WIHM: “Do You Not Get Scared?” My Life as a Horror Book Reviewer and Writer.

“Do You Not Get Scared?”

My Life as a Horror Book Reviewer and Writer.

By Lesley Ann Campbell

 

“Do you not get scared?” Does it not freak you out?” “It would freak me out!”

 

I hear this all the time from my day job. I read horror books, I review horror books and I’ve just started writing horror books. I am currently working on my first novel, tentatively titled ‘Quicksand’. I am also excited to say that a short story I wrote has been recently accepted for publication, my first acceptance. I can’t say anything else about that at the moment, but I will say that I am very excited.

 

The outsider opinion people seem to have of me is that I am some kind of iron-stomached soulless demon, because you know, if you love horror you must be like that. Non horror fans, and by that I mean people who turn green at the sheer mention of a haunted house story, seem to have this distorted view of us, the horror lovers. They just can’t understand the enjoyment that arises from scares, the intense thrill of the unknown, and the building excitement as the tension rises to critical. It is a fantastic feeling, I love to be scared witless by a book. I love reading horror. I love writing about it too. I can’t wait to sit down after I finish a book and type out my review. I relish going back over my favourite parts, telling anyone who will listen to me just how much I loved a particular character or a specific storyline. It’s truly a passion of mine. Yes I haven’t been doing it long, about eight months now actually, but to me it feels like it’s a huge part of my life. Reviewing horror stories, being offered a story from an author to read and to give my opinion on, is a dream come true for me. This, along with writing, has been something I have wanted to get into properly for so long now. I just never did it. Whether it was a form of fear, a lack of self confidence, maybe self doubt, or all of the above, I just could not bring myself to begin. Until last year when I finally did, I reached out, created a new blog where I would post all my reviews and I started contacting publishers. I soon built up a wonderful network of people, some of whom I am proud to say I now call friends.

 

My book reviewing really aids me in my writing, every time I would read something that really spoke to me, inspired me, it gave me a little push in the right direction. I finally began writing. I actually wrote the short story that has been picked up for publication while on my lunch break at work. I work as a legal cashier for a conveyancing firm; my job gives me a lot of inspiration. The office setting, the high pressure, fast paced environment is a breeding ground for ideas and inspiration. I have developed quite a good habit of typing out some short stories, blog posts and articles on my lunch break. I can then go over them and edit them at home at a later date. I find it quite therapeutic too, it can be a stressful job that I’m not always particularly fond of, and so writing is a little bit of self therapy for me halfway through the day. It breaks the mundane up and adds some flavour to my 9-5 life.

 

My life as a horror book reviewer and an aspiring horror writer has really taken off in a great way. I have so many horror books from so many talented writers in my queue to read and review. I have now submitted a second short horror story with the hope of publication, and I am working on a third. I have also recently taken up two courses in fiction writing, both giving me plenty of assignments to crack on with as well as huge amount of much needed writing experience. I have wonderful tutors who of course are writers themselves and I feel the extra tuition and work is really paying off for me.

 

I am determined. I want to be a writer. I am a writer. I am a horror writer. I would say to anyone out there who wants to review books or movies, or who wants to write, just to do it. Get out there, put yourself out there, get in the mix, and as long as you put the time and the effort in, it will happen for you. You hold the keys to your own life. Don’t let anyone hold you back, especially yourself.

 

Lesley-Ann Campbell

Lesley-Ann Campbell was born and raised in Southport, Merseyside. She still lives here today with her soon-to-be husband Andy. Horror is her passion; she loves reading, watching and writing horror. She finds inspiration from authors such as Tim Waggoner, Hunter Shea and John F. Leonard. She is currently working on her first novel, Quicksand, and hopes to have finished her first draft by the end of 2019.

You can follow Lesley’s work at: https://horrorhousewife.net/

WIHM: The Invisible Woman

In the wonderful TV series Feud: Bette and Joan, Jessica Lange as the ageing film star Joan Crawford laments there are only three kinds of roles written for women: “ingénues, mothers and gorgons”. This seems to be the case in horror fiction too. Where are all the middle-aged female characters?

I’ll tell you what got me thinking about this.

My short story, “Hair and Teeth”, first published in Aurealis #113, is about a middle-aged woman who suspects that her relentless vaginal bleeding is not due to menopause but something a lot more disturbing. Before turning my hand to fiction, I used to write health and medical information. I’ve always been fascinated and freaked out by the countless illnesses that afflict the human body and psyche. Medical snippets often find their way into my horror fiction.

