Tag Archives: women in horror

Hooked-Up Friday News: Two Books, a Movie, and a Show for Your Weekend. #Ghostland #DollCrimes #DoctorSleep #horror #books #film

I don’t normally do a lot of these (though I might start), but today is a Friday post of a couple good and bad things happening for folks I consider friends.

It’s been a long week and a half and I didn’t get separate posts made as I had wished. I didn’t even let on really on social media so no one even knew but… I had bronchitis for a week and a half and I’m still recovering (coughing and tired). I worked my full work load through it from bed and managed to get pretty much every thing accomplished (editing  a couple books, assisting two authors in self-pub books in process, etc.) while coughing incessantly, including buying two new front tires and a service from the tow truck for $400 when a tire shredded on my partner as he was driving down the interstate. Found out my mom was taken to the urgent care for her heart and she’s being evaluated by a doctor. She’s 81 and I’m worried about her. Some time I need to catch up on sleep but you know I always say that. Oh and I didn’t get any writing done for awhile now, so as always, please remember to buy my first collection too! It’s on sale in print for just $10 on Amazon currently.

These are horror related titles below, and there will be some more horror and thrillers later, but there’ll also be fantasy and historical fiction this month too. So don’t fret. I know I have a lot of readers here with different tastes. There’ll be more posts to come!

First good news!

Ghostland is open – Get Your Tickets!

Ghostland Duncan Ralston

Duncan Ralston‘s next book, GHOSTLAND, has arrived! I’ve been waiting so long for all of you to get your hands on this book. I can hardly believe the day is here! First, since it’s what you take in first with your eyes, let’s talk about this cover. I am IN LOVE with this cover by Dean Samed! It’s outstanding and one of the best I’ve seen all year. It totally brings to life all the facets of this novel. I totally want this on a mug, a t-shirt, a poster, and everything else I can put it on.

Now of course there is no cover without there being a book, so let me tell you how wonderfully amazing it is. Ghostland is something different for us all in horror and I have to say it’s the best book in the genre I read all year. I’m so thrilled I got to read an early copy. It’s gave me entertainment and fun in a read that I was really desiring. It’s for adults – it’s terrifying in parts – but it features two young protagonists. I love this viewpoint without it being strictly YA. I love that he utilizes the male and female friend relationship as well. Duncan does a great job with characters in his other books and here it’s no different. He writes thrillers, he writes ghost stories, he writes horror stories, he integrates virtual reality in a cool way, and he seems to have easily rolled all that up together in this bundle of entertainment.

You’re going to hear a lot about Ghostland, I’m sure. There will be interactive fun – within the book learn about the ghosts and attractions this way. There’s a park map. You’ll need to get your tickets because the park is open and they can use all hands on deck to keep the ghosts inside.

Get your copy HERE today! It’s available in e-book (and for a short time on Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback (if the print isn’t showing up yet, just wait a bit while it shows up). Enjoy the ride!

Here’s the synopsis –

People are dying to get in. The exhibits will kill to get out.

Be first in line for the most haunted theme park in the world – GHOSTLAND! Discover and explore hundreds of haunted buildings and cursed objects! Witness spectral beings of all kinds with our patented Augmented Reality glasses! Experience all the terror and thrills the afterlife has to offer, safely protected by our Recurrence Field technology! Visit Ghostland today – it’s the hauntedest place on earth!

________

After a near-death experience caused by the park’s star haunted attraction, Ben has come to Ghostland seeking to reconnect with his former best friend Lilian, whose post-traumatic stress won’t let her live life to the fullest. She’s come at the behest of her therapist, Dr. Allison Wexler, who tags along out of professional curiosity, eager to study the new tech’s psychological effect on the user.

But when a computer virus sets the ghosts free and the park goes into lockdown, the trio find themselves trapped in an endless nightmare.

With time running short and the dead quickly outnumbering the living, the survivors must tap into their knowledge of horror and video games to escape… or become Ghostland’s newest exhibits.

Featuring an interactive “Know Your Ghosts” guide and much more, Ghostland is over 400 pages of thrills and terror!

Oh – and also, keep an eye on Ghostland’s Restoration Project website.

____________________________

Now some good and bad news!

Doll Crimes

I’ve been so excited for Karen Runge’s next book, Doll Crimes, to publish! Karen is such an emotional and mesmerizing writer, if completely raw and visceral. Unfortunately, Karen went hiking last weekend at a nature preserve in South Africa and was attacked, beaten, and robbed by suspected poachers. Her pack with her belongs and key were stolen and she had to crawl and walk back two miles on her own to find safety and somone to help her. It was inhumane and terrifying, and so of course, the last thing on her mind is being able to promote her book properly. I’m so thankful how some of the horror rallied around to share her pre-order link and cover.

Today, it’s released from Crystal Lake Publishing and hopefully soon my pre-ordered copy will arrive on my Kindle. But it’s had several great pre-publish blurbs so check it out and spread the word.

Doll Crimes is gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, and so smooth it reads like reality.”
– Kaaron Warren, award-winning author of The Grief Hole and Tide of Stone

Here’s the synopsis for Doll Crimes

‘It’s not that there aren’t good people in the world. It’s that the bad ones are so much easier to find.’

A teen mother raises her daughter on a looping road trip, living hand-to-mouth in motel rest stops and backwater towns, stepping occasionally into the heat and chaos of the surrounding cities. A life without permanence, filled with terrors and joys, their stability is dependent on the strangers—and strange men—they meet along the way. But what is the difference between the love of a mother, and the love of a friend? And in a world with such blurred lines, where money is tight and there’s little outside influence, when does the need to survive slide into something more sinister?

Grab it HERE!

_________________________

Weekend Watchings

Doctor_Sleep_(Official_Film_Poster)

Did  you hear Doctor Sleep is out today at the theater? I’m so excited. I watched the end of Kubrick’s The Shining last night. Jack Nicholson just makes me laugh with his acting, but in reality, I know Doctor Sleep will scare the crap out of me! It’s going to be really cool how they link Danny’s special gift into this movie. I almost wish Kubrick would have done his film a bit differently and played into that more. But boy, was he good for a child actor wasn’t he? I hear he makes a cameo appearance in this film. Anyway, I’m excited to see Doctor Sleep! But I’m also excited to see Terminator: Dark Fate as well as Maleficent 2 and Midway! As always, too many good movies to choose from all at the same time.

Also, the European show Dublin Murders based on Tana French novels will premiere on Starz this weekend. Have I told you how much I like Starz? They keep bringing me the stuff I want.

If you’re not familiar, here’s a synopsis from the site Deadline: The psychological thriller is adapted by series creator and writer Sarah Phelps. Dublin Murders follows Rob Reilly (Scott) – a smart-suited detective whose English accent marks him as an outsider – who is dispatched to investigate the murder of a young girl on the outskirts of Dublin with his partner, Cassie Maddox (Greene). Against his better judgment and protected by his friendship with Cassie, he is pulled back into another case of missing children and forced to confront his own darkness. As the case intensifies, Rob and Cassie’s relationship is tested to the breaking point and when Cassie is sent undercover for another murder case, she is forced to come face to face with her own brutal reckoning.

Dublin-Murders-poster

Besides hopefully seeing a movie and getting out of the house for a bit, I also should be recording a podcast show with author friend Leo on his Losing the Plot! podcast. I’ve been on before and I’m looking forward to talking to him again on Sunday.

What are your weekend plans?
Whatever you do – reading, watching, writing, or living, enjoy your weekend!

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Review: Little Paranoias by Sonora Taylor #PromoteHorror #HorrorisHealthy

Little Paranoias, Review –

Little-Paranoias-Cover-Front

I enjoy Sonora’s short story, flash, and poetic writing. I’ve read her full-length novel Without Condition but something draws me to her shorter pieces. I was excited to receive her collection Little Paranoias! I think we write somewhat similar: saying much in small spaces, similar themes – musings on death or the afterlife, surprise twists and endings, shocking amid the normal, and involving nature in our writing. I suppose the things I like to think about that end up in my writing is what I like about her short pieces because reading her pieces make me ponder life as well (when they aren’t shocking me).

I especially liked the opening piece “Weary Bones,” which takes us on a journey with skeletons who are, for lack of a better word, alive. It really was ingenious and made me think about how much we do forget our loved ones, in death, even in spirit, that we seem to need voice, warmth, skin. It was well-written and thought-provoking but also gave me a sadness. I only wished this story was longer and had more meat on its bones because it was over too soon and I feel there could have been more. I really felt I knew the character Brandon so well so soon, which is hard to pull off in shorter pieces.

“Crust” spoke deeply to me in a few hundred words and that’s all I’m going to say, but wow did it feature what I struggle with every single day. “Cranberry” scared the shit out of me. That’s some pent up rage and writing that holds nothing back. Many of the other stories dealt with murder of some sort whether a perpetrator, a family member, a spouse, the general populace. I am beginning to wonder if Sonora is a serial murderer in her head. I’m joking (maybe….haha). I can dig it as some of my stories often off men and foe. Many pieces had surprise endings, often they showed clearly life issues which created characters crossing boundaries into raw, primal emotion, and others were creatively done and had such a unique flair.

I actually was completely unnerved and uncomfortable with “Stick Figure Family” – I mean, it actually made me ball up in anger and question a lot, but in a way I suppose that just means it was well-written enough to urge reaction of me as most horror stories should do.

Though I really enjoyed “Hearts are Just Likes” quite a bit – I found it inventive and fun and cool – my favorite story was “Quadrapocalypse,” which has the character starting off on the DC metro, and after, the story splitting off into four ways with four different scenes. I love techniques like this! Also, the nature lover and activist I am really enjoyed the theme of this one. Be good to nature, or it may get you back!!

My least favorite was the last story, “Seed.” I wanted to like it, due to its themes of nature, and I DID like parts of it and the overall plot and thought behind it, but I don’t like too much erotic content in my reads. Also, it was just unexpected because there wasn’t any in the rest of the book but by the end I “got” the animal correlation of it and why. I’d probably not have put it as the last piece, since that should be the blow away read. I’d have chosen “Quadrapocalypse!”

Overall, I really had fun reading a few of these stories a night during this annual spooky reading month! They made me think, made me cringe, made me scream, and even shocked me. Bite-sized morsels of fiction that feel like a meal, maybe your last meal or one that haunts you, but fiction that’ll chill you to your bones no matter the temperature. Highly recommended!

Little-Paranoias-Cover-Front.jpgLittle Paranoias: Stories, Synopsis –

Is it a knock on the door, or a gust of wind?
A trick of the light, or someone who’ll see what you’ve done?

Little Paranoias: Stories features twenty tales of the little things that drive our deepest fears. It tells the stories of terror and sorrow, lust at the end of the world and death as an unwanted second chance. It dives into the darkest corners of the minds of men, women, and children. It wanders into the forest and touches every corner of the capital. Everyone has something to fear — but after all, it’s those little paranoias that drive our day-to-day.

Little Paranoias: Stories is Taylor’s third short story collection and fifth overall release. Featuring cover art by Doug Puller, the collection features twenty short stories, flash pieces, and poems. The collection features an assortment of dark tales, including “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” a contemporary reimagining of “The Tell-Tale Heart” originally published in the award-winning anthology Quoth the Raven (ed. Lyn Worthen, Camden Park Press).

Little Paranoias: Stories is available now in e-book and paperback (released: October 22, 2019) and exclusively on Amazon.

Purchase Here

sonora-taylor-2019-headshot.jpgSonora Taylor, Biography –

Sonora Taylor is the author of Without Condition, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” was published in Camden Park Press’ Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Taylor’s short stories frequently appear in The Sirens Call, a bi-monthly horror eZine. Her work has also appeared in Mercurial Stories, Tales to Terrify, and the Ladies of Horror fiction podcast. She is currently working on her third novel. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.

Find Sonora Online

Visit Sonora online at her website!

Facebook

Goodreads

Blog

Twitter: @sonorawrites

Instagram: @sonorataylor

________________________________

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review/author blurb. This didn’t affect my opinion.

