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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Women in Horror: Monique Snyman

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteFrom out of South Africa, Monique Snyman writes today and talks about what’s needed to write good characters. I hope you’re enjoying the different writers’ and editors’ perspectives here and will continue to check back throughout the month for Women in Horror Month.

Stepford Wives and Serial Killers: Crafting Complex Characters

People generally assume I am not a horror writer, due to my love of pastels and willingness to help others. Who I am simply does not gel with what is often expected of someone who has a deep affection for the genre. I’m supposedly “too nice,” “too normal-looking,” “too well-spoken.” As if appearances have anything to do with horror. Granted, perhaps I am all those things, but I also pride myself for not truly fitting into anyone’s preconceived notions of who I am to them. That, I guess, also makes me somewhat of a rebel—a rebel in a floral sundress. One, I regret to say, that has a real problem with authority, always have, and probably always will. Does my problem with authority make me a bad person? No. Is my love of pink supposed to make me any less of a horror writer? I hope not; otherwise my career is doomed.

What I’m getting at is that we make judgment calls based on appearances, but all human beings are complex. There are layers to who we are and what we are capable of doing. And what we see is not exactly what we get in the grand scheme of things.

Fictionalized characters, if crafted correctly, are exactly the same.

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Patrick Batemen examines his tools in American Pyscho

If there’s anything horror has taught me over the years, it’s that appearances can be deceiving. For better or worse, the bad guy isn’t always the monster and the good guy isn’t always squeaky clean. It’s because of this sentiment that I’ve always found myself drawn to crafting complex characters. Patrick Bateman (American Psycho), for example, is still one of my favorite characters because he doesn’t initially come across as a…well, for lack of a better word, psycho. Bateman looks normal, is ambitious, seems to have it all, yet there is something seriously wrong with him. Funnily enough, as far as real life is concerned, I wouldn’t count Ted Bundy in on my list of favorite serial killers for exactly the same reasons. Perhaps it’s because I feel Bundy’s madness is more superficial than Bateman’s, and that Bundy did it all for show. I don’t know. I’m not a certified psychologist.

Another character I absolutely adore is Tiffany Valentine-Ray (The Bride of Chucky), because at first she comes across as this heartless serial killer, a thrill-seeker who’d do anything to keep Chucky happy, but she’s much more than that. Tiffany does display a softer side at times, and she does stand up to Chucky. Sometimes, when I feel especially sentimental, I can imagine she would’ve been content with a suburban life…for a while, at least. I mean, even a trophy wife can be much more than a pretty face and a pair of Louboutin’s. She can be a voracious reader like Marilyn Monroe, or she can be a complete lunatic like Linda Hazzard. It all depends on the things that make a person who they are—past experiences, present circumstances, future endeavors.

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Chucky and Tiffany planning creepy capers.

That’s the thing about characters, though, they’re basically people. Each one is unique in their own way.

 

Nevertheless, layers are important, because they allow readers to connect with characters and ponder the “what ifs” and “maybes” long after the book or movie is finished.

So, how does one go about creating a complex character? The truth is that there is no real trick to writing complex characters; you simply need to know your characters inside and out, and make them somewhat relatable. However, I do understand that some will find it easier than others, which is why I always suggest authors first write a character description, just to get a general idea of who they’re working with (appearances are important, whether we like it or not). Note the character’s sex, age, hair and eye color, height, weight, sexuality, and so on. I, personally, then tend to move on to the character’s preferred fashion choices (preppy, goth, jock, whatever), before I get into the nitty-gritty backstory. And yes, it is always a good idea to write a backstory, whether anyone else sees it or not, because your character’s choices are often dictated by a fictionalized pasts. From there, expand to include relationships—how, for example, does your protagonist/antagonist relate to other characters? How did they meet? How long have they been friends? Why don’t they like each other? When will there be conflict? After that, if you have to, gently prod your characters into position by making adjustments to the personality.

As Neil Gaiman said on a related topic, “It’s that easy, and that hard.”

