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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Women in Horror: Danica Lorer

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteStoryteller, poet, TV show host Danica Horror talks today about researching scary tales to tell and captivating your audience. From Canada, here’s Danica for Women in Horror Month.

Staged Fright

The first time I told a story in front of a burlesque audience I was terrified. New audiences always make me nervous, but this was different; this time I didn’t have the option of picturing them naked. In moments, they would be seeing the performers stripping off almost everything! It was a Menagerie Burlesque Company show called “Dirty Birds, Dirty Words” and they booked dancers and spoken word poets and storytellers. I was scared; this audience was there for the skin, I was offering raw words instead of bare flesh and keeping my clothes on. I soon learned that burlesque audiences are some of the best for story. They are vibrating with anticipation, they are fully engaged in what is going on in front of them, and they are ready to follow you wherever you take them.

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Danica performing “The Bride Wore Black.”

The Rosebud Burlesque Club also invites variety acts to perform with them. They put out calls for their theme shows throughout the year. When they advertised for their Peek-A-Boo Halloween show in 2016 I pitched a ghost story. The venue is a desanctified church now serving as a dance studio. It was perfect—what’s better than a creepy little white church with a bright red door to serve as a home for a lost soul? Out of respect I asked the owner if the church was haunted and when she said it wasn’t my imagination took over. “The Bride Wore Black” is a story with creepy sensory revelations rooted in the teenage date night memories of boys taking girls out into the country and stopping at little churches and graveyards to frighten them into their arms. As I told it to the crowd I could see the audience members’ eyes shine, the shivers, and the wariness. I played with words, appealed to the sense of nostalgia, and offered a facepaint reveal at the end.

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Danica Lorer’s bride reveals the truth of her tale.

Once you’ve scared or even unsettled an audience, they begin to expect something more. The next year I began researching local ghost stories. The Saskatoon (Canada) Storytelling Guild was moving its monthly circles from a Unitarian Centre to a downtown pub. Our first night in the new place was near the end of October and the host had chosen the theme “Spirits.” It made perfect sense. We had been meeting in a spiritual centre, we were moving into a place known for its liquid spirits, and I was pretty sure the place could be haunted. I thought about the tales friends had told about their experiences at the city’s oldest hotels and did a little research about the historic Senator Hotel. I knew that the basement, where we would be meeting, had recently been opened after years of being sealed closed. Again, the setting for the gathering made its way into the story. The basement is dank and dark, the walls are crumbling brick, there are rooms and tunnels, and strange hisses and clanks. I found out a little about Jimmy Flanagan, the hotel’s first owner and how he died young and had been very popular. I was delighted to find out he was reputed to be a storyteller himself. My google search revealed that a paranormal investigation team had spent an uncomfortable and eventful night filming in one of the rooms for their TV program. I also had a foggy memory of friends stopping over for breakfast after staying in the hotel and telling me how disturbing their night had been. I texted both of them independently to find out more. She replied that they had felt “bad vibes” in room 22, that her normally calm and loving partner woke up angry and yelling with no recollection of it the next day. “That room does not make me feel comfortable or safe,” she said. When I asked him if he had ever experienced anything spooky there, he replied, “Nope. Some evil hangovers.” I had a story for the guild and the location couldn’t be more perfect for the telling.

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Sometimes creepy dolls follow where you go.

When the Rosebud’s put out a call for their next Peek-A-Boo burlesque show subtitled “Scared Shirtless” I knew what I wanted to do. I’ve always been fascinated by creepy dolls. I’ve always been fascinated by creepy dolls. My daughter had a toy doll that talked, sometimes in the middle of the night when no one was around. It had to be moved from the toy box to the backyard.  I had seen many staring at me while visiting historical museums, and I could barely touch them in thrift stores. I decided to write a story bringing together the misplaced doll with the hotel themes. There was enough truth about our downtown core in the story that it connected immediately to the audience. I know dozens of people who are terrified of dolls and to make things even creepier I found a previously loved vintage curly-haired baby to set at the back of the performance space. I was told later that she kept several people from sitting in her section and that her eyes seemed to follow them throughout the space. I chose to dress as a creepy doll and finished the story staring ahead with a soft and high “Mama.”

