Editor: Paying the Ferryman, Carpe Noctem: Truly, Madly, Deeply
Author: State of Horror: New Jersey, State of Horror: North Carolina, State of Horror: Louisiana
Being a woman editor and writer of horror would seem like a special kind of challenge, but I don’t see it like that at all. The genre of horror has such a large spectrum that there is truly something for everyone. I believe women are just as capable as men in delivering that heart-pounding scare to readers. Being a talented writer is not limited by gender because the only limits are the imagination. I have heard the stereotypes though—women can’t write shocking horror with blood and guts, and unstoppable horrific monsters, women have too much romance and “softness” in their horror stories and it takes away from the story, and even women can’t write horror that would appeal to the male fan base. I am thankful that these stereotypes seem to be slipping away more and more all the time.
In my experience as an editor of horror, I have worked on some horror stories from women that were for lack of a better word—extreme. Women horror writers can kick ass when it comes to writing hard-core horror and do not pull any punches. I’ve read plenty of stories with blood and gore and terrifying monsters and there was still a good story plot. Women can write extreme horror. Not every vampire a woman writes about is going to brood and whine and pose, they are going to eat their victim’s face off. Women are able to hang with the best of the men and I have read/edited stories that made me a little squeamish. As an editor my job is to make sure the story is as strong as possible. What I have seen is in between the gore and action are very good, solid stories of horror. There is a market out there for extreme horror and women are able to deliver with the best of them—everything from psychopathic killers to the most fantastical monsters.
As far as “softness” goes, there is plenty of room on the horror spectrum for some of the romance or softer emotions. To me, multi-faceted characters of depth should experience an entire range of emotions in a story. Fear is a great emotion to show as is panic, but when despair and desperation are mixed in or even grief, suddenly there is another whole other dimension to the character and another layer in the story. I don’t think women are more “soft” than men when writing horror. A story will go where the story needs to go and a good author is able to incorporate the human experience into the story and draw on those emotions while connecting with the reader to create an impact. That kind of talent is not gender specific. Both men and women are able to draw on emotion to weave a great horror story. In one of my first stories I struggled to get that emotional draw right. I wanted the reader to descend into the mind of the character and feel the confusion, fear, wonderment, love, and doubt—to experience what the character experienced so that they would understand the absolute horror at the end. Maybe that story could be considered “soft” but it was a different kind of story and again a different place on the horror spectrum. I’ve read heart breaking horror stories from men which had me running for tissues. It is about well developed characters and stories and both genders are more than capable of eliciting emotions.
Women can’t appeal to a male horror fan base? Hmmm, well Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein comes to mind. In all seriousness, readers look for good stories. I think men are giving women writers a try and are happy with the result. Are books like Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight geared toward a male fan base? Of course not, those are geared toward teenage girls. I know plenty of men who have read and enjoyed Anne Rice’s vampires. There are scores of women who enjoy Stephen King. I think the appeal is the story not the gender of the writer. I see that aspect getting better all the time. Working with anthologies is wonderful. There are just as many women as men writing horror and submitting. Anthologies are a great way for readers to get exposed to many authors and give them a try. Men and women side-by-side, and I don’t see men passing over the “girl stories.” I think men deserve more credit than that. Readers know a good story when they read one regardless of the gender of the writer.
Horror, like every other genre out there, has to have a good story to appeal to readers. I get strange looks sometimes when I say I write and edit horror stories. That little nod and half smile, half horrified expression and usually the, “Wow, ok, um that’s neat. Do you write romance too, ever?”or something similar. I don’t mind the look or hesitation. I just smile and tell them to give it a try, or understand that horror is not their thing. For me horror is very freeing to write and just so much fun. There are no rules or limits other than the basic one every writer must have and that is to tell a good story. At the heart of horror, no matter where on the spectrum a story lands, the most important element is to have a solid story. Being able to edit in the horror genre gives me a great perspective on what is out there from both veteran writers and newbies, men and women. Women in Horror Month is a great idea to give us a little time in the sun, but really all horror writers deserve that spotlight for bringing the darker aspects out to entertain and chill the readers.
