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An interview with Natalie Brown, the creator of Scary Snippets and Nocturnal Sirens Publishing

I met Natalie Brown when she picked up stories from both me and my mother for her Scary Snippets Halloween anthology in 2019. Brown is a fierce female voice in the horror genre, and an interesting publisher to work with. She is approachable, candid and treats her authors like friends. 

Not only does she publish anthologies, but Brown writes her own horror stories, and does voice work and writing for podcasts, such as Creepy Podcast. Her two most recent releases ae Scary Snippets Campfire Edition, and Calls From the Brighter Futures Suicide Hotline. She is also working on her own solo anthology of short stories called Door to Door Damages which is due out before the end of the year. 

Brown’s philosophy is to encourage first time writers and she has a high acceptance rate for her multi-author collections. 

 

AF: Hi Natalie, it was exciting for both my mother, Della Sullivan, and I to be in the same publication with Scary Snippets Halloween . In fact, it was her first attempt at writing a horror story. For this anthology how many submissions did you get and how many did you take versus reject?

 

NB: The project manager and myself accepted about 78% of all submissions received. It was our first and one of our largest collections. We wanted to showcase a little bit of everything and got a lot of really great submissions. 

 

AF: Can you explain why you accept so many stories?

 

NB: The founders of Nocturnal Sirens Publishing were at one time themselves, first time authors. It means a lot to us to show people and the world how talented they are. So many new authors doubt their ability and talent; we want them to know that that’s simply not true. We have published Mothers and Daughters (You and Miss Della) as well as a husband and wife who had never been published together before. Everyone has to start somewhere, we want you to start with us. 

 

AF: Can you introduce yourself and give us a bit of your background?

 

NB: I’m a stay at home mom from Saint Augustine, Florida with three sons. A 2-year-old, a 6-year-old and a 10-year old. 

My writing career began with a story that I wrote for a marriage counseling exercise called “You Have New Messages”. I had to take an action that I had done and write it from my husband’s perspective. Don’t worry, we are still together and doing very well; we’re going on 16 years now. 

As far as my writing background, I took a nine week creative writing class in 10th grade. Besides that I have no formal training. I’m just a horror junkie. I’ve been reading, listening to and watching horror all of my life. That along with my OCD and lack of inner monologue seems to make me decently good at what I do. 

 

AF: What kind of writing do you do yourself?

 

NB: I love to write psychological and domestic horror. I write what I can sympathize with and understand. If it terrifies me, maybe it will scare someone else as well. I became a member of the online horror writing community in February 2019. During that time, I have had so many ideas for future collaborations and anthology topics. Since then, I have been offered so many amazing opportunities as an author; I really wanted to pay it forward. It means a lot to help other people’s dreams come true like others did for me. 

 

AF: You use a royalty share for many of your projects, can you explain how that works?

 

NB: Melody Grace and I were authors before we ever even thought of publishing. We’ve submitted to all kinds of companies around the world and based our payment system on things we liked and didn’t like from other companies, along with mistakes we have made in the past. Our company gives 70% of all profits/earnings split evenly amongst its authors quarter-annually. 

 

AF: What sort of profit have authors seen? What’s been your most successful book to date? 

 

NB: Our two most profitable books are the Scary Snippets Christmas Edition and our charity anthology No Safe Distance: Stories From Quarantine, which raised over one hundred dollars for Doctors Without Borders in its first month of release.

For Scary Snippets Christmas Edition each author was paid by how many stories they contributed to the collection. At its peak, the authors who had the most stories received about $7.00 and the authors with a single story received about $1.02. Which doesn’t seem like a lot at all, but when you take into account how many authors were involved in this collection, it really is something to be proud of.

 One thing I’ve learned is that the more authors that are involved in a project, the fewer profits are received by all. However, our company refuses to ask authors to submit for free unless it’s a drabble or charity anthology, which we have had only two in the year and a half we have been making books. 

 

AF: How has your publishing business evolved? I’ve noticed some name changes.

