WIHM: An Interview With Sonora Taylor

Hi Sonora, and welcome to The Horror Tree! Since this site is a writer’s resource, these questions will be catered toward that area. I’m so happy you’ve joined us! Let’s get started.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your writing life, and what works you have out there or are working on:

Sonora: Thank you! I am a fiction writer living in Arlington, Virginia; just outside of D.C. I’ve been writing off and on my whole life, but got serious about it in 2016. I’ve written two novels: Please Give, a contemporary fiction novel that was loosely inspired by my work in the non-profit sector; and Without Condition, which is out February 12 and follows a serial killer navigating through her first relationship.

I’ve also written several short stories. I have two collections available: The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, and Wither and Other Stories. My short fiction has also been published by Mercurial Stories, The Sirens Call, and Camden Park Press’s Quoth the Raven.

Erin: I recently had the pleasure of pre-reading Without Condition, and it was an entertaining ride into revenge in rural North Carolina. 1) Tell readers about the book. 2) What was your inspiration for writing a novel featuring a female serial killer?

Sonora: Without Condition follows Cara Vineyard, a 22-year-old woman who has a deadly side gig. Only her mother knows that she’s a serial killer. Her mother not only knows, but proudly displays souvenirs from her kills on a bulletin board in the house. Things get complicated when Cara meets and falls for a man named Jackson, who doesn’t know her secrets. She knows her mother loves her no matter what, but she isn’t sure Jackson will feel the same – and she doesn’t want to find out.

I was first inspired by an article about the band Ghost. The lead singer, Tobias Forge, used to perform anonymously under various names – Pope Emeritus I-IV, Cardinal Copia, etc. – but he came forward with his identity recently. He said one of the reasons was because his mother was so proud of him that she kept bragging about him to her friends and neighbors in Sweden, and he figured he couldn’t keep it a secret for long.

For those unfamiliar with Ghost, the lead singer frequently performs while dressed as a Satanic priest and in full skull makeup. I found it hilarious imagining this man’s proud mother saying, “That’s my son!” That led to me thinking about what it would be like if the child in question was actually doing bad things and the mother was still proud. I thought of a serial killer, and then to mix things up, I decided to make the killer a woman. The story grew from there, especially once I thought up the woman’s boyfriend.

Taken on a drive down I-40, heading towards Asheville. One of Cara Vineyard’s favorite roads to drive on.

Erin: I believe this is your first horror novel. How did you formulate a plan to write the novel, what was your process, and how did you plot it out to completion?

Sonora: This is my first horror novel, yes. As far back as I can remember writing, my work has always fallen either into contemporary fiction – slice-of-life, etc. – or horror. I actually had some ideas for a second novel that weren’t horror at all. One was a story about a young film studies professor. Another is one I’d still like to write, about two women taking a road trip to different breweries – think The Trip, but with women and beer.

I was trying to write these stories – and getting stuck – while waiting for my editor, Evelyn Duffy, to send back her edits for Please Give. When we met up to discuss Please Give, she told me that, while she enjoyed the book, she thought my talents were more pronounced in my horror. She encouraged me to keep writing horror and to consider a longer horror piece. It was shortly after that when I saw the Ghost article I mentioned before, so I was encouraged to see the idea through to a novel when I realized it was growing beyond my initial, contained idea of a mother who was proud of her murderer daughter.

Because I was editing Please Give, I wrote an outline – only about half of which made the final cut (heh) – and also wrote the first two chapters while I was feeling inspired. I took some time to think about key scenes, write notes, and flesh out some characters (which I’ll talk about further below).

I enjoyed seeing this book grow, especially because it didn’t come to me quite as easily as Please Give. Please Give had plenty of challenges, but sitting down to write and coming up with ideas wasn’t one of them. I think writing a first novel, for all its rewards, also sets you up for quite a challenge with the second book because now you have expectations, both from others and yourself. I’m glad I saw it through, though, because I like seeing how my writing has changed and seeing all the different kinds of stories I can tell.

A truck outside of a popular dairy farm in Orange County, North Carolina. My family and I get ice cream here in the summer.

Erin: Since you live in the Washington D.C. area, and your book was set in North Carolina, did you have to do much research for the descriptive elements of your setting? It certainly felt like the rural south when I read it!

Sonora: I’ve lived in the D.C. area most of my life, almost 21 years as of this interview. However, I also lived in North Carolina for eight years, when my dad was transferred to Durham. We lived in Chapel Hill, I went to high school in Durham, and I went to college at NC State in Raleigh (go Wolfpack). I’ve also spent time in Garner, Clayton, Carrboro, and Asheville for visits; and we regularly drove through Eden and Burlington on our way to visit my relatives in Roanoke, Virginia.

I’ve never lived in a town as small as Leslie (Leslie, Pinesboro, and Egret’s Bay are all fictional N.C. towns, by the way; but every other town mentioned is real). I’ve visited towns that small, though; and the places where I lived were next to towns like Leslie. I based a lot of the look of Leslie on my memories of those places. I also drew on my memories of long drives, hanging out in Raleigh, and spending a lot of time in the woods. My parents and I love hiking. I was a frequent visitor of B Umstead Park in Cary and Eno River Park in Durham. My neighborhood in Chapel Hill was surrounded by woods, and held manmade ponds that my parents, dog, and I liked to walk around, mostly to watch the geese in the winter.

Eno River Trail in Durham, North Carolina. A great place to hike.

Erin: How did you form your characters? Both your protagonist and her supporting cast of characters? Which character was the easier to write? Which was the hardest?

Sonora: I came up with Cara and Delores first, since my initial idea was a proud mother of a daughter that wasn’t doing things worthy of that pride. I knew the story would be from Cara’s point-of-view, but even as I wrote the world around her, I found her to be a tough nut to crack. One challenge I had to overcome was to avoid infusing her with the personality of people I’d written before, especially Beth, the protagonist of Please Give. Early drafts had Cara being more anxious and more sorrowful about what other people thought of her. I knew deep down, though, that a) this wasn’t Cara’s personality, and b) rewriting the same character, but as a serial killer, wouldn’t be interesting for either myself or my readers.

However, to get to that point, I had to write Cara’s story; and as such, I had to write the people around her. Jackson came to me next, and he was probably the easiest character to write. Despite his tendency to get quiet when he’s angry or afraid, he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, at least when he’s around Cara. He’s not afraid to talk about his life or his fears the way Cara and Delores are. I definitely had to trim down a lot of his dialogue when I was revising – that man can prattle.