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The Night Crawls In Collection and Info on Ladies of Horror Fiction (LOHF) Writers Grant Inspriation + Free Poetry and a Drabble

Hey all! I’m a little late here as summer was winding down I had a ton on top of the ton I usually have going on because of my kiddos back to school, travels, and then catching up on work – oh and my birthday! I’m behind on blogging but I hope to have some great stuff for you soon again as Fall and Winter approaches us. Today, I still wanted to get this information to all the female writers out there about this grant in partnership with Ladies of Horror Fiction and author Steve Stred. Please check it out and consider applying by September 1 (edit: the recipient has been chosen but keep in mind for next year) and order a copy of Steve’s dark poetry book because the proceeds are what is funding the grant now and in the future! Steve is a wonderfully supportive author to others and especially the women writers out there who need amplification. The LOHF group is doing an astronomical job of helping out women writers in horror too. I also appreciate his shout out to me below. THANKS!

Now let’s get to it…

The Night Crawls In Poetry Collection and the Ladies of Horror Fiction (LOHF) Writer’s Grant Information and Inspriation (+ Free Poetry and a Drabble)

By Steve Stred, author of Dim the Sun

It’s getting close!

September 1, 2019 will see the arrival of my collection The Night Crawls In. Featuring thirty-three drabbles and seventeen poems, the collection was created specifically to help fund the First Annual Ladies of Horror Fiction Writer’s Grant.

The grant is open for applications until September 1, with the winner announced September 15. ((Edit: The recipient has been chosen.)) For full details, click HERE!

lohf_headers_lohfwritersgrant

Now that the official stuff is over – let’s chat about the why and the how.

Why?

Good question. This guest post is kindly being hosted by my friend Erin. There really are two people responsible for this collection happening. Erin and Miranda. As I mentioned in the blog post over on Miranda’s great site, while me and her were chatting, she convinced me that releasing a collection for charity each year was a great thing to do. I spoke with my sister a bit about what charity I should focus on, and through chatting with Jodi, I decided to scrap the charity idea. Instead, I wanted to make sure that the funds raised were directly going to someone rather than an organization. And what better way than to help support fellow authors and creative types?

Erin is probably the biggest reason any of this came about. Last year I read her brilliant collection Breathe. Breathe. Not only were the short stories amazing, but her phenomenal poetry kicked my butt into motion and got me writing poetry again. Without her amazing collection and her constant support and reassurance, I’d never have made the leap to writing poetry again. So thank you Erin and Miranda!

How?

The how was actually super easy on my part. I took a look at the writing community and the horror community and everything led me to want to support a great and fantastic group of writers who frequently deal with the short end of the stick. Truthfully, I don’t think I’m smart enough to accurately describe the frequent marginalization that women horror writers have to deal with. Heck, I might even be using that word incorrectly within my own statement. To be pointed – they have to work way harder than most to have their books read, reviewed, and taken seriously. Shameful.

So I reached out to Toni and the wonderful Ladies of Horror Fiction group and after some secret back room, dark alley Twitter conversations, we got the ball rolling!

So, click the link above and check out how to apply! Good luck!

As I’ve been doing on the other wonderful guest posts sharing/promoting The Night Crawls In, I’ve been giving previews of some drabbles and poems!

The Night Crawls In

Please enjoy these two poems and a drabble from The Night Crawls In:

Summers. (A Poem)

Remember how grass used to feel between your toes?

Long summer nights under the moon’s tender glow.

Evening thunder storms down the valley ahead,

The rattling boom after the lightning had led.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band leading the way

Taking us to a special place at the end of the day.

We’d hold hands sitting under the stars,

Talking ‘bout love that wouldn’t leave us with scars.

Ours bodies snuggled up, keeping the other warm

A tender touch that would help us transform.

The memories of how life used to be

The days we now chase, while we wish to be free.

END

______________________________________________________

Worms. (A Poem)

They live just below our feet.

Crawling, slithering, trying to latch on.

We go about our normal days,

Oblivious to the horror three feet below.

Our feet create vibrations,

Bringing them ever closer.

The worms, oh the worms

Ascend from below.

In waves they come, they slurp and they gulp,

And in the end

We should have known.

END

 ______________________________________________________

The Safe. (A Drabble)

 It should’ve been simple. Straight forward.

Walk in, tell everyone to get down, demand they put all the money in the bag, then get them to open the safe.

We got our matching president masks, we stole a car and junked the plates, putting fakes ones on in place.

We parked out front, car running, getaway driver waiting patiently for us to return.

Everything went according to plan, until they opened the safe and me and Davey rushed in.

The lights snapped off as we entered and the tentacled monster that lived there, began to feast.

We didn’t last long.

END

 __________________________________________________

So a bit of background on each piece!

“Summers” just might be the single best piece of anything I’ve ever written. In my opinion at least. Each line and each image transports me back to the summer’s growing up in Burton and now, how, I chase the ghosts of how life used to be.

“Worms” is based on my son’s reaction to seeing worms, haha! He’s inspired so many of my stories, just form his innocent reactions or from playing with him and seeing how he processes stuff. As of typing this, he turns three on Monday and I’m hoping he says “ewwwww, worms!” for the rest of his life.

“The Safe” is a cosmic monster story about some bank robbers trying to rob the wrong bank. I’ve always been utterly fascinated by the massive banks of federal reserves, the ones that are locked down to everyone. So I had a thought, what if they secretly are also storing some of the world’s secrets?

Thanks to Erin for hosting this!

Ordering

Pre-order links are now up – every pre-order goes towards funding the grant. Every sale after September 1 goes towards funding future grants!

Amazon USA

Amazon CAN

Amazon UK

Amazon AUS

Steve Stred, Author Biography –

Steve StredSteve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.

Steve is the author of the novels Invisible & The Stranger, the novellas The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick, and the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.

On September 1, 2019 his second collection of dark poetry and drabbles called The Night Crawls In will arrive. This release was specifically created to help fund the First Annual LOHF Writers Grant.

Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.

Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.

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National Poetry Month: “Unforgiven” – A Poem from Miranda Crites #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

National Poetry Month April

Today for National Poetry Month I welcome Miranda Crites! Miranda is a reader, book reviewer, photographer, writer, and lover of horror from the ghostly woods of rural West Virginia. I met MJ virtually sometime last year in her role as a book reviewer, but I came to be friends with her as well with our mutual interest in writing, photography, nature, and raising our kids. She’s so very creative and a bundle of energy that makes my days online so much better each time I see her beautiful photos or stories or hear from her. She’s also been a great supporter of indie authors as well as my own prose and poetry, so when she told me she’d like to try her hand at sending me a poetry piece, I was thrilled because I love supporting writers who want to come of their shell with their work.

It was a complete joy to work with her on this piece and she took my editing advice and ran with it, quickly turning this work into a refined piece of beauty that captures so much emotion, and for me, made me feel like I was floating. And maybe a little less alone. The photo is also one of her own. Thanks so much, Miranda!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

_________________________________________

raven

Unforgiven
by Miranda Crites

I sink into sludgy, blackness

The iciness of the lake seeps into my bones, slowing my movements

I trudge along the muddy bottom; it pulls at me

I push toward the barely visible light above

 

Only my eyes break into the bleak day

Ancient pines dance in the brisk breeze

Snow-capped mountains beckon to me in the distance

But I can rise no further

 

My lungs plead for a breath of raw, pine-scented air

Blood races through my veins, pounding forcefully in my ears

The darkness below gently tugs

The oxygen I crave is merely an inch away

 

I swim harder, reaching the water’s edge

Vengeful blades of grass slice through my fingers

I rip them out by their roots as I try to save myself

I claw through dirt and rocks

 

I am restrained, a tethered dog

Bubbles tease my cheeks as I scream away my last breath

Deeply in my chest, a torch is lit

A voice within the darkness whispers: “forgive”

 

A rope of fiery vines bites at my ankle

My fingernails rip off as I try to break free

“Forgive,” repeats the inky blackness

I don’t have that ability

 

My world explodes

Shooting stars burst behind my eyes

The torch expands its flame

Fireworks light the dimness above, the blackness below

 

Release

Relief

No more pain, only ephemeral sadness

I float to the surface, finally unconfined

 

Lightning rips open the gray cloth above

The darkness below feeds on my light, my aura

A single crow lands on my chest, pecking at my eyes

Fish and unknown creatures nibble the remaining soggy meat of my fingers

 

Wolves sprint to the water’s edge

They drag my body onto the shore

Their pack devours most of my flesh and bones

Vultures clean up the last remaining pieces of me

____________________________________________

Miranda Crites, Biography –

MirandaMiranda Crites is a reader, book reviewer, photographer, writer, and lover of horror from the ghostly woods of rural West Virginia.

Miranda has always enjoyed reading, photography, and writing. She received her first camera as a gift when she was nine years old.

The writing bug bit her at a very early age too, when she won the young writers’ contest in first grade and never stopped writing.

 

Find Miranda Online –

You can follow Miranda on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

Her photography can be found on her dedicated Facebook page at MJ Creations.

She reviews for Kendall Reviews, as well as her own site, Miranda Crites Reads and Writes.

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Filed under Feature Articles, poetry, women in horror

National Poetry Month: Read Kim Wolkens Poem “For You, My Tether” #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

Today, I welcome Kim Wolkens to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We are publishing an original poem by Kim below and I am so excited! Kim has been a great support to my own writing and I am so happy she’s trying her hand at writing poetry, and I believe she’s hiding some other writing away, so I hope we can see her submitting and writing more each day. She does so much for indie authors reading and writing reviews on her own site Down in a Book or on Ginger Nuts of Horror, and it’s time we give back and support her too. Since meeting Kim online I’m very happy to call her a friend.

Happy Friday. Enjoy!

____________________________________

For You, My Tether

It hurts too much to breathe,

but I do it anyway.

For you…for you.

I want so much to slip away into nothingness,

but I hold onto the rope.

For you…for you.

 

It’s hard to get out of bed sometimes,

but I do it anyway.

For you…for you.

The abstract is much kinder,

but I face concrete facts every day.

For you…for you.

 

I put one foot in front of the other,

but I know not why I do.

For you…for you.

Food has no taste and I’m bored to death with life,

but I try to hope for something new.

For you…for you.

 

Without you, I’d be gone.

_________________________________

Getting to Know Kimberly – 

Kimberly love for writing began at a very young age, around five or six. Her first short story was dictated to her parents, who wrote the words on lined paper, and she did all the illustrations. It was called, “The Girl Who First Saw Snow,” and was about a five-year-old girl who saw snow for the first time.

Kimberly kept writing through elementary school and early middle school. She wrote a few chapter books that involved herself and some best friends. Two other books centered around a girl who found a necklace with a unicorn pendant which housed an evil witch. She dabbled in writing a small bit in high school, but her creative writing pretty much took a hiatus in high school and college.

About a year ago, she rekindled her love for writing. She wrote short stories and poems published by Lonesome October and Rhythm & Bones, and these first acceptances encouraged her to keep writing. She has the first draft of a novel completed and hopes to revisit it soon for re-writing and editing. Short stories are the main result of her writing, but she also writes poetry. Her poems have been published most recently by Nightingale & Sparrow and Marias at Sampaguitas.

A short story was recently published in Blood from a Tombstone anthology, and another story will be published in an upcoming Don’t Open the Door anthology. She has recently started writing what she hopes will become a poetry chapbook with a dark theme, possibly centered around abandonment and loss.

Most of her inspiration comes from fear (what is the scariest thing that could happen to someone?) and also from abandoned buildings which carry a special kind of beauty for her.

Kim Wolkens, Biography –

Kim WolkensKim Wolkens is a marketing coordintor by day and an American author of short stories and poems by night, who is a huge 90s Grunge music fan and loves reading and writing suspense, horror, and sci-fi.

She’s a team reviewer at Ginger Nuts of Horror and also serves as the Social Media Manager for Nightingale & Sparrow. She is a devoted wife, sister, and aunt, enjoys playing around on the piano, rustic camping, and lives with her husband in beautiful rural Michigan.

You can find her on Twitter: @up_north_h1ke.

