HAUS: Anthology of Haunted House Stories Ft. “Rest for the Wicked”

The abandoned plantation and ancient mansion have remained empty for 120 years, until three delinquents decide to investigate the haunted property one night

An author of ghost stories decides to visit the spookiest place in England, Dartmoor. He wants to write a terrifying story, but ends up embroiled in a horror story instead!

To find out the reason behind Chris’ strange death, his brother begins to piece together audio recordings and journal entries chronicling events leading up to it

Hungry and lost during a journey, the sparring couple Andy and Claire come across a house for sale. They are greeted by a strange woman who welcomes them inside No 16


HAUS – CultureCult’s anthology of Haunted House stories features 34 pieces of fiction from 33 authors around the world!

Published by CultureCult Press, Oct. 2022 and available here.

NOM NOM: A Black Hare Press Anthology Ft. “I Take” & “Ghost-Knocking”

Hallowe’en Horrors in tiny tales.

Vampires, djinns, spirits, werewolves, trolls, banshees, elves, mummies, skeletons, carnivorous jack-o’-lanterns, evil-seeking clowns, Halloween purges, sexy-but-hungry succubi, genius loci scarecrows voraciously guarding their pumpkin patches, revenge of the Hallowe’en candies.

But don’t worry, between 100-word gory bites you’ll have a moment to catch your breath before the next soul-eating creature climbs out of the grave…

Published by Black Hare Press, Oct. 2022, and available here.

“Falling to Pieces”

Published by Defunkt Magazine in the Anatomy issue, September 2022.

***

It was a tiny tear at first—barely noticeable.

Just her left ring finger detaching a bit. No big deal. Leah added a strip of silver duct tape and hid that with a flesh-colored bandage, then she got back to work, answering the phone and greeting customers and hustling hustling hustling at Giovanni’s Ristorante in the city’s second-trendiest neighborhood.

[Click link for more!]

“It’s about my own roots,” an interview with NIGHTLIGHT podcast’s Tonia Ransom

Tonia Ransom, creator of the NIGHTLIGHT podcast and Afflicted: A Horror Thriller Audio Drama, talks about the importance of showcasing Black horror authors and their work, and explains her own personal connection to her passion projects.

Q: How did you get started in podcasting, and what led to NIGHTLIGHT?

A: I’ve known since the early 2000s that I wanted to bring back old-time radio, but that was before podcasting so I knew I’d have an uphill battle to climb to make that happen. When podcasts were first introduced, I realized I could create shows just like old-time radio without having to convince studio or radio execs to give me a chance. It still took another 15 years or so for me to actually do it, but I finally started podcasting in 2018. NIGHTLIGHT was a compromise between my original vision of old time radio, and something that could be produced for less money, hence the sound effects and music over a narrated story. I always knew I wanted to start a horror podcast, so that was never a question. I wasn’t quite sure what shape that would take, but after a report came out detailing the demographics of short story authors and I saw how underrepresented Black folks were, I knew I wanted to create a space that gave Black writers opportunities, and for readers/listeners (and Hollywood!) to find more Black writers.

Q: Afflicted, your forthcoming audio drama, has been getting a lot of attention. What is most exciting about this project? What can fans look forward to?

A: The most exciting thing about Afflicted is that it’s the show I’ve wanted to make since before I started NIGHTLIGHT. Not just because it’s a full-cast audio drama, but because it’s about my own roots—the superstitions I grew up with and living in a rural town in East Texas. For me, it’s a love letter to the family I’ve lost over the years, and many characters are named after or modeled after loved ones that have passed. It’s me sharing my heritage with the world, and honoring those I’ve loved and grieved. As for what fans can look forward to—we’re premiering on Halloween, so if they’re missing Lovecraft Country or True Blood, Afflicted is a great way to scratch that itch.

Q: Your projects have brought together Black authors, voice actors, and production team members, and given them an important platform in the horror community. How can friends and fans continue to support you in that?

A: The biggest thing that supports this work is the NIGHTLIGHT Legion—that’s what I call our patrons. They fund this whole operation, and if not for them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. Secondary to that, sharing the podcast with friends and on social media is huge. Podcasts need listeners to get more patrons, and to better monetize their shows. Without people writing reviews, telling folks about the podcast, and sharing it on social media, NIGHTLIGHT doesn’t grow, and our platform is limited. So basically, money and word of mouth—both ideally, but either helps immensely and is always deeply appreciated.

Q: You are busy with NIGHTLIGHT and Afflicted, but your brain never stops. What are some other project ideas you’re considering? And how can people stay up to date on your latest news?

