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National Poetry Month: Sara Tantlinger Brings Us Poem on the 1893 World’s Fair and a Discussion on Involvement of Serial Killer H.H. Holmes #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

Natl Poetry Month pen

April is National Poetry Month and because I write, read, and love poetry, I’m featuring poetry on my site this month! You’ll find poetry, articles, reviews, and more by writers I admire and adore, and also some new poetry writers as well, so stop by often. Tuesday, Bram Stoker Award winning poet Marge Simon brought us a wonderful article called “Illumination Dark Poetry” with various examples of her poetry, which you can find here and yesterday we read some samples from Bram Stoker Award winning dynamo, Stephanie Wytovich, which you can enjoy here.

Today, Sara Tantlinger joins us with a poem from her Bram Stoker Award nominated recent collection The Devil’s Dreamland, which features poems surrounding serial murderer H.H. Holmes. We are able to read the poem below as well as a discussion by Sara about the themes and locale of the piece – the 1893 World’s Fair – and H.H. Holmes and his involvement in it. As some of my historical fiction friends know, I am a World’s Fair and carnival fanatic. I love anything revolving around it!! Mix that with my obsession with true crime, you’re making me shiver in delight. That means I really enjoyed Sara’s poem and article – I hope you do too!

Thanks, Sara!

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An H.H. Holmes Poem Analysis
by Sara Tantlinger, author of The Devil’s Dreamland

Thank you so much to Erin for hosting some poetry fun on her website for National Poetry Month! I am excited to contribute with a poem from The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, and to provide a little backstory and history on the poem. The piece is titled “World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair)”, referencing the very fair that helped make serial killer H.H. Holmes famous.

Without further ado, please enjoy the poem!

World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair)

1893, we celebrate the 400th anniversary

of the barbaric slaughtering

Christopher Columbus brought

unto a new world,

but you will find no anger

toward his history here

as the fairgrounds take form, as visitors

flock in droves to taste the excitement

flickering in the air like pixie dust

 

People keep dying,

workers falling from buildings

accidents in the form of skull

fractures and electrocution

all this death contained within

designing the great fair,

 

yet a madman paces inside

his castle, creating spaces

where supposed accidents

will swallow visitors whole

 

a madman forges his dreams

into piping hot realities

where his World’s Fair Hotel

promises spectacular service

so very close to the fair itself

 

Opening Day comes upon the city

in jovial bursts of color,

mouthwatering scents of exotic

pastries and delicacies from themed

exhibits stationed around the park,

thousands of visitors holding their

breath for President Cleveland

to push a button that ignites

a hundred thousand

glowing lamps across the fields,

illuminating neoclassical figures,

the work of men named Tesla

and Westinghouse

 

Dr. Holmes turns away men at the door,

citing reasons of already being booked

to capacity, yet the young women

stroll right in, are welcomed,

intoxicated by their own freedom

blushing at the handsome doctor

who offers great prices,

who offers warm touches

 

they do not see how excitement alerts

trembles into his fingertips,

eager to taste innocence, summon

screeches from their tender tracheas

lick away saccharine death from dying lips,

listen to the snapping of a windpipe,

 

hungry to snuff out light from

wide eyes,

hungry to cut the lights open,

sever the heart to see how it beats

beneath such fine skin,

glowing like the thousand lamps

across the enchanted fairgrounds

(Originally published in The Devil’s Dreamland, StrangeHouse Books, 2018).

About the Poem –

The fair of 1893 was a magical time. The undertaking and thus construction of everything the fair needed to be successful was an exasperating project. I wanted the poem to reflect the enchantment this exposition offered. After all, people arrived in the thousands during the fair’s run – people from all across the globe. Over 20 million people ended up attending the fair altogether!

This was Chicago’s chance to show the world how beautifully they recovered from the Great Chicago Fire. Gone was the soot and wreckage of the fiery aftermath, and in its place stood a gleaming white city, warm and inviting. However, the poem also needed to honestly reflect what the fair organizers and architects didn’t want anyone to see….

1893 Worlds Fair

While the shine of the fair easily put forth its best face, a true darkness lingered beneath the food, exhibits, new buildings, rides, and everything else the celebration displayed. Construction workers died during the assembly of the fair. A fire broke out in July killing over a dozen fairgoers and firefighters. The White City was a fairytale. Outside the fair, animal corpses rotted on the streets. Stockyards and factories filled Chicago with smoke and filth. Garbage piled up along roads. Poverty and disease were no strangers here. And of course, a madman paced inside a castle fit for Bluebeard himself.

While it’s unlikely H.H. Holmes is responsible for hundreds of murders, he evolved into a tall-tale of someone who invited hundreds of women to stay at his hotel where he supposedly killed them all. This has never really been proven. While the fair showed great strides in science (like Tesla’s work), forensic evidence was not quite evolved enough to give us the solid facts we need to know everything Holmes might have done. However, we are quite sure he did take Minnie Williams and her sister Anna to the fair (I have more poems about their fates in my collection). So, for this piece, I took both fact and fiction, truths and exaggerated ideas, and spun them into a version that fits the Holmes of my book. Either way, this is one fair I think we should all be glad is far in the past.

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Sara Tantlinger, Biography –

Tantlinger_ap2019Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. She is the author of Love For Slaughter and the Stoker-nominated The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, both released with StrangeHouse Books. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA.

Her debut novella, To Be Devoured, will be published in July 2019 with Unnerving. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com

The Devil’s Dreamland, Info –

The Devil's Dreamland full rezH.H. Holmes committed ghastly crimes in the late 19th century. Many of which occurred within his legendary “Murder Castle” in Chicago, Illinois. He is often considered America’s first serial killer.

In her second book of poetry from Strangehouse Books, Sara Tantlinger (Love For Slaughter) takes inspiration from accounts and tales which spawned from the misdeeds of one Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. Fact and speculation intertwine herein, just as they did during the man’s own lifetime.

There’s plenty of room in the cellar for everyone in The Devil’s Dreamland.

“…chilling poetry…” —Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of “How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend” and HWA Lifetime Achievement Award winner

“…morbidly creative and profound crime documentary…one of the best works of horror poetry I’ve read in years.” —Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Grave Markings and Play Dead

“…fascinating and absolutely riveting…powerful and vivid prose…will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.”—Christina Sng, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Collection of Nightmares

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National Poetry Month: Poetry from Bram Stoker Award Winner Stephanie Wytovich #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

April is National Poetry Month and because I write, read, and love poetry, I’m featuring poetry on my site this month! You’ll find poetry, articles, reviews, and more so stop by often. Yesterday, Bram Stoker Award winning poet Marge Simon brought us a wonderful article called “Illumination Dark Poetry” with various examples of her poetry, which you can find here.

Today, please enjoy some samples from Bram Stoker Award winning dynamo, Stephanie Wytovich. I dare you not to feel.

Thanks for sharing with us, Stephanie!

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Surgical Fantasies of the Past Ten years
Originally Published in Yes, Poetry

I tattoo incision lines on my stomach,
dream about surgically removing my ugliness.

At sixteen, the girls put laxatives in my peppermint tea,
laughed at me in the mirror when I tried to scream away my calories.

At 26, I cried in the shower when my skin didn’t fall off,
vomited the memories of my ex telling me I was diseased.

Inside, my lungs are a crawl space filled with candy wrappers,
my ribs broken from too many bathroom breaks ending in blood.

There are 206 bones in the human body,
Tell me, how many are in a monster?

 

____

 

Emergency Masturbation Fantasy
Originally Published in Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

I masturbate to an empty chair

My hand moving up and down

like yours never did

I try to see your face

Scream your name

But     I       can’t

And I wonder if you exist

If my memories are from photographs of people I never met

Whose stories I don’t know

I climax to your eyes

Taste the saliva on your lips

But       I           don’t

Because you’re an empty chair

And my box is broken

Like yours never was

I should stop blaming myself

Quit bleeding for sport

But       I           won’t.

 

___

 

Post-Traumatic Spiders
Originally Published in Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

My doctor scribbled in her notepad,

“What do you want to talk about today?”

I was already crying

I ate all the cough drops on the table when she wasn’t looking

Her dog was asleep on my foot

I just left my one-night stand in the parking lot.

Frustration wore on her face like the foundation she forgot to wear

“Are the nightmares back?”

I spun my ring around my thumb

I thought about how you said I wore too much jewelry

I tongued the scar on the inside of my cheek

The tarantulas are everywhere.

Her right foot tapped against the carpeted floor

“You know it’s okay, right? That none of this is your fault?”

