A Writer Without Words

Writer's BlockThere comes a point in every writer’s life when he or she has that moment. You know what I’m talking about…that second of sheer terror when a rogue thought appears and begins planting seeds of doubt.

“What if I can’t write anymore?”

It’s a very real, very common fear among us literary types. In Bag of Bones, Stephen King addressed it. His main character had been attempting to publish stockpiled manuscripts for years only to find none of them were any good. Each of us has a moment where we look at our in-progress folders and wonder what’s going to come of the things we’ve started but have yet to finish. We wonder if the legacies we’ve created to date will be enough to sustain us (and in most cases, we know they’re not). But most of all, we wonder about the reality which could accompany that hypothetical loss of words.

Let me tell you what it feels like.

Witer's BlockI have twenty-three unfinished works in my In-Progress folder. Twenty-three of these little monsters are things with mostly- or fully-formed plots in varying stages of completion. Some are short and some are long. They could be something one day. If we expand that to all of the unfinished things I’ve started over the years, we jump to somewhere above eighty. Granted not all of these are marketable things. Many of them are bits and pieces of things that have come and gone and will likely never see the light of day. Some of them are stream-of-consciousness writing, or scenes from dreams… things which could one day be used to fill in gaps in a plot somewhere. My point is, there’s a lot of stuff just hanging out there in the bowels of the cloud, waiting for a day in the sun.

It used to be I could write 6,000 words or more every day. I could rip through a short story in a day or two, a novella in a week. I used to have that writing stamina. Case in point – I wrote my paranormal romance novella, Blood Doll, in four days sitting in my grandmother’s hospital room in September 2011. It was what I did to keep my mind off the fact that she was sicker than we realized and would ultimately land in a nursing home for the last three years of her life. But back then I could do that, and the words coming out of me were good.

But the last four years have seen me on a steady decline word-wise. It really began in April 2012 with the crippling depression following my father’s death. Losing him changed me, and not for the better. I got very, very lost, and if we’re being perfectly honest, I’m still doing a little bit of searching. Not to find who I was, mind you…but who I am now without him in my life.

From April 2012 to December 2014, I completed and published two novels, a co-authored novella, and five short stories, each with longer lead times in between. Also during that time, I had the rights to four works returned to me, which on top of the nightmare that was my life for those few years, was a blow to my writerly ego. They were doing pretty well, but my publisher chose to go in a different direction, and I had no control over the fate of my beloved books. Couple that with the multiple times I’ve been burned by independent presses, it sort of put me off the idea of submitting anything. Frustration and heartbreak suck, y’all.

Since January 1, 2015, I have completed two short stories. Only one has been contracted. I have two publishers waiting on novels which aren’t written. I have two blogs languishing by the wayside while I sit here paralyzed by my own self-doubt. I have ideas, sure. Lots of them. I even have notebooks full of outlines and scribbled notes for various plots and scenes, but I can’t find the words to properly execute what’s in my head.

There’s real, physical pain associated with this type of writer’s block. Anxiety hurts, and the tension it causes in my body brings headaches, muscle pain, and all sorts of other aches and itches. The Pavlovian response to those negative stimuli is enough to break any writer of the habit. The thought that doing something I love will come with that sort of physical pain has put me off even trying lately. I know, I know…that’s a stupid way to look at things and I’m only hurting myself in the end. Logically, I get that.

Emotionally…that’s another story. So rather than sitting down at my computer or with my tablet and actually doing the writing, I find all manner of things to fill up my time. Yes, it’s a bad habit, but it’s one I’m trying to break. I know better than to let it get the best of me, but sometimes I can’t help it.

Having attended multiple conventions since my “professional” writing career started five years ago, I’ve heard every argument imaginable both for and against the concept of writer’s block. Some people say it doesn’t exist and is an excuse to procrastinate. Some say it’s real and is deadly. Others waffle between the two extremes. Personally, I believe it can be some of both. Having survived nearly a year of it, I can say it’s certainly not always an excuse. Has it been in the past? Yes. But right now, it’s not, and it’s horrible.