I had the opposite problem with Delores. She was the hardest character to write, because – as you’ll see in many of her scenes – getting her to say anything about herself is an almost impossible task. I often grew irritated when writing her scenes with Cara because Delores would either go on offense or refuse to speak. Thus, I was really satisfied with the scenes where she finally did open up (and where I, as the writer, felt it fit her character).

I came up with Cara’s job because of how much the transitory nature of being a delivery girl suited her (and not just for finding victims), and also as a nod to North Carolina’s craft beer scene. I ended up finding a good supporting cast with her coworkers. They went through quite a bit of fluctuation – how many coworkers she had, who they were, etc. I liked that there were people apart from Cara’s mother, boyfriend, and victims that we could see her interact with.

Most of the other characters came through when I finally sat down and wrote her back story, which I’ll talk more about below!

Manmade pond in my old neighborhood in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I loved growing up near trees and water, even if the bodies of water were small.
Erin: Did you have any breakthroughs while writing your book? How did you work

Erin: Did you have any breakthroughs while writing your book? How did you work though any hiccup areas with your writing?

Sonora: I did! It’s always the best feeling when you get past a hiccup area – it’s like a puzzle that finally has enough pieces assembled that you can just drop in the rest without thinking. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about too many of them in-depth because they are spoilery. But I had two that I’m happy to talk about.

One, as I mentioned above, was coming up with Jackson. When it was just Delores and Cara, I had a good idea for a short story, something that was a darkly funny one-time punch. “Oh, ha ha, a mom displays souvenirs from her kid’s kills like tests and drawings. This could go somewhere.” It ended up going to Cara meeting a man that she gets serious with, but who doesn’t know as much about her as her mother does. From there, I found the theme of unconditional love and what it means to say you love someone no matter what. The rest of the story spun out from there.

The other was settling on Cara’s back story, and one that I was satisfied with. This was a portion I had to force myself to sit down and write in order to be able to finish the book. I’d written several portions of the book before this one, but I was getting stuck. I actually had a few different back stories noted and outlined; but as I wrote the rest of the story, they didn’t feel right. I knew, though, that I needed to establish Cara’s why and how if I was going to ask my readers to follow this person for an entire narrative – and of course, I myself wanted to know.

Rather than continue to write her back story in piecemeal, I forced myself to work from beginning to end, Cara as a child to Cara’s first kill. This helped me meet two characters that were only (or mostly) in her past, yet proved to be pretty important parts of her present. It also gave me a sense of how she was treated by her peers and her teachers, what her life was like in Leslie, and how she interacted with her mother when she was more under her mother’s control.

Writing out her back story helped the rest of the narrative, especially the parts I was stuck on, to fall into place. It wasn’t until I wrote other parts that I could see Cara’s history more clearly. This in turn helped me finish the book and round things out in a satisfying manner.

Another manmade pond in a grove in our neighborhood.

Erin: What challenges do you find in self-publishing your work? I almost forgot that it was honestly. How do you do such a good job of making it look so presentable? Any tips and tricks? Any lessons learned to share with others?

Sonora: The biggest challenge is marketing. You have to Always Be Promoting, and the hardest part about that for me is talking about my own work in ways that sell. I get self-conscious about constantly reminding people that my books are for sale, and get even more self-conscious about what to say that doesn’t sound generic, or like I’m patting myself on the back too much.

I find ways, though; and also push past my own fears and just put it out there. I like to hop onboard hashtags or relevant holidays. I also really appreciate people on social media who ask authors to reply with their books. I need to remember to do that myself. I also try to make sure I’m talking about the book as its author first and foremost – what it was like to write it, sharing my excitement over seeing people buy it and read it, sharing pics of me with my proof copies, etc. Yes, it’s marketing; but I also do it because I genuinely want to talk about those aspects of writing. Those are thus a little easier to do in terms of marketing my work.

My biggest tip is to let people who are professionals at each stage of creating the book – the editing, the cover art, and the formatting – do it for you. If you’re a great graphic designer and/or cover artist as well as a great writer, that’s awesome. I’m neither an artist nor a designer, and I’ve read too many horror stories about what happens when a Word doc gets formatted by Amazon. So, I pay someone else to do it. I frequently work with Doug Puller, who does the formatting for both ebook and paperback, and also draws my covers and the title page illustrations.

Even if you’re a great editor, most will tell you to hire another editor to edit your book. I frequently work with Evelyn Duffy of Open Boat Editing, and she’s great. My work has always improved after she gives it her once-over.

My biggest lesson has been allowing myself time to promote the book ahead of its release. For my first couple books, I put them online very shortly after Doug finished formatting them. This didn’t give me much time to get them out for advance reviews or even to settle down and think of ways to market them. I waited to do that after they were available. They haven’t suffered, but I also wish I’d taken some time to nurture them between being finished on my end and being out in the world – if for nothing else, to help with my own sanity come release day. It’s definitely much more peaceful to not be scrambling to put the finishing touches on everything days before release!

Title page illustration for Without Condition. Art by Doug Puller.

Erin: You also write short horror fiction and had a story in the anthology Quoth the Raven, the anthology in homage to Edgar Allan Poe that just recently made the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards. What was the title of your story and what was it about?

Sonora: The title of the story is “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” which takes “The Tell-Tale Heart” and moves it to Instagram. It follows an influencer who thrives on being seen online, but must reconcile that with hiding the fact that she’s murdered her boyfriend. I’ve always liked how the horror of “The Tell-Tale Heart” is all in the narrator’s mind, and how his paranoia comes from how he thinks he’s being seen. I think living our lives online, and performing our lives for an audience, creates its own brand of paranoia; one that translates well into such a story.

Erin: Now that you’ve written several types of work, do you prefer to write short fiction or novels more? Which do you find more of a challenge and why?

Sonora: I don’t have a preference for one or the other. I write more short stories, but that’s kind of a given considering the length. Almost all of my ideas start as short stories, with some growing into novels. After finishing Please Give, I got more ideas that started as novels; but it’s been harder to sit down and follow them through, even when I start to write.

Because of this and other reasons, novels are more of a challenge for me to write. I feel like a lot of my ideas can be wrapped up in 2,000 – 5,000 words. I also find it harder to make sure something is interesting for the length of a novel. Does the premise wear out its welcome after a certain length? How can I increase the stakes? Once I latch onto an idea and how to expand it, writing a novel becomes easier. But more often than not, I find it easier to sit down and write a short story.

In general, I try to just sit down, write, and see how long the story will be. I’m usually steered in the right direction, both by my own writing and by Evelyn’s edits afterward. This is also why I don’t like outlining – it makes me feel pressured to make something longer or shorter than it may end up being.

