Tag Archives: women in horror

Original Fiction for #HookonWiHM: Girl, Waiting by Marge Simon #wihmx

Today I am thrilled to publish a flash fiction or prose poem – as you will – from the incomparable Marge Simon! Simon is a writer, poet, and illustrator living in Ocala, Florida. A Grand Master Poet of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, her stories appear in Daily Science Fiction, Polu Texni, Silver Blade, BeteNoire, and anthologies such as Chiral Mad 4 and Tales from the Lake 5. Simon is a multiple Bram Stoker Award winner.

 I want to sincerely thank her for submitting this haunting piece to Hook of a Book in celebration of Women in Horror Month X!

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Girl, Waiting

by Marge Simon

The bench is cold, the station deserted. She has no idea when the next train will arrive, or even if there are any trains left, still running. She knows she must get away from here, but she doesn’t remember why.

The floor is littered with refuse –used condoms, cigarette butts. All around her is a dark fantasy out of Dahlgren, a depraved city of fallen angels, where the roads that lead here have no exit. She begins to count the tiles on the floor.  She feels inexplicably dirty, defiled.

Distant and low, then louder – the wail of a train horn. The floor quakes with the rumble of wheels on steel. She jumps up, rushes to the rattling doors in time to see it thundering by. Then silence.

She returns to the bench. She has no idea when the next train will arrive. With a sigh, she resumes counting the tiles on the floor. The bench is cold. Her skin itches. She begins to scratch her arms. Over and over, until the skin gives way and blood oozes to the surface.

Another train and yet another rumble past, but none will be stopping here. She is too weak to stand, but she remembers now. They never do.

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Find out more about Marge Simon and her work at www.margesimon.com.

Follow along or read more about Women in Horror this month and all year long by clicking HERE or by following this site. If you’d like to submit or be a part of #HookonWiHM, or a part of my site in the future, contact me at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

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Note: Art obtained free from Internet as part of a Facebook Cover program.

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Review: Without Condition by Sonora Taylor #WIHMX #HookonWiHM

Review: Without Condition by Sonora Taylor

When Sonora asked me to blurb her new book, which is her first foray into writing a horror novel, I said yes without any hesitation! Sonora is someone who is involved in the Ladies in Horror Fiction Project (run by Nina D’Arcangelo) with me and I enjoyed her flash fiction. Without Condition was something I was anticipating to read as I followed her final progress on it, and now, it released to the world today!

I pleasantly discovered while reading it though that it had many more layers than I originally thought. Not only is it horror but has lots of dark romance as well, and while romance is not usually my thing, it fit in well with this story and I enjoyed it. If you have a dark Valentine, this might be perfect for the big day this week.

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If King’s Carrie had turned into a serial killer, and your setting was the backwoods country life, you’d have Without Condition. It’s a murderous mayhem of revenge and fix culminating in horrifying shows of unconditional love. I’ll never look at a beat-up old truck without apprehension again.

Yep, that my main blurb I provider her, but I wanted to take a moment on my site here to offer a few more thoughts. Overall this novel is a simmering read that is a character-study on the female protagonist, Cara. The novel deals with her dark side, the relationship she has with her enabling mother, and then her romance with a man she falls for (which is rare, as she really only has loved two men in her life – this new boyfriend and a past uncle who she felt abandoned her, even if he gave her his knife and taught her at an early age how to wield it). It’s a horror novel dealing with a serial killer, but it’s also dark romance, and there isn’t as much pages of action as there is fullness of story.

The novel to me deals with themes of bullying, revenge, loneliness, abandonment, simmering rage, and even LGBT+. It also deals with love and acceptance. But don’t get me wrong, Cara is not one to be messed with and so there are some violent scenes as well! How Sonora writes them makes us feel that it’s normal for Cara to be doing them! As a writer who has written dark scenes myself of women exacting revenge on men, I was a little cheering her on. I thought Sonora did this very well and captured her feelings on the page – so she had great character development with Cara. I could watch her vividly as through a lens. I could feel when she needed a “fix” – stress relief through killing.

I also loved her descriptions of setting in the backwoods of North Carolina. It was somewhat new to me, the reading of a book where I could visually something so modern day southern, but growing up rurally myself, it was also relatable in some ways from things I see and people I’ve encountered. It was very authentic in its details and nuances and helped to carry her plot along well.

If anything, I feel she could have fleshed out the boyfriend character a bit more. I was unsure of him and how or why she fell for him so hard. I wanted him to be more memorable. But overall, the ending with him and her was interesting, though a little bit flipped me on my head too – it was more diabolical than I anticipated, but it worked well! I’m interested to see just where they’d be headed in the next ten years.

Thanks so much to Sonora for sending me an advanced copy! It’s perfectly error-free to my eye and is a testament to self-published books – many are done well and you won’t know the difference. It’s polished, edited well, and her original cover art done by artist Doug Puller (who I believe did her interior book and e-book design and formatting as well).

Have some dark murder and romance for your Valentine’s Day this year! Also, I’ll have two interviews with Sonora coming up this month in which you can get to know her better – right here at Hook focusing on the content of her book as well as one on The Horror Tree which focuses more on writing.

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.

Follow Sonora on Facebook | Follow Sonora on Twitter

Follow Sonora on Goodreads | Follow Sonora on Instagram

Contact Sonora

 

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Read My Free Flash Fiction: “A Mother’s Hope”

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I just wanted o share with you my flash fiction story published in January for the Ladies in Horror Fiction photo prompt project. I was given this above photo with a gargoyle! Set in the 1930s, challenging myself to write a short in that setting was the most fun. However, the tale is of haunting and loss – you’ll see. Let me know what you think!

FREE to read HERE: “A Mother’s Hope”

Also…..

Women in Horror Writers: You can write your own flash prose or poem for my site as part of my #HookokWiHMx celebration. Just see Option 4 from my Women in Horror Month post yesterday! I look forward to reading your work!

Have a great weekend!

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It’s #HookonWiHM: What I’ll Be Doing for Women in Horror Month and Four Options for YOU to be Involved Too! #WiHMx

Today starts Women in Horror Month! I know that not everyone who follows my blog likes horror, speculative, or dark fiction, but stick around, you might be surprised by who you meet (and next month is Women in History Month, so it will be your turn).

It’s time to celebrate what women in the horror genre have to offer!! I’ll be conducting full interviews with some fabulous ladies myself – up to 10 – such as Sara Tantlinger, Sarah Read, Catherine Cavendish, Sonora Taylor, Karen Runge, Comika Hartford, and a few more that I need to confirm, here on my site as well as The Horror Tree! They are authors, artists, filmmakers – so many women work in various avenues in horror! I’ll be using #HookonWiHM hashtag as well as #WiHMx, since Women in Horror Month organization is celebrating 10 years in 2019 and that’s their official hashtag.

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BUT you can do something too, just like last year! Read on….

#HookonWiHM Information

As February is Women in Horror Month, besides doing interviews myself, I’m hosting interviews done by others of women in horror and I’m taking articles. You can see who I hosted last year by clicking on the link above or going to the tab at the top of the home page anytime.