That man is my literary hero, in case you didn’t already know. It’s those very words above which have kept me plodding along all these months, adding words here and there to the various and sundry things in my collection. As a matter of fact, yesterday was the first day in months I actually made some sort of headway. Two-thousand words in one day is nothing short of a miracle for me right now and while I’m very happy with yesterday’s session and the outcome, I still find myself worrying about what today and tomorrow will bring. Can I do that again? Can I top it? What happens if I never finish that story?

The next time I sit down at a keyboard, there’s a good chance I’ll not get out but 100 words. Maybe even less. I can’t control the output these days. At least, not with any real consistency. I’m self-doubting and second-guessing. It sucks. It’s hard. But it’s also life.

My point here is that we aren’t always procrastinating. Sometimes we really are stuck. But it’s a phase, and this phase, like any other, will eventually pass. I’ll find my words again one day. And if you’re stuck like me, you will too.

Things Which Shouldn’t be Things That Actually Are Things

As the title of this post suggests, I’ve had a new inner mantra these days.

“Jeebus…why is that even a thing?”

screaming girl

I find myself constantly amazed, annoyed, disgusted… in Gordon Ramsay’s words, Gobsmacked, by the world around me. Things keep happening on all fronts, and I can’t seem to wrap my head around these goings-on and still function properly.

[Warning: angry speech and profanity ahead. Continue at your own risk.]

I’ve been pretty silent lately (okay, completely silent), but as I’ve said in the past, my mother always taught me to keep my trap shut if I couldn’t be nice. Seeing as how she’s been living with me these last few months while we were having the work finished on her new house, I’d probably do well to abide by her suggestions since she can do things to me in my sleep now.

[When she reads this, she’s going to laugh and yell at me for it, but that’s okay.]

This post will probably offend everyone at one time because, well, that’s just how I roll lately. Most of these things probably shouldn’t be a thing, but they are, and they annoy me. And this is my blog. And before we get started, watch this. It’s kinda true:

[Disclaimer: I’m not actually a mean person. I am, however, VERY pregnant and highly annoyed. I’m tired of everyone feeling so entitled to change everyone else’s worlds just because something hurts their feelings, like it’s going to make a bit of freaking difference in the long run. Everyone has a right to be offended, but the people doing the offending also have a right to their opinions. So everyone really just needs to suck it up and sit the hell down. And for the love of Pete, get over it already!]

So now that everyone is properly pissed off, let’s begin, shall we?


1. The Confederate Flag Debate: Seriously. I’m glad people finally had the good sense to take the flag down. I hate that 9 good people had to lose their lives senselessly for it to happen though. This should have happened 60 years ago. Contrary to the redneck mentality (and yes I can say that because I am the daughter of a card-carrying redneck southern boy, God rest his poor soul), it is an offensive and highly inappropriate symbol of a horrible time in this country’s bloody history. Do I think all Confederate monuments, graves, and paraphernalia should be wiped clean from the books? Hell no. By trying to erase the past, future generations won’t learn from it. Put the damned flag in a museum and shut up about it already.

Side Rant: You see, Charleston is my home. In my previous life as an employee of the Diocese of Charleston and a student at the College of Charleston, I had the pleasure of meeting the Reverend-Senator more than once. He was a good man and neither he nor his congregation deserved the things that happened to them. The dumbass who did it shouldn’t be hailed as a hero or a martyr or a poster-child for any racist faction. He’s a dumb kid who was taught to hate people for no reason. He’s a criminal and should be treated as such. End. of. Discussion. No, he doesn’t need to be lynched in the street. No, he doesn’t need to be set on fire. He needs to pass through the system just as every other criminal should, be tried, convicted, and sentenced. Reverend Pinckney would likely have been appalled by the threats of vigilante violence against the kid. If memory serves, he was one who campaigned against violence in the first place.

2. Kindle Unlimited: Okay, so Amazon sucks giant, hairy donkey balls. We know this. We have known it for awhile. Amazon is almost single-handledly responsible for the destruction of the literary market because their platform allows anyone to publish anything at any time for any reason without guidelines or regulations in place to keep the work at a minimum standard. I’m a writer; I’ve studied this market. And yeah, it sucks. So, in a maneuver to combat the shitstorm they started, Amazon is looking for new and improved ways to boost their sales while simultaneously trying to bork the authors out of their royalties. WE SAW THIS COMING, PEOPLE. So now that a bunch of people bought into Amazon’s hype and allowed the consumerist hydra to grow yet another head, we all want to be hurt, horrified, and offended by their dickheadedness. Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t the literary market always been about the publisher making the money while stealing shamelessly from the artist? You want to stop the insanity? Opt out of KU and move on with your life. Createspace ain’t the only print-publishing platform out there.