 

NB: Initially, I had opened a publishing company called Suicide House Publishing. Melody Grace helped me with formatting and taught me so much of what I know today. She’s an amazing publisher and author. On that note, when she had the initial idea for Mother Ghost’s Grimm, we knew we couldn’t publish a children’s book with the words Suicide House on them. So we promptly changed our name and LLC to Nocturnal Sirens Publishing. 

 

AF: What sort of stories and/or writing are you typically looking for?

 

NB: I like to read stories that stay with me mentally after I’ve read them. As cliche’ as some people say it is, I LOVE twists. Like break my freaking neck with your story. A good twist is so hard to achieve. It has to be subtle enough to make sense, you can’t have something coming out of left field that makes no sense. As Ryan Reynolds says in Deadpool 2, ‘That’s just lazy writing’. And hey I’ve done it too! But at the same time, you shouldn’t be able to see it coming as plain as the nose on your face either. It’s difficult to achieve in 3,000 words or less, but when it’s accomplished it’s beautiful. 

 

AF: What is really exciting you in the publishing field currently?

 

NB: Well, we released the second volume of our children’s horror set, Mother Ghost’s Grimm Volume 2. These two books are the creepy brainchild of my publishing partner, best friend and fellow horror author Melody Grace. A few of them were featured in the Halloween special called the NoNap Podcast, that was very exciting! 

 

AF: How is the current pandemic affecting you and your company?

 

NB: It’s been affected in many ways. I’ve found that several authors, myself included, have slowed down their writing for various reasons. As far as myself, my two eldest children have been homeschooled since the school year began, and that took a huge toll on my productivity. Having to tread these new waters along with these brave teachers who do the best they can has been challenging all around. Me giving that anything less than my full attention is not only a disservice to the teachers but my children as well. And other authors/ creators/ artists are experiencing these same situations. 

Not to mention the fact that 2020 has been a larger horror story than any of us could have thought of. There’s almost too much material to choose from to avoid more or less. Our stories are fun because they’re fictional. No one wants to make light of the nightmares people are facing everyday ya know? 

 

AF: What are your plans for your press in the future?

 

NB: In the year 2021, Melody Grace and I are going to focus on smaller anthologies containing longer stories/fewer authors. We also will be focusing on single author novels and novellas, as well as getting back to basics by working on our own writing

 

AF: Any final notes or things you wish to mention?

 

NB: I have been working for Jon Grilz’s Creepy Podcast for about a year and a half now. I am responsible for arranging payments, author communications, permissions and just recently have been promoted to help with our new Email submissions system. We love our authors so much and want to hear your work! We are looking for stories between 1,500 and 3,400 words. If you have something you’d like for us to read, please send it over to  [email protected] for a chance to be on the show! We pay $1.00 per 100 words and are excited to see what you’ve got.

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WiHM 12: The Evolution of Women in Horror

The Evolution of Women in Horror
By: N.M. Brown

“I delight in what I fear.” Shirley Jackson

Fear is one of the most instinctual human emotions, originally meant and used to keep humanity as a species safe. It can be a powerful motivator and deterrent to keep in the proverbial line. However some of us love it, seek it out, are almost … addicted to it some can say. This is where the horror genre comes in. One can be thoroughly enthralled and terrified to their core all from the safety of their own location. We can indulge in the thrill of a terrifying book, show or movie whenever we want to and turn it off so to speak when it becomes too much. 

You can use that sense of fear to be more appreciative of just how un-horrific your life truly is, but you can also use it to make you stronger. Some of the most successful, entertaining and unsettling horror literature has come from the minds of the afraid. To write fear is to know it, have experienced it at length, and more so… to understand it. 

