Category: Guest Post

WiHM 12: The Evolution of Women in Horror

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

“I delight in what I fear.” Shirley Jackson

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

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

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

WiHM 12: Wait, is it weird that I am in horror…?

By: Jennifer Anne Gordon

 

Happy Women in Horror Month everyone! It’s the magical time of the year that all of us “women in horror” all of a sudden think “Wait, is it weird that I am in horror…?”

Last summer I was lucky enough to write a guest post for Horror Tree, called “Doomed from The Beginning” and there I told the story of my first experience of reading a Stephen King novel, an how that lead me on a dark winding path through Gothic Romance, and VC Andrews, those writers and that one long gothic summer are part of who I am. But I would be remiss if I left out other parts of the puzzle, the puzzle of “Why did a nice girl like you end up writing such dark twisted stuff…”

Well, I could talk about how as a child I played almost exclusively in a cemetery and in the sand pits under some buzzing (probably cancer causing) power lines.  But instead, I am going to talk about the summer, that I fully believed I was possessed by a demon. Or at least what led me to believe that.

Now you have to understand, before I go on, that I had ALL the symptoms of demon possession. (I had seen the edited for television version of the Exorcist about 4 times…I was practically an expert in demonology.) 
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Chaos in Milan Blog Tour: Character Arc Over Several Novels—Grow or Die

Character Arc over several novels—Grow or Die

By: Edale Lane

Like a plant, you’re either growing or dying. This is also true of the characters in the worlds we create through fiction literature. One factor I always kept in mind while writing the Night Flyer Trilogy was to show growth in my primary characters as well as in their relationships. Of all the players on my stage, Don Benetto Viscardi underwent the greatest transformation. 

In Merchants of Milan, Don Benetto first appears as a ruthless Mafia type boss who has gained wealth and prominence as an arms dealer. While he runs a legitimate company, he is not above lying, cheating, and engaging in unscrupulous business practices. However, those you dare cross or cheat him are likely to end up dead. Ambition and greed, along with the manner in which his father raised him, led him to believe this was the only way to succeed. He treats his wife with callous indifference, his son is off to university, and he has forbidden his daughter to speak to the young man she has fallen in love with because he dislikes the boy’s father. He also made the mistake of killing Luigi de Bossi, an inventor he thinks double-crossed him but was actually innocent. 

This act unleashes the inventor’s daughter, Florentina, who takes up the traditional Italian vendetta to enact vigilante justice on the perpetrator. Don Benetto is surprised when the mysterious Night Flyer attacks his merchandise caravans and robs him of large sums of gold because he was certain de Bossi had no sons. He gets angrier and angrier as his business is systematically destroyed, striking out in frustration as everyone around him. His role in book one climaxes with the Night Flyer burning his warehouses and mansion to the ground, but “he” stops short of taking Benetto’s life. Instead, the Night Flyer puts a scar on his chin and says to let that remind him that he was given a second chance. 

Secrets of Milan opens with Benetto and his family having moved to his vineyard in the countryside, the only property he still owns. He is angry and insulted to have lost his fortune and is forced to live in an old country manor house, but it is Christmas and his wife, daughter, and brother want to celebrate. His son comes home only to chew him out and leave, and his brother states the obvious—that he only cares about himself—and then he leaves to find alternative employment and place to live. Benetto worries that his wife and daughter will abandon him too, and he will have nothing and nobody. 

Considering the Night Flyer’s words that he is being given a second chance, Benetto reflects on his life and how his actions may have led to his current situation. He observes that his wife and daughter and moving on with their lives, making the best of things, and decides he much change or die alone as a bitter old man. So he makes a point of trying to treat them better and while not encouraging it, allows his daughter to correspond by letter with Antonio, the young man she wishes to marry, who is away with the army. When this book ends, he has reconnected with his wife only to discover that she is suffering from a condition (lead poisoning) which the doctors cannot identify and have no cure for. 