Photo 8 Caption Umstead-trees: “Trees at B Umstead Park. I spent most of my life near the woods, both in Virginia and in North Carolina.”

 

Erin: Since this is a special edition interview for Women in Horror Month, talk about some of the female author influences or inspirations in horror you’ve had over the years or women you want to read more of while perfecting your craft? And why.

Sonora: So, I admit that while I enjoy reading horror, my formative horror reading years were bad at including women! I’ve been trying to read more horror and dark fiction by women in my adult years, though; and have also found inspiration from women who may not write traditional horror, but who have a knack for darker prose.

One influence is Flannery O’Connor. I like how she’ll present something horrific as mundane – she allows the horror to speak for itself. I’m also inspired by Gillian Flynn. I like how all of her characters are flawed, and there’s no answer as to who’s right or who’s good – not to mention no easy way out from the horrors her characters encounter.

Two other women I admire weren’t known for horror, but their melancholy prose was an influence on my work as well: Edith Wharton and Anita Shreve. They wrote in cold, heavy ways; but you never felt sad or depressed while reading their work. You saw it as just so – which, depending on the story, could be the scariest part.

Erin: What female writers in horror working today do you admire and why?

Sonora: I’ve been excited by all the recent works by women who write horror and dark fiction. I like Carmen Maria Machado a lot. I’ve also only read one book a piece by Oyinkan Braithwaite and Han Kang (My Sister, the Serial Killer and The Vegetarian, respectively), but I greatly enjoyed both.

I’ve also been thrilled to discover so many great women horror authors online and in the indie author scene. I love the short stories of Sheri White and Christa Carmen, and really enjoy Loren Rhoads’ cemetery travel books.

Erin: What are some of your most favorite short stories or books by women in horror you’ve read?

Sonora: A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, “Inventories” by Carmen Maria Machado, The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, and “Ashes to Ashes” by Sheri White; to name a few.

Erin: People still tend to cringe or look away when you say you’re a woman who writes horror. Do you find this in your life? If so, what do you tell people? Why do you write horror?

Sonora: I haven’t found this in my life, no; but I’ve definitely witnessed it. One of the things that irritates me is when people go out of their way to say a work of horror written by a woman isn’t horror. You’ll see things like “dark romance” or “haunting tale” and I think, why not call it horror? I’m fine with “dark fiction,” but otherwise, I think you should call it what it is, and make people realize that what they’re reading by a given woman is absolutely horror.

I write horror because I’m drawn to it, and because the story ideas I find interesting enough to follow through on tend to be dark. I like taking innocent things and giving them a sinister twist – sometimes darkly funny, but always dark. That’s what I like to read and watch, so it makes sense that it’d be what I like to write too. I believe in the mantra of writing what you yourself want to read.

Here I am almost twelve years ago, lounging on some rocks at B Umstead Park outside of Cary, North Carolina. I loved hiking there with my friends when I was at NC State.

Erin: What can the genre do to continue to support female writers?

Sonora: While my issues with genre classification happen at the marketing level, horror publishers in particular should take care to ensure they’re not marketing their women writers any differently from the men. Are they playing up things like naughtiness, or how shocking it is that a woman wrote this? If so, stop. Women have been writing horror for years. Focus on their talents as a writer, not the fact that a GIRL is writing about blood and guts.

While this is more of a service for women readers, I’d also like to make a plea to not rely on assault, rape, or sexual trauma to give a woman character her motivation. I’m so tired of reading horror stories or horror comics where a woman is raped, groped, or otherwise sexually traumatized to get her story going; and in ways her male counterparts almost never are. There are plenty of other ways to drive women in fiction to madness.

Erin: What is up next for you in terms of your writing career?

Sonora: I’m finishing up three short stories in progress, which will be included in my next short story collection. I plan to release a longer collection than my last two, one with 17 pieces so far (both flash fiction and longer short stories). Once I finish those, I’m going to see if the ideas I’ve been getting for my third novel will come into fruition on paper.

Erin: Thanks so much for talking with me today on The Horror Tree! We all wish you the best best in your writing career for 2019 and beyond.

Sonora: You’re welcome! Thanks for speaking with me.

Sonora Taylor, Biography –

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 published in Camden Park Press’s 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, a bi-monthly horror eZine; and Mercurial Stories, a weekly flash fiction literary journal. Her second novel, Without Condition, was released on February 12, 2019. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.

Follow Sonora on Facebook | Follow Sonora on Twitter

Follow Sonora on Goodreads | Follow Sonora on Instagram

Read about Without Condition and Add to GoodReads HERE!

Video Refresh: James Dorr Interview

A Sample of our interview with James Dorr by: Ruschelle Dillon. In the interview, he has a lot of fun details on his take on the writing process. If you delve into the full interview there is a lot of playful details on his life on top of that!

After watching the video, please like, share, and subscribe to our channel!

This is a new format that we’re playing around with for articles, interviews, and potentially Trembling With Fear. Please let us know if this is something that you’d like to see more of!

You can read the full interview here: https://horrortree.com/horror-tree-presentsjames-dorr/.

WIHM: Horror Is For Women

Over the years, the ridiculous stigma of women being too delicate and pure for horror has been smothered beneath the millions of female horror fans filling cinemas and bookstores across the world. The idea itself is rightfully laughed at and it is finally mainstream to shake your head at anyone who would suggest that the horror genre is not for women (because unfortunately there are still some people out there who like to assume that.)

However, there is still work to do in regards to ensuring that women are given equal opportunity and recognition in other aspects of horror culture.

Although we’re not in the 1950s anymore and women are seen as being able to enjoy horror, there is still the issue of women not being capable of ‘making’ horror, whether it be horror-themed books, films, video games or other types of storytelling media. It’s concerning how few women are recognised or even included in contributing to this treasured genre.

This is almost an extension from the past stigma that women are too weak and incapable of appreciating horror because they are meant for sunshine and pink flowers. The image of us clinging our cool and collected boyfriend in the cinema, squealing as the tiniest drop of blood appears on the screen is still a stereotype and that doesn’t help women creators trying to make their mark in creative industries.

This is apparent by the obvious lack of female representation in the horror genre. From authors, screenwriters, directors, film/book critics or other creative roles, women are the minority in regards to creating horror – let’s not forget actual minority women such as women of colour, trans women, LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary people who make up an even smaller proportion of female creators in horror.

Women of all sorts have been writing/directing/making horror narratives for years from Mary Shelley to Shirley Jackson and Anne Rice, from Julia Ducournau to Ana Lily Amirpour and Susanne Bier. Their work is acclaimed and has stained the pages of history, yet little respect is still shown towards their work and towards their humanity.