How you can participate:

Option 1: Everyone, male and female: choose a date in February as your deadline, interview a lady in horror by asking at least three questions, then send in her bio, photo, and info on her work, as well as all that for yourself, then e-mail it all to me at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Option 2: If that doesn’t strike your fancy, you (male or female) can also turn in a guest article about a lady in horror, either working today or a classic author long taken from us. Just e-mail it to me with your own bio and headshot too.

Option 3: If you’re a woman in horror, you can run a guest article of your choosing on my site or ask for a mini-interview (I’m filled on full interviews. These are just about 5 questions, same to all, might be posted together with others).

Option 4 (NEW): You can write me a drabble or flash fiction piece to post. 100 for drabble or up to 300-500 for a small flash. Send it in with your bio and photo.

Remember, women in horror not only includes authors, but those working in film, art, blogging, podcasting, promoting, editing, and more.

Please be sure to sign up and suggest dates for me. One, for you to keep yourself on deadline, and two, so I can stay better organized. Again, e-mail hookofabook@hotmail.com.

I’ve much on my to-do list, so I won’t hold your hand or send out reminders, but I do want to make this showcase shine!

I’ll also be doing some review catch up, recommended women in horror reading lists, and some activities to support women – but that won’t be abnormal for me, because it’s what I am always doing anyway.

Let’s do this!

Don’t forget to go to the Women in Horror Month main site for all the news, deals, and events near you or online! There is always so much happening there. Then watch social media too for others celebrating and join in with all the other amazing people who are spreading the love!

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

Hi Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poetry:

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

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

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

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

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

Short Stories:

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

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

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

Anthologies:

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Cover by Luke Spooner

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

Purchase – Amazon

Add to GoodReads

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

Purchase – Amazon

Add to GoodReads

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

Warm wishes,

Erin

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Interview: Gwendolyn Kiste and I discuss The Rust Maidens, Cleveland, the ’80s, Body Horror, and Fairy Tales. #LOHF

Today I welcome Bram Stoker nominated Gwendolyn Kiste to talk about her new novel The Rust Maidens and our connection of place, Cleveland! Hi Gwendolyn, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you’ve finally arrived (and back in your original home of Ohio!) and could take a few minutes to chat with me. Obviously, it’s winter now, so let’s step in to my home and library and I’ll pour us some coffee, do you like cream and sugar like me, or how shall you take yours?

Let me know while I go and take the homemade mint chocolate brownies from the oven. It’s a recipe passed around especially for writers, of course!

Gwendolyn: Thank you so much for having me, Erin! Homemade brownies sound like a perfect way to start an interview! As for coffee, I always take mine plain, thank you!

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Erin: Black it is! Let’s snuggle into my big comfy chairs, relax, and talk about your newest book, your first novel, which released recently from Trepidatio Publishing, called The Rust Maidens! Congratulations on becoming a novelist! For those not in the know, I’m going to post the synopsis quick right here!

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The Rust Maidens –

Something’s happening to the girls on Denton Street.

It’s the summer of 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and Phoebe Shaw and her best friend Jacqueline have just graduated high school, only to confront an ugly, uncertain future. Across the city, abandoned factories populate the skyline; meanwhile at the shore, one strong spark, and the Cuyahoga River might catch fire. But none of that compares to what’s happening in their own west side neighborhood. The girls Phoebe and Jacqueline have grown up with are changing. It starts with footprints of dark water on the sidewalk. Then, one by one, the girls’ bodies wither away, their fingernails turning to broken glass, and their bones exposed like corroded metal beneath their flesh.

As rumors spread about the grotesque transformations, soon everyone from nosy tourists to clinic doctors and government men start arriving on Denton Street, eager to catch sight of “the Rust Maidens” in metamorphosis. But even with all the onlookers, nobody can explain what’s happening or why—except perhaps the Rust Maidens themselves. Whispering in secret, they know more than they’re telling, and Phoebe realizes her former friends are quietly preparing for something that will tear their neighborhood apart.

Alternating between past and present, Phoebe struggles to unravel the mystery of the Rust Maidens—and her own unwitting role in the transformations—before she loses everything she’s held dear: her home, her best friend, and even perhaps her own body.

I’m intrigued by you and your fabulous writing in any regard, but I was at first drawn in to wanting to read and discuss The Rust Maidens since it takes place near where I live, Cleveland, in 1980. I believe you are originally from Northern Ohio as well, so tell us about the novel and what about this location inspired your novel?

Gwendolyn: I love Ohio. Though I live in Pennsylvania now, I always say that I’m an Ohio girl at heart. It’s such a misunderstood state in some ways. There are people who think of it only as a Rust Belt state, others who consider it all cornfields, and some who think that it’s just boring, wide open spaces. It’s funny, because to varying degrees, all of those things are indeed true, but there’s more to Ohio than just those descriptions. In its own way, Ohio is a kind of misfit, and as a perennial misfit myself, I feel like it’s a place where I’ll always belong.  

Erin: How much of the Cleveland landscape is involved in it, or is it just a place and time?

Gwendolyn: The city of Cleveland is absolutely crucial to this particular story. It’s a character of its own, in a way. There’s such a rich and strange history of the city. Everything from Eliot Ness and Bessie, the Lake Monster, to the river catching on fire and the Rust Belt decay are in the DNA of Cleveland, lurking somewhere in there. As for the landscape itself, the book includes the steel mills, the lake, and several other landmarks that people from the area will recognize.

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Photo by Erin Al-Mehairi, summer 2018. View of Cuyahoga River from the park at Settler’s Landing. The river flows out into Lake Erie.

Erin: Why the year 1980? Does it have any significance? How much of this time period in the area did you have to research to make a period piece authentic?

Gwendolyn: Something I’ve often observed is that the first year in a new decade is always something of a liminal time. The decade hasn’t had a chance to really develop yet, which means that first year tends to look and feel a lot like the years that came immediately before. I initially noticed this while watching the show, Mad Men. The series starts in 1960, which at that point still feels very much like the 1950s. It’s not until the series moves forward several years that the events and trends we normally associate with the 1960s start coming into play. In this way, the first year in a decade seems to have a kind of identity crisis, and since identity as well as being stuck in between are so integral to the novel, that seemed like an ideal time to base the novel.

I had also just come off researching Cleveland in the late 1970s and early 1980s for my story, “Songs to Help You Cope When Your Mom Won’t Stop Haunting You and Your Friends.” I originally wanted to set that story in the late 1970s, but I also wanted to incorporate Pink Floyd’s “Mother” into the story because it reflected so much of what the main character was going through. That song, however, didn’t come out until late 1979, and since my story didn’t start until January, the earliest it could be set was in 1980. Hence, another reason for that year.

After doing all the research for that story, I didn’t want to let go of Cleveland in that era yet. That was when I decided to combine that time and place with another idea I’d long had for a novel about girls in some kind of strange metamorphosis. Once I hit on the idea of setting it in Cleveland, the concept came together very quickly, and I pitched it to Jess Landry at Trepidatio. Then we were off from there!  

Erin: What was the most significant piece of history you found about the Cleveland-area while researching? What about the most shocking? Without spoilers, did either of them make it into your novel?

