Catch All

“I want this story to linger,” an interview with Jewish horror author Zachary Rosenberg

Zachary Roseberg is the author of Hungers as Old as this Land (Brigid’s Gate Press, May 2023), The Long Shalom (Off Limits Press, forthcoming); and a contributing author to Seize the Press‘s January 2023 issue as well as upcoming issues of The Deadlands, Dark Matter Magazine, the Shakespeare Unleashed anthology (Monstrous Books, Crystal Lake Publishing), and so much more. Here, he talks about his own brand of horror and why it’s so important to be part of a community.

Q: Tell us about your brand of horror. What are the vibes your stories create? How are you honoring your own culture and history? What do you want your readers to be haunted by long after they’ve finished reading the last line?

A: I think at this point, my biggest claim to a brand would be Jewish horror specifically. Not every story deals with Jewish lore or history, but a lot of them still have Jewish characters or inspirations. I like my stories to have a vibe of weirdness and steadily unfolding horror or drama. As far as my own culture and history goes, I love incorporating openly Jewish characters and folklore, making sure it’s represented in a unique and interesting light. Really, haunting impressions are important as well…I want this story to linger. Either the dread of what they’ve experienced and imagined, or the dread of how “this happened.”

Q: Your writing philosophy sounds simple: “Keep writing.” But it’s not that easy. What have you done to improve your craft and build your skills? What advice would you give to other writers?

A: Truly, it isn’t that simple. Really, what’s worked best for me is twofold: Not only writing, but reading. Read authors you admire, read people acclaimed, read everything in between. Having ideas is great, but you have to train yourself to express them in prose. Listening to critique and feedback is incredibly important, and never assume that you have it right the first time. Learning how to pace a story and build tension, as well as involving a reader early, are positively key.

Q: You are a known member of the horror writers’ community. What are the ways you participate in that community? What do you give to it, and what do you get from it? Why is it so important to foster genuine friendships with other writers?

A: Interaction is a chief way. It’s a pretty friendly community to just join and chat with people about books. I personally love to review things, promote others’ works, be supportive, and give feedback and readings for others. Writing is a solitary thing, and it’s up to us to make a community for one another, after all.

Q: What are you working on now, and what can readers expect from you soon? Where can folks get their hands on your work? What are you excited about? 

A: I’m so excited to get more stories into the world, and to have a great writing year! I’ve got a lot upcoming: the Shakespeare Unleashed anthology, Seize the Press‘s January issue, forthcoming issues of The Deadlands and Dark Matter Magazine, and several books, especially my debut horror Western Hungers as Old as this Land, along with my pulp horror at Off Limits Press, The Long Shalom!

Zach will also be a panelist on “The Rise of Indie Horror” segment of SFF Addicts Podcast’s TBRCon2023 moderated by Tim Meyer (@SFFAddictsPod), streaming live here on Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. EST.

“Dare You”

***

published in Diet Milk Magazine, “In The Bleak Midwinter” Gothic Advent Calendar

They had told Jade that accepting the dare would make her cool; that it would impress them, so she said yes, and that’s how she found herself—after dark on the Friday night that marked the official start of winter break—treading the dusty floorboards of the abandoned Slater house on the far side of town.

To read more, click here.

Hard Work Works (thank you 2022!)

This is basically a “part two” to my recent “Failing at NaNoWriMo & Winning at Rejections” post.

This year (2022) has been pretty incredible. I’ve met dozens of cool writers, joined writers’ groups, and I’ve gotten more acceptances than I have in several past years combined. What made this magic? I worked my ASS off.

Which is really good news. That there is nothing ethereal or fate based that leads to writing success. Just good old-fashioned sweat and tears. And that also means there are no shortcuts (at least not for most folks).

Success is relative, I know. And people take different paths to the same or similar places. Mine went like this:

-Joined the Horror Writers Association in early 2022 (March?) after earning an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Etched Onyx Winter Contest. That story, “A Bargain at Twice the Price,” (a ghost story) earned enough that I qualified to join the HWA as an Affiliate Member.