It takes practice to write well, to craft unforgettable characters, to somehow navigate your way through intricate plots and subplots and whatnot. My best advice: Try and try again. I’ve worked in the industry for over a decade, and I can honestly say that honing a craft, in particular one that is ever-changing, is a full-time job. With practice, though, crafting a character doesn’t have to be a chore.

Synam 3Monique Snyman’s mind is a confusing bedlam of glitter and death, where candy-coated gore is found in abundance and homicidal unicorns thrive. Sorting out the mess in her head is particularly irksome before she’s ingested a specific amount of coffee, which is equal to half the recommended intake of water for humans per day. When she’s not playing referee to her imaginary friends or trying to overdose on caffeine, she’s doing something with words—be it writing, reading, or fixing all the words.

Monique Snyman lives in Pretoria, South Africa, with her husband and an adorable Chihuahua. She’s the author of MUTI NATION, a horror novel set in South Africa, and THE NIGHT WEAVER, the first installment in a dark fantasy series for young adults.

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Women in Horror: Pat Flewwelling

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteFrom Canada, writer and editor Pat Flewwelling talks about horror, scary reality and maybe, just maybe why women write horror.

Writing Horror All Along

For some folk, horror is synonymous with supernatural evil and/or gore. I think that’s unfair. There are plenty of horror stories that are all creep and no gore, like the Haunting of Hill House, Turn of the Screw, and Beloved. And there are stories that have no supernatural evil and yet are still shiver-worthy, like the original Stepford Wives, We have Always Lived in the Castle, The Yellow Wallpaper, Rebecca, and Flowers in the Attic.

Pat asks, what is scary? Image: MoviePilot.com

So, for the purposes of this argument, let’s take the supernatural and the gore out of the equation, because to be fair, there are a select few well-paid authors who have diluted all fright out of things that go bump in the night.

Without eldritch beings, evisceration, and eyeballs dangling from their sockets, what horror have we got left? Scary evil human beings. Let’s pretend then, that we want to write an in-your-face-scary horror story, leaving out the supernatural—and the swearing!—while sanitizing the gore and the violence, shall we?

Perhaps we should tell a story about an anonymous serial killer. Those are always big box office sellers, right? Maybe we can make the killer that creepy lurker on your street corner, standing there with his mental checklist, hunting for That One hidden amongst The Many. We don’t know he’s there until it’s too late, and by then, he’s become a pernicious and inexorable threat.

Oh wait…that story has already been told. A lot. Like, a lot.

Or perhaps he’s not that snaggle-toothed rando lurking in the shadows. Maybe he’s known and trusted, maybe even has a “special bond” with your children. There’s no safety at home, because that’s where he lives; there’s no safety with your parents; there’s not even a safe refuge for you with your friends. He always seems to know where to find you.

But perhaps it’s all in your mind. You’re just being hysterical. You’re overreacting.

Ah, but you perceive a threat— everyone knows there’s a threat—but since he hasn’t actually done anything to you, the police can’t help you. You show them the emails, the text messages, but that doesn’t prove anything, does it? All the makings of a great psychological horror, if overdone. In non-fiction.

Scary, sure, but what about evil? Like, deep-down, weapons-grade evil? This is a horror story after all. Why not some psychotic doctors, or baby-stealers, or people who slash genitalia? That kind of evil doesn’t really exist in the world, right? I mean, if true evil existed in the world, we’d see things like rape of incapacitated patients, forced sterilization without consent, systemic child abduction, husband stitches, and FGM (female genital mutilation). Besides, it can’t be evil if it’s legal, right?

Yikes. I sound a little biased. Let’s redirect this conversation, shall we? Maybe we should flip the script and have a scary, evil woman.

Well, the old serial killer trope still comes to mind. Black widows are standard fare, too, but in some cases, that horror plotline can quickly become a comedy. Well, we could always pull in a standard stalker, or a not-so-standard stalker. It’s strange that all the “evil” female villains seem to engage in—and the really, really evil ones attack children, especially their own. The worst? When they attack children sexually. Not always, of course. Don’t get me started on articles about the psychological or financial abuse they commit on all genders and ages. Women are a nasty bunch of creatures all on their own. After all, who do you think supports FGM? Who do you think performs it?

