or two on Patreon. Even if you sponsor for $1, when one hundred people give $1, that’s $100! (minus Patreon fees, of course!)

Be warned, you cannot find someone on there. Their search function sucks. There is no way to look for writers or anyone else, even if you punch in their name! The only way you can find someone on Patreon is if you already know they are there. Feel free to add your links at the bottom of this blog.

Patreon is a really great tool for getting focused and organized, building your fan base and rewarding your fan base. You can create whatever rewards you want depending on whatever it is you do and your finances.

Interesting that three times I put a call out on my Facebook for people, women, to post their links for a Women in Horror Month article I was writing about Patreon. I was hoping for lots of women for this article. But much like calls for horror stories and novels, men are quicker to respond. In a nutshell, you can see by the Patreon response, how it likely reflects horror writer submissions.

Even though I have nearly four thousand Facebook friends, you can see here, how many people shared their links.

Do we need a Women in Horror Month? I’m still not sure. But I do know that some of us sometimes need a helping hand to get back on our feet, or maybe to get on them for the first time. Keep writing and more importantly, submitting. Don’t worry if you’re a woman; you’re a WRITER! Use your real name and stand proud behind your work.

First, let’s acknowledge Amanda Palmer who drew my attention to this ride:

https://www.patreon.com/amandapalmer

http://www.patreon.com/sephera

https://www.patreon.com/GaryABraunbeck

Http://www.patreon.com/monicaskuebler

https://patreon.com/maryrajotte

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=1002984

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2887829

https://www.patreon.com/ObnoxiousAnonymous

https://www.patreon.com/westonochse

GironSèphera Girón is an author, actor, tarot card reader, and mom. She has over twenty published books. Watch for Taurus in the Witch Upon a Star series to be released this year from Riverdale Avenue Books. She has stories in Dark Rainbow, Dawn of the Monsters, Abandon, Group Hex 1 and Group Hex 2, Intersections: Six Tales of Ouija Horror and more. Sèphera is the astrologer for Romance Daily News. Be sure to watch for her monthly horoscopes at https://www.romancedailynews.com/ Sèphera lives in Toronto.

Drop by Sèphera’s Twitch TV channel and get a free daily tarot card reading. Be sure to follow so you know when she’s online. Click Witch Upon a Star for her series. Sèphera can also be found on her website, her Tarot Card Reading website, Instagram, and Twitter. Check out Sèphera on YouTube. Be sure to follow so you know when the next video is uploaded!

Sèphera’s courses are also available on Udemy!
https://www.udemy.com/secrets-of-a-background-performer/?couponCode=BGYOUTUBE3
https://www.udemy.com/read-tarot-cards/?couponCode=TAROTCARDYOUTUBE
https://www.udemy.com/so-you-want-to-be-a-horror-writer/?couponCode=BLOGHORROR2

2 Comments

Filed under entertainment, horror, people, Publishing, spirituality, Writing

Women in Horror: Sèphera Girón

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteStraight-shooter Sèphera Girón talks about earning a living and is my last blogger for Women in Horror Month, though you will have to come back for part II as she will post over two days. I lost a few writers to health and work commitments. It seems only fitting that since I started with a Canadian, and am a Canadian, that I also end with one.

Trying to Earn a Living as a Writer in 2019!

Well here we are in another Women in Horror Month. I’ve been working in the horror field since before Women in Horror Month was invented and at the time, I didn’t really feel like it was something that was truly necessary for I didn’t see the world quite as I see it now.

Giron DarkRainbow_I think because I came from a mid-sized University town and from very educated parents who already worked in the arts that it never occurred to me that I couldn’t grow up to be a horror writer as I had dreamed of since I was around 14 years old. And it never occurred to me that I was a woman or that being a woman meant anything at all. In my naivety, I thought that the best story would be picked, and it was up to me to work as hard as I could and learn as much as I could about the horror genre and how to be a writer in order to become successful in the horror field.

