The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with John Reinhart

Ruschelle: John, nice to meet you. I hope after this interview you can say the same about me. Let’s get to the meat and crunchy bones of some things. First-this love of fire. You mention on a few web pages that you’re an arsonist. Did you go to school for that? Explain this crazy love of flame.

John: Actually, I went to school to be a plumber but I found the sewage kept me from wearing the cowboy shirts with false pearl buttons that I preferred. While I appreciate Leonard Cohen, I also couldn’t reconcile the idea that the crack is where the light gets in. It does. It’s true. Just not my style.

The love of flame began somewhere around Phoenix. I was eight and a friend gave me a collection of Russian fairy tales for my birthday. It was one of those gifts. An eight-year-old with a doorstop. Then I opened the pages and the pages turned into birds, roosted on the shelves in my room, then burst into flame. My parents were weirded out, but there wasn’t any harm done, and the stories were good.

I’ve been lighting things on fire ever since. As a matter of fact, in an effort to fan the flames, my next chapbook is a course in arson. It starts with a syllabus for self-study.

Ruschelle:  You are a poet. And as 1970’s singer Phoebe Snow crooned, “…you make things alright.” (Damn I’m old) Is that true of your poetry? Do you make things alright or do prefer to dirty things up and make the world wonder what you’re up to? Hence-arsonist. What does your poetry focus on when you word-sculpt your mini-masterpieces?

John: In addition to poetry, I’m a collage artist, which I think applies to my assembling words together too. Artistically, I work to redeem the discarded mediocrity. Poetically, my work tends in several directions – experimental, social, and darkly speculative. Humor weaves everything together, softening some of the punches so that readers don’t realize the beating until they’re six rounds in.

Ruschelle: Correct me if I’m wrong, but as of 2017 you have written five collections of poetry. How long does it take you to craft each work of poetry? Do you save certain poems for certain works (themed) or is your work written, collected and dispersed with a ‘devil can get bent’ attitude?

John: Correct. My latest collection, “screaming,” was composed last summer. I simply sat down every night and committed to writing a prose poetry sort of piece with the idea of nightmares. Usually, I am not so systematic, but notice themes or particular gems that I begin to orbit – “arson” for example. Then the collections assemble themselves. I’m working to get the poems to write themselves. When I quit the day job, you can ask how that’s going.

Sometimes I have an idea for a collection, for instance, a series of poems covering the Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky chess championship from 1972, but the poems themselves simmer for years, occasionally evaporating entirely, sometimes they turn into sugared crystals.

Ruschelle: We all remember our first, even when we’d rather forget they ever existed. What was your first and does it still haunt you to this day. And I am talking about writing and not first boy/girlfriends…who occasionally have a haunting quality. And not always in a good way!  LOL

John: I do remember my first four-line poem. It was a something sappy and I snuck it into a girl’s pencil box. Think Percy Shelley’s sonnet “Lift not the painted veil” without any talent, depth of thought, or experience.

Ruschelle: Is there one poem that you have written that you love more than your other poem children?

John: The Butterflies of Traxl IV stands out (published in Pedestal Magazine, and nominated for a Rhysling Award in 2017 http://www.thepedestalmagazine.com/john-reinhart-the-butterflies-of-traxl-iv/). This one stands out because I write so few long poems. After reading the previous year’s Rhysling anthology, I challenged myself to try writing a long poem. This was my most successful result of the few I attempted. I think that this poem captures what I try to bring through my speculative work.

Ruschelle: You play music with your brother Patrick, under the name Reinhart Brothers and can be found on Pandora and can be PURCHASED online at https://reinhartbrothers.bandcamp.com/.  Do you find that being a musician is easier or tougher than being a poet? Or is it one in the same?

John: Music is tougher because you disturb more people when you practice. It also takes effort to get together with other musicians, which is the crux of what makes music live. The same might be said for poetry, but it’s easier to get more out of poetry sitting alone in the dark.

Ruschelle: You have three children? Do you believe any of them will be nibbled by the writing monster?

John: They all already play incessantly with words. The latest game is to take something benign someone else has said and add their own twist to it: “Yes, I did.” … “Poop!” They’re also fascinated with the subtleties inherent in our limited language. They can all recite several Shel Silverstein poems (“someone ate the baby”) or snippets they hear me recite whenever I find an excuse.

Ruschelle: Poop is always funny no matter what the age. Or maybe that’s just me. Heh heh. Your poem buried under light- pulls your daughter into your world of words. How often do your children inspire your works?

John: My children inspire pretty much everything I do. My first chapbook, “encircled,” was focused around the people in my life – my children, my wife, my friends, my colleagues, my students, my neighbors. In March sometime, Man In the Street Magazine (https://www.maninthestreetmag.com) will publish an online chapbook feature with poems exclusively about my children. I have another full-length manuscript in the wings that is something like a sequel to “encircled.”

