Tag Archives: women writers

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under poetry, women in horror

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.

pupusa-lunch

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.

Without-Condition-Cover.jpg

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.

shoebox-drawing-wc

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.

nc-beers

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.

cox-mountain-trail

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.

chimney-rock-nc

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!

maple-view-truck

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.

WiHMX-horizontal-Black

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.

my-books

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!

first-edition-dracula

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

bram-stoker

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!

me-giants-causeway

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.

Follow Sonora on Facebook | Follow Sonora on Twitter

Follow Sonora on Goodreads | Follow Sonora on Instagram

Contact Sonora

 

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, HookonWiHM, 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!

____________________________

waiting-for-train-fb-timeline-cover

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.

_________________________

Simonphoto-208x258

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.

wihmx-horizontal-black

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

3 Comments

Filed under HookonWiHM, women in horror

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

jan_2019_image_02

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!

4 Comments

Filed under My Writing

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!).

win_20180906_14_25_44_pro

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:

ECFebruaryIssue-LOVE-ArtAmandaBergloff

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

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

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

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

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

Short Stories:

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

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

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

Anthologies:

dark voices cover

Cover by Luke Spooner

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

Purchase – Amazon

Add to GoodReads

haunted are these houses

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

Purchase – Amazon

Add to GoodReads

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

Warm wishes,

Erin

Covers.jpeg

4 Comments

Filed under Breathe Breathe, My Writing, poetry

#NationalPoetryMonth: Poems by Linda D. Addison, Bram Stoker Award Winner

I’m continuing on today in my series for National Poetry Month (April) with some three wonderful poems, two of them never before published, from the amazing poet Linda D. Addison! Linda D. Addison is the award-winning author of four collections, the first African-American to receive the Horror Writers Association (HWA) Bram Stoker Award®, and recipient of the 2018 HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. I’m quite honored that she agreed to be part of this series and thrilled she’s offered two unpublished poems for release here at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Not only talented, she’s always a bright light with an enormous smile and a kind word for all.

Enjoy!

The first poem was nominated for a 2018 Rhysling Award and was published as the Afterword in the HWA Bram Stoker finalist Sycorax’s Daughters anthology of horror fiction/poetry by African-American women.

Linda Addison cover Sycoraxs Daughters

Sycorax’s Daughters Unveiled

by Linda D. Addison

Descendants of the unseen,

born from uterus: bruised, abused, loved, rejected.

Alive, in spite of the promise of death,

giving birth even while silently weeping blood.

 

We paint red memories of our lives

before prison, on walls made from

our sweat, our anger, and the blood of

our children: unborn, reborn in mourning.

 

Descending from human to property,

turning to Nyavirezi, lion goddess, for hope,

for a way to survive each bitter breath,

to use the growing Shadows for transformation.

 

Finding truth in rivers, rain, tree roots,

flowers, herbs. Earth delivers healing &

a way for revenge, for freedom, even if

just surrendering to a cliff’s edge.

 

Ascending back to Self, the dream was

never deferred, but a tiny seed, carried

deep in tortured wombs, fed by near madness,

rising from ashes, rebuilt from courage.

 

As daughters of daughters,

we speak Our fables

from mouths full of lightning:

of mermaids, magic, demons, vampires,

journeys to hell and back, shape shifters,

ravished bodies & strengthened souls,

alternate futures, babies wanted & rejected,

firestarters, ghosts, and transhumans.

 

Revoking banishment,

read Our words & know:

We Are Here.

_________

This next one is a funky poem about writing.
It’s published here for the first time!

Notorious-BIG

How to be Notorious

By Linda D. Addison

Be like

Biggie Smalls

The Notorious B.I.G.

write loose and easy

flow dark and semi-autobiographical.

 

Tell your story

like junior M.A.F.I.A.

feud with the best

spend nine months in jail

just because you got

Business Instead of Game.

 

Start a band

with fiddles and banjos

play everything from jazz and blues

to rap and waltzes

keep your audience

guessing and confused.

 

You could be quoted

by shamans everywhere

because your imitation

of Notorious B.I.G.

is so dead on they suspect

reincarnation is involved.

 

Or you could

be yourself

unique and imperfect

kiss discretion good bye,

sing when others cry,

dance when they pray,

treat status quo

like the poison

it can be.

_________

This third poem was inspired by the movie “Life of Pi” and Linda changing everything in her life by moving from NYC to Tucson AZ. We are very lucky to publish it first here.

life-of-pi-1

My Life with the Tiger

By Linda D. Addison

My old life shipwrecked.

I am stranded in between.

The Tiger: imagined fear of the unknown future,

looking into the eyes of that wild animal:

“I am your vessel,” I say.