I didn’t believe her

I felt its legs crawling up my shoulder

I watched it watch me.

I could have stopped it. I could have said no.

 Fifty minutes passed like fifty seconds

“Same time again next Wednesday?

I nodded my head

I picked the spider off my cheek

I swallowed the web it had spun around my mouth

The silk tasted like semen and blood.

Stephanie M. Wytovich, Biography –

Wytovich Headshot_4Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction.

Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich on her blog and on twitter @SWytovich​.

Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare is her most recent collection. Read about it here!

Sheet Music Front CoverSheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, Info –

Roll the windows down, wipe the blood off your cheek, and turn the music up. Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich is a collection spattered with dirt and blood, sage and corpses. The poems inside are confessionals and dirges, their stories the careful banter of ghosts and sinners over tequila at the bar.

These pages hold the lyrics to the beautiful grotesque that Wytovich is known for, but here she writes with a raw honesty that we haven’t seen from her before. This new direction takes readers to hospital rooms and death beds, shows the mask that was skinned off her face time and time again. There’s a brutality to her lines that cuts with the same knife she fantasized about it, her blood and tears mixed in with stanzas as she talks about suicide and abuse, heartbreak and falling in love.

Written during a time when the road was her home, these poems were sung under the stars and screamed in the woods, carved into trees. They are broken bottles and cigarette butts, stale coffee and smeared lipstick, each its own warning, a tale of caution.
Listen to them carefully.

They very well might save your life.

Find it on GoodReads to Add or Buy.

Stop back tomorrow for a post from Sara Tantlinger. Then, join us next week when we highlight a bunch more wonderful poetry. Have a great week!

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National Poetry Month Celebration: Welcome Bram Stoker Award Winner Marge Simon on Illuminating Dark Poetry #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

PoetryMonthGraphic

April is National Poetry Month and I do so love to highlight this type of writing I love to do, and also showcase other poets and work when I get the chance.

I hope to change more people’s minds about genre or dark poetry, in addition to poetry as a whole. I think if you’re one of those hesitant readers, give it a chance you’ll find it different these days than what you’re thinking of (being stuck back in high school classes). There is much to celebrate and appreciate!

For the rest of April I’ll be hosting original and re-print poetry, guest articles, interviews, and reviews from some poets I know and love, mostly in the dark poetry or horror poetry categories. If I have time, I hope to write some articles talking about poetry as well  such as diversity in poetry, feminist voice, dark poetry, favorite poets, but if I don’t get this latter done, I will happily feature them at other times during the year. Poetry never dies.

poetry and books quote

I’m proud to begin my celebration of poetry over the next two weeks with none other than veteran genre poet, Marge Simon! Fittingly enough, in her article she also encourages you to give poetry a try and lay the stereotypes to rest. And stay tuned from some poetry examples from her as well.

Perfect post to begin with….thank you so much, Marge!

Marge Simon is a writer, poet, and illustrator living in Ocala, Florida. She edits a column for the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on the HWA Board of Trustees. A Grand Master Poet of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, her stories appear in Daily Science Fiction, Polu Texni, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, and anthologies such as Chiral Mad 4 and Tales from the Lake 5.

Simon has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award, and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award.

Illuminating Dark Poetry

by Marge Simon, Award-winning Poet and Artist

“I hate poetry.”

“Poetry is nice, but I’d rather have a cookie.”

“Poetry is stupid. I wrote one for my girlfriend and she dumped me.”

I’ve actually had people comment like this to me over the years. In fact, most recently, at a Stoker convention, an author looked straight at me while I was signing a poetry collection and informed a bystander that he hated poetry. “Except for limericks,” he added. “Limericks are fine.” Sure, it was rude, but what can you say to that, other than “to each, their own”?

When I’m pressed by people as to what I write, I say “poetry,” but I’ll hasten to add, “It’s genre or speculative poetry, not what you are thinking of as poetry.” And then I change the subject, because I’m sure they don’t know what I’m talking about, and they don’t ask, and they really don’t care. I tell myself that I’m absolutely certain they are just being polite – and that is why I thought I would never write this article. But later, I got to thinking how there is poetry AND poetry. There is poetry for the general public appreciation, and there is also poetry that appeals to the literary community; there is poetry that those who appreciate both formal and speculative dark poetry.

Still what is so wrong with poetry, anyway? Most of it rhymes and is pleasurable to read if you are in the mood. We have these heavyweights of history to thank for poetry in our lives today – bet you have heard them quoted time over:

Shakespeare

Shelley

Byron

Keats

Kipling

Coleridge

Tennyson

Houseman

Not to mention Poe, C.A. Smith, and of course H.P. Lovecraft. You need to check them out – all of them. Take your time. You’ll find elements of darkness within a number of their works. As well, there are non-rhyming poems – poems with interior rhyme, or poems contrived to look like an object, and so on. How about poems that address the human condition? Speculative is my choice.

Here’s a variety of my stuff for examples.

A poem about familial relationships:

Latch Lock & Chain

I follow the stream into the greenwood,

Old Dozer knows the way, I smile as he

veers off, going deeper into the foliage, where

a last burst of sunset falls on the brick hut,

the same I’d built alone decades ago,

crumbling now, the whitewash almost gone.

 

How pleased I’d been that day to add that sign,

“KEEP OUT”, now buried in a pile of leaves.

I should complete my mission before dark,

for the bastard’s sake, as he’ll be waiting.

 

At first at odds, I determine to convey

the truth, not guise it all in falsehoods.

“There’s been enough bad blood between us.

I’ll set you free, if you promise to forgive.”

From inside I hear a croak of assent.

But Dozer growls, looks at me. Whines.

 

“Mother hated you, she believed my lies.

The mine we co-owned is worthless,

I sold the deed to our land years ago,

and I killed that whore you fancied.”

 

The latch is rusted, but the lock still holds.

My key won’t work, I smash it with my torch.

With trembling hands, I free the chain.

Impossibly thin fingers claw around the door,

pushing it open a crack at a time …

Note: this poem actually concerns the relationship between a man and his dog.

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A dark poem through a child’s eyes:

Sooner, Later

In the canyon

above a stream

corpse of a lynx,

her foot in a bear trap,

six kits spread dead

in line at her dugs,

and all you say is,

just as well

they’d all die anyway,

sooner or later.

 

I was a kid,

so I thought like a kid,

thought how she might

be thirsty, starving,

thought maybe she

could have eaten

them all, one by one

just to say alive,

but that didn’t happen

and you’d said just as well,

they’d all die anyway,

sooner or later.

 

But you were my brother,

bigger than me,

so I didn’t argue,

and I didn’t cry.

Note: this speaks to those who look up to older siblings, realizing in the end that you need to draw your own conclusions about life and death

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A poem through an alien lover’s eyes:

He Promised Me the Moon

I came here hoping

this world would suffice,

but all I met were flimsy ghosts

playing with fractals and logistics,

as meaningless as gossip –until him.

 

He hired me as his model,

even promised me the moon

before his wife’s death.

I wasn’t planning on this,

to know such human feelings.

 

He begged me to move in, after.

But he sits now, staring at his paintings.

He won’t even let me touch him.

Her flowers shrivel in their pots,

for want of her special love.

 

She was from Orlando,

a crowded, touristy place

of slender women, cocktails

at four, fashion-wise and empty-

headed as the rest of their lot.

 

But I don’t leave him. I can’t.

It makes me wince, knowing

I can assume a liquid form,

a creature foreign to this world,

from a planet of endless storms.

 

Perhaps tomorrow he’ll be aware,

pick up his palette, have me pose.

I don’t care how painful or how long,

I only want him to undress me,

kiss me in familiar places –

 

I’ll find us a moon of our own,

far from Earth.

Note: His wife was from Orlando, bringing this into a realm you can identify with – she could be from any city on earth, actually.

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A poem through an ensorcelled puppet’s eyes:

When Again I Feel My Hands

My wooden hands

hang idle on the strings.

Master’s drunk on Holland gin

& sleeps beside the wench

who takes my place.

 

Half human, half wood,

in a world deprived of joy,

I am the fool’s scepter,

a reprieve from tedium,

my simple plays enhanced

by classical compositions.

You cannot know how dear

the price of mirth.

 

With his dark eyes, he wooed me

& with his magic, he prevailed.

Father swore, mother wept

as he swept me in his arms

& then away to foreign lands.

 

Soon he’ll tire of her,

& cast a spell to change her form

as did he mine, to suit his needs.

