Category Archives: horror

Women in Horror: Sarah Read

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Today, Canadian 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.

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

 

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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.

 

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Women in Horror: Arinn Dembo

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteArinn Dembo, game and fiction writer, hails from Canada. Today, for Women in Horror Month she talks about a very special house.

Haunting the House

Horror did not just spring up out the Earth like a mushroom. Horror was built by human hands. And I would argue that those hands belonged to women.

Women came to the Lonely Place of Dying and called it home. Isn’t Death always a female realm the world over–ruled by a pretty young queen and her doting husband? There is a reason for that, woven into human flesh and bone. They call it “the maternal mortality bump” for a reason.

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Illustration from Thasaidon: Tales of Death Magick by Clark Ashton Smith. Edited and annotated by Arinn Dembo, Kthonia Press

Our ancestors dug a foundation deep into black bedrock.

They built the walls from shipwreck timber and hanging trees.

They dug a cellar deep enough to keep wine and potatoes, and to soak up screams.

They hung windows that blankly reflected the bone white sky, and mirrors that reflected your true face.

In the warmth of evening firelight, women would spin thread and pass the time with ancient, bloody tales–the kind that we share when the children have gone to bed.

Men who smile, and flatter, and kiss, and kill.

Unlucky girls who marry a man in black.

Mad women. Mad men. Damned priests and cruel governesses. Girls who said “yes” to the wrong offer of employment. The unwanted…abandoned. The unloved…locked in freezing garrets or hurled bodily down the well.

In the 18th century parlors and the libraries, young women sat and scratched away with busy pens, writing the most popular novels of the age. Ann (Radcliffewas the reigning champion, of course—the best-paid writer in the English language during her time, just as J.K. Rowling is today.

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“Proteans Attack” – Illustration from Black Section: The Complete Files, by Kerberos Productions

Ann retold those old stories, gave them winsome young heroines with pretty faces and salted the old meat with a dash of romance. She grew rich on her tales, traveled the world with a pretty husband and fine clothes. And with her wealth she plastered the bare beams and dark walls of the House with new paper, laid carpets in the drawing room, hung curtains to discourage the curious.

The stories of that generation are still being told today, over and over. I can turn to any movie channel and find a dozen stories about women fighting for their lives and their families against the forces of psychopathy and abuse. And those tales are not “thrillers” or “psychological dramas” or what-have-you. They are Horror, grounded in fears that still have teeth. Because women in any generation have to live with the same threats: when passion fades and love sours, women DIE.

Men have walled off those old rooms, of course. The only part of the house that they want to call “Horror” is the part they have appropriated for themselves. And they actually believe they can keep women out! They try to make us unwelcome. (Unless, of course, they need a limp doll to play the Victim in one their pathetic little puppet shows…then our bodies will do.)

But it was Mary (Shelley) who built the new wing that they strut around in today. She lit the first gas lamps, and split the night with the crackle of electricity and the shrieks of rebirth.

Just as Shirley (Jackson) is the reason that stones rain from the sky, that houses eat their owners and knives whistle through the air with no hand to hurl them.

There is no age or era of horror as a genre that you cannot find female excellence. The house of Horror is built from the flesh and bone and blood and sweat and tears of women. Small wonder, then, that women remain loyal to the House, and have never left it…no matter how male dominated and obnoxious the mainstream offerings of Horror have become.

Female readers still buy the books. Female viewers still come to the theatre. They still turn out to honor their great-grandmothers and the old ways. They come to watch the Final Girls run screaming through a Man’s World, and those footfalls echo through eternity.

Why?

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ICHTHYS – An Easter tale of horror in the catacombs of ancient Rome

Because every woman who exists on Earth today is the descendant of a Final Girl, even if her struggle is lost to memory.

Nothing has changed. The women in the stories still emerge alive. Bloodied and traumatized, crippled by loss and cynicism, older and wiser…but alive.

I would argue that the reason that women never abandon Horror is simple: Horror belongs to us.

Because Horror is the story of women’s lives.

Horror is the experience of being female in the world.

Horror is the genre where hypervigilance is a female super power and can be a guarantee of survival. Where Trauma becomes an asset, not a liability.

Horror is the genre where boundaries crossed result in the lethal consequences that women have always longed to see.

Horror is the school where we take night classes in Know Thy Enemy.

Women built this House. And we will always haunt this house.