“Above all, don’t lose hope.”

 

I feed the creature,

we are connected,

finding an uneasy balance.

I look it in the eye,

my determination for life

stronger than fear.

 

And yet fear keeps me alive.

I plead with danger

“Come out and see God.”

In a relentless storm

“Why are you scaring me, God.

I have given Everything to You.”

We are tossed by Your storm.

 

Almost drowned I approach the Tiger,

my life, to revive it.

I lean the beast’s head on my lap.

When we finally land, barely alive,

on safe ground, my danger, my Tiger

walks into the jungle, its home,

without looking back.

 

And now more about Linda and her latest project….

Sycorax’s Daughters

Linda Addison cover Sycoraxs Daughters

edited with Kinitra Brooks, PhD & Susana Morris, PhD

ISBN-10: 1941958443; ISBN-13: 978-1941958445

Cedar Grove Publishing (March 2017)

33 authors; 28 stories, 14 poems

Cover by Jim Callahan HWA Bram Stoker award® 2017 finalist

Thought-provoking, powerful, and revealing, this anthology is composed of 28 dark stories and 14 poems written by African-American women writers. The tales of what scares, threatens, and shocks them will enlighten and entertain readers. The works delve into demons and shape-shifters from “How to Speak to the Bogeyman” and “Tree of the Forest Seven Bells Turns the World Round Midnight” to far future offerings such as “The Malady of Need”. These pieces cover vampires, ghosts, and mermaids, as well as the unexpected price paid by women struggling for freedom and validation in the past.

Linda D. Addison, Biography –

2017 LindaAddison closeup selfieLinda D. Addison is the award-winning author of four collections, the first African-American to receive the HWA Bram Stoker Award®, and recipient of the 2018 HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. She has published over 300 poems, stories and articles and is a member of CITH, HWA, SFWA and SFPA.

Addison is one of the editors of Sycorax’s Daughters (Cedar Grove Publishing), a Bram Stoker finalist anthology of horror by African-American women. Catch her latest work in anthologies Cosmic Underground (Cedar Grove Publishing), Scary Out There (Simon Schuster) and Into Painfreak (Necro Publications).

Links –

Website

Amazon page

Twitter

Thank you, Linda

 

1 Comment

Filed under poetry

Women in History: S.K. Rizzolo Writes on Caroline Norton, 19th Century Social Reformer and Writer

Today I have another guest article in the Women in History or Women Making History series to honor Women’s History Month. I’ll be bringing these to you for the rest of March and into April (along with a poetry series). However, Women in History and Women in Horror will basically last all year if I keep getting posts! I hope you enjoying learning about these fabulous women as much as I have been. Your encouragement and shares can really help us show how important women are in our society!

The post is by S.K. Rizzolo, a California author who pens wonderful mysteries from the 19th Century. She has some great thoughts and an informative article about a crucial social reformer of the time in Britain, Caroline Norton, but how interesting to learn she was also a poet (and writer of other fabulous things as well). Enjoy!

Caroline Norton (1808-1877):
Britain’s 19th Century Social Reformer and Author

Campaigner, social reformer, poet, novelist, and playwright

by S.K. Rizzolo, Author of Historical Mysteries

We go on living with things as they are for a very long time. Centuries pass while we remain trapped in the same old, tired, frozen mindsets that cause so much pain, so much injustice. We cannot seem to overturn things as they are. Perhaps this is because many people (hint: often the ones who most benefit) embrace these systems as natural, inevitable, and moral. Such modes of thought are difficult to question, incredibly tough to shatter.

Just think of the pernicious attitudes toward women that continue to debase our own society. Women have long struggled to achieve full personhood under a belief system that views them as less worthy, less autonomous, less human. But as the recent #MeToo movement has shown, change is possible, and it often starts with a few voices daring to articulate a new truth and inspiring others to participate. I’m sure that speaking out has demanded immense courage from the women challenging the pervasive reach of the patriarchy. There are always risks involved for those who imagine a new and better way. One thing is clear, however. This new way requires a fresh mindset that breaks the chains of the past.

Yes, we look forward. But it seems to me that in the process of reframing the world, using our newly purified perception to form healthier and more just social relations, we must also look to the past and to the women who helped get us here. So today I want to tell you about a foremother who lived in 19th century England, surely an era in which a frozen mindset held many in thrall. It was a time in which respectable women were relegated to domesticity. They were to be selflessly devoted “angels in the house,” while men were free to strive actively for achievements in the public sphere. But neither custom nor law provided for the woman who married a brute or whose marriage crumbled, leaving her without support.