Kids approach the world without the same inhibitions, fears, or assumptions that adults have. They’re open still, flexible. Imagination is true. I leech as much from them as I can. Sometimes poems come in the form of a baseball unexpectedly whizzing toward my head, but also as much from simple questions like, “Papa, can we make a guitar?” their fascination with magic tricks, or just their observations of a world I have to struggle to see.

They also fuel poems about my fears.

Ruschelle: Is there a certain poet or book of poetry that assisted you in finding your own poet’s voice?

 

John: I am deeply indebted to Donald Rumsfeld, e.e. Cummings, Leonard Cohen, Wisława Szymborska, Ric Mastens, Tom Waits, Rob Stuart, Campbell McGrath, Robert Service, Wolfgang Carstens, Diogenes, Todd Snider, Kenneth Rexroth, Paul Goodman, Matt Borczon, and Aram Saroyan, perhaps in that order, but probably not.

Ruschelle:  You won the 2016 Dark Poetry Scholarship from the Horror Writers Association. Brava!  Explain what all entailed winning such a prestigious award.

John: I started my poetic career by writing Hallmark greetings. After a few years I needed to branch out, so I kidnapped a few half-starved up-and-coming spec poets, extracted what was necessary, ditched the poets and the greeting cards, and hit the pavement for every spec journal, magazine, blog, or associated venue. By 2016, I had assembled enough dark poetry to blot out my bubblegum past. A few well-targeted threats may have helped my cause.

Ruschelle: Obviously, since you won a Horror Writers Association award, you’re a member! Unless you snuck in…you crazy little fireball. How has being a part of the HWA helped you in the writing world?

John: I don’t carry a card, but my work associated with the HWA and SFPA has connected me to a broader community of supportive writers, howling together at full moons. Attending the 2017 StokerCon was a great connecting experience. I have several souvenir body parts mummified with my 2017 lanyard.

Ruschelle: Oooh body parts. Sweet. Okay, I’ve always wanted to know the answer to this question and I feel you are qualified since you have a bevy of animals that you share your farm with. So here goes…How much wood does a woodchuck chuck if a wood chuck COULD chuck wood?

John: This is a popular question. The answer is, as you might imagine, wholly dependent on the woodchuck. I’ve been training a couple of brutes for competition. At Denver’s altitude and under the training regimen I’ve devised, my two top woodchucks can chuck an entire six-foot privacy fence, running the length of my backyard, around 40 feet. Freestyling, they have chucked as much as a 40’ maple in summer, when it was fully leaved.

Ruschelle:  Many writers have a ritual they perform before they put pen to paper or cursor to screen. Other than lots of candles, a cozy fire in the fireplace, a mini-chimenea crackling at your feet and the oven set on broil what else might your rituals be?

John: I prefer a heavy paper because I always write the first poem of the day in blood. So, first and foremost, I sterilize my pen, take a deep breath, then write.

Ruschelle: Blood poems are awesome! If you could collaborate with one other author on a project who would it be and why?

John: Bill Hicks. Partly because he’s dead and I’d love to pick his brain about his travels since death. Add him to my list of influences.

Ruschelle: Your bio states that you are an editor for Poetry Nook. What do you look for in other poets’ works?

John: Yes, I was an editor at Poetry Nook, where I read the poems entered in the free weekly contest (check it out – $150 first prize, $15 honorable mentions – and several spec poets have won or been mentioned). I can tell you more easily what I don’t like. Anything sappy, sentimental, or just cliché romantic, Hallmark stuff, is out. I also disapprove of poems that aim for rhyme and meter without the ability to do either well. A strong poem marries form with content, and too often poets who try to rhyme and have some sense of meter sacrifice both form, due to lack of technical ability, and content because they’re trying too hard to fit a form that doesn’t fit.

Always easier to say what we dislike, isn’t it? Implied above, I appreciate poems where the form compliments the content. I like surprises, and I like to read poems that do not require a chainsaw to understand. Dylan Thomas wrote something to the effect that he read poetry that he enjoyed – mastery, status, or acclaim aside. We should all be so honest in what we read and what we write.

Ruschelle:  I want to thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with us here at the Horror Tree. It’s been a pleasure. So what do you have planned for your next project?  Can you share a little bit of info or… will you have to kill us if you tell us anything? Because that would really suck.

John: I’ve got a horror collection on the broiler and several other side projects that would require murder if they were revealed, or at least the removal of a couple organs for collateral.

“arson” is set for a Marchish release from NightBallet Press , and my next full-length collection, “dig in,” will be out shortly (fulfilling a funding promise to my Patreon patrons – consider supporting my work on an ongoing basis: all patrons will receive a copy of “dig in” regardless of their contributions). While a few pieces in “dig in” are speculative, the collection ranges across all my previous work in form and theme with a clear social conscience.

