Category: Guest Post

Guest Post: How I Fell (Back) in Love with Vampires

How I Fell (Back) in Love with Vampires

By Nicole Givens Kurtz


I fell in love with vampires by reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. It was on a bright, sunny day in Knoxville, Tennessee, and I had been banished from the house to go outside (like normal kids my dad would say). At 13, I didn’t like being hot and sticky, so I rode my bike during the early mornings. I attended high school on the other side of town, so my friends didn’t live in my neighborhood. It was the 1980s and cell phones were expensive fanny packs with a telephone receiver. No worries, I had my horror in a pile of mass market paperbacks and I was fine.

Prior to reading Salem’s Lot, I didn’t care much for vampires. They seemed silly, cartoonish, and a bit overdone. Then I read Dracula. It was okay, but I loved Shelley’s Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, and felt more horrified by Dr. Frankenstein’s actions than Count Dracula. As it was, Dr. Frankenstein had a choice. Not so much with the count. As I read both of these classics, one thing was painfully obvious: They were very pale. White. European.

It can’t say if that is why I didn’t groove to vampire the way I had other paranormal creatures in horror, but I can tell that once someone recommended L.A.Banks’s Vampire Huntress series, I devoured all things vampires. Sure, there had been movies like A Vampire in Brooklyn and Black vampires in cameo spots in vampire films, always background dressing. Eddie Murphy and Angela Bassett’s movie was comedy, and that didn’t scratch my horror itch deeply enough.

But, Banks’ work did. Suddenly, vampires were Black. Hunters were black. And we weren’t in the 1800s or Europe. We were in Philly and in those urban parts that I recognized.

I was seen. Someone saw us. I was in love.

When L.A. Banks passed away, a void emerged. That’s not to say Black vampires weren’t being written. After all, Marvel in conjunction with Sony released Blade. The daywalker gave rise to the superhero movie, and while I love the original film, the sequels eroded his role and diminished him as both a vampire and a Black male, not to mention the erase of the Black doctor who saved him.

There were other vampire films, especially after Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. Even the use of Aliyah as Queen of the Damned didn’t quite capture my interest and my horror-loving heart like L.A.Banks did. Perhaps it was the medium. Perhaps it was the writing

I’m going to go with the latter. 

And I stopped loving them. By the time big budget vampire films came along and sparkling vampires emerged, I was over them, like a boyfriend that betrayed me. At the mention of vampires, I got a bitter taste in my mouth.

All of the above films lacked the one thing Banks included in her vampire stories. Their Blackness, the characters’ connections to their neighborhoods and to being a Black person in America. That’s what I wanted to recreate with SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire.

But I wanted more than just the Black American experience, though that in and of itself is a varied, diverse stories from a diverse populace. I expanded the call for submissions for SLAY to include those stories from the African diaspora. We received many submissions, and the result is an anthology of 29 stories of vampires and hunters. 

These stories helped rekindle my love for vampires. These stories are rooted in African and African American diaspora experiences, legends, and myths. Some of the stories are subversive and glorious. 

There’s so much to love in those short stories. 

I was swept off my feet. 

And in doing so, I fell in love.


Mocha Memoirs Press is proud to present SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire — a revolutionary anthology celebrating vampires of the African Diaspora. SLAY is a groundbreaking unique collection and will be a must-have for vampire lovers all over the world. SLAY aims to be the first anthology of its kind. Few creatures in contemporary horror are as compelling as the vampire, who manages to captivate us in a simultaneous state of fear and desire. Drawing from a variety of cultural and mythological backgrounds, SLAY dares to imagine a world of horror and wonder where Black protagonists take center stage — as vampires, as hunters, as heroes. From immortal African deities to resistance fighters; matriarchal vampire broods to monster hunting fathers; coming of age stories to end of life stories, SLAY is a groundbreaking Afrocentric vampire anthology celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the African Diaspora.

Featuring anchor stories by award winning authors Sheree Renée Thomas, Craig L. Gidney, Milton Davis, Jessica Cage, Michele Tracy Berger, Alicia McCalla, Jeff Carroll, and Steven Van Patten.

Additional Contributing Authors: Penelope Flynn, Lynette Hoag, Steve Van Samson, Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald, Balogun Ojetade, Valjeanne Jeffers, Samantha Bryant, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Miranda J. Riley, K.R.S. McEntire, Alledria Hurt, Kai Leakes, John Linwood Grant, Sumiko Saulson, Dicey Grenor, L. Marie Wood, LH Moore, Delizhia D. Jenkins, Colin Cloud Dance, and V.G. Harrison.

Nicole Givens Kurtz

Nicole Givens Kurtz


Nicole Givens Kurtz is an author, educator, and publisher. She’s written stories for Serial Box, Baen, White Wolf, Draco Gaming, Inc. Her novels series have been finalists in the Dream Realm Award, EPPIE Awards for SF, and other recommendations. She’s the publisher of Mocha Memoirs Press, a small publishing company dedicated to amplifying marginalized voices in speculative fiction. You can find her via social media or at her site,
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Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women Blog Tour: Part four of four

Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women blog tour Sept 21st – Oct 12th  Part four of four.

By Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn


Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women is an anthology of Southeast Asian horror which subverts expectations of Asian women and their place in society. It brings to light the furious and restless spirits which sometimes lie behind the smiling facade of quiet submissiveness and familial duty. 