Of “Hair and Teeth”, an editorial member of the Aurealis team, David Catt, wrote: “This story unbalanced my expectations with its cloying sense of unease, isolation, paranoia, and impending dread. I also enjoyed the diversity of a middle-aged female protagonist. Delightfully unsettling”. I was thrilled with his feedback, yet one of his observations struck me. Catt is right: middle-aged female protagonists are rare.

What baffles me is why. Horror fiction taps into our universal fears of disease, pain, decline and mortality. What better vehicle to explore these issues than the female body? Our reproductive system is a complicated (and some would say infernal) machine, with its visceral and bloody offerings of menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth. A lot of things can—and do—go wrong with these processes. But during the menopausal years, the female reproductive system tends to gleefully jump off the rails altogether.

While some women breeze through “the change”, others grapple with heavy and painful periods, mood swings, anxiety, depression, unbridled weight gain, insomnia, night sweats, an increased risk of various gynaecological problems including six different types of cancer, and that’s just for starters. Surely, the middle-aged woman is ripe fodder for all kinds of horror stories including body-, supernatural- and psychological-subgenres.

So, why the lack of representation?

One of my writing colleagues, aged in her early sixties, maintains that women past their reproductive prime become socially invisible. Does this invisibility carry over into fiction? I once met a writer who disliked creating female characters, especially older ones, and considered them a “necessary evil” to augment male characters—and this writer was an older woman herself. A form of self-imposed erasure? Maybe. Whatever the case, I don’t understand. Why exclude characters that could spring, authentically, from your own life experiences?

It’s not the marketplace rejecting these characters, it’s the writers themselves. “Hair and Teeth” will be reprinted in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror #4, due for release in April 2019. One of the editors, Randy Chandler, told me, “Your tale is just the sort we hope to get—extremely disturbing, highly original and of course well written. Body horror dealing with universal fears. Great stuff.”

As horror writers, we really need to start giving middle-aged female characters their own spotlight.

Deborah Sheldon

Deborah Sheldon is a professional writer from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum. Her latest releases, through several publishing houses, include the noir-horror novel Contrition, the dark fantasy and horror collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (winner of the Australian Shadows Award “Best Collected Work 2017”), the dark literary collection 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, the creature-horror novel Devil Dragon, and the bio-horror novella Thylacines. Deb’s short fiction has appeared in dozens of well-respected magazines such as Island, Quadrant, Aurealis, SQ Mag, and Midnight Echo. Her work has been shortlisted for numerous Aurealis Awards and Australian Shadows Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing. Visit Deb at http://deborahsheldon.wordpress.com.

WIHM: Scores for Horrors: Women Who Pioneered Creepy Cacophonies

Scores for Horrors: Women Who Pioneered Creepy Cacophonies
By: Cat Kenwell

You know the scores…John Carpenter’s Halloween. Bernard Hermann’s Psycho. John Williams’ Jaws. Male composers dominate the terrifying tunes that come to mind when we think of horror soundtracks.

Or do they?

Well, no. If you’re looking for the really creepy sounds—the ones that will keep you awake at night—you’ll want to give a listen to the work of three women who pioneered electronic music and scared us silly in The Innocents, The Legend of Hell House, and The Shining.

As part of a series celebrating Women in Horror Month, this blog digs into the fascinating iconic musical contributions of female composers Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, and Wendy Carlos.
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WIHM: Two Victorian Women in Horror

Two Victorian Women in Horror

Jill Hand

The nineteenth century produced some top-notch women horror writers. Today I want to draw attention to two of my favorites:  Amelia B. Edwards (1831-1892) and Bithia Mary Croker (1849-1920.)

Edwards resembled one of those supremely capable Victorian women who occasionally appear in works of fiction.  A poet, composer, journalist, and Egyptologist she excelled at pistol-shooting and horseback riding. She traveled extensively and was an active supporter of women’s suffrage. Her self-illustrated 1877 travelogue, A Thousand Miles Up the Nile, became an immediate best-seller.

Edwards also wrote horror stories. Her 1881 short story, “Was it an Illusion?” appears in the Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories, edited by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert, 1991, Oxford University Press.

Another of her stories, “The Phantom Coach,” was published in 1864. Like “Was it an Illusion?” it takes place in a harsh, wintery landscape, creating an atmosphere of terror and death. It tells of James Murray, a young lawyer who gets lost in a snowstorm while hunting on the English moors. He stumbles onto a farmhouse, apparently the home of an elderly recluse, a scientist who grudgingly allows him to come in and get warm.