She’ll bob & bow as I do now,

and he will set me free–

or so he promised, long ago.

 

When again I feel my hands,

I’ll rip away these strings

& as he sleeps, I’ll pull them taut

around his bearded throat,

claim his magic for my own.

 Note: this poor young woman is a victim of falsehoods, a timeless warning.

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 Lastly, a poem about your next door neighbor:

               the decaffeinated man

awake, I wander outside,

hearing screams from neighbor’s house,

move close to their bathroom window;

I see the obsessive man

has tried to clean the filth

from his rectum with Drano, and

not to be outdone, his compulsive wife

has just botched a Clorox gargle

for fresh breath and sparkling white smile.

Note: sometimes you just want a really sicko laugh.

Open your mind to the many other realms of dark poetry. The perspectives are countless! Thanks for inviting me, Erin!

Marge Simon, Biography –

Simonphoto-208x258Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on the HWA Board of Trustees.  She is the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF & F Poetry Association with a Grand Master Award.

She has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award,
and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Asimov’s SF, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Grievous Angel, Daily Science Fiction, and in the anthologies, You, Human, Chiral Mad, and The Beauty of Death, to name a few. She attends the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer, and is on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation.

She has a daughter, Melle Tillison Broaderick, and two lovely granddaughters. She married a long time friend and colleague, Bruce Boston, in 2001. Besides being a fantastic conversationalist and the love of her life, he has taught her a great deal about writing top notch poetry and fiction, for which she is grateful.

In addition to her solo work, she has written collaborative poetry and fiction with Bruce Boston, Charlee Jacob, Mary Turzillo, Alessandro Manzetti and Bryan Dietrich.

You can view Marge’s fiction, poetry, and art, and contact her for freelance art assignments on her website.

Here is but one of her collections –

Satan's SweetheartsSatan’s Sweethearts
by Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo

Satan’s Sweethearts is an evil collection of poetry. Meet the macabre history of villainesses as Ching-Shih, Dephine LaLaurie, and Lizzie Borden.

Find on GoodReads!

WAR
by Marge Simon and Alessandro Manzetti

Look in my eyes. My bronze skin reflects the flames of the battles.

I feed on bullets and shrapnel.

WarI have trenches instead of veins and a bombardier’s whirring plays my favorite symphony inside my big head. This is my story, with some of my best camouflages and disguises, and you should expect your peace plans to fail. Because that’s what I do for living.

Look at my million golden teeth necklace. Ring any bells? Maybe you’re too young. I probably should have mentioned the fireworks over the Baghdad night sky, my new friend, or the live broadcast of two great skyscrapers disintegrating. You know what I’m talking about, right? So, you can call me by one of my many names: Great General, Lock-box of the Powerful, Red Rain, Lord of Steel or, more simply, WAR.

I appear as strife of many kinds, from Stalingrad to Scotland. Africa to Afghanistan, the civil war of Italy and the War Between the States, ghostly wars, drug wars, the battle of the sexes, World Wars I, II and visions of a holocaust yet to come. It’s all herein and more, with poems both collaborative and individual.

Find on GoodReads!

My pleasure having Marge on Hook of a Book! Stay tuned this week for posts featuring Bram Stoker Award winning poet Stephanie Wytovich and Bram Stoker nominated poet Sara Tantlinger, with more to come next week from some other awesome poets.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Feature Articles, poetry, Q and A with Authors, Uncategorized, Usborne and Kane/Miller News

Hooked on Reading: 35 Favorite Books I Read in 2018! #amreading

Over 35 Favorite Books I Read in 2018!

Better late than never is my new motto. Plus, hey, it’s still in the first quarter. I wanted to post a list of some books as reading recommendations I read and really liked in 2018. I discovered after the fact that 30 are by women! It’s not a “best of” list, as with my work and home schedule I didn’t nearly have enough time to read all the books I wanted to in order to do a proper comparison, but a best of what I personally read.

My Best Books 2018 final

When I did read in 2018, it often was books I was editing or a publicity client’s book, and so, you’ll see none of those on this list because I think it’s more ethical to not include books you might have made any money with by association. I am sad to not include some, but I feel it’s the right call. I don’t want to be perceived in offering any bias. These are books I sought out for my own reading interest or pleasure that I really liked (but that’s not to say that books I worked with and/or on this year are not some of my favorites I’ve read from the year either) or were anticipated ARCS.

There were many books I know are worthy or I know I’d have loved if I’d only had time to get to them, but that doesn’t mean I won’t read them in 2019. Also there are some books I started in 2018 but finished in 2019 so they won’t be on this list. Some of the titles below were not published in 2018, but I simply read them then. Therefore, it’s a list of favorite books I read in 2018. It shows you that I have a wide array of interests; I am very happy and proud of the fact that I read widely, cross-genre, both trad pubs and indie, and with diversity and inclusion in mind. To me, this only helps my own writing and editing and allows me to bring much more insight to the writing work I do with others.

One more note, because I am sure some will wonder why there aren’t more indie titles and that’s because I work so much in the horror genre in editing and publicity that I did read quite a few, I just can’t list them, as I said before. Also, there are indie and trad published books that just simply didn’t make the list. If a book didn’t grab me in the first five pages this year, I didn’t pick it up again. I didn’t have time. Also, keep in mind I read book submissions, beta read books, read books prior to and while editing, and read almost 600 short story and poetry submissions for an anthology project as well this year – most all of that horror. So while I read horror, I read so much of it in other ways, I switched gears in some of my pleasure reading (and I was sent very little straight horror ARCS as I am in other genres – go figure?). Though I love fantasy and sci-fi as well, I wasn’t able to read much of it this year due to time.

Some of these favorites below were given to me as ARCS, especially in the historical fiction genre, some were titles I found in trad magazines or watched the buzz about and requested from my library, maybe some I bought. Any print ARCS I am given usually find preference and I understand I still have plenty in my pile that I didn’t get to this year – many I truly want to read. Several I was given at the end of the year and have since read, but that will be January 2019 and the reviews are to come. I’ve switched and organized my schedule to hopefully begin to be more caught up on ARCS this year and be responsive to others, but work, my own writing career, and family always comes first. Please don’t fault me for reading a few books for my own pleasure here and there too (and yes, I ask this, because people do say stuff). I was sad this year I didn’t have more time for reading, but I managed to squeeze in some during insomnia, waiting in the car or other places for my children, or on weekends. I just didn’t have time to type up reviews for all as when you work for yourself time is money. This year one of my goals is to get up more reviews in a timely fashion!

Now that I hopefully have all the disclaimers out of the way, here are some books and collections I enjoyed in 2018:

Horror/Thriller/Fantasy

the-Chalk-ManThe Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor – I read this debut thriller shortly after it came out, mostly because these types of thrillers are some of my personal go-to books when I want some entertainment. This one was getting a lot of positive buzz. I highly enjoyed it and read it in one night. I was captivated throughout and she surprised me in the end.

The-HungerThe Hunger Alma Katsu – I’ve liked Alma’s work for a LONG while, probably before most people in my circles knew her name. I highly anticipated The Hunger, due to it having several factors that make me raise my hand: history, extreme cases in history, and survival. I’m primarily an historical fiction reader, so couple that with my next love of horror, and I’m happy. Alma’s writing is so professional, clean, and interesting. I loved the complexity about it. I highly recommend for fellow fans of Dan Simmons.

MelmothMelmoth by Sarah Perry – I just loved the description of this next book by Perry (the follow-up, but not linked, to The Essex Serpent) and so it was on my highly anticipated list. Perry is a very skilled writer and I love the intertwining of so many cool places around the world (set in Prague – I mean I’m silently screaming) and again, through flashbacks, an historical aspect. I mean if you truly love 18th century gothic to its core like me, this one will suck you in and most likely dry and you’ll need to recover. It’s fantastical and unique.

ProvidenceProvidence Caroline Kepnes – I mean CAROLINE. Caroline has a very original sort of writing. The type that you could pick up a book blinding and know it’s her writing as you start to read it. She’s funny, dramatic, soul crushing, and inspiring all at once. I mean the gamut of emotions I experienced reading this book left me wondering just how I truly did feel – terribly sad and broken? Inspired by devotion? Light humor always takes away the gloom realities of Caroline’s books and I love reading her for it. There are many popular authors I won’t name who are trying to do the same thing (ahem, sorry men) and it doesn’t work even 90% as well as Caroline doing it. I really enjoyed reading it.