Check out John Reinhart! You won’t be disappointed.

homepage: Father, Poet, Arsonist

“screaming”

“broken bottle of time”

encircled

invert the helix

Horrific Punctuation

 

WIHM: The First Chapter Of ‘Purgatech: Jess’ Horror’

Below is the first chapter of ‘Purgatech: Jess’ Horror’ which is fully available for free on FicFun through a website and online app!

About Purgatech: Jess’ Horror:
When Jess Wilson’s beloved grandmother dies, the misunderstood college student is left with no family. Desperate to find a place she belongs, Jess withdraws into her obsession with the paranormal, just as her ex, Dylan, returns to town.
Working for a company touting cutting-edge technology that bridges this world with the afterlife, Dylan recruits Jess as a trial user. But Jess’ boyfriend, Kyle, warns Jess that it’s Dylan’s agenda and not his concern that drives him.
Torn between Kyle and her desire for answers to a life filled with unexplained occurrences, Jess plunges headlong into an intense ordeal that has her questioning her sanity.
You can find the entire serial of Purgatech: Jess’ Horror online at https://www.ficfun.com/novel/1943394-Purgatech:-Jess’-Horror.html
Or download the FicFun app here: https://ficfunapp.onelink.me/V4xu/812c2a

Purgatech: Jess’ Horror By Mary Rajotte

CHAPTER ONE

The Boston College campus was awash in the colors of fall. Stately pines were interspersed with the gold and yellow maples that lined the campus. Leaves skittered across the courtyards, making a crunching sound under Jess Wilson’s boots as she trudged from her last class of the day past the administration building.

 

The moment she turned the corner, though, she wished she’d taken the long route.

 

Coach Simpson’s whistle echoed across the football field in short, intermittent bursts as he barked out orders to the football team in their muddied uniforms. The Eagles were geared up and practicing for the big face-off with their big rivals, the Panthers. Jess knew that rivalry all too well. Her boyfriend, Kyle, was the quarterback for the Panthers and always got a lot of playful ribbing from his teammates about dating a girl from their most hated arch enemies.

 

Spying the Ladyhawks along the sidelines, Jess dipped her head and picked up her pace as she passed them. They were usually too busy primping or slathering on lip gloss to shoot anything more than a catty look in her directions.

 

“Look out, girls,” Kara Pine called out, ruffling her pom-poms in Jess’ direction as she passed. “Here comes Morticia.”

 

Jess glared at the squad. Their candy-colored uniforms only made her despise them that much more. But she bit her tongue. Another confrontation with the head bitch was the last thing she was in the mood for today.

 

“Where you going in such a hurry, Mrs. Munster? Late for a meeting with your coven at cemetery?”

 

Don’t stop, Jess told herself. Don’t do it. You always regret it.

 

But she could hear them snickering behind her back. One quick glance over her shoulder at their snide looks was all it took. She stopped mid-step and turned to face them.

 

“You know, you guys really need to come up with a better burn than that.”

 

Kara flipped her blonde ponytail as she strutted toward Jess. “Oh, I’m sure I can come up with something a lot better than that, freak.”

 

“Wow. So original,” Jess said. She clenched her fists at her side to keep her temper under control but it didn’t matter.

 

Just as Kara started toward her, Jess felt a familiar sensation.

 

The air around her suddenly cooled. Stray leaves flitted up in a whirlwind around her as the breeze lifted. The hairs on her arms stood at attention, as though some electrical pulse of energy was coursing through her body.

 

Kara stopped. Her eyebrows knitted together and a look of confusion riddled her usual resting-bitch-face.

 

Something flickered just out of the corner of Jess’ peripheral vision. A shimmering shape materialized and then moved around from behind her. Like a shadow in reverse, it was pale blue-white and just slightly taller than her.

 

As if sensing the figure, Kara took a step back from Jess. Her teeth chattered and she clung to the hot pink hoodie she was wearing, zipping it all the way up.

 

“What? You’ve got nothing else to say?” Jess said, stepping toward Kara.

 

“You know what, Wilson?” Kara said, taking a step toward her. But just as she did, her head yanked back so forcefully that she let out a yelp.

 

“Hey! Watch it!” Kara yelled.

 

All at once, the rest of the cheerleading squad were on their feet and rushing toward their captain.

 

“What? Kara? What happened?” one of them asked.

 

“Didn’t you guys see that?” Kara shouted. “She pulled my hair!”

 

Kara’s partner-in-crime Nikki stepped around her and lunged at Jess. “What the hell, Jess? This isn’t elementary school!”

 

“I didn’t touch her!” Jess shouted.

 

“You did!” Kara said, her gaze darting around. “You…you yanked on my hair! You guys saw her, right?”

 

The girls let out a chorus of agreement.

 

“You know what? This is a waste of my time,” Jess said.