I was off to a flying start; I read voraciously, I took writing courses, I even graduated from York University with a BA in Fine Art Studies. By majoring in Fine Arts, I was able to embrace my love of all the arts because even to this day I still have my finger in several artistic pies. I am a writer, I’m a working actress, I’m a podcaster or YouTuber, I dabble in drawing badly, I still pick up my violin once in a while, and I love to sing. I’ve not done musical theater in many years, but I do earn a bit of a side income as a background performer in various movies and TV shows that come through Toronto.

In my quest to become a writer, I started to attend conventions in the late eighties, and I was one of those people who would sit in the audience and actually take notes and try to learn secret tidbits from the professionals who would give us wonderful advice. Back in those days, you really couldn’t get that advice unless you actually went to a convention and listened to these people speak. There was no Internet and so you had to wait a long time to get information month to month from the Horror Writers Association newsletters or from market reports like the Gila Queen and so on.

It was a much different time.

So, as far as I was concerned, my hope to become a woman horror writer just meant I Giron Gilda_and_the_Prince_Cover_for_Kindlehad to work really hard and it never occurred to me I would have to work harder than a man or anything like that. I just knew I had to be the best writer I could be. I spent a lot of time (YEARS!) writing and re-writing my books and eventually became a Leisure (Publishing) author until Leisure died and then a Samhain (Publishing) author until Samhain died and I published at several other houses as well alongside those. (Never put all your books in one market!) However, over the years it did come to my attention that perhaps women weren’t getting the recognition that they needed to get. For me, I believe that I got all the recognition I needed for the work that I did because it just never occurred to me that I didn’t. I still stand by that.

As time has gone on and society keeps changing, it almost seems like things are going a bit backwards. Now there is more call for women writers, diversity, and so on. Now the world seems to be splintering into factions of labeling and stereotypes, everyone is sorted into a little compartment and quotas are created to be filled. And yet, now, it does seem that women do have to work harder to get ahead in some instances because now there’s a big ol’ spotlight on us. And I still say, despite all that, editors just want to buy a good story, they don’t care who writes it, just make the publisher lots of money!

Giron6I have said this many times and I will continue to say it, that a large part of the problem with an imbalance of women in horror (and I can’t speak to any other genre because I haven’t asked people in other genres) is simple to see. Over the years I’ve spoken to many women authors while gauging whether there is a problem with women being published and recognized or not. It did come to my attention several years ago that often women aren’t getting published in horror because they aren’t writing it and they aren’t submitting it. PERIOD.

Sometimes women have to be encouraged a little more than men to actually show their work or to get it out there. It is not enough to say you’re a woman horror writer and that you are writing when in fact you’re not submitting and getting published. You are responsible for your own career and you need to make it happen. No one is going to come to you and ask to see your novel. You have to put it in front of people’s faces. And using initials as your name doesn’t fool anyone, so cut it out.

I guess in my naivete in not believing that I would ever be told “no” simply because I was a woman has definitely helped me in my career because I’ve always felt that if I want to do something, I can do it and I’ve always been that way about most parts of my life. So even though I’ve not been terribly prolific the last few years, it is because my energies are a bit scattered, because I am enjoying other aspects of my life as I have mentioned and also I had some emotional issues that have taken me about ten years to deal with and writing horror didn’t really go along with some of the stuff I’ve been trying to work through. In my case, the only person to blame for not having books out right now is myself because I have been taking an emotional break. However, this is all changing, and I do have many stories out or about to be out and I do plan to finish and have my publishers put out a couple of books this year.

One of the tools that has helped me heal and get refocussed is that I created an account on Patreon. Now before I get into my Patreon spiel, I also would like to recognize that in my twenty or maybe now it’s thirty years in the business that I’ve had observations about ways that women aren’t as supported as men when it comes to relationships; a kind of behind the scenes sort of thing.