The Forgotten GirlThe Forgotten Girl by Rio Youers – This is a page turning read that was just a lot of fun, with twists, turns, and originality. Youers gives great voice to his characters and you truly feel for them, even though the story is being unfolded at a very fast pace. You can’t help but want to know what happens to them and want it to end well, but you’re just not sure if it will at the same time – or if they will ever be the same. It has a lightness to it, as a read, and some humor of course. The plot propels the reader.

UNBURY CarolUnbury Carol by Josh Malerman – I don’t think I really love anyone’s work in horror at the moment more than I love Malerman’s. To me, he transcends writing and puts it into some other plane of creative existence. Literary, without being too posh, horror that doesn’t wreck your emotions in the way many horror books do – by being in your face – but subliminally strokes your insides until your weeping in places you didn’t realize or searching for lost places inside yourself or others. He knows how to tell a tale, but within it, he’s trying to get a glimpse at humanity himself. At all those lost questions. He’s phenomenal and he’s only getting started. Unbury Carol was not a favorite to some, but to me, it was my favorite so far! I can so relate to Carol on various levels and it just really spoke to me. Couple that with the fact I like deconstructed fairy-tales (Sleeping Beauty here) and even westerns, I was sold from the start and enjoyed every moment of it.

Siren and the SpecterThe Siren and the Specter by Jonathan Janz – This could also be put under Gothic category. I’ve read all of Janz’s books over the years and this was one of the best I’ve read of him flexing his paranormal fingers. He writes a solid haunted house story with an original plot. I’d say he truly keeps showing his mastery at the southern gothic style and should be receiving way more accolades for his work than he is – he really should have made the Bram Stoker ballot this year. He writes with intelligence and creates meaningful, complex characters, wrapping them up in just the right amount of scares. Ominous, atmospheric work.

(In full disclosure, his last two books were with the publisher I worked with so I promoted those books, as well as he’s been my personal client at times when he needed publicity support, but I felt I could give one tiny inch past my ethical presence on this one since I am not associated with Flame Tree and I didn’t work on this particular title. Plus, I REALLY loved it!)

The Night MarketThe Night Market by Jonathan Moore – I have loved Moore’s work since his first crime thriller/horror novel Redheads, and then, first in his next loosely-connected series of three books, The Poison Artist (one of my top favorite reads ever), from which The Night Market is the third book. I’ve neglected, as with many reviews in 2018, to get a review written and up, so I will remedy that in 2019, but suffice to say that this was one of my favorite books of 2018 – and it came in the first month of the year. Moore is precise in his plot, creative with characters and setting, unique in his mysteries, and yet, also manages to put in such cool scientific and forensic work too. The Night Market has him at the top of his game with his captivating suspense and decadent prose. This one, being set in a near future San Francisco, has a different appeal from the previous too so might enchant fans of dystopian and sci-fi as well.

Damned by the AncientsDamned by the Ancients (Nemesis of the Gods #3) by Catherine Cavendish – It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Cat Cavendish is one of my favorite horror suspense and/or gothic authors. In this series, she’s combined several other favorites of mine by using history, art, and Egyptology as her base for some captivating thrills. Though top on my list as personal fun reads, I hadn’t gotten to the first two books yet, but opted to dive into the third since it came out this year. You can read them stand alone, but I am sure they are better in order. At any rate, I’ll be going back to the other two for sure after I read my copy of her highly anticipated The Haunting of Henderson Close, which came our January of 2019. Damned by the Ancients has an intricate plot, good historical research, mesmerizing characters, and a pace that can quicken the heart of any reader because it’s also very scary!

methodThe Method by Duncan Ralston – This book, a Kindle Scout Winner from 2017, was just way better than I even thought the concept might be from reading the back cover copy. This was a psychological suspense thriller that is also categorized as horror, because it’s more violent mid to end; terrorizing. He combines it all nicely, leaving you uncomfortable, unsure, and wanting to know with every page, from the very first page, what is about to happen next and who you can trust. The characterization, plotting, and suspense all are stable foundations for a very entertaining read. Would be a great film (in fact he’s just finished writing the screenplay)!

Gothic Mystery and Mystery

The Death of Mrs. WestawayThe Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware – Have you heard me say how much I love Ruth Ware? I’m President of the Ruth Ware Fan Club. Not really, but I’d be happy to if anyone wants to form said club! I was really looking forward to what book she was putting out in 2018 after reading The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game in 2017. I was thrilled to find this one a little more on the gothic side as well, which I love of course. Ruth always gives me a good mystery and this one didn’t fail to twist, turn, and surprise me. I always identify with her main character. It’s a great summer read.

RebeccaRebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – This was a re-read for me that I picked up after many, many years so I could try to do the read-a-long with the Ladies of Horror Fiction. I read it all again within a couple days because I couldn’t stop. I just love this book as much as ever. There are so many things I could say about the novel – from its mystery to its atmosphere to its clever clues placed within scenery and characters, Du Maurier reminded me again why she’s a big influence on my own writing.

The AtrocitiesThe Atrocities by Jeremy Shipp – What a very strange novella that I had to read twice. I picked this book up as it seemed very different, surreal maybe, and gothic. Maybe much like Slade House. I’d say that all held true. Shipp’s mind is imaginative and flowing – almost like you’re reading a dream state. It was an experience for sure that I’m glad I tried, and I’d certainly recommend if you like literary horror that colors outside the lines like me.

The Body in the LibraryThe Body in the Library by Agatha Christie – I never tire of Agatha Christie and love reading her books, books about her, watching the movies, etc. I enjoyed reading The Body in the Library as a fun summer read and re-visiting the mystery with Miss Marple. I am largely a Poirot fan in general as it pertains to Christie’s detectives, and Miss Marple needs to shine more in this title, but overall I enjoyed the plot. I picked it up…well, because of the library of course. I enjoyed her descriptions and humor as always and the fact that it seemed very modern even though it was written decades ago.

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Polombo

SpellbookI love anything “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as most people who know me will agree. I was eager, both in reading previous books by Polomobo (and liking them) and because this re-telling of Sleepy Hollow was from Katrina’s point of view and added the new twist of the disappearance of Ichabod on All Hallows Eve. Polombo introduces the character of Charlotte, who is the witch friend of Katrinia, and together they use magic to search for him. It was a fun read perfect for last October. It’s a little more on the romance/sex side than what I normally like in books and it was hard to know what category to put it in. Fellow horror readers didn’t think it was horror, though obviously it has horror and paranormal elements, it has witches and magic, it’s a mystery, and historical readers claimed it as her other works feature women in history (and the setting), plus it has this romance and some suspense as well. It’s an entertaining read encompassing all these things and is probably most likely suited for mainstream readers, not genre readers.

Domestic Thrillers/Suspense

The WifeThe Wife by Alafair Burke – I have followed Alafair Burke’s career since her first book. Though I haven’t read all of them in between, I’ve read quite a few. This one was SUPERB. Alafair’s writing never disappoints. Just what I needed for an escape into something else. I highly recommend this one for your next snowed-in or summer read if you like family crime or thriller dramas. It will suck you fully in and leave you astounded at the end.

Bring-Me-BackBring Me Back by B.A. Paris – Another stand out thriller from Paris that kept me guessing. I loved the including on the Russian nesting dolls in this one – and since I received this as an ARC, a doll showed up in my mailbox too (THRILLED!). It’s signature her if you’ve read her other books, though if you’ve read all her other work before this one, it might start to feel a little bit same in some respects. Nonetheless, it was a fun summer read I really enjoyed. Of course, her twists and turns always surprise me.

sometimes_i_lie.jpg.size-custom-crop.0x650Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – Another in the vein of the thrillers I like, this title might be at the top for one of my best novels read last year. And it’s a debut, so I look forward to more to come from her. I feel it was a little cleaner and tidier than some of the other popular domestic thrillers (my editor eye coming out I guess) and that it flows and ties up things more smoothly. Plus, I felt I was in this character’s head with her! From my GoodReads review: “Page-turning quick read that hooked me and had me guessing. So many twists, made me think and go back to re-read parts. Excellent psychological thriller. Very enjoyable!”

the perfect strangerThe Perfect Stranger Megan Miranda – This was totally another fun summer read that took just a night to get through because I wanted to find out what would happen. It was so entertaining and it was one I truly enjoyed reading. Memorable characters and page-turning suspense. This is a great read for long summer evenings or on vacation. I will read anything Miranda publishes.