I say ‘apparently’ because it’s unclear whether the old man is real or a hallucination.

Murray says he has to get back to his wife. She must be frantic with worry. His host tries to talk him out of going back out, but he insists on leaving. In that case, the old man says, he can catch the coach that carries the night mail. It’s a three-mile hike to the crossroads where it will pass by, but if he hurries he can make it.

Murray sets off in the company of a servant. It’s snowing like crazy. The servant tells him about a terrible coach accident that took place in the vicinity nine years previously. Then he leaves him to meet up with the night mail.

The stage is set. We know something spooky is about to happen.

Through the snow dim lights appear. It’s the coach! It’s freezing cold and snow is blowing down in sheets. Murray waves for the coach to stop. He’s relieved to climb inside and take a seat. But he’s not relieved for long. Something’s funny about the coach. It’s falling apart and it smells bad and there’s something wrong with the other passengers.

 I won’t give away the ending, but it’s worth reading.

The second of the two female Victorian horror writers who merits mention is Bithia Mary Croker (1849-1920.) She wrote novels and short stories based on her 14 years in India and Burma, from 1877 to 1892.

Her short story, “To Let,” tells of a family driven from their vacation rental by the sounds of a fatal accident that happened there years earlier.

It’s an early example of the trope of the house that at first seems too good to be true but is gradually revealed to hide a dark secret.

The house is called Briarwood. It’s in Shimla, in the foothills of the Himalayas. The accident that triggered the haunting involved a horse and rider falling from the verandah and sliding down the mountainside. Everything’s fine while the weather’s good. Then on rainy evenings the terrified occupants of the house start to hear a series of sounds. First there’s the clip-clop of hooves as a rider approaches. Then a man’s voice calls out a greeting from the verandah, followed by a splintering crash and a woman’s scream. Nothing is seen, only heard, but hearing is bad enough. Finally the family can stand it no more, and flees.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Rudyard Kipling’s short story, “The Phantom Rickshaw,” is also set in Shimla. In it, Kipling casually mentions various local hauntings. He states, ‘Dalhousie says that one of her houses “repeats” on autumn evenings all the incidents of a horrible horse-and-precipice accident.’

The town of Dalhousie is spread out over five hills in the northern Indian state of Himachal  Pradesh. Shimla is its capital. It was also the summer capital of British India. It is famous for its spectacular mountain scenery. Its houses and roads cling to the mountainsides, with sheer drops to the gorges below. It seems evident that Kipling and Croker were describing the same haunting. The question is, was Briarwood a real house that experienced a “repeat” haunting, or was it just a rumor?

Several of Croker’s horror stories set in India were written from the viewpoint of a woman driven from her home. Her descriptions of life in the “hill stations” seem enviable at first. The transplanted English residents enjoy a social whirl of teas and concerts and excursions to points of interest, made possible by numerous Indian servants.

The sense of unease slowly builds, as it becomes evident that the narrators are outsiders in a land where their presence is tolerated but not welcome. The ghosts they encounter serve both as a warning to those who venture into places where they’re not wanted and as a symbol of the negative effects of empire. It is especially appropriate to us from a twenty-first-century viewpoint. But even simply taken at face value they’re enjoyable horror stories.

Jill Hand

Jill Hand is a member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. Her short stories have appeared in Test Patterns, Test Patterns: Creature Features, and Caravans Awry, from Planet X Publications. Her literary criticism of the work of Shirley Jackson appeared in Vastarien: Vol. 1, Issue 2. Her Southern Gothic thriller, White Oaks, will be released in May by Black Rose Writing.

You can see Jill’s Amazon Author Page Right Here!

WIHM: Publishing, Self-Publishing, and Choosing to be Seen

Publishing, Self-Publishing, and Choosing to be Seen

By Sonora Taylor

 

Traditional or self-publishing – what’ll it be? We’re in an era where one can choose both. I think that’s especially helpful for writers who are unsure about how they want to get their stuff out there, but know for sure that they want to.

 

I was that writer in 2016, when one of my New Year’s resolutions was to spend a little time writing after work each day. I started a short story I’d been plotting in my head for a few months – a story that eventually became “All the Pieces Coming Together.” I finished that one, and wrote another one. Then another. Then, I started a piece that I slowly realized would become my first novel.

 

The publishing side of writing is a whole other world, and almost a full-time job; whether you’re querying with publishers or deciding to go at it on your own. I decided to self-publish before I discovered the ins and outs of submitting to publishers. I’d heard the pros and cons of self-publishing, and decided I liked the pros of it.