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Danica Lorer becomes a doll.

It is incredibly satisfying to share something scary with a live audience, with low lights, and the naturally creepy sounds that seem to amplify when you let the silences creep in and you listen a little closer. I bring my own fears intensified by the audience, the space we’re in, and the shared contagious energy that flows through a group focused on one voice. I love to imagine how readers will react to what I put down on the page, but I adore the rush of seeing their instant reaction from the stage as we experience the story together. Storytelling isn’t just for kids and horror is an incredible genre for the art form.

Happy Creepy Women in Horror Month to you all!

Danica Lorer has spent the past twenty years as a professional storyteller. She has been struck by lightning, a moose, a rogue semi-tire, vehicles, and the odd strange idea. She is a freelance writer, workshop facilitator, face and body painter, poet, and the host of Shaw’s literary arts program “Lit Happens.” She has been published in untethered, Poetry All Over the Floor, Grain, release any words stuck inside of you, and Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland.

 You can hear Danica storytelling at the beginning of this piece. Her literary arts TV show Lit Happens has 9-minute interviews with local authors.  

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Women in Horror: Penny Jones

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Today, from the UK, author Penny Jones talks about why she loves horror and how it might just be normal.

Women in Horror month is a strange concept for me; on one hand, as a fairly new female writer I love it (any exposure is good exposure), and I get to learn about what some of my favourite writers are up to, and read some work from other writers who are new to me. But on the other hand, I’ve always read female horror writers. At my first ever convention I was a giggling mess when I met John Connolly and Simon Bestwick, but I was equally in awe of meeting Cate Gardner and Thana Niveau at the same convention. My bookshelves have always been pretty 50/50 when it comes to male or female authors. So I wonder if the issue isn’t around women in horror, but around people’s perception of what horror is.

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Penny Jones indicates her part in Great British Horror

Now I’ve always been lucky (though I didn’t realise this until I met other horror writers). My family and friends have always been big readers, and they’ve also been big horror fans. So, when I first went to a convention it was a shock to hear other authors saying it was nice to be around people who understood you, and who didn’t ask, “Why don’t you write something nice?” Because I’ve never been in that situation (see told you I was lucky).

As a child I was more likely to be watching a Hammer Horror than I was a Disney film, and my parents happily bought me Mary Danby’s ghost stories, as well as a Rupert the Bear annual at Christmas. Horror has never been a dirty word in my life. Also, horror wasn’t introduced to me as being all about excess gore and shock value. In fact, I don’t really like what I term “Tits and Torture” (I’ve been trying to gear myself up to watch Saw for years now. I love the concept behind the story, but I really am too scared to watch it). But most of the “Tits and Torture” that I’m too squeamish to watch isn’t actually sold as horror anyway; it’s sold as mainstream TV such as Game of Thrones or Vikings. That’s not to say I won’t read the more extreme side of horror. One of my favourite writers is Alex White who wrote several stories for the Pan Book of Horror, including my favourite of the entire series The Clinic and, you guessed it, Alex White is a female author (though I only found that out a couple of years ago). It is something I see time and time again−female horror authors who people think are male, either that or female horror authors who aren’t described as horror writers.

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Penny shares her poetry in a unique fashion

If you walk into your local bookstore and look at your meagre one shelf of horror books, it is a pretty sure bet that the only authors you will see there will be Stephen King, Dean Koontz, with the occasional Herbert, Barker or Neville thrown into the mix. But if you look elsewhere in the book store and take a peek at the crime, the classics, and the literary shelves, you’ll find plenty of amazing female horror writers. There’s a joke that if you want a horror book to sell you call it a literary book and put a picture of a tree on the front, but I think what’s equally true is that if you want a female horror writer to be commercially viable you don’t put their work on the horror shelf. Look at Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House; it is quite clearly a horror book. It has the word “Haunting” in the title for God’s sake, but still you will usually find it snuggled next to James Joyce on the literary shelves in the store.

