Get ready, people – it’s coming your way…
Tag Archives: Horror
My friend Emma Cunningham said his book Life Without Giamotti was her favorite of all times; he writes horror and zombies; he’s a cool guy. So here I present to you Sean Munger, author of the book Zombies of Byzantium.
I often wonder about why I write genre – how about you? Why did you write a horror story?
Strangely, before I wrote Zombies of Byzantium, I had never written anything in the horror genre except a short story. I’ve been a lover of Byzantium for years, and since I began reading Byzantine history I wanted to do a book set there. The thing that struck me about it was how much it was like a constructed world out of a fantasy or science fiction book, like Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings or Barsoom of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Marsbooks—but Byzantium was a real place where real people lived. I tried about three or four different ideas, all of them I guess you’d say historical fiction, which were all extremely flat, dull and lifeless. Then I hatched the idea of a zombie outbreak in medieval Constantinople. Amazingly, shifting to the horror genre suddenly made Byzantium come to life on the page. It was like flipping a switch, or that famous cut in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the door in black-and-white and suddenly Oz is in color. I really can’t explain it, but something made it live.
Once I started to get into the story itself it made me realize how much the genre of horror can really explore aspects of the world you never thought of before. I’ve read a lot of books about Byzantium but in all of that reading I never once encountered the concept of fear or horror. If Byzantines believed in ghosts or the supernatural, for instance, they must have done so entirely in a religious context. So what would scare you if you lived in 8th century Constantinople? If a horde of flesh-eating undead zombies was fanning out through the streets devouring your neighbors, how would you, as a person living in that place and time, react? When this became more interesting to think about than the setting itself, I knew I had a story worth telling.
That’s so weird, the genre chose you instead of the usual way – like me. I’ve always loved horror, but more of the darker kind than slasher or graphic. I love to explore how people can appear normal but are far from it; those are the best characters, surprising not only the characters in the story but the writer, too.
So I gather you do a lot of research before you write your stories, but how else do you prepare? I’m a crazy outliner and I cannot start to write unless I know where my plot is going and who’s doing what and the most important: the ending. Are you like that, too?
My relationship with outlining is sort of complex. How completely I outline a story really depends on the story. I’m not a rigid outliner for the most part, usually because an outline is sort of like a military battle plan. It looks great on paper, but once you get on the battlefield, events can render it obsolete pretty quickly, and trying at all costs to conform reality to the plan often gets people killed.
Are you familiar with a movie from the 70s called “The Warriors”? That movie made me incredibly angry. The plot concerns a gang that gets framed for a murder, and they have to cross the entirety of New York City, which is controlled by rival gangs, in order to reach their own territory. They do this on foot, naturally. What made me angry is, the movie never explained why the gang just doesn’t hail a taxi. Wouldn’t that be much easier? Obviously the writers needed it to be the way it was, but they never explained that potential objection, and the whole plot hinges on it. So if I was writing “The Warriors,” the next scene after the murder would be some plot device to explain why they can’t just take a taxi back to their territory.
Dear reader, the time is *almost* upon us for the Girls & Monsters Blog Tour ♥ Starting on March the 25th and ending on April 30th on releaseday, I’ll be visiting 28 blogs. At each stop, not only will you discover something new about the stories and/or me, but also about my wonderfully generous hosts ranging from reviewers, authors, bloggers, YA and horror fans all alike.
To celebrate my debut collection of novelettes, I have been hard at work on a special Skellies set representing each monsters of the stories. Handmade in felt, *you* dear reader, have the chance to own your very own killer mermaid, heartless neighbor, bone to tame your own Black Dog, Bunny the spider and a bone-broken zombie. The contest will run during the tour with chances to win Girls & Monsters softcovers as well.
Now, if you just cannot wait for the release day to get your very own copy, there’s always the Goodreads giveaway with an extravageant 10 chances to win ♥
A giant spider, a killer mermaid, a mad neighbor, zombies and a very dark soul – monsters, everywhere. Wanna see what girls can do to them? Check out my collection of 5 dark novelettes. Here’s a peek at DEATH SONG…
Something catches in the back of my throat. I hide my face in my hands to quiet the sobs. But then, something ain’t right. Air moves around me and I stop. I look between my fingers, but the blur of my tears thickens everything: the bathtub, the towels, and someone on the floor.