I won’t even consider writing a story about violence done against or by transgendered women, so don’t ask me to go checking how often a story like that has been done before. Thanks anyhow.

Flewwelling BlightOfExiles

Find Pat’s Blight of Exiles through Tyche Books

Maybe women horror writers add that supernatural element in order to create a monster they can actually see, define, and conquer. A monster we’re allowed to attack, encouraged to destroy. In a story like that, we can become the Mama Bear you just don’t want to mess with. We don’t just beat up the demons and send them home again; we undermine them. We can get inside their heads, understand what makes them tick, and use that to our advantage. And oh, how we will destroy them. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, sure; but hell hath no single-minded, red-raged resolve like a mother whose children you’ve threatened.

And maybe we write the gory details because we know what it’s like to suffer the indignities of our bodies uncontrollably mutating throughout our lifetimes—puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, menopause. Maybe it’s our reaction to having our bodies and our lives constantly, publicly, dissected and deconstructed, not just by the male gaze, but by our own sisters and mothers and friends.

Maybe some of us are so sick of being never-good-enough that we just want to chuck deuces and become the whole-hearted villain they make us out to be. No holds barred, no flinching, all biting, all punching back, taking (for a change) instead of offering it up. Shackle-breaking. Free. Light. Instead of placating our attackers, standing up and fighting back. Striking first, instead of enduring a lifetime of hypervigilance, waiting, watching, wondering. Stabbing at ideals. Slashing at double-standards and artificial boundaries and self-imposed limitations. Bloody-toothed violence, but with a purpose and an end goal: Leave me and mine alone.

Or maybe women have been writing horror all this time, but calling it something else, like “autobiographies,” “statistical analysis,” and “autopsies.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaybe we’ve been calling it “journalism” all along.

Pat Flewwelling writes dark fiction of all kinds, from short stories like “The Great Inevitable” in Expiration Date (Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, ed. Nancy Kilpatrick) and “Cyphoid Mary” in Alice Unbound (Exile Editions, ed. Colleen Anderson), to full-length novels like Blight of Exiles, Plague of Ghouls, and Scourge of Bones (Tyche Books, 2015, 2016, 2017 respectively). Forthcoming works include “Nowhere Time” in Canadian Dreadful (Dark Dragon Press, ed. David Tocher), and the fourth novel in her Helix series: Sedition (Tyche Books, 2019). On the side, she also runs a travelling bookstore, is a co-editor at ID Press, and works full-time as a senior business analyst.

You can find some of Pat’s work, Expiration Date, Alice Unbound and the Helix trilogy on Amazon.

 

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Women in Horror: Maura McHugh

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteToday we stop in Ireland to hear from Maura McHugh for Women in Horror Month. Maura gives a thoughtful review of a movie cult classic: Ginger Snaps.

Howling for Blood: Power and Puberty in Ginger Snaps

One of my favourite werewolf films is Ginger Snaps (2000), based on a story by Karen Walton and John Fawcett, with a screenplay by Walton, and directed by Fawcett. It has developed into a cult classic for a reason: it’s a well-crafted film about the body horror of puberty and learning to deal with new and powerful urges.

McHugh GingersnapsPoster

Cult classic Ginger Snaps explores werewolves and puberty.

Central to its story is the bond between two sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) Fitzgerald, who don’t fit in at school due to their death obsession and Goth tendencies. Most of their peers are relentlessly replicating middle-class American attitudes exemplified by the boxy suburban landscape they inhabit. Although 16 and 15 years old, they remain on the cusp of puberty, so an interest in boys is just beginning to impinge upon their intense friendship.

Ginger is bitten by a werewolf just as she begins to menstruate, and she starts to change in literal and metaphoric ways. Brigitte tries to protect her sister as Ginger becomes more predatory and lost to her lycanthropic self. Power for Ginger is depicted as becoming more sexually aware and depending upon her ability to draw male attention. There’s the vamp walk down the High School hallway with the boys biting their fists at her attractiveness (a scene central to so many teen films), but this is not the “mousy girl becomes Prom Queen” dynamic. Ginger has always been attractive but was previously uncomfortable with the attention it brought.