IMAGE _2 Watercolour_sketch_of_Caroline_Norton_by_Emma_Fergusson_1860,_National_Portrait_Gallery_of_Scotland

Watercolor sketch of Caroline Norton, 1860. Attributed to Mrs. Emma Fergusson. Wikimedia Commons. I like this softer, more intimate portrayal of an older Caroline. Wikimedia Commons.

Caroline Norton (1808-1877) was a campaigner and social reformer as well as a poet, novelist, and playwright. Pressured by her mother into marrying a violent drunkard at the age of 19, she became a wife whose husband had the power to abuse her, take her earnings, and ruin her reputation. And she became a mother who was legally deprived of her young children after she separated from this man. To give just two examples of what she faced, her husband—the Honorable George Norton, barrister and M.P—beat her when she was pregnant with their fourth child, causing her to lose the baby. In 1836 George Norton also sued Caroline’s friend, the Whig Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, for a vast amount of money, accusing him of “criminal conversation” or adultery with his estranged wife. Melbourne was acquitted, but the scandal ruined Caroline. And after the trial she discovered that the law did not allow her to obtain a divorce.

Although she never regained custody of her three sons because of George Norton’s implacable revenge, this personal tragedy led her to social activism. Her efforts were a huge factor in the passage of the Custody of Infants Act of 1839, which was a first step in establishing the rights to our children that mothers rely upon today. Because of this law, for the first time divorced women (“of unblemished characters”) could petition the court for custody of their children under seven and had rights of access to their older children. Later, Caroline was instrumental in securing the passage of the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857, which made divorce more accessible. And she helped lay the groundwork for the 1870 Married Women’s Property Act, which allowed married women to retain their earnings and inherit property.

All this was possible only because Caroline was willing to challenge the orthodoxies of her time. She petitioned Parliament and Queen Victoria and wrote pamphlets and letters to the newspapers to protest a state of affairs in which “a married woman in England has no legal existence: her being is absorbed in that of her husband.” No legal existence. These words erase the self and sound to me like the slamming of the prison cell door—a door that Caroline found a way to crack open. You can’t exactly call her a “feminist,” though I don’t think the label matters. She was of her time, stating that “the natural position of woman is inferiority to man…I never pretended to the wild and ridiculous doctrine of equality.” In my view, this just shows the power of any era’s prevailing mentality and makes Caroline’s accomplishments the more remarkable.

Watercolor sketch of Caroline Norton, 1860. Attributed to Mrs. Emma Fergusson. Wikimedia Commons. I like this softer, more intimate portrayal of an older Caroline.

IMAGE _1 Caroline Norton Writing

George Hayter’s 1832 portrait of the Honorable Mrs. Caroline Norton. Appropriately, Norton is shown with an open book and pen in hand. She and her two sisters, the granddaughters of the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, were famous society beauties in their day and were known as “The Three Graces.” Wikimedia Commons.

Today Caroline Norton is mostly remembered for her work as a reformer, but I want to end by celebrating her as a writer and poet. Somehow in the midst of her marital struggles and her grief over the loss of her children, she managed to produce over a dozen poetry collections, five novels, and two plays. Not content to stop there, she was even the leader of a literary salon and the editor of a fashionable women’s magazine! How hard it must have been for her to persevere in her ambitions. Indeed, Caroline acknowledged as much when she wrote to her friend the author Mary Shelley: “Does it not provoke you sometimes to think how ‘in vain’ the gift of genius is for a woman? How so far from binding her more closely to the admiration and love of her fellow creatures, it does in effect create that gulf across which no one passes.”

Well, I hope we can step across the gulf to honor Caroline and assert that her gift was not in vain, no matter what she thought in any moment of despondency, no matter what cultural, physical, and mental chains her society had forged to bind women.

My heart is like a withered nut,

Rattling within its hollow shell;

You cannot ope my breast, and put

Any thing fresh with it to dwell.

The hopes and dreams that filled it when

Life’s spring of glory met my view,

Are gone! and ne’er with joy or pain

That shrunken heart shall swell anew.

From “My Heart is Like a Withered Nut” by Caroline Norton

S.K. Rizzolo, Biography –

02_SK Rizzolo AuthorAn incurable Anglophile, S.K. Rizzolo writes mysteries exploring the darker side of Regency England. Her series features a trio of crime-solving friends: a Bow Street Runner, an unconventional lady, and a melancholic barrister.

Currently she is at work on a new novel introducing a female detective in Victorian London. Rizzolo lives in Los Angeles with Oliver Twist and Lucy, her cats, and Michael, her husband. She also has an actress daughter named after Miranda in The Tempest.