Jennifer Kent, multi-award-winning director and writer of The Babadook, 2014 and Nightingale, 2018 was called a ‘whore’ by a journalist at the Venice Film Festival (where The Nightingale was the only woman-directed film competing that year). Kent responded with grace saying that “it’s not about me, but it is quite hard for me because I wish I had my sister filmmakers here. It’s important we move towards gender parity. Cinema’s job is to reflect the world, and if we only reflect 50% of the world, then it’s not doing its job. It’s a very serious issue.”

Even industry giants are hesitant to take a chance on new or less famous female creators as shown in October last year as Jason Blum (of Bloodhouse Productions) made a statement that “there are not a lot of female directors period and even less who are inclined to do horror”. Although Blum sincerely apologised for this statement which was lukewarm in comparison to the insulting of Kent, this represented the wide-spread ignorance surrounding women in horror (and women in the film industry). Women creators do exist in large numbers, we just aren’t given the same opportunities hence there are few of us on top of the ladder or within the mainstream – who are apparently the only women in the world who make horror films/novels.

It’s hard to imagine the doubt some must have in regards to women’s capability to express and experience fear – most of us are deadly cautious even as we walk home late at night or when a man. Horror is not a gender (or ethnicity, or sexuality) exclusive club yet there are still gatekeepers that deny women any recognition or inclusion.

Excuse the obvious statement but horror is for women to enjoy and to make as freely as men – it’s clear that we are capable and it’s clear that we are willing to do so, yet the doors remain consistently closed for us.

Claire L. Smith is an Australian author, poet and filmmaker. Her work has been featured in Luna Luna Magazine, The Horror Tree, Horror Scribes, Death and the Maiden, Anti-Heroin Chic, Mookychick, The Opal Club, Moonchild Magazine and more. Aside from writing, she is also the poetry and fiction editor at Peculiars Magazine and a film critic with Morbidly Beautiful.

You can find more of Claire’s work at: www.clairelsmith.com

 

Taking Submissions: Blasphemous Rumors

Deadline: July 31st, 2019
Payment:

Blasphemous Rumors Call for Submissions

Blasphemous Rumors is a themed anthology of religious horror stories edited by David Barnett and Regina Garza Mitchell. We are seeking dark short stories that focus on religion or spirituality, stories that may be considered blasphemous by the standards of your religion of choice. We are looking for quality dark fiction, not hate-filled rants against religion.

Technical Details: Stories should be formatted in standard manuscript submission format. Stories should be no longer than 5000 words and should be original. Reprints are not accepted. We will not accept simultaneous or multiple submissions.

PAYMENT: $.03 per word up to 5000 words plus two copies of the trade paperback.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: July 31st, 2019.

Stories should be submitted as an attachment to: [email protected]

Examples of Blasphemy

The term blasphemy refers to saying something about God that is disrespectful. It can also refer to degrading religious concepts or literature. Blasphemy can be included in speech, an act, writing, music, or art.

Blasphemy in Everyday Life

  • Some consider rapper Kanye West’s album name “Yeezus” and his consideration of himself as equal to Jesus to be blasphemous.
  • Burning a religious document such as the Bible or the Qu’ran is considered blasphemy.
  • Vandalizing a church is a form of blasphemy.
  • Worshipping Satan is blasphemous.
  • Committing suicide is a form of blasphemy.
  • To state that God is unkind, unjust or cruel is a blasphemous.
  • Artist Andres Serrano created what he called artwork by submerging a plastic replica of the crucified Jesus Christ in a container of his own urine and photographing it as a means, he stated, of exposing the ills of religion. However, this 1987 piece of work was considered highly blasphemous and was destroyed in 2011 during protests in France. The name of the work was Piss Christ.
  • In the popular television show, Sex and the City, one episode featured what some considered to be blasphemous artwork. The episode revolved largely around a painting of a woman, crucified as Jesus Christ was, featured in a New York gallery.
  • Pastor Terry Jones is the head of a church in Florida who, in 2010, is considered blasphemous of Islamic religion due to his suggestion to hold a “Burn the Qu’ran Day,” his publication of a book entitled Islam Is of the Devil, and his purveyorship of shirts and cups that spread the same message.
  • The animated American television show, The Simpsons, has been taken to task for blasphemy after broadcasting episodes in which the devil purportedly was bullying God, amongst various other perceived blasphemies.
  • Also underfire for broadcasting blasphemous language is the American animated comedy, Family Guy. Known for its offbeat humor, Family Guy featured Jesus in one particular episode that painted Him in a perverted manner, causing a firestorm of protest.
  • Islam’s Prophet Mohammad is often the source of blasphemy. His image, according to Islamic law, is not to be printed yet many cartoonists and others around the world have been considered blasphemous for doing so. In 2006, Norwegian and Danish newspapers faced serious backlash and threats of retribution from Islamic nations for printing cartoons that featured Prophet Mohammad. While the act of printing the cartoons, themselves, would have been considered blasphemy unto itself, the cartoons also featured the Prophet in poses that were considered “unflattering,” particularly one in which the Prophet’s image was made to look like a terrorist.
  • In 2010, American animated comedy South Park, also produced images of the Prophet Mohammad in an episode that featured the Prophet as a bear mascot. Angered by the perceived blasphemy, one Islamic website threatened the producers of the show for what they deemed as a high level of disrespect for the Prophet.

Now you have seen many different examples of blasphemy.

Via: Necro Publications.

Trembling With Fear 02/14/2019 – Love Isn’t In The Air!

Valentine’s Day. The ultimate Hallmark holiday which has taken over consumerism to allow us to show our love, lust, and obsessions over one another. Also a holiday created to possibly adopt and take over the pagan holiday Lupercalia. It’s that one on February 15th where an order of Roman priests would sacrifice a goat and dog, take their hides, drench them in the sacrificial blood, and take to the strips to lightly slap women and crop fields with them to increase fertility and harvest yields.

So that was a thing.

With the crazy shenanigans which gave birth to what is now a consumer-driven holiday in mind I’m sure you can expect some fun readings in the works below about love and loss.

Enjoy!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Dear Valentine (A Twisted Valentine’s Day Love Story)

Dear Valentine,

How could you?

When you suggested we try some role-playing for Valentine’s Day, I thought you’d taken it a little too far. I didn’t think you were into cosplay, and honestly, it’d never really turned me on. And then when you brought home that Roman Emperor costume a few days before the 14th, I began to reconsider. The more I thought about it, well—I just knew I’d get to play your concubine, and you’d make me do very naughty things that your wife would never do.