I have met many male writers over the years who have the luxury of being full time writers because their wives work full time, or their wives at least make enough money to support them both until the husband earns a better income. These husbands are often very productive, they eventually earn a lot of money as writers because they can focus on their work and ultimately have a double income with their wives. Sometimes the wives not only provide an alternative income, but they also are the ones that do all that boring business stuff that writers have to do. It is fine to write a book or a story but then there is so much other work that goes into it, especially these days. Back before self-publishing and before publishing houses got all splintered and weird, you basically wrote a book, sent it out and then you would have to market it, send out press releases, maybe do a party, a reading, a launch, and more. A lot of these male writers let the wives do all the business aspects, like administrative assistants, secretaries, personal assistants, shoppers, and groomers. The wives would send out press releases, they would send out to markets, they would search market reports, they would deal with the agents, editors, publishers. They deal with publicists as they could hire publicists because they had double incomes, they arrange the parties, they do all the taxes, they do all the income, outcome, receipts, letter writing, letter campaigns, the fan clubs, the blogs, deal with the children, aging parents, and so on. This continues to this day.

Giron3I just began online teaching almost a year ago and I attended a workshop here in town put on by the company as a “road show” not long ago and I saw this exact same thing going on with online teachers as well. A lot of male teachers prepare their courses, write them, and film them while the wives do all the film editing, the marketing deal with the phone calls, and students and getting press releases out, preparing downloadable handouts, uploading endless hours of videos, promoting, creating coupons, and blasting it all out on social media. It was actually discussed at the workshop that the spouse should do these exact things to help the teacher spouse. It’s part of the strategy of success.

 The male writer or teacher gets to just focus on being a creative entity and put out the best work they possibly can with lots of time for writing and re-writing and dealing with the editorial notes because the wife is taking care of all the business side and so they don’t have to worry their pretty little heads about all that. I have never seen it in reverse. I’ve never seen quite the same dynamic where the woman is the sole writer breadwinner and the husband does everything else. I do know there are lots of supportive husbands who will help a little bit. There are husbands who will do some of the stuff but not like women do for men. I know this sounds sexist but hey we’re talking about Women in Horror Month and the Reality of Life. I figured as my own life went on, I would see more of the dynamic going the other way, but I don’t. I never saw it in my personal life at all and never expect to. There are a lot of men recognizing the hard work their wives do but I don’t see a lot of men actually giving up their lives to become personal assistants or secretaries for the women writers to make the women’s careers super dee duper although there are always exceptions and feel free to pile on me in the comments of how wrong I am. This rambling leads me to explore the reality aspect of things, which is earning a living as a writer in these totally difficult times of 2019.

In the nineties and early two thousands, I actually was earning a living as a writer and an editor. I made decent money, I had a beautiful home, I could put my children into various classes and activities. I wasn’t wealthy but I could do my thing and get by, go to conventions and things like that. However, over the last ten years my personal life took a huge blow, I was thrust into instant poverty for the very first time in my life, and at the same time, there was a massive recession with NO JOBS AT ALL, traditional publishing crashed and burned, and self-publishing became a thing. I don’t have the beautiful income I used to have, my editing job that I had for about ten years went good-bye that same year (thanks to off-shoring to cheaper countries) and major horror publishing houses went good-bye and so it’s been a matter of creating a new life in a new world order. After many years of struggling just to survive in this expensive city and being on a waiting list for five years, I ended up in an artist co-op which is where I am now, and I’ve been here for about a year and a half. This helps a lot with the rent and things like that because the rent is a bit lower than regular Toronto rents so that buys me a tiny bit of wiggle room as I re-calibrate my life and career and move forward.

(Tomorrow, I’ll continue with the second half of Sèphera’s, where she continues talking about earning a living as a writer.)

GironSèphera Girón is an author, actor, tarot card reader, and mom. She has over twenty published books. Watch for Taurus in the Witch Upon a Star series to be released this year from Riverdale Avenue Books. She has stories in Dark Rainbow, Dawn of the Monsters, Abandon, Group Hex 1 and Group Hex 2, Intersections: Six Tales of Ouija Horror and more. Sèphera is the astrologer for Romance Daily News. Be sure to watch for her monthly horoscopes at https://www.romancedailynews.com/ Sèphera lives in Toronto.

1 Comment

Filed under horror, life, people, spirituality

Women in Horror: Gemma Files

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteAward winning Canadian author Gemma Files talks about growing up, dealing with puberty and becoming a horror writer.