 

She brushed past them and moved in double-time to get away from them but the followed after her like a flock of vultures.

 

“Hey, where do you think you’re going, Wilson?” Nikki called out. “You know some people would consider that assault!”

 

Jess clenched her teeth together. Why the hell had she gone that way anyway? She should have known better.

 

“Hey, Jess, I’m talking to you!”

 

For a brief moment, Jess felt Nikki’s bony little fingers wrap around her bicep but just as Jess turned to confront her, Nikki gasped then did a face-plant in the mud.

 

Jess froze, covering her mouth with her hand and watching as Nikki flailed around in the mud for a second or two. By the time the rest of the girls had caught up to her, she was screeching and spitting out a mouthful of mud.

 

“Oh my god!” Kara shouted. “What the hell’s your problem, you freak?!”

 

Jess spun on her heel and raced away from the scene, letting the group hurl insults at her the whole way. It wasn’t until she’d made it across the road and around the block when she stopped.

 

She waited a beat…then another…and then burst out laughing.

 

A car pulled up beside her on the street and the driver leaned over the passenger side seat and called out to her.

 

“I see someone’s having a good day.”

 

Jess walked over to the passenger side window, leaned down and smiled at her boyfriend, Kyle Low. “I wasn’t…until now.”

 

She pulled the door open, slid into the seat and leaned over the console to kiss Kyle on the lips.

 

“Well, I’d like to think I had a little part in that,” he said.

 

“You’re half of the equation.”

 

“Oh?” he said. “And the other half?”

 

As he started up the street, Jess sunk down in her seat and cast a furtive look over her shoulder out the window. Kara and her minions had vacated the field.

 

“Oh, just a little run-in with the Ladyhawks.”

 

“Oh no. Not that again. I thought I told you to stay the hell away from those chicks.”

 

“I tried, babe. I really did but…”

 

“But what?” Kyle shot Jess a suspicious look out of the corner of his eye. “Babe…what did you do?”

 

Jess smirked. “Nothing.”

 

“Yeah, right. You’ve got that look again.”

 

“Oh? What look is that?”

 

“That look that tells me you did something you’re going to regret.”

 

Jess pushed herself upright and slipped on her seatbelt. “Look, all I did was stand up for myself.”

 

“Jesus, Jess…what does that mean?”

 

Jess rolled her eyes. “Look, you don’t get it. These catty girls make my life a living hell. I don’t go out of my way to get into it with them. But that doesn’t mean I’m going just let it slide when they antagonize me.”

 

Kyle was silent behind the wheel but Jess knew from the way his jaw was clenched and the pulsing vein on his forehead that he wasn’t exactly happy with her.

 

“Look, babe,” she cooed, turning toward him and leaning her head on his shoulder.

 

“Don’t babe me, Jess. You just bring this crap on yourself. If you would just…”

 

“Just what?” Jess said, sitting upright again and string at him. “Go on. Say it.”

 

He shook his head.

 

“Just say it.” When he still didn’t respond, Jess pulled away from him. “If I just stopped with all this spiritual vibe nonsense, it that what you were going to say?”

 

He shrugged and let out a sigh. “Well, yeah. I mean…you’re just making yourself a target when you go around telling people you believe in crap like that.”

 

“You know what?” Jess said, turning and looking at the window before she went off on him. “I don’t actually advertise it. I told one person that one time and now it follows me around like I’ve got some kind of Scarlet Letter pinned on my chest.”

 

Jess clenched her hands together in her lap and shook her head. This was why she was choosy about her friends. When they were kids growing up, she and Kara were friends. Best friends. They had sleepovers every Saturday night and the only time they fought was about which cheesy movie they would watch first.  It took Jess a long time to build the trust she did in Kara but when she did, she thought it would be safe to tell her about all the strange happenings that had surrounded her while she was growing up.

 

It wasn’t long after Jess’ parents died in a car accident that she started to have experiences. She tried to ignore them at first but it was only after so many whispers in the dark and that feeling that something was watching over her that Jess started to believe.

 

Her Gram wanted her to keep things normal so just a few weeks after the accident, Jess was back at Kara’s for a slumber party. Jess remembered every last painful moment like it had just happened to her.

 

“Here,” Kara said, shoving a box at her.

 

Jess looked down at it. “What’s this for?”

 

Kara pulled off the lid, lifted the board and unfolded it. It was pale brown with dark letters scattered across it. A Ouija board. Her first foray into the unknown.

 

They’d both sat there, giggling with their fingers placed on the planchette, neither of them expecting it to move. But it did. And things were never the same again.

 

“Who do we contact?” Kara asked.

 

Without thought, Jess said, “Mom? Dad? Are you there? It’s me. Jess.”

 

When nothing happened, Jess felt her stomach drop.