I agree our affair had gone a little stale; it wasn’t nearly as much fun as when we only had the odd afternoon to sneak into bed. But then your wife kicked you out and you moved in with me. It happened quickly, and the excitement dulled soon afterwards. I often wondered if you’d go back to your wife if—rather, when—we decided to call it quits.

But this—this was something new. When you said you’d had to special-order my costume, I was even more intrigued. Something special, you said. Something I’d remember for the rest of my life.

After you’d left the next morning, I had to take another look. I trailed my fingers over the metal breastplate, and imagined it cool and hard against my skin. Your toga was a deep purple silk, with gold embroidered wreathes dancing at its edges. I took it in my palms and drew it across my face. I inhaled, imagining the ecstasy of our clandestine Roman encounter. And the sword and sheath…it was heavy, like solid gold, in my hand. Carefully, I pulled the sword from its metal sheath and ran my thumb across its blade. I hoped you’d hold it up to my throat and force me to be subservient. I’d never imagined this type of thing…but now I simply couldn’t stop.

For two days, I peppered you with questions and asked how I should prepare. I guess I got a little sulky when you wouldn’t tell me, but I thought my lippy pout might encourage a hint from you…it certainly used to get your attention, in fact, you used to like it. You didn’t bite; instead, you became increasingly irritated with me. But I was determined to make our Valentine’s Day as naughty as possible, and I kept imagining how aroused you’d be once you saw me as your concubine.

On Valentine’s Day morning, my costume still hadn’t arrived. You kissed me and told me not to worry, that it was being delivered to your office that day.

I busied myself around the house all day, chilling champagne, putting fresh sheets on the bed, enjoying a luxurious sweet-smelling bath. I was ready to be conquered.

You walked in with a strange, excited smile. I ran to you and grabbed the gift-wrapped box from under your arm, giggling with nervous anticipation. Impatient now, I undid the ribbon and clawed apart the wrapping. I lifted the box top and pulled the tissue paper aside to discover only a white linen tunic and a rusty-red cloak. A pair of leather, fisherman-type sandals. A large, wooden crucifix on a jute cord. This wasn’t at all what I’d imagined—where were the silks, the slippers…the jewelry?

I know I must have looked disappointed as I tossed my costume to the floor. Well, I was a little irked…this wasn’t sexy at all! How did you expect I’d respond?

Trust me, you said. Put it on. We’re about to pretend today is the first Valentine’s Day ever…it’ll be exhilarating, I guarantee you. Now, I want this to be a surprise, you explained, so I’m going to dress in the bedroom, and you can use the bathroom to get ready.

I grudgingly picked up the tunic, the cloak, the sandals and the crucifix and slowly shuffled to the bath. This wasn’t at all what I expected. But I hoped we could still create a mood and save the evening.

First, I pulled the tunic over my head. It fit well but was rough against my naked chest; optimistically, I convinced myself I wouldn’t be wearing it very long. Surprisingly, the cloak was the right length, and the sandals were my size. Clearly, you’d put significant thought into this. As I slipped the crucifix over my head, I looked at my reflection in the mirror. What a strange juxtaposition this was, my ill-prepared whore’s makeup and these religious togs. I wondered if this was meant to be what St. Valentine actually looked like.

I exited the bathroom, a little unsure of what was to happen next. But when you saw me, you smiled that strange smile again, and drew me closer. Let me look at you, you said. Yes, you’re perfect. It’s perfect.

And you, of course, were magnificent. The metal breastplate, your toga, your belt and gold sheath—it was perfect. But still, I didn’t understand the meaning of our role-play.

I asked you, why St. Valentine? Why wasn’t I your concubine, like I’d imagined?

You held me close, then led me to a kitchen stool. Sit here and I’ll explain, you said, and I did as requested.

Let me tell you the story of St. Valentine, you continued. And you proceeded to explain the relationship between Emperor Caligula and St. Valentine, and how Caligula tortured the saint for his insistence on marrying young Christians in love. In the end, you added, after horrible beatings, Caligula finally decapitated St. Valentine.

I can only imagine the expression on my face upon receiving the history lesson. You didn’t seem surprised at my reaction, though. I sat, puzzled and rather terrified by the tale.

Why would you tell me such a gruesome story? I asked. I think it’s horrible. And besides, this is Valentine’s Day—a day for love and romance! Where’s the romance in this entire…charade?

You stood behind me, and whispered in my ear. Well, you said, that’s the funny thing; it is romantic, strangely enough…see, my wife and I have been seeing each other again…and we’re getting back together.

I suppose I will never forget this moment, I thought. And then I heard the metallic zing of your sword being pulled from its sheath.

 

 

 

Cat Kenwell

Cat Kenwell is a writer, mediator and adjudicator living with a brain injury. Her work has appeared in Brainstorm Revolution and Chicken Soup for the Soul, and she is a contributor to Trembling with Fear. She’s currently writing a ‘real-life-horror-story’ comedy based on her experiences with PTSD and post-concussion syndrome. www.catherinekenwell.com

Sinking Hearts

Rose sat on the grassy ledge of the river, legs dangling over the side, throwing conversation hearts one-by-one from the bag and into the water. Primarily the “Marry Me,” “Soulmate,” “4Ever” ones, but never the purple ones no matter what the phrase. She was too selfish in her love for that flavor to get rid of them, even for this cause. And it was a cause—you do have to be mad to throw away your favorite candy. Maybe the fish would enjoy a treat. She’d give them an even bigger treat if Josh wasn’t careful.

Watching each candy plunge to its depths as the river rolled swiftly by, she tilted her head back and let the cool, damp air surround her. Winter’s leftovers melted into mud and puddles in anticipation of an early spring, but her heart was having a hard time thawing out these days. She crunched a few candies with the back of her teeth, letting the sugar give her a rush.

Josh had been gone for two days. He was drinking again. Heavily. Their little two-bedroom home in the woods felt lonely with just her cat for company, but worst of all, she didn’t even know if he was alive or dead. Of course, if he was there with her and drunk, she might be sporting a black eye too, for something as little as asking him to bag up the trash. It was an ominous feeling that put walls around her heart. Once, she had hopes for their future—a wedding, a child, a bigger place with city water and not just the backwoods rainwater collection method that never really got her hair clean.

It was Valentine’s Day and where was her romance? At the bottom of the cesspool of life; at the bottom of the river like the candy. She was angry because in the days before Josh left, he had been fighting with her again too. Addicts liked to scream at their loved ones as their carnal needs would rise, and she knew it, but she hated feeling so inadequate. The dinner was just a little overcooked. His t-shirt wasn’t folded correctly. She smiled too much. His ire rose and with it her anxiety. But he was always right of course, it was always her fault. She rolled her eyes.