If you weren’t as lucky as me, and your only concept of horror is the trailer for the latest slasher flick or seeing the latest Stephen King bestseller on the shelves at WHSmiths, then here are some of my favourite female horror writers for you to get your teeth into:

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Dark Voices includes one of Penny’s tales.

Priya Sharma−All the Fabulous Beasts

Tracy Fahey−New Music for Old Rituals

Alex White−The Clinic (Which can be found in: Back from the dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories)

Shirley Jackson−The Haunting of Hill House

Daphne du Maurier−Don’t Look Now and Other Stories

Susan Hill−The Woman in Black

Alison Littlewood−A Cold Season

Laura Mauro−Naming the Bones

Cate Gardner−Theatre of Curious Acts

Thana Niveau−Unquiet Waters

Georgina Bruce−This House of Wounds (Out later this year by Undertow Publications)

Charlotte Brontë−Jane Eyre

Mary Shelley−Frankenstein

Marie O’Regan−Times of Want

A.K. Benedict−Jonathan Dark or The Evidence of Ghosts

Sarah Pinborough−The Death House

Jones 4Penny Jones knew she was a writer when she started to talk about herself in the third person (her family knew, when Santa bought her a typewriter for Christmas). She loves reading and will read pretty much anything you put in front of her, but her favourite authors are Stephen King, Shirley Jackson and John Wyndham. In fact Penny only got into writing to buy books, when she realised that there wasn’t that much money in writing she stayed for the cake.

Penny’s horror has been published in: Great British Horror 2: Dark Satanic Mills, Dark Voices, Black Room Manuscripts IV, and Along the Long Road. You can find out more at www.penny-jones.com

 

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Women in Horror: Tabatha Wood

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Today, from New Zealand, I have Tabatha Wood who talks about writing and why she finds horror important.

Witches Brew – A Recipe For Writing Horror

Why do I write horror? It is a question often asked of me, and one I have asked of myself more than a few times. To most, I appear to be a cheerful and light-hearted person, although perhaps tinged with a slightly Gothic aroma. Why do I take such delight in writing tales of the dark and the distressing? Why create stories that get under the skin of my readers, or that leave them with a nasty aftertaste?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, probably ever since I learned to hold a pen. I tried hard to write the stories that I most wanted to read, the books that I hadn’t yet found. My parents bought me a typewriter and I churned out hundreds of short stories, carefully cutting and pasting them to make books of my own. This was before the dawn of the personal computer, when cut and paste meant literally that. I’ve always believed that good work requires hard work. You have to pour a part of your soul into what you do.

Since my early teens, horror stories have been my favorites. They were the ones I could Wood freestocks-org-153858-unsplashget lost in. The ones where the survival of the characters was not fully guaranteed. Absolutely anything could happen, and usually did. As a tween I started with an appetizer of Point Horror books, most notably Pike and Stein, then grew fat on a diet of King, Koontz, Barker and Hutson, enjoying every gruesome chunk of plot-twist and gore. It was female authors such as Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice and Daphne du Maurier who made me realize that writing horror was not solely a man’s game.

My early horror stories were monstrous, as in, they almost always focused on actual monsters or ghosts. I hadn’t yet had the life experience to refine my horror-writing palate. I do remember writing one in particular about my childhood toys coming to life, harboring malicious intent. Hardly an original concept, but I utterly terrified my twelve-year-old self. I tore the pages into teeny, tiny pieces and threw them into the bottom of the kitchen garbage bin. No one but me ever read that story, but I realised right then that I had the capacity to scare.