 

But she waited, hoping with everything in her that something would happen, that the indicator would move. When it finally did, Kara looked up at Jess accusingly.

 

“You moved it!”

 

“I didn’t!” Jess remembered crying out.

 

“You did! It’s not funny, Jess! Just because you’re an orphan, doesn’t mean you can go trying to scare me!”

 

Jess remembered feeling an overwhelming sense of anger as the hot tears rolled down her cheeks. She looked up at Kara. Her eyes were wide. Her pupils round as saucers. Then just as she got up to leave, she flew a few feet across the room and face-planted on the floor.

 

The same way she had today on the football field.

 

“Look, babe. I’m sorry alright?” Kyle said, interrupting Jess’ memory.

 

They’d arrived at Jess’ place a few blocks from campus. Kyle put the car into park and went to turn off the ignition.

 

“You know what? I have a headache. Why don’t we just go out tomorrow?”

 

“Jess…come on. Don’t be like that. I drove all the way here, don’t let something as stupid as this ruin it. I said I was sorry, alright?”

 

Jess couldn’t even look at him. She knew how he felt about things, but she thought he’d at least be a little more supportive of her.

 

“Babe…”

 

She couldn’t listen to one more lame apology. She opened the car door and slid out of the seat, leaning down before she said, “I’ll talk to you later.”

 

“Jess-”

 

She slammed the door before he could finish. She spun around, directly into the arms of her best friend, Erica.

 

“Whoa! Lover’s spat?” Erica said. “From what I hear, that’s not the only fight you got into today.”

 

Jess rolled her eyes and tilted her head to one side. “Look, I just heard it from your brother in there. So please…if you’re going to chew me out-”

 

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Jess,” she said, holding both hands up in protest. “I wasn’t even. In fact, after I heard what happened with those Hawk beyotches, I figured you could use a little pick-me-up.”

 

Erica held up a grocery bag.

 

“Cookie dough. Your favorite. We can eat it with a spoon right out of the package! Huh? What do you say?”

 

Erica nudged Jess a few times. “Come on. You know my brother’s an idiot,” she said, making a face at Kyle over Jess’ shoulder.

 

“You can say that again.”

 

“And that’s why you live with me and not him. Come on.”

 

Before Jess could protest, Erica had taken her by the hand and pulled her up the walkway. Jess felt momentarily guilty for not saying anything to Kyle, so she stopped short of going up the steps to the porch. When she turned around to at least give him a perfunctory wave, Kyle sped off, leaving her standing there with her hand in the air.

 

“I don’t know what you see in him, anyway,” Erica said, bounding up the steps and unlocking the front door. “I mean he’s my brother and I love him. But he’s also an idiot.”

 

Erica laughed as she pushed open the door and went inside. Jess reluctantly followed after her, and had just closed the door behind her and was walking into the kitchen when there was a knock on the door.

 

“Well, that didn’t take long! I knew he wouldn’t bail after driving for two hours just to see you. Time to kiss and make up!” Erica called out to her. “Don’t let him talk you into ditching me, though! You and I have a date with this chocolate chunk cookie dough!”

 

Jess couldn’t help but smile. She knew how Kyle felt about her and her beliefs. But they’d been together for almost six months now. If he didn’t know her by now, that she wasn’t just making things up, then he didn’t know her at all.

 

She went to the front door and hauled it open.

 

“So, who gets to apologize first?”

 

Jess’s smile froze then slid from her face, leaving her expression blank.

 

“Miss Wilson?”

 

Jess’ pulse instantly quickened. Sheriff Wolf stood in front of her, his hat tucked under one arm. He shifted from one foot to the other, his mouth pulled into something between a weak smile and an awkward grimace.

 

“Is that pathetic brother of mine groveling yet?” Erica said.

 

Jess didn’t answer, not even when Erica came stomping up the hall behind her.

 

“What is it? What’s going on?” Erica said, the panic in her voice going from zero to 50 in 2.5 seconds. “Is it Kyle? What happened to him? He just left here!”

 

Sheriff Wolf nodded his head and gestured inside.

 

“This isn’t about Kyle. This is about…your grandmother, Miss Wilson. Can I come in?”

 

Jess was vaguely aware of moving aside and allowing the sheriff to come in. She barely felt Erica’s hand grab hers and lead her into the living room. Her ears were ringing so loudly that she had no idea what the Sheriff was saying but his face told the story. His eyebrows dipped together in the middle like two sad caterpillars. He kept scratching at the back of his neck as his lips moved. Everything he said fell on deaf ears but Jess didn’t need to hear him to know she was about to live another nightmare.