A: Oh boy! I’ve got tons of other ideas for podcasts that’ll just have to wait a bit because producing a podcast is lot of work! Aside from that, I’m working on a book about the biology of mythical creatures, and how they could exist in the real world. I’m also working on adapting a short story of mine to a short screenplay. During October, I’m usually all over the place, so folks can attend online events, or in-person events to connect with me and learn about writing, podcasting, and more. The best way to keep up with what I’m doing is to follow me on Twitter @missdefying. One day, I’ll update my website (tonia ransom.com) with a list of appearances and such, but I’m so busy doing things that I don’t have time to document the things I’m doing 😉 It’s a good predicament to have, though.

Support Afflicted through IndieGoGo here.

Are you a Black horror author? Are you interested in submitting your work to Tonia and NIGHTLIGHT? Visit nightlightpod.com/submissions for details.

“Dear Editor, thank you for considering…”

(Image: www.freepik.com)

I have 42 submissions out.

I want to say something about Schrodinger’s cat here, but I’m shit at anything to do with math or science, and would probably screw it up. My point is that I have 42 unknowns floating in the universe. They could get accepted, rejected, or languish in an abandoned email folder.

(Running total for the year is 70-something, with a handful of acceptances. Your girl can take rejection.)

All I want to do is write and revise, or chat with my writer friends about writing and revising, or read cool books. Every sub call sparks an idea, several of which I actually try to draft because I’m finally making time for it. I stay up late, ignore other obligations, and put off chores. I work with a mentor, enroll in classes and workshops, and have applied for a poetry scholarship. I have one story ready to go on the first, and another under construction for a different sub call.

And ideas for 4-5 book-length manuscripts, that I’ll write fuck-knows-when.

(This week, I’ve spent head time with a monster in a hotel, two women flirting over a fresh corpse, an amorous portrait, an Irish sea creature, and other creeps, I guess making me the biggest creep of the bunch.)

I hope there’s quality in all this quantity.

My “become a writer” game plan has three prongs. 1. Write and submit so damn much that by laws of probability, some stuff has to get accepted. 2. Write so much that my craft improves bit by bit. 3. Don’t stop.

Submitting work to magazines and anthologies is a demonstration of hope and stubbornness (and once or twice for me, spite). At this point, stubborness is in the lead.

Go, stubborness, go.

On Becoming a Writer and Learning To Be Vulnerable: Guest post by Carol Weis  

Carol Weis is the author of the memoir, STUMBLING HOME: Life Before and After That Last Drink, published by Heliotrope Books in NYC. She also wrote the Simon & Schuster picture book, When the Cows Got Loose, and the poetry chapbook, DIVORCE PAPERS. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, AARP, Independent, Salon, ESPN, Guideposts, Cosmo, and numerous other venues and has been read as commentary on NPR.

Unlike many of my writing peers, I never dreamed of being a writer. I mean, I barely made it through college. As a former actor, professional cook and baker, I seemed to have a penchant for creative pursuits, but becoming a writer was never one I considered. Then I got sober. And found I had so much I needed to say. Words in the form of primitive poetry started making their way onto whatever scrap of paper was available. And upon mastering the art of revision, I soon had enough decent poems to submit for a chapbook. 

After unearthing some of my childhood trauma in therapy, I started writing children’s books to appease that ever-present three-year-old still squirming inside of me, the one who was abandoned by a mom sick with tuberculosis for a painfully long time. Her constant need for attention dominated my life and called the shots for many years. 

Writing kid’s books seemed to assuage some of her long-ignored angst. 

At least for awhile.

But when I realized there was always an addicted character showing up in my middle grade and young adult manuscripts, I sensed I needed to shift gears and write about myself. In an achingly honest way. At first, it came in the form of  journaling, and since my daughter had reached her teen years and our fights were more frequent and ferocious, I suggested she journal with me, which turned into a mother/daughter memoir project that still seeks a publisher. And thanks to my daughter’s incessant prodding, after years of telling my wild stories at family reunions and other gatherings, I started a memoir of my own, having no idea where it would take me. So frantic to get down all the memories as they rushed in, I finished the first draft in four months, something I would never advise anyone to do. 

I wrote mostly from my bed, which at the time I called my office. The vulnerability I felt from the words and scenes that poured forth made me want to hide forever beneath the covers. During that time, my body broke out in a vicious rash, with my legs, arms, and back erupting in what I surmised was the rage I felt from the writing. Exposing things I had buried for years. Things I’d even hidden from myself. It got to the point, I only wanted to take walks at night, so I wouldn’t run into any of my neighbors or friends who knew about my book project. I hadn’t felt that kind of vulnerability since I was a kid, or since I first got sober. 

I was writing the same way the memoirists that I loved to read wrote. In a way that made me connect with what they were saying, that took me to the pit of my darkest self. In a way that helped me let go of some of the shame I carried for so many years. In a way that made me feel a lot less alone. And as I wrote for those painful four months, and revised those equally painful four years, I hoped my words would do the same for others. Because making ourselves vulnerable on the page does just that.  