We still prowl the oldest depths of the ancestral manse, telling stories of the poisons that leach from bad faith and black hearts.

We still kick open the doors that men try to nail shut and shout our stories into the room—even though we are seldom greeted with applause.

And women are still building new wings to this house. Sometimes the sounds that come from those new halls are unearthly, full of pain and terror…but sometimes they are orgiastic. In this brave new age, women are not always shy about pleasure as well as pain.

Women in Horror Month is a time of celebration, but I also see it as a time of truth and reconciliation. And really, if this is the only time of the year that you SEE Women in Horror…it’s because you know exactly Jack and Squat about Horror.

And Jack left town.

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Fort Zombie 2 – The royalty of Erebos. Queen Zombie concept art from Fort Zombie 2, by Kerberos Productions.

Arinn Dembo is a professional writer and game developer living and working in Vancouver BC. She was the lead writer of Fort Zombie, the cult classic indie game which spawned a legion of zombie base-building and defense titles, and has brought a little extra creepiness to many other PC games for her home studio, Kerberos Productions. Her short fiction has appeared in HP Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror, F & SF, Mad Scientist Journal, Lamp Light, Deep Magic and a number of horror anthologies, including Gods, Memes and Monsters, She Walks in Shadows, and What October Brings. To sample her short fiction and poetry, you can try her single-author collection, Monsoon and Other Stories, or grab her horror one-shot ICHTHYS.

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Women in Horror: Sara C. Walker

 

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteToday, for Women in Horror Month, we’re back to Canada with Sara C. Walker who gives a list of some inspiring female authors and Canadian writers who do science fiction horror.

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an early example of SF horror.

When asked to name a woman writer with stories at the intersection of horror and  science fiction, Mary Shelley is first to come to mind. Author of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, originally published in 1818, Shelley is credited for writing the first science fiction story, though it’s often forgotten the story was intended to be horror. With that story, the sub-genre science fiction horror was born.

Science fiction horror ponders the current state of science and projects all the worst ways things could go wrong. As in Frankenstein, the true monsters of science fiction horror are human. From horrible dystopian societies to nightmare post-apocalyptic landscapes to brutal experimentation in the name of science, the stories are varied but also seek to answer the same question of every horror movie: who will survive?

Two hundred years since Mary Shelley’s creation, the genre crossing is a fertile playground for Canadian women writers, and while there are plenty of short stories that fit the science fiction horror genre, here are several suggestions for novel-length works to keep you up at night. This list is by no means exhaustive but is meant as a beginner’s guide.

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Real life SF horror–cancer ad from the 1800s

When looking for Canadian women who write science fiction horror, the first to come to mind is Margaret Atwood, specifically The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985, which has been adapted into a film, an opera, and now an HBO series, airing since 2017. This dystopian story imagines a pretty horrific future for women.

Ten years ago, the Canadian documentary Pretty Bloody: The Women of Horror interviewed actors and producers in the genre, along with Tanya Huff and Nancy Kilpatrick, two of Canada’s top horror writers. Huff’s contemporary vampire series was turned into Blood Ties, a television show that aired in 2007, but Huff also writes military science fiction series with a female protagonist—start with Valor’s Choice (DAW, 2000). Kilpatrick is also known for her vampire series, Thrones of Blood, but she also writes science fiction horror, as in Eternal City (Five Star, 2003).

Well known for her Otherworld series, especially her first novel, Bitten (Vintage Canada, 2009), which became a television show for three seasons in 2014 to 2016, Kelley Armstrong also dabbles in science fiction horror. The Darkness Rising series, beginning with The Gathering (Doubleday Canada, 2012), is a trilogy in which the main character, who lives in a medical-research town, finds strange things happening, beginning with the drowning of the swim team captain. Armstrong is also brilliant at writing psychological thrillers that will scare your pants off. Just try reading the beginning of Omens (Random House, 2013) or Exit Strategy (Seal Books, 2010).

Author Ada Hoffman’s novel The Outside, a science fiction horror, is due to be published June 2019 by Angry Robot. Hailed as “fast-paced, mind-bending Big Idea science fiction, with a touch of Lovecraftian horror”, The Outside features cyborg servants, a heretic scientist, and an autistic protagonist.

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The Handmaid’s Tale, base off of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel.