Gwendolyn: One fascinating piece of history I found was that there was a series of storms that occurred the summer of 1980 when the novel takes place, including something that was called the More Trees Down Derecho. The name was coined because people said if the storms continued that there would be no more trees left to come down. And yes, perhaps that storm does indeed make it into the novel at one point.

Erin: Of course, you and I know we live(d) in the rust belt, and why. But can you give readers a better understand of it and how it affected your novel? How do you feel the rust belt has changed, and changed people, from 1980 to now?

Gwendolyn: It’s interesting, because I think in some ways, it’s changed, and in some ways, it’s exactly the same. I would still say that the city has never entirely recovered economically. But no matter what, somehow, Cleveland endures. It’s that journey through those past struggles into today that really define Cleveland as I see it and also the version of the city that appears in the novel. It’s still struggling but always fighting. That’s a story unto itself, and one that informed how it plays a part in The Rust Maidens.

Erin: Were any of your characters personalities affected by their environment(s)? Without spoilers, why and how?

 

Gwendolyn: The environment probably affects the characters in this novel more than anything else I’ve ever written. I always try to interweave the setting as much as possible in my work, but with The Rust Maidens, 1980s Cleveland is as much a character as the girls themselves. The decay and hopelessness that have permeated many areas of Ohio impact all the characters in the book, and that effect is ultimately reflected in the metamorphosis that serves as the centerpiece of the story.

Erin: I’m sure you chose the title, as per the summary for the book, since the main characters are trying to figure out why other girls they know are transforming into actual metal and glass. Why does body horror interest you? What was the compelling factor or theme that you might be trying to convey in this novel (you have a degree in psychology, so I am assuming you’ve planted this someone in the book!) in relation to that transformation?

Gwendolyn: Body horror works so well with themes of identity and belonging, which are topics I constantly explore in my fiction. In particular, when you’re young, you’re still trying to figure out who you are, and to have your own body turn against you at that point as happens in The Rust Maidens would only make that exploration of identity that much more horrifying. In this way, body horror becomes the physical manifestation of the changes we all go through at some point, only magnified through the horror genre’s lens.

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Erin: I read somewhere you said that when approached about Daniele Serra doing your cover art for your book you agreed because you felt he could most capture the industrial feel your book included while also staying true to your whimsical side. In my opinion, he was pretty much spot on. You’ve had covers as very bright, black and white, and now muted. Do you feel that your writing style has changed as well? How has fairytale, folklore, and horror of Pretty Marys, and the emotional, heart-wrenching stories in And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, blended together or impacted The Rust Maidens?

Gwendolyn: When Jess Landry suggested Daniele Serra for the cover art, I was already familiar with his work, but of course, I looked again at his portfolio, and yes, I very much felt that his style has this incredible balance between the ephemeral and the whimsical along with a very strong edge that seemed like a perfect blend for the industrial landscape of Cleveland. The final cover is just so beautiful. I love it so much, and couldn’t imagine anything else on the cover of my first novel.  

As for my writing style, I do feel like each of the covers matches the tone of the book. There is the stark black and white of the collection, which mirrors its emotional arcs that are extreme at times. Pretty Marys has the lightest, most humorous tone, and the bright cover matches that, while also hinting at the darkness of the book too. Finally, the melancholy feel of The Rust Maidens is absolutely reflected in the muted colors of Daniele’s cover. I’ve said it elsewhere before, but I feel like one very fortunate author to have book covers that so perfectly encapsulate my work. It’s wonderful to be able to say that.

Erin: How does the content of The Rust Maidens differ from your debut collection and your novella? What makes it unique? For return readers, what does it offer that identifies it as another Kiste masterpiece?

Gwendolyn: Wow, Kiste masterpiece is putting a lot of pressure on it! Hopefully, that’s how at least a few readers will describe it, but we shall see!

So much of my work deals with coming of age as well as outsiders fighting to find a place in the world. Those elements are absolutely present in The Rust Maidens, so in that way, returning readers will be able to see the connection to my previous work. As for what makes it unique, I feel like I’ve put my own past and my blue collar and Ohio roots at the forefront in this story more than before. It’s truly so personal to me, and it’s even a little more on the melancholy side than much of my other work. So while it draws from my previous fiction, it’s certainly treading some new ground at the same time.  

Erin: Do you cross and flow between genres and sub-genres fairly easily? Do you like to describe yourself as a horror, fantasy, or literary author or just write what you feel and that works for the story? Maybe you don’t like labels at all?

Gwendolyn: I would call myself primarily a horror and dark fantasy author. Not all of my work falls strictly within the confines of horror, but almost all of my work, especially recently, could fall under the horror and dark fantasy labels, broadly defined. Those are the genres that feel most like home to me. That being said, I would love to see genre labels become something of the past, or at least that fiction isn’t so strictly relegated to one category or another. Many of my favorite stories as a reader don’t fall easily into any one genre, so I think there’s a lot to be said for stories being allowed to develop organically and not being shoehorned into something they’re not.

Erin: I first met you online when we shared a Table of Contents in the anthology Hardened Hearts from Unnerving. You created one of the most interesting pieces in the book, about someone who falls in love with a creature. I did a Rumpelstiltskin-esque piece murder mystery that took place in an orchard. Upon reading more of your work outside of Hardened Hearts though, I realized you must live and breathe fairy tales and legends as much as I do! How has your love of them worked into your other stories—whether in your novella, your short story collection, or any published standalone stories?

Gwendolyn: Fairy tales are interwoven throughout so much of my work. I’ve done a Snow White retelling with “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray.” My novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, is all about the Marys of folklore: Resurrection Mary, Bloody Mary, Mari Lwyd, Mary Mack, and Mistress Mary Quite Contrary. Elsewhere in my fiction, I’ve played with the stories of Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, and Baba Yaga as well. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve met too many fairy tales that don’t inspire me in some way! Because they’re so familiar from the get-go, you can use the reader’s preexisting knowledge of the tale and jump right into the heart of your story. Exposition can be the bane of writers, and in this way, crafting fairy tale retellings helps to bypass some of those problems. Plus, many of the stories we’ve grown up with were told in such ways as to emphasize a dubious moral. Reworking those ideas can feel at once familiar as well as very liberating.     

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Erin: Are there fairytales you’ve thought of writing as a re-telling in the future?

Gwendolyn: I would absolutely love to do something with the story of Bluebeard. I’ve been kicking around an idea for over a year of reworking that one, but I haven’t quite been able to click all the pieces into place yet. Hopefully something on that front will happen in the coming months, because it seems like it could be rife with possibilities.

Erin: I know you’ve listed some of my own writing inspirations such as Shirley Jackson, Kate Chopin, Sylvia Plath, and Ray Bradbury. How and why do you feel drawn to these authors (or any others you can list below if you wish) and how have they helped define your work or make you a better writer?