A woman’s in here with me, door still closed and locked. An exhale, like after a deep swim, and a smell, like the swamp close to my empty home. A chill runs down my back, I wipe my eyes, rub and scratch them to see more clearly. And I do.
Two gray hands scratch the floor tiles, nails green with algae, putrid flesh sagging on her legs, arms and torso, hair so long and wet and heavy, it drags her down. Diluted, impossible to focus on, like little waves rippling over her body from head to foot, seaweed in the water. Scales and fins, mermaidlike, little knives, those are. And they scrape the floor, like a fork on a plate. It’s her—Limnade.
She opens her mouth of scissor-teeth and the rotten smell of fish wraps around my throat like two hands trying to choke me. “You can’t be…” I don’t finish my breathless thought and jump backward, knocking over the dish of decorative soaps. Blurry waves, vision impaired, out of focus, unreal. She crawls toward me, eyes unblinking, lethal, hands inches from me: my legs refuse to move, as my body feels like stone. Frozen, hypnotized, a statue. Then I hear something coming from within her…
A melody, reminding me of something lost, tickles my ears. It drags on until the sweetness turns sickly, vibrating into a full-on super-scream, hyenalike, enough to pop my ears and make them bleed. Her large mouth deforms her face into one gap of black, the cry so high and strident, I scream from the pain.
Limnade stares at me, everything but her fades away—Jo’s nice bathroom, Jo’s new life, Jo himself, none of it matters anymore. Her fingers brush my forehead, they’re cold and sticky like clams. And I let the darkness take me away.
NEW RELASE! THE HAUNTING SEASON
New Adult/Horror Recommended for readers 17+
Be careful what you let in…
Siler House has stood silent beneath Savannah’s moss-draped oaks for decades. Notoriously haunted, it has remained empty until college-bound Jess Perry and three of her peers gather to take part in a month-long study on the paranormal. Jess, who talks to ghosts, quickly bonds with her fellow test subjects. One is a girl possessed. Another just wants to forget. The third is a guy who really knows how to turn up the August heat, not to mention Jess’s heart rate…when he’s not resurrecting the dead.
The study soon turns into something far more sinister when they discover that Siler House and the dark forces within are determined to keep them forever. In order to escape, Jess and the others will have to open themselves up to the true horror of Siler House and channel the very evil that has welcomed them all.
I’ve meet her through an online writing group, this girl who writes about death and magic. So I thought you lot would *love* to learn a little bit more about the book that got Michelle on Amazon’s number two spot last Halloween: Don’t Fear the Reaper.
Haunted by memories of her murdered twin, Keely Morrison is convinced suicide is her only ticket to eternal peace. But in death, she discovers the afterlife is nothing like she expected. Instead of peaceful oblivion or a joyful reunion with her sister, Keely is trapped in a netherworld on Earth with only a bounty-hunting reaper and a sarcastic demon to show her the ropes.
When the demon offers Keely her ultimate temptation–revenge on her sister’s killer–she must determine who she can trust. Because, as Keely soon learns, the reaper and demon have been keeping secrets and she fears the worst is true–that her every decision changes how, and with whom, she spends eternity.
And now, a belated Halloween treat – the book’s first chapter…
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for they are with me.
I repeated my version of the psalm as I watched the ribbon of blood drift from my wrist. I’d hoped it would be a distraction—something to stop me from wondering what my sister’s dying thoughts had been. Exhaling slowly, I let the emptiness consume me.
Jordan had kept my secrets and I had kept hers. In the end, it came down to just one secret between us that took her life. Now, it would take mine. I should have said something, but nothing I said or did now could bring her back or make anyone understand what she meant to me.
Are you here, Jordan? Are you with me? Tell me about heaven…
I told myself Jordan was gone, never coming back, but her memories continued to haunt me. I had no idea if there even was an afterlife. If God existed, I was convinced he had given up on me. Not once did I sense he’d heard a single one of my prayers. I wasn’t asking for the world—I only wanted to know if my sister was safe and at peace. What was so hard about that?