As we greet Women in Horror month with open arms, I thought I’d shed light on some of the most prominent female horror authors of the present and past, the struggles we have faced as a gender, how things have gotten better, while others have stayed exactly the same.  (more…)

Trembling With Fear 08/02/20

August already, and I know many are beginning the countdown to Halloween. Me? I prefer to hang on to the summer vibes a bit longer as August is my one month of the year of ‘freedom’. I’ve just been on a very short visit to Shropshire and Wales to visit family. Surreal seeing Mum and Dad and not being able to hug them, they made up for it by giving us cake! Over in Wales we were unable to visit my mother-in-law due to the first reported instance of covid in her care home. They are back in lockdown but we are keeping quietly optimistic as they have been so good in controlling things in the home. We were also able to have a socially distanced meetup with my sister-in-law and wife-to-be on the seafront. A bit breezy but a nice catchup.

I’m still reading – after all that’s the best way to learn to write, isn’t it? You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. I finished The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones whilst in Wales, it was raining so what else could I do? It took me a little while to get into but worth it in the end. I’ve also read 324 Abercorn by Mark Allen Gunnells which is a great ‘feel-good’ horror and I’m halfway through Relics by Tim Lebbon. After that I hope to make a dent in my ebook TBR pile where I have Catherine McCarthy’s Door and Other Twisted Tales collection waiting for me amongst others. Give Catherine a read if you get a chance, she is one of the terrific authors in the charity anthology Diabolica Britannica. So much reading, so much learning!

Charity Spot. The charity anthology, We are Wolves, is due for publication in the autumn. Raising profits for money to help survivors of sexual abuse, it has been collated by Gemma Amor and Laurel Hightower and will be published by Cina Pelayo of Burial Day press. With a cast of names including those just mentioned as well as Hailey Piper, V. Castro, Samantha Kolesnik, Sadie Hartmann and so many others of that calibre, it’ll be one to watch out for.

If you want to find other great books to read, remember to check out the reviews on Horror Tree itself.

Very Short Story Time! It seems the very short story slot has caught on! Remember this is very much a ‘just for fun’ section. We have a few for you this week:

Will H. Blackwell Jr.

I was smitten!—her radiance concealing the feathers and talons—until, she took flight.

Christina Nordlander

“I was playing in the sunlit attic studio when I smelled smoke.”

Birthright by Steven Holding

Twilight. Dogfight. Bad bite. Take flight. Not alright. Night-time. Bright moonlight. Skin-tight! Frightening sight!

 

Now to the meat of TWF. Our first story this week in Trembling With Fear is Happy Meal by Tiffany Michelle Brown. Envisage a creature dining out, sucking up their favourite drink, enjoying their food – but what are they eating or drinking? The sense of taste is fully engaged in this particular tale, not just examining the flavour of the food itself but its seasonings, its emotions. All of this heightens the dining sensation, human weakness and human frailty become a distinctive bouquet. Taste is an underused sense in writing and it’s nice to see it take centre stage here, alongside that of smell – a change from sight and sound.

Mind Movie by G.A. Miller gets into the head of a writer and a reader. This is actually me as a reader, seeing that movie in my head, the words disappearing from the page. But hopefully not with the same outcome!

Time for Change by Radar DeBoard brings your sins chasing after you. Playing on a persons’s guilt can manifest itself in so many ways.

Victim by R.J. Meldrum turns an apparent stalker situation on its head. Using standard tropes and then a little twist and you get a completely different outlook.

Enjoy the stories and send us yours!

 

Take care

Steph

 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I am super thrilled to say that we’ve got the artwork for Trembling With Fear fully figured out, we’ve just got a few minor manuscript changes to make and I believe that the preview copies will be ordered. For once, I think this process might have ACTUALLY HAPPENED before this update has gone out. I can’t even express how excited I am that we’ll finally be moving forward here.

Moving on with good news, while our YouTube still doesn’t have someone who has volunteered to help us out, we do have someone who may soon be helping out with our Instagram. More on that soon!

Finally, we have a new Patreon and are SO close to our next target goal. It may be a few months away still but we’re closing in (and can, I think, start fulfilling some of it soon!)

