Category: Articles

The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Jim Phoenix, Founder Czykmate Productions & Haunted MTL

An Interview with Jim Phoenix, Founder Czykmate Productions & Haunted MTL

By Angelique Fawns 

 

There is a dark and creepy place lurking on the internet for those that LOVE all things that go bump in the night. Hauntedmtl.com publishes horror news, criticism, and original fiction.  Looking to learn about the hottest new survival-horror video game? Need some direction finding the best in scary television and movies? How about some original dark fiction? Jim Phoenix and his team keep the daily horror feed current and prolific.

 

Haunted MTL is also announcing a new project called The Undead and Uncut -Live! It’s a podcast running just for the month of October, where everyday is a new episode building to an exciting climax Halloween. Any and all “listens” equal donations to the Ottawa food bank for Canadian Thanksgiving. Also anyone who donates to a food bank this month can show the receipt to @HauntedMTL, and get a free PDF copy of their new anthology 101 Proof Horror, which is for sale right now on Amazon.

 

Czykmate Productions is the publishing branch and produce anthologies and novels/novellas. They look for work that is “strong, punk, dark, humorous, and just strange enough to be true.” 

 

 I discovered this gem when I found a call on Submittable from Czykmate Productions, “How HORROR-able”.  I uploaded one of my very first short stories “Death Metal Fan” in February of 2019 and it was accepted. It was the first money I ever received from my fiction, and I was thrilled to make the $2.00 US. 

 

Jim Phoenix is also a very interesting and mysterious character. When asked about his day job, he said, “I used to write scripts and book adaptations but put that away once Czykmate started up. I do have ‘another life’ outside of horror, but I can’t say what it is here. Let’s just say my current day job isn’t exactly ‘open’ about things.”

 

Well, now I’m intrigued! Let’s learn more about the man and his mission…

 

AF: How has your company evolved since you opened your figurative doors?

 

JP: We started out ‘way back when’ as a punk ‘zine. It was something I wanted to start for people who normally wouldn’t have a voice in publishing. Our first venture was Ricky’s Back Yard named after my friend’s brother who died way too young. He was a new punk that wrote his own songs – something damn rare – and the name was a tribute to him. Our ‘zine was anthology based and we would have certain themes where all the money (not profit–all of it) went to the charity that was tied to the theme.

 

Back then it was Lizzie Nicodemus doing all the cover art and Jenni Hill reading the subs. I made sure that the people who we accepted got paid and did me best for internal design. We experimented a lot back then (still do, really) and hit major conventions like the AWP (The Association of Writer’s and Writing Programs) to help us grow. I remember ‘inventing’ a Trello board slush pile scheme because we didn’t have enough money to use Submittable. That’s how raw things were.

 

That moved slowly to Czykmate with an experiment of ‘ebook only’ authors where I likened it to ‘not ready for prime time’ but they had ‘something’. The result was offering an ‘ebook’ only contract where if the ebooks sold enough, we’d offer a print  book contract to the author. We were getting bigger then and, unfortunately, Lizzie and Jenni had other obligations so they parted ways.  I did most of the ebook covers and interiors (again, learning form conventions like AWP on how to do it) and went to out source the print books. With Lizzie and Jenni gone, I had to move into the freelance market to round off the staff (readers, editors, cover, interiors). 

 

From Czykmate came HauntedMTL. I’ve had this ‘real life hauntings’ idea for some time now. Originally, the website showcased some ghost hunting material that I was part of in Montreal with Taylor G and Stephanie R. We even had a pilot filmed where the concept was not so much ‘we believe everything’ but ‘we doubt’. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll dig that old pilot off…

 

After the ghost hunting died down (no pun), I turned the focus to covering horror. We’ve kept the charity grass roots and are huge supporters of LGBTQ and BLM issues, as well as food banks, retired veterans, and other projects of the more political nature. In the early days of that the site was just me–then Dave Davis came around. I gave him a shot as a writer and he expanded into designer and creative push for the site. I started recruiting from Submittable and put people in. Now we have reviewers, original content (short stories and art), a line of podcasts, and even a bit of swag available on Red Bubble. The future has a few tricks in store (video and radio dramas and choose your own adventures with RPGs and oh my! I’ve said too much!) but it’s always family first. I don’t have staff–I have a horror family with Brannyk, EV, Payne (yes, ‘that’ Doctor Payne), LJ, Parz, Shane, two Nicoles, Court, Dave, Vicki, Jenn, Jake, Brianna, Sarah, Rachel, Wade, Scream, Ruby, 3C3, Kayla, and Kota. And, of course, all of our listeners (special shout outs to Eric Gengle, a Missouri friendo of Brannyk’s, and someone who beat the dog act, and everyone lurking daily on the site and on our feeds–come say hi!).