When Chaos in Milan opens, Benetto is devastated over the news of his wife’s illness, but because he needs her and doesn’t want to be left alone. He still struggles with his inner demons but is more determined than ever to become a better father, husband, and human being. But change is hard. Because the Night Flyer had salted the soil at the vineyard, he can’t produce eatable grapes, much less wine. But sudden inspiration gives him the idea of using what grapes he has for vinegar. Having renewed hope and purpose he begins to see a future for the vineyard and for himself. Can he stay on the path to redemption, or will his old nature win out? At the end of his arc, Antonio returns from war a mature and fearless man to claim his bride one way or another. But Benetto hates Antonio’s father and doesn’t want to lose his daughter now that they have repaired their relationship. Will he agree to the marriage or take on the young man in a duel? Will he ever come to love his wife? Will he ever be able to love himself? 

If I tell you how his part in the story ends, it may ruin the experience for you as you read Chaos in Milan. Don Benetto started out as a villain, and he may never become a saint. But a near death encounter and hitting rock bottom can be a catalyst for change. The truth is that people can change; they just usually don’t. Habits, ways of thinking, feeling, and acting become ingrown in one’s personality and it requires deliberate thought and a strong desire to change. Change is hard, but it is possible. To me, Benetto’s struggle to become a better man represents an important theme in the trilogy and one that most of us can relate to on some level.

Book Synopsis for Chaos in Milan:  

One woman stands between chaos and order – the Night Flyer.

When chaos strikes at the heart of Milan, it is up to Florentina’s alter-ego the Night Flyer to stop it. As Florentina and Madelena’s love deepens, so does the well of danger surrounding them. The race is on to discover the mysterious Shadow Guild and uncover who is behind the deadly rampage, but Florentina’s mission is threatened by a gang of assassins. Can the Night Flyer prevail, or will Maddie’s love be ripped from her arms?

Chaos in Milan is the third book in Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, a tale of power, passion, and payback in Renaissance Italy. If you like action and suspense, rich historical background, three-dimensional characters, and a sweet romance, then you’ll want to complete the Night Flyer saga.

Tour Schedule and Activities

 

2/3 The Literary Underworld http://www.literaryunderworld.com Guest Post

2/3 Jazzy Book Reviews https://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot.com/ Author Interview 

2/4 The Sinister Scribblings of Sarah E Glenn http://saraheglenn.blogspot.com/ Guest Post

2/5 Kim Smith, Author http://Kimsmithauthor.com/weblog Guest Post

2/5 Oohana Children’s Church http://www.oohanacc.wordpress.com Video – Interview Response

2/6 Horror Tree https://www.horrortree.com Guest Post

2/7 The Seventh Star Blog http://www.theseventhstarblog.com Guest Post 

2/8 Jorie Loves A Story http://www.jorielovesastory.com Review

2/9 Afshan Hashmi https://afshanhashmi.com/books-coming-to-me-from-book-tour-hosts-for-my-analysis Guest Post

2/10 Sapphyria’s Books https://saphsbooks.blogspot.com/ Guest Post

Tour Page URL:  https://www.tomorrowcomesmedia.com/chaos-in-milan-blog-tour-featuring-edale-lane/

Links for Chaos in Milan:

Kindle Version: https://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Milan-Three-Night-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B08Q7H6DFX/

Amazon Print Version:  https://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Milan-Three-Night-Trilogy/dp/B08PXK13B3/

Barnes and Noble Link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/merchants-of-milan-edale-lane/1136051210?ean=9781654780197

Edale Lane

Author

Edale Lane is the author of an award winning 2019 debut novel, Heart of Sherwood. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Vlad a Novel, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in History and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication in regard to research. She is a successful author who also currently drives a tractor-trailer across the United States. A native of Vicksburg, MS, Edale (or Melodie as the case may be) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature. Please visit her website at:    https://pastandprologuepress.lpages.co/

Author Links: 

Twitter:   @EdaleLane

Official Site:  https://pastandprologuepress.lpages.co/

WiHM 12: Top Ten Ways Reviewing Books Improved My Writing

Top Ten Ways Reviewing Books Improved My Writing

By: Nico Bell

In my years as a book reviewer, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the cringeworthy. Writing is hard work, and anyone who takes that for granted might be unpleasantly surprised when a review of their work gets published. But as I’ve spent time both as a writer and reviewer, I’ve realized that reading and critiquing piles of books has given me insight into what works and doesn’t work in my own writing. Here is a list of ten things I’ve learned as a reviewer that helped make me a better author. 