Fast forward a few years and the first books I actually got published were not horror stories; they were academic guides for professionals working in education. I was delighted to be published, but also strangely disappointed. This was not really the kind of writer I had aspired to be.

Wood b_w_headshot_horrorI fell into writing horror again quite by accident. Growing older, I experienced and recovered from, both mental and physical illness. I realized that horror is not always monsters hiding underneath the bed, or a slavering beast at the door. Horror is also loneliness, doubt, depression and loss. Horror can be being the new girl at the office, knowing no one and drowning in self-doubt. It can be a terminal cancer diagnosis, or the threat of losing a parent or child. For me, horror was waking up every morning with devastating chronic pain, not knowing how I would make it through the day but accepting that I must. I take these concepts and throw them headlong into nightmarish worlds, where no usual or expected rules apply, just to see what new demons emerge. Gender stereotyping tells us that women are allegedly more in touch with their emotions. If this is true, I am happy to admit I use it to my advantage, especially when I really want to chill my readers.

Good horror will leave you with a lingering feeling of unease. An itch in the brain that you can’t quite scratch, but equally you can’t ignore. It should squirm around in your head for a while, leave you still thinking about it for a few days afterwards. When I put my characters in the darkest and most terrible situations, I know that it is often what I don’t tell my readers, that will scare them the most. I recognize that, whilst it might be fun, I don’t have to write about blood and gore to elicit a visceral reaction. What is more frightening; being forced to fight a tentacled creature from Hell, or helplessly watching it steal your only child? As a mother, I know which idea scares me more.

Writing horror gives me the power to get into my reader’s heads and make them question all the things they believe. It’s a recipe I’ve worked hard to perfect. I can take an everyday experience shared by all, stir in a believable character the reader can identify or at least empathize with, add a pinch of the weird, strange, or supernatural, and serve up a truly stomach-churning meal.

Tabatha Wood lives in Wellington, New Zealand, with her husband and two boys. She spends most of her days educating her children at home, and in her free time she writes short stories, online blog articles, and the occasional poem. Her stories are mostly horror, fantasy, and suspense; while her online blog focuses more on her life and experiences in New Zealand. 

Outside of writing, she has organised charity events to help promote and support equality and women’s rights; makes and sells her own jewellery; and immerses herself in the world of cosplay−often dressing up as superheroes to help fundraise for a good cause. 

She started an online collective in 2017 which promotes using writing and creativity as a tool for positive mental health, and helps run a regular monthly group and workshops to support other female writers in Wellington. She enjoys writing pieces which challenge the way people think, or offer a fresh perspective on the world.

She is currently working on a collection of short horror stories: Dark Winds Over Wellington: Chilling Tales of the Weird & the Strange due to be published in March 2019 by Wild Wood Books.

 You can find her online at http://tabathawood.com/ and read a story from her collection here.

 

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When Life Sucks You into a Vortex

I have written very little on this blog this year and I was trying to do at least a few posts every month. But I really do have a good excuse or few. Sometimes life gets in the way of doing all those things you plan in life.

Here’s how my year started: I was driving to work on a dry January day when my brakes locked at 100 km/hr and I spun out into a cement barricade, smashing the car and myself. The thing was, my mechanic had never found the issue and it had only happened (sporadically) at low speeds. That was the one and only time at high speed, and if it wasn’t that traffic was light, I left lots of space in front of me (because I was always cautious of the car’s issues), and that there was a barricade, someone would have died. My leg was smashed badly but unbroken and I needed about four months of physio and chiropractic to get everything fixed. But because I’ve done pilates for several years, I’m better now.

At the end of June, I broke my hand, but they only figured it out two weeks ago. In July, I was ending one job and starting another so it was a hectic few weeks of finishing up the old job. In that time, my kitty, Venus, who was about 16 years old and had a slow going tumour, hit the hard part and I had to put her down. I finished the last ten days of my job and on July 13 (yes, Friday the 13th) I finished and within 12 hours was booking a flight back to Calgary as my mother was not doing well. I was supposed to start my new job the next Tuesday.