Thank you all, each and every one of you! I hope you enjoy today’s fiction and if you’re digging anything in particular please do leave a comment!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

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Trembling With Fear 06/24/2018

This week has seen the release of the Drabbledark anthology, edited by Eric Fomley (available on Amazon). I am currently waiting for my Kickstarter copy but am really looking forward to reading it as I know so many of you belong to the Horror Tree/TWF family. A great warmup to our own little anthology which, once contract amendments have been returned, should be out there soon, too. It’s lovely to see our writers combining together to get their work to a wider audience.

As mentioned last week, I was attempting to get a story submitted to Cemetery Dance and I managed that with a few days to spare. I hope others here had a go too. Such opportunities are rare so whenever you see them, take them. I’ve also decided to try and find an agent for my novel and have sent the first submission out for that. For those of you who are taking this route as well, what’s your experience of it? Is it something you would recommend or avoid? One thing I noticed when I picked up a copy of the Writers & Artists Yearbook was how anti speculative fiction so many agents seemed to be, ie no horror, no fantasy, no sci-fi, usually lumped in with requests for no children’s books or poetry – at least here in the UK. Does anyone know of a list of agents dedicated to horror/spec fic which Horror Tree authors could easily refer to? I think that’s something we would all find useful (I know I would, hint, hint).

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I’ve got another anthology update for you! We’re about 11 confirmations shy of being able to have all of last year’s work included in the anthology and I’ll be sending reminder e-mails this week. Hopefully, that means that by next week I’ll have been able to order a proof copy for Steph and myself to go over!

‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Imp

The gluttonous blue body of the Imp. The dried and peeling skin of the fat bloated belly fell like wrinkled leather feathers onto my comforter. It hadn’t fed in days. It doesn’t feed on a regular schedule, not like us. It feeds like a sassy newborn going through feeding frenzies. Some days it leaves me alone—well, not really alone, but somedays at least it doesn’t gorge itself on my body. Some days it will just sit there, on the end of my bed, on my coffee table, on the shoulders of a friend whom I try to have lunch with, wrapped around the body of my baby nephew like a most terrible and horrible threat. Its gut, like the distended stomach of an Ethiopian infomercial star, slowly flattens over the course of a day or two, and then it begins to feed again.

When the Imp first began invading my space, I could pretend it wasn’t there. So small, the Imp was almost cute when I first met it; benign, I thought.

At my bones it would gnaw and an occasional tickle was all I felt. It was easy then to act like it wasn’t real, like it was just my imagination. But the tickle became less sporadic. And then the frenzies began.

The agonizing sensation of the bug eyed cretan dissolving my bone with its acid-saliva and chewing rapidly like one of those wind-up plastic mouth toys, it felt like the damn Imp was sticking its hand into my flesh and literally wrenching my guts. But I would simply take a head-first ride on the porcelain express and go on ignoring it. But the feedings became more frequent, the pain less bearable, and it stopped biting just my right arm. Somehow it learned how to chew on both my arms at the same time. And my chest. And my legs. And my spine.

When I puked blood in front of my mother, a side-effect of the pain, I was guilted into a trip to the doctor. Not my regular Dr. Keen, but a specialist, one who dealt specially with bone-feeding Imps.

The waiting room looked like any other: sterile walls, sterile music, sterile books, sterile staff. But I wasn’t the only one there with an Imp. There was a lady, with a blue Imp like mine, but it was much smaller, only as big as a Pygmy Marmoset. The thing only seemed interested in the woman’s fingers. Another woman, much older, had a marmoset-sized green Imp, perched upon her shoulder like a parrot, its jagged fingers only brushing back her hair, a benign Imp if ever there was one. There was an Orange Orangutan-sized Imp, covered in festering wounds like little pus-volcanoes, and when it saw me looking at it, it smiled, the man’s intestines it was munching on almost falling out of its mouth. A number of red Imps of varying sizes sat on their victims’ laps, their hands fishing deep for organs. The worst I saw in that waiting room was perched on the back of a chair in which a girl, no older than six, sat. This black Imp, which was too big to rest on the shoulders of the dying girl, clutched its talons on the grey waiting room chair, its spiny obsidian tail wrapped around the girl’s neck like a lazy noose, its weathered leathery wings folded in like the most horrid gargoyle, and its arms, with spikes for elbows, were dug deep into each side of the little girl’s skull. The image of that small child will forevermore be burned into my eyes; writhing in pain, her eyes sunken into her head, sweat sticking to her pale flesh, and her mother doing her best to console her baby and wishing that the Imp would leave her child, or else finish her off in much swifter fashion than it was doing.