HOWEVER, let me play Devil’s Advocate here: I’ve talked to several authors who are in the KU program. The deal here is KU pays the author based on number of pages read. So yeah, if you’re churning out crap for the sake of doing it thinking you’re gonna make a buck, then no you probably won’t make money. If people go into the book, read two pages, and walk away because they’re bored or irritate or, heaven forbid, the writing is so atrocious they can’t read it, then you get paid for two pages read, not the other fifty. Though if you take your time and write something good, chances are the readers will be hooked and your whole book will be read. This is happening to quite a few people I know, and the preliminary research shows the KU rates for a completed book are actually better than standard KDP rates.

3. Rape Culture: Yep, I’m going there. RAPE CULTURE IS NOT A THING, PEOPLE. It’s a tag placed on a horrible reality by a bunch of entitled assholes who don’t want to admit that the things they’re doing are wrong. Rape is not a culture. It’s a crime. And I’m so terribly effing sorry, but looking at women and saying “Oh, well just don’t get raped” ain’t gonna fix the problem. Yer gonna have to teach the people doing the raping that why yes, it is actually A BAD THING. There shouldn’t be questions of consent. There shouldn’t be blurred lines. Victims shouldn’t be villainized. Rape is rape is rape is rape is rape. It’s illegal. It’s bad. It’s traumatic. It’s horrible. And rapists deserve all the punishment this world has yet to conceive of. I don’t give a flying f*** how much money you have, who you are, or how pretty you might be. You take away another person’s right to choose to have sex with you, then you’re a rapist. End of story. You have no goddamned argument anymore, so STFU and go to freaking jail, you prick.

I’m just gonna put this out there: Bill Cosby, funny as his comedy may be, is a rapist. Was I sorry to see the truth come out? A little, because I grew up watching The Cosby Show and a tiny part of my childhood died that day. But the fact remains, he drugged women, thereby removing their ability to consent to sex, which means *gasp* HE’S A GODDAMNED RAPIST. Don’t sugar-coat that shit just because he’s famous or old. Apples are still apples, no matter how you paint them, folks.

4. Race & Gender as Factors in Writing Ability: So this one really tweaks my ass. Hard. And let me be perfectly clear up front – this has NOTHING to do with racial or gender bias. I’m a woman, damn it. I know what discrimination is because I do write in the speculative fiction realm. Yes, I go play in the boys’ sandbox, and you know what? I’m pretty damned good at it. I know I am. I don’t need validation or vindication. But what I do need is for all the trolls out there to sit down and shut the hell up because ninety-five percent of them don’t have a freaking clue what the hell they’re talking about. It pisses me off that this has to be a thing because it shouldn’t. Who or what someone may be should have absolutely no bearing on his or her ability to do anything. Everyone talks about how this country has swung so far into PC-land that everyone is afraid to talk about certain things.

That’s sooooooo not true.

It appears race and gender are the two things everyone is hellbent on screaming the loudest about, and both topics, to be perfectly honest, should be non-issues.

So here’s my actual gripe: It doesn’t matter what gender or race you are…unless you’re an A-list author with a rabid following writing for a large press and have been doing so for years, you are not making money as a speculative fiction author. The market sucks. It does. It just really and truly sucks for all of us. We’re all struggling. People just don’t read anymore unless it’s some half-assed young adult romance or badly written pseudo-mainstream BDSM. I think Stephen King might actually be the only non-romance genre writer still making money today.

Am I a woman? Yes.
Am I ashamed of that? No.
Do I advertise it widely? Not really.
Why? Because it isn’t necessary.

A good book is a good book, and I personally don’t care what the author looks like. Coincidentally, one of the best genre writers I know is an African-American woman. She’s a beautiful person inside and out with talent coming out of her ears. When she’s finally “discovered”, this world will never be the same. [But don’t take my word for it…go see for yourself.]