 

Historical Fiction

Tiffany BluesTiffany Blues by M.J. Rose – I am a HUGE fan of Tiffany glass and have had a decade long interest in reading anything having to do with the Tiffany family. As past reviews over the years on my site indicate, I’m also an enormous fan of Rose’s writing and books as well. Once I finally got a chance to sit down with this book, I breezed through it in no time at all. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book, the mystery intertwined with romance, and the descriptions. I still owe a full review for this one on my site and I’ll still get to it this year.

The Lost Season of Love and SnowThe Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam – Jennifer is wonderfully smooth historical fiction author. It’s easy to get swept away in her novels and it suddenly be the next morning (which is in fact what happened to me). Of course, I love any fiction that has to do with Russia – this one of course even showcased a favorite poet, Alexander Pushkin! I read this over a year ago now, in January 2018, and I still owe a review on my site. I really must do that because if you like historical fiction, stories of women in history who were with powerful men, slight romance, and/or even want to learn a take on the life of Pushkin, this is highly recommended by me. Beautiful, tormenting, and sad, it’s also light-hearted in its pen because of Jennifer’s sweet writing skills.

Trial on Mount KoyaTrial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann – Susan is one of my most beloved historical mystery fiction authors. I love her descriptions of Japan and her characters – I’ve come to feel like I know them. This one I did get a review up on the site for and you can find it HERE. It’s book six in her fantastic series. You can find review and interviews with her throughout the years on my site by putting her name in the search bar.

MyDearHamilton-500x750My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie – I mean this book is a NYT best-selling national sensation and it’s well-deserved. It’s historical fiction at the very finest. You can read my full review and interview from this year here.

The Romonov EmpressThe Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner – Again, I love anything surrounding Russian history in literature. I also am a giant fan of Gortner and read all his books. If you like historical fiction, you can’t get much better than reading Gortner. This book was OUTSTANDING. I am late on a full review of it as well, but I’ll still have one up for those interested this year. It’s never too late to add this one to your collection.

Ecstasy-by-Mary-SharrattEcstasy by Mary Sharatt – Mary is also an author I look forward to every year and she never disappoints. This historical fiction book was a highlight of my year. Her writing is so deep yet so delectable, it’s like eating a really good meal (and I love a good meal). I always am swept away by her writing. If you like stories of strong women in history, this one is another to add to your list. Alma Schindler, wife of Gustav Mahler, but brilliant composer in her own right, is explored in ultimate ode to the beauty of women’s perseverance for their own talents and passions.

Collections

The Purple Swamp HenThe Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories by Penelope Lively – If you’ve never read Booker Prize winning London author Penelope Lively, you need to rectify that immediately. When I first started reading Lively, I wondered about the style of writing in the stories (this published in 2017 and she’s towards the end of her career). I took a breath and re-trained my brain to go with her flow. I was glad I did, as it took on a whole new cadence that I really enjoyed. Sharp, perceptive, witty, and emotionally captivating, I was drawn in to each one differently. These are stories I could re-read again.

Anthologies

The Devil and the DeepThe Devil and the Deep edited by Ellen Datlow – I love anything that has to do with water and that carries over to literature. In fact, I have a collection of “water associated” books! I think Ellen Datlow is one of the finest editor and curators in the business and I really enjoyed over half of the stories in this anthology, if not all of them on some level. I feel she did a great job at funneling a wide array into the anthology and as well was inclusive as far as authors. I still owe a review on this one too – which hopefully I’ll get done soon. It was only one of a few anthology reads for me this year, which is a shame as I LOVE anthologies, but it was the favorite of those I read.

Poetry Collections

I-Am-Not-Your-Final-GirlI Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire Holland – One of my favorite books of poetry this year, Claire’s debut work really humanizes and values all the strength of the final girls in so many horror movies we’ve watched over the years, taking them for granted. No more, as she gives them their due, with a swift blade for a pen and a black heart for those against these women. I need to present you a further review for this one soon as well, but I highly recommend it – to anyone. If you’ve never read poetry, so what? Read it.

Lessons on ExpulsionLessons on Expulsion by Erika L. Sanchez – I have a lot to say about this poetry collection and so at some point I’ll be posting a stand-alone review, but honestly, this TORE MY GUTS out and really made me feel for women and children in Mexico. From sex workers, murder, narco- traffickers, rape, abuse to artists and love, this is all about survival. I was just BLOWN AWAY. Consider eyes opened. This was my favorite poetry collection of 2018 – and one of my favorites ever read.

Your Heart is the Sea by Nikita Gill – “People aren’t born sad, we make them that way.” That is a line from the poem “Why We Are All Afraid to Be” from Gill’s latest collection. Your Heart is the Sea 2I read everything she puts out because it’s beautifully heart-wrenching and soul cleansing and reminds me a lot of things I’ve been through, things I’ve written about myself, and yet, offers hope to hold onto at times as well. This collection came out in December 2018, and I was drawn to it because as most people know, I love the sea. There are so cool illustrations inside, but the poetry is the highlight of course. Her honest rendering of humanity and the heart gives me purpose.

WarWAR: Dark Poems by Alessandro Manzetti and Marge Simon – The back cover copy states, “I appear as strife of many kinds, from Stalingrad to Scotland. Africa to Afghanistan, the civil war of Italy and the War Between the States, ghostly wars, drug wars, the battle of the sexes, World Wars I, II and visions of a holocaust yet to come. It’s all herein and more, with poems both collaborative and individual.” This collection takes us around the gamut of the globe, our relationships, and our hearts to parch our dehydrated tongues and bolster our internal defenses. I love historical work – mixing historical with horror is something I enjoy – so being able to read this historical horror poetry collection was grand. It’s something I aspire to – both Manzetti and Simon are master poets, bring vividness to the page. 

fierce-fairytalesFierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill – All of Gill’s collection have qualities of female empowerment, as does this one, all wrapped up in references to fairy tales. I love fairy tales, but since they are a little cliché and delve into stereotypical references, Gill re-molds the pieces giving us some empowering stuff. I loved what Gill did with these poems and the cover is beautiful as well as her own original art which graces the inside pages.

to-make-monsters-out-of-girlsto make monsters out of girls by Amanda Lovelace – Lovelace’s collection of poetry books are must- haves for any strong female who has been through a lot and is coming out swinging. Her collection from 2018 offer no less empowerment and words to survive by. This one particularly hit home to me as a domestic abuse survivor. The poetry is all about being in a relationship like this and completely moved me. Deep, dark, emotional, but there’s also healing.

Sea of StrangersSea of Strangers by Lang Leav – Leav is an inspiration writer on love and life and heartache and personal growth after break-ups. This collection has poetry written in stanza, some short essays, some quotes – all types of poetry that breaks your heart again or soothes it or both at the same time. Probably her best so far. She’s much more inspirational and empowering than dark in anyway and offers enough light that her poems and quotes are very sharable.

The-Poet-X-by-Elizabeth-Acevedo-309x468Poet X by Elizabeth Acevado – I first entranced learning of Acevado in my son’s college magazine from George Washington University. They featured her this year, and the book, as she is an alumnus from there with a degree in performing arts. A child of Dominican immigrants, raised in NYC, she now lives with her husband in Washington D.C. Something about the connection drew me to her, but upon reading her words, she mesmerized me all on her own. I educated and found out she is a renowned slam poet, then she went on this year to win a National Book Award for Poet X, which was highly deserved (I had been rooting for it when I heard it was nominated). This is primarily a YA book, catalogued as such, but anyone can read it – it’s just that the characters are young. It’s a book told solely in poetic verse about a young girl in Harlem discovering slam poetry and using it to understand her mother’s religion and her own coming of age. It’s a lovely, but strong, book of female empowerment and how words can truly help us in so many ways. LOVED IT!

If They Come for UsIf They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar – I have been trying to incorporate reading with diversity in mind. Not just women, of course, but works and poetry stemming from other cultures as well. This book, written in various flashbacks and time periods over the course of Indian’s history of colonization, was eye-opening. Even having a history degree, I was not aware of the atrocities bestowed in the 1940s upon India during their occupation. Asghar grew up in the more modern eras, but she intertwines life of her ancestors and her own modern world as an immigrant in America and offers a horrible bird’s eye view. Her writing is fierce, angry, visceral, haunting, but overall so very important. I absolutely am humbled by this poetry, a little terrified at humanity, but so very glad I read it.

Most Disliked Book of the Year

Strange WeatherStrange Weather by Joe Hill – Of the books I read this year, completely, but still didn’t like, the short story by Joe Hill takes the cake. I absolutely abhorred his story ideas, his comedy, his snark, and his overall writing. I think I maybe liked one of the stories, but it felt like maybe his dad had already done it and/or several movie scripts somewhere down the line – “been there, done that.” I know some people liked it, but I just didn’t connect.