I didn’t hear the nurse call my name, I was too enthralled in watching the Imps, studying their variations. “Honey,” my mother patted my hand. Had she ever called me “honey” before? I thought not. “it’s time to go,” she told me. I got up and followed the beaming, edge-of-retirement nurse, who had an Imp of her own. A red one stuck on her back. I don’t think it had started feeding on her quite yet, as it was still very small.

“How long have you been in pain?” Asked the doctor who refused to make eye contact.

“I dunno,” I glanced at my mother, but could not look at her long with guilt of hiding the vampiric creature from her, “a few months.” Tears welled behind my mother’s brown eyes as the doctor typed on his computer. I couldn’t remember her ever crying before.

“And before that, the…tickling, sensation you talked about, how long did that go on for?” The spectacled doctor asked with his back still turned to me.

“Few months before the real pain,” I told the doctor, who I doubted really cared.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the lanky doctor with the round ‘invisible’ glasses tried to kill the Imp. He gave me pills which were supposed to make my body too hostile for the Imp to feed on, but the evil ghoul simply stuck its finger down my throat to purge my body of the medication.

We tried intravenous drugs, which sickened me more than the Imp, though I did see the blue creature lose some of its veracity, but this was merely temporary. A few months after what the doctor proclaimed to be a victory, the Imp came back, hungrier than ever.

My body deteriorated faster than I thought possible. Every morning when I pulled myself out of bed, and later when my mother had to pull me out of bed, I looked like a different person in the mirror. I felt like that small child from the doctor’s office. My eyes were sunk deep into my cranium, and black circles bordered my sockets like a raccoon mask. Every bone on my body protruded like a porcupine’s defensive spikes.

At some point, I think around the same time as when I stopped being able to keep down foods, or even maintain a desire for food, the Imp became the larger entity in our relationship. I had dwindled down to barely over a hundred pounds, at almost six feet tall, and the Imp ballooned up like a well-fed line-backer.

As its food source dwindled, the Imp seemed less and less interested in my body. It still fed, of course, but when other people were around, usually my mother, it would fixate on their body instead, licking its lips and salivating all over itself.

“Mum,” I would say, “if you ever see the Imp, go directly to the doctor. Do not hesitate, no matter how harmless it appears.”

“Yes dear,” she would say in return, placating what she assumed was a mind rotten and on the edge of death, not a human worth arguing with. I tried many times to explain to her about the Imp, tried to tell her how dangerous it was. But she just hushed me and lulled me back to sleep, and in my pitiful castrated state, I let her.

 

You may ask, why I hadn’t taken my life, when I knew my life was basically over. The answer is, I tried. One of my mother’s past suitors had left behind an old shotgun. I watched a video on how to load and fire the gun, and the Imp turned the barrel in my weak hands at the last moment, blasting off the tip of my right foot. I was kept under special watch in the hospital, highly sedated, for a couple days. The Imp enjoyed the isolation, feeding in private.

My mother kept a close watch on my use of sharp objects and poisonous chemicals after that. I had to resort to taking apart a cheap plastic pencil sharpener for a barely suitable blade. I hacked at my veins, in the bathtub of course, I didn’t want to create an undue mess for my mother. Like cutting a steak with a butter knife, I worked at my flesh for a solid ten minutes, and when I finally opened up the Imp appeared, with my mother’s sewing kit. Once it had me looking like an emaciated homemade doll, the creature force-fed me my own blood. It didn’t care about how it tasted or the quality of the nutrients, so long as it could keep its food source going just a little bit longer. The black thread which runs in x’s down my forearms like cheap made-at-school book binding, still sits in my skin, like the binding of a book.