I do love Frankenstein, The Handmaid’s Tale, and stories that seek to show us what future might come of our choices, but my true love is for urban fantasy, a genre that’s a sibling to horror as both have roots in urban myths. So, with that in mind, I have one more reading suggestion for urban fantasy that fringes on horror, although this one leans more toward fantasy than science fiction.

These days she lives in Los Angeles and is more known for being the ex-wife of Elon Musk, however, Justine Musk is from Peterborough, Ontario and wrote horror back in 2005 with her first book, BloodAngel. The sequel was released in 2008, Lord of Bones (both published by ROC, in imprint of Penguin Books). We’re still waiting for more books from Musk.

walkerSara C. Walker writes fiction, usually urban fantasy, from short stories to novels. “True Nature” can be found in Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland (Exile Editions, ed. Colleen Anderson) and “If Wishes Were Pennies” in Canadian Creatures (Schreyer Ink Publishing, ed. Casia Schreyer). Forthcoming stories include “Stag and Storm” in Canadian Dreadful (Dark Dragon Press, ed. David Tocher) and “Call of the Ash” in Not Just A Pretty Face (Dead Light Publishing). She’s edited two anthologies of stories set in the Kawartha Lakes. When not writing, she works at a library and is always ready to give reading suggestions. You can find out more at www.sarawalker.ca.

 

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Women in Horror: Halli Lilburn

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteHalli Lilburn, author and editor, speaks about what makes horror addictive.

Halli on Horror

Horror has its perks. A rush of hormones and adrenaline is addictive. The fight or flight mechanism in our brain is activated without ever being in danger. A good jump-scare is equal to extreme sports. But if you analyze the underlying conflicts behind monster versus man, the message can continue to disturb you for months and even years.

lilburnMy parents wouldn’t allow me to go to a friend’s and watch Poltergeist, so I snuck out. I was thirteen. Curiosity and rebellion were my motivators. Mostly curiosity. I wanted to know what happened to human beings when their souls became corrupted and what kind of damage could they do to the living. I learned that it didn’t take much for a soul to cross the line from human to monster. It was the first time a show gave me nightmares. The morbidity rate on and off screen proved the truth of the rumors that demons had cursed the set. One actress was strangled to death by an ex-boyfriend, and the main character also died of mysterious health complications. I will never watch those movies again. The idea of retribution from beyond the grave will never not be scary. Thirteen is a very vulnerable time for a developing brain.

I am a vivid dreamer. Could be inherited from my dad or could be the anti-depressants Lilburn weshallbemonstersI’m taking. Probably both. When people ask me where I get my bizarre ideas the answer is usually a nightmare. And the more outlandish the better. In horror, a writer can get away with anything. In my story Hidden Twin I found a way to make one body rip apart to find another body inside it like Donna in Poltergeist III (spoilers).

Still, there are areas in the genre that I avoid: (living) serial killers and body mashing are not my cup of tea. The thrill of witnessing a murder is petrifying but once you are dead, it’s over. The stories that get to me are the hauntings; images that churn in your mind over and over for years, being trapped inside your mind, not knowing what is real, losing control of your sanity. Ghosts are especially convincing when they reach out to their families for help, but their method of communication so cryptic it fails. When the dead stick around the living are bound to get hurt. Some examples include The Others, Sixth Sense, Delirium, and Haunting of Hill House. Like I said, if it gives me nightmares, it is well written.

SKULL SPEAK

A skull is what I see through

Through my hollow eyes

A skull is what I speak through

With chattering teeth

Always smiling

With no lips it’s impossible not to

A ribcage is what I love through

It is cold here in your heart

Can you find a way to love me?

The skeleton sits on my shelf

A corpse of me

Sporting a felt hat and smiling

Always smiling

Showing teeth in a carefree, neurotic way

“You are obsessed with me” it laughs

I tap its tiny noggin

I let you take up precious space on my shelf

Precious space meant for books.

It replied, “Ah, but the stories I could tell.”

Lilburn steampunkHalli Lilburn writes speculative, sci-fi and poetry, but she always tries to spice it up with something horrific. Her most recent releases include stories in anthologies: We Shall be Monsters by Renaissance Press, Tesseracts 22: Alchemy and Artifacts by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy. She is a freelance editor with essentialedits.ca and you can read more at her blog.