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Interview: On Writing Dark Obsession, Chatting with Author Latashia Figueroa #HookonWiHM #WIHM #Horror

Today I welcome Latashia Figueroa to the site! This amazing lady is always a breath of fresh air and positivity, so laid back –  until she’s slaying on the page! Maybe you’ve enjoyed her dark tale of obsession, Ivy’s Envy? The second in the Want & Decay series, Thomas’s Want, will be published soon.

In full disclosure, I’m working as Latashia’s editor and I love assisting her in this regard – just recently adding her to my client list as I’m editing Thomas’s Want. I can’t help but want everyone to know about her if they don’t already. She’s a great woman to round out my women in horror month tenth anniversary spots I’ve been featuring for February. I hope you enjoy learning about her as much as I did – if you like suspenseful horror, you’ll surely get along with Latashia!

Latashia

Hi Latashia, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so happy you’ve joined us. I should let everyone in on the fact that I’m your editor, but it doesn’t make me bias at all when I say I enjoy your work! I love how you bring suspense to your dark thrillers and horror – page turners! Come in and we’ll have drinks and a few snacks and settle in for a chat. What’s your drinking pleasure?

Latashia: Hi Erin, thanks so much for inviting me. I’m an IPA girl. Dog Fish Head or Two Hearted Ale would be nice. Thanks!

Erin: Two Hearted Ale it is! Seems legit to wrap-up February, though it has more to do with the river I think — that’s okay, I love the water too! I’m not an IPA girl myself, luckily I can make any drink magically appear! Ha! For me, I’ll go to my stand-by of rum and coke. 

johns-bells-two-hearted-ale

Cheers!

Let’s get started! You used to work in NYC fashion scene, so what drew you back to writing?

Latashia: Yes, I worked in NYC for years and lived there for a few years as well. I’m actually right across the river now, and I am always in the city. I consider NY my second home. But, back to your question. The NYC Fashion scene was exciting, but grueling, and often, unrewarding. When the company I worked for downsized, instead of heading back to find another job in fashion, I decided to follow my passion. I know, very cliche. I’ve been writing since I was a child. My mom reminded me of this. Yes, I knew I would not be making the money I made in fashion, but the dream is more important. My husband, thankfully, encouraged me as well.

Erin: Give me the scoop, did you meet characters in NYC that you secretly place in your books?

Latashia: Haha, no,not at all. My characters are strictly from my imagination. I did have a young muse for one of my stories. A beautiful little girl who I adore. Her eyes, lovely and haunting. She never got upset when she was disciplined, she just stared at you with those eyes. I would wonder, “What is she thinking? What’s behind those eyes?” That’s how my story Wrapped in Small Flesh and Bone, one of the stories in my short collection, This Way Darkness, was born.

Erin: Where do you get the inspiration from for your books and stories?

Latashia: Strictly from my head. A scenario will just pop in my mind and if I can’t get rid of it, that means the story wants to be heard. I simply oblige by writing it down.

Erin: That happens to me too – all the time! Ha! Your books Ivy’s Envy, and the upcoming Thomas’s Want, are derived from the darkness of obsession. Tell us about them in your own words.

Latashia: Sometimes, obsession can be mistaken for love. It is not the same thing, though people have convinced themselves that it is. Obsession is a dangerous thing, and the stories never end well. The Want & Decay stories follow the entangled lives of three people tormented by lust, jealousy, madness, and murder. Ivy’s Envy is the first installment, Thomas’s Want is the second, and Deana’s Decay will be the last.

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Recently revealed on Instagram – Cover Reveal for Thomas’s Want! Cover work by Lynne Hansen.

Erin: I believe you also have a short story collection, This Way Darkness? What are those stories like?

Latashia: Yes, This Way Darkness is my first debut short horror collection, and I am very proud of it. The stories are much more horror driven.

Erin: Do you feel that horror reaches into the everyday life often these days, tilting more of the thriller and suspense novels to the dark side?

Latashia: You know, horror is a genre that can be crossed with many genres. Romance, suspense, and especially thrillers. I think horror makes stories more exciting. I am not a reader or watcher of
romance (sorry guys). But add horror or thriller element to the story and I’m in.

Erin: Do you enjoy looking at the human psyche and pulling out characters and stories? I know I enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing psychology into my works.

Latashia: Yes, absolutely. The human mind is interesting and very fragile. It doesn’t take much to push someone over the edge of what we perceive as normal. I think humans are much scarier than any monster that can be thought up. And honestly, when I turn off my light at night, I’m not scared of what creature is lurking under my bed. I’m thinking about the neighbor I got off the elevator with who gives me a smile and a “have a good night,” before he slowly closes his door.

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Erin: Yikes! Haha! Yes, I agree. What are some of your favorite horror novels and movies? And why?

Latashia: Oh, wow. That’s quite a list, Erin. Here’s just a few:

Rosemary’s Baby, both the novel and the movie. Ira Irvin’s tale of Manhattan witches, and Roman Polanski’s screen adaptation, are just sensationally creepy. And it’s done without the blood and gore that horror is known for. The story is subtle and steady with a double-edged climax. *Spoiler Alert!!* Not only has Rosemary Woodhouse been right all along in her belief that her neighbors are witches and her husband has helped orchestrate the unholy contract for his own personal gain, but in the end, Rosemary is committed to becoming a mother to what she has brought into this world. *End Spoiler*

Rosemary's Baby

Burnt Offerings, by Robert Marasco. The book and the made for tv movie is a favorite of mine. A slow burn with great atmospheric tension about a house that slowly comes alive at the cost of the summer renters.

Pet Semetary by the King himself.

Halloween, by John Carpenter. This movie will always be a favorite of mine. Michael Myers represents so much. “The shape,” as he was called in the script, is a terror that stalks you and no matter how much you try to run, try to escape, he/it is there. Relentless in his pursuit of you. Terrifying.

Erin: Who are some fellow Women in Horror you admire or like the works of? What books have you enjoyed?

Latashia: I enjoy Linda Addison, Tananarive Due, Anne Rice, Shirley Jackson. I have taken a real interest in women screenwriters and directors as well. Jennifer Kent, screenwriter/director of The Babadook and Karyn Kusama director of The Invitation and Destroyer.

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Karyn Kusama on set of The Invitation

Erin: I loved The Invitation! How about overall books and movies (not just horror) you have enjoyed? Any gender or genre.

Writers: I like Liane Moriarty, A.J. Finn, Ruth Ware, B.A. Paris, Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (they make a good writing team). I also enjoy reading stories from my friend John F.D. Taff.

Movies? There are so many. I really enjoy the classics: All About Eve, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? ANYTHING Alfred Hitchcock. I really enjoy movies by M. Night Shyamalan; I feel critics give him a hard time. He’s original and imaginative. My new favorite, Jordan Peele, he understands horror. No one can dispute how terrifying and original Get Out is. I’m looking forward to his upcoming movie, Us. Mr. Peele is also rebooting Rod Serling’s classic The Twilight Zone … Yaaaay! I’m also into binge worthy series as well: True Detective, Ozark, and Sneaky Pete. I adored Killing Eve, looking forward to season 2.

Erin: Wow, we have a lot of things we like to read and watch in common! This could have easily been a good portion of my own list. I am really excited to see what Peele does with The Twilight Zone re-make on CBS.

With all women out there have to do, how do you fit writing into your life? Do you have a plan or structure?

Latashia: I freelance occasionally, my schedule is unpredictable. But, I try to just get up and write. If I’m not in front of my laptop, I carry a notebook around. I could be having lunch with a friend or dinner with my husband and I’ll just stop and write a sentence or a paragraph. It has to get written down or else, it’s gone and I’m cursing myself for not capturing it.

No, I do not plan or structure, I just write.

Erin: Me either. So many I talk to do outlines and have writing times and plans. I write when it strikes me, just as you said, whether it’s at dinner or in the car. It’s really the only way to fit it in. You know, exactly how you said with our jobs, unpredictable. But I am trying hard to make progress at my age with some planning. Haha!

This Way Darkness

Have you had any challenges as far as being a female writer? What and how did you overcome them? Or do you feel that women have challenges overall – what is your advice?

Latashia: I feel like I had more challenges in the corporate world than I do in the writing community. There will always be challenges. All you can do is put your best work forward, your best voice.

Erin: I feel some of that too, especially in the small town I’m living in. What’s next for you in the next year or two? What are your goals for 5-10 years down the line?

Latashia: I don’t plan that far ahead, life is so unpredictable. I go step by step and try to enjoy as I go. I am working on a story right now that I plan to submit to an agent. We’ll see what happens.

Erin: Living in the moment can be a good thing! What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working?

Latashia: I practice Yoga every day, the stretching and the flowing movements helps me to think more clearly. I also take a hip-hop class once a month on Saturdays. I love cooking and eating. So if I’m not in the kitchen whipping up something healthy and hearty, hubby and I are out discovering a new restaurant.

Erin: Sounds amazing! Thank you so much for hanging out with me and chatting today! It’s was fun to introduce readers to you and your thoughts. Talk soon! 😊

Latashia: Thanks, Erin. You’re awesome.

Erin: Back at you!

Latashia Figueroa, Biography –

LatashiaLatashia Figueroa began telling tales at an early age, writing short stories for her mother to read and review. She worked in NYC’s Fashion Industry for over ten years before returning to her love of writing.

She is the author of the short stories collection, This Way Darkness: Three Tales of Terror, the adult thriller Ivy’s Envy (Want & Decay Trilogy, #1) and the upcoming Thomas’s Want (Want & Decay Trilogy, #3).

Latashia is a nature and animal lover. She practices yoga daily and dreams of owning a farm someday …and skydiving over it.

Visit Latashia Figueroa on Instagram (@frayedpages), Twitter (@latashfigueroa), or her website.

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About Ivy’s Envy (Want & Decay, #1) –

Latashia Figueroa’s riveting Want & Decay Trilogy follows the entangled lives of three people tormented by lust, jealousy, madness and murder. In this first book, Ivy’s Envy, Ivy James has had a history of violence with the men she falls for. Her grandmother and parents know what Ivy is capable of when things don’t go her way.

Now Ivy has become obsessed with Thomas Miles, a man who works at her office. She is certain that Thomas loves her too. But there are people who stand in the way of Ivy and Thomas finally being together, like his wife, Deana. Determined to have the love that is their destiny, Ivy will go down a very dark and twisted road to make Thomas hers, and hers alone. But Ivy is not the only one who has dark secrets, and everyone involved will soon learn that pursuing love and passion to the extreme can lead to terrifying consequences.

“I loved this tale of familial obligations, misplaced love and failed seduction. It’s twisted and effed up and that’s how I like my horror to be. Bravo to you, Latashia, bring on the next book!”  – Char at Char’s Horror Corner

“The story was simply all-consuming the entire way through. While I’m usually “too good” at guessing the final outcome well in advance, I have to applaud the author for coming up with something so unique–yet at the same time, perfectly fitting–that I never had even a clue about what was to come. The second book in this trilogy can not come soon enough for me! I’ll be picking up everything I can from this author.” – Kim, Horror After Dark

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Purchase on Amazon (currently on sale as s 2/28/19 for $1.99)

Thanks so much to Latashia for rounding out our Women in Horror Month series for February (though there is more to come in March)! I hope you’ve all enjoyed learning about so many women in horror this month along with me!

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Interview: Debut Author and Anthology Editor Sarah Read! #WIHMX #HookonWiHM #Horror

Today I welcome Sarah Read, author of the recently released The Bone Weaver’s Orchard and editor-in-chief of Pantheon Magazine, to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so happy she’s joined me and we find out we have quite a bit in common! You’ll find Sarah to be outgoing, kind, and one smart cookie. I hope you enjoy learning about her debut novel (a Gothic horror mystery for adult and YA readers), what she learned writing her first novel, and tips and advice from an editor on submission processes.

Hi Sarah, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so happy you’ve joined us. Come in and we’ll make some coffee, grab some cupcakes from the counter, and settle in for a chat. How do you take your coffee?