Here is the book cover and synopsis to S.K.’s latest book in her series, On a Desert Shore, of which I reviewed a few years ago HERE.

On a Desert Shore cover - by Rolf Busch.jpg

London, 1813: A wealthy West India merchant’s daughter is in danger with a vast fortune at stake. Hired to protect the heiress, Bow Street Runner John Chase copes with a bitter inheritance dispute and vicious murder. Meanwhile, his sleuthing partner, abandoned wife Penelope Wolfe, must decide whether Society’s censure is too great a bar to a relationship with barrister Edward Buckler.

On a Desert Shore stretches from the brutal colony of Jamaica to the prosperity and apparent peace of suburban London. Here a father’s ambition to transplant a child of mixed blood and create an English dynasty will lead to terrible deeds.

Visit her on her website where you can also view her books.

THANK YOU for a marvelous post, S.K.!!

Keep following us for more guest articles about Women in History or Women Making History throughout March and April.

Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Posts, women in history

#HookonWiHM: Theresa Braun interviews J.H. Moncrieff about Atwood, a Haunted Island, and Gender Roles

Today, for the #HookonWiHM project, author Theresa Braun has interviewed the Canadian author J.H. Moncrieff! I’m super excited to have both of these women on the site today in promotion of Women in Horror Month. J.H. Moncrieff writes paranormal suspense, thrillers, and horror. I enjoy following her travels especially to all the haunted places. Happily, I’ve recently met Theresa this year as we shared the TOC in the anthology Hardened Hearts together, which published by Unnerving in December 2017.

I’m taking interviews by men and women with women in horror, as well as guest articles, throughout the month of February. You can see information on this at the bottom of the post. For now, take it away Theresa. Thanks for a great interview with J.H. Moncrieff!

Cropped coat

Do you feel the feminist conversation surrounding Margaret Atwood is relevant to the issues relating to female writers and female characters? Does Atwood carry any weight for you personally, since you both happen to be Canadian? 

I have read Atwood’s defence of her stance on the firing of the UBC professor, which fanned the flames and turned even more women against her (which, as a publicist, I could have told her it would. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing), and she raises some valid points. Movements like #MeToo do have the potential to become public witch hunts. And they are the result of a legal system failure: if women’s reports of sexual assault and harassment had been taken seriously, there would be no need for scores of women to go public about the issue on social media (or, at least, less need). However, as women, we need to be extremely careful not to re-victimize the survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

Almost every woman on the planet has experienced one or the other or both, but most of us don’t report it because we still fear the repercussions or assume we won’t be believed or taken seriously. We’re still living in an age where a man who was seen raping a woman spent only three months in jail. Where a police officer said to me that one of the strongest indications a woman was lying about sexual assault was she’d reported it, as most “true victims” don’t. And this was coming from a man most would consider sensitive and enlightened. Where people still get frustrated about the women pointing fingers at their favorite celebrities, but never once get angry at the men for the sexual misconduct and abuse of power.

Atwood argues the pendulum is at risk of swinging too far in the other direction. But perhaps it needs to. Just as many find the “zero tolerance” policy of dealing with domestic violence unfair, and it’s certainly flawed, it’s like that for a reason. Only when we’ve seen genuine progress on these issues, when women are no longer viewed as either sexual objects or prey, can people like Atwood safely call for balance. The problem is that our society has been far too unbalanced for far too long. Publicly critiquing a movement that amplifies survivor’s voices and raises awareness of just how prevalent sexual abuse and harassment are, is certainly going to be seen as anti-feminist, to put it lightly. To respond with guns blazing and a “Screw you, I’ve been called worse!” editorial hasn’t helped matters. The fact we’re both Canadian doesn’t bond us or give her opinion more weight to me, but I am more likely to see her editorials, as Canadian media have always given her a platform and will continue to do so.

Do you consciously include gender issues in your fiction? If so, what are some that you have explored? And are there any that you plan to explore in future storylines?

Monsters in Our Wake features a character who is the only female working on a drillship, and it explores some of the sexism and ostracism she suffered as a result, but on the flip side, the sea creatures in that novel live in a matriarchal society where the females are larger, more powerful, and make the majority of the decisions. Some readers have had a huge problem with this. A man accused me of being “anti-male” because of this novel, and some female readers hated Flora because she came across as weak or timid, while they’d always thrived in male-dominated environments. In City of Ghosts, I explored how women can be their own harshest critics and what can happen when they turn against each other. Again, some women really didn’t like that, and they disparaged how “girl-on-girl crime” has been overdone in fiction.

monsters-in-our-wake-cover_0

But the truth is, I don’t set out to write with a feminist agenda, or any agenda. I write people (and creatures), and people are flawed. Sometimes they’re misunderstood or obnoxious or misguided, and sometimes they’re just plain ugly. While I’ve never been ostracized like Flora was, I have been one of the only women in extremely male-dominated professions and sports, so it was easy for me to feel for the struggles someone less assertive might have. And I’ve experienced a ton of “girl-on-girl crime” in my lifetime–in elementary school, in high school, and in the workplace, both from colleagues and from supervisors. Women are capable of being awful to other women, and refusing to be honest about that would do everyone a disservice.