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Women in Horror: Sara Townsend

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Today we’re back in the UK for Women in Horror Month, where Sara Jayne Townsend talks about how she discovered horror and what draws her in.

WHY HORROR?

I was 13 years old when I discovered horror. Before then, I was scared of anything remotely creepy. But something changes in you when you hit puberty, and it’s not just about all the previously undiscovered angst coming out. That year, I picked up Stephen King’s Different Seasons while browsing in the school library. I liked it so much I went looking for more books by the same author and came across Carrie. After that, I was hooked.

The same year, my English teacher gave the class an assignment to write a horror story. Townsend The Whispering Death New E-book Master (3) (400x640)Mine was about ten teenagers who went on a camping trip in a remote field and unearthed an ancient evil that possessed some of them, who then went around murdering the others. I really enjoyed writing it, and the teacher seemed to like it as well (she gave me an A+). It was something of a flawed story, but I was only 13 and had a lot to learn about the craft of writing.

That was 36 years ago, and I’ve been writing horror ever since. Over the years I’ve had many people ask some variation of the same question: “What’s a nice girl like you doing writing such nasty stories?”

So what is it about horror that’s so fascinating? I’ve asked myself the same question several times. Part of it is about exploring the dark nature of humanity. I am not interested in stories about people discovering love and living happy every after. I am much more interested in writing, and reading, about the darkness in people’s souls. What makes someone take the life of a fellow human being? The majority of people can’t imagine doing this, and yet it happens in our world, every day. Serial killers are fascinating to me because I want to understand what makes them do what they do. Is it some misfiring synapses in their bTownsend Suffer The Children 200X300rain that makes them want to kill people? Or is it that such people are truly born evil?

Part of the appeal of horror on a personal level is being able to exorcise one’s own demons. I have certain recurring themes that seem to pop up in a lot of my stories−isolation; loneliness; despair. These seem to represent my own inner demons, and writing about them helps me to find a way to externalise them, and come to terms with them.

Another aspect of horror writing is escapism. A lot of readers like fantasy because it allows them to escape to a fantastical land of magic and strange and marvellous creatures, and a world that seems far more appealing than the one they live in. In horror, the reader escapes to a much darker world, of monsters and evil entities. Townsend OUTPOST H311 MASTER (3) (200x320)Sometimes it puts your own problems into perspective. If you are reading a story about a world where a plague has wiped out all of humanity, and the few survivors face a daily battle of survival against brain-eating zombies, your own everyday worries seem somewhat insignificant in comparison.

And then of course there is the element of fear. We all like to be scared, but we much prefer to do it in a controlled environment, where we know the threat isn’t really real. That’s why people like roller coasters. The ride might be scary, but when it’s over you get off and the fear goes away. The same thing happens when you finish a scary book, although a really scary book might stay with you for a few days after you finish reading it. If I can do that to a reader, then I’ve done my job as a horror writer.

For all of these reasons, I love horror. I deal with my own fears by re-imagining them onto the page. And if I can write something that gives you nightmares–well, I’d take that as a compliment.

Townsend sara-121-Web (2)Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer, and someone tends to die a horrible death in all of her stories. She lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. She is author of several horror novels, the latest one being Outpost H311, the story of an oil exploration team who crashland on a remote island in the arctic to discover a hidden base that is hiding some sinister secrets.

Learn more about Sara and her writing at her website and her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter and Goodreads, and buy her books from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

 

 

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Women in Horror: Colleen Anderson

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteIt’s the ides of February. Well technically, that would be true possibly every four years, but it is halfway through the month and there are still many other women in horror to showcase. I would be remiss if I left myself out of the Women in Horror Month. So I too will talk about how I stumbled upon horror.

story collection, fantasy, horror, SF

Available on Amazon

Like many of the people who have already posted, The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery were stories that stayed with me but I really don’t think I read them when I was a child. (And I have to mention the very good TV series of The Haunting of Hill House.) Most likely I watched these as a teenager. My first brush with horror was earlier with movies though. Not so much Dracula for me, though I do remember Frankenstein. When I was about six or seven my parents fought so badly that my mother would bundle us in jammies into the car and off to the drive-in we would go. The House of Seven Gables and The Fall of the House of Usher with Vincent Price, another king of horror, are forever conflated into one movie for me. I was that young and my mother certainly didn’t seemed worried about our young minds being warped.