This is the Jekyll & Hyde narrative with the girls representing both sides of the self. The werewolf is violent ID, rampaging without restraint. The more Ginger enjoys her destructive power the more alien she becomes. The physical transformation into a werewolf is slow in Ginger Snaps, it hits peak power during the full moon but it is a continuous build. As it progresses, the bond between the sisters erodes. Brigitte begins to embody the rational self that Ginger has rejected, so Ginger will eventually be driven to destroy her sister.

Brigitte attempts to figure out a way to stop her sister from becoming a beast (Ginger graduates from killing animals to killing humans with ease), but Ginger enjoys the power and has the strength to carry out her lethal impulses. “I’m a goddamn force of nature. I feel like I could do just about anything.”

The werewolf is a metaphor for the physical transformation (hair growth, strange appetites and smells) and the emotional roller coaster triggered by the onset of menstruation: mood swings, hormonal imbalances, etc. The film glories in its taboo subject and even offers a biology lesson about some of the more unpleasant aspects of monthly bleeding described in plain language. Older women encourage the girls to embrace it. Menstruation−that hidden, messy issue that usually described in euphemisms (one of the film’s taglines is “She’s got the curse”)− is central to the film.

An overlooked and under-appreciated character in Ginger Snaps is Pamela (Mimi McHugh ginger-snaps-sisters-togetherRogers), the girls’ mother. She has a calm, open and nice relationship with her children, but she doesn’t suppress or shame them. When she realises what’s happening after discovering a dead body, she tells Brigitte, “First thing tomorrow I’ll let the house fill up with gas and I’ll light a match.” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. A mother’s instinct to protect is as strong as a werewolf’s need to devour.

When the two sisters confront their estrangement Brigitte says, “You want me? You want me, stop hurting everyone else and take me, take me!” But Ginger is too far gone, and Brigitte is unrecognisable to her.

Brigitte realises that she needs to reconcile the two parts and willingly takes the curse to demonstrate to Ginger that she will continue to have an ally who understands what she is experiencing. She has faith in a cure that will save them, as developed by the local weed grower Sam (Kris Lemche). Ginger’s earlier beau Jason (Jesse Moss) has not been a true threat to the girls, but Sam is thoughtful, smart and rejects Ginger’s advances. When he attempts to help Brigitte cure Ginger, the fully transformed Ginger attacks him with all her rage.

Brigitte shares a communion of blood with her sister (courtesy of Sam), and though she feels the draw of lycanthropic power, she cannot lose herself to it. She rejects this frightening power, doubting her ability to control it (and she’s given no sign that’s possible).

The final denouement happens in the sisters’ bedroom, place of their childhood and shared secrets. Now a symbol of their divide.

Brigitte knows what the uncontrolled monster will bring: a destruction of her ability to fit into the world rationally. “I’m not dying in this room with you!” she yells. But it is werewolf Ginger’s leap onto Brigitte’s knife that kills Ginger—a deliberate act or animal impulse? The beast cannot win against life’s sharp realities.

The girls had played at death in their earlier, staged death scenes, but truly being riven from each another is far more tragic than they ever imagined. Brigitte weeps over the corpse of her werewolf sister/self. To live in the world, she has given up something essential.

Ginger Snaps remains a rare horror film that concentrates exclusively on women’s struggles with their powerful urges and desires, and the double difficultly involved with inhabiting that power in a healthy way in a society that continues to mistrust powerful women−for at any point they might bleed, and of course, lose control…

mchugh-2018You can view a trailer to Ginger Snaps here.

Maura McHugh is a horror writer living in Galway, Ireland, who writes articles, prose, comic books, plays and screenplays. Most recently she wrote a book about David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and has a collection of fiction forthcoming from NewCon Press in the UK. Her web site is splinister.com and she tweets as @splinister.