Sarah: Hello, Erin! Thank you so much for having me! I’ll take my coffee with milk, no sugar, please. But yeah, I’ll have a whole bunch of these cupcakes!

cherry chocolate

Erin: Aren’t cupcakes the best?! I made them this morning. I hope you like cherry chocolate! It’s a new favorite of mine.. And milk in your coffee it is, I’ll pour it in. Let’s get started! Your newest release is The Bone Weaver’s Orchard. Tell us about it in your own words.

Sarah: My book is a Gothic horror mystery. There’s an old abbey, which is now the Old Cross School for Boys. There is young Charley and his collection of insects and arachnids—and the other students who don’t care for Charley’s pets. There are secret passages and missing persons and abandoned structures and unnecessary surgeries. There are some old legends come to life, and new legends come to death, and, I hope, some dread.

Erin: This sounds like the perfect read for me. I LOVE Gothic more than just about anything and this sounds like a lot of fun. I read somewhere that this can be read by both YA and adult readers. Can you tell us about that?

Sarah: I hope that it can! I wrote this for the teen me who was bored with the teen horror, which wasn’t very scary, but annoyed by the adult horror, which was full of adults doing adult things. I keep the point of view YA, but I don’t pull any punches on the horror. So far, I’ve heard positive things from both age groups, so I hope I’ve succeeded. Teens don’t need their books softened. They are better equipped to handle horror than adults are. They still believe it can’t happen to them. Adults don’t just know it can—we’re half expecting it.

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Erin: I am in love with cover (I think Miko?)!!! I have to admit I agreed to reading this book BEFORE I found out it had spiders. I’ll still read it, but color me creeped out since I have arachnophobia! Does this have anything to do with your own enjoyment of knitting? Spinning webs of your own through your writing? Why spiders?

Sarah: Oooh, yeah. Oops. Yeah, Erin, there are some spiders. Sorry about that. I mean, I’m not, but… Heh. And yes! Spinning, weaving, knitting—these are words that have been borrowed from textiles and applied to story since as far back as we have written records and fabric on our bodies. It’s why, I think, so many spider deities are storytellers, as well. It all…weaves together.

I do love spiders. I used to be afraid of them, but I was forced through some immersion therapy just by virtue of the fact that spiders love me. I find one touching me more days than not. I find them in my clothes and hair. They’ll be chilling out on the light switch I’m about to reach for. They’ll be suspended in the air in the space where my face will soon be. My car is always full of spiders. They scamper across the wheel as I drive. Basically, my options were to get over being afraid, or go entirely mad. I suppose I chose both.

Erin: Haha!!! I live in Ohio in the woods, so I know what you mean! I love the weaving element. What other themes and elements are in your books for both teens and adults? As the mother of daughters 15 and 11, this seems like a book they’d enjoy with me?

Sarah: I hope that they would! There are some overall themes that I think teens will identify with. Adapting to a new school, a new home. On the adult side of that—wondering if there ever is any such thing as home—is it something that can be made, if you can’t find it? There are conflicts with bullies and cruel teachers, homework that must take a back seat to life’s bigger problems, like a missing friend. There are a lot of references to the parent-child bond, but most of the examples here are not pleasant. Of course, they’re all just pretend. Reality can be much worse.

Erin: I think they would love it, not only the themes, but the adventure/mystery element. This is your debut novel, I believe? What else have you written? How did writing short fiction help or hinder the process for writing a novel?

Sarah: It is my debut novel! It’s the first novel I wrote, though there have been others since. Most of my work up till now has been short fiction. I still love to write short stories, though I’m finding more and more of my ideas accordion-ing out into longer structures and becoming novel outlines instead. I’m not sure having written short fiction helped or hindered at all. I like the freedom that short fiction gives me to experiment, and I love being able to languish in the room given by a novel’s structure. I do find sometimes, though, that my brain is stuck in one mode, and it becomes difficult to execute the other. For example, I’m very much in novel mode right now, but I just had to write a short story on a deadline and it was much more difficult than it’s been in the past. For the most part, though, I love doing both.

Erin: I LOVE to write short stories too!! Where do you get the inspiration from for your books and stories?

Sarah: Well, everywhere, I think! It’s a matter of staying observant and engaged with the world when you’re out in it, then hiding away so you can regurgitate everything onto the page. I find a lot of inspiration in the gothic classics my grandmother gave me as a child. I have shelves full of books we’ve shared.

Erin: Yes, I love the classic Gothic books too. It’s so nice you had her to share that with. What other tips and tricks can you say you learned for yourself (or that can help others) while writing a much longer work like this novel?

Sarah: I’m not sure, having written only a few books, that I’ve really figured anything out, haha. One thing I did notice, though, was that with a novel, writing it is only about 1/5 the work. When I write a short story, the first draft is probably half the work, and then revision is half. But novels are beasts to revise. The work is exponential. And when you fix one thing, it sets off a chain reaction of other things you then need to fix. When I was revising Bone Weaver’s Orchard, there was a continuity error with the time of day/amount of light/chiming of a bell. By fixing it in the scene at the beginning, it introduced a new error in the next scene. Fixing that made another. Till I had to add an entire new scene to bump the events to the next day to make the timing work. Then the details in those scenes had to have their cause/effect…. I hated myself there for a few weeks. Oh, and another tip: don’t set your first book in a labyrinth of secret passages! I had to draw a lot of blueprints to make sure I wasn’t breaking the laws of physics.

Erin: That’s so cool though! I love secret passages in books but I can see how that all could get confusing! Who or what is your favorite character? How did you create? Struggles or successes?

Sarah: I’m not sure I can pick! Of course I love Charley. And his bugs. Sam was a lot of fun to write. I found that the characters emerged as I wrote. While I did try to plan things for them, they developed in ways that often changed my plans. It made it fun to write—the story surprised me as it progressed. But it did make for heavier revisions later, as I had to go back and correct inconsistencies and make sure their voices didn’t change too much. For example, Sam started out much older. As things unfolded, I realized I needed him to be a younger man. So there were a few things I needed to rewrite to make that work earlier in the story. These days I plan a lot more ahead of time. The characters still change my plans, though.

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I pulled this photo from the Pantheon Magazine Facebook Page

Erin: You’re a fellow editor (you edit Pantheon Magazine and anthologies, correct?) and writer as well. I enjoy meshing the two together in my life, even if they are distinctive of each other. How do you feel each one lends to the other?

Sarah: Yes, I’ve been editing professionally for ten years, now. I started off with a large publishing house as an intern, then became an associate editor. While I did that I also began editing Pantheon Magazine on my own time. I left the big publishing company when my youngest was born. I still work for Pantheon, though we’re going on a short hiatus after the release of our Gorgon anthology.

Editing and writing really are two separate creatures. Reading thousands of submissions does help me see what does or doesn’t work in a story, and being a writer helps me understand and empathize with the writers I edit. And when I submit my own work, I have a clearer understanding of the behind-the-desk process, so I’m able to ease some of my writerly anxiety that way. Rejections don’t sting as much, because I never take them personally—because they’re never sent that way. I think I’m also able to edit my own work with more detachment, now. Nothing is precious! Red pen it all!

Erin: What advice as a magazine and anthology editor do you want to give to newer authors as far as submitting stories? How do you get your stories the best look? What do you want to tell veteran authors?

Sarah: Every editor is so different that it’s hard to give general submission advice. The old basic rules still ring true: follow the guidelines, stick to the theme, don’t be a jerk. Don’t get antsy and submit your work before it’s truly finished. I’ve rejected a lot of stories because they just needed one more draft, and we didn’t have time in the publication schedule to allow for a revise-and-resubmit. It’s not only new authors doing this, either. In fact, I think new authors are more likely to take extra care with getting things perfect.

I always like to remind authors that I really, truly want to love their story. I’m not looking for a reason to reject it. I open each story (and I do read every submission that comes in) with the hope that it’ll be exactly what I want. And I’d say easily 75% of the rejections I send are because of a mismatch of theme or tone.

Erin: Having edited an anthology myself, I agree completely with the last statement. I had so many stories that I knew had been written for other anthologies already released that I had read – and must have been rejected – so were submitting to any open call. They didn’t fit the theme I had at all – Gothic by the way!

I believe you have just recently also had an anthology published that you curated and edited? What is it called, who published it, and what can readers find in its pages?

Sarah: Yes! Pantheon Magazine just put out a new anthology called GORGON: STORIES OF EMERGENCE. It contains 42 pieces of flash fiction on the theme of transformation. They’re new myths—some horror, some fantasy, some dark, some hopeful. Change takes many forms. We were lucky enough to get an amazing lineup for this book. We had around 700 submissions and so many were wonderful. My shortlist wasn’t at all short. I think there were over 150 pieces in my maybe pile. Writers really knocked it out of the park—it was agony narrowing the list down. I’m so, so proud of the final result. It just released on February 15 and I can’t wait for people to dig in!

Gorgon Cover V2 (1)

Erin: I’m looking forward to reading it. Another eye-catching cover by Daniele Serra! Flash is something I love to write and read. What was your biggest challenge and your biggest success with it?

Sarah: We did not anticipate the high volume of submissions that we would get for this book, haha. We had to completely overhaul the publication schedule several times so that we could give each submission its due. In the end, it took me six months just to get through it all. Much longer than I liked making people wait for responses—but the submissions were just so good that I didn’t want to rush through. I definitely think it was worth the wait! The final lineup is amazing. So many talented authors sent us their work. The TOC is packed with a diverse lineup of incredibly skilled storytellers.

Erin: I was thrilled to find out that like me you also handwrite your work! People think I am CRAZY. Mostly now I’ve adapted to be writing mostly short stories, poetry, interviews, etc. by hand – or plot ideas or segments in books – on paper with pencil and save the big stuff for the computer to save re-typing time. But I hear you handwrite everything! Tell us about that and your use of ink pens. I adore writing utensils and I want to hear all about it. Any favorite pens you like or would suggest?

Sarah: People think I’m crazy, too! Well. They’re not wrong. I do handwrite everything, even novels and this interview! I usually write with fountain pens, yes. I first started using one in high school, but I really got hooked in college, when I had a professor who wrote with a dip pen and inkwell. He was the coolest human ever, to my nerdy eyes. We bonded over Chaucer and writing instruments.

I’m writing this with a Faber-Castell Neo Slim pen with blue ink in it. Just a standard blue, as this is my work pen right now. Often I use bright orange or sepia tones. Or Turquoise and neon pink. One of my jobs as a stationery enthusiast is writing reviews for Penaddict.com. I’m currently forming opinions on this pen for review. My favorite fountain pens are Sailor Pro Gear Slims, in the bright, fun colors. My favorite notebooks are Midori MD books, especially in the B6 size. I do love pencils, too! So you have to tell me what your favorite pencils are. I’ve developed a love for the Palomino Blackwing ones!

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Palomino Blackwing Pencils!

Erin: I like Faber-Castell anything – pens, pencils, markers. I like Ticonderoga pencils – I think the black are cool. But I love to find any pencil with cool décor or style, even if cheap (or stolen from my daughters!). I love orange and turquoise too and writing for a pen site sounds amazing!! I also love any single notebook I can find. I probably should start being more selective. I just love the feel of hand-writing my work. It’s just something that makes my brain think more creatively.

Moving on to talking about Women in Horror Month: Who are some fellow Women in Horror you admire or like the works of? What books have you enjoyed?

Sarah: Oh, there are so many. SO MANY. I’ll list a few authors I’ve enjoyed recently, because the comprehensive list is miles long. Gwendolyn Kiste is amazing. Her collection and new novel are both reading essentials. Jordan Kurella is a genderqueer author whose work is constantly knocking me over with its depth of feeling. Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth is one of the best horror novels I’ve read, hands down. And if you haven’t yet ventured into Sara Tantlinger’s poetry, that needs to be fixed asap. Gemma Files is one of my perennial favorites and she has two new collections out in the past year! And Carmen Maria Machado is writing some of the world’s best contemporary dark fairy tales that will twist your heart in knots.

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Erin: With all women out there must do, especially those of us keeping track of kids and a job too, how do you fit writing into your life? Do you have a plan or structure or is it as lightning strikes?