You have written a lot about characters facing supernatural situations. And you have based several of these novels on real places that you have visited. Which of these has scared you the most? Why?

The scariest place I’ve ever visited was Poveglia, an island off the coast of Venice that is considered to be the world’s most haunted. I don’t spook easily, but I was terrified the entire time I was there. Not only was I completely alone on the island, I was there during a violent thunderstorm. Poveglia has a truly chilling history, which I explored in The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts. Although nothing overt happened to me–I didn’t see a ghost–there were definitely a lot of strange, unexplained sounds and a very strong sensation that something was wrong in that place. It’s very creepy.

Isola di Poveglia

From enca.com / Photo: Flickr.com / tedlum

What future project are you most excited about? Tell us about that.

While I have a lot to be excited about this year–the release of the first book in my new Egyptian series, which was previewed in Temple of Ghosts; the fourth book in my GhostWriters series; a Christmas GhostWriters novella; and a few other projects–I’m probably most anticipating the release of Dead of Winter, which Severed Press will publish this spring. It’s about a famous podcaster who ventures into Russia’s Ural Mountains to investigate what happened on the Dyatlov Pass back in the ’50s. Since The Dyatlov Pass Incident is one of the scariest unsolved mysteries of all time, it was a fun topic to explore and I was really happy with how the book turned out. Best-selling author Hunter Shea gave it a great blurb: “Dead of Winter will freeze your blood! A mystery dripping with terror, the sense of isolation and impending doom kept my heart racing right until the very last line. An instant classic.”

Has there been something that a reader has surprised you with? Something that a reader has come away with that has left you inspired? 

My readers are amazing. I’m still so grateful I get to do this that every positive review makes me teary. One reader emailed me to say Temple of Ghosts helped her get through a difficult time after her daughter’s house caught fire. Another left a review for City of Ghosts that ended with, “City of Ghosts stirs the reader’s childhood fears and mixes them with compassion for all of China’s unwanted little girls.” That really got to me, because I wrote that book for those little girls, but I didn’t think anyone had understood that. When a reader gets you, it’s the best feeling in the world. I bawled. During a recent visit to a book club, the members surprised me with a gigantic gift basket full of goodies like gourmet tea, bubble bath, candles, a hardcover book, a bookmark, pens, etc. It went on and on. It was almost bottomless. I was extremely touched. Book clubs are the best, with or without the gifts.

Check out books from Moncrieff such as:

The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts and Temple of Ghosts 

ghostwriters-the-girl-who-talks-to-ghosts-183522929

Find Moncrieff online:

Website

Books

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Thanks again to Theresa Braun for conducing the interview!

Theresa Braun, Bio –

braun pic

Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides. Traveling, ghost hunting, and all things dark are her passions. Her work appears in The Horror Zine, Sirens Call, Schlock! Webzine, Hardened Hearts, and Strange Behaviors, among others.

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

February is Women in Horror Month! Though I agree women should be celebrated on the same level as men every day of the year, I like to partake in Women in Horror projects as a catalyst for spreading the good news and works of women in the genre in hopes that it will carry on throughout the 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 #HookonWiHM, or Women in Horror Month 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 month, and if you want in, contact me! Find more info HERE.

WiHM8-Website-Logo-Retina

Leave a comment

Filed under HookonWiHM, Q and A with Authors

Women in History: The Great Russian Ballerina Bronia Nijinska

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #8 today. If this is the first article you’ve read so far, March was Women in History month and so I’ve been featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it’s now extending way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the articles as I schedule or post them. And if you still want to participate, send an article in!

Introducing Eva Stachniak and Her Russian Ballerina

I’m very excited to start this week off with my sweet friend (a truly wonderful person!) and fabulous historical fiction writer Eva Stachniak. Eva lives in Canada and is the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of four novels, several of which are my favorites, and her newest, is soon to add to this list!