Those two movies where Vincent’s character pickaxes his sister and buries her in the walls (or under the floors) stuck with me, along with the first nightmare I remember at age six. After that, the endless recycling of The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits coupled with reading Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury made me who I am today.

horror, dark fantasy, death, speculative fiction, Season's End.

The Beauty of Death contains “Season’s End”

While I always liked the weird I was not a fan of horror. I detested most horror and gore movies. Slasher and murderer thrillers were not and still aren’t really my cup of tea. But the strange is and always has been, and that may be reflected more in the shows I watched and books I read.

When it came to writing, I was writing fantasy and SF. I wasn’t writing horror. I was a member of SFWA for a long time before I even knew of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). But I found stories I sent to magazines of SF or fantasy would be rejected with a note that they didn’t do horror. I was confused; maybe I still am, but my stories didn’t seem scary to me. Of course, they came from my mind so I knew where they were going.

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Colleen’s launch for A Body of Work takes place Feb. 23 at The Heatley.

Somewhere along the way I started to submit to some of the darker markets and like the sun setting on the longest day, I finally figured out that I sold more stories if I went darker. I have written a few truly terrifying depictions of horror in the gore sense, such as my flash piece “Amuse Bouche,” but while it was an exercise for me, it wasn’t where my heart lay. A writer friend once asked, “What theme are you exploring? We all explore a theme.” Hers were animals. Another writer’s was children…

 

I never thought I explored one theme until I put together my first collection of fiction Embers Amongst the Fallen. At that point, it became clear that I do morality tales. Not all of them but there is often a disturbing moral dilemma that a character must face (“The Healer’s Touch,” “An Ember Amongst the Fallen,” “Season’s End,” “Hold Back the Night”). In that sense, as opposed to the “other” outside of you invading your sanctity of life or home, it is the “other” inside. What deals with the devil will a character make to save something dear? I find that extremely interesting and personal, something to which we can all relate.

SF, fantasy, horror, jabberwock, mad hatter, bandersnatch, Alice, March hare, dormouse, mock turtle

Alice Unbound contains 22 speculative stories and poems inspired by the world and character of Lewis Carroll.

As with many of the writers here, we have a fascination with vampires, or werewolves, or creepy crawlies, or disturbing dolls, or clowns, or the dark, or subterranean depths or things hidden in fog or water or space. Just a readers do. It is as old as humankind–that fear and need to conquer it, and an intense curiosity about the unknown and the strange.

I have written several stories that also explore the psychopath/sociopath (modern studies don’t really distinguish between the two) intellect. The mind encased in a human body where that the person doesn’t think like a regular human. It is alien. I’ve look at aspects of this mind in such stories as “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” “Sins of the Father,” “The Book With No End,” and “Gingerbread People.” The first was one story that very much disturbed me in the writing, and the last was an examination of the nature of evil based off of the two Canadian serial killers Paul Bernardo and Carla Homolka, where she was given a lighter sentence because she said he made her do the terrible crimes. Can you be made to commit horrors that go against your fundamental core, and who is more evil–the person committing the crime or the one making that person do it?

And this gets down to what is the scariest thing: to many it is man/woman as monster, the feral side, the side the loses control; like Dracula, like werewolves, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You could say my fascination with the weird is my fascination with people and that no matter how normal all of us look there is something that makes us individual, and sometimes it is disturbing. Thankfully though, most of us are just  harmless eccentrics.

hoodieColleen Anderson is a Canadian author with over two hundreds works published including fiction and poetry. She has two fiction collections, Embers Amongst the Fallen, and A Body of Work which was published by Black Shuck Books, UK in 2018. She has been longlisted for a Stoker Award and shortlisted for the Aurora and Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, as well as having placed in several poetry contests. A recipient of a Canada Council Grant, Colleen has served on Stoker and British Fantasy Award juries, copyedited for publishers, and edited three anthologies (Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, Exile Publishing 2018).

Look for some of her work in Canadian Dreadful, Tesseracts 22, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias and By the Light of Camelot. A book launch for A Body of Work will take place in Vancouver of Feb. 23, at 3pm at The Heatley. Come by and say hi and hear Colleen read. Read a review of the collection here.

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Women in Horror: Nancy Kilpatrick

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteIt’s bloody Valentine’s Day and who to know more about the horror of vampire’s than Canada’s own Nancy Kilpatrick. Nancy talks about collecting, vampires and all that crazy killer love of them.