Sarah: It very much depends on the day! This week isn’t looking good, haha. Now that my youngest has started some preschool, I did manage to find a few hours a week where he is at school and I’m not at my day job. Sometimes I get to use those to write! Otherwise, it’s often after everyone else is asleep, or in the five minutes between this and that. I always have a notebook and pen (or five) on me in case I get a few quiet minutes to scribble.

Erin: Have you had any challenges as far as being a female writer in the horror genre? What and how did you overcome them? Advice for others?

Sarah: Sometimes, yes, though on the whole, I find the genre very welcoming and supportive. At least, the nice people are—and who would want to work with the others anyway? There have been a few times when I’ve received “this isn’t the tone we’re looking for” rejections for anthologies that then came out to be all cis white men on the TOC. I once got asked out while trying to discuss business with a male editor. I do feel at times as though men in the industry get recognized for their accomplishments immediately and remain visible while women must prove themselves over and over with each new publication, then disappear from the radar until the next thing comes out. I think things are getting better, but we still have a long way to go. For the last few years, I’ve had the rule that I would not buy any anthology that was more than 50% straight white guys. I’ve saved a lot of money! Too much.

Erin: That’s a great rule!

How about overall books and movies you have enjoyed? Any gender or genre.

Sarah: Guillermo del Toro movies are my favorite movies, with The Orphanage at the top of that list. Probably after that comes a long list of historical dramas like Poldark and Downton Abbey! Any PBS or BBC adaptation of classic lit, especially Dickens. I love a lot of non-horror. And true crime documentaries. 😀

My favorite dude writers are Steven Graham Jones, Steve Toase, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Bracken MacLeod, Richard Thomas, and a bunch of others. And they’re all wonderful humans, too. Much love for them!

Erin: We have so much in common. I loved Shape of Water. I also LOVE historical dramas, PBS and BBC adaptations, Dickens, mysteries, and true crime. I am well-rounded and always felt like I didn’t belong because of that. It’s awesome to know that more women out there like a wide range of things like I do! Oh – also SGJ and Malerman are two of my very favorite male authors.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working?

Sarah: If I’m not writing, reading, working, doing chores, playing with my kids, or playing with pens, I’m likely listening to podcasts while working with yarn. I knit, crochet, spin, and weave—anything to do with string, really! I also design my own crochet patterns. I have almost as many published crochet patterns as I do fiction pieces, haha. But, as the above might imply, I rarely have time for that hobby anymore.

Erin: That’s amazing, but yes, I can gather for sure that time for all things is on short supply.

What’s next for you in the next year or two? What are your goals for 5-10 years down the line?

Sarah: Well, I’ll be traveling a bit—visiting StokerCon in Grand Rapids and WisCon in Madison in May. I’ll also be at the Chicago Pen Show in May. May is going to be awesome! I’m also hoping to make it to StokerCon 2020 in Scarborough next year. It’s happening just a few miles from where my book takes place—I think I need to be there!

I have a few short stories that should be out this year, and my debut collection will be out from Trepidatio toward the end of the year. It has a few dozen of my favorite previously published pieces and a handful of new ones, including a new novelette. I’m also hoping to finish up edits and start pitching a new novel soon! And I’m planning to finish my current novel WIP this year, as well.

As for the next 5-10 years, my goals are to get an agent and write a ton more books. I have an idea for a series that I’m itching to get started on, and I’ve also outlined a prequel to The Bone Weaver’s Orchard that I’d love to write. Whatever the case, I know I’ll stay busy! I don’t know how not to!

Erin: That all sounds like a solid plan. I am anxious to see what you do! Thank you so much for hanging out with me and chatting today! I have really enjoyed getting to know you better. Let’s sit back and relax and have a few more cupcakes!

Sarah: Thank you so much, Erin! It’s been lovely chatting with you! I will happily take care of the rest of these cupcakes. 😀

The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, Synopsis –

theboneweaversorchard_coverHe’s run away home. That’s what they say every time one of Charley Winslow’s friends vanishes from The Old Cross School for Boys.

It’s just a tall tale. That’s what they tell Charley when he sees the ragged grey figure stalking the abbey halls at night.

When Charley follows his pet insects to a pool of blood behind a false wall, he could run and let those stones bury their secrets. He could assimilate, focus on his studies, and wait for his father to send for him. Or he could walk the dark tunnels of the school’s heart, scour its abandoned passages, and pick at the scab of a family’s legacy of madness and murder.

With the help of Sam Forster, the school’s gardener, and Matron Grace, the staff nurse, Charley unravels Old Cross’ history and exposes a scandal stretching back to when the school was a home with a noble family and a dark secret—a secret that still haunts its halls with scraping steps, twisting its bones into a new generation of nightmares.

“There’s a secret in this book. It’s stunning. It’s dark. And it’s as satisfying as any unknown a horror fan could could ever hope to unearth. So well written, so well paced, Sarah Read’s The Bone Weaver’s Orchard is a thriller with class.” —Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box

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Sarah Read, Biography –

SRauthorpicSarah Read is a dark fiction writer in the frozen north of Wisconsin. Her short stories can be found in Gamut, Black Static, and other places, and in various anthologies including Suspended in Dusk, BEHOLD! Oddities Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, and The Best Horror of the Year vol 10.

Her debut novel The Bone Weaver’s Orchard is now out from Trepidatio Publishing, and her debut collection will follow in late 2019. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pantheon Magazine and of their associated anthologies, including Gorgon: Stories of Emergence.

She is an active member of the Horror Writers Association. When she’s not staring into the abyss, she knits. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @Inkwellmonster or keep up with her on her website.

Thank you to Sarah for joining us and to you, readers, for stopping by as well. I appreciate your support of #HookonWiHM and #WomeninHorrorMonth!

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Interview: Producer, Actress, Screenwriter Comika Hartford #HookonWiHM #WIHMX #POC #Horror

Today, I welcome Comika Hartford to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Comika is a writer, actor, producer, and phenomenal lady and I am so happy to have been able to interview her as part of my women in horror series for February, which fittingly is also Black History Month. This award-winning woman is certainly making history for women in her field! I usually stick to books here, but we all like film as well, so I felt it would interest readers. Professionally her work in the genres of horror and psychological thrillers interest me and we’ll talk some about that below.

Comika has been working in her career for some time now and has numerous credits to her name. Besides being a TV and short film producer and screenwriter, she’s also an actress. She had a reoccurring role on Saints and Sinners and has been a guest star/co-star on shows such as CSI: Miami, Nash Bridges and in short films such as First Impressions, Hoax, and Unlucky Stars.

As you’ll see during the interview, she’s not only intelligent, but very outgoing and extremely funny!

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Hi Comika, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you’ve joined me from Los Angeless in cold, snowy Ohio today – I hope you brought some of your warmth along with you! Come in for some hot coffee and we’ll settle in to talk. How do you take your coffee?

Hey Erin! I’ll have a Vodka and cannabis latte with almond milk. It’s cool if you don’t have almond milk.

Erin: The only milk I drink IS almond milk! Ha! It might be the cannabis I’m short on. Tell us a little more about you and your work so anyone doesn’t know you can become acquainted!

Comika: Well I started writing and performing with Rhodessa Jones’ Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater in San Francisco before attending Emerson college. I specialize in horror/thriller screenplays with a social commentary edge.

Erin: That’s so amazing! I love the poster for Bango as well as the film. But for others, tell us what’s Bango about? Where can one watch?

Comika: Thank you! Bango is actually the first episode of a horror anthology I wrote set in a creepy California suburb called HINTERLAND ZOO where every house is the nightmare next door. It’s about a quiet couple taking a walk on the wild side that goes sideways real quick! You can watch it on Amazon Prime & our website www.bangofilm.com takes you right to it.

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We’re pitching the rest of the anthology later this year so please leave a review on Amazon if you end up watching. Every review helps. And please feel free to be completely honest, if you dont like it just say why… My favorite review so far is “What psycho wrote this?” Mmm… Delicious.

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Erin: You’ve also written and acted in a horror web-series turned film The Grey Area and it’s won so many awards! Congratulations! Can you tell us about it?

Comika: Yes, The Grey Area has been upgraded to a feature film; It was a lot of work to push that through but it’s on! We just shot the second chapter last November with Zorina Juan directing and my partner in crime Eric Shapiro, who directed Bango, producing and keeping blood off the furniture.

Erin: The Grey Area sounds fun. I know you’ve described it as “the female version of Supernatural that meets the West Coast version of Law & Order on the streets of San Francisco.” With it being a psychological thriller, it’s sounds totally like something I want to check out!

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What’s it like writing and/or producing films or shorts compared to acting in them?

 Comika: Hmm… Sorta like the difference between running a restaurant or dropping in for a meal!

 Erin: Do you ever direct? Or aspire to? Why or why not?

Comika: Nah. I love my director allies, but I don’t envy their job. Directing is like trying to organize changing Baby Godzilla’s diaper. No really! Think about it: There are a lot of people around. Lots of destruction. Lotsa crap to deal with. At least one crying monster. And if it doesn’t come off well… it’s all your fault!

Erin: Haha!! I don’t think I want that job either. And which of all the above do you like better in general and which do you prefer in horror?

Comika: I love writing. I prefer that over everything in any genre!

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Winning an Award for The Grey Area. Photo supplied by Comika Hartford.

Erin: What do you feel women bring to the horror genre that is more distinctive than men? How do you feel women shine in the genre?

Comika: Mmm… well being a woman involves a lot of blood and dealing with rape culture so… Yeah. Horror is kinda our genre. We own it.

Erin: What do you think most people of either gender can do better to support women in horror?

Comika: Watch our movies! There’s a lot of great work happening. The Soska sisters are doing a remake of Cronenberg’s Rabid, Aislinn Clark’s The Devil’s Doorway is on Hulu, and Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer looks creepy af!

Erin: What types of themes do you explore or want to explore in your screenwriting?

Comika: I like to explore religious themes and mythology; I am very intrigued by the idea of vengeance- based deities.

Erin: What is a piece of writing or book or film or all by a woman in horror truly touched you, was memorable to you, or inspired you?

Comika: Kasi Lemmons’ Eves Bayou! It still messes me up.

Erin: Who are some women in horror you admire and who would you recommend to others to get to know?

Comika: Nikyatu Jusu came out strong at Sundance with Suicide by Sunlight. She is definitely someone to watch.

Erin: Have you ever thought of writing short stories or a book in the horror genre (or any other genre)?

Comika: I think I’d like to write a kid’s show… Seriously!

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Comika acting! Photo supplied by Comika Hartford.

Erin: What are some of your current or upcoming releases?

Comika: Well I’m working on a screenplay about Black vampires that travel to the Americas during slavery to rescue their kidnapped relatives. It’s called Legacy and much like American history it’s filled with blood, torture, and genocide… Yeah. Good times!

Erin: Oh, wow! And though true, the film sounds like fun! I can’t wait to hear updates on that.

Where can everyone find you to connect?

Comika: You can find me at comikahartford.com which connects to Facebook, I’m @blamethewriter on Instagram, and you can follow our progress with The Grey Area at:

www.enterthegreyarea.com

Erin: Thank you so much for joining us today, Comika! It was such a pleasure and please feel free to stop back by anytime! 😊

Comika: Thanks Erin… Um, can I have the rest of this Vodka to go?

Erin: Of course you can, how else would you juggle all the horrifying stuff you have on your plate? Please stop back by for me when Legacy is set to air.

Thanks to Comika for joining us!

Comika

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Interview: Sara Tantlinger on Serial Killer H.H. Holmes, Writing Poetry, and Why We Love Horror #HookonWiHM #WIHMX

Today is the second part of a two-part interview I’ve conducted with horror writer and poet Sara Tantlinger, the first being about writing and publishing at The Horror Tree, a site that focuses on being a horror author’s resource. Additionally, I had this interview scheduled and ready to post today as part of my #HookonWiHM series for the 10th anniversary of Women in Horror Month, but I had to come back to edit my interview to offer my congratulations to Sara as it was announced this weekend she secured a Bram Stoker Award nomination for best poetry collection for The Devil’s Dreamland, which we will be discussing below!