Margaret L. Colton
Margaret L. Colton is an avid history buff, especially in the areas of Medieval Europe, Ancient Greece and American History, she loves all things history. She has been imparting her historical knowledge on her students for the past 12 years, teaching not only historical subjects but psychology as well. She teaches in the same district she graduated from. Even though she has two Master’s degrees in education, the writing community called to her.
Before beginning to write again after many years, she began editing and recently started ML Colton Editorial Services. Currently, she has a short story in State of Horror: New Jersey, North Carolina, Louisiana and others set to be published early next year. Besides dabbling with some short stories, she is the Editor-in-Chief at Charon Coin Press and has anthologies coming out early year entitled Paying the Ferryman, and Carpe Noctem: Truly, Madly, Deeply.
She has two beautiful daughters and a granddaughter who share her love of books and fun and some amazing friends around her. Even though she lives in Missouri and is a rabid Cardinals fan, she loves to travel to some of her favorite places like New Orleans, Florida and Hawaii.
‘What Horror Means to Me’ by: Heidi Lane who is next featured in the anthology ‘Paying the Ferryman’
I can still remember sitting on the couch as a child watching Psycho with my mom. She had enjoyed watching Alfred Hitchcock films growing up and wanted to share this interest with me. I watched the film with wide eyes; scared but unable to take my eyes away. It took me about a year to be able to shower with my eyes closed after that, but somehow it didn’t deter me. My interest in horror only grew.
In elementary school while other kids were interested in shows like Teletubbies and reading The Boxcar Children series, I was watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? and reading R.L. Stine Fear Street books. In middle school I started delving into books about alien abductions, the occult, and the paranormal. I made a couple of friends who shared my interest in horror movies. We would always watch the newest ones together. When Freddy Versus Jason came out to theaters, I paid for my older sister’s ticket to get us into the movie since it was rated R (she promptly left before the movie started since she hates horror movies).
As an adult, my interest in horror has not wavered. The horror genre has been knitted into many of memories and is still a part of me to this day. With such an interest in horror it would seem only natural that I would combine it with my love of writing. However, I always thought that horror was something for me to enjoy, not to write myself. Girls were supposed to like romantic comedies and Nicholas Sparks books, weren’t they? As a female, I shouldn’t be expected to be voraciously reading Campfire Tales, nor should I be on the lookout for the next great horror movie to add to my queue. Or so I thought.
About a year ago I decided to give writing horror a try. Something finally clicked inside of me that caused me to ask myself, “Why not?” Up until then I would struggle and get bored with my stories, almost giving up writing altogether. When I allowed myself the opportunity to write horror, I was beyond surprised to discover how natural it felt to be writing the genre. The words flowed, the story played out in my head like a movie, and I was invested in my characters and what would happen next. Unlike my attempts at writing non-horror, I could feel my characters speaking to me and telling me the story, rather than the other way around. Nothing ever felt forced.
So why did it take me so long to write my first horror story? On some level it shouldn’t be surprising. Like many things, horror felt like a man’s genre. When I think of horror authors, the first names that pop into my head are Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and Dean Koontz. When doing a quick online search for top twenty horror authors, the first list I looked at were all male authors. Not even Anne Rice placed in the top twenty. Even the top selling horror graphic novels are written by men (e.g. Hellblazer, The Walking Dead, American Vampire, Preacher). Seeing all of the horror big hitters be men can be intimidating.
It’s disheartening to think that other women and girls out there might be put off from contributing to the horror genre for the same reasons I did. But at the same time, I think now is our time. Although the horror genre can be seen as a male-dominated genre, as women we shouldn’t be intimidated. Female writers who love horror need to put those stories that have been locked in their minds on paper and breathe life into them.