Gwendolyn: All of those authors you mentioned are so unafraid to put themselves and their raw emotions about life out there for the world to see. What’s also so captivating is how they each do it in radically different ways. Shirley Jackson explores the dark underbelly of a seemingly proper world, and she never flinches away from that. Kate Chopin pushed back against the boundaries of a very rigid society to interrogate what it means to be a woman and an outcast in a world that tells you that you don’t belong. Sylvia Plath was an emotional tour-de-force, but one that no matter how urgent and intense her writing became, she always seemed entirely in control of her razor-sharp prose and poetry. Ray Bradbury was never afraid to talk about what it’s like to be a kid and what it’s like to be afraid. He also never seemed to worry about becoming too sentimental or nostalgic; he allowed his own memories and love of childhood, carnivals, space, and coming-of-age to completely shine through in his work.

So I suppose with all that in mind, these authors inspire me to be braver in my work and to take chances by putting myself completely on the page every time I write. They show me that you can’t hold back, not if you want to create something that really affects people. Perhaps it will even be too much for some readers. That’s okay. It’s better to go all in than to write something that maybe doesn’t even make you feel something. When it comes to art, don’t play it safe. That’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from the writers I love.

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Erin: One of my other main interests is also the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald, as you’ve also mentioned, as well as loving the Roaring Twenties. Have I told you how much I like you yet today? 😊 Are you considering writing a period piece in this vein and era? A collection of stories? And the most important question, would you every consider a collaboration? *wink*

Gwendolyn: I would absolutely love to write a story set in the 1920s; that would be too fabulous (or should I say, that would be the bee’s knees!). I love historical fiction that’s set in the twentieth century, in part because it feels modern enough to be accessible but old enough that it truly is part of our history at this point. I’ve already written a turn-of-the-century collaborative novella with Emily B. Cataneo called “In Her Flightless Wings, a Fire” (editor’s note: In Chiral Mad 4 anthology), and I also wrote a Dust Bowl vampire story way back in 2014 that appeared in History and Horror, Oh My! That one was a lot of fun to research and write, though I haven’t reread that story in years now. It was only my third published story, but it was one I was very proud of having pulled off. As for collaboration, I’ve already done one as mentioned above, so I certainly think lightening could strike twice with that! A definite possibility! 😊


Erin: Last year you published your novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, AND your collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, which went on to garner a Bram Stoker nomination in Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection. First of all, how much did that help to validate your writing for you? Secondly, how hard was it to wait after that exhilaration for your novel, The Rust Maidens, to come out since it was almost a year later? Did you feel excited or added pressure?

Gwendolyn: I do have to say that 2017 was a very exciting year for my writing. To have two books come out in the same year and to have those be my very first books really was an amazing experience. The Stoker nomination just blew me away. It still feels like a dream that it even happened. I definitely had a great time with the releases of both And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row.

And Her Smile

That being said, it was nice to have almost a full year before the release of The Rust Maidens. It gave me some room to keep promoting the first two books and also to take a bit of a breather from the constant promotion cycle. I always worry that if an author releases too many titles too quickly, readers will just burn out. Even one book a year could be a lot. Releasing three books in about a year and a half is certainly intense. Still, it has been so exciting to see The Rust Maidens make its way into the world. A first novel is a truly wonderful and unique experience for an author. It’s great to be experiencing that right now. I’m trying to savor it, because I know it will all be over so fast.

Erin: What have you felt about the overall positive early response to The Rust Maidens (besides of course feeling wonderful). For instance, are they hitting the notes of what you wanted to convey via The Rust Maidens? Why and how do you feel your writing is impacting others besides your beautiful prose? Any themes people are particularly drawn to in this novel and/or in your other work?

Gwendolyn: I feel so very fortunate that the early response has been so positive. No matter how much you toil over a story, you never know what’s going to happen when you set it loose on the world.

Though it’s probably not super surprising for a writer to say this, The Rust Maidens is a very personal book for me, and I’d been so close to it for so long that by the end of the process, I was afraid that it had become too personal. That maybe I would be the only one that would be able to understand what I was trying to accomplish with the story. It’s been a very good feeling to see that readers have really connected to the novel.

A theme that I often come back to is coming of age as well as body horror. This novel combines both as we follow these girls who are undergoing this profound metamorphosis. Also, while it’s not there quite as much as in my other work, there is something of a fairy tale element in the novel. It’s more of a Gothic kind of fairy tale, but there is this rather mythic quality that I worked to interweave throughout the book, so I feel like that will be familiar to those who have read my other stories.

Erin: The Rust Maidens is also essentially a coming of age story, as you noted. Growing into a young adult in the 1980s is certainly different than now. What lessons do you think people in the 80s learned that those of us coming into our twenties in the 90s or 2000s haven’t and then what did we learn that those now aren’t?

Gwendolyn: One thing that always strikes me as a huge generational gap is technology. While obviously every generation can say that to some extent, with the internet, it’s become a very big shift. Those growing up in the 1980s wouldn’t have had the access to immediate knowledge and virtual connection with one another like we have now. That being said, today, we’re more likely to take that instant gratification for granted. We also often have more trouble today connecting in real-life with one another because we’ve become so accustomed to an online world, which can offer the illusion of social support but sometimes doesn’t always pan out the way we hope.  

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’80s Postcard!

Erin: Do you like to read coming of age novels yourself? Any favorites? Any of them inspire you to try your hand at writing yours?

Gwendolyn: It’s been over twenty years now, but when I was much younger, I remember reading Stephen King’s The Body after seeing Stand by Me, the film adaptation of the story. I loved both versions so much, and there was something so haunting about them that it made me feel like adolescence might be somewhat ghostly and strange unto itself. That’s probably the first coming-of-age book I recall reading, but it’s certainly not the last. I also adore Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ray Bradbury can make coming of age look so haunted and enchanting as well.  

something wicked

Erin: So back to discovering how Cleveland fit in your novel…it feels different than any other city, at least to me. What are some only Cleveland-scene things you put into your novel?

Gwendolyn: I feel like the main thing about Cleveland that appears in the novel is the landscape. The lake, the river, the skyline with the former steel flame. I wanted the book to have a feel of a working class Ohio neighborhood, so some of the details are more general to any factory town in the Rust Belt. Of course, though, Lake Erie is definitely front and center. My own alma mater, Case Western Reserve, also gets a shout-out in the novel. There are certainly little details here and there that firmly place it in Cleveland, but at the same time, I hope that it’s accessible to those who have never been to the Midwest.  

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Photo by Erin Al-Mehairi, summer 2018 / Cleveland Skyline Against Lake Erie near Edgewater Beach

Erin: You live near Pittsburgh now, on an abandoned horse farm, which sounds like a story within itself, but what do you miss about home? What are some of your own personal favorite things about Cleveland and the surrounding areas?

Gwendolyn: Honestly, I just love Ohio in general. I adore the city skylines, the abandoned landscapes, the lakes, the rivers. Heck, I don’t even mind the endless cornfields. It’s certainly a place I will always consider home. Cleveland is wonderful specifically for how haunted it feels. The Flats are strange and fabulous, and in my teens and twenties, I saw so many great bands there. There’s Tower City downtown, which always seemed so nostalgic to me, just like the shopping spots you’d see in retro Christmas cards and ads. And since I went to Case Western, that holds a special place in my heart too.