She should still be here. It wasn’t fair.
I’d been the difficult one—much more than Jordan. For a while, I’d even gotten into drugs. Mom and Dad had worried I’d get Jordan into drugs, too. But I wouldn’t. Not ever. Besides, that part of my life had been over long before Jordan’s death. A small gargoyle tattoo on my left shoulder was all that remained of my previous lifestyle.
Mom and Dad started treating me differently after Jordan’s funeral two months ago. She and I were twins, so I understood how hard it was for them to look at me and not see her. Sometimes, they wouldn’t look at me at all. Mom went to the psychiatrist, but no one asked if I needed to talk to someone about what happened. No one asked if I needed sleeping pills or antidepressants. Yeah, sure. Don’t give the former addict pills of any sort.
Not one person saw the all-consuming suffering that gnawed at my soul. Why couldn’t anyone see? Jordan had been more than my sister—she’d been my Samson, my strength. I would have done anything for her, and yet, I’d failed her. I wasn’t the one who’d killed her, but I might as well have been. How could I ever live with that? My heart had a stillness to it since her death.
I shall fear no evil.
I couldn’t very well recite the first part of Psalm 23 because it said I shall not want, and I did want. I wanted to go back in time. I wanted my sister back. Clearly, goodness and mercy were never going to be part of my life ever again. In my mind, I saw myself walking through the iron gates of hell with demons cackling gleefully all around.
I didn’t want to die. Not really. I was just tired and didn’t know of another way to stop the pain. Doctors removed a bad appendix. Dentists pulled rotten teeth. What was I supposed to do when my very essence hurt, when the cancer I’d come to call depression made every decent memory agonizingly unbearable?
Before I’d gotten down to cutting my wrist (I managed to only cut one), I’d taken a few swigs of Dad’s tequila—the good kind he kept in the basement freezer. I’d used another swig or two to chase down the remainder of Mom’s sleeping pills in the event I failed to hit an artery or vein. Then I’d set the bottle on the ledge of the tub in case I needed further liquid encouragement. Instead of using a knife or a razor, I attached a cutting blade to my Dad’s Dremel. The Dremel was faster, I reasoned. More efficient.
It would have been easier to OD, I suppose. But I felt closer to my sister this way, to suffer as she’d suffered.
I recited the line from Psalms 23 again. It had become my personal mantra.
The words resonated in my parents’ oversized bathroom. I’d chosen theirs because the Jacuzzi tub was larger than the tub in the hall bathroom. Jordan and I used to take bubble baths together in this same tub when we were little.
Innocence felt like a lifetime ago. I searched the bathroom for bubble bath but came up short. Soap might have made the laceration hurt more so it was probably just as well. Besides, the crimson streaming from my wrist like watercolor on silk was oddly mesmerizing.
The loneliness inside proved unrelenting, and the line from the psalms made me feel better. I prayed for the agony inside me to stop. I argued with God. Pleaded. But after all was said and done, I just wanted the darkness to call me home.
I tried not to think of who would find my body or who’d read the note I’d left. I blamed myself not only for failing Jordan, but for failing my parents, too.
My lifeline to this existence continued to bleed out into the warm water. Killing myself had been harder than I’d imagined. I hadn’t anticipated the searing fire racing through my veins. I reached for the tequila with my good arm but couldn’t quite manage. Tears welled in my eyes.
Part of me foolishly felt Jordan was here. The other part feared she wasn’t.
Give me a sign, Sis. Just one.
I imagined seeing my parents at my funeral—their gaunt faces, red-eyed and sleepless. How could I do this to them? Wasn’t the devastation of losing one child enough?
No. Stop. A voice in my head screamed. Don’t do this. Don’t. Please…
I shifted my body, attempted to get my uncooperative legs under me. I could see the phone on my parents’ nightstand. I could make it that far. Had to. The voice was right. I didn’t want to do this. I felt disorientated, dizzy. Darkness crept along the edges of my vision. Focusing became difficult. A sweeping shadow of black caught my attention. Someone stood in the bathroom—not my sister. A man. Had I managed to call 911? I couldn’t remember getting out of the tub. And why’d I get back in? Did I use a towel?