To help other young girls and women know that they’re not the only females with an interest in horror, it’s important to not be silent. Women need to voice their interests and not be afraid of what others will think. It is easier to stand up for your interests when there’s a feeling of belonging and knowing that you’re not the only one. Horror needn’t be viewed as a genre for men; women are invited as well, and I’m glad that I finally took my seat at the table.
Heidi has recently fallen in love with writing horror/paranormal short fiction. For most of her life she has been drawn to topics involving the paranormal and occult. In elementary school she devoured R.L. Stine Fear Street books and in middle school she developed a love for horror movies.
Heidi was born and raised in the technology and coffee mecca that is Seattle. When she is not busy corralling her toddler, she enjoys writing, curling up with a book or graphic novel, and watching the occasional movie. She also can be found out running on the trail in order to stay in shape in case of a zombie apocalypse.
Heidi’s work appears in Paying the Ferryman (Charon Coin Press). Her website is heidi-lane.com.
By Amanda Hard who is featured next in ‘State of Horror: Louisiana’
The relationship between the writer and the reader has been described as an intense but brief love affair, distant yet freakishly intimate. While a novel can be seen as a lengthy romance, Stephen King suggested “a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.”
What makes that kiss so compelling to me is what isn’t said, the words that go unspoken. As a reader, you don’t say goodbye to a good short story; you watch her walk away, mesmerized by her poetry and powerless to call her back for explanation. And when she looks over her shoulder at you, you will remember that coy smile for many years. A good short story leaves its lipstick on your collar while you fumble in your pocket for a pen to take down her number.
Speaking as a reader, I think the best short stories are those kisses in the dark that leave me guessing. Joyce Carol Oates has a tendency to end her short stories abruptly, often seemingly in the middle of a scene, and with no apparent resolution. They end without explaining why they end, a lover who kisses you but never returns your phone calls. I both love and hate this, however in imitating this tendency of hers, I think I’ve created some of my strongest work.
The very best horror stories, the ones that have stayed with me over the years and the ones I reread as often as possible, have confused me at first. They’ve angered me on the second reading, and then burrowed into my imagination, crawling through my thoughts and pushing aside folds of brain matter until the maddening itch they inspire make me pick up the book and read them again. And again. And yet again. I love those stories even as I resent the intrusion of their paranoid and often horrific universes into my waking reality. I can’t forget them; they inform and influence everything I read and write, even now.
As a writer, I consider the short story the ultimate think-tank. It’s an incubator for ideas, craft techniques, and characters. You can hold the entirety of a short story universe in your head, all at once, which gives you a wider perspective when you’re experimenting with things like structure and form. You can explore the same story from different points of view, without feeling like you’ve “wasted” months or years of work. The first draft of a short story, even for a slow writer like me, is at its lengthiest an investment of only about a week’s time. I’ve played with spending a month writing the same story three or four different times in different ways. Fiction’s short form is where we writers can easily engage in this kind of experimentation, dressing a story up in different clothes to see which looks the best.
Anthologies are the ultimate short story porn for me: a dozen or more encounters in the dark, strange kisses all tasting of different bitters and sweets; a select few that bite my lip as they draw back, while I lick away a drop of my own blood and scramble backwards through the pages to recapture the moments leading up to that last sentence. It takes me months, sometimes, to get through an entire anthology, despite a promise to myself that I will first read each story only once.
Themed anthologies by diverse writers are my first preference, especially if the theme lends itself to the kind of open-endedness I enjoy in a story. I love the idea of “place” as more than just a setting, which is why the State of Horror series appealed to me and why I chose to submit my work to the series. The mountains of Tennessee don’t simply hide stills and moonshine, and Louisiana isn’t just a state—it’s a mythos. I’m thrilled to be a contributor, and excited to experience the wide range of strange kisses in the dark this series promises.
An interview with Mariesa Inez whose short “Seven Minutes” will be released in the upcoming ‘Paying the Ferryman’ anthology.
