Tag Archives: female horror writers

Women in Horror Month: Miriam H. Harrison

My guest today is Miriam H. Harrison. Like many readers and writers of horror, it is not a genre that presents unrelenting terror, but is a place from which people can heal from the real-life horrors in their lives.

Horror and Healing

Growing up, horror wasn’t a genre or an escape, but a word too close to home. I didn’t need prescriptive plot arcs or three-act sequences. Life itself was a series of rising tensions, fleeting denouements, and inevitable crises. It wasn’t as tidy, though. Writing gives you a chance to clean up the edges, tie up loose ends, find closure. Life just makes a mess. But in life as in writing, there’s room for rewrites, edits. For a time living was horror, but later, horror was healing.

Horror intersects with all forms, all genres, so it’s little wonder I found myself stumbling into it. Anything you pull deep from your soul can draw breath in the dark and surreal—horror leaves so little out of bounds. It is a wide open space to roam, to explore dark corners and re-imagine the familiar.

For me, writing horror brings together surrender and control. Surrender is the art of facing the blank page. There’s a vulnerability to giving over to the words, to seeing what emerges from your shadows. The memories that live deep inside can be frightening, yet light has a way of shrinking shadows. Unchallenged, the shadows spread deep and wide, whispering from every side. Shrunk down in the light of day, those ghosts can be captured in vessels of words. In words, there is control.

Control comes in many forms, but I have come to value it most in a red pen. Ghosts exorcised into words can be given closure. In editing and rewriting, we get to shape what came before, give it new meaning, new purpose. Here we can find the context and resolutions that life so often denies us. We cannot edit what is not written, but we are not unwritten. We are messy, and editing loves a mess.

This month, I invite you to celebrate both horror and healing. We all have healing journeys to navigate. For anyone living with unresolved trauma, this is not a journey to face alone. Bringing someone else into your process is a different vulnerability, but better than facing that pain alone. Mine was a common story. During Women in Horror Month—and every month—countless women are living in fear. Many turn to shelters or friends for safety. This year those opportunities for escape are fewer, but the needs are still there. As you look to support women in horror, think also of the everyday horrors women face and what you can do to help make healing possible.

Miriam H. Harrison writes to keep her fingers warm in her Northern Ontario home. She studies full time, works on the side, writes when she should be doing other things, and trains the dust bunnies to fend for themselves. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association, and any updates about her published works can be found on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/miriam.h.harrison) or her website (https://miriamhharrison.wordpress.com/).

She has two poems appearing in the Valentine’s Day issue of Tales from the Moonlit Path and five pieces in the Supernatural Drabbles of Dread anthology by Macabre Ladies Publishing, which is available for pre-order and anticipating a February release. Miriam co-edited with Dinah Lapairie and Kenneth Lillie, In New Light: The Many Paths of Identity, Struggle & Mental Illness for Northern Initiative for Social Action.

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Writing, Pandemics & All That Jazz

bookWell, I don’t think there is much point in singing the pandemic song. This might be the only time in recent world history, or ever, where the world is experiencing the same event at the same time, and we’re all in the same boat. Isolation, depression, sadness, frustration, anger, fear: it’s affecting all of us in different ways. We don’t know if our world will ever go back to what it was and maybe all of it shouldn’t.

I live alone, so I’ve been suffering loneliness on a grander scale than I already did. And I’m lucky; I still have a job that I can do from home. Though I would never have any issue in filling my days if I weren’t working–that is, if I could go out. These days, the big excitement amounts to going to buy food. Like most writers who need some alone time to write, I have that but, like many people, we haven’t seen our production go up as the unpredictable future weighs on us.

The quarantines have cut into everyone’s lives. I didn’t get to be guest of honor at the Creative Ink Festival. Maybe that will happen again in the future, if we have events anymore. I didn’t get to go to Europe or to Stokercon, or bond with friends and writers. So, yes, I too am suffering a malaise.

I have continued to sell various pieces so this will be a catch up post. Back in February, for Women in Horror Month, I had guest poets for every day of the month. I also wrote a guest post for Horror Tree, called “Writing Horror is a Nightmare.” It’s a short piece looking at the hard part of writing horror. Horror Tree for those that don’t know is both a zine that posts on markets as well as has blogs and articles to do with horror. However, all the markets they highlight are not all just horror. I subscribe to the newsletter for market tips.

I have had friends ask me where I find my markets, and I’m a search maven. So I thought PoetryShowcaseCoverI’d add this into the post, also for my friend Vie. Besides Horror Tree, I also check out Ralan.com.  Ralan has been running his site for a very long time and it lists specifically speculative markets. He breaks them into pro, semi-pro, pay and token categories, plus a few others. You can run down the list and see who is open and briefly what and when they accept.

A year ago, I started to use Submission Grinder as both a market search engine and to record my writing and sales. I have a hybrid system where I still use index cards for listing each story and poem and where I’ve sent them, plus I put them in the Grinder. I know I could switch to a spreadsheet (which I also use for taxes to list my sales) but I like the 3D aspect of searching for pieces by going through the cards. If you click on the Grinder logo it will show you tabs for Recent Activity, Recently Added Markets, and My Market Response List (the last for places where I have submissions). I check the Recently Added Markets to find new listings. I’d say it’s 50/50 on response since some “new” markets seem to be dead or unresponsive. The Grinder also lets you search for markets by genre and for poetry or fiction.