Edited by award-winning author and editor Lee Murray, and published short story author and editor Geneve Flynn, the anthology was released by Omnium Gatherum on September 26th, 2020, and features esteemed authors of dark fiction such as Rena Mason, Angela Yuriko Smith, and Christina Sng. 

It has been called an “instant classic” by Nightmare Feed, and “one of the best anthologies of 2020” by Pseudopod.

This series of four blog posts introduces the editors and contributors, and reveals the inspiration behind the fourteen dark stories which feature in Black Cranes. In this post, we meet Rena Mason, Rin Chupeco, and Gabriela Lee.


Rena Mason, born in Nakhon Sawan, Thailand, is an American author of Thai-Chinese descent, and a three-time Bram Stoker Award® winning author of the The Evolutionist and “The Devil’s Throat”, as well as a 2014 Stage 32 /The Blood List Presents®: The Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest quarter-finalist. She’s had nearly two dozen short stories, novelettes, and novellas published in various award-winning anthologies and magazines and writes a monthly column. Her dark speculative fiction often crosses and mashes genres and subgenres. 

She is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, The International Screenwriters’ Association, and the Public Safety Writers Association. 

An avid scuba diver, she enjoys traveling the world and incorporating the experiences into her stories. She currently resides in Reno, Nevada but can also often be found visiting her home in the Great Pacific Northwest. For more information visit her website: www.RenaMason.Ink or follow her at: Facebook: rena.mason 

Twitter: @RenaMason88 Stage 32: Rena Mason Instagram: rena.mason 

Rena’s story “The Ninth Tale” is a dark retelling of the legend of the nine-tailed fox, showing the proud and calculating side of woman. Set in historical China, the story follows Ju as she seeks out the final human heart that will help her to ascend to heaven, and is rich with beauty and betrayal. 

Here’s how “The Ninth Tale” came about:

RENA MASON: I don’t think it’s ever one thing that inspires me to write any story, and the same is true for “The Ninth Tale.” With the popular resurgence of a modernized huli jing, (Pinyin – húlijīng) or fox demon/spirit portrayed in anime and video games with a blending of cultures and added superpowers, many of the original stories get muddled and lost to younger generations. Because of my mainly Chinese heritage, I wanted to write a folktale-style story using the Chinese mythos versus the versions from other countries like the Japanese kitsune, or Korean kumiho. I also wanted to take a character traditionally seen and feared as a “powerful” woman, and set her in a time when women suffered from the sexist practice of foot binding; whether it was for sexual purposes or to keep them sedentary for work, or not, it was wrong. I’ve always been fascinated by the contrast between the reverence for, and fear of, women in Chinese mythos compared to the treatment of Chinese women by their male counterparts throughout history. I also grew up watching a lot of historical Chinese drama and martial arts movies, am a huge fan of Zhang Yimou (minus The Great Wall), and I wanted to write a story that had a similar visual vibe and feel, to the extent of using the importance of different colours to set the moods in scenes. 

Rin wrote obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and did many other terrible things. They now write about ghosts and fantastic worlds but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. They are the author of The Girl from the Well, its sequel, The Suffering, The Bone Witch trilogy, The Never Tilting World duology, and the Wicked As You Wish series. A Chinese-Filipino who grew up with Filipino superstitions, Catholic guilt, and Buddhist traditions, yet somehow overcoming them all to become a nonbinary liberal atheist, they were born and raised in the Philippines and, or so the legend goes, still haunts that place to this very day. Find them at


Rin’s tale “Kapre: A Love Story” is set in rural Philippines, where monsters such as the kapre, tikbalang and aswang reside and feed at the edge of the forest. Kapre falls in love with a baby girl and follows her as she grows from a child to a woman, rising above his monstrosity.

Rin shares what inspired the writing of “Kapre: A Love Story”:

RIN CHUPECO: Myths and legends played an important part in my upbringing, and I grew up with more books than friends, enchanted by fairy tales of singing mountains and benevolent enchantresses. Ghost stories, however, were my first love; the more subversive and eerie the tale, the more I enjoyed it, and my own books wind up becoming an odd amalgamation of both.

Gabriela Lee was born and raised in Metro Manila, Philippines. She earned her MA in Literary Studies from the National University of Singapore (NUS), and currently teaches literature and creative writing at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, focusing on science fiction & fantasy and children’s literature. She has received the 2019 PBBY (Philippine Board on Books for Young People) Salanga Grand Prize for children’s literature, writing about her grandmother’s experiences as a child during the Second World War. Her fiction has appeared internationally in publications such as LONTAR: The Southeast Asian Journal of Speculative Fiction, Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, Heat: An Anthology of Southeast Asian Urban Writing, Kaleidoscope: Speculative Fiction for Young Adults, and The Dragon and the Stars. She has also been published in the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthologies, the Filipino Fiction for Young Adults series, and in Philippine literary journals such as Kritika Kultura and Likhaan Journal. Instructions on How to Disappear, published in 2016 by Visprint, Inc., is her first collection of short fiction.


“Rites of Passage” is set in the Philippines and tells of the tiyanak, a vampiric baby. Three separate stories of three different young women intertwine with the mythology of the tiyanak, examining the secret and bloody rites of sex, pregnancy and childbirth beneath the heavy eye of morality and religion. 