And after all, isn’t that the reason we write? 

“[B]e surprised by the process,” an interview with Jessica McHugh

Jessica McHugh is a novelist, a 2x Bram Stoker Award®-nominated poet, and an internationally-produced playwright running amok in the fields of horror, sci-fi, young adult, and wherever else her peculiar mind leads. She’s had twenty-five books published in thirteen years, including her bizarro romp, The Green Kangaroos, her YA series, The Darla Decker Diaries, and her Elgin Award-nominated blackout poetry collection, A Complex Accident of Life. For more info about publications and blackout poetry commissions, please visit McHughniverse.com.

Here, she answers a few questions about her art, and how she got involved with blackout poetry.

Q: How is the experience of reading/absorbing blackout poetry different than that of traditionally written poetry?

A: I think the main difference is the amount of time you spend reading the piece, especially if the “blackout” portion is more complex and/or takes on the personality of the poem, which is what I try to do with my work. If the source material is apparent, I might spend even more time reading and re-reading, because the blackout poem sometimes honors and uplifts the original piece, whether it was intentional or not. And while I prefer to include a typed version of the poem with my pieces, not everyone does that, and if the blackout art doesn’t create a legible path for the eye, the poem might be more difficult to read/interpret and require a little more work to enjoy.

Otherwise, I think it’s a pretty similar experience. I’ve written poetry and monologues using blackout poetry techniques without actually creating a blackout piece, and I don’t think most readers would know I used a nontraditional method if I didn’t mention it. It’s an incredibly fun and versatile art form.

Q: With your unique work, you have carved out a niche in the horror writing community. How has the support of that community bolstered both your books/work and your sense of self as an artist?

A: It’s been an interesting journey, for sure. Since my first novel publication in 2008, I’ve had ups and down with my career and seen several iterations of the horror community. I’ve seen folks band together, I’ve seen them devour each other, I’ve seen people lose relevance due to an unwillingness to change with the times, and I’ve seen people going through darkness flourish with the support of their peers and come out better and brighter on the other side.

I count myself incredibly lucky to have found lifelong friends in this community and support throughout the phases of my career. Despite experimenting with playwrighting, my young adult series, and other mediums, I remained focused on horror novels and short stories and thought I’d stay on that trajectory. I never would’ve guessed that after 14 years and 25 published books, I’d be a 2x Bram Stoker Award nominee for my poetry, but I also never expected to fall in love with blackout art so quickly after I started playing around with it in early 2019. Nor did I expect such an outpouring of support from the community. While I will continue to write in whatever genre and format strike my fancy, the way blackout poetry rekindled my artistic passion after a long period of doubt, and how my horror friendos lifted me out of my gloom and doom to embrace my new artistic endeavors, makes me think blackout poetry will be a massive part of my life forever

Q: Can you tell us more about your Little Women blackout poetry? How it compares to or differs from your work in Strange Nests and A Complex Accident of Life?

A: Absolutely! My 3rd as-yet-untitled blackout poetry collection, inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, is definitely my most ambitious project so far. It will have 155 poems to coincide with the novel’s 155th anniversary in 2023, which is triple the number of poems in both A Complex Accident of Life and Strange Nests. That wasn’t my original intention, but I’ve come to realize that “original intentions” don’t matter much when it comes to these collections. A Complex Accident of Life only became a collection because Jacob Haddon of Apokrupha saw me posting Frankenstein blackout poetry and reached out about compiling the pieces. Strange Nests wasn’t planned either; it was more of a coping mechanism after my brother passed away in January 2021 and transformed into something so much more. So I’ve rolled with the punches and allowed myself to be surprised by the process. Deciding to make a lot more poems from Little Women has opened up the narrative in a huge way and allowed me to explore weirder paths, giving the collection more of a cosmic horror feel while remaining a fierce tale of sisterhood, selfhood, and feminine rage. While an official release date has not been set yet, it will probably be available from Apokrupha around April 2023. 

Q: Finally, is there a text you have your eye on for a future project? Are you willing to share what that is?

A: For collections, I’ll likely keep using classics written by women for as long as possible, and while I’d have to verify these are in the public domain, I’d love to play with Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and pretty much any Agatha Christie. Outside of that theme, I’m also eager to make some creepy holiday pieces from A Christmas Carol. But really, I’m open to giving anything and everything a shot. I’ve found beautiful poetry in the most unlikely places, and I never get tired of discovering the hidden treasures within. 

To commission your own blackout poem, contact Jessica here.

Writing Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops: Guest Post from Allison Hong Merrill

The blog took a spring break, but is back with Allison Hong Merrill, author of the bestselling and award-winning memoir Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops. Here, Allison tells us about the process of rebuilding and restructuring her memoir after receiving beta reader feedback, and shares some of her best writing tips. Thank you, Allison!