– END OF CHAPTER 1 –

Mary Rajotte

Mary Rajotte

Toronto-native Mary Rajotte has a penchant for penning nightmarish tales that haunt and terrify. Sometimes camera-elusive but always coffee-fueled, Mary’s creepy tales explore myths, dreams and nightmares. You can find Mary online at http://maryrajotte.com/blog/

WIHM: Unzip Your Darkness

Women have made great strides in the world over the past few centuries. For example, rather than thousands of us being burnt or hanged for supposed witchcraft, we just get accused of being part of a witch-hunt for calling men out on their sexist bullshit. Baby steps, right? Obviously, women are still facing unimaginable horrors, one only needs to read the truly horrifying stories brave women have shared as part of the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements to be aware of that. It’s no wonder women are so adept at writing horror. Horror is part of our daily lives, and we have many stories to tell.

 

My go-to writing is always poetry because, well, it is my first love, but for me it is the perfect way to craft a meaning from few words. Horror poetry is such an exciting niche because when you find kindred souls you can exchange your dark snippets with, it’s like finding your tribe of word-warriors who understand the places you’re coming from, without judgement. I’m a big believer in writing what you want to and ignoring the people who choose not to understand your point of view, and especially ignoring anyone who says, “oh you’re too nice or too cute to write horror, why would you want to do that?” But you can never be too much, you can only be you. So write what you want, and when that teeth-grinding kind of conversation happens, tell them you’ll see them in Hell as you sit on the throne, writing your next piece. This is our time to be dark, weird, eccentric, sexy, witty, literary, or whatever fills your heart with bursts of excitement as you craft those words into stories.

 

You must write because the stories in your finger bones demand it, because it is an exorcism of the pain you harbor, of those stories you haven’t been able to tell yet, but I know you can, because the world can be ugly, but the spilling of our horrors, whether they are based in truth or fantastical creations of a beautiful, haunted mind, brings some sense of dark beauty back into the roots of our souls, and because this is who you are, a storyteller. A writer. A woman who uses her voice to weave suspense, fear, terror, and driblets of blood into something incredible. So, go be incredible.

 

In closing, I leave a poem, (shocking, I know.) Happy writing, ladies!

 

Reach around back

until fingertips collide

with the zipper

notched into your spine

pull it down

step out of your skeleton

undress flesh from bones,

rattle them until they spill

the riddles in their marrow

riddles of womanhood

of understanding blood and love

in the way someone who constantly cleans

up blood does

from our own wounds

from cuts and scrapes of children

from between our thighs

 

redress yourself

your veins, those congealed lengths

of stardust and swallowed light,

brush off the grime

from your organs

they belong only to you

and only you

have the right to reveal their inner

workings, their life-giving secrets

 

as you reassemble your skin,

thank it for its hardness

protecting you, sheltering,

for its softness

allowing you to feel

when you choose to

 

pull the zipper back up

secure yourself in,

pick up a pen

tell the story of what you saw

inside your own flesh

tell the story of how

you witnessed beauty, darkness,

madness, life, love, everything

between all those bones

 

 

 

Sara Tantlinger

Sara Tantlinger

Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. She is the author of Love For Slaughter, has published pieces in several journals, the most recent being with Abyss and Apex and Lycan Valley Publishing. She is a contributing editor for The Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction MFA program, and an active member of the HWA. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at https://saratantlinger.wordpress.com/

WIHM: But I AM a nice girl.

One of the first things a colleague said to me after she’d read my first book – The Willow Tree – was: But Bekki, I thought you were a nice girl!

            My response was: But I am!

It didn’t mean that she didn’t like my work, but she just hadn’t expected a nice girl like me to have written such a dark, gory horror novel.

But I had.

And I’ve written a lot more since. I’ve written everything from extreme horror, to ghost stories, to psychological horror. What does that say about me? What does that say about me as an employee of the NHS? As a wife? A mother?

It doesn’t say anything about me, except that I like horror. I always have.

It has been hard over the years to prove my own worth in a genre dominated by men, although I am sure that men also receive such queries about their material – how can a sane, normal person write such extreme stories? There much be something unhinged about him!

But it feels that there is more pressure for a female to be soft around the edges, and if they write in such a genre as horror, it must be a little fluffier than how a man would write. I’ve tried to read a wide range of horror fiction written by women as well as men, and there is nothing fluffy about them – try The Missing by Sarah Langan, or anything by Shirley Jackson. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova also really disturbed me. Had these women been taken less seriously as writers of horror because of their gender?

I think horror is the most exciting, beautiful and intense genre there is, and possibly the genre for which most writers are scrutinised. Can you write good horror and still be a normal person who loves their husband, wife, children, family and friends?

Of course you can.

And in a month where we are celebrating female writers, I am proud to say that I am one of them.

I can disgust and horrify you, but I am also a nice person. I am a kind, loving person, completely normal.

Mostly.