 

AF: What kind of writing do you do yourself?

 

JP: I had a career as a script and novel writer (read as ghost writer). I got tired of ghost writing. It felt weird getting money for something I could never put on my CV. I still like to write, though. I have a novel in short stories that is coming out in 2021 where every chapter is a stand alone short story (yet they are all linked together like a traditional novel). After that, there is the Choose Your Own Adventure along with a YA novel. Believe it or not, I’ve got a card game coming out with an old friend (hi, Mike!) in 2021, too. 

 

AF: You certainly have a lot of irons in the fire! Is there any profit margin in your website/publishing?

 

JP: I’ve never done it for the profit. It’s always been about creating a safe space for horror fans. To be fair, we still give most of our money to various charities. Heck, there are people like Payne and Cleaves on my staff who have donated all of their pay to charity. I think giving people a voice, especially underrepresented people, is far more important that money. We used to use Google ads, but I got sick of banning so many crap political ads (and that damn earwax ad gave me the willies–if you use Google Ads, you KNOW the one I’m talking about). I’m a bit weird about money. It’s just funny little numbers to me. I’m definitely not a ‘money beats soul’ person (as Morrison would say). 

 

AF: There is an alternative, avant garde feel to your website. What sort of stories and/or writing are you typically looking for?

 

JP: Authentic. Make it real–from you. Don’t retell the same ol’. Grab me. Make me shiver. Make me go HOLY FUCK DID YOU SEE THAT?! It all comes down to being real with your art. Hone your craft and send in the best version of that story you can. 

 

AF: Thank you for picking up one of my very first stories. Why did you like Death Metal Fan?

 

JP: Remember when I said ‘grab me’? Check this hook: ‘The weather was unbearably hot. Smoking, steaming, bra-dripping hot. Mia lay on top of her bed with a fan blowing air on her body. Moderate relief.’ 

Let’s break that down. It’s hot out. How hot? Smoking. Steaming. Bra-Dripping. Hot. Some writers ignore rhythm in their work, which is a shame–BUT–when someone does have a great sense of rhythm it shows up that much brighter. I loved the beats here. This play goes throughout your writing–‘yada yada yada. Ya right.’ That plays out as Bum-pa Bum-pa Bum-pa. BUM BUM! Alex Van Halen would be jealous of that rhythm. 

 

https://hauntedmtl.com/originals/death-metal-fan-angelique-fawns/

 

AF: Your contract has a clause where the contributor has to pay $1000 if the work turns out to have been previously published. Why do you have that clause?

 

JP: Previously published can mean two things:

 

1) The author ripped someone off directly (boo!) or were using lyrics because they’ve seen their favorite authors do it (I think most people who haven’t studied writing need a big lesson…ready for it…here we go: If you didn’t write the song–then please don’t include the lyrics in your writing. Lyrics are expensive for rights and we don’t have Random House’s money.)

 

2) They published it before somewhere — maybe with another publisher or even a blog — and don’t own the rights for a republish. Not owning rights to republish puts us in a shitty spot. Don’t be that guy. Also, if you put something in a blog–and gave it away for free–why would I pay you for it? Why would a customer pay you for reading something they just read for free?  Writing is a business. 

 

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

 

JP: The immediate future includes an audio version of an exquisite corps for October. We are recording 30 one-minute story extensions October first ‘live’ and then releasing them one per day until Halloween as a special episodic podcast feature. Also–very exciting–short film and radio story originals are coming your way! COVID 19 makes some filming a bit tricky, but there are always possibilities…

 

AF: Any advice for others who want to start up a horror destination on the web like yourself?