Lexxx and I had this conversation the other day because we have so many friends caught in this trap. It really upsets me to think these people who are so talented aren’t allowed to believe in themselves due to this stupid social bias. I get angry every time I think about it.

For what it’s worth, here’s my advice to every non-white-male speculative fiction author: Presenting your specific race or gender as a marketing tool shouldn’t be necessary. Promote your work as your work and let it shine. Don’t pigeonhole yourself to prove a point that most of the population is going to just ignore anyway. Oh, and one more thing… if you’re concerned about a person buying a book based on your photo, chances are that’s not the type of reader you want in the first place.

5. Gay Marriage: LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

Before you come after me with the torches and pitchforks, shut up and listen for a minute. This is probably the thing that should be the least of a thing there is right now. Why? Because we’re talking about BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS. The ability of two people, regardless of who or what they are, to engage in a civil union, shouldn’t even be open for discussion. The supreme court said it’s a constitutional right, so LET IT GO ALREADY. And all the religious nutbags out there screaming that their constitutional rights are at stake (1) clearly don’t understand those rights and (2) are dumb as hell. Just because the supreme court ruled that gay couples can’t be denied a marriage license doesn’t mean they’re forcing the clergy to perform those ceremonies. Besides, the officiant is more scenery than substance at a wedding anyway. As soon as you have the marriage license in hand, you’re married. You don’t need a preacher. You just need a notary public. That’s just how it is. All they’re saying is that the government can’t discriminate when it comes to the issuance of a marriage license. Because let’s face it, it may not involve skin color, but it’s still effing discrimination. Might I remind everyone that Separation of Church and State was implemented in the founding of this country FOR A REASON? Seriously. Feds don’t control churches. Likewise, churches can’t control the feds. Nor should they think they’re important enough to try (Yes, I’m looking at you, Texas.).

Oh, and if you can’t tell, I completely support gay marriage. Some of my best friends and favorite colleagues are of “alternate lifestyles” and I love them all like family. If they want to get married and be as miserable as the rest of us married schmucks, more power to them. Oh, and once my Notary application is finished processing and my license is issued, yes, I’ll be more than happy to officiate.

So there you have it. None of these things should be things, but they are because common sense seems to be lost among the trolls. And now that everyone is sufficiently offended, I’m going to go do something constructive.

Big Bad II – Available Now!

Here at last for your reading pleasure… Big Bad II, now with bigger, badder villains! Gorgeous cover, beautifully disturbing stories, and a nice, healthy dose of WTF. John Hartness & Emily Leverett have really outdone themselves this time, folks. This is a serious cast list author-wise, and I’m honored to be included among such talented people. The very idea of an anthology filled with stories about bad guys makes me happy.

This book… and all of us in it… we are the reason why YOU should be afraid of the dark.


Publication Date: February 24, 2015 Dark Oak Press

Everybody loves the bad guys, and this second edition of The Big Bad brings you more to love! A collection of best-selling fantasy and horror writers brings you twenty-four all-new tales of vampires, demons, ghosts, zombies, and the most terrifying monsters of all – humans. Crack open the pages, if you dare, and explore two dozen tales of humor and horror by some of the brightest names in the business!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | B&N Hardcover

The list of authors includes:

John Glover                 John Hartness
Selah Janel                  Gail Martin

Jason Corner               S.H. Roddey
Kasidy Mansico           James R. Tuck
Sara Taylor Woods      Eden Royce
Sarah Adams              Jay Requard

Riley Miller                  Edmund Schubert
Stuart Jaffe
                 Emily Leverett
Bobby Nash                Nicole Kurtz
Lindsey Lewis             Eric Guy
Matthew Saunders      Neal Litherland
Misty Massey              M. B. Weston
David B. Coe

My contribution is called “Skippin’ Stones”, and here’s the first part of it:

Skippin’ stones down by the crick…

That was where any momma could find her little boy on a Saturday afternoon in Rock Mountain, Tennessee. We would line up, one by one in even spaces all up and down the loamy crick-bed, searchin’ for the best, shiniest river-rocks to thump across the surface of that little offshoot of the Tennessee River. Sometimes we would all huddle up together and compare stones before havin’ a contest to see who could skip the farthest, or who could drag the most jumps outta our rocks. There weren’t no television or nothin’ like that, so us kids had to entertain ourselves. Skippin’ stones meant we got to throw things without getting’ in trouble.