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Photo by Erin Al-Mehairi. View of Tower City, lit up in Red, White, and Blue for Cleveland Indians that night. I was there for Shakespeare Festival!

 

Erin: The question everyone asks, but I really want to know. WHAT’S NEXT? What are you working on now or are looking forward to working on?

Gwendolyn: I’m finishing up some short fiction right now, and then I’ll be working for a bit on a new novelette. After that, I’ll be looking once again to outlining and drafting a new novel. I don’t want to discuss too many specifics, since I’m so superstitious about talking about a project before it’s fully formed, but I’m super excited about the new story ideas I’m working on. So stay tuned, I guess!

Erin: I really should close this interview before night falls. Thanks very much for patiently answering all my questions and congratulations on all your success! We have more to talk about another time, so I hope you’ll come back to the site. Also, I can’t wait to finally get to meet up for real coffee with you in the coming year!  😊

Gwendolyn: Thank you so much for having me, Erin! This has been so much fun talking with you!

Gwendolyn Kiste, Biography –

Gwendolyn Kiste HeadshotGwendolyn Kiste is the author of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, the dark fantasy novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, and her debut horror novel, The Rust Maidens. Her short fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Shimmer, Black Static, Daily Science Fiction, Interzone, and LampLight, among other publications. A native of Ohio, she resides on an abandoned horse farm outside of Pittsburgh with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts. You can find her online at gwendolynkiste.com.

Find Her on Social Media –

facebook.com/gwendolynkiste

twitter.com/gwendolynkiste

The Rust Maidens, Synopsis –

The Rust Maidens Cover FinalSomething’s happening to the girls on Denton Street.

It’s the summer of 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and Phoebe Shaw and her best friend Jacqueline have just graduated high school, only to confront an ugly, uncertain future. Across the city, abandoned factories populate the skyline; meanwhile at the shore, one strong spark, and the Cuyahoga River might catch fire. But none of that compares to what’s happening in their own west side neighborhood. The girls Phoebe and Jacqueline have grown up with are changing. It starts with footprints of dark water on the sidewalk. Then, one by one, the girls’ bodies wither away, their fingernails turning to broken glass, and their bones exposed like corroded metal beneath their flesh.

As rumors spread about the grotesque transformations, soon everyone from nosy tourists to clinic doctors and government men start arriving on Denton Street, eager to catch sight of “the Rust Maidens” in metamorphosis. But even with all the onlookers, nobody can explain what’s happening or why—except perhaps the Rust Maidens themselves. Whispering in secret, they know more than they’re telling, and Phoebe realizes her former friends are quietly preparing for something that will tear their neighborhood apart.

Alternating between past and present, Phoebe struggles to unravel the mystery of the Rust Maidens—and her own unwitting role in the transformations—before she loses everything she’s held dear: her home, her best friend, and even perhaps her own body.

Find it –

GoodReads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble 

Or ask your local independent bookstore to order it for you!

*BE SURE TO STOP BY THE HORROR TREE site for a follow-up interview I had with Gwendolyn, but this time focus more on the craft of writing since The Horror Tree is an author’s resource website!*

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Guest Article: Is There Anybody There? by Author Catherine Cavendish

Is There Anybody There?
by Catherine Cavendish, author of Damned by the Ancients

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In my novel, Damned by the Ancients, a little girl with a special gift is targeted by the evil and long-dead Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. She even becomes possessed by a dead woman. In real life there are numerous well documented cases of demonic possession and many involve the use of ouija boards or another spirit game called ‘Charlie Charlie’. More of that one later but, for now, let’s have a look at some of the alleged evidence levelled at the use of ouija boards.

Three or four years ago, there were a number of separate cases of students who apparently fell into a trance while playing with the board. They were believed – or believed themselves – to be possessed by malignant spirits. Fellow players saw them behaving oddly, speaking in strange voices and generally acting contrary to their normal natures. Needless to say, as is the way of things, the more the stories circulated, the wilder they became.

One such case dates from November 2014 and involved a group of 35 school students from Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. They were playing with an ouija board when they began to suffer from a range of maladies, resulting in hospital treatment. The children exhibited mental distress, trance-like states, rapid pulse rates and profuse sweating. Central and South America seems to be a hotbed for ouija enthusiasts and reports of demonic possession and mass fainting abound – Mexico being a particular centre.

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In fact Mexico currently holds the record for the largest outbreak of ouija-attributed illness so far recorded. In 2006-2007, up to 600 children at a 4,500 girls’ only, strict, Catholic boarding school near Mexico City began to show alarming physical symptoms. Headaches and difficulty in walking without the help of a fellow student were just two of the problems reported. The symptoms would vanish and then recur.

Psychiatrist Nashviela Loa Zavala investigated and concluded the cause was mass hysteria (or in his words, mass psychogenic illness). She discovered that a student at the school had used an ouija board to try and influence the outcome of a basketball game. The student, called Maria, had been summarily expelled for using the game but, in her extreme anger, had allegedly cursed the school.  The psychiatrist learned that, shortly after this, two of her former friends and fellow ouija board enthusiasts began to exhibit the symptoms. It seems belief in the supernatural power of the board and the existence of demons and evil spirits, along with rumours that Maria’s mother was a witch, led to the mass hysteria Dr Zavala diagnosed.

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Now, what is the ‘Charlie Charlie’ game?

Here we can blame social media (can’t we always?). In 2015, this simple form of ouija, originating many years ago in Spain, along with Spanish speaking countries in Central and South America, spread quickly thanks to the power of Twitter and the odd Youtube video. All that is needed is to draw a simple grid as shown on the illustration. In the centre of the grid, place two pencils on top of each other. Now ask closed questions (i.e. those that require a simple ‘yes or no’ answer). You are summoning the supernatural entity called Charlie. First ask him, ‘Charlie, are you there?’ Watch the pencils. The top pencil is the one which will indicate whether a spirit is in attendance. If it begins to pivot, watch where it points and you have the answer to your question. Charlie is communicating with you. Or, of course a draught may have wafted through the room, someone may have breathed a little too heavily, a truck may have thundered past the window, setting up vibrations…

A hundred and one things could be responsible, but belief that a spirit really had joined them was enough to cause four Columbian students to wind up in hospital, ‘screaming and babbling’ as a result of playing ‘Charlie Charlie’. In the same month (May 2015) in Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and St Lucia reports flooded in of school children playing the game and ending up falling unconscious, slipping into trances and experiencing confused mental states. The following month, in the Dominican Republic, it was alleged that several young children in a primary school had been ‘possessed by the devil’ while playing the game.

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Of course as with any belief in the supernatural, proving the link between Ouija boards or the ‘Charlie Charlie’ game and evil (or even benign) spirits is impossible to prove (or disprove actually!). Those who are convinced they are in contact with a demon will not be swayed. Those who remain skeptical will point to the laws of science. The two positions are polar opposites.

What do I believe? Whether there is truly anything in it or not, my own experience has made me extremely wary of playing with occult games. When I was eighteen years old, two friends and I had a pretty scary experience with a home-made Ouija board and a heavy-duty water glass that shot across the room and shattered against the wall. This was only after it had spelled out a stream of abuse and obscenities – the like of which none of the three of us would ever use in conversation.