This newest novel, The Chosen Maiden, is her fifth novel and features the life of Bronia Nijinska, a Russian ballerina – in fact one of the greatest to ever live…but not without fighting for that title. Read on and find out why.

nijinska-home

Caption: Bronia Nijinska as a student at the Imperial Ballet School

Living in the shadow of giants: the story of Bronia Nijinska

By Eva Stachniak, author of The Chosen Maiden

The history of Russian ballet is full of extraordinary women, but for me Bronislava Nijinska or Bronia as she was known among friends, is particularly appealing. What drew me to her? First, the tantalizing connection to her beloved elder brother, Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950). Known as the God of the Dance, he was one of the best dancers of all times, especially known for his leap and his groundbreaking choreography of Rite of Spring—the one that caused now famous riots in Paris when it premiered on May 29 of 1913. I was also drawn by the powerful strength of her dancing roles in Ballets Russes of Sergey Diaghilev, the legendary impresario who transformed the face of modern ballet: Ballerina Doll in Petrouchkaor the Chosen Maiden in Rite of Spring, a dance Vaslav created especially for her. And last, but not least, I admire her fortitude in the face of obstacles and misfortunes which could’ve crushed anyone less strong and resilient than she was.

Growing up alongside her famous older brother meant that Bronia Nijinska had to stand her ground. Like Vaslav she was educated at the world-renowned Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg. Like Vaslav, she danced at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and then, in 1909, joined the Ballets Russes which revolutionized modern dance and dazzled Paris with their Russian seasons. But whereas he was almost instantly declared a genius, she had to fight for recognition all her life.

BN-ballerina.jpg

Caption: Bronia NIjinska in Petrouchka

How did she manage to free herself from Vaslav’s shadow? It helped that Vaslav recognized her talent. He was not only her mentor and teacher, but also readily acknowledged that Bronia was the best interpreter of his choreography. Then the vicissitudes of European history intervened, for the siblings were separated by war and revolution. Vaslav never returned to Russia, and by the time they met again in 1921 her brilliant brother’s career (and life) was destroyed by mental illness. In the meantime, during the Russian Revolution and ensuing Civil War, in Kiev, Bronia created avant-garde experimental ballets which inscribed her name in the history of modern dance. And after her escape from the Soviet Union she became one of the very first female choreographers employed by a ballet company—for Sergey Diaghilev hired her as a choreographer in 1921. This is where she created her masterpieces: The Wedding, Les Biches or Le Train Bleu (for which Coco Chanel designed costumes). All of them achievements that are truly extraordinary.

Mephisto-Meller.png

Caption: A painting by Vadim Meller inspired by Bronia NIjinska’s modern ballet, Mephisto, that she created during her time in Kiev.

However, it was not only Vaslav’s shadow Bronia Nijinskahad to free herself from. She had to stand up to the misogyny of the ballet world, all her life. When she was a young ballerina at the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg she was faulted for her too strong and muscular body, her “un-ballerinalike” looks, her “too high” jumps. Then, in the Ballets Russes, she saw how male dancers and choreographers ruled supreme while women were mostly given supportive or transient roles. When, after her escape from Soviet Russia, she re-joined Ballets Russes, the same Sergey Diaghilev who hired her could not stop himself from telling her: “Oh, Bronia, what a great choreographer you would’ve been if only you were a man.” Yet, despite these obstacles, she had a long career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher, both in Western Europe and the US where she emigrated in 1939.

Les NOces pic

Caption: An arrangement from Les Noces (The Wedding) Nijinska choreographed in 1923. Music by Igor Stravinsky.

Where does it come from, such strength, such resilience? From early childhood Bronia Nijinska knew dancing was her vocation. She placed the art of ballet in the center of her life and never veered from it. But love of art would not have been enough to sustain her, not without the fierce support first of her mother, Eleanora, and then her daughter, Irina. The evidence of their loving, nurturing relationship is beautifully documented in the archival materials of the Bronislava Nijinska Collection, at the Library of Congress. Dairies, letters, and snapshots of family life show how the three generations of the Nijinsky women, grandmother, mother and daughter, stood by each other through thick and thin all their lives. This female solidarity gave Bronia the inner strength to be an artist, rooted her, and, in the end, shaped her who she was.

Links of Interest

Recreated ballets in which Bronia and Vaslav danced or choreographed 1913—35

http://www.evastachniak.com/2016/11/05/the-chosen-maiden-ballets-1909-1913/

http://www.evastachniak.com/2016/11/05/the-chosen-maiden-ballets-1914-1935/

Eva Stachniak, Biography

evastachniakEva Stachniak is a writer of historical fiction. Her latest novel, The Chosen Maiden, was inspired by the art and voice of Bronia Nijinska.  She lives in Toronto.

Find more out about her and her fabulous books on her website.