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Women in Horror: Lachelle Redd

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteFrom the US, today’s author is Lachelle Redd. Lachelle talks about what inspires her to write horror.

I began reading horror in junior high. My first book was Dracula by Bram Stoker. From that moment, I was hooked. I collected stories about supernatural creatures and read the books from cover to end. My best friend started gifting me a Stephen King book every year on my birthday. One day I tried my hand at writing. Of course, in the earlier stages, my writing lay rejected, as happens with most authors. I gave up for a while, then the beauty of Facebook rekindled my fire to try again. I learned about horror submissions through the many different groups and soon I received my first acceptance letter for my short story, “Amy,” for the Love Kills anthology. I have taken small breathers here and there, thanks to life, but horror will always be my first love. I have written fantasy stories, and sci fi as well. But I adore the supernatural, a good ghost story and well-told monster tale.

dracula-jpg-20170208

Lachelle, like many writers, was influenced by Dracula, played here by Bela Lugosi.

I have wanted to play around with mythology and telling those tales in a new light. Greek mythology has always intrigued me. There are monsters, endless battles of good and evil, and in some cases, evil wins. I enjoyed reading about the trials of Hercules and Perseus. The heroes facing impossible tasks is a huge pull for me. My current short story is a retelling of a Greek tale where the horrible sentencing of the good guy is the platform for revenge. I won’t go into the details, but the path the characters are taking me on is very interesting.

I am sure you have heard that the characters write the story and that is so true. Each character speaks to you and that develops their individual path. Sometimes you may want to remove a character from the scene, but something gently whispers to keep them for a later death. As the author, you can create and recreate stories to awaken a new generation to the classics. It just depends on how you tell the tale.

I am also enthralled with the way TV portrays a story such as in Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful and Lucifer. They have the same good versus evil thread, but the trials that the characters endure get me thinking of ways in which I can improve my stories. Also, I am a great lover of period pieces. There is so much more room to elaborate on the supernatural in an era where the characters are more likely to accept the unusual. When viewing modern horror, most of the time the character is a skeptic and who requires proof of what’s haunting them (The Conjuring, Insidious). I enjoy both movies which give me a good thrill. I enjoy characters that are given into the world of ghosts, hauntings, and shapeshifters. The true horror is their journey into those realms and if they make it out alive. That is exciting and there is so much that can be done with the characters, torture wise. LOL

I am going to wrap this up with something simple. If you are thinking about writing, just do it. You may not even like the first draft, but remember there is something inside that made you take the time to put it down on paper. Go with that.

Lachelle Redd is an indie author with works in horror, fantasy and now science fiction. She started with publishing through Createspace and has had works published through online. Tale of the Black Dragon, The Wood Sprite Tales, and The Hot Cauldron anthologies are just a few and available on Amazon. She has released a new sci-fi novella titled Ports that is available on Amazon.com.

 She can be found on Blood Reign Lit Mags Facebook page as well as her own page entitled, Lachelle Redd. She looks forward to bringing you more books in the future.

I began reading horror in junior high. My first book was Dracula by Bram Stoker. From that moment, I was hooked. I collected stories about supernatural creatures and read the books from cover to end. My best friend started gifting me a Stephen King book every year on my birthday. One day I tried my hand at writing. Of course, in the earlier stages, my writing lay rejected, as happens with most authors. I gave up for a while, then the beauty of Facebook rekindled my fire to try again. I learned about horror submissions through the many different groups and soon I received my first acceptance letter for my short story, “Amy,” for the Love Kills anthology. I have taken small breathers here and there, thanks to life, but horror will always be my first love. I have written fantasy stories, and sci fi as well. But I adore the supernatural, a good ghost story and well-told monster tale.

I have wanted to play around with mythology and telling those tales in a new light. Greek mythology has always intrigued me. There are monsters, endless battles of good and evil, and in some cases, evil wins. I enjoyed reading about the trials of Hercules and Perseus. The heroes facing impossible tasks is a huge pull for me. My current short story is a retelling of a Greek tale where the horrible sentencing of the good guy is the platform for revenge. I won’t go into the details, but the path the characters are taking me on is very interesting.