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My mother Amy Anderson was almost 95 when she passed.

By that Sunday, it looked like my mother had made a turn for the better so I booked my flight back on the Wednesday. Then before I left, she started to go downhill again. I flew back and started my new job late on the Thursday, and my mother was doing very badly. I worked one day at my new job when my new boss gave me a ticket back to Calgary. I arrived Friday and it was the last day my mother was aware and able to respond even a little. She had a bad heart and it finally gave up on Sunday morning. She was an amazingly tough woman and was not always easy to get along with. I’ll do another post about my mother but I wrote this about Amy Anderson for the obituary.

I then spent two weeks in Calgary with my siblings, going through my mother’s effects, writing her celebration of life and generally dealing with stuff. I then went back to my new job. I was only back a little over a week when my landlady, out of the blue, evicted me (because they didn’t want to be landlords anymore). It became very messy and nasty but needless to say after a couple decades and the cost of rentals in Vancouver, I was dealing with a move. The reality in Vancouver is very bad and that will be all for another post.

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A Body of Work, available through Black Shuck Books & Amazon

In amongst all of that I had a trip to the UK planned and paid for so I went to England and Wales and my book A Body of Work was launched by Steve Shaw and Black Shuck Books at Fantasycon. This collection features my dark fiction and I hope to do a N. American launch soon. I came back to more moving and packing and I haven’t stopped yet.

Needless to say, I’ve done little writing in six months. Yet, I have to remember the good things: I edited Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, and that came out in the spring from Exile, and a review in Publishers Weekly. I also was working

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

on fiction through my Canada Council grant back in the spring. “Sir Tor and the River Maiden” came out in By the Light of Camelot by Edge Publishing. I managed to sell another story but cannot as yet mention it.

And I would be remiss to not mention the poems that came out. It’s amazing I sold anything considering I’ve submitted very few things this year. “Mermaid’s Comb” came out in The Future Fire  #45, “Cinderella’s Pumpkin” in Polu Texni, “Savor” in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. V, “Learning to Run” in Polar Borealis #7, “Washday Blues” in Polar Borealis #6, and “The Sand Witch” won second place in the Balticon poetry contest. There could possibly be a few other things but I’ve really lost track, including contracts that I’ve signed/been signing.

I hope to be here more often in the near future and might pull in a few guests to write some posts. But this is the reason I’ve been quiet of late.

 

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Writing: The Playground of Lost Toys

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Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

“Usually at least once in a person’s childhood we lose an object that at the time is invaluable and irreplaceable to us, although it is worthless to others. Many people remember that lost article for the rest of their lives. Whether it was a lucky pocketknife, a transparent plastic bracelet given to you by your father, a toy you had longed for and never expected to receive, but there it was under the tree on Christmas… it makes no difference what it was. If we describe it to others and explain why it was so important, even those who love us smile indulgently because to them it sounds like a trivial thing to lose. Kid stuff. But it is not. Those who forget about this object have lost a valuable, perhaps even crucial memory. Because something central to our younger self resided in that thing. When we lost it, for whatever reason, a part of us shifted permanently.”

Jonathan Carroll

Ursula Pflug and I will be co-editing a speculative anthology titled The Playground of Lost Toys. This will be published by Exile Editions, in time for the holiday season. See below for guidelines.

Our childhood toys embodied our emotions. We just knew our favourite doll loved us, and that our toy soldier was as brave as we would be if given the chance. A child easily attributes magical powers, personality or secrets to a coloured stone or a twisted stick, but don’t we continue to do so as adults, just in different ways? Certain objects accrue power from the home or the landscape, absorbing our dreams and wishes, and the elemental energies that lie buried in a sandbox, hidden in the closet, or in the bole of a tree.

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Stories should touch on wonder, mystery, dread, awe: the delight when a strange toy appears, or loss when a cherished plaything is broken. A tale might, for example, explore the classroom ritual of show and tell, or the lost and found box in the corner of the gym in the moon colony.