Bekki Pate

Bekki Pate

Bekki Pate lives in Wolverhampton, UK, with her husband and young daughter. She works in paediatric research within the NHS. She has written a trilogy of novels and numerous short stories that have been accepted into various horror anthologies. She also loves to read anything by Stephen King, Elizabeth Kostova and Richard Laymon.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bekki-Pate/e/B01C0VSRDI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1518129370&sr=1-2

WIHM: How To Horror

Horror is something every writer is familiar with, whether they know it or not. There are so many variations to this genre that people don’t realize. Not everything is a gory blood-splatter fest and not everything is paranormal romance, there’s a lot going in in between! Horror is essentially a feeling and that feeling of fear is what keeps readers reading, they have to become invested in the characters and to do that, they need to fear the thought of losing them, George R. R. Martin does this particularly well, perhaps so much so that people feel actual rage towards him when a character dies!

Terror is part of life, there isn’t a single person out there who isn’t afraid of something, and writing means you must face your fears sometimes. Gulliermo Del Toro said it best “I see horror as a part of legitimate film. I don’t see it as an independent genre that has nothing to do with the rest of cinema.” This extends to writing, there is horror in everything. Horror is part of creating a story, we must be afraid to lose something in order for a story to progress, in my novels it’s a fear of losing one’s humanity, which seems to be trending in the sci-fi world right now. You only need to watch a single episode of Black Mirror to see that we’re all a little afraid of technology taking over who we are!

Speaking of trending, some of the most famous females who have written horror have never actually been labeled as horror writers. For example, J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter is everything a child who fell in love with Halloween could possibly ever want, yet labeling it horror wouldn’t be seen as “kid friendly.” I’m going to tell you something outrageous, kids love horror, and they grow up to be adults who love horror. I didn’t realize until I had my own children how much they love horror. It goes beyond Halloween, they love ghosts and vampires and witches and zombies and maybe it freaks them out a little, but they love that too!

Being one of those kids who fell in love with Halloween naturally led me to write scary stories. It started as creepy little tales I would write to scare my little brother, but when I found out he enjoyed them, we would make up other creepy tales to scare friends. Writing horror is fundamentally fun! Why else do we love rollercoasters except for that thrill of the scare, it’s really one in the same.

Besides a good scare, how does one write good horror? Well it took me awhile and honestly, I’m always working on it, but here are some steps I found to be the necessary foundation for writing horror:

1.Watch Horror Movies.

If horror movies terrify you, that’s a good thing, they should! Consider it research, write notes about how many good scares they put into the plot and how they balance it with a bit of humour. Shakespeare does this even in his most tragic plays, because horror without a bit of wit is really just too painful to be called entertainment.

  1. Read Horror Novels.

All writers are readers, there’s really no question about that. If you read, and read a variety of different horror stories, that’s when you find the style that suits you best as a reader and a writer. We all have those favourite authors that seem to speak to us, and there’s a reason for that, they write the way we do, it’s this strange connection that I can’t explain, it’s almost as if you’re mentally linked to certain authors, that your brains seem to flow in the same patterns, and you won’t really find that unless you read, read, read!

  1. Educate yourself on Mythical Beasts & Classic Horror Monsters.

If you like horror, then you need to know your monsters. Monsters are mysterious, and since they’re fake, you can have a lot of fun creating a world around them. Maybe you don’t necessarily want to work with monsters, perhaps you want to stick to something more realistic like true crimes, but in order to understand human monsters, sometimes it helps to read about the fictitious ones, because guess what, the monsters in horror stories are almost always a metaphor for human failings.

  1. Become Super-Superstitions.

Don’t believe in Ouija Boards or black cats and bad luck? Well, it’s time to start! Horror is deeply rooted in superstitious beliefs. In fact, horror pretty much started with things people feared because they couldn’t explain them. Coincidence or déjà vu can be completely horrifying, especially when you start to believe it’s happening for some strange reason. Writing horror is all about ritual, so light a candle, summon your writing muse and spin in your chair three times for good measure, then get writing!

  1. Write at Night.

As mentioned above, ritual is everything when writing. I try to write a little bit every night and keep it consistent. I choose to write at night because it’s the quietest part of my day and I find nothing more terrifying than silence! Noise makes people feel comfortable and safe, but when you watch horror movies and someone’s alone in a room or house, their first instinct is to say “hello?” It may seem like a bad move, but people are uncomfortable with silence, except for writers of course!

  1. Write What Scares You!

Dig into your deepest fears and then multiply them by 100! For example, say you’re afraid of spiders, create an enormous spider-like creature, or a spider epidemic. All I’m saying is that what you fear can definitely fuel a horror story, you know firsthand what it’s like to be afraid of the things that make you want to hide under your bed. Step outside of your comfort zone a bit and face those fears in your writing.

  1. Find other Horror Writers & Pick their Brain (Not Literally).

If you can, join a group of writers, it always helps to hear about their writing process, what inspires them and how they come up with their ideas. Unexpected inspiration can arise from a brief conversation with someone who shares the same passion for writing scary stories.