 

JP: Family first. Don’t chase followers. Build a product people want to see and they will come to you. Be real with people. Don’t be a dick (Jim Breuer rule #1). Have fun. Learn from people (shout outs to SexyFandom, BlueBlood, Molly, Amelia G, Forrest Black, Sandy King-Carpenter, S.R., Darcy n Joe Bob, the Shudder crew, Kevin Smith, Sharknado crew, Tony Todd, Norm MacDonald, and everyone else that pushed, taught, gamed, and help us along the way–luv on ya). 

 

Most of all–do it with a purpose. There are so many amazing horror voices that need amplifying–if you are one of them, drop me a line. If you are in a position of power–help others. Be kind–I guess it all boils down to that. Just be kind. 

Our October 2020 Giveaway Lets You Win A Digital Copy Of Thylacines By Deborah Sheldon

ENTER TO WIN A DIGITAL COPY OF THYLACINES

The Horror Tree is giving away TEN ebook copies of Deborah Sheldon’s bio-horror novella, Thylacines, which was nominated for the Australian Shadows “Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction”.

The Horror Tree gave Thylacines a five-star review. In part, Alyson Faye wrote, “[This] is a fast, pacy, adrenaline-fuelled read which you can gobble up in a sitting or two.” https://horrortree.com/epeolatry-book-review-thylacines/
https://www.amazon.com/Thylacines-Deborah-Sheldon-ebook/dp/B078WKDC1N/

The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was hunted to extinction some eighty years ago. Now, Professor Rosie Giuliani and her staff at The Resurrection Lab have done the impossible: created a living, breathing litter from a preserved specimen. Yet Rosie can’t share this scientific breakthrough with the world. The cloned animals are more like monsters than thylacines. By chance, a small band of activists hears about the caged litter, and their decision to free the tigers will unleash a deadly havoc upon the campus of Fraser University.

AUTHOR BIO

Deborah Sheldon is an award-winning author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum of horror, crime and noir. Her award-nominated titles include the novels Body Farm ZContrition and Devil Dragon; novella Thylacines; and collection Figments and Fragments: Dark Stories. She won the Australian Shadows “Best Collected Work” Award for Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, which was also long-listed for a Bram StokerAs guest editor of Midnight Echo 14, she won the Australian Shadows “Best Edited Work” Award. Her short fiction has been nominated for various Australian Shadows and Aurealis Awards, and included in “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts and award-winning medical writing. Sign up for her monthly newsletter at: http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com

To Reap The Spirit Blog Tour: Writing with ADHD

Writing with ADHD

By: Sarah Lampkin

Around the age of 14, my mom took me to a behavior therapist for the first time and that was when I was officially diagnosed with ADHD. After many fights and arguments over grades and studying, we finally had an answer as to why I couldn’t do things the same way as my older sister. It also explained my day dreaming.

Being a young teenage girl, daydreaming is a common occurrence and not something that would raise alarm. But my ability to be so completely lost in thought and in my own world happened far too often and during situations that got me into trouble. For instance, I was constantly lost while in school, as my brain believed my own world was more interesting. 

While using my sketch book as my outlet, I started to describe to my parents the stories behind my terribly drawn people…but I wouldn’t stop. There were times when I would start telling a story and no matter what my parents did to change the subject or stop me, I had no control over my own voice. 

That’s when a suggestion was made: Write your stories. 

I don’t remember who suggested it. I just know that I was never motivated to finish anything until I started writing. It became the perfect outlet for the ideas that were always in the forefront of my mind, distracting me from everything else. That’s when my life began to change for the better. I was finally learning how to live a healthy and productive life with ADHD without medication. 

With each new story, I was able to hyper focus on my writing. So, when the time came to go to school or work on homework, I was suddenly able to focus on the work at hand without getting easily distracted by everything else going on. Somehow, writing became the therapy I needed to be successful at everything in my life. Of course, I still struggle with some things, but not as much as I did before as a young teen or child. 

Writing was my life saver.

To Reap the Spirit (Dead Dreamer #3)

 

Publication Date: October 13th, 2020

 

Genre: New Adult/ Urban Fantasy

 

Sanguis daretur. Ignis invocavit.

 

The third installment in the haunting Dead Dreamer series.

 

Somehow Brenna Whit has survived to her junior year at Nephesburg College. Despite all odds, she’s fought against the Gatekeepers and lived. But the battle for the Fade has only just begun.