Toys are often gendered so that beloved hockey stick might belong to a girl and the flying figure skates to a boy. Dolls reflect not just societal notions about gender but also about diversity; Mattel, for example didn’t issue a black Barbie till the late 60’s and then amidst controversy. These tensions can all be rich sources of speculative inspiration!

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Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

What if there was a Matryoshka doll where each smaller container held mysteries to the seven wonders of the world, or a toy spaceship that entered other dimensions? Imagine a paper fan that controls the wind, a whistle that calls back the dead, a Chinese tiger hand puppet that protects. While these suggestions are fantastical, we also want stories about “normal” toys in science fictional or fantastic settings. Additionally, the toy itself needs to appear or disappear, to be “lost” or “found.” This need not be the core of the story arc, but it should be an element. Toys don’t have to be physical but could be metaphorical or allegorical as well.

Speculative subgenres from steampunk to magic realism will be considered. Excessive gore will be a hard sell. Sex is okay, if it’s integral to the story. Tales that are multi-faceted and go beyond a simple nostalgic trip down memory’s lane will have a better chance. We welcome QUILTBAG and/or People of Colour authors. At least 90% of the authors must be Canadian (or pay taxes in Canada); we can consider only a small percentage from other locales.

SUBMISSION LENGTH: Original, unpublished prose up to 5,000. Slightly longer works are okay but query for longer lengths. No reprints, no multiple submissions. Canadian spelling. Please follow standard manuscript format. If you don’t know what that is google William Shunn’s manuscript format. If we reject your story before the deadline, you’re welcome to send another.

PAYMENT: .05/word

SUBMISSION PERIOD: Feb. 1, 2015-Apr. 30, 2015 (midnight PST)

RIGHTS: English World rights, one-year exclusive print and digital, non-exclusive reprint rights, Exile Editions

PUBLICATION DATE: Nov. 2015 (tentative)

SUBMISSIONS: Through submittable. (this link might not work until Feb. 1)

NOTE: If your address is outside of Canada, please indicate whether you are Canadian expat (and paying taxes to Canada) or what your citizenship is. We have very limited space for stories from outside of Canada.

We are getting a LOT of doll stories. Please note the guidelines. While a doll story or maybe two could be accepted, we won’t be taking all that many. This is to be a diverse anthologies that covers toys that were, toys that are and toys that are yet to be.  Think about the word “toy.” What do people toy with? There are adult toys; computers are toys, people are toys, animals have toys, aliens have toys. Go wild! Make something up and think outside the sandbox!

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The Chi Reading Series

ChiSeriesVancouverPoster - July 2014The truth is I’ve been far too busy to blog of late and so my blog has been suffering badly. My day job became overwhelming and has eaten all of my energy. I’m hoping that will change soon. So, in trying to keep a toe over the threshold and into the world I’d like to mention that I’m still hosting the ChiSeries Vancouver, part of the Chiaroscuro Reading series started in Toronto some five or so years ago by Sandra Kasturi and friends. In Toronto, where the wild things are, and there is an abundance of culture and population, the series has run successfully every month.

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On sale at the reading, as well as A Parliament of Crows, and Of Thimble and Threat The Life of a Ripper Victim

Last year, along with Ottawa and Winnipeg, we launched in April, and ran quarterly, with readings in July, Oct. and then in February. The next one would have been May but EDGE Publishing was bringing dark fiction author and vampire aficionado Nancy Kilpatrick in May so we did a reading with Nancy, which included  Rhea Rose and me reading as well. With these readings we had several hurdles to get beyond. One was the venues brought some challenges, and with the new reading for this July 22nd we will be moving to the Cottage Bistro at 4468 (or possibly 4470) Main St. The Cottage Bistro is known for hosting live music as well as several other reading series and is happy to have the ChiSeries on stage.