Me, I always liked the little, flat ones. Perfectly round, and light-colored. Sometimes I picked up ones with veins of dark sumthin-or-other runnin’ through ‘em, but most of the time I went for the white or light gray ones. Call it superstition, but those light colors always did me good. I still believe it, too, ‘cause the day I met the Devil, I was skippin’ rocks with dark streaks in ‘em.

Me an’ Jimmy Tanner was out by the crick one afternoon when we was six and Jimmy’s momma came lookin’ for him, mad as a wet hen and armed with her favorite whippin’ stick.

“Get yo’self back to that house right his minute, Jimmy-boy!” she screeched, wavin’ her hands around like her tail was on fire. That skinny little stick wobbled around in the air, but we knowed better than to think it would break. Them green wood switches she picked would bend into all sortsa knots before they’d up and break. “Yo’ daddy is gonna ring yo’ neck for what you done gone and did!” The boy took off runnin’ like his tail was gonna be on fire…and it prob’ly was, too, cause his momma really liked her whippin’ sticks. She caught me ‘cross the knees one time for smartin’ off to her. I never did it again, I tell you what.

After Jimmy run off and left me standin’ knee-deep in the cool water with my shoes up on a sunny rock, I bent down and picked up somethin’ outta the water. It was a stone; the flattest, shiniest one I ever seen. It was bright white, but it had a streak of sparkly black runnin’ right down its middle.

I’m gonna have your soul, Mickey.

I felt the voice, like a cold chill of goosebumps up my back and my arms. It sounded like the wind, like nature had found her voice and wasn’t too happy with me.

You can’t run, and you can’t hide, Mickey. I’m gonna take your soul straight to Hell.

“Who’s there?” I called out. Now, don’t get me wrong…I was scared. So scared I didn’t notice the warm trickle down the inside of my right leg ‘til long after I’d gone screamin’ home and crawled up cryin’ in my momma’s arms.

You know who I am, Mickey. Don’t play dumb.

“Now you listen to me, you dirty ol’ Devil!” I screamed. I know I sound a lot braver than I was, but when you’re eight years old, you ain’t got the good sense God gave a wet paper bag. “You gonna turn right back around and you is gonna go straight back to Heck!” I couldn’t say Hell yet. Momma woulda washed my mouth out for sure. It didn’t matter. The Devil knew what I was talking about.

Tell me, Mickey… what’s it like to be afraid of something you can’t see?

A Lass’s Guide to Dating in the Modern Realm

Guys…this… I can’t even.

It’s my birthday, and I’ve been saving this for a very special occasion. It was originally meant for different blog, but I have to do it here. You see, Ippick and I have gotten to be pretty good pals these last few months. He’s a crass, cranky old troll, and I sort of like that in a guy. He felt compelled to do this, and far be it from me to get in the way of a troll on a mission. First of all, he’s bigger than me. Second…well, he’s a freaking troll! Just go with it. It’s worth it, I promise. Selah and I learned the hard way not to piss off the trolls.

Disclaimer from SJ: Take Ippick’s advice at your own risk. Most of his suggestions would probably get charges filed against you, so read this for kicks and giggles and not as advice you’d actually try. Seriously, just don’t. Remember, he’s a troll, and he definitely likes to rile people up.

A Lass’s Guide to Dating in the Modern Realm

By Ippick Bonecrusher

I’m not surprised t’be asked for my romantical advice. Bein’ one of the prime troll bachelors in Kingdom City gives me a unique perspective to be able to help poor whiny single sods like all ye readin’ this thing.

First off, lasses, all the drivel and tripe yer readin’ in books is all well an’ good, but yer wastin’ all yer time with all those nicey nicey gestures. Think of all the money yer pourin’ out on flowers or self-help books when ye could take it down to the strip clubs and meet someone there! Now I’m sure I’m rufflin’ feathers, but lasses, I mean ye, too, as I’m told women occasionally like to indulge in that kinda thing (though most females I take me clothes off for start payin’ me to put ‘em back on. Even then there’s no reason t’get offended. I make back what I had to pay to buy ‘em dinner).