Women in Horror Month: Woman/Horror Writer

It took me a long time to think of myself as a woman, and getting my period at age ten and a half was part of that. As I blew straight through puberty over the next six months, it didn’t help my already awful social cred even a little: I was still angry, still “too smart” and still didn’t understand what made a person popular, except now I also had glasses, braces, pimples, cramps, my full height and breasts before anyone else, at a time when it was guaranteed to seem creepy rather than cool. Boys didn’t try to look down my shirt so much as they picked fights with me, while the girls I invited to my birthday party found a box of my maxi-pads and used them as impromptu decorations.

Files book-of-tongues-1172kbWhich perhaps goes a way towards explaining why I soon decided that my gender had nothing much to recommend it overall, and nothing to do with me. I spent the next twelve years thinking of myself as a brain on top of a spine before blundering into a group of friends just as Aspergian as myself, one of whom I eventually married. And all of them liked fantasy and science fiction and comics, movies and music and role-playing games, fandom and collecting and various branches of academic study—which was great, because so did I. But out of all these people, I was pretty much the only one whose thoughts almost always tended (as Yukio Mishima so beautifully put it) to Night, and Death, and Blood. Out of all of them, I was the person who called myself a horror writer.

I was a woman as well, though, and (since I’m cis) will always remain one. I was a woman when I fixated on vampires and studied black magic, a woman when I read my way through Tanith Lee’s back catalogue at Toronto’s Judith Merrill Collection or collected Fangoria magazine to educate myself about directors I idolized (like David Cronenberg, weird and Canadian!), a woman when I applied for my first film critic gig by writing unsolicited reviews of Silence of the Lambs and Pumpkinhead. So when I first started to send out the horror stories I wrote, part of the dreadfulness of embodiment I concentrated on very much had to do with the specific ins and outs of my own female flesh—and just describing things like menstruation, cunnilingus or childbirth in detail was enough to disgust and terrify, I soon found, especially when playing to what most people still assume is  a mainly-male audience.

Back in the early 1990s, the genre was full of extremity, Splatterpunk, “erotic horror”…people were always trying to push the envelope, to deliberately shock and offend, and where that automatically seemed to take a lot of authors’ minds was back to the female body, but always from the outside: as a prop, an artefact, a plot twist. Skimming through my local bookstore’s horror section, I mainly saw stuff that focused on the destruction and befoulment of people who looked like me, our inevitable and luxurious transmutation from sugar, spice and everything nice to a rotting corpse with a vagina full of teeth. When I sold five stories to The Hunger (an erotic horror anthology show produced by Tony and Ridley Scott for Showtime, which ran from 1997 to 2000 and shot out of Montreal), I got to visit the production office, where the writers’ room had a list of rules pinned up on the wall. I can’t remember all of them, but “If a woman gets naked, she’s evil” was definitely number one.

Though I’d cut my literary teeth on Stephen King and Peter Straub, like almost everyone Files Spectralelse in my generation, the people I increasingly drew direct inspiration from were exceptions rather than rules: non-default in terms of gender, sexuality and outlook. They were body-horror poets like Clive Barker, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Melanie Tem, Kathe Koja and Poppy Z. Brite; they were decadents from the underside of the 1980s horror boom like Michael McDowell and Douglas Clegg (both gay, I later found out), or forgotten mistresses from earlier ages like Marjorie Bowen and Vernon Lee, along with all the other ladies published in Virago Press’s two collections of ghost stories. And slowly but surely, I realized I was attracted to these people because the things which fascinated me also fascinated them. I’d never been mainstream, not in my life—but was that because I personally was singular, perverse, different from the norm? Or was it possible that all people who identified as different from the norm were just more likely to have interests which crossed over with mine, women very much included?

And at every point on this journey, I got asked the exact same series of questions: Why horror, and why horror for me, a woman? Why not write something else, something less upsetting and declassé, something less firmly located at the intersection of Gore and Porno Streets? What could I possibly get out of it, or assume anyone else would get out of it?