 

Two years into self-publishing, I still do. I like being able to choose things like my title and who gets to design my cover (all of my covers were illustrated by the super-talented Doug Puller). I like being able to work consistently with my wonderful editor, Evelyn Duffy. I like seeing my books sell, and I like hearing feedback from readers. And, I especially like getting to see just what happens when I put my work out in the world.

 

Nothing huge has happened yet. None of my work has blown up, but it also hasn’t collected digital dust. It’s been read, and it’s been enjoyed – all at a calm and steadily-growing pace, one I can still control by controlling the publishing side as much as the writing side.

 

This control has helped give me more confidence to put my work out there. I have anxiety, and something that often sets off my panic is unforeseen ramifications from putting something of mine out in the world (be it a book, an email, or even an opinion – it’s exhausting, but that’s for another post). Before publishing my first short story collection, I was fraught with nerves. What will people think? What if everyone hates it and there are hate blogs or hate tweets talking about how shitty my work is? I still remember my heart ramming in my chest at these thoughts, the sadness and ways out I was devising for these scenarios. It took up a lot of my time, time that would’ve been better spent writing.

 

When I self-published “The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales,” none of those things happened. It sold at a reasonable pace. It got some reviews on Amazon (all positive for now – yay) and appeared on strangers’ Goodreads shelves. It’s still out there and still selling. It’s quietly present – an evergreen experience I’ve found with each piece, and an experience that helps to temper my anxieties about sharing my work.

 

By choosing to self-publish, I was able to give myself a confidence boost that’s made writing, submitting, and publishing a much less stressful experience. When I was first submitting, I went through similar panicked experiences before ever pressing “Send.” Self-publishing isn’t a catch-all for what comes next, but it gave me a good idea – and helped calm me down during the submission process. I began submitting more peacefully, looking at calls for stories and getting my stuff out there, but always with the knowledge that I had choices when it came to releasing my work – work that people wanted to read, and work that people enjoyed. And wouldn’t you know, I got my first acceptance almost one year after self-publishing “The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales.”

 

I can’t say what my future in publishing will hold. Even if I end up releasing something through a publishing company, I don’t know if I’ll ever give up self-publishing. I like setting my own production and distribution schedule, and I like working with Doug and Evelyn. I also like having self-publishing as a constant in terms of getting my work out there. I like being able to do both, and I think authors being able to choose both is a great place to be in.

 

You can check out Sonora’s latest release, ‘Without Condition’ on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NJDCWGQ/

Sonora Taylor

Sonora Taylor is the author of The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” was included in Camden Park Press’ Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Her work has also been published in The Sirens Call and Mercurial Stories. “The Crow’s Gift” will be featured on the horror podcast “Tales to Terrify” later in 2019. Her second novel, Without Condition, is now available in ebook and paperback on Amazon. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.

Find Sonora Online:

Website: https://sonorawrites.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sonorawrites
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sonorataylor/
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/sonorawrites/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17015434.Sonora_Taylor

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Sonora-Taylor/e/B075BR5Q7F/

Blog: sonorawrites.com/blog

The Horror Tree Presents…an Interview with Josh Schlossberg

Ruschelle: Thank you for joining us here at The Horror Tree, Josh. I hope you enjoy answering questions about your life…and death. Bwahahahaha!

Just kidding. Let’s get carve some meat off the bone; you’re an award-winning investigative journalist. What is it that pushes you to search for the truth?  Were you inspired by Fox Mulder? Is the truth really out there?

Josh: The voices in my head won’t let me rest. I’ve yet to figure out whether they’re angels, demons, or as Mr. Mulder would insist, aliens.

Years ago when I was an activist and organizer, I could only see the world through one lens, and therefore anyone else looking through another was obviously wrong. However, as I transitioned over to journalist—where I genuinely try to represent a spectrum of viewpoints as accurately as I can—I began to find a kernel of truth in almost every perspective…along with a big fat load of b.s.

 

Ruschelle:  Since you ARE an award-winning journalist, which story or stories have garnered you an award(s)?

Josh: Sorry, after bribing the awards committee I was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so I’m not at liberty to discuss.

 

Ruschelle: You are the Editor-n-Chief as well as a journalist for The Biomass Monitor; “The Nations leading publication investigating the whole story on bioenergy, biomass, and biofuels.” Absolute serious stuff! How did you become engrossed in bioenergy and how does it affect the telling of your non-fiction tales?

Josh: Mostly because I believe in Ents. My love for forests got me deep into ecology and biology which I incorporate into much of my horror fiction.
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