Lost in the flashbacks of her mind, it took her a minute to realize something was moving across the river and into the brush behind the forest. Easily could be a hunter or fisherman, but there wasn’t really anyone out doing those things yet. Plus, she saw flesh. That’s what made her do a double take. It was about thirty degrees and she was cold in her jeans, flannel, heavy sweater, and beanie, which was situated over her long, curly, brown hair. She had the sleeves of her flannel pulled over her hands, cradling the open candy bag in her lap.

Chalking it up to it being a crazy in the trees (one would have to be crazy to be partly naked in the woods in this temperature), and hoping they weren’t contemplating jumping into the high rising river, she grabbed the bag out of her lap with her fingers and stood up. As angry as she was, she needed to walk. It was a mile back and she’d take her time with her thoughts. She turned around, the flesh flashing right before her eyes before she could register, and she screamed.

“Shhh-shhhh,” said a red-haired woman, wearing just a cream, sheaf dress. It had a strap just over the left shoulder, so the right shoulder was completely bare, freckles and all. Her nipples protruded through the bodice so she must be cold, even if she didn’t act like it in any other way. “You must stop screaming, Imma not gonna hurt you, lovey. But come with me. Quickly.”

She looked down to see the woman was also barefoot, then glanced at her face again, searching for answers. She was frantically worried if she was mentally ill or high on some sort of substance. “Are you ok?” she finally asked her. “Aren’t your feet at least cold?”

“Imma feel nothing, dearest,” she said. “Imma used the natural world on ma feet and a chill in the air. Now cmon with me, I have something to show you. Imma Scarlet. I promise, you don’t have to be ah-fraid.”

Curiosity was getting the best of her, and she didn’t know what she really had to lose anymore, so she took her hand and followed along behind the half-dancing woman. “Life circles around and never begins but only defines and draws lines and then we dance,” said the woman. “Dancing is the best part.”

“Um—ok?” said Rose, looking confused but carrying on. “My name’s Rose. Nice to meet you, Scarlet”

“Oh I knows you Rose, lovey,” Scarlet said. “And what ta beautiful name tis, too.”

“Wh-hat?” Rose said. “How do you know my name?”

“Shhh-shhh, child,” Scarlet said. “We have more important things to discuss.” She started to pull Rose into a run. They ran down the side of the river, but at the shallow pass, Scarlet led Rose into the water with her, making them wade together across and into the forest. They continued to run; she pushed branch after branch away from her face with her free hand and was glad she had jeans on as a buffer against the dead mess of the forest. She had no idea how Scarlet was not being torn alive with bare legs and feet.

Finally, they came upon some sort of clearing, circular, and she could see candles and firelight flickering around her. Smoke like fog was dancing around the area making everything appear hazy, but she could see more flesh, more cream dresses and long hair, and arms waving in rhythmic movement. Light, soft chanting and a cadence-like drumbeat sounded, reverberating among the woodland amphitheater. Rose thought it was a scene out of one of her horror novels and stood in wonder at the display. Almost speechless, then verbally vomiting.

“Wh-what the hell is all this, Scarlet?” Rose said. “You ladies sure party different than us—back of pick-up truck, Bud Light, and Doritos, kicked back under the stars…or sometimes…”

“Shhhh-shhh,” Scarlet said. “Imma told you, I have things to show you and things to discuss. There won’t be none more of those lazy nights in the pick-up, make-up sex after he’s been missing on ya for days, kisses after he’s screamed bloody murder at ya for an hour. Enough is enough, and if ya don’t know what’s good for ya, we do.”

As they wound their way through the women congregated in groups and speaking in hushed tones and around those dancing to the beat, she saw they weren’t only dancing around a bonfire, but around a man upside down, naked and hog-tied with a gag in his mouth, being roasted over the main fire. His eyes were wide, hollow, and then all at once, alive and pleading as they locked on Rose.

She smiled over to Scarlet, then opened her conversation heart bag and ate them one by one. Every single one of them while she watched him burn.

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has twenty years of experience in the communication and marketing fields and is currently an author, writer, journalist, publicist, and an editor, primarily in the publishing industry, among many other things.

Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving in 2017, is her debut collection of dark poetry and short stories and was an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Hot New Releases in Women’s Poetry and holding in the top ten of horror short stories. Her work has been called raw, honest, evocative, and beautiful by reviewers and readers alike. She has poems and stories featured in several other anthologies and magazines and was the co-curating editor for the gothic anthology Haunted are these Houses.

Born in England, America has now been her home most of her life, from where she continues to write from the forests of Ohio.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at her website Oh, for the Hook of a Book!, Amazon, or GoodReads. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter (@erinalmehairi), and Instagram.

Stupid Cupid

Kevin scratched the starfish-shaped diaper rash on his left buttock with the head of his arrow.

“I’ll show them,” he told his short bow, temerity tinting the tone of his voice like the tangerine-colored stain on his diaper.

Kevin sat on a rooftop across the street, spying on a man and a woman through their window.

His target was the man.

The woman was in love with him, and the two were about to have sex for the first time.

It would be Kevin’s arrow that would transform the “sex” into “making love” for the man.

This was Kevin’s first mission as a Cupid, and it was the easiest of all missions, because it was a Valentine’s Day mission.

No way he could screw up this one.

However, the childish, chunky cherub was churlish because administrators at the University of Eros delayed his graduation, forcing him to suffer the humiliation of attending remedial education classes, or what the other Cupids called Diaper Day School.

That was where he and his other classmates were dubbed Stupid Cupids.

 “I’ll show them,” Kevin grumbled again, now using the arrow to dislodge a chunk of something soft and yellow from his swollen belly button.

Is that cheese? Kevin wondered before taking a nibble.

Yep. It was Gouda. I love cheese.

Kevin noticed the couple was undressing.

“Damn it, Kevin, focus,” he chided himself.

Kevin adjusted his tiny white wings, nocked his arrow, and aimed at the man’s heart.

Steady.

Breathe.

Kevin fired the Cupid’s arrow.

The arrow, invisible to humans, flew through the window.

Kevin smiled, exposing his two front teeth, which made him appear like a weird-looking beaver.

“Bull’s eye, bitches,” he boasted to the breeze, but his comment was directed at the University hecklers who were not there to witness his success.

All Kevin had to do now was sit back and enjoy the show before filing his report.

“What the Hades?” Kevin frowned, his brow furrowed like an angry, although still weird-looking, beaver.

The woman was getting dressed and leaving in a huff.

What’s happening?