Redd 2

Lachelle’s writing can be found at Amazon.com

I am sure you have heard that the characters write the story and that is so true. Each character speaks to you and that develops their individual path. Sometimes you may want to remove a character from the scene, but something gently whispers to keep them for a later death. As the author, you can create and recreate stories to awaken a new generation to the classics. It just depends on how you tell the tale.

I am also enthralled with the way TV portrays a story such as in Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful and Lucifer. They have the same good versus evil thread, but the trials that the characters endure get me thinking of ways in which I can improve my stories. Also, I am a great lover of period pieces. There is so much more room to elaborate on the supernatural in an era where the characters are more likely to accept the unusual. When viewing modern horror, most of the time the character is a skeptic and who requires proof of what’s haunting them (The Conjuring, Insidious). I enjoy both movies which give me a good thrill. I enjoy characters that are given into the world of ghosts, hauntings, and shapeshifters. The true horror is their journey into those realms and if they make it out alive. That is exciting and there is so much that can be done with the characters, torture wise. LOL

I am going to wrap this up with something simple. If you are thinking about writing, just do it. You may not even like the first draft, but remember there is something inside that made you take the time to put it down on paper. Go with that.

ReddLachelle Redd is an indie author with works in horror, fantasy and now science fiction. She started with publishing through Createspace and has had works published through online. Tale of the Black Dragon, The Wood Sprite Tales, and The Hot Cauldron anthologies are just a few and available on Amazon. She has released a new sci-fi novella titled Ports that is available on Amazon.com.

 She can be found on Blood Reign Lit Mags Facebook page as well as her own page entitled, Lachelle Redd. She looks forward to bringing you more books in the future.

 

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Women in Horror: L.V. Gaudet

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteToday, we have L.V. Gaudet, crime, horror and children’s writer for Women in Horror Month. She talks about research, gory stuff and being a woman.

Research is Key, So Don’t Hold Out On Me

I am honored to be invited as a guest for Women in Horror Month.

Gaudet Garden Grove Cover - Amazon ebook - front coverResearch is key to making or breaking any story. As I write and edit I am constantly asking questions. I will research any little thing. I constantly flag lines with a note to come back and double check it. Should that little door open from the left or the right? Find a picture. What does it look like? What does it sound like? Is there a smell? Sound? What cereals were available then? The purpose is to make sure my descriptions fit and feel real.

I flag things I think I know because the odds are pretty good that someone out there is smarter about it than I am. And I am human, I’m fallible. I make mistakes just like we all do, and I don’t know everything. Nobody does. I even go back and verify what I wrote in a previous story in a series to make sure I get it right.

When a writer fails to research and gets something obviously wrong, or is simply lazy about the details, the story can quickly die the death of lost interest.

Research comes in many forms, each adding to what you know.

Writing What You Know

You’ve heard it said. Who hasn’t? The proclamation that, as a writer, you must, “Write Gaudet Gypsy Queen full cover Proof 5 - smaller file sizewhat you know!” Please do not ever take that literally, but I welcome you to take it seriously.

I have encountered a few writers who take this concept very seriously, decrying any writer who would not run out and experience a thing first hand before writing about it as frauds, failing to properly research.

How many authors actually faced off against vampires and werewolves, octopuses larger than a city block, zombies, or many of the endless other scenarios in stories? Did Wes Craven, creator of Freddy Krueger, personally experience a twisted demented man with razor-sharp blades on his glove slashing at him in his dreams, waking to discover the injuries are real?

Gaudet Hunting Michael Underwood vers 2-2-Ebook Cover-reduced file sizeIf we only wrote what we literally personally experienced, we would be writing about our day jobs, relationships, and the frustration of that Starbuck’s associate getting our coffee order wrong instead of why it could be read as a sign of an alien invasion in progress. There would be many more books on personal relationships and not enough feeding our imaginations with the fantastical and probably impossible made to seem possibly plausible.