Invest in Cover Art. It might seem odd that the first thing I learned about writing as a reviewer has nothing to do with writing, but I can’t stress enough the importance of a professional cover. It may not seem like a big deal, but the cover is the first impression. For self-published authors who have complete control of their art, it’s vital the cover be a high-quality visual representation of the novel. Of course, cover art is expensive. It’s tempting to take a photo and add your own font and text, or try your hand at watercolors and oil pastels, but unless you’re artistic and you have a natural eye for the visual arts, I highly suggest seeking the help of a pro. 

Hire an Editor. As a writer, I understand the desire to have my critique group act as an editor and skip out on hiring a professional, but as a book reviewer, I’m quickly reminded about the absolute necessity to work with an editor to polish a story, not only in terms of grammar, but in terms of story and character development. A developmental editor can turn a good story into an excellent story and an excellent story into an award winner. I’ve reviewed novels with non-realistic characters, plots that drag with no tension, dialogue with no purpose, character names that were accidentally changed and then changed back, and I even reviewed a book containing a sentence that stopped mid-way through. Editors fix this.

Proper Formatting. I recently read a novella with teeny tiny font. No, really. Teeny. Tiny. Font. It took several attempts for me to get through the first chapter because every time I opened the book and saw those microscopic words staring back at me, heat raised in my chest and a fury built in my core. Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but I was pretty annoyed at the self-published author who allowed this book into the world with a font size that literally made me squint. I can understand the desire to keep the page count low, since more pages equals a higher overall publication price, but it must be readable. Also, formatting includes proper margins, appropriate spaces between sentences, and professional and properly placed images before a chapter heading or within the text. Format correctly!

Work with a Sensitivity Reader. This is something that can be done for free (similar to beta readers), and if a book contains sensitive material and trigger warnings, it’s a good idea.  Unfortunately, many people have experienced some sort of trauma in life, and it’s important to be respectful when presenting sensitive material in a plot, especially if writing about something you have not personally experienced. Sensitivity readers provide a candid and unique insight that will be valuable to both you and your reader. I can usually spot the books that lacked a sensitivity reader or ignored sage advice, so it’s important not to fall into that category.

Know Where the Plot is and Follow It. This is easier said than done, and it’s something I often struggle with as a writer. It becomes obvious as a reviewer when an author has veered off track. Readers are led down longwinded tangents or made to trudge through backstory to find the action. As writers, we get very possessive of our words, but at some point, it’s important to take out that red marker. Every single scene should move the story forward, whether it’s an action or reaction scene. Every dialogue should reveal something about the characters or plot. Every sentence should have a purpose.

Don’t have Multiple Characters with Similar Names. It’s such a small detail, but it matters to readers. It’s confusing to read a story with a Caleb, Callum, and Chris. Twins with similar or rhyming names become frustrating to follow. I once read a book where the name of the town was only one letter off from the name of the main character. The author may have done it for personal reasons, but it’s important to think about the reading experience. Variety is always a safer option.

Make Dialogue with a Purpose. Talking in real life is different than having realistic dialogue in a book. For example, a real life conversation may go something like this:

Mom: Hey, kiddo. How was school?

Son: Fine.

Mom: Fine?

Son:  Yeah, fine.

Mom: Nothing exciting happened?

Son: No.

Mom: Really?

Son: No, it was fine.

This is life dialogue and shouldn’t be in a book because it doesn’t move the plot forward, says little to nothing about our characters, and frankly is boring. I’m guilty of adding life dialogue to my books and later taking a red pen and slicing it away to get to the heart of the conversation, but it’s easy to slip back into this sort of everyday language. Beware and remember the reader wants tension, emotion, and action.

Know Where to Start the Book. Oof, this is a big one. Full disclosure, I’m awful at this. My poor critique partners over the years have had the honor of trashing many of my opening chapters in an attempt to find the actual starting point. It’s hard but necessary. Books start around an inciting incident. There’s usually a bit of “normal life” before getting to that big catalyst but knowing how much normal life to put on the page takes practice. Keep at it! It’s important to get it right in order to capture the reader’s attention as quickly as possible.