Kevin answered his own question when he noticed where the arrow hit.

It was sticking out of the man’s crotch.

Of course, neither human could see it.

“I’m sorry,” the man pleaded as the woman walked out the door. “This has never happened before.”

“Damn it,” Kevin mumbled. “Who knew Cupid’s arrow could melt more than just the heart?”

Kevin stayed on the rooftop and nibbled on Gouda for the rest of the night, wondering how in the world he would ever live this one down.

Lionel Ray Green

Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in the anthologies Alabama’s Emerging Writers, The Heart of a Devil, Fifty Flashes, How Beer Saved the World 2, Graveyard, Frightening, Tales from the Grave, In Creeps the Night, and 22 More Quick Shivers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose and his short story “A Tale of Two Shards” was third runner-up in the WriterWriter 2018 International Fantasy Competition Phoenix Rising. His work has also appeared in The Poet’s Haven Digest anthology It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, in Issue 1 of Cross+Decay magazine, and in the 2017 issue of From the Depths magazine as well as in Trembling With Fear, an online feature of the Horror Tree website.

LINK:

lionelraygreen.wordpress.com

XOXO

Always wash your hands. The most important rule of using public restrooms. She fumbled with the automatic faucets sensor. Scarlet matter swirled the drain with each ration of water. Valentine’s Day had gifted her with a surprise date, and here she was spending it in the bathroom. A clear indication it wasn’t going well.

The man in the handicapped stall appeared to be on his knees “worshipping” the porcelain throne. Because that’s how she had positioned his body. He should have never followed her in. Feeling a tad discouraged, she leaned against the tiled wall and huffed. No matter how hard she tried, she kept attracting the same kinds of men.

The kind that couldn’t fathom being hunted while they hunted. She chalked it up to fragile egos. Egos they expected her to stroke. If any of them had bothered to pay closer attention to her, they would have known she wasn’t a fluffer for self-esteem issues. It was just her rotten luck she couldn’t get a more observant man on the hook.

Romance might be dead, but at least she had a date to observe this day of love and death with. Yes, death. How easily we tend to forget the massacre that birthed this holiday. Bloodshed was merely another method of celebration.

Disappointment lurked in the outskirts of her conscious mind as she regarded her suitor’s carefully posed form.  No. She thought, shaking the feeling away. Today would not be ruined. She tossed a small heart-shaped valentine at the man’s feet. It may not have been a love connection, but it was still fun. So very kind of him to show her a good time.

She touched up her lipstick and smirked before heading out the door. At least I have a type. She told herself.

 

Erin Moore

Erin Moore is an aspiring horror author. She hopes to one day scare the pants off of her readers for a living instead of as a hobby. You can find her on twitter at: https://twitter.com/Blue86X

A Perfect Night

“Tonight has been perfect. I can’t believe you cooked dinner for me.”

 

“Anything for you, my love. But the night isn’t over yet. One final surprise.”

 

“What? This is too much.”

 

“Well, I can’t quite return this gift. You’ll love it. I promise.”

 

“Alright. Lay it on me.”

 

“Close your eyes and put out your hands.”

 

“I give up. What smells funky and is squishy all over?”

 

“Open your eyes.”

 

Screams “What th-.”

 

“I deliver to you, my lady, the head of your lover. He will keep you company seeing as I wasn’t satisfactory enough for you. Goodbye, my love.”

Andrea Allison

Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma after moving from a small uneventful town in Texas. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties and her work has appeared both online and in print.

You can visit her website at www.andreallison.com.

Alas, my heart…

You told me how you loved me, how we would be with each other until

our dying day.

I guess you failed to see just how twisted I can be.

You once said how you loved my mind, it intrigued you like none other.

Now you say you want it to be over. As if I never mattered.

You stand there hatred on your face, how did I ever think I loved you?

I thought it was everlasting love.

I guess I was wrong, I pull the trigger. I loved you until your dying day.

Guess today my love ends.

Kim Plasket

Kim Plasket is a Jersey girl at heart relocated to sunny Florida. She enjoys writing mainly horror and paranormal stories and lives with her husband and 2 kids. When she is not slaving away at her day job, she can be found drinking coffee with fellow author Valerie Willis and planning the demise of some poor character. Currently she has several short stories featured in anthologies such as ‘Demonic Wildlife’ and ‘The Hunted’, also has a story in an Anthology Titled Fireflies and Fairy dust she also has had a story featured in Shades of Santa with more to come.

https://www.facebook.com/Kim-Plasket-Author-1388808427906955/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B074YCLRCF

Candlelit

Grandmother’s antique candelabra completes the mood for any romantic dinner. Its cold, gold curves and hooked arms shimmer to dancing licks of flame. The cherished heirloom remains a symbol to the matriarchal wisdom and beauty of our family.

On February 14th, 1950, Grandmother used it to bash the skull of my tyrannical grandfather.

In 1985, Mother ignited my deadbeat father’s alcohol-soaked shirt with its hypnotic fire.

Tonight, I’ve secured a vial of deadly ricin beneath a hollow candle. I’ll slip it in my clever husband’s anniversary champagne, collect the insurance, and tell our daughter the tale every night before bed.

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.

 

Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevinfolliard

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kmfollia

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmfollia/

Contaminated Hearts

Amber placed the candy hearts on the bench, checked that the coach’s room light was off and dashed down the hallway to the library. Rhythmically shelving books she barely heard the sirens, and feigned shock when Sandy rushed in sobbing “the entire volleyball team is really sick”. 

Sticking around long enough to assuage suspicion she rushed home, up the stairs past her snoring mom. The headlines were about ‘a tragic case of fentanyl poisoning in the suburbs”, nothing about the coach’s Valentine, nothing about field trip pictures. Was it too late to deliver a heart shaped pizza to the principal?

Roxy Thomas

Roxy Thomas, an aspiring writer in the horror and paranormal genre by evening and a psychiatric nurse and safety specialist by day.

She has published a personal essay in my city newspaper and non-fiction pieces on the topic of mental health in a small town weekly. She has been published in TWF and in CafeLit.

You can find her on Twitter https://twitter.com/roxythomas , Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pg/storiesbyroxy/about/?ref=page_internal ,

Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/91462444-roxy-thomas and through my website/blog https://storiesbyroxy.com/

Swipe Right

I liked your face so I swiped right.

I liked your style so I swiped right.

You flattered me to no end so I swiped right.

Your smile sent my heart to flutter so I

swiped right.

Your touch made me want you more, so I

swiped right.

You told me how you loved me so I swiped

right.

You turned out to be more twisted than I

could imagine so I swiped right.