  1. Nightmares are Quite Useful!

Waking up in the middle of the night a sweaty mess after a horrible dream doesn’t sound like much fun, but you can turn that nightmare into something positive, like a story idea. Most of my story ideas come from dreams and nightmares, I keep a pen and notebook by my bedside at all times and if something creeps into my head I write it down, mostly because the ideas won’t leave me alone until I do!

A.Giacomi

A.Giacomi

A.Giacomi is a writer, artist, and educator from Toronto, Canada. She is the mother of two tiny humans who inspire her to create weird and wonderful works that are both giggle worthy, bizarre, and unique. When she’s not hanging out with her family she can be found slapping paint around or typing at light speed on her laptop (That is when the rest of the house is napping or sleeping).

She is the author of The Zombie Girl Saga published by CHBB Publishing, and she has also had numerous short stories published in multiple anthologies.Giacomi mainly writes in the horror genre, she also dabbles in poetry, thus gaining the nickname: THE POETIC ZOMBIE. She’s a big fan of “cute” but “creepy” which started when she was a wee one and read lots and lots of R.L Stine way past her bed time. That and she loves ZOMBIES! Perhaps a bit too much.

 

WIHM: Horror’s Where My Heart’s At

I didn’t spring fully formed into the horror genre; it’s been a gradual slither in that direction.

I read voraciously as a child, R L Stine among many others. I did love Susan Cooper’s quintet ‘The Dark is Rising’– which has dark fantasy/horror elements then I graduated to the early novels of Stephen King, stayed up late to watch Hammer horror films on BBC2 and was terrified at age 13 by the 1979 TV movie ‘Salem’s Lot’ starring David Soul. The memory of the vampire boy tapping at Mark’s window to be let in still gives me nostalgic shivers. I didn’t sleep for nights afterwards, especially as I had an easily accessed garage roof below my window.

 

The first fiction I had published, in 1996, were two children’s books. Both rather jolly and cheery. It is in my forties- post child raising days -that I’ve turned to writing creepy flash fiction and ghost stories. I people my tales with feral children, demons, ghosts, assassins, abused women, mermaids, killer teens and the occasional vampire (often called Vinnie).

 

After a couple of years of sending my stories to on line magazines and building up my CV,  I saw a blog post by writer Patsy Collins, mentioning that Gill James of Chapeltown Books (based in Salford) was looking for flash fiction collections. I sent in a sample batch and we went on from there. My début flash collection ‘Badlands’ is out to buy –

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Badlands-Alyson-Faye/dp/1910542253/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516556764&sr=8-1&keywords=badlands+by+alyson+faye

with the tag line ‘short tales, long shadows.’  Gives a hint there.

 

I write seeing the action unspooling in my head like a film. I enjoy the challenge of implying the horror through use of language rather than with outright gore, blood and violence. I find it easier as a writer to access the story through children’s eyes.

 

Due to a lifelong interest in history, I am drawn to writing pieces set in the Victorian era, such as the Gothic tale, ‘Mother Love’ which is published in the ‘Women In Horror annual 2’ edited by C. Rachel Katz (available on Amazon).

 

I have a serious cinema/film addiction and I do watch an above average amount of supernatural /horror films. One of my all time current favourite film makers is Guillermo del Toro (‘Pan’s Labyrinth’) but I enjoy the black and white films from the 1930’s onwards, like Val Lewton’s ‘Cat People’.

Curren horror authors I’ve read and enjoyed include F.G.Cottam and Tim Lebbon, especially his novel ‘The Silence.’

 

There are certain motifs which recur in my fiction – dolls and birds especially crows – as do derelict buildings and church yards. Not that unusual in horror but it’s what you do with them that counts!

I am currently on a writing course set in a cemetery in Bradford, West Yorkshire which is a rich literary hunting ground as it is filled with Gothic angels, vaults and obelisks.

 

Writing for ‘The Horror Tree’, especially in the brief format of drabbles, has been fun and a challenge. The Horror Tree site and its editors have really pushed my horror writing forward with their encouragement and advice.

I am currently working on a collection of ghost stories, (‘All the Lost Children’). I have about 5 stories written- I do tend to write slowly. They are often set in the towns of West Yorkshire where I live.

 

Alyson Faye

Alyson trained originally in the UK as a teacher/tutor. She wrote a couple of children’s books which were published by Collins and Ginn. Now she lives near Bronte terrain in Yorkshire with her teen son, partner and 3 rescue cats. She writes noir Flash Fiction (some of which is published on line) and spooky longer tales (3 are available for download on www.www.alfiedog). She has a collection of her Flash fiction coming out soon from Chapel Town Books in the UK. She enjoys old movies, singing, and swimming. She is a confirmed chocoholic and is still hopeless at maths. Her blog is at http://www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com.

Pin It on Pinterest