 

The Chosen Maiden, Synopsis –

the chosen maiden.jpg

Publisher: Doubleday Canada and US
Date: Jan 17, 2017

The passionate, sweeping story of Bronia, an extraordinary ballerina forever in the shadow of the legendary Nijinsky–Russia’s greatest dancer and her older brother.

Born on the road to dancer parents, the Nijinsky children seem destined for the stage. Vaslav is an early prodigy, and through single-minded pursuit will grow into arguably the greatest–and most infamous–Russian ballet dancer of the 20th century. His talented younger sister Bronia, however, also longs to dance. Overshadowed by Vaslav, plagued by a body deemed less than ideal and struggling against the constraints of her gender, Bronia will have to work triply hard to prove herself worthy.

Bronia’s stunning discipline and mesmerizing talent will eventually elevate her to the highest stage in Russia: the prestigious, old-world Mariinsky Ballet. But as the First World War rages, revolution sparks in Russia. In her politics, love life and career, Bronia will be forced to confront the choice between old and new; traditional and groundbreaking; safe and passionate.

Through gorgeous and graceful prose, readers will be swept from St. Petersburg and Kiev to London and Paris and plunged into the tumultuous world of modern art. Against the fascinating and tragic backdrop of early 20th century Europe, and surrounded by legends like Anna Pavlova, Coco Chanel, Serge Diaghilev and Pablo Picasso, Bronia must come into her own–as a dancer, mother and revolutionary–in a world that only wishes to see her fall.

Add to GoodReads

Purchase on Amazon and other major online retailers and stores nationwide in Canada and the United States.

National Bestseller

“A tale of intrigue, love, betrayal and redemption set in the realm of art and artists, exploring the line between dedication and obsession, creation and madness. . . . Stachniak weaves together beautifully the myriad moments that bring this fascinating family and period to life.” —Toronto Star 

“Carefully researched and capaciously imagined. . . . More than just an absorbing historical account of an avant-garde artist, The Chosen Maiden is a fully-realized tale of family, love, loss and enduring resilience.” —Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls

“Many works of fiction take as their inspiration true events and persons of historical significance, but few do so as lovingly and imaginatively. . . . The Chosen Maiden delves into the workings of an artist’s mind and reveals the resiliency of art in a time of worldwide political upheaval and war. . . . A remarkable work of historical fiction.” —Quill & Quire

“Exquisite. . . . Dance fans will welcome this graceful and entrancing foray into the recent past.” —Library Journal

“Reading The Chosen Maiden is like entering Aladdin’s Cave, where a vivid, strange and enchanting world awaits. It is the thrilling world of the Great Nijinsky and his passionate and unforgettable sister Bronia, whose discipline and talent rival her famous brother’s, but whose greatest genius may be her will to survive. Spanning two world wars and the Russian Revolution, Eva Stachniak’s sumptuous and evocative dance of the Chosen Maiden is the dance of 20th century history.” —Shaena Lambert, author of Oh, My Darling and Radiance

Thank you for following the series!

Women in History

1 Comment

Filed under Guest Posts, women in history

Article by M.J. Neary About Her Quest to Write Irish History, While Not Being Irish…

The author M.J. Neary offers a book called Never Be at Peace, which surrounds the Irish uprising against the British on Easter 1916.  Today, she is featured here with an interesting article about how people viewed a non-Irish person writing about a major Irish historical happening. Take a look and then view her book and author bio below. I’ll be back around with a review later this month!

****************************************************

“Who Gave You Permission to Write about Ireland?”
by M.J. Neary, author

As every other young author, I kept hearing the same advice: “Write what you know.” But what you know is not necessarily what you grew up with. Five novels later, if I could have a penny for every time someone asked me why a Russian-Polish continental Euro mutt like me would write about Irish history, I wouldn’t need a day job.  Over the course of my Celtic adventures I have discovered that the Irish as well as Irish-Americans split into two categories: those who are very welcoming and eager to share their culture with the world, and those who are rather defensive and hostile towards outsiders. I guess same can be said for all people who have a strong sense of ethnic identity.

When I signed up for an Irish language course in college, my professor, a Dubliner no less, said to me, “I think are n the wrong place.  Eastern European women’s studies are down the hall. This class is for Irish-Americans who want to learn about their heritage.”  It’s a miracle he didn’t call me a bloody communist.  Thank God I did not have a cup of coffee in my hand, because it would have ended up all over his shirt. I continued with his class and had the best Gaelic pronunciation.  By the end of the semester, I was his favorite student, though he was reluctant to admit it.