Become a Wordsmith. When I first started writing about nine years ago, I won a writing contest. The prize was a first chapter critique by a well-know and well-respected author. She kindly marked my work and when it came back, it looked like it had a gnarly case of chicken pox. As a side note, she encouraged me to take time everyday to simply sit and observe the world around me. What did I see? What did I smell? What did I taste? She suggested I keep a journal and explore different areas of my town, writing every little detail during these brief sessions, making sure I include the five senses. She wrote, “With a solid year of practice, you’ll be at a good starting point.” Well, that was humbling. It also was one of the best tips I’ve ever received. So, I did what she said. I still do it. I don’t know if I’m any better. I think that’s for readers to decide, but I have recognized a growth in my adjectives and a diversity in describing the same thing over and over. Authors that put in the work shine on the page. They’re a joy to read, they suck you into their stories, they make you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste a new and fascinating world. They are Wordsmiths, and I’m almost certain if I asked these writers how they got started, they would admit to some form of journaling like I described, because mastering words takes time and practice. Be patient and diligent, and you’ll get there.

Nico Bell

Author

Nico Bell is the author of Food Fright and editor for Shiver: A Chilling Horror Anthology. She is a book reviewer at Publisher’s Weekly and Scifi And Scary and a horror writer whose works have been included in The Second Corona Book of Horrors and the Gothic Blue Book Volume 6: A Krampus Carol. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @nicobellfiction, and her website www.nicobellfiction.com.

WiHM 12: Unquiet: A Reading List of Asian Women in Horror

Unquiet: A Reading List of Asian Women in Horror

By Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

 

A chance meeting between us at a conference in November 2019, prompted a discussion about Asian women in horror. Where were the dark stories and poems which reflected Asian women’s experience, we asked. Where were the Asian women horror writers? We wracked our brains and came up with a few names. Surely there were more? Both horror writer-editors of Asian heritage ourselves, we set out to unearth those writers and their stories, our efforts eventually leading to the publication of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, an anthology released by Omnium Gatherum Media in September 2020. 

We’re thrilled with the result, and the hugely positive response from readers, but the job of promoting Asian women’s horror, the development of this important subgenre, cannot simply stop there. A single volume doesn’t begin to mine the mythology, the cultural tensions, or the lived experience of Asian women. The overwhelming sense of otherness and alienation. Nor does it reflect the full breadth of high-quality work being created by women of Southeast Asian heritage writing horror. There is so much more to say, new voices to discover. So, for Women in Horror Month 2021, we have compiled a brief reading list of horror, dark fiction, and unquiet titles written by our Asian colleagues: a primer of some past favourites, recent works, as well books and stories coming down the pipeline.

In terms of horror poetry, Asian women are leading the charge. Case in point, our Black Cranes contributors Angela Yuriko Smith and Christina Sng both appear on Tor’s Best Horror Poetry Collections of 2020 with their respective collections Altars and Oubliettes and A Collection of Dreamscapes. Please also check out work by Doungjai Gam, an American author-poet of Thai heritage. Gam’s micro-fictions and poems glint like glass shards and are just as sharp. Consider these lines from ‘swallowed in pieces, consumed in whole’ in glass slipper dreams, shattered: “I gouged out my eyeballs in order not to look at you. I swallowed my tongue so you couldn’t touch it with yours. I bit, scratched and maimed parts of me you hadn’t ruined yet, so you would stay away.” Her debut collection watch the whole goddamned thing burn is equally stunning. While the collections listed below do not focus specifically on Asian themes, Asian women poets, in our view, offer something uniquely “unquiet” in their approach. 
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WiHM 12: The Complicated Co-Dependence of Writers on Reviewers

The Complicated Co-Dependence of Writers on Reviewers

by Rebecca Rowland

 

Writers, don’t ever harass a reviewer. Consider that advice note number one. Don’t. Do. It. Bullying a reviewer is the equivalent of being wheeled into open-heart surgery and sucker-punching your anesthesiologist. Oops, did I leave the mask on a little too long? Sorry about that. A few years ago, I read a disturbing account—complete with screenshots—by a book reviewer who was mercilessly attacked by a semi-successful horror writer after she left a scathing review of his latest novel. Needless to say, the semi-successful career quickly dissolved into semi-trailer truck roadkill.