Here’s a sad fact: when you love a thing that supposedly only men love but you’re not “a man”…by which I mean the same limiting, parodic mainstream image of what a straight cis white male should be that makes even straight cis white males sometimes doubt their ability to live up (or down) to it…it makes it hard to love yourself. When the only image of someone like you you’re likely to trip across inside that thing you love is a joke, a sidekick, a monster or a dead body, it makes it hard for you as a person who loves horror and wants everything any other person who loves horror wants—transformation and apotheosis, power in darkness, revelry and revenge, (fictional) death to your enemies—to want to have anything to do with those characters, that gender, yourself. It makes you want to be sexless, a brain on a spine, a ghost. It makes you want to be a man.

Files Kissing-carrion-cover-w-introBut here’s how things have changed since I started writing horror, thankfully: much though I enjoy writing from their POV (particularly while watching them have sex with each other), I don’t actually want to be a man anymore. I want to be me. Because, as has always been the case, horror really is for women too, and queer people, and diverse people of all kinds—the whole intersectional non-default brigade. It doesn’t mean we hate ourselves by loving it, and it doesn’t have make us hate ourselves to love it, either. Because it shows us we can love ourselves all the better by not only embracing our own inherently monstrous-coded differences from “the norm,” but by understanding that the greatest trick mainstream culture ever played was convincing us there really was a norm to deviate from, in the first place.

Horror is for everyone, it turns out, because everyone’s equally afraid of their body, the universe, each other and themselves—because we all love things, and know we’re going to lose them; because we all know we’re going to die, and we all hate it. Because we all know this is going nowhere good, much as we may hope like hell otherwise. Horror is for everyone, male, female or otherwise, because it’s the genre that teaches us not to trust blindly, that behind every pretty lie is an uncomfortable yet freeing truth. That all of us could be monsters, and as long we let ourselves be aware of that fact, we also know we don’t have to be. That just as the grave has room enough for all of us, the grave’s rim has more than enough space for everybody who wants to take their turn donning masks and telling stories in the dark.

So many people just like me, all getting the same thing out of what I love that I do. It took me a long time to think of myself as a woman, far longer than it did for me to think of myself as a horror writer. Yet here I am.

In fact…I’m here all year. 😉

Files Interview SelfieFormerly a film critic, journalist, screenwriter and teacher, Gemma Files has been an award-winning horror author since 1999. She has published two collections of short work (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart), two chapbooks of speculative poetry (Bent Under Night and Dust Radio), a Weird Western trilogy (the Hexslinger series—A Book of Tongues, A Rope of Thorns and A Tree of Bones), a story-cycle (We Will All Go Down Together: Stories of the Five-Family Coven) and a stand-alone novel (Experimental Film, which won the 2016 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel and the 2016 Sunburst award for Best Adult Novel). Most are available from ChiZine Publications. She has two new story collections from Trepidatio (Spectral Evidence and Drawn Up From Deep Places), one upcoming from Cemetery Dance (Dark Is Better), and a new poetry collection from Aqueduct Press (Invocabulary). She can be found on Twitter as @gemmafiles and Facebook as Gemma Files.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under horror, people, poetry, Publishing, Writing

Women in Horror: Sarah Read

WiHMX-horizontal-White

Today, Sarah Read talks about creepy crawlies and their unjust bad rap. From Shelob to Spider-Man, spiders play a significant role in fiction and our homes. I mislabeled Sarah as Canadian but she’s actually American.

Cellar Spiders: Your Secret Best Friends

Read theboneweaversorchard_coverWhenever I finish a new story, the first thing my reader friends usually ask is, “Are there spiders in this one?” Because, yeah, usually. I have a bit of a spider reputation. I love them and I think our culture has unjustly vilified them. They often feature as protagonists or positive symbols in my work, as they have in much of mythology throughout the world. My recently released novel, The Bone Weaver’s Orchard features a lot of spiders (and other crawlies) as well as a protagonist who loves them. Like Charley Winslow in my book, I keep a menagerie of spiders, though mine roam freely through my house. My basement is full of Cellar Spiders−thousands of them.