 

New pieces have been added to the board.

 

The Fade opens to the Veil.

 

And a Shade from the past returns.

 

With Brenna’s secret out, everyone is after her: dead and living alike. Those from across the sea have come and they’re determined to regain control of their broken faction.

 

Questions will be answers

 

Fires will be lit

 

Chaos will reign

 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52344035-to-reap-the-spirit?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=GpvYiGEmzO&rank=1

 

Purchase Links

 

The Parliament House: https://www.parliamenthousepress.com/product-page/to-reap-the-spirit-by-sarah-lampkin

 Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08HCDDD33/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Barnes & Noble:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/to-reap-the-spirit-sarah-lampkin/1137586892?ean=9781953539670

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ww/en/ebook/to-reap-the-spirit

Sarah Lampkin

Sarah Lampkin

Author

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Sarah Lampkin is a 2015 graduate from Lynchburg College [University of Lynchburg] with a master’s degree in English. Since graduation, Sarah now lives in Northern Virginia working in the IT field as a Technical Writer while continuing her research for her graduate school thesis. When she isn’t working, Sarah continues her Celtic mythology research and Gaelic studies, while working on the Dead Dreamer series.

 

Dead Dreamer: https://dead-dreamer.com/about/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.sarahlampkin/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lampkin_S

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/slampkin.author/

Blog Tour Organized By:

R&R Book Tours

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.

Again.

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

Author

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, www.nicolegivenskurtz.net.
 
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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 rinchupeco.com

 

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

AVAILABLE HERE: https://omniumgatherumedia.com/black-cranes

Epeolatry Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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Title: Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus
Author: Mary Shelley
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones (original publisher)
Release Date: 1st January, 1818

Synopsis: Young scientist plays God and suffers the consequences in Shelley’s essential horror classic.

The strength of the horror genre is its timelessness. Often, we don’t merely experience a singular imagination, but rather a reimagining of some eternal dread that has existed in one form or another. Standing on the shoulders of monsters, and all that. Wolfmen, vampires, zombie hordes or rotting flesh yearning to be free; these don’t belong to any individual artist, but seems more the task of that artist to pluck the story from the low-hanging fruit of the horror continuum, where it bides its time, waiting to be used as story fodder.

That wasn’t the case with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. She wasn’t reimagining anything, she was creating from whole cloth… albeit with a pinch of religious mythology for flavoring. Nonetheless, this was the absolute source material, patient zero, for the entirety of the Frankenstein copyright-free public domain mythos. Before this book: no Frankenstein anywhere in the human imagination. After this book: Frankenstein had always existed.

The Signet Classics edition I read began with not one, but two forwards written by Mary Shelley, detailing the creation process. It came across as rather apocryphal, being the proverbial dark and stormy night when the four writers – Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Polidori, and Mary Shelley herself – decided to have a contest.

“We will each write a ghost story,” said Lord Byron, and his proposition was acceded to.

In the forward, she mentions “the experiments of Dr. Darwin” as her inspiration. I at first assumed she meant Charles Darwin, who would have been seven years old when Frankenstein was published. In fact, she was referring to his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, who, as she recounts, had done experiments on vermicelli, in bringing non-living matter to life. At least, that had been her recollection. Turns out that she’d gotten it wrong. Vermicelli is pasta. Erasmus Darwin had been experimenting on vorticella, a microscopic organism found in rain water. She’d misheard it, and then immortalized the blunder in her 1831 forward.

But that wasn’t the only time the blunder was immortalized. In the Mel Brooks film, Young Frankenstein, we have this scene:

Student: Isn’t it true that Darwin preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case until, by some extraordinary means, it actually began to move with voluntary motion?

Dr. Frankenstein: Are you speaking of the worm or the spaghetti?

That is what is known as a deep cut, as esoteric joke as I’ve ever seen, and in a Mel Brooks film!

Overall, I was surprised by how different the novel is from any of its adaptations. For example, young Victor Frankenstein’s early interest in science is capped off by him witnessing a tree struck by lightning:

…and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump. It was not splintered by the shock but entirely reduced to thin ribbons of wood. I never beheld anything so utterly destroyed.

Aha! What a fine job at foreshadowing the power of lightning which eventually brought her monster to life, and how smart I am for picking up on that!