Best Liked Book of Others I Couldn’t Like

Final Girls

The Final Girls by Riley Sager – I tried to read this book three times, and each time I was so bored, I never made it past the fifth chapter. I won’t be reading anything from him again, no matter the buzz. I loved the idea of it but I just couldn’t get into the writing.

Most Anticipated Book I Didn’t Get to Read

The outsider.jpgThe Outsider by Stephen King – I got through 30 pages of it before it was due back at the library (too  many holds!) but was so busy didn’t bother to check it out again. Will wait to buy it and then read it. Looking forward to it though, because I was enjoying what I read of it.

 

Stay tuned for our FAVORITE READ LISTS in YA and Middle Readers as Emma (15) and Addie (11) weigh-in with me on the books we each enjoyed most!

Happy Reading!

About Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi –

Erin Al-Mehairi Bio PhotoErin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has twenty years of professional experience in the communication and marketing fields and is currently an author, writer, journalist, publicist, and an editor.

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 held both that and the top ten of horror short stories for months. She has poetry and short stories featured in several other anthologies, magazines, and sites and was the co-editor for the gothic anthology Haunted are these Houses.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her books at Amazon, or GoodReads. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter (@erinalmehairi), and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Feature Articles, New Books I've Found, poetry, women in history, women in horror

10 Pieces of My Writing from 2018! And 8 That You Can Read for FREE!

Hi Friends!

Coming off the heels of the end of 2017 bringing about my debut poetry and fiction collection Breathe. Breathe., and contributor stories in the anthologies of Hardened Hearts and Project Entertainment’s My Favorite Story, I found myself writing even more in 2018! So what did 2018 bring in terms of my creative writing….

Not only did I finish, with paper and pencil of course, my next poetry-only collection (which will be in the typing and editing stages for early 2019), but I wrote many stand alone poems and stories for various magazines and projects, some which are already published and others which I’m working on submitting this year (I’ve already submitted two – fingers crossed!).

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Me trying to WRITE at the library with the crazy person pacing back and forth while rapping out loud to the music in his headphones! haha!

I wanted to share some of my writings from this year that are available for free at links below. A good portion are from a women in horror writing monthly challenge, which helped keep my juices flowing, so I have so much thanks for Nina D’Arcangela and her team for running this project and giving us a platform for our work.

I was also featured in several anthologies as a contributing author as well as a co-curating editor, and you’ll find more information on them at the links below too!

I want to remind people that some of these are horror or trend toward darker fiction, but some of them are fairytale, or fantasy, or just writings that anyone can read!

It was a strange year full of more personal and professional strife, changes, and issues – and most of all, some semblance of transformation. I don’t even know how I got done half of what I did! I appreciate so very much those who’ve continued to support me both personally and professionally, those that keep Breathe. Breathe. continuously alive online with reviews and praise, and to friends who’ve stood by me through it all. We live and learn who our friends are in this business, and what I’ve learned the hard way just might be fodder for a future dark fiction collection.

Read my Poetry and Short Stories FREE online at these links – 

Poetry:

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Chained by Love” – Enchanted Conversation: A Fairytale Magazine, Feb. 2018 Issue. (Note: As far as I can tell this poem is also eligible for Rhysling nomination in the over 50 words category and I’d be honored for any SFPA members to take a look at it.)

A Land of Autumns” – SpillWords Press, Nov. 2018. 

Life’s Shadow” – Spreading the Writer’s Word, Ladies of Horror Flash Project, June 2018 (Note: Should be eligible for Rhysling)

Sacrificial Invitation” – Spreading the Writer’s Word, Ladies of Horror Flash Project, Nov 2018 (Note: Should be eligible for Rhysling)

Mummy Poetry – You can read two of my mummy poems right here on my own site! They were two of my favorite to write all year!

Short Stories:

Purple Hex Society” – Spreading the Writer’s Word, Ladies of Horror Flash Project, May 2018

The Witch’s Cottage” – Spreading the Writer’s Word, Ladies of Horror Flash Project, Oct. 2018

The Insistent Reporter” – Spreading the Writer’s Word, Ladies of Horror Flash Project, Dec. 2018

Anthologies:

dark voices cover

Cover by Luke Spooner

Wrapped in Battle” – Poetry, Dark Voices Anthology, Lycan Valley Press, July 2018. I dedicate this poem in memory and honor of all my female family and friends who’ve fought cancer, as the proceeds of the anthology go to breast cancer research organizations. This is an all-female anthology and I am so thrilled to be a part of it with so many other fabulous women dark fiction authors. My poem finishes up the collection. It’s currently available in print only, but should be available in e-book later this year.

Purchase – Amazon

Add to GoodReads

haunted are these houses

Haunted Are These Houses” – co-editor, Gothic Poetry and Short Fiction Anthology, Unnerving, Sept. 2018. I read almost 600 poetry and short story submissions as co-editor of this anthology, had the great honor of bringing in and editing Catherine Cavendish’s short story to it (she’s one of my favorite women authors in horror), and was in final, the poetry editor, curating the poetry selections from some of the finest poets in the dark fiction and horror communities such as Bruce Boston, Stephanie Wytovich, Sara Tantlinger, Christina Sng, and more.

Purchase – Amazon

Add to GoodReads

If you enjoy my work, I love hearing comments and thoughts! Thank you so much for supporting me in my work in 2018. I am looking forward to an even more productive 2019 with my writing – stay tuned for a post on that soon.

Warm wishes,

Erin

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Filed under Breathe Breathe, My Writing, poetry

Celebrating Breathe. Breathe.’s One Year Anniversary: THANK YOU!

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My ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the publication of my debut dark poetry and short story collection, Breathe. Breathe. from Unnerving, came around in October 2018!!! It was fun to celebrate and almost like I had just published it all over again! I honestly have no idea how so much time has passed so quickly, and though everyone else is probably sick of hearing me talk about it, I don’t think I ever will be – even when I publish my next book or collection! Breathe. Breathe. will always be special to me because it’s an extension of me and a big part of me. I’ve enjoyed celebrating every milestone!

Breathe Breathe

Gratefully, people have still been embracing it this year and letting me talk about my stories, my inspirations, and sharing their own thoughts on the book in continual reviews. In just October and November, in celebration of the anniversary, I wrote several articles I’d love to share here. Coincidentally, I had some wonderful new reviews come in as well. I’d love to share them with you below! It’s definitely not a full list from the year, but it’s my goal to soon have up my media page to include all the links.

Stay tuned too, as I have three interviews and a few more articles I’m finishing up that will appear this month (December) or January. Soon I’ll hopefully be able to share more news about publications and writing projects coming up!

Articles

On Ginger Nuts of Horror – Five Scary Books to Read for Halloween

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On InkHeist – Vahalla Lane: We’re All About Revenge Here

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On The Horror Tree – My Writing Inspiration: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Breathe Vahalla Ln Guest Article (1)

And…..

Brian Fatah Steele’s Site – My Writing Process: Wait, There’s a Writing Process?

Interview

7 Q’s with Brian Fatah Steele

Reviews (Click on blog title for full review)

Kendall Reviews – “If the idea of reading a collection of poetry is what is preventing you from checking this out, give your head a shake. If it’s the lack of corpses and skulls on the cover, have a friend smack you silly. This is dark, dark stuff and it should be mandatory reading by everyone in the horror community.”

Red Lace Reviews – “There’s a lot of content in this title, and all of it was thought-provoking. I may not be a connoisseur of poetry, but I appreciated the heart-wrenching emotion poured into every addition, and the concluding short stories also interested me.”

Howling Library – “Altogether, Breathe. Breathe. is a fantastic collection of poems and stories, and—at risk of sounding cheesy—is a real breath of fresh air. Erin shows a natural talent for writing, and I am so appreciative of the way she bared her soul to the world in her work here.”

Down in a Book – “This collection beautifully showcases the beauty in the worlds we create (either physically or in our own heads) and also reminds us of the sickening cruelty inflicted onto others. A great collection for anyone who enjoys reading work on the darker/haunting side, and who may want to feel a little vengeance a little once in awhile!”

The RAC Magazine (Nov/Dec Issue) – “Erin’s words were deeply moving.”
(This Reader Author Connection Magazine is subscription only.

And…

just a few days ago, Emily from Book.Happy posted her favorite debuts she read in 2018 (all 4 and 5 star reviews) and included Breathe. Breathe. in her stack. I was honored by the company I was keeping and thankful for her support.