Gabriela shares the background to one of the darkest stories in Black Cranes:

GABRIELA LEE: “Rites of Passage” is a story rooted in the Philippine mythological creature called the tiyanak. According to legend, the tiyanak was a shapeshifter, a creature of the forest, a monster that took the form of a baby, except for its red eyes and skin, and its sharp teeth. It would mimic the cry of a child, leading hapless people into the forest to look for it. Once it was picked up by the man or woman who sought to comfort it, it would attack the person and consume them. Other people say that it was the abandoned foetus from abortions – one of the many reproductive rights denied to women in the Philippines. I wanted to write a story about the horrors of motherhood in the Philippines, without sounding moralistic or antagonistic, and using the device of the tiyanak seemed like an appropriate way of exploring the cycle of the experience without directly confronting it; telling it slant. 


Thanks for joining us for the final post in the blog tour for Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. If you’d like to read the stories covered in the tour, you can click on the link below.

BLACK CRANES: TALES OF UNQUIET WOMEN edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

RELEASE DATE: 26/09/20

GENRE: Horror

PUBLISHER: Omnium Gatherum


Skythane Blog Tour: Imposter Syndrome Can Be Brutal

Skythane Blog Tour Guest Post By: J. Scott Coatsworth

Sometimes it sucks being an author.

I’m in the muddy middle of my current WIP, a novel tentatively titled “Twin Moons Rising.” I reach a point in every story where my belief in myself as a writer fails me. It’s called imposter syndrome, and it can be brutal for any writer.

For me, it manifests in that muddy middle. All of a sudden the brilliant idea I had seems like so much derivative drivel. I suck as a writer. My characters are flat, my plot boring and pedestrian, and I’d be better off as an accountant. A fireman. Anything but a writer.

The first time this happened, I spent five years writing and rewriting a novel until I just about literally wrote it into the ground.

It’s become a bit of a tradition, along with the consuming of writing chocolate every morning (that’s totally a thing) and the book release celebration. I pass the halfway point and my inner critic shows up, ready to trash my latest work.

Here’s the thing. I wasn’t able to overcome Imposter Syndrome until I accepted it as a part of the job of being a writer. It’s like the critical parent who pushes their kids to be better, or the editor who murders your story with a red pen, but in the end makes it so much better.

My internal critic is what drives me to be better, even if he’s a bit of an asshole about it.

So I greet him like an old friend. I let myself feel sick for a little bit. And then I push ahead and write through the mud. Eventually I come out on the far side, and it all works out.

So embrace your critic. Let your imposter flag fly. And keep writing until you’re flying.

Book Blurb:


Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnson, a handsome, cocky skythane with a troubled past.

Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.


Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them.


Series Blurb:


Oberon is unique among the Common Worlds – a half-world with a strange past and an uncertain future.


Jameson Havercamp and Xander Kinnson are thrust into the middle of a world-ending event and have to scramble to save the world – and themselves.


Along the way, they peel back the layers of the onion to discover secrets wrapped in secrets that will eventually take them to where it all started – and may provide the key to saving Oberon and everyone on it.

J. Scott Coatsworth


Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.


He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.


A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).


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Guest Post: WEIRD IDEAS: Ways to Find Ideas for Your Writing BY Tim Waggoner

WEIRD IDEAS: Ways to Find Ideas for Your Writing

BY Tim Waggoner, Author of Writing in the Dark


In order to write effective – and original – horror, you need to dig into your own psyche and find out what scares you, what disturbs you, what hurts you. It’s what Jack Ketchum used to refer to as “writing from the wound.” Worried that no one will be frightened by the same things you are? Don’t be. As Aristotle said, the only way to get to the universal is through the particular. By focusing on your own personal fears and giving them shivery life on the page, you’ll be connecting to your audience – guaranteed.

What were you afraid of as a child? The dark; thunder and lightning; the barking German shepherd next door; Mommy and Daddy yelling at each other? Make a list of your childhood boogeymen, and write at least a paragraph about each item. Don’t think in terms of story, just write whatever comes to mind. Try to focus on your feelings and what sparked those feelings – remember, horror is an emotion.

Next – and this might be difficult – make a list of any disturbing events in your childhood. Encounters with schoolyard bullies, severe illnesses, deaths of friends and family members. Again, write at least a paragraph on each item.

Pay attention to the events in the news which upset and anger you. Collect newspaper and magazine articles and keep them in a folder. Don’t merely collect every article on murder you find. Look for stories which arouse an emotional reaction in you, stories which fascinate you.

One of the news stories I’ve collected over the years concerns an apartment house near Ohio State University which had a replica of an electric chair perched on the roof. According to the article, the building’s occupants had no idea who put the chair up there and why. It was there when they moved in. As they said, “It’s always been there.”

Now there’s a story waiting to happen!

Another area you can explore for ideas is the realm of dreams. Every morning, as soon as you get up, record your dreams in a journal. A friend of mine in college had been keeping dream journals for years. When he first started, he only remembered having two or three dreams a night. But after a couple years of faithfully writing in his journal, he routinely recalled fifteen or sixteen. And while many of them weren’t more than snatches of everyday life replayed on the mind’s dream-screen, he always had at least a couple that were quite surreal and disturbing. Added up over the course of a year, that’s a lot of potential story ideas. In our dreams, our defenses and pretenses are swept aside, and we are most ourselves. Your dreams are unique; use them to write stories that are uniquely yours.

Stephen King once said that he comes up with ideas by looking at an ordinary object and telling himself that something is wrong with it. You can do this too. Take a look around you and let your imagination run paranoid. Choose a minor aspect of your life or an ordinary event and tell yourself that something is wrong with it. Seriously wrong.