Vampires. Now you see ‘em, now you don’t. They’ve been around at least since the first written records of humanity’s history, and likely since the first mortals ventured out of caves and decided they enjoyed being bipeds. As we’ve evolved, so have the Undead. After all, we imagined them, so we have creators’ rights to bring them up to our speed.

Being one of those insane types who becomes obsessed about certain things, I’ve ended up with a library of vampire novels totaling over 2,500 volumes, which will be hard to move if I ever need to. I also own a hundred or so movie posters, games, dolls, toys, pamphlets, PhD dissertations, small press non-fiction offerings, movies, vinyl and CD music, poetry, jewelry, clothing, toys and much other memorabilia related to Bloodsuckers (and their less physical cousins who don’t want to sip our blood but do want to imbibe our energy, our dreams, our souls, or whatever else they desire which we possess).

kilpatrickI’ve also written quite a bit on vampires. Currently, my 22nd novel has just been released in a vampire series for adults called “Thrones of Blood.” Vol 4: Savagery of the Rebel King follows the bite trail of Vol 1: Revenge of the Vampir King; Vol 2:  Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess; Vol 3: Abduction of Two Rulers.

Being awash in this crimson milieu has resulted in a bit of knowledge about these supernatural creatures, especially in terms of what’s been written, and what hasn’t. Which is why the great hoopla about the Twilight books and movies and others of that ilk has astounded me. Both the pro and anti positions are strong still and within those are factions like: Camp Edward (vampire) or Camp Joseph (werewolf)—pick your own fantasy guy.

Twilight has been viewed as teen fodder, but it was not only young adults and not only females that adored the material. Rumor has it that moms also jumped on the coffin wagon. This sanitized vampire world spoke to budding hormones, since the human protagonist didn’t have sex until marriage, which came at the end of the series. Edward Cullen (approximate age 117 years), aka The Good Boyfriend, was always there for his still-in-high school human sweetheart Bella Swan. Attentive. Kind. Not pushy. Self-effacing to a fault; he would rather harm himself than harm her, abandon her instead of inflicting his questionable true self on his true love. Much tease, little payoff.

But vampires have always had problems being accepted. Derived from legends and mythology with a few “true” accounts, in the past this creature was portrayed as horrific, violent, a fearsome, murderous, blood-drinking resuscitated corpse.

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Bela Lugosi as Dracula

The review in the Manchester Guardian on the 1897 release of Bram Stoker’s book is so scathing. Bela Lugosi played Dracula on stage and in 1931 on screen. While the movie was well received by the public, some of the female persuasion reputedly fainted en masse in the theater, The New Yorker’s negative review included, “there is no real illusion in the picture” and, “This whole vampire business falls pretty flat.” The Chicago Tribune did not think the film as scary as its stage version, calling it “too obvious” and “its attempts to frighten too evident.” Despite that, The Tribune deigned to conclude it was “quite a satisfactory thriller.”

All this to say that the vampire has floated side by side over millennia with us and that each incarnation has met with acceptance and rejection. Ultimately, the vampire, IMHO, is composed of many facets, which is why its popularity ebbs and then flows again at a re-envisioning, and why it likely will always remain the most popular supernatural. This monster is recognizable as us. Vampires were human and can still take human form.

We’ve cleaned up the vampire to meet our exacting germ-obsessed 21st century kilpatrick2standards. And that’s fine because it’s what the public demands. Each generation finds a new facet to engage with. Generation X had the most recent crack at redefining the vampire as a being that sparkles. A backlash resulted to return to the more terrifying Undead. We will have to wait to see what Gens Y or Z concoct. But if history means anything, it tells us that the vampire will not be staked into oblivion. If that was going to happen it would have already occurred. This dark archetype resonates in its myriad forms. Twilight is already part of the comprehensive history of the most intriguing of supernaturals.

Nancy Kilpatrick, who has been called Queen of the Undead, Canada’s Anne Rice, and That Hot Vampire Chic, says these monikers leave her delirious because “Somebody’s got to own it!”  Kilpatrick writes vampires, not only, but mostly. Her website lists her novels and collections. In addition, she has published over 220 short stories, 1 non-fiction book—The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined—as well as graphic novels and stories and lots of non-fiction articles. She whiles away her limited free kilpatrick3time visiting crypts, catacombs, cemeteries, mummies, jeweled skeletons and Danse Macabre artwork. Her latest creations are the sinister and seductive vampires in Thrones of Blood, with the first 4 books of this 6 book series out now. Check out the ebook of #4, Savagery of the Rebel King here  as well as at Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk.