What you “know” encompasses every experience you have, from books and film to verbal stories from people you know, to news and researching, to real life experiences. It is also as much about using your imagination to apply what you know to new and imagined ideas and experiences as it is to what you actually know.

The best research is personal experience. Yes, this is true in my humble opinion, but it Gaudet THe McAllister Farm vers 2-2-new-Ebook Crop-smaller filedoes not necessarily have to be your own experience. I have not seen the naked bloated desiccating corpse of a man in real life; nor the small things that will stand out to the human experience in the twisted wreckage of a car crash up close and in person.

Did you know that in real life or death moments stress can play incredible tricks on the brain? Make sounds into something they are not? That in an active shooter situation some people may not even hear the loud gun shots everyone around them hears?

Photos are limited to what the camera is pointed at and what the lighting allows to be captured and do not show many things the human experience picks up on. Articles tend to leave the nastiest stuff out for readability sake and to not alienate readers who would find it too much. That leaves a lot up to the imagination.

Where the Bodies AreBetter than imagination and researching through articles and pictures, I’ve talked to people who have experienced some of these things and the trickle out of the aftermath first hand. Getting those touches of stark reality adds a special kind of life to the story. But this is where research can take a back seat to others’ perceptions. Sometimes even to your own involuntary perceptions.

Getting people to dish the dirt on morbid details can be tough when you are not a “dude.”

Meet “the hold back.” It tends to be the first reaction to me, a woman, asking for nasty details. I found people tend hold back even after I explain that it’s okay to give me the details. By all means, ask if you are unsure or hesitant to disturb me. Not everyone can take it. Just don’t make gender-based assumptions about how delicate my mind is.

When someone narrates a dark experience in a group conversation, you can see that Gaudet The Latchkey Kids-flattened-B&N Ebook cropimmediate moment of misgiving, awkward regret as they glance quickly at you, remembering that, oh yeah, you are there too. The hold back.The thought that you, the only female in the group, can’t handle it.

While I want to dig and prod for details, I have to remind myself they might not be comfortable talking about it because it is traumatic details for anyone who experienced it. They might also not be comfortable simply because of who, or what, I am (being female). But when regaling the tale to the guys, and after checking that I, or anyone else in the group, won’t be irrevocably traumatized; don’t hold back just because I have a vagina.

Research often and anything; you never know what tidbit you will need. Vary your sources, methods, and types of research; and don’t think any detail is too small. We each have our research strengths and weaknesses, but together they complement each other. Never discount a potentially good source or others’ life experiences. I have gotten some of my best research details from living through others’ experiences.

Gaudet Author photoL.V. Gaudet is a Canadian author of dark fiction and a member of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild since 1993, the Horror Writers Association, and Authors of Manitoba.

L.V. grew up with a love of the darker side; sneaking down to the basement at night to watch the old horror B movies, Vincent Price being a favourite; devouring books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and other horror authors; and has had a passion for books and the idea of creating stories and worlds a person can get lost in since reading that first novel.

This love of storytelling has her working, writing and editing into a busy life that includes a full time job, family, and doing the little things to help the writing community, including offering encouragement to others in the online writing community and volunteering time helping with the Manitoba Writers’ Guild Facebook presence, proofreading for the HWA newsletter, and visiting schools for I Love to Read month.

L.V. Gaudet lives in Manitoba with her two rescue dogs, spouse, and kids.

Books currently available on Amazon and Kindle. Watch for them coming on Kobo and other sources. Links to all available sources will be updated on her blog as they come available. Her titles include:

The McAllister Series:

For writers and lovers of writing visit The Intangible World of the Literary Mind.  L.V. Gaudet can also be reached through FacebookTwitter, http://twitter.com/lvgaudet, and Instagram.

For stories suitable for younger readers, look for stories published under the pen name Vivian Munnoch. Vivian Munnoch can be found through Facebook, Twitter, and her blog.

The Latchkey Kids

(also available on Kobo and Smashwords) COMING: The Latckey Kids 2

 

 

 

 

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