Mom is going to be pissed when she sees the blood I’ve tracked all over the bedroom carpet.
“I’m sorry,” I told the man in black.
“It’s okay, Keely. Don’t be afraid.” Not my father’s voice. It was softer, with a hint of sorrow. Distant. Fleeting. Later, I’d feel embarrassed about this, but for now I was safe from the nothing I’d almost become. My teeth clattered from the chill. My eyelids fluttered in time with my breaths. The tub water had turned the color of port wine. The ribbons, the pretty, red watercolor ribbons were gone.
Dull gray clouded my sight.
A voice whispered to me, and my consciousness floated to the surface again.
Cold. So cold.
“I’m right here.”
There was no fear in me as the man bent forward, his face inches from mine. He was my father’s age, and yet strangely older. His eyes were so…blue, almost iridescent. The irises were rimmed in a fine line of black, and the creases etched at the corners reminded me of sunbeams as he gave me a weak smile. The oddly. Dressed. Paramedic. A warm hand reached into the water and cradled mine. My fingers clutched his. I sighed, feeling myself floating, drifting. Light—high and intense exploded before me. No! Too much. Too much! I shuddered and labored to catch my breath, but it wouldn’t come.
Finally, the comfort of darkness rose to greet me.
I fell in love with writing in my tiny flat in Zone 2, London. It was a freezing cold night, a draft came from the single-glazed bay window of that old Edwardian front room I called my home, my fingers danced on the keyboard as words flew out, when I realized: I wouldn’t be doing anything else, right now.
Then came the Master’s in screenwriting diploma a year later. When people asked if anything happened with the scripts I’d been writing, I replied of course not, I knew no one in Montreal, had been gone too long, lost touch, etc. So, during the two next years, I made my own short films: produced, directed, wrote – and hated it. They never were as good as what I had written, even if they were distributed and sold to TV.
Novels, I told myself. I’ll write novels, get them published, and be happy – but agents got in the way. Five years, seven projects, and about 500 rejection letters later, I still haven’t found one. Oh, I’ve gotten advice and cheers and encouragement, some said my writing was beautiful, I knew how to build up a scene, they admired me and loved my work…but no one wanted to represent me.
What is a girl to do? How do I get published without waiting another year or two to get an agent, then the rewrites, then the submission to publishing houses? Well, I sent my query to the best small publishers my research provided…
AND GIRLS & MONSTERS IS GETTING PUBLISHED BY DARKFUSE IN 2013!!!
Cheers to you all, I’m having a drink right this moment 🙂 I never thought *this* could happen that fast.
Oh, what is Girls & Monsters, you ask? It’s a collection of 5 novelettes about, well, girls and monsters. It’s dark, gloomy, aimed at the young-adult/new-adult gap, it’s scary and funny and I’m in love with each of my characters and their monsters – because don’t be fooled, we all have one waiting in the dark…
Happy Goth dance♥
Colin F Barnes edited the ecclectic Day of Demons anthology with amazing authors, so I decided to pick their brains out with a few questions…
I’m always curious as to how other writers find inspiration, especially when submitting to an anthology which connects its stories with one common subject, in this case demons. How do you approach such a task? Do you have stories stored-up? Do you write on demand?
GARY BONN: All of the above. I think most writer’s heads are like overstuffed attics. If you have a stimulus like a theme, you can dig around dusty old boxes in you head and find something shining. Often, a stimulus gives you the very thing you need to bring a story to life.
KT DAVIES: Hey Anne and everyone:) I’m used to working to a brief having done so writing for various live-roleplaying game systems. I also like having a prompt, (possibly because I’m lazy;p). I have got some short stories that I’ve written on a whim and that I’d like to find homes for, but it’s tricky finding the time to work on them whilst keeping up with more pressing projects.