I was beyond excited to read The Devil’s Dreamland, which I devoured with a carnal interest I am almost ashamed to admit. It’s a marvelous collection. Most readers know I have a bachelor’s degree in history and LOVE it, as well as am obsessed with learning about true crime and serial killers, so this collection was right up my alley. I’ve always been intrigued with H.H. Holmes, who after coming to Chicago, changed his given name to take on the Holmes, I’ve heard, as a homage to Sherlock Holmes (the fictional detective named by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his famous stories). But I’m more interested in the psychology of how people turn out to be serial liars, thieves, and murderers, especially when they come from so-called religious households or if there was speculation of abuse.

I’m thrilled to talk to Sara about her interest in H.H. Holmes, her research, her writing – particularly in poetry form, and so much more. I think this will appeal to a wide range of readers I have coming to my site – history or true crime enthusiasts, horror fanatics, and those who write or read poetry. I hope you ALL enjoy it as much as I did!!

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H.H. Holmes / Photo from Wikipedia

Hi Sara, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I am so glad to have you here with us. It’s snowy and freezing in both our neck of the woods these days. Shall we have some coffee to start? How do you take yours? And I’ll just pull out some warm cinnamon rolls from the oven. It will just be a minute while I frost them.

Sara: Hi Erin! Thank you so much for having me. Mm, cinnamon rolls are one of my favorites! I’ll throw a dash of vanilla creamer in my coffee and be all set.

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Erin: Now that I sound very much like a 1950s housewife, it’s the time I pull out the knife and stab the cinnamon roll…just kidding. But we are here to discuss your newest poetry collection today, The Devil’s Dreamland, and your work in horror. It’s Women in Horror Month so what better time for this all to come together.

Sara: Ha! A lot of my baking ends up with someone, I mean, something getting stabbed. I love Women in Horror Month – it’s so fun to highlight what these amazing ladies in horror are up to. I’m thrilled to be here talking about The Devil’s Dreamland and more!

Erin: I agree. Let’s get started. I’m anxious to hear about the notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes and your desire to write about him for your new poetry collection, which released late last year. What motivated you?

Sara: Well, I really wanted to do something different than my first poetry collection. I watched a documentary on H.H. Holmes, ended up going to a haunted house that was Holmes-themed, and found myself wondering more about the madman after reading Devil in the White City, so it felt like the universe kept giving me signs to write this collection.

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Sara with her collection! Photo provided by Sara Tantlinger.

Erin: Just who was H.H. Holmes? How did you go about researching his life and times before you started writing the collection? What interesting things did you come across?

Sara: H.H. Holmes was born Herman Webster Mudgett, and he was an expert conman and liar. Thus, pinning down who exactly he was is nearly impossible. The accounts of his life conflict, even the memoir he wrote in prison is saturated in idyllic lies. The research was fascinating though. I am now the owner of an ungodly number of books about H.H. Holmes, so my library looks pretty sinister right now. I read just about everything that mentioned Holmes, but even after publishing the collection I learned of MORE research out there involving him.

In addition to historical texts and more fictionalized versions of Holmes, I researched newspapers from his time period, read his own writing (a prison memoir and confession), and even found some records of the court hearings and testimonies that occurred before he was executed.

It was all interesting to me, but I think one of the things that fascinated me the most was that he left his “wives” (there were three, but only one of the marriages was legal) alive. He murdered mistresses and other women, but his three wives and two children, he let alone. He let them live.

Erin: Wow – I didn’t know he was a polygamist, and yes, that is peculiar that his murderous endeavors didn’t carry over with this wives as well!

Of course, writing poetry is very different than writing a book, something most people might think you’d do when researching a serial killer’s life. Why did you choose poetry? Was it difficult to condense into poetry? What was your process in telling your story with your poetry?

Sara: There are a ton of books out there on H.H. Holmes, but I did not see any other poetry collections in existence about the man, so I thought it’d be interesting to try something different. Even when I first had the idea, I knew it’d be my next poetry collection.

There was some difficultly condensing all that I wanted to include down into poems because I probably could have added another 100 poems to the batch about everything Holmes did or tried to do, but I wanted to keep some mystery. Otherwise, poetry allowed me to serve up these jagged slivers of tales because poetry demands that each word counts. Every rhythm, line, image, and more must be sharpened down into what needs to be there without an excess, otherwise the poem loses its ability to puncture wound itself into your mind and fester.

From there, my process became telling a cohesive narrative through the poems and different viewpoints included. I wanted the story to make sense, and I wanted the reader to think about each piece, but at the same time some enigma needed to be kept because that is who Holmes was, a mystery never meant to be completely solved.

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H.H. Holmes. Photo provided by Sara Tantlinger.

Erin: What was the intent you had in mind for readers to walk away with once reading The Devil’s Dreamland? What did you walk away with after writing it?

Sara: I wanted to create a poetry collection that appealed to both regular readers of poetry and those who may be more skeptical. I wrote the collection in a more narrative style, going through Holmes’ life and including different viewpoints from his accomplice, victims, and others.

After writing it, I walked away with pride, which is something I don’t always allow myself to do. Writers, don’t constantly chastise yourself and your hard work! That’s something I am still working on, but with Holmes, I just put so much into that book that I finally let myself feel the sweet sense of accomplishment as it ended.

I also walked away with the Devil whispering sweet, bloody nothings into my head, but, that’s a different story…

Erin: Ha! Many reviewers felt you were able to mix the morbid, grotesque, and horror with the beauty of your words quite nicely, leaving them satisfied with the collection by the end, when you’d think, mostly they’d be unnerved. What drives people to want to read about the macabre, and within writing, what does a writer need to do to soften it “just enough.”

Sara: Hmm, that’s a good question. Personally speaking, I love the macabre because it’s like this grotesque mirror reflecting our most morbid curiosities back at us, inviting us to reach inside ourselves and pull out that darkness to share with others. Bonding with those who share that fascination makes our weirdness feel more “socially acceptable,” but also allows us to build a really cool, twisted community.

I don’t usually try to soften my work because I like working with raw, gritty ideas and images. That said, I have personal boundaries with certain things I would never write about – things I just do not see a need to write about, or to read about, but of course that’s all personal preference. Otherwise, I definitely encourage writers, women especially, to push boundaries and write the stories they really want to, even if that means some people are going to hate it.

Erin: What was something that shocked or surprised you in your research or something you didn’t end up including (or both)?

Sara: I was mostly surprised at how H.H. Holmes was able to get away with the fraud he did for so long. It worked in the 1800s, but what he did would never work today. He really thought everything through in terms of his cons, seductions, murders, and the construction of the Murder Castle. I think that is partly what intrigued me so much about him, how he was able to escape punishments and debts by using his words. Talk about the power that words can hold…

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Murder Castle in Chicago / Image from Wikipedia

Erin: Do you enjoy reading or watching TV or movies about serial killers? If so, what other things did you find interesting? (I am obsessed with watching and reading about true crime!)

Sara: I am definitely infused with some sick curiosities when it comes to learning about serial killers or other strange murders (I binged Making a Murderer way too quickly). I think it’s this morbid vicariousness that allows us to peek into the darkest parts of humanity without bloodying our own hands or souls. The Zodiac killer is another one I continue to be fascinated by – it’s hard to describe why we want to know these gruesome crimes and facts. Maybe we feel like we’re part of the mystery and are amateur sleuths helping to solve something.

Erin: Now that you explored mixing historical true crime with horror poetry, do you think you might try one again? Why or why not?

Sara: I don’t think I would want to do something too similar to the Holmes collection, so if there’s other inspiration I come across and I mix those genres again, I’d go for it. In the meantime, however, I really want to try new things and challenge myself in other ways.

Erin: Earlier in 2017 you also released Love for Slaughter, which is perfect to bring up since February is also the month of love. You slashed and slayed and bit and bled in this one and people loved every minute of it. Can you tell me your thoughts behind it and what went into it? You’re such a nice person, where does all that dark passion come from?

Sara: Love For Slaughter was inspired by this idea that something as beautiful as love can actually be really vicious and bloody. I researched the idea of Folie à Deux (madness shared by two), and read stories about couples doing terrible things to each other, all these crimes of passion, so to speak. I always love playing around with something pure and asking myself how I can slash it up into gory, ghastly bits. I think my interest in dark passion stems from a love of dark literature like Wuthering Heights and The Awakening, or even The Picture of Dorian Gray – they show these darker parts of love and what it can do to an individual who loses parts of themselves for the sake of love, or for the sake of a perceived love. There is something universal about heartbreak, so I wanted to bring that out in my poetry in all the most twisted ways.

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Love for Slaughter. Photo provided by Sara Tantlinger.

Erin: I love those books too! What is it about people, do you think, that they appreciate the dark corners of horror, love, and life? What makes them feed on your imagery and words?

Sara: Sometimes reading horror feels like you’re getting away with something. There’s a thrill lurking in those depraved corners, inviting all of us to imagine the worst parts of humanity without committing the acts ourselves. To me, it feels natural to feed off that black spark of forbidden excitement, and that’s one of the reasons I write horror.

On the other side of that, horror is a place of cathartic writing. There are stories where we can share our phobias, grief, heartache, and more with each other. Being able to write about these aspects and provide human connection through tales of horror is a really special thing.

Erin: How do you feel about the state of women who write in horror? Is it improving, what needs improved, thoughts on how to improve readership and support of women?

Sara: Women are doing amazing things right now, and always, in the horror genre. I do feel like publishers, editors, and so forth are doing better to use their positions to seek out more diversity in the market, but nothing is perfect yet. There are still battles to be fought, and I have no doubt women will keep prevailing through these obstacles. The most important thing we can do is support each other, recognize our allies, do better to support minorities and women of color in horror, and continue to create the work we truly want to be creating and sharing.

Erin: Who are some of your female influences in prose or poetry and why?

Sara: Oh gosh there are so many! I’m going to try and limit myself here. A classic inspiration for me comes from Kate Chopin. The Awakening profoundly changed how I think about life, and from there I consumed Chopin’s writing and was so happily lost in her beautiful words. She captures this dark honesty of the female spirit in her stories, which isn’t surprising given the things she went through in life, but she fought for her independence. She inspires me all the time.

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A contemporary poet whom I adore is Sierra DeMulder. Her books destroy me. She’s another brutally honest writer, using unique, vivid imagery in her poems to unabashedly address womanhood, sexuality, love, loss, and more. I admire her greatly and highly encourage anyone to watch the videos of her reading her poetry live. It gives me goosebumps every time.

Erin: What about overall influences, mentors, inspirations in reading and writing?

Sara: Some other influences and inspirations for my writing would have to include (classic) Edgar Allan Poe, William Blake, Sylvia Plath, and Walt Whitman; and (contemporary) Linda Addison, Mike Arnzen, Clive Barker, Caroline Kepnes, Gillian Flynn, and Catherynne Valente.

Erin: There are a lot of women writers out there purging so many past issues on paper, instead of hiding them away. I’m glad writing can give them this platform. Why do you think women are continually the “monster collectors” and “dragon slayers” so to speak? What in their personalities allows them to write with such clarity and how do you teach young writers to channel the passion into focused work?

Sara: I think our history as women, our fight for equality and representation, all that we have endured collectively, are elements deeply rooted in our brains and very blood. The fight of our ancestors and our fights today to make our voices heard and respected is what makes us so driven to purge out the inner turmoil on paper with raw, visceral imagery and emotion. This is something unique to us that can never be manufactured. I hope young writers today continue to feed off that energy and wield it as a powerful weapon within their words and stories. I encourage them to keep telling their truths no matter who it may anger along the way because we got your back, my horror sisters.

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Erin: I know that you’re editing an anthology that is filled completely with women for StrangeHouse books. Can you tell us a little about that – the idea, the process, the title, etc. When can we expect it?

Sara: Yes! The anthology is titled Not All Monsters and is being planned for a 2020 release. I can’t say too much yet (I’m also still narrowing down the stories I want), but over the next few months the final TOC will be revealed as we spotlight the individual authors who will have stories in the anthology.

But from what I’ve read, and from the stories I’ve fallen in love with, this is going to be an anthology that empowers women of horror so much through its words, and I am ecstatic about that.