This is an exciting and very central venue so I’m hoping that many people will come out and enjoy the tales. ChiSeries is free and the readers are TheIncomingTidepublished authors of speculative fiction and poetry. This includes science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, mythical, dark fiction, horror and all subgenres in between. This July, we have guests arriving from Oregon: Alan M. Clark, Kirsten Alene, and Cameron Pierce.

Some people might recognize Alan’s name. He has been a well-known and award-winning artist in the dark fiction genre for a number of years. He was this year’s emcee for the World Horror Convention, as well. His paintings range from thoughtful to disturbing and he has created illustrations for hundreds of books, including works of fiction of various genre,s nonfiction, textbooks, young adult fiction, and children’s books. Awards for his illustration work include the World Fantasy Award and four Chelsey Awards. He is the author of thirteen books, including seven novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. His latest novel, The Door That Faced West, was released by Lazy Fascist Press February, 2014.

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Kirsten Alene’s book will be available at the reading.

Writing couple Kirsten Alene  and Cameron Pierce live in Portland, Oregon. Kirsten’s books include Japan Conquers the Galaxy, Unicorn Battle Squad, Love in the Time of Dinosaurs, and the forthcoming short story collection, Rules of Appropriate Conduct from Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2015. Her work has appeared in such places as Amazing Stories of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, Innsmouth Magazine and The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction.

Cameron Pierce’s ten books include the Wonderland Book Award-winning collection Lost in Cat Brain Land, Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon, and the forthcoming novella The Incoming Tide. His work has been praised by The Guardian, Cracked.com and many others. Cameron is also the editor of three anthologies, most recently In Heaven, Everything Is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch, and is head editor of the popular indie publisher Lazy Fascist Press.

The reading runs from 7:30 until about 10;30 pm on July 22. Come join us or leave me a message here if you’d like to get onto a mailing list for future events. If you’re interested in the other ChiSeries events in the other cities, check out the Facebook pages and the website:  http://chiseries.com/

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: David Jón Fuller

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Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

David Jón Fuller joins me from Manitoba, for another Tesseracts 17 interview.

CA: “Sin A Squay” is a tale of overcoming monsters. We have heard the horror of residential schools and new nightmares seem to be unearthed every day. What drew you to putting this element into your story?

 It’s a national horror that was made worse by decades of denial despite more and more residential school survivors coming forward. Despite some indications that people allowed or even wanted their children to attend the schools in the early part of their existence, they just became an institution of systemic abuse and earned their appellation of an instrument of genocide. I wanted to explore this in a context of what that does to people over time – how even escaping them can have a cost, and that the oppression that was perpetrated against the children in the schools – treating them as less than human, and the endemic abuse that comes to light more and more – can leave a lasting mark.  But I also wanted to explore how those horrors could be confronted and overcome.
I had doubts whether this was a subject I should even write about, no matter how much research I did – I worried that it wasn’t something that, as a white person, I had a right to write about.  But I felt without trying to address it in some way through my fiction, I would just be ignoring it, and adding to the silence, in a sense.  Whereas I think anyone who learns about what the residential schools system did to so many First Nations people for so long would be within their rights to condemn it as horrific.

CA: Have you seen or experienced aspects of residential schools or your own childhood traumas that you used to draw on for this story?

 No – nothing on the scale of something like this. Tough times for me as a kid meant dealing with the occasional bully or being the “new kid” at school. Definitely not a systemic oppression, or even life-scarring single event. And like the majority of white people in Canada, I grew up privileged to live with many doors open to me as a default. I relied a lot on research to create the characters and the background for this story.

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David Jón Fuller explores the horrors of residential schools in Sin A Squay.

CA: You have two different monsters in your tale; the beasts that prowl the mythic landscape and residential schools. Why did you feel this story worked better with the mythic or horrific element?