Best to be safe. Leave spirit games to the movies and books.

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Not that this would have helped poor nine-year-old Heidi. Here’s what to expect in Damned by the Ancients…

INFINITY IN DEATH

Vienna, 1908

Gabriele Ziegler is a young art student who becomes infatuated with charismatic archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. Only too late does she realize his true designs on her. He is obsessed with resurrecting Cleopatra and has retained the famed artist Gustav Klimt to render Gabriele as the Queen of the Nile, using ashes from Cleopatra’s mummy mixed with the paint. The result is a lifelike portrait emitting an aura of unholy evil . . .

Vienna, 2018

The Mortimer family has moved into Quintillus’s former home, Villa Dürnstein. In its basement they find an original Klimt masterpiece—a portrait of Cleopatra art scholars never knew existed. But that’s not all that resides within the villa’s vault. Nine-year-old Heidi Mortimer tells her parents that a strange man lives there.

Quintillus’s desire to be with Cleopatra transcends death. His spirit will not rest until he has brought her back from the netherworld. Even if he has to sacrifice the soul of a child . . .

Damned by the Ancients is available from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Apple

Google

Kobo

Kensington Publishing

Catherine Cavendish, Biography –

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Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.

Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife

She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.

You can connect with Cat here:

 Catherine Cavendish

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#HookInterview: Cemetery Travel Writer and Horror Author Loren Rhoads #LOHF

As a special Halloween treat, I have had Loren Rhoads, author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Bram Stoker nominated editor of the past magazine Morbid Curiosity, drop by to speak with us about her spooky and memorable cemetery travels as well as her other writing. I wish I would have asked her even more questions, but I hope after you read this, you’ll go learn more about Loren yourself too. Feel free to leave comments below for Loren or me if you like!

Enjoy!

Hi, Loren! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It’s a favorite time of year for those of us who love the spooky things in life—October! My daughters and I have baked some cupcakes for your arrival, chocolate icing with cookie gravestones on the top. Let’s sit out on the back porch and watch the leaves change while we sip hot apple cider and share a few of them.

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Though I wish I actually baked these, not this time. LOL! I pulled this photo from the net. We’ll use our imaginations!

Loren: Thank you, Erin! That sounds lovely.  I just love this time of year: my birthday is in October, the leaves change even in California, where autumn is really subtle, and one of my favorite colors is pumpkin orange. October just makes me happy.

Erin: I agree. And happy belated birthday! I’m glad I’ve made cupcakes then. 🙂 Now that we’ve had a few bites, I want to ask you a few questions.

Q: You love to travel to cemeteries and you’ve put out several books filled with essays and destinations for famous tombs and gravesites. Tell us about your books and how did this obsession start?

A:  More than 20 years ago I edited a book of cemetery essays called Death’s Garden: Relationships with Cemeteries. It came out of my fascination with the different ways people interact with cemeteries.

That book led to a monthly column about my travels to cemeteries around the world for Gothic.Net. I worked there for 4-1/2 years, long enough to put together a collection of my essays that I called Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemeteries. (The second edition came out in Summer of 2017.)

To promote the first edition of that book, I started a blog called CemeteryTravel.com. It focuses on a Cemetery of the Week each Wednesday, plus reviews of cemetery books I’ve read, and travel trips to encourage people to visit cemeteries.

Because of my blog, I was contacted by Black Dog & Leventhal to write 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die. It’s a heavily illustrated full-color guide to cemeteries around the world that welcome visitors. That book came out in October 2017.

My whole cemetery obsession started the year my husband and I ended up in London by accident.  We visited Highgate Cemetery and I simply fell in love.

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Highgate Cemetery, Entrance to Egyptian Ave, West / Wiki commons

Q: What is the most interesting grave you’ve visited and why?

A: A couple of years ago, I finally got to Poblenou Cemetery in Barcelona. There was one grave marker I wanted to see above all others: El Beso de Muerto. It’s a huge free-standing sculpture of a skeletal death bending over a beautiful young man to touch her teeth to his brow. It did not disappoint!  Just imagine choosing that as the image you wil confront each time you visit your loved one’s grave.

Loren Barcelona

Poblenou Cemetery, Barcelona / Photo credit Loren Rhoades

Q: The most frightening and why?

A: I don’t know if I’ve ever visited a frightening grave. Maybe the saddest graves I’ve ever visited were outside the concentration camp Terezin (called Theresienstadt by the Nazis). The gravestones had numbers instead of names, because the corpses couldn’t be identified. That graveyard made the Holocaust real to me in a way that reading about it never did.

Q: Which ones should a traveler put on their itinerary?

A: In the US, everyone should see Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hollywood Forever in Los Angeles, and Saint Louis #1 in New Orleans.  Beyond that, there are so many beautiful, fascinating places. Forest Hills in Madison was really pretty. Lake View in Seattle is spectacular. In fact, I can suggest 199 cemeteries everyone should see!

Erin Notes: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is buried at Mount Auburn! This photo is from an old Publisher Weekly column from Alison Morris.

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Q: What is the strangest thing you’ve encountered while wandering through graveyards?

A: I went to Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic for my birthday one year.  During the Middle Ages, the graveyard there was one of the biggest in Europe. Someone brought dirt back from the Holy Land to sprinkle around the graveyard, to consecrate it.  People came to believe that if they were buried in dirt that had been touched by holy dirt, they would be guaranteed to entrance to Heaven. People came to Kutna Hora to die, just so they could be buried there.  At a certain point, all the bones in the graveyard were exhumed and placed in the crypt of the mortuary chapel. A woodcarver came along and organized the bones into a chandelier, a couple of chalices, a coat of arms, and four enormous pyramids. Visiting that amazing, beautiful chapel was very thought-provoking.

Q: I mentioned to you that I visited Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland this summer, resting place of President Garfield, Rockefeller, and even Eliot Ness, to name a few. How was trip? What did you see or do there that caught your interest?

A: I visited Lake View the November my dad was at the Cleveland Clinic getting an artificial valve placed in his heart. I found the Images of America guide to the cemetery in the hospital gift shop, which inspired me to borrow my mom’s car one afternoon to explore. I got to see the inside of the Wade Chapel, which was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany who designed those beautiful stained glass windows.  Tiffany didn’t want his delicate murals to be discolored by candle smoke, so he talked to his friend Thomas Edison about wiring the chapel for electricity. It was the first electrified building in Cleveland.

Erin Note: I love Wade Chapel! It’s beautiful and peaceful. I am a Tiffany fanatic and so, since there are many in Cleveland I try to seek them all out, and I had to see this one. Here’s one of my own photos of the window from this summer.

Tiffany Window Wade Chapel

Tiffany Window in Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland Ohio / Photo credit Erin Al-Mehairi, July 2018

Q: What do you write about in your essays and stories about cemeteries? What do you think readers are most interested in?

A: I write about everything: history, fame and infamy, iconography and artwork, horticulture, wildlife, ghosts… Cemeteries are incredibly complex mirrors of the societies in which they exist. There’s something to appeal to everyone.