Cellar Spiders, often referred to as Daddy Long Legs, are members of the Pholcidae family. They are often found hanging upside down in their non-sticky webs in cool, damp places like cellars, attics, under sinks, or in any tucked-away corner of your home. Their long, spindly legs give them a definite creep factor, but these small heroes have received a bad rap from generations of misconceptions and urban myths.

Spiders play a major role in creation myths, no doubt inspired by their web-weaving. read cellarspider3There are benevolent spider gods and goddesses in Sumerian myths, in the ancient Islamic oral traditions, in African and Native American legends. For some indigenous Australian tribes, a Lord Spider created the entire universe. From the West African Ananse to the Hopi Spider Grandmother, spiders play a key role in our storytelling. Even our language for story is inspired by them−spinning and weaving tales and our webs of deceptions. Despite our modern discomfort with spiders, they still turn up as heroes in our stories. Charlotte’s Web and Spider-Man are as iconic to us as Arachne was to the Greeks. So while the spider seems to feature more often these days as a monster or a figure to induce fear in an audience, that wasn’t always the case. They deserve to reclaim their old reputation as clever, kind, and creative. The spiders lurking around your home and garden are certainly all those things, and most of them aren’t dangerous.

One of the common myths about Cellar Spiders is that they have the most potent venom in the world, but that their mouth parts are too small or weak to bite you. I have good news and bad news about that. The good news is that their venom has been shown to be very mild and definitely not at all harmful to humans. So, ease your mind on that. The bad news is that they definitely can bite you, if they want to. For an additional bit of good news: they don’t want to. It’s very rare to hear of anyone being bitten by a Cellar Spider−they are evasive, not aggressive. If their web is disturbed, they simply drop to the floor and skitter away. The only times they have been shown to bite is if they are cornered, trapped, and grabbed. Since most people don’t go around grabbing spiders with their bare hands, this isn’t a problem that arises often. If a Cellar Spider bites you, you probably deserved it. And, you’ll live.

There are better reasons, however, for leaving Cellar Spiders be. They are the best Read cellarspidernatural predators for the things you hate even more than you hate Cellar Spiders. They love to snack on centipedes, recluses, black widows−they eat the things you definitely don’t want in your house. They’ll even cut down on the dreaded mosquitoes. They keep their webs tidy and remove their leftovers, so you won’t even see their webs most of the time. That’s better than can be said for any human I’ve ever lived with.

While I’m sure it can be said that most people would prefer to have no spindle-legged critters in their homes, the fact remains that you are going to have them. Your preferences matter not to nature. But if you’re going to have leggy housemates, these are the ones you want. They are ultimately beneficial and not at all dangerous. So the next time you notice your basement ceiling is bristling with long-legged beasties, put down the broom and think for a moment. What is it in your basement that feeds such a Read SRauthorpicpopulation of predators? And would you want such things taking over unchecked? Then give these lithe-limbed ladies a salute and allow them to serve their role as stewards of the dark and dank spaces of the house.

Sarah Read is a dark fiction writer who lives in an old house full of spiders. Her debut novel The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, also full of spiders, has just been released from Trepidatio Publishing. You can keep up with her work at www.inkwellmonster.wordpress.com

 

Leave a comment

Filed under fantasy, horror, myth, nature, people, Writing

Women in Horror: Bianca Pheasant

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteBianca Pheasant is a South African author who will talk about the beauty of horror for Women in Horror Month.

The Beauty of Horror

Horror, it’s such a beautiful thing. Most individuals would claim they do their best to avoid it as far as possible but deep in their souls, they know they want it, even if it was just a pinch. In fact, we not only want it, we need it.

When I was younger, I could not wait for the next Nightmare on Elm Street movie or the pheasantnewest horror novel. Not only did I eat it up like cake, I lived for it. I must have been ten or eleven when I read Tommyknockers−my first Stephen King novel. After that, I discovered Dean R. Koontz’s The Bad Place. Then I started writing. And of course, it was only natural that I would write books dripping with horror, aimed to terrify.