My mother asked me the other day if there was anywhere I would like to go, “While you still can.”

“The cliffs, just outside of town,” I told her. We are going there later today. I feel in the mood for some cliff diving, even if there is but a foot or so of water at the bottom of those cliffs. We’ll see if that fucking Imp can swim.

Ian Bain

Ian lives in Muskoka Ontario, Canada where he teaches high school English and History. A lifelong lover of all things macabre and monstrous, and a writer from a very early age, Ian began by emulating the works of R.L. Stine. Recently, Ian has been adapting his nightmares into prose. Big life events for Ian include the pending nuptials to his fiancé whom he met while attending Queen’s University.

The Lighthouse

The foreman was told it was an easy job.  After all, how hard could it be to tear down an old lighthouse?  It was practically falling down.

The first day went well.  The inside was cleaned without hassle.  It wasn’t until the second day, when they tried to remove the forgotten lantern things changed.

Even after death, loyalty is a virtue.  There were many who lived long, happy lives because a piercing beam flashed through past fogs as warning…And they came to defend their savior.

Now, the foreman and his crew are gone.  The old lighthouse, however, still stands.

Zachary Finn

Zachary Finn is a lover of all things history and horror.  He lives in Rochester, New York, and enjoys hiking with his girlfriend, Natalie, and his dog, Bruce Wayne. He also loves training Ju-Jitsu, and will have a short story included in the upcoming Dragon’s Roost Press Anthology, “Hidden Menagerie.”

Tiger Gonna Eat Your Head

The running joke in Ms. Lipton’s kindergarten class is that a tiger is going to eat someone’s head.

“Tiger gonna eat your head!” one child exclaims to another. Then they all hoot, tossing back their heads. Especially Kevin Busbee.

Boy, is it funny.

Until today.

A nine-foot Bengal stalks into their classroom. The children gawk. They don’t shriek until it pounces on the unsuspecting Ms. Lipton, devouring her head in a single chomp.

Don’t take this lightly. This beast isn’t an imaginary boogeyman. Tigers are terribly real. The children know that now. See, they’ve stopped laughing.

Except for Kevin Busbee.

Scott Hughes

cott Hughes’s fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in Crazyhorse, One Sentence Poems, Entropy, Deep Magic, Carbon Culture Review, Redivider,Redheaded Stepchild, PopMatters, Strange Horizons, Odd Tales of Wonder, The Haunted Traveler, Exquisite Corpse, Pure Slush, Word Riot, and Compaso: Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology. For more information, visit writescott.com and https://www.amazon.com/author/writescott

Undersea Solitude

Slava heard it again. The banging on the outer door of Russia’s undersea base occurred each midnight for the last week. Could someone be knocking?

 

For months he’d laid claim to polar oil fields, but solitude took its toll. His chest tightness certainly signaled a developing condition. Air filters or isolation to blame?

 

Bang.

 

Slava’s superiors deemed his problems psychosomatic and suspended communications.

 

Bang.

 

Was the communication blackout accidental?  Was the banging his replacement?

 

Bang.

 

Slava bypassed the safeties and turned the door’s wheel.  “Hello—“

 

The crushing weight of frigid water smashed his body and filled the undersea base.

Ryan Benson

Ryan Benson previously found employment as a professor in Boston, MA. He now resides outside of Atlanta, GA with his wonderful wife and three young children where he attempts to write as much as said rambunctious children allow (usually when he should be sleeping). He hopes to one day complete a novel, but until then he keeps himself busy writing short stories. Suspense Magazine, Wordhaus, Short Fiction Break, and Trembling with Fear have published Ryan’s work. His newest short story “Unconditional Victory” is included in the Collapsar Directive science fiction anthology.