Erin: What’s next for you? Will you write a novel or short story collection or stick to poetry?

Sara: Well, you may be seeing more prose from me this year if all goes to plan. Otherwise, I am planning on sticking to my current historical horror WIP about Ranavalona I of Madagascar. There will absolutely be more poetry in my future, but I’m not sure what theme I’ll focus on for the next collection. I can’t wait to find out when it hits me.

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Queen of Madagascar – Ranavalona I / Image from Wikipedia

Erin: The historical horror work sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read it. Thank you so much for joining me for coffee and the chat, Sara. I know there is so much more I could ask you but you’re a busy gal! You’ll have to come back again sometime soon. 

Sara: Thank you, Erin! I have enjoyed your questions and the coffee so much!

Sara Tantlinger Biography –

Tantlinger_2019Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. Her dark poetry collections Love for Slaughter and The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes are published 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.

Sara’s poetry, flash fiction, and short stories can be found in several magazines and anthologies, including the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. II and V, the Horror Zine, Unnerving, Abyss & Apex, the 2018 Rhysling Anthology, 100 Word Horrors, and the Sunlight Press. Currently, Sara is editing Not All Monsters, an anthology that will be comprised entirely of women who write speculative fiction. The anthology is set for a 2020 release with StrangeHouse Books.

She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and find out more about Sara at her website!

Sara’s Latest Collection –

TDDThe Devil’s Dreamland

H.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

Purchase on Amazon

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And don’t forget to check out my first interview with Sara at The Horror Tree, in which we focus on writing and publishing. 

For more #HookonWiHM, or women in horror, here on Oh, for the Hook of a Book!, go HERE.

 

 

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Interview: Sonora Taylor Open Up About Themes in Novel Without Condition #WIHMX #HookonWiHM

Hi Sonora, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you’ve joined me, and I look forward to talking to you today. I know we are both “foodies” and so if you brought some Duck Donuts or some Georgetown Cupcakes from D.C., I’ll make the enchiladas for lunch. It’s freezing here so let’s whip out the coffee with something a bit stronger, like rum or Kahlua, or I bet you even know something better because you are always giving me tips about the good stuff…?

Sonora: Thanks for having me over! I did indeed bring some donuts, but – not to be that local – I thought you might enjoy these cupcakes from Baked and Wired a little bit more. I also brought pupusas, and yes, load me up on some rum and coffee (though I take no responsibility for what I start saying after a couple drinks).

Erin: I had Georgetown Cupcakes a month ago when I was in D.C.(yummy!), but my son actually recommended we go to Baked and Wired next time – which sounds divine!!A girl after my own heart with the rum and coffee. And pupusas! We’re in trouble.

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Pupusas for lunch – we are doing this in person next time! For now, we’ll imagine. Thanks for the photo Sonora! Pupusas with tamale, rice, beans, and spicy slaw from El Rinconcito in D.C. Photo by Sonora Taylor.

Let’s settle in at the table and watch the snow pile up around us while we warm our bellies with food and spirits and our mind with conversation. Let’s get started! I recently had the pleasure of reading your first horror novel (though I know you’ve written shorter horror works) called Without Condition, which features a young, female serial killer as the lead. Can you tell the readers about it in your own words?

Sonora: Absolutely. The elevator pitch version is that Without Condition is about a serial killer navigating through her first relationship. In a bit more detail, it’s about a young woman named Cara Vineyard who lives with her mother on a former pumpkin farm in rural North Carolina. She works at a brewery during the day and drives her truck at night. Sometimes on those drives, she’ll pick men up – which usually means those men will die. Her life gets complicated, though, when she meets and falls for a man named Jackson. As they grow closer, Cara isn’t sure he’ll feel the same way about her if he discovers all of her secrets.

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Erin: Readers can read my review of Without Condition HERE. Your story deals with a lot of themes, one of them being children who come of age into adults holding onto the feelings they had from being ignored, bullied, or isolated in their formative years from fellow students or sometimes family. Why did you decide to use this topic as your propellant for revenge?

Sonora: It was a motivation for Cara that made sense to me, and something that I think many of us deal with in varying capacities. I think we sometimes take for granted the sticking power of bad experiences in childhood, especially things like bullying, name-calling, or being dismissed by teachers. It’s often ignored unless it gets physical, or else not taken care of until it’s too late and already well-settled in. In Cara’s case, it’s so settled in that, when she doesn’t have those external sources of bullying or anger, she still feels their effects and hears them as if they’re still happening.

I wanted Cara’s back story to both be realistic and not rooted in what we usually see with fictional women who kill. Two of the most tired tropes I see for women doing bad things are either revenge for being raped or assaulted (is it still considered fridging if it applies to motivating the woman?), or else vengeance on behalf of a child or partner. I won’t lie, when I was doing research on female serial killers for the book, I was actually a bit disappointed to see that one of the most common motivations was assisting their boyfriends or husbands. Don’t know what that says about me!

But in all seriousness, I felt like the bullying and Cara’s inability to let go were realistic motivators that readers would recognize; and while I don’t think it’s an excuse for Cara’s killing, it’s an explanation that, for some readers, may be scarily close to home.

Erin: Another theme presents about parenting in broken homes, children who don’t know their fathers, and abandonment issues that young people sometimes deal with – how did you form your character’s personality to identify with these themes and why? Do you feel your protagonist’s lack of father turned her against men?

Sonora: I looked at it mostly as how Cara grew up being used to loneliness, worrying that the people she cares about may disappear, and the quiet urge for something a little bit more than what she knows – all of which play some part in how she turned out, both for better and for worse. The male family figures in her life were both like fathers and yet they disappeared early on. She doesn’t remember her great uncle, but she still gets the sense that he’s missing. She remembers her great uncle’s friend Terry a lot more because he played the role of a father figure and friend, then disappeared.

Men in Cara’s life seem to provide her with calmer, more stable relationships; but their ends are more of a disruption to her than what she encounters with women. Her friends in school are mostly boys, and it’s when boys start gossiping about her that she becomes both angry and hurt; while girls picking on her was more of a constant prickle (much like her relationship with her mother).

I think Cara’s actions against men are based more on feeling betrayed by the men she’s known and loved than from her lack of father. Cara wants to know who her father is, but because she’s never known him and Delores never talks about him, he’s not really a missing figure to her the way Terry is. I also can’t say Cara would’ve turned out differently if her father were around. Even if in some alternate universe where her father was in her life – be it in the same house or just with frequent visitation – he would’ve floated in and out of her life and not been as close to her as Cara is with her mother. Neither Cara’s desire to wander nor her love of driving come from Delores.

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Illustration for Without Condition. Artwork by Doug Puller.

 

Erin: From your protagonist’s mother to her boyfriend, themes of unconditional love abound in this story, even sometimes when to a reader it shouldn’t. What ideas were you hoping to bring to the table about love as your implemented this into your book?

Sonora: I wanted to explore the idea of what it means to love someone unconditionally even when they’re doing things they shouldn’t be doing, namely with parental love and romantic love. Whenever I hear about a serial killer, there’s almost always someone that still loves them even when their crimes are laid out. Mothers defend their children who are on trial, women write letters or stand by their men when accused, etc. I’m both appalled and fascinated by this, and while Without Condition isn’t a direct response to that, it was certainly influenced by that.

I also thought it’d be interesting to explore that from the perspective of the person receiving that love, and what unconditional love means to them. Cara is not entirely devoid of feelings, and though she’s put up a shield to keep herself from feeling vulnerable, she still wants things like friendship (granted on her terms), approval, and love. What I found interesting about her as I wrote, though, is that she doesn’t really crave or strive for those things with friends and family, but she does with Jackson. This in turn scares her not just because of what she has to hide, but because she’s not used to feeling this way around another person. Falling in love is a unique experience from other relationships, and in a dark way, I found it kind of fun to examine that fear so many of us have when falling in love, but through the eyes of someone who actually has something terrible to hide.

Erin: In part of my review back to you I said that the book was like if King’s Carrie had gone on to become a serial killer and lived a backwoods country life. That initially went back to the being bullied in high school theme, but talk about revenge and why you decided to make your novel revolve around it?

Sonora: In certain lights, revenge can be seen as the result of not being able to let go. The book explores Cara’s inability – both voluntary and involuntary – to let go of the grievances she’s accumulated over the years. It gets to the point where her anger is so much a part of her that, when the sources of her anger disappear or leave her alone, she feels lost. Her response, then, is to almost relish it when she’s provoked or angry again. It’s both sad and dangerous, especially for the people she chooses to take that anger out on. She sees her victims as a means to an end, and it’s an ending that doesn’t ever seem to really come – much like the mental torment she feels from her experiences in school.

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From Sonora: A collection of beer I picked up on my last trip to Asheville. Papa’s Secret Brewing – the company Without Condition protagonist Cara works for – is fictional, but North Carolina’s beer scene is thriving. Photo by Sonora Taylor.

Erin: Speaking of backwoods country life, your novel takes place in a small, rural town of North Carolina. How do you describe what it’s like there both visually and within the personalities of the people? Why do you feel your protagonist didn’t fit in?

Sonora: Leslie, a fictional town in North Carolina, is on the outskirts of the outskirts of Raleigh. It’s not entirely farmland – there are small strip malls and a few restaurants that one would consider the downtown area – but the places of business tend to be off the side of the main road and surrounded by trees; and while everyone doesn’t know everyone else, most everyone knows of most everyone else. As such, while Cara and her mother aren’t incredibly active members of the community, Cara was known when she showed up for the first day of school – and unfortunately, she was known mostly by vicious rumors about her mother that were the result of Delores coming to live in Leslie when she was single, seventeen, and pregnant.

Because Cara spent most of her formative years on Vineyard Farm with her mother and Terry, she doesn’t really know how to respond to new people saying mean things to her right away. And because she’s used to being alone, it’s easier for her to retreat and give up on trying to make friends than to try and win over people. I think that, combined with her being blunt and acerbic, all make it harder for her to fit in. Her default is distrust, and in such a small and quiet town, it’s hard to escape what the few people there think of you – especially when what they think has taken permanent residence in your mind.

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Cox Mountain trail, which is outside of Chapel Hill and Durham in North Carolina (and about 90 minutes from  my protagonist Cara’s hometown of Leslie). Photo by Sonora Taylor.

Erin: Your protagonist’s mother was also an interesting supporting character. How did you create her personality and what would her back story be like? Have you thought of writing a prequel using the mother’s life?

Sonora: I haven’t thought of a writing a prequel, but that would be interesting! Delores was often a tough nut to crack because, as you’ll see in the book, she doesn’t like to talk about herself or her past. It was actually pretty challenging to write her scenes with Cara because she’d usually either clam up or go on offense. I can see where Cara got her tendency to give up on people rather than dealing with their shit. As damaging as that is for both Cara and Delores, I do feel sorry for Delores. As she alludes to in the book, she didn’t feel loved in her family home. She lived with both her parents and three brothers, and the nicest thing she got from any of them was indifference. Her uncle Leo was the only relative who treated her like family, so she saw Vineyard Farm as a sanctuary from everything she hated about her home. I think Delores assumed that Cara would feel the same way about Vineyard Farm, and thus, would never want to leave the farm or her. But Cara isn’t Delores.

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Mountaintop view of Chimney Rock, North Carolina; which is outside of Asheville (and about an hour or so from Without Condition character Jackson’s hometown of Pinesboro). Photo by Sonora Taylor.

Erin: The femme fatale in literature is almost supernatural, though your character is only into murder and doesn’t have powers. How fun was it to spin the serial killer motif into a modern-day femme fatale that no one would expect? What were your challenges in creating her? What did you feel your successes were while writing it?

Sonora: It was challenging to write a serial killer anti-heroine that felt so little remorse for what she does. Usually when you see a killer protagonist, they’re conflicted about what they do. They see killing as something they’re forced to do, something that’s just a job, something they do to pay a debt, etc. This does not apply to Cara. To her, killing is as natural a way to blow off steam as driving her truck, smoking, or taking a few deep breaths. I kept her this way because honestly, I found the absurdity of this, of her kills taking the same spot in her mind as making a mental note to buy cigarettes, to be darkly funny. But, I also found this made for a scarier narrative. She doesn’t care that she’s killing people beyond basic things like hoping the cops don’t find the bodies. She doesn’t even begin to care until she meets Jackson, and even then, it’s in the context of worrying she’ll lose him, not because of any sudden moral awakening.