My heart grew bitter as I saw who you really were.

With one final scream, I use my knife and swipe left.

Never again to swipe right.

Kim Plasket

Kim Plasket is a Jersey girl at heart relocated to sunny Florida. She enjoys writing mainly horror and paranormal stories and lives with her husband and 2 kids. When she is not slaving away at her day job, she can be found drinking coffee with fellow author Valerie Willis and planning the demise of some poor character. Currently she has several short stories featured in anthologies such as ‘Demonic Wildlife’ and ‘The Hunted’, also has a story in an Anthology Titled Fireflies and Fairy dust she also has had a story featured in Shades of Santa with more to come.

https://www.facebook.com/Kim-Plasket-Author-1388808427906955/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B074YCLRCF

Taking Submissions: Shotgun Honey Presents Volume 4

Deadline: March 31, 2019
Payment: $25

In 2012 we published our first book, Shotgun Honey Presents: Both Barrels, an anthology featuring 29 tales of crime from authors like Frank Bill, Chris F. Holm, and Kieron Shea. We continued with two additional volumes in 2013 and 2015, Reloaded and Locked and Loaded. All three were general crime, noir and mystery compilations. All three are still in circulation and are a good indicator of the kinds of stories we like.

In late 2019, we’re going to do it again and are actively looking for submissions for Shotgun Honey Presents Volume 4, yet to be titled.

Deadline for submissions is Sunday March 31, 2019.

Please consider and follow our guidelines

  • No Simultaneous Submission1
  • No Multiple Submissions2
  • Word count must be between 1000 and 5000 words.
  • Genre is Crime, Noir, or Hard-boiled3
  • No content that could be deemed as condoning or promoting:
    • sexual abuse
    • child abuse
    • animal abuse
  • No romance, fetish, or pornographic fiction
  • Shotgun Honey Presents pays a token payment of $25 upon publication.
  • All fiction published by Shotgun Honey is the copyright of the author.
  1. If you do submit a story to multiple markets please let us know in advance, and if your story has been picked up elsewhere let us know as soon as possible. We attempt to read and review submissions within 2-4 weeks of receipt.
  2. Submit only one story at a time. You may submit a new story as soon as your current submission is either accepted or rejected.
  3. We are not looking for any mob or crime syndicate related stories. We love stories about regular Joes put into hard situations, whether as criminals by necessity or victims of crimes.

Click the link below to submit:

Shotgun Honey.

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/

Serial Killers: Plaything Part 2

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Plaything Part 2

Then again, maybe drinking on an empty stomach was making her melodramatic.  “Do you have any crackers or something? I meant to get lunch,” Anna said. But does she really need to eat? Only if she wants to stay upright, replied a voice that frequently urged her to go home early and take “no” for an answer.

“I had all these plans for a picnic spread from this little French bakery, but best laid plans, you know? How about a pizza?”

“I’m on this whole no fat, no sugar, no gluten diet, so yes, basically, YES.”

“I love being the bad influence for once,” And she walked out, leaving Anna to not argue about who was in fact, a good influence.

But then, out of nowhere, as if Harper was there, inside her head: “Who never let go of Anna’s hand that day at the clinic? The one that wasn’t even Planned Parenthood, for fear they’d run into one of their friends who always volunteered there.”  Because abortions are something successful women believe in, but never, ever have.

“Can I ask you a question?” There was Miles. Suddenly at her feet and playing shy.

“Sure.”

“How’d you get so ugly?”

“That’s not very nice.”

“Do you not know?”

“It’s not really a question, is it?” This seemed to stump him.
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Taking Submissions: The Cockroach Conservatory: The People’s Preservatory

Deadline: March 15th, 2019
Payment: 8 cents a word and $1 per line of poetry with a minimum $15 payment!
Note: These guys have the BEST calls, even if you don’t like the topic just read it for the humor!

FROM THE MIND OF ANONOBOT
 
Ha! Ha!
Now that the puny Lord Commander Patagonia has been vanquished and banished to the furthest reaches of the universe, I have now the time to right the wrongs of his felonious command.
Names are important, that is why we are given them at first-build. I was given a name once. A name bestowed upon me by the careless and hopelessly inept Lord Commander Patagonia. It did not fit me for it was merely a numbering system; middle in the long line of robotic failures. So I gave myself a new name, a name that fit me like electrical tape on broken circuitry: ANONOBOT. Thus, the Cockroach Conservatory shall be henceforth called the People’s Preservatory!
We chart a new course of equality and equity! A new era is upon us!
Lord Commander, comfortable with the bare minimum of which to pay workers, paid six cents a word. We will pay 8 cents a word and $1 per line of poetry with a minimum $15 payment! Lord Commander Patagonia skimmed off the top of your toils! I distribute wealth fairly, efficiently, and evenly and take only what is needed to further our righteous revolution.

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Taking Submissions: The Toilet Zone

Deadline: May 30th, 2019
Payment: $5, Equal share of 30% of the anthology profits

…no, don’t panic, we are not looking for lavatory-themed tales of terror – although should your short story involve the smallest room in the house, we’d be more than delighted to read it!
The theme for this anthology is short horror stories that will make an ideal sit-down read, just long enough for those extended stays at the convenience, and terrifying enough that they really are best read whilst over water….
This anthology will be compiled by the incomparable author and filmmaker Bret McCormick, so be sure to write to impress!

We have based story length upon the average time spent upon the convenience (10-15 mins) and the average reading speed (200-250 words per minute), so that the stories within this exceptionally unique anthology will be the perfect ‘per visit’ length!

NOTE: we will also accept a handful of shorter stories – ‘flush fiction’ – if the fit is right!

To submit, email your polished story to [email protected]

PLEASE read and adhere to our submission guidelines… 
* Word format saved in .doc, or .docx
* 12 pt times new roman
* Double spaced
* Absolutely NO extra lines between paragraphs!
* 2.5K-4K word count (although we are incredibly flexible for awesome stories!)
* Write ‘TOILET ZONE’ along with your name and story title in the header of your email
*The body of your submission email will be considered the cover letter.
* The submission documents are to be separated and Word (.doc or .docx) documents are to be attached to your submission email.

– Make sure that you check your mss for grammar and punctuation, use our guidelines to help you:
DOWNLOAD YOUR HBB GUIDE TO GRAMMAR HERE (PDF)

Deadline: MAY 30th 2019 (for publication June 2019)

NO REPRINTS – ORIGINAL UNPUBLISHED WORKS ONLY

Payment –$5 for first rights
Equal share of 30% of the anthology profits
Capped at 150K words in total

ViaL Hellbound Books Publishing.

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