Except, that never happens. The process by which the monster is created is rather vague, involving lots of trips to the slaughterhouse. But lightning never again returns as a plot point.

Unless, I thought later, Shelley was foreshadowing… from the grave! Not merely foreshadowing a later scene in her own book – anyone can do that – but rather foreshadowing the Frankenstein mythology itself which would evolve over the course of the succeeding century, in which lightning does play a vital role!

Or it was just a non-sequitur.

It was interesting to me how decidedly unsuperstitious Victor Frankenstein is. He’s purely a man of science, giving no thought to any religious ramifications of his actions.

I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition or to have feared the apparition of a spirit. Darkness had no effect on my fancy and a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm.

By stating this, she sets up Victor’s humanism, and makes it clear that this is not, in fact, a ghost story at all, but rather a science fiction story… No mean feat as that’s a genre which heretofore did not exist.

The key surprise for me, however, was how incredibly eloquent Shelley’s monster was. I could scarcely imagine the square-browed, grunting behemoth ingrained in my cinematic unconscious completing a full sentence, much less giving an introspective monologue for four chapters, more than 40 consecutive pages, with such epiphanies as:

To be a great and virtuous man appeared the highest honor than can befall a sensitive being; to be base and vicious, as many on record have been, appeared the lowest degradation…

Later, as his station in life becomes apparent, the monster laments:

Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.

Any amusement derived from the discordance in the monster’s verboseness, however, fell away as the stage set for the final showdown between creator and creation. “We shall soon enter upon a journey,” the monster writes to the besieged Frankenstein, “where your sufferings will satisfy my everlasting hatred.”

It is a brutal ending, pushing the young scientist to the edge of sanity, and Shelley’s tone is successfully chilly. I felt for both, and was repulsed by both. As I moved into the climax, I realized that though the story is so iconic, I actually had no idea how the novel itself would end… and I leave that to you to discover for yourself as well.

5/5

Signet edition mentioned in the review is available from amazon.

The book can also be read free at Project Gutenberg

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

Author

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).

 

Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Author Twitter: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com/jscoatsworth

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jscottcoatsworth/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth?from_search=true

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

Epeolatry Book Review: Coffin Shadows by Glen Krisch & Mark Steensland

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Title: Coffin Shadows
Author: Glen Krisch and Mark Steensland
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing
Release Date: 31st August, 2020

Synopsis: 12 YEARS AGO Janet Martlee’s infant son died under mysterious circumstances.Consumed with grief and anger, she ran away to start again…YESTERDAY A 12-year old boy with dead eyes appeared in her classroom,begging for help. But Janet doesn’t believe in ghosts…TODAY Her psychiatrist tells her she must return home to confronther past and uncover the mystery of what happened…Only some questions don’t want to be answered.And some answers hide in the shadows…In the COFFIN SHADOWS

I came across Mark Steensland earlier this year as co-author of Silver Shamrock’s, In the Scrape, which I reviewed for Horror Tree, and loved. So, when I saw his name attached to this novella, I grabbed it.

The heroine, junior school teacher Janet Martlee, has run away from her home town, her parents, ex-boyfriend, and her past twelve years. She’s built a new life for herself. This new life is thrown into turmoil when Janet starts seeing a strange teen boy dressed in a hoody. (Is he real? A ghost? A memory?) Her psychiatrist urges her to return home to confront her past with all its memories and demons. So she does!

A lot is packed into this shortish—at 120 pages—horror novella. I personally felt it could have been longer with more back story and detail to make a richer, deeper read. In particular, the ex-teen boyfriend; he’s a shadowy figure whom I’d have liked to have more page time, and more interaction with Janet. The web of conspiracy and deception goes back years; it was interesting and fun and included a shuddersome Gothic finale in the crypt. Quite a lot of characters buzz through this novella, more than a few to keep track of.

Janet’s gradual realisation of her deeply screwed up her parent’s lives is well done. It crept up on me. The hospital and cemetery scene were brilliantly menacing and sinister. Gave me the chills while wondering who is telling the truth and who is lying? And who is in on it?

Coffin Shadows is a smooth, fun-paced read with lots of action, scares, and a mystery which grips. But could have done with 50 more pages for me, and the ending felt rather rushed.

4/5 stars

Available from amazon.