When reading a book, I like to see the hook, setting, character, and conflicts of the story set up within the first few pages. So I make sure to offer my reader the same gift.

Originally, my memoir, Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops, was written in a nonlinear structure. But several of my beta readers suggested that I revamp the entire manuscript and change the narrative into a chronological timeline, so I did. It was a huge undertaking. The manuscript went through twelve full revisions. On average, each pass took two weeks. And when I say, “I revamped the entire manuscript,” I mean I even changed the title. It went from Grafted Mandarin to Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops because the new structure is in ninety-nine short sections. But even after this major overhaul and subsequent edits, the first ten pages remained unchanged from the first draft to the published book. It’s because the inciting incident, setting, main characters, and conflicts of the story are established within those pages.

When writing a book, I like to do the following:

1. Imagine my book adapted into a film, then I write scenes and dialogue as if describing them from the movie.

2. Do book research and save images on pinterest.com to create a mood board for reference. For a visual person like myself, this method works really well.

3. I make myself a different writing-related promise and a reward every week. This is not a goal; it’s a promise. A goal is for reference, a promise is to be kept. Some examples of my promises are: write an hour every day, revise a chapter, create social media content. If I keep my promise that week, I reward myself. My top three rewards are: watch a movie, buy a cute notebook, sleep in on Sunday morning. If, for any reason, I fail to keep my promise, then I give myself a second chance in the following week to restore my integrity and try again. Sometimes it’s necessary to promise myself to practice the art of self-care. I’ll take a week off from writing to recharge my creative energy. I work with another writer as accountability sisters. We check in every Saturday morning to support each other and to celebrate our victories, big and small.

4. I’m a memoirist. To dive deeper into my memory, I keep a tin box of NIVEA crème on my desk. Its distinctive scent takes me back to my childhood years and, from there, I get to explore the past and find inspirations for my writing projects. Smell triggers memory. If you’re writing about your past, please consider keeping something (lotion, soap, shampoo, perfume, scented candle, essential oil, etc.) on your desk with a scent that reminds you of the olden days.

5. Because I’m a visual person, instead of setting a timer on my phone, I flip over a sixty-minute hourglass on my desk to help me stay focused on one-uninterrupted-hour of writing.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Happy writing!

“A Bargain at Twice the Price” (AUDIO)

Read on The Story Discovery Podcast by Onyx Publications

If you had known Beth would leave two months after the closing date, you never would have bought the shoebox starter home on Oak View Drive in a sleepy commuter town with one shitty pizza joint and two convenience stores and nothing to do on weeknights but hang out at the rat-hole townie bar drinking too much bottom-shelf whiskey.

If you had known Beth would find you so utterly lacking as a man and a human and a partner, that she would look at you with such disappointment that shame would rush down to the soles of your feet and back up to the roots of your red hair, you never would have proposed on that trip to the Keys with the ring you bought with your third-to-last paycheck from the cable company that would soon lay you off due to “unforeseeable market shifts.” You were a customer service agent. Now you’re a chump, and according to Beth, an alcoholic.

If you had known all that and more, you wouldn’t be sitting shirtless and hungover on your tiny front porch in pajama pants, drinking your fourth cup of black coffee, watching Tim across the street water his half-dead lawn for the third day in a row. You wouldn’t be hoping for someone to walk down the sidewalk with a dog or two, maybe a fugly baby, just to have something interesting to look at.

But you didn’t know, so here you are, tits out, and Tim just waved so you raise your coffee cup in an oddly formal salute and get ready for the nothingness of the day to settle into your bones like a damp chill.

Click the podcast link for more, or go to Etched Onyx Magazine to read the text!

Juggling WIPs

The view from my office window.

This is not trying to be instructional. This is more or less a rambling cry for help.

How do you decide what to work on and when, if you have lots of writing projects started? Especially if demands in your life are all grabbing at your legs like toddlers? (Some of you likely have actual toddlers grabbing at your legs.) I have to get a lesson plan ready for Intro to CW class at 4 today and proofread a typeset novel for my other job. But I’m distracted by thoughts of the last two stories I need to finish for my speculative fiction collection, and the poem that’s almost done but not quite, and the essay about writing I started yesterday that today I’m thinking might be garbage (and if it is, how much time I spent on it).

I also saw a sub call yesterday for ghost stories (Can I write one by the end of May?) and a horror poetry collection that doesn’t accept simsubs (Where do I have that one poem out? Must remember to check my sub list). There are several titles I’m trying to read before StokerCon, too, so, of course, add reading to the to-do list.

How do you focus? How do you organize your projects? Do you have an order of importance, and if so, is that by deadline or by interest? I’m excited about everything, and I love having a lot going on, but instead of doing any of it, I’m staring out the window.

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