Why did you choose the horror genre?
I didn’t choose the horror genre. The horror genre chose me. And then it possessed me for a while until it consumed my life.
Okay, in all seriousness, that is basically what happened.
I didn’t know much about the paranormal genre for a while. When people would mention it I thought it was all only vampires and werewolves which didn’t really interest me.
Eventually, later towards the end of middle school, I picked up a few YA paranormal books suggested to me by a friend and realized just how broad this genre was. There was so much you could do with it. You could write about the weird and unexplained, making people think twice about what’s really hidden in our world.
I’ve always loved reading and writing fantasy, but I also love the stories set in our world, about the weird things that happen. Paranormal is a perfect mix of fantasy and more darker things. I also loved the idea that you could weave in reality and your own crazy ideas to come up with something that was really cool and imaginative.
Emotions are important to me in a story, and emotions came easily when I wrote a paranormal story. I loved making people who read my stories feel, whether it was fear, curiosity, or sadness. It may sound mean, but some of my proudest moments are when I freaked someone out or made someone cry with my writing. When I create emotion I know it was all worth it.
I’m a pretty goofy person, so people don’t usually expect me to write about what I do. The whole “girls only write cute things” is a gender stereotype, but it’s one many people unfortunately believe. Not that there is anything wrong with these stories but it means that sometimes your stories don’t get taken seriously when you write about darker things.
What was it like to be accepted in an anthology?
It was…indescribable, as I’ve loved writing for so long. Being 15, I never expected to be accepted any time before college or later.
Many people have had people go outright and tell them that they will never be published. I’ve been lucky enough to have a supporting group of family and friends. Still, I’ve met many negative people who treat my writing as just a hobby. Some people will ask me if I’m still writing my “stories” and act like it’s simply a teenager stage not something as serious as it is.
I’ve heard people say being an author is not a good way to live my life. And it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating having people not realize how important something is to you. Writing changed my life. I’ve worked through so many personal things with my writing. It’s made me laugh, cry, and feel powerful. People telling me it’s a mere side project is infuriating. It was as if the fact that I was a young, inexperienced, female and writing stories meant I wouldn’t get anywhere.
I always told myself I could become published later in my life no matter how scary it was or how long it took. The school assignment given to me to send in a short story to a publisher was the most intimidating thing I had done. After pushing send, I felt like I had already done something. I knew I’d made a big step and I was proud. I moved on, and kept writing.
One day, being bored at school, I opened my email on my mom’s laptop, I was expecting the usual random emails, but I saw an email in my junk drawer, and opened it. As soon as I saw the name of the publisher I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing. I read the first line about ten times, mouth hanging open. That’s when I start crying and saying “Oh my gosh” over and over again. I’m pretty sure my friends thought someone had died.
No matter how much positivity we surround ourselves with, there is negativity with. A common mindset that many young people have is that you can never succeed until you’re an adult. No matter what we want to do, most of the time we feel as we can never start working towards our dreams until we’ve gone to college. None of that make sense. Yes, teenagers do have their own unique limits. But, so does everyone else.
Centuries ago, people became adults when they entered their teen years. That was when they got jobs and started lives as a grown up. And now, in the 21st century, teens are assuming they can’t really do anything with their lives until they get out of college.
I myself thought this way as well. I was pretty sure that the next step in my writing life, being published, was something I wouldn’t achieve until I was an adult, and I was okay with that. I was terrified to submit something to a real publisher. I felt confident in my story, after writing 9 different drafts of it, but it felt wrong, doing this as someone so young,
I see now how I was so wrong. I put my mind to something. And even though failure happens, in the end I succeeded.
I went through many periods of time when I was about ready to give up, because I believed I would never write as good as my friends. That day at school when I read that email changed all of that. Even if it’s another ten years or longer until I get published again, I know now that I did it. That I can do it. That age, gender, personality doesn’t matter. It’s all about doing what you love and letting that fuel you.