If ye wanna meet someone, go where people are. Don’t go sighin’ in yer room or poutin’ under a table somewhere. Go out to one of those new-fangled coffee places or stores or the like. I don’t like online datin’ meself, simply because while it’s easy for ye to make yerself seem better, it’s just as likely the person yer chattin’ up is making himself or herself look better. A good friend of mine had problems with online shenanigans, so be warned.

So yer shy and ye manage to pry yerself out of the house and go somewhere where there’s people. Well, then ye need to practice. Just go up to some random sod and say “Hey there handsome, you smelt my iron if ye know what I mean” or “Fe fi fo fum, drop yer pants ‘cause here I come!” or whatever the love talk is nowadays. If they’re taken aback and ye think ye can put up with em, great! If yer not really interested, just walk away before they answer. If they start to turn ye down, just bust out laughin’, point at them, and walk off, shakin’ yer head. That’ll keep em on their toes and wonderin’ why yer so special and superior.

If ye happen to see someone who ye really want to fill yer grainsack, just knock ‘em with yer club or shoppin’ cart or somethin’ to let them know yer interested. Not enough to give ‘em a concussion, mind ye, just a tap or four. If ye don’t have anything t’whack ‘em with, just kick ‘em in the knee a few times.

Once ye have the interest of someone, ye gotta keep them on their toes. Don’t compliment ‘em too much, but if ye do make sure it’s really sweet lovey talk like ‘yer eyes remind me of those creepy dolls that can stare right through the soul an’ back.’ If yer worried about new-fangled issues like who pays, just make sure ye leave the table at a restaurant before they do so they hafta pay the bill. If they seem huffy, just hit ‘em with that lovey talk afterwards and they’ll get over it. If they don’t, then they’re an idjit and ye should dump ‘em, takin’ care to really hit them with yer club this time. Ye ladies want us to think yer worth it, so ye gotta train the mate you want. Now, granted, I’m single, but I’m single for my own self-preservation. I’ve seen what marriage means for my friend Uljah, and it ain’t somethin’ I’m willin’ to risk me life over anytime soon. But if that’s somethin’ ye want, then ye gotta suck it up and go all in. Remember yer worth it, even if yer stupid looking or a little dim. Don’t waste time on makeovers or betterin’ yerself, just put yerself out there and keep kickin’ people until ye find the mate that’s right for ye.

Ippick Bonecrusher - Olde SchoolIppick Bonecrusher is a mean sonofadragon who resides in Kingdom City, The Land. A real estate agent by trade, he also occupies many odd jobs to make up for his poor people skills. Although this is Ippick’s first attempt at freelance writing, he is very prone to giving unsolicited advice. You can find him in Olde School, book one of The Kingdom City Chronicles, which can be found in Print, Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.

 * * * * *

 Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. The many people around her that supported her love of reading and curiosity probably made it worse. Her e-books The Other Man, Holly and Ivy, and Mooner are published through Mocha Memoirs Press. Lost in the Shadows, a collection of short stories celebrating the edges of ideas and the spaces between genres was co-written with S.H. Roddey. Her work has also been included in The MacGuffin, The Realm Beyond, Stories for Children Magazine, The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil, The Big Bad 2, The Grotesquerie, and Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery. Olde School is the first book in her series, The Kingdom City Chronicles, and is published through Seventh Star Press. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own. Catch up with Selah at,, or @SelahJanel on Twitter.

Guest Post: Eric Dean

Guest Time! Say hello once again to Eric Dean. He was part of the weekend’s madness, and he was so wonderful in working with me on my A Bloody Valentine event that I wanted to show him some extra love. Here’s what he has to say about the craft of writing (and be sure to check out him out on the web at

The hardest thing about writing is writing, and unfortunately, the only way to do it is just to do it. I’ve spent most of what life I can actually remember wanting to be a writer. I spent a good deal of the latter half planning to be a writer. Only in the last couple years have I actually been writing, in the hopes of one day becoming a writer. So, once you tackle that aspect of the process, what the hell do you actually write about? As a kid, I wanted to be a fantasy and sci-fi writer, because that’s what I enjoyed reading. It turns out fate had other plans, as an experimental foray into writing horror led to recognition and appreciation, and a soul-deep need for recognition and appreciation led to writing more horror. Funny how that works.