While those three are my mainstays, there are many others I use. Submittable lets you subscribe to their newsletter and they list callouts for submissions. You cannot tell if they’re paying or nonpaying unless you click on the market. Dark Markets is another one though I don’t find it that easily searchable. There is Publishing, and Other Forms of Insanity, which updates calls by month. Winning Writers is another one that lists markets, as well as contests and which ones are free. Some of these I get as newsletters, such as Funds for Writers and Pamelyn Castro’s Flash Fiction Flash Newsletter. I don’t always intensely study all of these but sometimes I do. And sometimes, I just google search to see if there is anything new. There are more market report sites out there but some of them are dated and therefore list markets no longer in existence. The ones I’ve listed here are the best and I’ve done a lot of searching. There is Duotrope, which is not free but is also recommended by other writers.

Pulp Horror Phobias 2Onto other news. I was awarded a BC Arts Council Grant in March. Oddly it was for an application from last year but I’m not saying no to funds for my writing trips. Engen Books in eastern Canada sponsors the Kit Sora flash fiction–flash photography monthly contest. I’ve used the short 250 word entries as a way to continue writing while grieving my bother’s death last year. In Dec. I came third place with “Accidentally, He Gives Her Dreams.” “Dinner Plans,” a drabble was part of the Quarantine Quanta contest in the humor category, and “A Taste of Eden” was podcast on Starship Sofa #625 in Feb.

There have been too many sales to list so, for poetry, I’m posting the ones that have been published:

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Women in Horror: Eileen Kernaghan

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Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

While the month of February is nearly done and therefore Women in Horror Month, women writing horror shall never end. We are enduring, and so is Eileen Kernaghan a long-time and award winning author of speculative fiction and poetry. She has published dark fantasy and horror-themed  poetry in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including On Spec, Dreams & Nightmares, Weird Tales, Black Lotus, Tesseracts 6 and TransVersions. Some of her darker short stories have appeared in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, On Spec, TransVersions, Ark of Ice: Canadian Futurefiction and Northern Stars.  “Carpe Diem,” which looked at the possible future of Canadian medical care, has been reprinted several times, and won an Aurora Award. It was also made into a short subject film by an Alberta filmmaker.

women in writing, horror, dark fantasy, dark fiction

Eileen Kernaghan is an award winning writer of dark fiction.

Tales from the Holograph Woods, a thirty year retrospective of  her speculative poetry, was published by Wattle & Daub Books in 2009.  “Many of the poems are dark, though more skin-crawly than blood-splattered. Recently I’ve gathered together my published SF/F stories in a collection, Dragon-Rain and Other Stories, and I’m about to send it out into the world as an e-book. As I read back over the manuscript, I’m surprised to see  how dark some of those stories are. Even the lead story, meant to be humorous, deals with some pretty unpleasant stuff.”


1.  Why do you write dark fiction/horror? Some people consider it only a sensationalistic tableau. Why this genre over others or do you span the literary landscape?

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Tales from the Holograph Woods, published by Wattle and Daub Books.

I’ve published historical fantasies, ( both YA and adult),  sword & sorcery, non-fiction, a re-envisioned fairytale, even a mystery story, so yes, I’ve experimented with various genres. For some reason (no doubt deeply psychological) I take a special satisfaction in writing a story that will creep people out.

2.  What dark themes do you explore in your fiction?

The darkness in my stories is generally the kind of thing that haunts everyone subconscious — childhood terrors,  adult anxieties, the horrors that the future could bring.  As in my poetry,  I leave the visible blood and guts to other writers. 

dark fiction, horror, Canadian writers, Eileen Kernaghan

Dragon Rain and Other Stories is a collection of Eileen’s stories.

3.  Do you feel horror/dark fiction is an important genre and why; what does it bring to the table or allow you to explore? Who inspired you? 

It’s important, and enduring. While dark fantasy and horror will always be popular as  entertainment,  the best of the genre has survived for centuries as part of our literary heritage. I grew up on Tales from the Crypt, Weird Tales, H.P. Lovecraft and, on the more literary side of things, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley.  But it was Shirley Jackson who showed me that the worst horrors lurk just out of sight.

What does dark fantasy allow me to explore? The best answer I know comes from Alberto Manguel, in his forward to Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Literature: “…it deals with the invisible, the unspoken; it will not shrink from the uncanny, the absurd, the impossible; in short, it has the courage of total freedom.”

4.  Do  you feel women are under-represented in any way in the speculative arena or do you think there is more focus on them than on men? (or examples of how there is a balance)

When I first read this question, I thought that yes, by now, women must be equally represented in SF/F/H. But I was making comparisons to my early days as a writer, when there were only a handful of women in the field; and to a period somewhere in the eighties when male sword and sorcery  authors were heard to whinge that the editors, the writers and the heroes were all female. However, reading the responses from younger  writers  more aware of the current situation, I’m just going to admit that I have no idea.

Transversion, writing horror, dark fantasy, Eileen Kernaghan

Transversions was a Canadian publication and featured various speculative fiction stories.

5.  Abuse against women is worldwide: the gang rape of the Indian woman, women assaulted in various terrorist attacks or protests against regimes (Egypt, Syria, etc. throughout time), domestic violence and murder at the hands of boyfriends, fathers, families and husbands, sexist representation, being treated as second class citizens or possessions and made to dress in a particular way, etc. With all that’s going on, what do you want to say about where women are or what we can do to stem the tide?

On a personal level, we can teach our sons and grandsons to respect women, and just as importantly, teach our daughters and granddaughters to respect themselves. (When I watch “Girls,” clever and entertaining as the show is, I wonder how far we’ve come in that regard.)  But in terms of the worldwide rape, murder and abuse of women,  I can only watch with despair.  We can’t speak for the women who suffer those horrors–-we have no concept of what it must be to live their lives.We can only hope that they keep finding the courage to speak and to act for themselves.

Website:  www.eileenkernaghan.ca

Blog:  http://eileen-kernaghan.blogspot.com

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