-After joining, figured “What the hell? I’ll go to StokerCon” (May). I knew no one. I mean no one. But I had the best time there, and met so many wonderful people, from big-name authors like Brian Keene to other people like me, struggling to find a path.

-Was so inspired by StokerCon—the people and the presentations and the panels—that I decided on the way home to quit my second job as the managing editor of Leapfrog Press. I deserved time to write, and my writing deserved my time and attention. This realization hit me with a stunning clarity at about midnight on the plane from Atlanta to Buffalo.

-Wrote. Wrote and wrote and wrote. I produced so much new content in 2022, especially over the summer, when I was finishing up with Leapfrog and before the fall semester started (I teach at SUNY Fredonia).

-But I didn’t just write. I joined a workshop with other writers in the horror community who ended up with me the same way folks end up owning cats—I was dumb and hungry; they were kind. I started another workshop with a few people I’d met at StokerCon. I workshopped with other students from Lindsay Merbaum’s independent studies (we are her happy little cult members). And I continued to workshop with my friends from grad school. Outside of those groups, I also beta read for people who needed it and joined social media groups of people with similar goals. I learned so much from those other writers, by reading their work, getting feedback on my own stuff, and sharing our successes and challenges.

-Took every chance I got for affordable independent education. With Lindsay, I learned about Feminist Horror and Queer Speculative Realism, and more recently, witches. I’ll be taking another independent study with her in 2023 on ghosts. (If you are interested in joining us, let me know and I’ll connect you with Lindsay.) I paid for a few developmental editing sessions with an awesome writer and friend. I took workshops through Defunkt Magazine’s Litfest. And I went to other one-off virtual workshops and panel discussions I found through Event Brite.

-Along with all that, I submitted a ton, too. My goal for 2020 was #100rejections. That meant I’d have to submit over 100 times, because I had to factor in the likelihood of a few acceptances. I just hit 150 submissions, with about a ten percent acceptance rate. I sailed past 100 rejections. A friend called submitting work “sending tiny missives of hope out into the universe,” and that’s exactly what it feels like.

-Finished my manuscript of speculative and slipstream stories—you can call it quiet horror or eerie horror or feminist horror or dark fiction. It’s a collection of 13 stories, and I’m currently trying to find a home for it. Some of those stories patiently waited to be revised for ten years. I’m so glad I kept my faith in them.

-I also put together a poetry chapbook manuscript, after being surprised I had enough poems to do so. (I’m primarily a fiction writer.) But I saw a chapbook contest being advertised by Mausoleum Press, and I took a chance. My poetry made their shortlist, but did not ultimately get selected. Getting that far, though, told me my poems had merit. That was further proved by Nocturne Magazine nominating my poem “Still Love” for a Pushcart Prize. The second press that got my poetry manuscript said it came close. Then I got an acceptance! More on that when I have details to share.

-There were so many “firsts” for me in 2022. In addition to being nominated for the Pushcart Prize, I was nominated for a teaching award at work. I was invited to be a part of an upcoming anthology-magazine hybrid (and my story was accepted). I was invited to be a guest on a podcast (still in the works, so no details right now). I made it into a dream anthology that I thought was such a longshot (Shakespeare Unleashed). And of course, there’s the to-be-published poetry collection that I’m so happy about.

-Oh! And I started and abandoned a novella, then started another novella that I’m happy with (and still need to finish), and the novel notes I mentioned before from my first NaNoWriMo.

I’ve got big hopes for 2023. I hope to get my collection picked up. I hope to finish my novella (spicy ghosty gothic), “Forgive Us Our Trespasses.” I hope to make lots of progress on the novel I tried to start during NaNoWriMo.

And I hope I will get another #100rejections.

Happy Writing to you all!

Failing at NaNoWriMo & Winning at Rejections

Pic from memeshappen.

This year, because I am susceptible to peer pressure and I just love saying yes to things, I participated in NaNoWriMo.

I was off to a great start early in the month—racking up the daily word counts, writing scenes, figuring out characters, going hard at the cannibalism, etc.