 Partly because I think the fear of certain monsters says something about the culture in which they are feared. Some monsters have embodied fears of our animalistic natures, and of the “wilderness” – and I think that speaks to a Western European (particularly continental) fear of predators. Hand-in-hand with that went the European colonialist attitude that white people were “civilized” and everyone else was to some degree “savage” (read: wild). I wanted to turn that around a bit, and look at how that attitude itself – of seeing certain people as “less than human,” which is certainly what the residential schools embodied: the view that “Indians” were lesser people, savage, or inferior – was monstrous.

I do tend to think that in mainstream pop culture these days, certain monsters are “othered.” Vampires are currently glorified – embodying, I think, our fear of old age, since the “eternal youth” trope seems played up nowadays as opposed to the “foreign devil will seduce our women” theme that ran through Dracula.  Werewolves, on the other hand, are frequently the lackeys and/or cannon fodder if they appear alongside other creatures in a given show, or they are stuck in an endless retread of savage/animalistic/bestial archetypes. This isn’t as true in a lot of urban fantasy fiction, but it seems to be the gear they’re stuck in in movies and TV. And I hate that!

Also, considering the way the characters’ relationships change in the story, I wanted to explore whether what one culture sees as “monstrous” or less than human, might actually be a source of empowerment, and how an oppressor’s sense of invulnerability might actually become a weakness.

Those things being said — no matter how terrifying I might make the mythic monsters, for me, the more I learned about the residential schools the more stunned I was that this had gone on for so long.  Much of what I put in the story pales in comparison to what actually went on in many of the schools.

CA: Often survival comes at great cost. Do you feel your main character has only survived through her years of escape, or is it just that life can bring ghosts back to haunt you even if you have triumphed in the past?

 I think Marion gained a lot in her initial escape from the residential school, but while her body got free, a part of her was still trapped there, and in the abuse she experienced there.  She was not able to bring who she became as an adult to bear on those old fears, and fully put them to rest, without confronting someone or something from her days there. The opportunity to face down one’s oppressor, and have that oppression acknowledged as such, is something that has been denied to generations of residential school survivors. Canadians are still denying a lot of what went on, despite mounting evidence, and that kind of brushing it under the carpet just perpetuates the injustice of it, in my opinion.  I thought that perhaps by putting Marion in a situation where she was forced to face those old horrors, she might be able to hold them back, or even triumph over them.

CA: What other pieces are you working on right now and what are you exploring within those tales?

Mostly working outside my comfort zone and doing a ton of research. I’m trying to work on not just including non-white, non-male perspectives in my fiction, but on making them central.

After submitting “Sin A Squay” to Tesseracts, I started working on other stories in the same world.  One of them,  “No More Good Indian,” is about Marion’s escape from the residential school, and it placed second in the Robyn Herrington Memorial Speculative Fiction Short Story Contest.  I worked backwards from there to write a story about Marion’s grandfather, and how his experience of shell-shock as a First World War veteran had disturbing parallels with the post-traumatic stress his children experienced after residential school – and on how this could be if not healed, at least helped, through familial bonds, tradition and shared experience. That story, “A Deeper Echo,” was accepted into the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, due out next year.

I’ve also been delving into human evolution, megafauna mass extinctions and prehistoric Canada – it’s fascinating to see how much our knowledge has grown over recent decades, and how this is changing the way we look at the past.

When I’m finished writing a few other short stories before the end of the year, I’m going to take a hard look at a novel manuscript I was letting lie “fallow” and then apply what I’ve learned this year to tune it up and start submitting it.

David Jón Fuller was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he now lives, and has also lived in Edmonton, Alberta. He earned an honors degree in theater at the University of Winnipeg and studied Icelandic language and literature for two years at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík.

His short fiction has been published in Tesseracts 17, In Places Between, The Harrow and in the upcoming Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History. His short story “No More Good Indian” took second place in the 2013 Robyn Herrington Memorial Speculative Fiction Short Story Contest. He currently works as a copy editor for the Winnipeg Free Press, and as time allows he blogs at www.davidjonfuller.com.

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