I’ve often been asked why I don’t write “happier” stories and why my work is always so bloody and depressing. My answer is always… “Because that’s what my readers want!” Besides… books about how lonely woman meets hunky man with a dark past and never-ending issues are just plain boring.

The reason I love writing in the horror genre is because I never have to walk on eggshells when I write. I don’t have to be conservative or mindful. The words flowing from my imagination need not be filtered for fear of being too gory or crass because the demand for exactly those things are high.

But that’s not all.pheasant 2

I believe that every person has two sides. The one side we show to the world. The other, well… this is the one we hide. We push it so deep into our psyches we sometimes forget it exists. We chain it like a rabid beast, lock it up and swallow the key.

The problem with that is that those bars rust and grow frail. That is when I write my best horror work. Once the beast breaks free, I can delve into the darkest corners of my mind and not be afraid. The thoughts and ideas I’m expected to hide ignite every brain cell concealed within my skull and as fingertips marry keyboard, the beast…my beast, isset  free.

pheasant3Being a writer gives me the ability to give the darkest fantasies of my mind a voice and watch them as they come to life right in front of me. I set them free and they write the story for me. Trust me when I say the author is NOT always behind the steering wheel. We are string puppets manipulated by the fictional, and sometimes not so fictional, characters in our heads.

Once they are set into motion, I sit and marvel at the chaos they create. Like the infamous Dr Hannibal Lector, I’ll feel proud because I know they are my design.

The best part of being a writer of terrible things is the research. I once did a whole study on how to poison a grown man using hemlock extract and how much Acepromazine it takes to knock him out without killing him. (Acepromazine is a tranquilizer used on horses, by the way.)

If someone had to look at my browsing history without knowing that I write weird and pheasant 4creepy tales, I can only imagine the suspicion, and maybe even fear, running through their minds.

Think about it for a second…

You’re having wine with this amazing couple you met a week ago. Expecting an important email, you ask if you can use the laptop laying on the kitchen counter. Your hostess smiles and tells you, “Be my guest, dear.”

You check your mail and out of curiosity you check the browsing history and finds this:

pheasant 5(Yes, that is my actual browsing history)

After a few minutes of awkward silence, you excuse yourself, never to enter that house again.

But… if you knew the user of the laptop was actually a horror writer, the weird subjects in the browsing history would not seem so scary anymore.

This brings me back to the point I tried to make earlier.

We love horror. We enjoy being terrified by the unknown and whether we like to admit it or not, we cannot get enough of the dark and twisted minds of the legendary fathers of horror like Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Bloch.

These are the people who twists our dreams into nightmares. They unsettle our comfort zones and tickle the monsters tucked far away in our subconscious, agitating them until they break free from the rusty old cages we rely on to keep them at bay.

As readers, we feed the imaginary evils we consume from the pages of novels written by these authors to our captive monsters. But as writers, we are able to share our dark creativity with the world without fear of being ridiculed, judged or burnt at the stake for being suspected of practicing witchcraft. I’m sure if this was the 16th or 17th century, no horror writer would have dared to pen their thoughts onto paper.

Can you imagine Edgar Allan Poe as a writer of romantic poetry?

So, dear reader, next time you read a novel filled with bloodlust and unexplained horrors, take a minute to realize one thing… every scene making you experience the slightest bit of discomfort… those are the mirror images of our minds. Know that we freed the untamed beasts so your need for horror could be fulfilled.

We expose our deepest and darkest fantasies for your entertainment and as our fingers dance over the keyboard in a tango of horrific beauty… we love every word, syllable and phrase.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABianca Pheasant is an aspiring new author trying to make her mark in a world filled with great ones. She lives in South Africa with her husband of ten years, only daughter and her trusted Staffordshire terrier. She has a fascination with crime and murder mysteries, the criminal mind, reptiles, arachnids and of course tattoos. She is a humble being who detests writing biographies about herself and dislikes photos of herself even more. www.biancapheasant.co.za. Check out Bianca’s Facebook page as well as her audiobooks and E-books.

 

1 Comment

Filed under fantasy, horror, people, Publishing, Writing