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If you’d like to order Breathe. Breathe. I’d be honored. Please let me know if you’d like to purchase a signed print copy by e-mailing me at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Or you can order in e-book and print from Amazon, read on Kindle Unlimited, or order print from Barnes and Noble.

Thank you so very much for your continued encouragement and for celebrating with me. More soon!

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Read My Poem, “A Land of Autumns”

My poem “A Land of Autumns” was accepted by SpillWords Press for their site a month ago. I find it funny actually, as it’s an October poem they decided to publish on November 17…okay, I told myself…autumn in November will still be lovely out here in the country where I am. I’m just glad it’s published for all to read even if it mentions October. It will be fine.

But then, of course, we had only three days of Fall, all the leaves are off the trees, and it’s ice and snow everywhere. So, my friends, let my poem take you back in time….or cry…either. As my 11 year old said, “I refuse to celebrate anything but Octobers and Novembers and Fall until after Thanksgiving.” I’m with her, so far.

If you enjoy my poem, please let me know what you think. It boosts a writer’s motivation, you know. *wink*

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Here is the poem: http://spillwords.com/for-a-land-of-autumns/

Have a wonderful weekend!

Erin

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Halloween Poetry Gifts for My Readers: Two Poems Featuring Mummies!

I love giving treats, so what better treat could I think to give everyone for Halloween than a couple of my original, unpublished poems! As a gift to readers, I’ve posted two of my MUMMY poems below. I’ve always had an obsession with mummies myself (mostly the Egyptian variety), and especially reading about mummies in horror! I’m a fanatic about historical research and excavations of mummies, but also fantastical fiction of curses and revenge.

Let me know what you think in the comments! I will offer a brief message about each poem under it. Just beware of opening any wrong doors as you enter to read…..

Cleve Museum of Art

Cleveland Museum of Art Egyptian Exhibit

 

Dancing with Mummies

Eva doesn’t want to put on her costume,
of witch, cat, or pink Power Ranger,
she wants to wrap up in the gauze of time,
in a mummy’s trappings,
and run through sand-drenched streets.

She wants to hop on the trolley near Wade,
and blend in, quietly assessing the onlookers,
who seek a haunted tour near Lakeview,
but she has plans to see dead of another sort.

She wants to jump off the rail as they do in the movies,
glide inside the Museum of Art as if in ballet shoes,
and move to the rhythm of passion and history.

Eva winds her way to the marble catacombs
of sarcophagus and statue,
lightly carrying herself on the chill breeze from
the hauntings of the ancients, risen before her.

She puts her arms out left and right, smiling,
as the mummies slowly step toward her in
the dark and empty room, taking her in
their arms

                          …and they dance.

Swaying, waltzing to the music of magic and fortune,
of sacrifice and power, their decaying faces alight again
with rebirth and hope, mobilizing her spirit.

Water of the Nile, green reeds of salvation,
scarabs rustling and blue funerary
carvings whirl by her entranced mind,
as if she’s time-slipped to Cairo.

She has no need for trick-or-treat, or bobbing for apples,
she’d rather laugh and drink and sing
with the priests and goddesses from thrones centuries ago,
eat olives and grapes instead of Smarties and Tootsie Rolls.

Eva closes her eyes and she twirls, her hair flying backwards,
spinning like a windmill, feeling her own energy, laughing
with the ghosts and monsters before her as they take turns
in a ballroom dance for her soul.

– Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, ©10/29/18

I love going to the Cleveland Museum of Art near Wade Circle in Cleveland, where people meander in the beautiful park, and there are trolley tours, with many tourists visiting the famous Lakeview Cemetery. Their motto of the museum “for all people” is very true as they are able to offer the whole of the museum (except very special seasonal exhibits) for FREE. We have learned so much about history and art both there. In fact, it was just designated as the second best in the United States. One of my favorite rooms there is the Egyptian exhibit and it was the inspiration for this poem.

 

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Howard Carter and his team, including Lord Carnavon, found King Tut’s tomb in 1922

 

King Tut’s Revenge

From the glass, from tomb,
                                           …he rises.

With layers of cloth loose-hanging,
dripping in gold, woken and ambivalent.
Hand over where his amulet protects,
he stumbles on ancient legs,
his bones dismantling.

Looking for Lord Carnavon’s ghost,
mouth falls wide with silent screams,
hands outstretched, reading walls
with no eyes, King Tut examines
his life defined.

His skeletal fingers scratch across
the surface of his golden casket,
where he once laid, identifiable
by artistic paint, regal in death.

But bound by revenge, seething
in pain for archaeologists’ desecration,
legs and arms and head chopped in two,
body parts scraped as is mud on a shoe.

Bat wings flutter as he lurches
in the tunnels, moving forward,
on broken limbs he seeks those alive
who disturb his peace, then flee like flies.

His jewels, his possessions, stolen
and sold, even his penis vanished
in dismemberment, with no clues.

His sinister mission is not for murderer,
whether accident, family, or rhino,
but for lost immortality,
                                           …for afterlife.

Banging into walls, bones shredding,
powder mixing with dust, groaning.
He raises his hands to the sky,
he’s lost his reincarnation hope
through Osiris.

He throws dirt from the cavernous
wall, and blows on it in mid-air,
creating a black soot to kill all.

He winds up the particles by hand,
curses in ancient Egyptian as a storm begins.
Creating a tornado of dark matter,
he shuffles with limp toward the entrance,
the living (undead) image of Aten.

– Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, ©10/30/18

I have always been entranced by the story of the Pharaohs, especially with the boy king, King Tutankhamun, born Prince Tutankhamen, and the many various rumors and stories of his life and the drama surrounding his tomb. Though I believe in historical research and preservation, certainly the desecration, horrible handling, and theft should have been avoided. What must King Tut have thought? I think he had every reason to curse those greedy fools…and maybe still has revenge to get still to this day.

******

A word of gratitude to my son Nassem, who while in college in D.C., was up late into the night with me discussing these poems – he’s always been one of my best and most candid first readers – and photos that might go with them.

And if you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading my poetry.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! mummy-smiley.png

Erin

P.S. Also, if you missed it, you can read my new short fiction story, “The Witch’s Cottage” over at the Ladies of Horror Flash Fiction Project for free.

P.S.S. If you want to support the artist, you can find more of my poetry in my dark poetry and short story collection, Breathe. Breathe., here on Amazon.

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Made by Women Giveaway – Happy October!

I know I have followers of all tastes on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! This promotion (and post) is for fans of horror, or honestly, more appropriately and importantly, fans of kick-butt women. Claire Holland published a book of poetry shortly after mine called I Am Not Your Final Girl, in which she wrote poems about final girls from slasher movies. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s the women in movies that make it to the end after an horrific ordeal and often earn retribution and find empowerment, much like the women fighting for so much today!! I really loved this collection!

Now, Claire is hosting a giveaway featuring my own dark poetry and short story collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., which also features strong women, Sara Tantlinger’s LOVE FOR SLAUGHTER, which takes a look at the horrors of love, and her own, I AM NOT YOUR FINAL GIRL.

You can read about the giveaway and see all that’s included, as in addition to our collections there are three movies as well (pictured below), by clicking over to the link to her blog, Razor Apple. As well, you can ENTER TO WIN on that post!

Click here—>

RAZOR APPLE BLOG – GIVEAWAY

Happy October 1. Let the games begin!

Erin

Made by Women Giveaway

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My Collection Breathe. Breathe. on .99 Cent Sale – Best Labor Day Special Yet!

Hey everyone! I wanted to stop by the site to let everyone know that my dark poetry and short story collection, BREATHE. BREATHE. is on sale now through Sept. 4, 2018 for just .99 cents in e-book per my publisher Unnerving. After almost a year since it published, and a 4.8 out of 5 star rating on Amazon, you can find it for your Kindle on sale HERE!

Also, the anthology HARDENED HEARTS, which includes my short story or revenge and dark horror/fantasy, “The Heart of the Orchard,” which published in Dec. 2017, is also on sale for the Kindle for .99 cents! It’s full of stories of love gone weird and wrong and has a rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon. The Ghastly Grimoire said my story is “the one that really rocks the Twilight Zone/Night Gallery feel, for the record.” You can purchase that HERE.

In fact, there is a selection of Unnerving titles on sale by some amazingly talented writers I call friends. If you like to weird horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, check out what they have to offer from Unnerving.