Nancy Kilpatrick’s website is here and if there’s something not there that you want to know about her, ask at the bottom of the page. Nancy can also be found on Facebook,
Twitter, Instagram and on her Blog.

Links to the Thrones of Blood series:

 

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Women in Horror: Chantal Noordeloos

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteFrom the Netherlands, Chantal Noordeloos talks about the thrill of horror. What scares us and why we love it, today in Women in Horror.

Oh, the Horror…

What is it about fear that we find so incredibly enticing? Not everyone feels this way, of course. There are plenty of “sane”people in this world that stick to being drawn to less terrifying genres, but to us horror “freaks” (let’s face it, we don’t mind being called freaks, do we?) it’s an almost delicious feeling to be afraid. We look for it, and are often disappointed when a movie or a novel doesn’t succeed in scaring us.

It’s not easy to scare, (trust me, I’m a writer, I know about these things) because fear is Noorabout as personal as humor. What is scary to some might be a little dull to others. What turns me into a quivering jelly, hiding under my duvet, might be a big snooze fest to you. But we horror fans seek that which makes us cringe or shudder.

Noor2For me it started at a very young age. I would make my aunt read this story called “Ghost Ship” so often, she actually faked having lost the book to get out of reading it. I was fascinated with fairytales, which were pretty much my first step to horror. Witches were shoved in ovens and burned, wicked stepsisters cut off their own toes and heels to make a shoe fit, and one evil queen was trapped in a barrel in which someone had studded with nails, after which they rolled her down a hill. Charming stuff… and in hindsight it may explain my current psyche.

From fairytales I moved to ghost stories, and tweeny Noor3seances, where I would be accompanied by my fellow pimply faced giggly peers as we summoned spirits using a makeshift Ouija board (if you turned it around it was my mom’s scrabble game) and glass. We took ourselves completely seriously, of course. With an ominous voice we would ask the spirits to grace us with their presence, and then continue to spook each other so badly that at least one of my friends would end in tears, and I wouldn’t sleep soundly for nights after.

Some of my bolder friends had even seen horror movies, and they would tell the narratives in full detail. I was afraid of Freddie Kruger years before I ever saw A Nightmare on Elm Street. To be honest, I was much more afraid of him before I ever saw Noor4those films than I was after. After hearing the story of Bloody Mary, I avoided looking in mirrors all together for several weeks. As if I would accidentally call her by just thinking of her name whilst looking at my own reflection. It was very silly, but the mind can play nasty tricks on you, and my imagination has always been very active. Ever since I was very young, it has never been too difficult to scare me, because I am a big fat coward, and I’m utterly squeamish to boot. There, I said it.

Things haven’t changed much since I was younger. As an adult I can still utterly lose my composure after a spooky movie, and will absolutely turn on all the lights on my way to the bathroom. I am the most ironic horror writer ever, because I’m afraid of everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.

My own writing can freak me out. In fact, I am not satisfied with my (horror) writing Noor5unless it does. One of the things that’s so delicious about writing, is that it’s as immersive as reading. When I create a tale, I’m there, living it. So, there are absolutely moments that I terrify myself so much that I need to take a little break and look at cat gifs or something. Anything to think “happy thoughts.” My husband can actually tell what genre I’m writing by what mood I’m in. If I am jittery and skittish, I’m probably writing horror. There are subjects within horror that can make me gloomy and depressed. Especially if I have to do a lot of research. For example, one of my main characters was a child bride. I was in a funk for days. Or when I wrote about Aokigahara (the Japanese suicide forest) in my last novel it really messed with me.

Yet… I seem to enjoy the fear. As much as I relish being afraid, I get an equally big kick out of scaring people. Horror is such a fascinating subject to write about. There is something almost beautiful in death and even gore. Something sensual in the darkness. There is no greater compliment to me than when someone tells me they were terrified when they read my work. (Well, perhaps the only greater compliment is if I made someone cry.) I delight in creating monsters that will keep people up at night. Even if I can’t frighten everyone, I write for those people that I do scare.