Mariesa Inez is a homeschooled teen-writer tucked away in a small town in Washington State. She spends her days thinking of sad things to do to her story characters and obsessing over whatever TV show or book has grabbed her attention. She enjoys a quiet afternoon with a Disney movie, eating all the food her health teacher advised against, and enjoying some adventures in the forest with friends.
She has dreamed of being a writer from a young age, writing her first real story about a “super-dog” on the back of a math assignment (she never did finish her math assignment). She developed her love of writing by trading stories back and forth with her best friend. After completing her longest story, a novelette about the Loch Ness Monster, she knew writing was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. It was soon after this that she discovered an online community of teen-writers just like her.
She has been part of this online community for three years, where she has developed amazing friendships, learned how to give and take critiques, gained confidence in her writing, and learned how to develop her characters to the point where they’re alive to her (kind of creepy, right?).
She aspires to grow up and live in a house full of bookshelves, where she can spend her days painting, drinking coffee, planning cosplays and writing out the many stories and worlds hiding in her head.
Seven Minutes is her first work to be published. Her thoughts and book reviews can be found at her blog: meobird.blogspot.com
Everyone is doing it. All you have to do is give in. All you have to do is take a step, and then a leap and I’ll catch you because that’s what I do. Didn’t you know what you were getting into before you decided to take my hand? There’s no going back now. Look down, you’ll see where you came from, but only I know where you’re going.
Death. It’s the end of everything and yet something we all have to face. Don’t you agree?
Death comes in many forms as it does within the confines of horror. Just the very thought of it makes one shiver. The definitive end of life and yet the state of passing into another consciousness. Some have made the act of death into a thing to fear and claimed its messenger as an unholy creature who preys upon those who are on his list. Most authors or other artists have asserted the angel of death or the reapers who bring the act upon us hapless mortals, are uncaring evil monsters who drag souls either to the other side or off to be tortured by some demon or devil depending on which storyline you wish to follow.
Nevertheless, not all Grim Reapers are horrific. Some actually have compassion and I see this trend more within the horror genre coming from the women who take up the scythe and cut away the dark cloak and peer into the darkness of death. A good example is the character of death in Graveminder by Melissa Marr. Death is a sympathetic character who offers a bit of advice as the main character descends into the underworld to fulfill her duties. Or take some of the other female writers who are turning death into a woman. As women, the reapers have emotions and life situations they encounter just as their live counterparts do. A good example of this would be the reaper in First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones. Her reaper is actually alive and must deal with life as it happens to her as well as crossing over souls to the other side. Death for her is not an angel, but she is the embodiment of the angel.
For me, Death is an angel who helps those crossover and he has feelings. He also oversees a battalion of other grim reapers who work for him. Death is a close friend and traverses many universes. I use him to scare my characters. I also enjoy showing others his compassionate side. My death is a five thousand years old angel named Azrael who was lifted up from a darker path to become the head reaper. He had spent so much time within the cold reaches of space all he knew was his job until another softened his heart. Making Azrael feel within the confines of my horror novels, to me, only brought out a little bit more of his eviler nature because he has to battle the demons he has long since thought he tamed. Interacting with actual humans instead of just their souls, gives him a different perspective and makes him question his role in the universe.
But in the end, death is Death. It doesn’t matter if the author portrays the reaper as a human woman, a vampire who has been elevated to angelic status, or just a lonely woman who is offered the chance to ferry souls into the hereafter.
I only hope Death will be there at my demise to offer me his cold hand.
In horror or in real life, it is inevitable.
Crymsyn Hart is a National Bestselling author of erotic romance and horror. Her worlds are filled with luscious vampires, gorgeous gods, quirky witches, and everything else that goes bump in the night. Crymsyn worked as a psychic for many years in Boston while attending Emerson College. She graduated with a BFA in Writing, Literature, & Publishing. Crymsyn shares her life with a small zoo, three playful puppies, and her hubby Mark.