Thanks to everyone for all the support of this book. It took many of my tears and much of my strength to write, but I also some really cool times using my imagination and being creative as well. I poured my heart into it and all your purchases, shares, reviews mean so much to me and my family.

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About BREATHE. BREATHE.

Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.

In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.

In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.

Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.

With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.

PRAISE for BREATHE. BREATHE.

Al-Mehairi creates engaging characters and often has twists to her plots that make for a unique reading experience. The highlight of this section would be the story “Dandelion Yellow,” a magical realist tale about a young girl and her box of crayons. It’s a rich, colorful tale with a suspenseful build up and haunting ending. Overall, the fiction section of the book is very well done.” – Cemetery Dance Online

“Erin paints scenes and evokes emotions with precision and skill. These are the kinds of stories and poems that tighten your chest and leave you holding your breath.” – The Scary Reviews

“Breathe. Breathe. is as honest and raw as writing gets. Erin bares her soul with these poems, particularly during Act 2 in which the verses take on a much more personal and reflective nature.” -The Grim Reader

“Breathe. Breathe. is a great collection of poetry and short fiction. The poems are dark and vivid. They touch at the core of the human condition. The poems are gritty and chilling. You can feel the doom and dread in each of the poems. Breathe. Breathe. is an emotional rollercoaster. The characters are troubled, and the author gives them just enough depth.” – Cedar Hollow Reviews

“I am certain many readers {and not only female} will find themselves breathing shallower, or holding their breath, as the vividness of these scenes awakens memories. Other readers who may not have these particular types of painful memories, will nonetheless wince in empathy. I am equally certain very few will walk away untouched, and very few will forget.” -The Haunted Reading Room

“Raw, risky, and brave.” – Selcouth Station

“Overall, Breathe. Breathe. is a must-read for any poetry lover. It is rich in themes and ideas, from heartbreak and heartache to women fighting back their abusers, to Japanese mythology to an ancient Egyptian goddess taking a human life for a greater purpose. I highly recommend it.” – Nadaness in Motion

“I feel the poems are at their best when folkloric in nature – I particularly like “Ningyo’s Misfortune”, “The Driftwood of Wishes”, and “Offerings to Nang Tani”. The short stories “Destination: Valhalla Lane Loveless, Ohio” and “Life-Giver of the Nile” are both clever and brutal, and the standout.” – Julie K. Rose, author of Oleanna and Dido’s Crown

“Wow. This collection really leaves bruises on the soul. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, yet, I found myself glued to the words and emotions pouring out of this author. The short stories were great too. My favorite was “Lunch Served at Noon”, as it had a Twilight Zone-ish quality to it. To fans of dark literary fiction and poetry, I recommend giving Breathe. Breathe. a try.”
– Tim Meyer, author of Sharkwater Beach and Kill Hill Carnage

“At times sinister, definitely dark, atmospheric and heavy with foreboding, this collection of poetry and short stories from Erin Al Mehairi touches our deepest fears. Murder, domestic violence and even an ancient Egyptian goddess all move within these pages where nothing is ever simple or straightforward.” – Catherine Cavendish, author of Wrath of the Ancients

It’s full of the unexpected – bits of lace cut through with the odd and the horrible and the beautiful. Through it all I sense the power of a survivor!! And I love that!”
—Sue Harrison, internationally bestselling author of Mother Earth Father Sky (Ivory Carver Trilogy)

“Breathe. Breathe. is at times haunting, visceral, bittersweet, and tender. Erin Al Mehairi bares her soul and invites readers to devour it whole.”
—Hunter Shea, author of We Are Always Watching

“Erin Al-Mehairi weaves a web of narrative and poetry both beautiful and nightmare-inducing in Breathe. Breathe., invoking heartache and the need to see through the shining masks life presents us to confront the darkness it truly holds.”
—Michelle Garza, co-author of Bram Stoker nominated Mayan Blue

“I loved Dandelion Yellow.  I was hyperventilating at the end, but it was such a beautiful, painful and artful tale. I’ll be saying that last line to myself for weeks at least. Just beautiful.  I’m re-reading the rest.  One read just isn’t enough because DAYUM.  Beautiful.”
–  Somer Canon, author of Vicki Beautiful and The Killer Chronicles

“In Breathe. Breathe., Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi employs sharp, jagged words arranged in sparse, disturbingly visceral clusters to force readers to “breathe” through the fear and pain of abuse and personal terror. It’s a sense reinforced by the deceptively quiet but disquieting story, “Dandelion Yellow.” Filled with sharp sensory detail, the highlight is “Life-Giver of the Nile,” an evocative circular time-shift tale in which an Egyptologist’s soul is required by Anuket, ancient and modern goddess of the Nile, for a greater purpose. Whether in poetry or prose, dark kernels nestled within horror tropes indicate that Al-Mehairi writes from the gut and from the heart but with the fierceness of a survivor, the soul of a fearless champion. This mixed collection is a fine introduction to a strong, intriguing new voice in dark fiction.”

-W.D. Gagliani, Bram Stoker Finalist, author of Wolf’sTrap (Nick Lupo Series)

Hardened Hearts

17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row, and many more.

Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.

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FOREWORD – James Newman
IT BREAKS MY HEART TO WATCH YOU ROT – Somer Canon
WHAT IS LOVE? – Calvin Demmer
HEIRLOOM – Theresa Braun
THE RECLUSE – John Boden
40 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR MONSTER LOVER – Gwendolyn Kiste
DOG TIRED – Eddie Generous
THE PINK BALLOON – Tom Deady
IT’S MY PARTY AND I’LL CRY IF I WANT TO – J.L. Knight
BURNING SAMANTHA – Scott Hallam
CONSUMED – Madhvi Ramani
CLASS OF 2000 – Robert Dean
LEARNING TO LOVE – Jennifer Williams
BROTHERS – Leo X. Robertson
PORCELAIN SKIN – Laura Blackwell
THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD – Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
MEETING THE PARENTS – Sarah L. Johnson
MATCHMAKER – Meg Elison

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Biography –

Erin is the author of BREATHE. BREATHE., published by Unnerving, and her collection and a mix of dark poetry and short stories and has been an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Women’s Poetry right behind Rupi Kaur, who is a NYT best-seller, and holding various places in the Top 100 best-sellers there and in horror short stories for the three months since publication. Her story “The Heart of the Orchard” is also featured in the anthology from Unnerving called HARDENED HEARTS, which published in December 2017. Her story “Dandelion Yellow,” from Breathe. Breathe., is also featured in the MY FAVORITE STORY anthology of the Project Entertainment Network along with Jonathan Maberry, Christopher Golden, Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, and more, which published also in December of 2017. In February 2018, her poem, “Chained by Love” was published in Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. In July of this year, she had a poem published in DARK VOICES, which is an anthology of dark fiction and poetry. Her poem, “Wrapped in Battle” anchored the collection. Currently, she is working on a new project as the guest editor for a new anthology coming from Unnerving this year, called HAUNTED ARE THESE HOUSES, which will feature poetry and short stories.

Erin has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has 20 years of experience in the communication and marketing fields as writer, journalist, editor, publicist, and a consultant among many other things.

She writes fiction, essays, stories, and poetry and is an avid reader of many genres. She has edited poetry anthologies, novels, fiction pieces, and other various non-fiction and journalistic pieces. As a journalist, she’s written, interviewed, and edited for various newspapers, magazines, media outlets, and online news sources at both ends of the spectrum in media and public relations.

As an entrepreneur, she owns two businesses: Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media, in which she acts as a PR/Marketing Consultant, publicist, and editor for authors, publishers, and others. Besides her team of freelance authors she works with, she also an editor for Sinister Grin Press and works doing PR for Raw Dog Screaming Press as well.

A past Young Careerist of Ohio and Woman of Achievement Award winner in her community, she volunteers her time in the community and is the chairwoman on the board of directors for a local mental health center and rape crisis and domestic violence safe haven.

She is the mother of three school-aged children and a cat. She lives with her family in rural Ohio nestled in the forest—a place just ripe for nightmares. Her passions are reading, writing, book hunting, hiking, and entertainment such as movies/film, television, and music. She’s also a huge basketball fanatic, as she loves to watch her Ashland University Lady Eagles and the Cleveland Cavaliers in as many game as possible.

Erin used to co-host with her #MarketingMorsels segment on Project Entertainment Network’s The Mando Method, an award-winning weekly podcast for new and veteran writers. She is looking into a new podcast opportunity.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at http://www.hookofabook.wordpress.com. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest where she loves new friends.

 

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