Q: How has the reception been for your 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and subsequent titles? Will you continue to write them?

A: 199 Cemeteries has done really well.  Last I heard, the book was close to selling out its first edition and earning out its advance. I’ve already turned in changes for a second edition, so I’m looking forward to seeing that soon.

Since that book out, I’ve been working on a book about my local pioneer cemeteries.  San Francisco, where I live, was founded in 1776 by the Spanish, but the area exploded in population during the Gold Rush. Those original cemeteries are old and fragile now, threatened by earthquakes, wildfires, and mudslides, so I feel like they need to be recorded before they vanish.

After that, I don’t know. No one’s done a definitive guide to the cemeteries of the California Gold Country. Maybe I’ll get to write 199 More Cemeteries to See Before You Die.

199 Cemeteries

Q: Are there special events or visits (or both) that you do over Halloween pertaining to your interest and writing of cemeteries stories?

A: I’ve done a bunch of cemetery lectures in the last couple of weeks: at Cypress Lawn Cemetery, the City College of San Francisco, and at a literary festival in San Francisco called the Litquake. October is always my busiest month. I only got to tour one cemetery this year!

Q: I bet it is the busiest time of year, but sounds amazing. Do you feel any importance writing about graveyards or is it all just for fun and travel?

A: A lot of people write about cemeteries, from historians to cemetery tour guides to genealogists, but I’ve been blessed to be able to combine my love of travel with my fascination for graveyards.

Q: What’s on your own bucket list for graveyards to travel to?

A: My bucket list grows at the bottom!  I’d like to see the Taj Mahal and the pyramids in Egypt and Happy Valley Cemetery in Hong Kong and Bonaventure in Savannah, Georgia, and the churchyard of the old leper colony on Molokai in Hawaii.  I’ll be traveling to visit cemeteries until I die.

Wish You Were Here cover

Q: Do you write other things or any fiction? What else have your written or are working on writing?

A: Thank you for asking this! I’ve written a series of stories about a young witch named Alondra DeCourval. She travels the world, fighting supernatural monsters. This year I’ve put out three ebook collections – Alondra’s Experiments, Alondra’s Investigations, and Alondra’s Adventures – each with three previously published stories. They’re available on Amazon.

Thorn Coyle, author of the Witches of Portland series, calls the Alondra stories “Sexy, spooky, fast-paced urban fantasy. There’s magic at the heart of each of these tales. Alondra herself is magic wrapped in a human guise.”

In addition, I’m just about to dive into a novel for Nanowrimo. It’s a sequel to my succubus/angel novel Lost Angels, which was published a couple of years ago. It’s time to tell the rest of Lorelei’s story.

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Q: What are some of the best books in horror by women you’ve read over the last year?

A: I’ve been concentrating on getting books off my TBR shelf this year, which has meant reading a lot of nonfiction. That said, I have E. M. Markoff’s The Deadbringer ahead of me, which I’m really looking forward to. Blood Ink, Dana Fredsti’s second Lilith book, will be coming out next spring. I’ll read that as soon as it’s out.

Q: Any plans for Halloween?

A: My kid is outgrowing trick or treating, so this may be the last year we go.  I’m planning to enjoy it as long as I can.

Erin: It was probably my last child’s last true Trick-or Treat too this year, but she has so much fun she said she’s never stopping.

Thank you so much for joining me, Loren! I’m a huge fan of visiting graveyards and cemeteries, which came to me at a young age when I was doing a lot of genealogy research with my family! They are so peaceful at times and full of history. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I hope to read more of your work and see you back here again one day! We’ll share more cupcakes!

Loren: Thank you so much for having me come by, Erin.  I love to meet kindred spirits!

Erin: Me too!

Loren Rhoads Biography –

Loren

Loren Rhoads is the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel.

She is also the author of a space opera trilogy, co-author of a love story between a succubus and an angel, and is working on a series of stories about a witch who travels the world to fight monsters. You can see a longer biography detailing all her work and activities here.

You can keep up with her overall at lorenrhoads.com.

Author Photo Credit: S.G. Browne

Thank you for reading!

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Hook Introduction: Macabre Author Stephanie Ayers

Hey all, just in time for Halloween for all my readers of the scary variety, here is some information on a new set of short stories, The 13: Tales of Macabre by Stephanie Ayers. I don’t know Stephanie, but I am always willing to help a lady of horror fiction out. Please note I’ve yet to read her work myself, so consider this an introduction to us both. Check out her stories, her bio, and if you read all the way below about various “five fast things” she likes in certain categories, you may even be surprised she likes horror. I’m much the same way, very well-rounded! Might I suggest you at least consider adding her collections to your GoodReads? If killer watermelons don’t grab you I don’t know what will!!

Best of luck, Stephanie!

The 13 Duo DeskThe 13: Tales of Macabre

Killer watermelons, murderous jewelry boxes, centenarian sea whisperers, creatures of myth/legend, and more…

This supernatural story collection will make you reconsider everything you thought you knew. At night you’ll hover under your covers while looking over your shoulder in the day. Down, down in the depths they fell; bodies in the dark of a liquid hell.

Can you survive all 12?

From the thrilling author of Til Death Do Us Part and The 13: Tales of Illusory comes a second volume of twelve supernatural tales of ghosts, vampires, and things that go bump in the night.

Ayers Creative Concepts is very excited to announce the publication of The 13: Tales of Macabre by Stephanie Ayers. Her words will jump from the page and haunt you once the lights go out. They will make you look over your shoulder during the day. This second volume in The 13 series released on Friday, October 26, 2018.

You can learn more about Stephanie Ayers and The 13 by following along with the book blog tour which began on the author’s website (Growing Up Stephanie) on October 2, 1018.

Purchase –

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/895641

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07H7ND2J4/

Universal eBook link https://www.books2read.com/u/3R1lAD

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41940897-the-13

Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-13-stephanie-ayers/1129510194?ean=2940156116027

Steph

Stephanie Ayers, Biography –

A published author with a knack for twisted tales, Stephanie Ayers is a coffee guzzling, word whispering, world building creative ninja and unicorn living in Ohio disguised as a human. She mothers her children, loves her husband, attends church, and avoids all things housework and zombies. When she isn’t doing any of these things, she can be found stretching her creative wings designing book covers, promotional graphics, logos and more.

To learn more about this author visit Growing Up Stephanie or her Amazon Author Page (https://goo.gl/1jEeXN). 

Newsletter https://www.subscribepage.com/o6e0l9

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Ayers/e/B00H1XOA50

Bookbub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/stephanie-ayers

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomauthor_sam

Facebook Author Page https://www.facebook.com/theauthorSAM

Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/ayersstreetteam

Twitter https://twitter.com/theauthorSAM

Instagram https://instagram.com/iwrite_idesign

Website https://stephanieayersauthor.com

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCjXrvFvcGEKXcIWqi–CkQ

All Author http://stephanieayers.allauthor.com

Google + https://plus.google.com/u/0/109584376406882925640

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanieayersauthor

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/theauthorSAM

A Few of My Favorite Things (Fast Five) –

Favorite Books: The Stand, Divergent, Through the Looking Glass, The Forgotten Garden, and Inkheart.