SARAH ANNE LANGTON: Panicky words on demand! I actually think of a title first. Yup, possibly wierd. I know. Then chaotically wander the internet to start filling in the characters and hunting for demonic little ideas I might like use. DOD was wonderful to write as it was a great excuse to go poking about online into all sorts of dubious occulty places. Good call Mr Barnes : )
VICTORIA GRIESDOORN: That’s an interesting approach, Sarah! I would have never thought to go on the internet to come up with story ideas. I’m usually very thin on the ground with story ideas. So I usually only submit to anthologies if I already have a story idea that fits the theme. They’re few and far between for me. I am even worse at developing an idea past the premise-stage into full story-stage. With me it usually comes down to blank screens, frustration and deadlines.
KRISTA WALSH: I think my approach is closer to Victoria’s with the frustrating and looming deadlines…and I also tend to go for anthologies where I’ve had an idea sitting around for awhile but not known what to do with it. DoD was perfect because the premise had been simmering for months. I’m slowly developing the ability to write on a whim. I’ve participated in a number of flash fiction contests the last couple of months where it’s just a matter of closing your eyes and diving in. How successful I’ve been? Guess I’ll leave that up to the readers.
EDWARD DRAKE: I write quite a few short stories and have loads of unfinished ideas, some seeing the light of day on my website while others stay locked away until needed. It was just really lucky and really good timing that I spotted the request for Day of Demons submissions when I did. I had just started drafting Cost of Glory when I saw the shout out, so I already had the idea…kind of. It needed tweaking, mainly the demon aspect, but I was just lucky that I already write a lot of fantasy and I spotted the posting for submissions when I did. The ideas themselves come from anything, a daydream, a line of dialogue or even requests from family and friends that I have run with and expanded upon. Some lead to nothing but luckily others can lead to something more, like a part of the Day of Demons anthology.
LAURA DIAMOND: Hi all! I’m pretty new to the short story scene. I keep my ears open for anthology topics or genres that I enjoy, then I brainstorm a story for that anthology.
Great to see diverse approaches to writing for an antho:) Now, let’s get down and dirty. I’ve heard many times – and have been asked twice – about women and horror: some say the two don’t match, something to which I strongly disagree. What’s your take on it? Can women scare people shitless as much as men? Should women stick to ‘softer’ genres, such as romance and erotica? Yeah, I just vomited inside my mouth asking that last one.
KRISTA WALSH: I think Colin’s already proven that theory wrong with his City of Hell collection. That one kept me up for days! So resounding answer: no! Women may have a different spin on horror but it’s no less effective or skillful. I can’t take credit for itmyself, though. Not so much a one for the creepy.
GARY BONN: I just wish Ren Warom was here to answer you. Her debut novel is with an agent now and will scare people totally… er how do I say this? You know the way people talk about watching scary films whilst hiding behind the sofa? That’s how people will read it – and it’s not even intended to be horror. If she were to write in that genre… Excuse me, I’m off to hide behind a sofa.
EDWARD DRAKE: Trust me, women can scare just as well as men. There really is no gender divide when it comes to genre. Be it horror, war, sport, anything, women can write just as well as, if not better than men.
COLIN F. BARNES: I see no distinction in genders, personally. Women can write equally as horrific stories as men. (Women In Black, and Frankenstein immediately come to mind). I’m not sure why there aren’t more in the mainstream, but I blame traditional publishing for that. Them and their pre-conceived marketing ideas. If more women were given chance to show their horror work, I think the genre would be in much better shape than it is now. Probably less derivative zombie stuff.
VICTORIA GRIESDOORN: I agree with Edward. I think there’s no such thing as gender divide in genre. I think it’s much more determined by personality than gender. But I do think there might be a societal bias. Women in our society are commonly taught to think of themselves as the gentler sex and I think that sometimes shows in genre choices (as readers and writers), not capabilities.
SARAH ANNE LANGTON: Really? People still question this? Erm…. totally amazed folk would even think that chicks writing horror was an issue in genre fiction these days. I can tie my own shoelaces too.
What Mr Drake said 🙂
JAMES MAZZARO: I think different things scare women as opposed to men. Take for example Anne Rice. While her vampires are deadly, they use the art of seduction far more than what we saw from Stephen King’s Mr Barlow in Salem’s Lot. Men concentrate on blood and gore and delivering that shock scene in vivid detail. What I see from women is deeper levels of suspense and far more intricate motives for their heroes and villains.