So, once you’ve decided to write horror, what’s the process? What the point? What’s the goal? Haven’t we exhausted every possibility in the genre? Do we really need more Lovecraftian stories about giant, otherworldly beasts from time immemorial? Do we need more slasher-porn in written form with exhaustingly detailed descriptions of torture and dismemberment? How many unique spins can we put on the vampire or zombie story? Why am I asking so many questions? I guess because I’m still trying to find the answers, myself. What makes a horror story new, interesting and successful? The truth is, I don’t know. I’ve only been at this for a short time, and unlike most writers (I assume), I’m not much of a reader. I do read, but maybe only three or four books a year, and most of them aren’t horror (or even fiction, for that matter).

When I decide to write a horror story, it’s usually because a story I need to tell happens to be horror, not because I set out to write a zombie story, or a vampire story, or an evil, man-eating toilet story. I get a lot of ideas for stories, and some of them are horror. Because I’m “writing horror” now, I follow up on those ideas and set the others aside for the future. To me, horror isn’t just about being shocked or scared, but about being uncomfortable, confused, lost, and disoriented. What scares me aren’t monsters or gore, but loneliness and emptiness… suddenly looking around and realizing that you have no idea who you are, where you are, or how you got there. To me, the most horrifying thing I can imagine is waking up at 50 and realizing I was never a writer… that I never did what I had been wanting to do since I was a kid. I think my stories revolve around themes like that – not facing a monster so much as facing yourself, your past, and coming to terms with who you really are. It can be just as terrifying and painful as getting eviscerated by a werewolf. I mean, I’ve never been eviscerated by a werewolf, but I HAVE been in love, and there’s no way they’re that different.


Edited by Jerry E. Benns
From Charon Coin Press

Eric Dean is featured in State of Horror: Illinois.

State of Horror: Illinois State of Horror: New Jersey State of Horror: North Carolina
State of Horror: Illinois State of Horror: New Jersey State of Horror North Carolina
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Learning to Be Still

It’s late, I know. I’m usually in bed by now, but tonight seems to be one of those nights where sleep eludes me, even when I need it most.

We sat down tonight and watched Book of Life. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a good animated movie, and because of my fascination with the concept of death and the ideology surrounding The Day of The Dead, I was excited about it. Now, I seem to be in the minority when I say I enjoyed the movie…Most people I know who have seen it weren’t impressed. In all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have liked it so much if it hasn’t struck me on such a personal level.

I started crying five minutes in and didn’t stop until…well, I haven’t stopped yet. Not really. The concept of being surrounded by family already gone is still a particularly touchy subject for me. It’s been almost three years since I lost my father, and it’s still too fresh. Too easy to get lost in daydreams. There are still days when the grief takes my breath away. Days like today, for example. The idea of Manolo having the opportunity to see his mother again (ignoring the cost of said luxury, of course) is one I’ve often considered. On nights like tonight, I find myself considering not just what I would give to see my Dad again, but also how I would react to the situation. There are so many things I want to say – that I love him, that I’m sorry I wasn’t a better daughter, that I’d give anything to redo the last ten years of his life and actually be a bigger part of it instead of being a stupid kid – but knowing how well I know myself, I know I’d probably do nothing but hang on for dear life and cry.

One of my happiest memories is dancing with my father at my wedding. I cried all over him then… I can only imagine what I’d do now. It’s amazing how after a person is gone the happy memories are the ones which hurt the worst. They don’t hurt quite as bad now as they did three years ago, mind you…but each one still comes gift-wrapped in barbed wire.

Since my father’s passing I’ve lost other family, friends, coworkers, and pets as well…more of each than I care to count. And each time I lose another, it rips the scab off the biggest wound and I find myself back in the middle of an emotional bleed-out. Of the losses, the only one I can reflect on and be happy is my grandmother. I miss her terribly, but I also had a long time to come to terms with losing her. She passed April 30th, 2014 at 90 years old, and after a fifteen-year battle with dimentia. Her passing was a blessing in some ways; she no longer hurts, she doesn’t suffer, and she and my grandfather are finally together again after more than fifty years apart.