But then I hit a wall, and I never got through it or around it. I spent a few minutes every day writing crap and then worse crap, because if I couldn’t hit 50k words, I was at least going to open that document and type into it every day.

And I did! I have 20k words that I did not have at the start of the month. I mean, at least half of those words can be deleted and never mentioned again, but I have SOMETHING where before I had nothing. My protagonist, Beth, is alive. She doesn’t know what the fuck she’s doing, but she EXISTS. I know her voice. I know (most of) her origin story. And when I can bear to open that document again (in February? Maybe?) I will get back to her and figure some things out.

So my verdict as a NaNo newbie is this: Do it if you want to, as long as you won’t be mad at yourself/give up/despair at the end of the month if you don’t hit that 50k wordcount goal. (I will be doing it again next year—maybe working on the same novel! Maybe writing more terrible terrible crap!) It’s fun to connect with other writers who are also NaNo-ing, whether you’re celebrating wins or encouraging each other or just sort of crying together because what’s in your head won’t come out on the computer screen. Yay community!

In other writing news, things are pretty wonderful.

In 2022, so far, I’ve submitted to journals/magazines/presses/podcasts/agents/etc. 152 times. That’s a mix of short stories, poems, essays, a short story collection manuscript, and a poetry chapbook manuscript.

I’ve gotten 13 acceptances, which I’m so grateful for. Big thanks to:

50-Word Stories for publishing “Not Yet,” and for naming it Story of the Week;

The podcast Terrify Me! with Antony Frost, for reading my short essay “Meeting Nancy” on the show;

50-Word Stories, again, for publishing “Emissaries,” and for naming it Story of the Week;

Defunkt Magazine, for publishing “Falling to Pieces,” in their “Anatomy” issue, and for their continued awesomeness as friends;

Nocturne Magazine for publishing “Still Love” and for stunning me with a Pushcart Prize nomination (I will be forever grateful);

Monstrous Books and Crystal Lake Publishing for accepting “No Rest Nor Relief For You With Me Dead” for the upcoming anthology Shakespeare Unleashed (I screamed when I opened that email);

Black Hare Press (Australia) for publishing “I Take” and “Ghost-Knocking” in their Nom Nom Halloween drabble anthology;

Hearth & Coffin for publishing “Research Cycle” in their “Creature Feature” issue;

Ravens Quoth Press for accepting “Wanted” for their upcoming Psythur 1 anthology;

CultureCult Press for publishing “Rest for the Wicked” in HAUS: Anthology of Haunted House Stories;

Diet Milk Magazine for accepting “Dare You” for their Gothic Advent Calendar “In the Bleak Midwinter;”

And to someone who is working on a not-yet-announced project who invited me to submit and then accepted my story (I will holler about that when I can!).

Thanks, too, to all the editors who sent me a dozen-plus kind and encouraging rejections this year (including two for the poetry chapbook). While there’s disappointment for me in those, there is also a lot of hope, and I take them as a sign of good things to come.

I’ve already hit my #100rejections goal, and I’ll sail past it by the time all the responses come in for 2022 submissions. (Thank you to my 100 Rejections buddies and to everyone in all my writing groups for celebrating those Rs with me!)

I have so much more to say about this year, but one long, gushing blog post is enough for now.

“Research Cycle”

***

Published in Hearth & Coffin Literary Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3

The results weren’t ideal—she’d liked her assistant. Ken? Keith? Quiet, eager. But feeding the subjects had been his job, and he’d signed the liability waiver. Anyway, wasn’t science about taking risks? She was an explorer, a revolutionary, and until this morning, Kyle (Kevin?) had been, too.

To read more, visit Hearth & Coffin.

“Still Love”

Published in Nocturne Horror Literary Magazine, Issue 2, Fall 2022

***

When my left hand turned to stone—
whorled gray marble smooth
as a promise, fingers fused in a cold clenched fist
too heavy for my husband to hold
he just switched sides, he loved me
still, we stayed connected
at the movies, the farmers market, shadows
melting into one wide shadow
stretching across the sun-dried pavement.

Visit Nocturne to keep reading!

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.

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