Now that I have an Irish married name, people don’t second-guess my devotion to Irish culture so much and my decision to write about Irish history.  Then I open my mouth at book signings, and people ask me, “You have a bit of a brogue. County Galway?”  I smirk.  County Chernobyl more like it.  I don’t really have an accent.  After 22 years in the US, I sound like a typical corporate New England bitch that I am during the day.  If we’re selling medical equipment, people wouldn’t think to ask me where I was from.  But when you do explore the question of ethnic identity in your books, your readers try to place you as an author and as a person in an ethnic context.  They start scrutinizing your every opinion through the prism of your ethnicity.  “Oh, look, she parts her hair in the middle.  Never seen that before. That’s how they must do it … over there … in County Galway.”

One common misconception that has been a source of great frustration for me is that you need to be ethnically Irish in order to write about something as sensitive as the Anglo-Irish conflict.  My college professor held that belief.  He gave me an A, but he discouraged me from writing fiction set in Ireland, because “it just wouldn’t come out authentic.” According to him, you have to be born there, or at least have parents who were born there, in order to fully understand the melancholic long-suffering collective Irish soul.  What a bunch of elitist boloney! It’s like saying that white people should not attempt to play jazz, or non-Jews should not attempt to write about the Holocaust.

I believe that being a genetic outsider gives me a certain advantage, that of healthy detachment and objectivity.  There are benefits to embracing a cultural tradition as an adult on your own accord as opposed to being born into it. One benefit is that you cannot be accused of taking sides and spreading propaganda.  As a historical novelist, I do not engage in propaganda or apologetics. That would make me a politician, and that’s the last thing the world needs. I can always throw my hands up and say, “Hey, don’t look at me. I’m just a dumb communist Polack. This is my impartial view of another country’s past.”  With the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin just around the corner, there is a great deal of revising and reevaluating happening.

Truth be told, I am no stranger to the idea of nationalism.  Growing up, I was exposed to a fair amount of it at home.  My biological father was a Polish nationalist, who had perceived Russia as Poland’s cultural and political oppressor. Like his Irish counterpart Patrick Pearse, whose speech inspired the title for “Never Be at Peace”, my father believed in the power of a good spectacle, the bloodier and messier the better.  He believed that if you cause enough commotion on the streets in the name of your Cause, that’s half the battle already.  Winning is not required. Victory in a military sense would be the cherry on top.  Attracting attention is good enough.  You cause a skirmish, and that will automatically put you on the map.  It will give you credibility, and your enemies will know that you mean business.

While I retain considerable amount of admiration for my biological father, I harbor no illusions about his motives.  Was he really fighting for the interests of an oppressed nation, or was he merely fighting for limelight?  I’ve grown to realize that nationalism in various countries unfolds according to the same formula. You just need a bunch of eager barricade-climbers.  Many of them don’t understand what they are fighting for.  They love the idea of being martyrs for a noble cause.

I can write about Irish rebels, because I’ve seen that euphoric fanatical light in my own father’s eyes.  Unlike Patrick Pearse, my father survived his flirtation with martyrdom. still alive. He was not shot on the barricades or executed by the authorities.  Now he looks back on his escapades with a mixture of nostalgia and embarrassment. Had he been born in Ireland at the turn of the century, his fate might have been different.  So yes, I feel qualified to write about the Easter Rising of 1916, because I believe that I have enough insight into the psyche of a revolutionary.

Here’s the author, red hair and all….I mean she has red hair, doesn’t that qualify?

Neary photo

Never Be at Peace, Book Blurb~

Never Be at Peace Cover ThumbnailA pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom – and political martyrdom.

Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies. After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices.

In the words of Patrick Pearse, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”. For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

Here is a picture of Helena sent by M.J. Neary:

Marina 1

Author M.J. Neary, Biography~

Neary author photoA Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin.

Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history. She explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.

Her debut novel Wynfield’s Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal.

With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks. Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.

Praise for Never Be at Peace~

“M. J. Neary’s Never Be at Peace is a gripping and intense tale of Ireland in the thick of revolution. Told from the perspectives of the brave and uncompromising men and women involved in the fight for independence, it will delight fans of women’s history and Irish history. Meticulously researched and boldly-written, Never Be at Peace is a masterful story that breathes life Edwardian Ireland and illuminates the hearts and minds of these unforgettable Irish patriots.” –Evangeline Holland, Edwardian Promenade

“Neary’s Helena Molony is a storm of a character who comes to life along with a cast of the giants of early 20th century Ireland. Helena’s story will stick with you long after you turn the last page.” –Meghan Walsh, The Recorder, The Journal of the American Irish Historical Society

Links~

Amazon

GoodReads

Follow Along the Tour (click on banner…)~

NBAP tour graphic

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Guest Posts