 

Reviews can make or break a book, especially one from a small or start-up press that can’t afford to pay for a glance from Kirkus or the “print run of more than 10,000 or an ad budget of more than $30,000” required by another nationally-recognized review conglomerate. Let’s face it: some established authors could release an empty envelope, amass thousands of dismal ratings, and still end up on the Best Sellers list. In a fair world, this wouldn’t be the case, but Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. If you choose to live by the pen, you may be made or broken by it, too.

 

Critical reviews, when they are fair and absent of snark or ulterior motives, can be a writer’s best friend. I will always remember one I received from Tony Jones, one of the most prolific indie horror reviewers around. He wrote a number of lovely things about my debut short fiction collection, but he finished the summary with (what I interpreted as) a stern scolding of my not having vetted any of the pieces in magazines and journals first. I took his advice to heart, and rather than building a follow-up book, I focused my writing energy over the subsequent years on submitting individual pieces to various markets. And you know what? I’m a better writer for it, and that’s because of Jones, not despite him.

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WiHM 12: The Horror of ‘Spawning’ By: Deborah Sheldon

The Horror of ‘Spawning’

By: Deborah Sheldon

 

I’m a mother, but I’ll confess it anyway – the very idea of pregnancy is creepy. Way back in 1999 when my husband and I decided to try for a baby, visions of the chest-burster from Alien kept nudging at me. The parallels are undeniable since screenwriter Dan O’Bannon deliberately infused his story with sexual metaphors: the chest-burster is a parasite robbing sustenance from the host, while the host plays second fiddle to the parasite’s need to grow, thrive, be born at any cost. Pretty accurate, right? Childbirth is risky. The closest the human body can come to death, apparently, without dying…I read that somewhere.

Oh, you bet I was scared.

Not of parenthood – an unknowable, nebulous, abstract concept at the time – but of childbirth. However, I figured that during pregnancy I would mellow out as hormones and the maternal instinct kicked in. I’d come to terms with the promise of torment and blood, turn into a philosophical Earth Mother type and no longer be afraid. Ha. After my waters broke and my husband drove me to hospital, I spent just two seconds listening to the chorus of screams in the maternity ward before I burst into tears.

“No, no, I’ve changed my mind,” I begged. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

A midwife laughed. “Too late now, dearie. Should’ve thought of that nine months ago.”

 

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Through Rain and Missing Mantaurs Tour: My First Memorable Journeys into Fantasy (Dark Fantasy) Left a Deep, Lasting Impression

My First Memorable Journeys into Fantasy (Dark Fantasy) Left a Deep, Lasting Impression

By Jeanne Marcella

I always wrote and told stories. Ever since I could remember. Horses, unicorns, and princesses. But I think my first exposure into dark fantasy was going to the movie theater to see the animated Raggedy Ann and Andy film in 1977. I was eight years old. I’d already had rag dolls of the two characters and loved them. (I loved Raggedy Ann more!) I didn’t know it was a dark film at the time. There were some very adult situations—some gross sexual micro actions that went over a kid’s head, but were pretty visual. Candid hints of drug use, and other grim adult themes.  

In the last year or so, now in my early 50s, I went back and skimmed the film online. Damn. It was dreadful, long, and boring. Also a bit grotesque and repulsive. The music was fantastic, lively, yet also full of gloom. As an adult, it feels just as fantastic and lively, yet now fills me with horrific anxiety and slight repulsion. 

I think what initially drew eight-year-old-me was that 1) it was a musical 2) the French doll Babette and 3) the human character’s first name was Marcella.  Side note: In fact-checking the spelling of Babette, I ran into a 2015 blog post that called this movie “The Most Screwed Up Children’s Animated Movie Musical Ever” by Mark Robinson Writes, and I wholeheartedly agree. I’d also run into this article previously, when I skimmed the movie online. 

The second exposure into dark fantasy was at a matinee with my cousins to see a double feature.  I can’t remember the first movie, but the second feature was Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings. It was 1978. My cousins were super bored and wanted to leave. I refused. Because I was hooked, fascinated. What was this strange cartoon filled with elves and monsters? All the while wondering how it was possible they did cartoons so realistic. 
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