Both methods are extremely effective. The goal is to keep the reader turning the pages far past their bedtime.
KAREN REAY-DAVIES: Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818, I count that as horror, indeed, it’s probably the first horror story. as Camilla didn’t come until, what? 1870 something. Interesting to note, the monster made of body parts that embarks on a terrible path of revenge was written by a woman and the two next nearest horror stories about sexeh vamps were written by men : le Fanu and Stoker respectively. Maybe it’s the men folk who lean to the softer types of horror, but are too shy to ‘come out’?;p But to answer the question. Yes, I think women are equally as capable of writing any genre as male writers.
SARAH ANNE LANGTON: Yes, Mary Shelley never dabbled in gore & Bram Stoker never touched on the sexual natures of vampires. Really don’t think an author’s approach is defined by virtue of their sex.
I never thought it was an issue until critics and interviewers asked me about it – and that was last year, not in 1954. Depressing. But speaking of writers block (literally), when writing, so you auto-censor yourselves? Have you ever changed entire scenes after realizing you couldn’t let it in? If so, what was the scene and what was the genre?
KRISTA WALSH: Can’t say I have. I’ve come close in the most recent project I’m working on. It’s just a short paragraph that’s sure to upset some people, but I’m standing by it.
JAMES MAZZARO: I have one of those fertile minds where stories are playing all the time in my head. The best way for the story to come out is to put myself in a locked room and write. I wrote a mothers love in the middle of the night in about an hour. The words flew onto the page faster than I could grasp what I was writing. I enjoyed writing it so much I couldn’t wait to see how it was going to turn out. When I sent it to Colin, he asked me to expand on the conflict between mrs Gray and the demon. It just clicked.
Since I signed on Twitter, I’ve noticed how many horror writers are out there, promoting or just trying to get published – if not already – and yet publishers and critiques always say the genre is in decline in popularity. I personally don’t believe it, but do you?
COLIN F BARNES: Yes, I do believe it is in decline. You can see it in bookshops; the shelf space is given over to Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. What little shelf space that there is for Horror, it’s mostly stalwarts like King, Lovecraft, Barker et al. Supermarkets, which are selling more books than bookshops these days, rarely have any horror on their shelves of thrillers, romance, and women’s fiction.
If you look at online marketplaces for horror, there’s really nothing of note, hardly any pro markets or zines, just a few smaller token or non-paying ones. Then when we look at Amazon, horror is mostly made up of badly produced derivative zombie, werewolf, vampire fiction and old classic collections. There’s very few top-end horror novels in the marketplace compared to other genres.
But, genres are cyclical. In 5 or 10 years we might see Scifi and Fantasy recede, and PR/UF go the way of the dodo, and Horror return to its former 80s/90s heyday.
This is one of the reasons why I didn’t focus on horror for Day of Demons, instead the focus was on fantasy and dark fantasy with a few horror stories mixed in to give it a wider appeal.
VICTORIA GRIESDOORN: Well, I think when publishers and critics talk about a genre being in decline, they mean that there are fewer books of that genre published through traditional houses, fewer bought by readers via traditional houses and it’s rare they’re on traditional bestseller’s lists. Publishers and critics still don’t pay much attention to how many indie authors there are writing in a genre and how much they’re selling, unless there’s an indie breakout bestselling success, in which case publishers will flock. But I can’t remember a case like that in the horror genre.
KRISTA WALSH: Since I’m not really a horror writer, I can only answer this question as a Twitter observer. Seems to me like it’s still one of the most popular genres among writers and readers. Sometimes hiding under different genre labels, perhaps, but still with a strong presence.
It’s a Day of Demons giveaway madness!!!
The generous editor will ship a softcover copy of the Days of Demon anthology to one lucky (and international) winner as well as choose three others to win ecopies – but you must leave a comment on here and tweet about it (as proof, the link, please) and sign up to Anachron Press to be eligible. Colin will whisper the winners on Friday the 14th of September at midnight.