Ask yourself what’s most important, most dear to you. What do you treasure? Who do you love? Now ask yourself what if these things were threatened, removed, altered, turned against me? How would you feel? And most importantly, what would you do about it? Your answers to these questions will provide some of your best and most personal story ideas.

I get a lot of my ideas from interacting imaginatively with the world around me. I’ve always had a strong imagination, and I spend most of my time living in my head. So if I see something that strikes me as odd, it sparks ideas. For example, a couple years ago, I found a large wooden stake in my yard. I know the stake was left by people doing construction on the street, but my imagination immediately thought: This was left by a vampire hunter during the night. This is how I think all the time, so whatever I’m doing – taking a walk, reading a news article, watching a TV show – I’m constantly responding to whatever stimuli are around me. I also get ideas from misperceptions. A word I misheard, or something I saw out of the corner of my eye that I mistook for something else. Once when I was driving home, I saw a woman in her front lawn. As I passed, I caught a glimpse of her face, and it looked as if she had the skull of some prehistoric beast for a head, with long, curved upper and lower fangs. I write down these kinds of details because I experience so many of them throughout the day that I’ll forget them if I don’t. Not all of them become inspiration for stories, but a lot do.

When you walk in the world as an imaginative person, you notice all kinds of weird things, and you wonder at their origins and possible (hidden) meanings. For example, years ago, in the space of a week, I saw two different men walking backward at two different locations. I had no idea why these men would be walking backward. It was so strange! I wrote a note about it on my phone’s notepad app, and sometime later, when I was searching for a story idea to use for an anthology, I read over my list of ideas and found The Backward-Walking Men. I used that image as the basis for the story.

I try to make my stories unique – both from each other and from what other people write – in several ways. One is by drawing inspiration from the world around me, as in the above example. I was likely the only person on Earth who saw those two men in that week and wrote it down in his phone. Then I combined it with another idea, one that at first might not seem to fit. The anthology I was writing the backward-walking men story for was Heroes of Red Hook. The book’s concept was Lovecraftian fiction featuring diverse heroes. I made the backward-walking men into one man, and I chose a young autistic man as my hero. His special perception of the world allowed him not only to see the Backward-Walking Man – who was walking backward as he unmade reality – but to defeat him.

I also try to make sure each story has an emotional core. For “The Backward-Walking Man,” the emotional core is that my hero has been treated all his life as if something’s wrong with him, that he’s lesser. But through the events of the story, he realizes the way he looks at life is special and valuable, and so is he. So I guess my story formula would be Weird Observation + Seemingly Unrelated Idea + Emotional Core. If I can nail down those three things, I can usually come up with what I hope is a decent story.

In the end, it’s simple: If you want to write truly effective horror, don’t merely recycle the imaginings of others. Write the stories only you can tell. And in the process, scare the crap out of the rest of us.

Writing in the Dark – 


In this comprehensive textbook devoted to the craft of writing horror fiction, award-winning author Tim Waggoner draws on thirty years’ experience as a writer and teacher. Writing in the Dark offers advice, guidance, and insights on how to compose horror stories and novels that are original, frightening, entertaining, and well-written.


Waggoner covers a wide range of topics, among them why horror matters, building viable monsters, generating ideas and plotlines, how to stylize narratives in compelling ways, the physiology of fear, the art of suspense, avoiding clichés, marketing your horror writing, and much more. Each chapter includes tips from some of the best horror professionals working today, such as Joe Hill, Ellen Datlow, Joe R. Lansdale, Maurice Broaddus, Yvette Tan, Thomas Ligotti, Jonathan Maberry, Edward Lee, and John Shirley. There are also appendices with critical reflections, pointers on the writing process, ideas for characters and story arcs, and material for further research.


Writing in the Dark derives from Waggoner’s longtime blog of the same name. Suitable for classroom use, intensive study, and bedside reading, this essential manual will appeal to new authors at the beginning of their career as well as veterans of the horror genre who want to brush up on their technique.


From Raw Dog Screaming Press, it published September 16, 2020. It’s available in hardback and paperback for pre-order before that date, and usually mail early.


Praise for Writing in the Dark


“More than just a generalized survey of spooky stuff, this book addresses horror in all its many manifestations, from Quiet Horror to Extreme Horror to Country Horror. Beyond discussions of plotting and character, Waggoner also offers helpful advice on interacting with agents and publishers, as well as best practices for marketing your work.”—Booklist


“I was in the final edits of a novel that I believed to be solid. Waggoner’s advice suggested I dig deeper. I did and now the story feels so much more alive and relevant…Enroll in this fine course with Professor Waggoner. You won’t mind the homework—even if the monster does eat it.”—Dave Simms for Cemetery Dance

For more information or to order go to, purchase at usual online retailers, or order from your local bookstore.

Tim Waggoner

Tim Waggoner


Critically-acclaimed author Tim Waggoner has published over fifty novels and seven collections of short stories. He writes original dark fantasy and horror, as well as media tie-ins, and he’s the author of a book on writing horror fiction called Writing in the Dark. He’s won the Bram Stoker Award and been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award, the Scribe Award, and the Splatterpunk Award. He’s also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing and composition at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio.



Twitter: @timwaggoner


Instagram: tim.waggoner.scribe

Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women Blog Tour: Part three of four

Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women blog tour Sept 21st – Oct 12th  Part three of four.

By Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn


Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women is an anthology of Southeast Asian horror which subverts expectations of Asian women and their place in society. It brings to light the furious and restless spirits which sometimes lie behind the smiling facade of quiet submissiveness and familial duty. 

Edited by award-winning author and editor Lee Murray, and published short story author and editor Geneve Flynn, the anthology was released by Omnium Gatherum on September 26th, 2020, and features esteemed authors of dark fiction such as Rena Mason, Angela Yuriko Smith, and Christina Sng. 

It has been called an “instant classic” by Nightmare Feed, and “one of the best anthologies of 2020” by Pseudopod.

This series of four blog posts introduces the editors and contributors, and reveals the inspiration behind the fourteen dark stories which feature in Black Cranes. In this post, we meet Angela Yuriko Smith, Elaine Cuyegkeng, and Christina Sng.

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher and author of Okinawan descent. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for a 2017 Elgin Award. Her novella Bitter Suites is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist. In 2019 she won the SFPA’s poetry contest in the dwarf form category. She has been nominated for a 2020 Pushcart Prize. She co-publishes Space and Time Magazine, a 53-year-old publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction. For more information visit or


Angela has two stories in Black Cranes: “Vanilla Rice” and “Skin Dowdy.” 

In a society where technological cosmetics are the latest craze, “Skin Downy” examines the pressure for women to be beautiful, and to have their worth tied so intimately with their appearances. Desperate to keep her husband’s attention, Leilani demands bigger and better upgrades until she is a glittering goddess. But appearances aren’t everything, and revenge isn’t always best served cold.

“Vanilla Rice” is set in a future world where Asians are second-class citizens and DNA can be manipulated to create babies who look white. Meiko, an expectant mother, wants a better life for her baby and installs an Attribute Chip. As her daughter grows, it seems that everything Meiko dreamed of has come true. Then Katsue begins to sense that she is different. 

Here’s what inspired both stories:

ANGELA YURIKO SMITH: Like my character Katsue in “Vanilla Rice”, I’m a blend of races. My maternal grandmother was Okinawan and my father is descended from the Kentucky Scotch-Irish. The two cultures were an odd match but it worked for them. I’m positive the in-laws never met.

Growing up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I had no concept of diversity. Everyone was from the same Mid-western pot. I learned quickly not to divulge private details. The day I mentioned I liked seaweed on rice doomed me socially. It didn’t help that I was ugly and awkward with a broken front tooth and taped-up coke-bottle glasses.

My grandmother was my angel. One day I told her I would name my first girl baby Yuriko after her. She made me promise not to, saying that Americans would always look down on a child with an Asian name. She always used the name “Mary,” a name given to her as a child by authorities because it was easier to say. She’s the inspiration behind Katsue’s mother, Meiko. I’ve been outraged for her my whole life

We shared the shame of being different, but, where she wanted to be all Caucasian, I wanted to be more Asian. She wished to be admitted to the world I inhabited, but it was a world I didn’t quite understand. It wasn’t until I learned to accept and celebrate my position caught between two cultures that I learned to be comfortable with myself and with others.

In “Vanilla Rice,” Katsue becomes a monster in pursuit of authenticity. In “Skin Dowdy,” Leilani is stunning but false. Someday I hope we can move beyond labels and artificial standards of beauty and accept ourselves “as is.” Then there will be no such thing as monsters.

Elaine Cuyegkeng is a Chinese Filipino writer. She grew up in Manila where there are many, many creaky old houses with ghosts inside them. She loves eusocial creatures both real and imaginary, and ’80s pop stars. She now lives in Melbourne with her partner, and their two small cat children. She has been published in Strange Horizons, Lackington’s, The Dark, and Rocket Kapre. You can find her on @layangabi on Twitter and on Facebook.


Elaine’s story “The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter” is set in a future Philippines, where children can be made and remade in secret until they are flawless. Leto is her mother’s perfect right hand: the very image of everything that Chua Mercado Genetic Alchemy promises. But things were not always that way, and soon, Leto finds out why.

Here is how the story came about:

ELAINE CUYEGKENG: If I had to comp this short story, it would be Crazy Rich Asians meets Brave New World. I grew up in a culture that mythologises its founders, is deeply invested in legacy, and what descendants owe that legacy and their families. But I was the weird kid who never really fit (like so many of my SF peers!), and grew up morbidly fascinated by Huxley’s universe, everyone carefully designed and conditioned to be exactly what their world needed them to be (the horror and bleakness didn’t really hit me until I was older).

Fast forward years later—I’m living in Melbourne with the love of my life, and Crazy Rich Asians hits the theatres. And the film, which grappled with diaspora, with identity and family, things I was grappling with too, ended with a fairy tale ending that left me unsettled instead. 

All of these things percolated, I guess, into the strange Frankenstein story of Leto, her mother, the push and pull between them, and Leto finally rebelling, and finding a way to make herself heard.

Christina Sng is a fourth-generation Singaporean-Chinese. Her paternal grandparents were Peranakan and Teochew-Cantonese, while her maternal grandparents were Hakka and Cantonese. She was born and raised in Singapore, and lived in Canada and Australia for several years.

Her award-winning poetry, fiction, and art have been widely published and exhibited around the world. She is the author of Bram Stoker Award winner A Collection of Nightmares, Elgin Award runner-up Astropoetry, and A Collection of Dreamscapes

Christina lives in Singapore with her children and a menagerie of curious pets. Visit her at and connect on social media @christinasng.