Noor6So what is it about fear that we enjoy? My theory is that we like not feeling safe all the time. It gives us a nice contrast to our daily lives. There is something comforting in crawling under the covers, and telling yourself that they’re only stories, or that it was just a movie. Perhaps horror tickles our inner masochist. Perhaps it just makes us realize that we’re alive. Whatever it is, it’s a passion that connects us all, and it will keep challenging writers, artists and film makers to find new ways to scare us. I, for one, certainly enjoy that challenge.

Chantal Noordeloos always wanted to be a mermaid or bard when she was younger, and since she could be neither, writer was the closest thing. She shares her real life adventures with many of her loved ones, among which are her wacky husband and her daughter, who will one day grow up to be a charismatic supervillain (she already has the mad cackle down).

You wouldn’t expect someone who is scared of the dark and who everyone calls “Noodles” to be a horror writer, yet Chantal has written things that made people want to keep their nightlights on at bedtime. She also dabbles in other genres, but is most known for her darker work.

At heart, she will always be a storyteller; she enjoys creating new worlds for people to escape to, and creating new characters for readers to meet.

If you’re interested in finding out more about her horror novels, you can use the following links.

Angel Manor: Lucifer Falls I

US: http://tinyurl.com/nljwcvs

UK: http://tinyurl.com/lcnxhxt

Even Hell Has Standards: Pride

US: http://tinyurl.com/pl8mgmk

UK: http://tinyurl.com/qhsygjr

Even Hell Has standards Wrath:

US http://tinyurl.com/z3wk8xa

UK: http://tinyurl.com/zbluqyg

Deeply Twisted:

US: http://tinyurl.com/ouvegb8

UK: http://tinyurl.com/k49v7t2

 

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Women in Horror: Kala Godin

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteCanadian author, Kala Godin talks about research and horror tropes today in Women in Horror.

I actually write in multiple genres, though I’m currently published in paranormal horror, and most recently, poetry.

Paranormal horror is definitely the genre that I can produce the fastest. I only ever write short stories because I’m fairly strong with short fiction. When it comes to horror, my process is quite a bit different than my process for another genre as I believe horror needs a little research.

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Not Just a Pretty Face, published by Deadlight publishing.

That’s not so say, “research everything and have no originality.” Just in my experience I’ve noticed that there are some stereotypes/tropes that are helpful and others that will seriously hurt your reviews later on. Especially if you aren’t careful with their execution. That’s the kind of stuff you want to research. Are you wanting to write more traditional horror? Then try to find some popular stereotypes/tropes specific to your writing. Make sure you are picking ones that you actually like. If you aren’t interested and passionate, the reader can tell.

When you are writing in your chosen tropes, see if you can expand on their ideas. Grow them. Even though you’re using something old or seemingly unoriginal, you still need to make it yours. What makes your horror different? I’ve learned that completely new ideas are rare. You’ll find yourself asking, “Why does my book sound kind of like book X,Y, and Z?” And unless you are outright stealing someone else’s work, then it is not really a problem. Putting your spin on old ideas is a great way to write horror. Or anything really. One thing that’s really popular right now is retellings!

Don’t assume that horror is written to offend people. It’s not. Horror is meant to spark fear. Being scared and being offended are two very different things. You need to know the difference. Now, not everyone is going to like your work. That’s just how it is. Someone is likely going to be offended. But if you are purposely attacking a group of people, brace yourself for the whirlwind of bad reviews that is coming your way.

Specifically attacking groups of people is a cheap trick that is used in a few genres but it’s in horror quite often. It’s used as shock value, thrown in to make the audience cringe and gasp. But is it used for the right reasons? Not really. If it’s not moving your plot or your characters, then it has no use.

These are really just basic tips that help me. As with all things related to writing, one authors’ process may not always work for another. But nonetheless try them, if you dare.

GodinKala Godin is an author living in Alberta, Canada. She lives with a physical disability and is confined to a wheelchair. She’s also an occasional artist, and Halloween is her favorite holiday. She likes tattoos and chocolate, and most movies directed by Tim Burton. Her story A Girl’s Gotta Eat” will be published in Deadlight publishing‘s Not Just A Pretty Face. She is also part of a multi-author story, “Teeth” her poetry collection can be found on Amazon.

https://www.facebook.com/KalaGwrites/
Instagram @kala_g_writes
Twitter @Kala_g_writes

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