This also presented a challenge, though, in asking both myself and readers to care about Cara for the duration of the narrative despite this lack of remorse. I wanted to do this, but without creating so much sympathy that it seemed what she’s doing is okay, or romanticizing serial killers or anything like that. I wanted understanding for what motivates her to kill, and I wanted her to be interesting in the context of her actions being scary, being unsettling, and being the result of failings around her as well as her own shortcomings. I think I was successful in that, but ultimately, it’s all in how readers read it – and every reader is different!

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Truck outside of dairy farm in Orange County, N.C., much like Cara drives, even though she lives on a pumpkin farm. Photo by Sonora Taylor.

 
Erin: I have to say I didn’t really “like” Cara at all, but understood her and felt she was in complete development at the same time.

It seems Valentine’s week was the perfect week to release this book. Did you plan that? Haha! Should men buy this for their girlfriends? I’m just kidding. Did you do fun plans for promotion? I think that you should give away a free knife with each order by a woman. 😉

Sonora: I did plan that! I admit I was feeling a little mischievous by planning to promote it as “perfect for Valentine’s Day,” though really, Cara and Jackson’s relationship is pretty romantic. Plus, the book has some pretty hot sex in it, if I say so myself. There’s one scene in there that was so steamy, I started singing “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” to myself, ha ha.  I also consider it to be both horror and romance (with coming-of-age for good measure), since romantic love is the driving force for a lot of the things both Cara and Jackson go through.

Men should totally buy this for their girlfriends, or boyfriends. Women should buy it for their boyfriends or girlfriends. Everyone should buy it for everyone. Buy my book! (Okay Erin, you may want to cut me off from the rum-and-coffees).

I think a free knife would be too expensive – er, I mean, too dangerous to give out. But maybe I’ll send some paperback copies in a shoebox. Maybe as a Mother’s Day promotion. Heh heh.

Erin: As a mom, I am not sure how I feel about that promotion!! haha!

I know you also had a short story in the anthology from 2018 called Quoth the Raven, which was stories in homage to Edgar Allan Poe. What is the name of it and what’s it about? Did it model any Poe story? I was excited to see this anthology make the preliminary ballot for the Stoker Award!

Sonora: My story is called “Hearts are Just ‘Likes.’” It’s about an Instagram influencer who thrives on being seen online, but must reconcile that with having to hide the fact that she’s murdered her boyfriend. It’s a modern version of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” I like that story because all of the horror is inside the narrator’s paranoid mind, and most of that paranoia comes from the fear of being seen. Social media has created almost a new form of paranoia, a willing placement of ourselves into Foucault’s panopticon where we feel we must perform our lives in the context of having it be presentable to whoever’s watching us online. I thought that was a perfect state of mind to explore for a modern retelling of a Poe classic.

Quoth the Raven was actually my first acceptance ever. I was so thrilled, not just for the acceptance, but because I adore Poe and was really happy to be included in such a fun and unique tribute to him.

I too was excited to see Quoth the Raven on the preliminary ballot, and not just because I’m in the anthology. It’s a wonderful collection – I was so impressed with all of the stories. Strictly as a reader, I highly recommend it!

Quoth the Raven

Erin: I love “Tell-Tale Heart!” One of the stories in my own collection had inspiration slightly from it. Of course I love Poe. Your story sounds amazing – and that’s so true, about the online world.

What is your favorite Edgar Allan Poe short story of all time and why?

Sonora: “Hop Frog,” because it’s the only Poe story that scared me so much that I almost couldn’t sleep after I read it. It’s actually very hard for a book to scare me. Audio and visuals are more effective, and even then, it doesn’t really linger unless it’s a combination of immediate scares and chilling moods. So, when text manages to scare me, it holds a special place in my heart. The ending of “Hop Frog,” (*spoiler alert*) where the protagonist commits a murder right in front of everyone and they have no idea … hoo, I got the willies just remembering it, and I haven’t read the story in almost 20 years.

Erin: What were some of your favorite books you read in 2018 overall (can be any genre!) and what are some by women in horror?

Sonora: My favorite book I read in 2018 was Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee. It’s about two sisters, one of whom is bipolar. The story is told from many points of view: the sister with bipolar disorder, the sister who is also her caregiver, and two of the afflicted sister’s boyfriends. It did a really good job showing the toll of mental illness on the person afflicted, the caregiver, and the people who love them; but without malice or lack of dignity. I highly recommend it.

Everything Here is Beautiful

I also loved Educated by Tara Westover. We read it for my office’s book club. At first, we were all kind of reluctant (we go by PBS’s book club recommendations so we always have an objective third party choosing the book), but most of us ended up being floored by the book. Westover has an amazing talent for writing about the horrors of her upbringing without writing them as horror. She doesn’t tell you how to feel or, really, how she feels beyond what she felt in that moment.

I also enjoyed Whiskey and Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith. It elegantly weaves points-of-view and time periods to tell a story about new love and lost love, all with beautiful prose.

I did read some women in horror too! I read Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado early in the year. I liked the collection a lot, and find her writing and ideas to be fascinating. My favorite story in the collection was “Inventories.” I also enjoyed My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite; and The Vegetarian by Han Kang.

Erin: Just coming in recently to the horror genre, how do you feel in regard to the treatment or level of support of women in horror, both from women and men both, since it’s women in horror month? What is positive and what can everyone do better?

Sonora: I feel like it’s getting better for sure, but there is still a sense of “Oh yeah, her too” when it comes to thinking about women in horror. A lot of times when people are asked about favorite and/or great horror writers, people will automatically list men – King, Barker, etc. – and then pause and think before adding women (I admit I’ve been guilty of this too). It’s unfortunately the product of a culture that promotes white, straight, cisgendered men as the default or universal; with all others as their own genre. My gender isn’t a genre. What I write is a genre (and many genres at that).

But on a positive note, it’s definitely better; especially online and in the independent scene. I’ve loved being introduced to so many talented women horror authors online that I never would’ve found on my own: Christa Carmen, Loren Rhoads, Tiffany Michelle Brown, Larissa Glasser, and you, Erin; just to name a few! I also see both women and men promoting each other online, which is nice.

One thing I think everyone can do better is reading more women and people of color. I feel really disheartened when I scroll through Goodreads and I see friends reading man after man, or white man after white man, or white man after white woman … you get the gist. Expand! There are so many voices out there in every genre, and with the access that the Internet, independent publishing, and self-publishing have all provided to reading so many more voices, we have a great opportunity to do so.

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Erin: Happy to have met you too, thank you! I look forward to checking out some of your past short story collections. What writing plans do you have for 2019? What are your goals to make that happen?

Sonora: I’m planning to release another short story collection, a longer one than my last two. I’ve written some longer pieces and I’ve also written a lot of flash over the past year. Right now, the collection is called Little Paranoias: Stories. I have three works-in-progress left for the collection, and I want to finish them by May so I have time to read over everything one more time before sending them all to my editor in June.

Once that’s out for edits, I’ll either work on some more short fiction or, hopefully, get cracking on my next novel. I have some ideas that are percolating, but I’m not going to start it until my short stories are done.

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The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Photo by Sonora Taylor.

Erin: I know you like to travel, see sites, and have fun in the world from going to NYC and Hershey Park this year to a past trip to Prince Edward Island. What is your top choice to travel to that was/is the home and/or museum of a famous author? Why?

Sonora: I had to rack my brain about this a bit because I don’t usually pick travel destinations based on writers! But in thinking about it … I’d actually love to visit Omaha, Nebraska; home of Rainbow Rowell. I like reading her descriptions of the downtown area. I also want to visit because one of my favorite chefs, Isa Chandra Moscowitz, has a restaurant there called Modern Love.

If you don’t mind me sharing a quick aside – this past summer, my husband and I went to Dublin. We visited the Writer’s Museum, and they have a first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, along with notes and other books by him. I completely fangirled in the museum (quietly, of course). James Joyce who? I’m here for Dracula!

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From Sonora: The first edition of Dracula by Bram Stoker. I might’ve squealed a little bit when I saw it – it’s one of my favorite books! Photo by Sonora Taylor

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Bram Stoker Display at the Writer’s Museum in Dublin, Ireland. Photo by Sonora Taylor.

Erin: That’s amazing! I’m looking forward to visiting the Poe Museum in Baltimore!

What favorite foods and/or drinks make you write, and which makes you go into a coma? Haha!

Sonora: I don’t eat when I write, which my stomach hates, ha ha. I wrote a good portion of Without Condition before work in the morning, so I always had breakfast after writing – and I specifically craved whole wheat toast with Earth Balance and Trader Joe’s pink grapefruit marmalade on writing days. Just thinking about that breakfast makes me think I should be writing the book!

I usually just drink water when I write. I don’t follow the Hemingway rule of “write drunk, edit sober,” mostly because I’m getting old and being drunk means falling asleep. I have found that re-reading my work while buzzed makes me less of a harsh critic, so maybe that should be reversed?

Baked macaroni and cheese puts me into a coma, but a delicious, melty, bread crumb-topped coma; so it’s worth it. I make a delicious pumpkin macaroni and cheese in the fall.

Erin: Ugh! First of all, there is no Trader Joe’s near me, but next time there is I’m getting that marmalade. Also, mac and cheese for the high five! I had that last night haha! But adding pumpkin…mmm…I’ll have to try that this Fall.

Tell us where everyone can connect with you at below. I enjoyed first getting to know you doing the monthly Ladies in Horror Photo Prompt Challenge. I think so many more ladies should do that – it keeps the writing flow going! If you want to share any of your links from that, feel free to do so below too.

Sonora: I love the prompt challenge too! It’s great for creativity, as getting a picture prompt each month challenges me and gets me out of my comfort zone. It’s also a great way to discover new authors every month. You can find my collected stories so far right here.

I’m also all over the place online, though I’m most active on Twitter and Instagram. Give me a follow, especially if, in addition to writing and books, you like hockey, beer, and/or jokes.

Website

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

Goodreads

Erin: I think you forgot food and travel, which are things that drew me to you outside of our writing interests!

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Sonora looking out over the water at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Photo provided by Sonora Taylor.

Thank you SO much for coming over and hanging out with me. I think this lunch is in the coma category, not the energy for writing one. Let’s sit back and hang out with another cup of coffee. I look forward to seeing where your writing takes you in the future!

Sonora: Thank you for having me! This was all delicious, both the food and the conversation. I’ll definitely take another cup of coffee, though maybe I’ll skip the rum on this one.

Erin: Never enough rum, Sonora!

About Without Condition

Without-Condition-CoverCara Vineyard lives a quiet life in rural North Carolina. She works for an emerging brewery, drives her truck late at night, and lives with her mother on a former pumpkin farm. Her mother is proud of her and keeps a wall displaying all of Cara’s accomplishments.

Cara isn’t so much proud as she is bored. She’s revitalized when she meets Jackson Price, a pharmacist in Raleigh. Every day they spend together, she falls for him a little more — which in turn makes her life more complicated. When Cara goes on her late-night drives, she often picks up men. Those men tend to die. And when Cara comes back to the farm, she brings a memento for her mother to add to her wall of accomplishments.

Cara’s mother loves her no matter what. But she doesn’t know if Jackson will feel the same — and she doesn’t want to find out.

Purchase Without Condition on Amazon

Read the first chapter, “Dead End,” in Issue 42 of The Sirens Call

Shelve Without Condition on Goodreads

Sonora Taylor, Biography –

sonora-taylor-2Sonora Taylor I the author of The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes’,” was published in Camden Park Press’s Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Her work has also been published in The Sirens Call, a bi-monthly horror eZine; and Mercurial Stories, a weekly flash fiction literary journal. Her second novel, Without Condition, release February 12, 2019. She lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband.

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