Christina’s story “Fury” is set on a near-Earth planet in the future, where a deadly virus has killed thousands, turning them into super zombies. Kate, a young, highly trained operative, escapes an attack and boards a plane, only to crash-land in a small town. She is heartbroken to leave her father behind but must find Chandran, a doctor who is rumoured to have a cure, before the town is overrun.

Christina shares the story behind “Fury”:

CHRISTINA SNG: “Fury” is Kate’s origin story. She is an outlier, thanks to her unconventional father who raised her and elevated her in a deeply authoritarian world. Her fury fuels her right from the start to survive; first in a world where status and gender rule, and later, in an apocalypse which levels the playing field.


Stay tuned next week for final part of the blog series, which will feature Rena Mason, Rin Chupeco, and Gabriela Lee.

Thanks for joining us for part three of the blog tour for Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. If you’d like to read the stories mentioned here, head to the link below.

BLACK CRANES: TALES OF UNQUIET WOMEN edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

RELEASE DATE: 26/09/20

GENRE: Horror

PUBLISHER: Omnium Gatherum


Guest Post: Process and Sound

Process and Sound

By: Robert P. Ottone  


I’ve always been the kind of writer who needs to be in a particular frame of mind when writing. My most creative times are my mornings, post-shower, post-breakfast and in the evenings, around dinner time. That said, to help get into this frame of mind, I like to assemble my own take on the concept of a “mood board” if you will. 

Webster’s defines a mood board as “a board used by designers on which samples of various colors and textures are mounted to help in deciding which elements complement each other.”

Fair enough, but I’ll leave visual representations to the folks on Pinterest. For me, creating a “mood board” has more to do with an auditory connection than it does to a visual one. Creating a soundscape of tunes that propel sequences and narrative beats forward has always helped my writing. Back in the days of cassette tapes, I used to put together “soundtracks” to my works, all music that had to do with either the theme, the characters, scenes I had planned or whatever else that I was “feeling” at the time.

I did this with my first collection of short stories, People: A Horror Anthology About Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night, and I did it again for my new book, Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares. The songs provide the connective tissue to serve as links between the written word and the mindset I was working with in crafting each tale. 

For example, I reference Grimes’ song “Oblivion” in the collection’s title novella, Her Infernal Name, knowing that while the song’s message has to do with the singer’s personal experience of being attacked, in my story, it connected to the very real insecurities that one of the lead characters felt, that allowed her open to a monumental and supernatural change. I felt that song provided a skeleton to build the meat and muscle around, and I’m particularly proud of that novella and its overall dark message centered around the economic concerns of an entire generation.

Nothing excites me more than hearing a song that gets my creative juices flowing. Often, they come from an eclectic mix of sources, from 1983 Italian disco-pop tracks to Fleetwood Mac to the band Tanlines. Sometimes a song will provide such a deep sense of mood and atmosphere that I’ll be able to build an entire world, visualizing and creating every nook and cranny. 

In my last collection, People, the prevailing theme of grief resulted in the soundtrack featuring songs that one might not immediately think of in terms of “horror,” but to me, resonated more with human experience. It was through the interpretation of those experiences, with grief and other emotions, that the playlist I built included songs by an eclectic group of artists whose work lent power to the very real emotions I was trying to explore. 

The soulful guitar plucks of a song by Mac DeMarco or The National helped me find the emotional connection between two damaged people falling in love after each experiencing a personal loss. 

The pulpy anger coursing through a Modest Mouse track helped realize the world of a man avenging the death of his friend at the hands of a monstrous bear.

Death Cab for Cutie helped provide the emotional touchstones needed to bring a ghost and a Japanese record store worker together.

Music is a powerful thing, and one that can make or break your mood. Having the right balance of tracks that function to bolster one’s narrative is key, but including a few filler jams will help clear your mind, while also having the added benefit of hopefully re-centering the narrative or shedding new light on a scene.

Of course, taste in music is subjective. What works for me won’t work for you. You may feel that your horror story would be benefitted by some Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen, two artists that I can’t ever imagine using, but can absolutely see the value of for another writer. Being able to extrapolate concepts and ideas from not only lyric, but also the music itself is the key. 

Let me explain that a bit better, Akira Yamaoka, the musician and producer behind the scariest franchise in video game history, Silent Hill, crafted four soundtracks that are amazing all in different ways. Taken as a whole, each soundtrack works for each gaming experience, however; I’ve found myself cherry-picking certain tracks from certain games to help in rounding out the world I’m building. Taking “You’re Not Here,” arguably his strongest track, and placing that on the wrong playlist could derail the entire narrative.

It’s like being at a party, and fun, propulsive tracks are fueling the entire evening. Then, all of a sudden, someone changes the playlist to a low-energy band like Oasis. Great band, but not party music. The same applies to whatever you’re writing. The playlist for Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares features songs that lean a little further into the electronic territory circling the aforementioned Grimes track, but also some alternative and indie artists to help round out the “feel” or “vibe” of the other stories. It also has a Fleetwood Mac needle drop that’s very much connective tissue between the artist, the song and a particular character in the title novella.

By marrying music with written narrative, to create a soundscape and audio storyboard of sorts, I find cobbling stories together comes a bit easier. This won’t work for everyone, but I think it could be an interesting experiment for you to try. If you like it, send me the playlist on Instagram (@RobertOttone) or through my site (, I’d love to hear what world you’ve crafted and where your mind takes your story, or, more specifically, where the story takes your mind and tastes.

Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and wherever fine books are sold.

Robert P. Ottone

Robert P. Ottone


Robert P. Ottone is an author, teacher, and cigar enthusiast from East Islip, NY. He delights in the creepy. He can be found online at, or on Instagram (@RobertOttone). His collections Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares and People: A Horror Anthology about Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night are available now wherever books are sold.

Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women Blog Tour: Part two of four

Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women blog tour Sept 21st – Oct 12th  Part two of four.

By Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn


Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women is an anthology of Southeast Asian horror which subverts expectations of Asian women and their place in society. It brings to light the furious and restless spirits which sometimes lie behind the smiling facade of quiet submissiveness and familial duty. 

Edited by award-winning author and editor Lee Murray, and published short story author and editor Geneve Flynn, the anthology was released by Omnium Gatherum on September 26th, 2020, and features esteemed authors of dark fiction such as Rena Mason, Angela Yuriko Smith, and Christina Sng. 

It has been called an “instant classic” by Nightmare Feed, and “one of the best anthologies of 2020” by Pseudopod.

This series of four blog posts introduces the editors and contributors, and reveals the inspiration behind the fourteen dark stories which feature in Black Cranes. In this post, we meet Geneve Flynn and Grace Chan.

GENEVE FLYNN is a freelance editor from Australia who specialises in speculative fiction. She has been a judge for a key Australian horror award and a submissions reader for a leading Australian speculative fiction magazine. Her horror short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, TANSTAAFL Press, and the Tales to Terrify podcast. 

She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies. If that sounds like you, check out her website at

Geneve is Chinese, descended from a long line of fierce Hakka women; however, the fire seems to have skipped a generation with her. She has Fuzhou blood on her father’s side. She was born in Malaysia, where ghosts and spirits are just as real as everyday folks, and where duty can be just as airless and oppressive as the humidity. She now lives in sunny Brisbane, where she sometimes forgets that she’s Asian at all. 

Geneve’s first story “A Pet is for Life” follows the pitiless Japanese spirit Kuchisake-onna as she plays out her legend, seeking out a victim to torment and finally kill. But she encounters something that even she is unable to best: an animal rescuer.

Geneve shares how that story came about:

GENEVE FLYNN: This one was spurred by a friend’s description of a waking dream he’d had. He walked past a mirror one day, yawning, and it looked like his reflection was screaming. I promised him I’d write a story about that moment. 

I’d been researching Asian horror and urban myths and the story of the kuchisake-onna, the split-mouthed woman, struck a chord. I’d also been reading a lot of animal rescue stories, and I was fascinated by the drive of the hero complex. These ideas came together in my brain soup, and this is the story that resulted. 

I was lucky enough to workshop this story with Deborah Sheldon, a wonderful dark fiction author and my mentor during an Australasian Horror Writers’ Association mentorship. She whipped my writing, and this story, into shape. 


In Geneve’s second story “Little Worm,” Theresa bitterly agrees to return home to tend to her ageing mother who acts in increasingly strange ways, and is visited by an eerie, misshapen child. Then she learns of the ghastly covenant her mother made in order to bear the weight of self-sacrifice.

Here’s the story behind “Little Worm”:

GENEVE FLYNN: While writing another short story—“The Pontianak’s Doll,” I came across the toyol baby, or kwee kia, as it’s known in Chinese mythology. It prickled the skin across my scalp and I just knew I had to write about it.

As an Asian woman in a western world, I know firsthand the tug-of-war between filial piety and individualism. 

I wanted to explore the complicated emotions that rose from that conflict, and I wanted to examine the experience of being a female in a Chinese family. Most girls didn’t go to university or have careers when my mother was growing up. It was assumed that my clever, ambitious mother would have no other future than the dutiful daughter and subservient wife. There was no room for her dreams and aspirations. In this story, I imagined what would happen if those dreams and aspirations took form and became monstrous. 

I’d intended to write a story about a mother figure who was oppressive and unbending and cold (not at all like my real mother), but instead what emerged was a love letter of sorts to the complexity and strength of women in Chinese families. 

GRACE CHAN ( is a speculative fiction writer. Her family migrated from Malaysia to Australia before her first birthday. She writes near-future science fiction about medical technology, far-future landscapes of strange worlds, and psychological horror where the real and the unconscious bleed together. 

Her writing can be found in Clarkesworld, Going Down Swinging, Aurealis, Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, and Verge: Uncanny. She was shortlisted for Viva la Novella VII. Her short story “The Mark” has been nominated for the 2019 Aurealis Awards Best Horror Short Story. 

In her other life, she is a doctor. 

In Grace’s first story “Of Hunger and Fury,” Fiona returns with her husband to her home town on the anniversary of the murder of a local young woman. Reality, the past and the present bleed together until Fiona’s story becomes the young woman’s and together, they seek retribution and furious release. The story explores the cost of integration and the sense of being unmoored when part of a diaspora.

Grace reveals why she wrote “Of Hunger and Fury”:

GRACE CHAN: I wanted to write a ghost story. An eerie, gothic, sensual, Malaysian Chinese ghost story. I also wanted to write about women who’ve subjugated their own needs to others’—especially women caught between two cultures. There are several women in the story, although some are less visible. “Of Hunger and Fury” was difficult to write; it felt raw and scary and wrong. My story aims to be metaphorical and impressionistic, not explicit or didactic. I’m not trying to impart a lesson, but to inject you, the reader, into Fen Fang’s body: so that you can feel her feelings, grapple with her reality, and scramble as it distorts.