Favorite Songs: Anyway by Martina McBride, Chasing Cars by Soul Patrol, Dream On by Aerosmith, Cotton Eyed Joe by Rednex, Cake by the Ocean by DNCE

Favorite Movies: Hope Floats, Divine Secrets of the Yaya Sisterhood, The Messengers, The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins

Favorite Foods: pizza, pasta, ice cream, chips, second breakfasts

Favorite TV Shows: Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Law & Order SVU, The Voice, This Is Us

#HookofaBookIntroductions

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#HookonWiH: Curtis Freeman Interviews Sadie Lou Who in His Female Horror Reviewer Series (#MotherHorror)

Today in the #HookonWiHM series, the honcho at Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews, Curtis Freeman, interviews horror reader, reviewer, and bookstagrammer, Sadie Lou Who, or as we lovingly like to call her “Mother Horror.” This is the first in his three-part series on women blogging in the horror genre. I’m glad we are getting the word out about other women in horror in addition to all the amazing authors. It takes a community to make the genre shine! Sadie is nothing but pure energy joy and helps so many, not mention really talks up books and authors! She’s friendly, kind, and fun and we all have a great time talking books with her on Twitter and Instagram.

I had been taking interviews by men and women with women in horror, as well as guest articles, throughout the month of February, but I have quite a few still set to post and so I decided to take them all year long. You can find information on this at the bottom of the post. Take it away Curtis – thanks for a great interview with Sadie!

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CHHR: What was the first horror book you ever read?

SH: The first horror book I ever read was Dracula by Bram Stoker

CHHR: What is the scariest book you ever read?

SH: I still think IT by Stephen King is the scariest book I ever read.

CHHR: When did you become a blogger? What made you want to blog about books?

SH: I have actually been blogging FOREVER. I only just started blogging about books though, I’d say like 2 years or so and it started as an overflow to what I was already doing on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Goodreads. I felt like I just had more to say than what I was able to get out in just a few “updates” or book reviews.

CHHR: What annoys you the most with your blog?

SH: That I don’t devote more time to keeping it current but I’m really very busy on lots of other social media platforms and the blog seems to have the least amount of engagement. (even when I do update)

CHHR: Do you think there is a gender bias in horror fiction? Explain.

SH: This is a no brainer. Yes. There is a gender bias. If you Google 50 scariest books and read the various lists, you’ll find that it is very heavily dominated by male authors. Here, I’ll do it right now and tell you the first top five off any random list: House of Leaves Mark Z. Danielewski, The Ritual Adam Nevill, The Haunting of Hill House Shirley Jackson (which I think is a classic horror story but it’s not scary), Heart Shaped Box Joe Hill and Hell House Richard Matheson. The next 5 are all male authors. Actually, the next 15-20 books on that list were male authors with the exception of Night Film by Marisha Pessl (which again, I didn’t think was a horror book, actually.)

CHHR: Do you think there is a gender bias in horror book blogging? Explain.

SH: I think there are just very few women reading horror. That’s been my experience anyways. Being very active on Bookstagram (a bookish community on Instagram where readers have individual accounts dedicated to the sole purpose of posting books) and I’d say that most of the females are reading YA Lit or adult, contemporary fiction and then maybe the next largest genre being thriller but the girls reading mostly horror are few and far between. I think that it’s viewed as normal or acceptable for men to like books heavy on violence, horror and gore but that it’s unladylike for women to like that stuff.

CHHR: How can we fix the bias?

SH: Well first, we can stop with the sexist stereotypes that horror is for dudes. Men can start writing horror books that are not misogynistic towards women and create strong female characters that are not always the victims—maybe they’re the heroes. And we can all do a better job celebrating female authors that are writing horror. Off the top of my head, Nadia Bulkin, Kristi DeMeester and Ania Ahlborn.

CHHR: I find it sad that we still live in a world where women authors have to use initials to seem less female. What are your thoughts?

SH: I think this is the publishers. I think the authors have a very difficult time having a voice in the meetings where things like that are decided and it’s really up to the industry to make those changes. I’m hard pressed to come up with a way readers have any influence on those choices at all, unfortunately.

CHHR: What pushes your buttons with your blog?

SH: I guess I don’t have a lot of complaints. I couldn’t think of anything.

CHHR: Do you think the Horror Writers Association (HWA) should start recognizing horror book bloggers?

SH: I mean, that sounds like an amazing opportunity for people like yourself who put a lot of time and effort into their blog and it challenges me, actually, to be more productive with mine. I find more engagement on Instagram and Twitter, actually.

CHHR: How has the horror community treated you since starting your blog?

SH: I love, love, love the horror community. I think it is wonderfully supportive, creative and diverse and I’m glad to be a part of it. People like you, Curtis, have been over the top in meeting my expectations to be welcomed.

CHHR: What makes a good horror book?

SH: Always the characters. Any horror book worth its weight in salt will have engaging characters that the reader can invest in-that way, whatever horror is going on, the story is immediately more dangerous and risky because we fear for our characters. For me, anyways.

CHHR: What scares you?

SH: Ha! Pretty much everything. I have a lot of different phobias concerning spiders, sharks, closed in spaces, crowds, heights but I also have deep seated fears of something horrific happening to my loved ones—having to live through some kind of tragedy or health crisis.

CHHR: Who’s your favorite horror author? You have to pick one or three authors, but it can’t be two.

SH: Stephen King, Nick Cutter and Ania Ahlborn.

CHHR: What books are you most looking forward to in 2018?

SH: Stephen King’s stand alone novel, The Outsider. Paul Tremblay’s Cabin at the End of the World. People should anticipate The Listener by Robert McCammon, I already read it but it’s wonderful. Everyone should buy it. The Hunger by Alma Katsu. Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman.

Sadie Lou IMG_1157Who, or “Mother Horror,” Biography –

Sadie lives in Tacoma, Washington and loves to read horror and anything dark, dark, dark. Most recently, she was the co-founder of Night Worms, a group that reads horror books together online, then post photos and reviews.

Find her mostly on GoodReads, Twitter, and Instagram.

Follow her blog HERE.

About Curtis Freeman –

Curtis

Curtis is a lover of horror books and films and a passionate addition to the horror genre. He reviews at his site Cedar Hollow Reviews and has just begun to interview authors via his YouTube Channel. Curtis even grilled me for over 3 hours one evening. His heartfelt excitement for the genre shows. This is the first in a series of three women horror bloggers Curtis is interviewing for my #HookonWiHM project. You can also find Curtis on Twitter.

Watch for more to come in the #HookonWiH series….

February was Women in Horror Month but we are honoring them all year! It’s time to celebrate and show off what we got! For those of you reading, men AND women both, make an effort to read and watch more horror produced by women this year.

For the #HookonWiH series, or Women in Horror at Hook of a Book, we’ll be hosting interviews conducted by men and women with other women in horror. Watch for those spread throughout the year, and if you want in, contact me! Find more info HERE.

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