I attended her visitation, as most of my family did. When I cried, it wasn’t for her loss, but for the things she’d gained. Seeing her lying there, completely at peace, simultaneously broke my heart and made me smile. It was the first time in my life I’d ever seen her not in pain. She was beautiful. She was my grandmother again, for the first time in ten years.

It’s easier not to break down and cry now, though I still want to every time I think of my Dad. And it isn’t that I’m crying for him so much as I’m crying for me. It’s selfish, but I let my grief and my personal sorrow get to me. I let myself wallow in misery, even if only for a moment.  I miss them. I want them back. All of them. My heart aches for a time when I was naive to the harsh reality of death, when the pieces of my past weren’t scattered across the floor of my life.

With each loss, I change a little bit more. These days it’s a constant quest for a new version of “normal”, and in the process I’m still trying to learn how to be still again, to just sit without distraction to fill the voids in my head and my heart. One day I’ll find that peace, even if it takes another three years. I haven’t lost my faith yet.

A Bloody Valentine: Julianne Snow

Ever heard that phrase “save the best for last”? I have, and I plan to. I’ve read a bit of this lady’s stuff, and she’s pretty freakin’ good. Just sayin’.

Final victim of the night: Julianne Snow.


It’s Valentine’s Day. What’s your take on the “Most Romantic Day of the Year”?

Honestly, it’s really just another day to me. Sure, romantic gestures tend to take place and you’re more often than not likely to receive flowers, but does one really need a day especially for romance? Why can’t every day be a romantic one?

What made you decide horror would be your genre of choice?

I’d like to think it was a conscious choice, but it truly wasn’t—when I picked up the pen, horror is what came out of me…

From where do you pull your horror inspiration?

From the world around me would be the simplest way to say it. Sure, I may write about supernatural creatures or monsters some of the time, but the crux of what the story itself hinges upon are pulled from real world experiences or occurrences.

What is one horror stereotype you absolutely despise? What is one you love?

I think it’s the stereotype that horror itself is not a viable genre or a worthwhile one to explore. Horror fanatics exist, even those who aren’t willing to admit it to themselves. As for one that I love—how can anyone pick from all their darlings?? I suppose there are a few that are fairly tired, but someone always finds a way to rejuvenate it!

What scares you?

I don’t get scared all that often, but there are a few things that truly frighten me (and yes, I consider them different things… A scare is something that momentarily shocks you, but to be frightened is an altogether different kettle of fish!). I think the state of the world frightens me, especially a lot of the events happening overseas at the moment.


Edited by Jerry E. Benns
From Charon Coin Press

Julianne Snow is featured in Illinois and New Jersey.

State of Horror: Illinois State of Horror: New Jersey State of Horror: North Carolina
State of Horror: Illinois State of Horror: New Jersey State of Horror North Carolina
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A Bloody Valentine: D.J. Tyrer

Here’s an evening treat for you all! D.J. Tyrer, also of State of Horror fame, has given us a bit o’ flash fiction to enjoy!


By DJ Tyrer

 “Whenever the cry of the banshee is heard,” Malcolm had said, “one of the clan is doomed to die.”

Duncan had laughed at the superstition. His kin here in the old country were an odd lot. At least, that’s what he’d thought until he heard the shriek of the banshee, a high-pitched ululation.

All of a sudden, Duncan really wished he hadn’t taken the late-night stroll along the cliff-top path.

The ululation came again, closer now. Fearfully, he glanced over his shoulder and thought he saw a white, vaporous figure further along the path. The banshee, the harbinger of death for his clan, was close behind him.

Duncan picked up his pace, then began to run, desperate to escape.

The cry came yet again, and he ran heedlessly through the darkness. Suddenly, there was nothing underfoot. For a moment, Duncan felt himself fly, weightless, through the darkness, then he was falling, plunging down to the jagged rocks and sea below, the ululating scream of the banshee echoing in his ears.


Edited by Jerry E. Benns
From Charon Coin Press

D.J. Tyrer is featured in State of Horror: Illinois.

State of Horror: Illinois State of Horror: New Jersey State of Horror: North Carolina
State of Horror: Illinois State of Horror: New Jersey State of Horror North Carolina
Barnes & Noble
CCP Store
Barnes & Noble
CCP Store
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CCP Store

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