“The Mark,” Grace’s second story, explores grief turned to madness. After aborting one child, Emma suffers a miscarriage. On the surface, Emma’s life has returned to normal; but beneath the veneer, a powerful current of dissociation and guilt is dragging her under. 

Here’s what inspired “The Mark”:

GRACE CHAN: The seed for “The Mark” was the Capgras delusion: a phenomenon I’ve always found fascinating, complex, and haunting. I wanted to delve into, and wrest back control of, the loneliness, grief, and powerlessness of the underrepresented, marginalised, unseen woman.

At the time, I was inspired by works like “The Yellow Wallpaper and Alias Grace, both of which challenged notions of womanhood, social roles, unreliability, and madness. I was also deeply moved by women I’d encountered in my life and my work, who’d experienced subjugation in ways large and small, and crafted their own subtle resistances.


Stay tuned next week for part three of the blog series, which will feature Angela Yuriko Smith, Elaine Cuyegkeng, and Christina Sng.

Thanks for joining us for part two of the blog tour for Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. If you’d like to read the stories mentioned here, head to the link below.

BLACK CRANES: TALES OF UNQUIET WOMEN edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

RELEASE DATE: 26/09/20

GENRE: Horror

PUBLISHER: Omnium Gatherum


Guest Post: Marketing Monsters by Ann Charles

Marketing Monsters

By Ann Charles


I love monsters. I love to include monsters in the stories I write. BUT marketing monsters and the horror that usually accompanies them in books is not nearly as easy as selling mystery or romance. Over the years and the multiple series I’ve written that include monsters on the pages, I’ve learned a few tricks to making horror a little more marketable.


First of all, if humor is in your wheelhouse, then adding some lightness to your tale here and there can make monsters more palatable for a wider range of readers. Whether your stories are meant to just give off a few chills here and there or to keep readers awake all night with all of the lights blazing throughout the house, a little humor can add some fun and depth to your characters and books. In addition, hooking potential fans in your marketing ads for your stories is often easier with a funny quote or line. For example, on the marketing ads and promotional pieces for book 6 of my Deadwood Mystery series, MEANWHILE, BACK IN DEADWOOD, I used this line, “There is only so much FREAKY CRAP a woman can handle.” This combines both the horror element in the story and the humor sprinkled throughout.


Another option is to blend in other genres with your monster tales to make the books appeal to more readers. Those who read my books know that I’m going to give them a story filled with puzzle-solving elements of mystery, spicy bits of romance, creepy slices of horror, and fast-paced pages of action-adventure, to name a few sub-genres. By including multiple genres between the front and back cover, I’m engaging a potentially larger audience who are willing to cross over into multiple genres, and I’m also trying to give my readers more bang for their book bucks. 


In this industry, there are genres that sell better than others—that is a marketing fact. Romance, for example, has a very large following. So do mysteries. Many fans of both of these genres are not purists. They are open to so much more as long as you include romance and/or mystery on the pages, too. Just make sure you give the readers enough of the other elements to satisfy them, and include these sub-genres in your marketing materials or book covers. An example is the fourth book in my Deadwood Mystery series, BETTER OFF DEAD IN DEADWOOD, which includes a hint of romance due to the close positioning of the hero and heroine on the cover.


A third way to convince more readers to give your monster-filled stories a try is to think outside of the box when it comes to marketing. Study what others in your genre are doing in their ad copy, on their book covers, and via visible hooks on promotional pieces. 

  • What appeals to you? 
  • What looks the most professional? 
  • What makes you shiver in anticipation and want to hit that buy button? 
  • How could you take this information and spin it in a new way to reach readers? 

Sure, you could say, “If you like Stephen King, then you’ll want to buy <<YOUR BOOK HERE>>,” but that’s been done and then some. You have to figure out a way to stand out—to stop a reader mid-scroll and make them back up and check out your book(s). 


One of the promotional illustrations that I used for the second book in my Dig Site series, MAKE NO BONES ABOUT IT, is a slightly evil looking Maya sun design (original art drawn by my illustrator, CS Kunkle) that was well received by many current and potential readers. Coupling it on the bookmark with the original dig site map I created for the story, and it hooks the readers on multiple levels, plus it gives them a “tool” to make reading the story even more entertaining.


While there are many diehard horror readers out there, selling monsters is not always an easy feat. However, if you work some other genres into your story and try to sell your books by focusing on various elements in the cover design, back cover copy, marketing ad copy, and/or promotional pieces, you can share your love of creepy, hair-raising monsters (or just comical beasts) with so many additional readers.

Ann Charles

Ann Charles


USA Today Bestselling author, Ann Charles, writes spicy stories full of comedy, mystery, adventure, suspense, romance, and supernatural mayhem. When she’s not dabbling in fiction, she’s arm wrestling with her two kids, attempting to seduce her husband, and arguing with her sassy cats. Her next book (co-written with her husband, Sam Lucky), titled CAN’T RIDE AROUND IT, is the third book in their Deadwood Undertaker series and will be available on September 28, 2020. It’s a blend of supernatural, humor, and western fiction, and it has plenty of monsters to keep readers on the edge of their seats. 


You can find out more about Ann, including where she hangs out on social media (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and more) and how to reach her on her website “Connect” page: 


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