New Release Features!

Hot off the Horror Press!!

Publishers-If you have authors that write horror, dark fantasy, or dark sci-fi that have a new release coming out,then contact me at cnola.author@gmail.com to have a New Release Feature scheduled. Booking now for Oct-Dec. 2021.


New Release features will now include a short author interview with bio and author photo, and book review of the new release.  I will not schedule more than two on any given week to give your author/book the attention they deserve. This is on a first come, first serve basis. 


Please note-self published authors are acting as their own publishers and will be regarded as such. Indie authors and self-published authors are more than welcome to schedule these features.  


I do not read or review romance/erotica/dark erotica or content containing graphic sexual violence of underage characters.  

Red Candle
 

11/06/2021

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Meet James Carlson

Author of "Midnight in the City of The Carrion Kid"

Congratulations on your new release! Such a huge accomplishment for any author, whether it’s the first release or the tenth release. Before we begin, let’s tell the readers a little bit about you.


My name is James Carlson and I’m an author of weird, dark fiction. I’m also a husband, a stepfather, the owner of many pets, an avid reader, a movie nerd, and a fan of the outdoors. After traveling across the country as a young man and spending time in a few different cities, I finally returned to my home state of Pennsylvania. Wanting a break from working in music journalism, I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. Horror had always been my favorite genre, so I decided to give it a whirl. Since then, my short stories have appeared in several anthologies.

I saw the releases of two collections last year—SEVEN EXHUMATIONS and THE EVER-DESCENDING STAIRCASE—as well as a dystopian sci-fi horror novella titled THE LEGION MACHINE. Also, I have a brand-new novella available, MIDNIGHT IN THE CITY OF THE CARRION KID, which combines elements of bizarro horror, paranormal adventure, and creature feature.  

First, can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you have any rituals that you keep before you sit down to write or do you just write whenever and wherever inspiration strikes? 

My pre-writing ritual has changed in recent months. I used to hit the track and run three to six miles before sitting down at my computer, but I got Covid last January and my body hasn’t allowed me to get back to it yet. Nowadays I wake up at 6:00, feed my pigs and dogs and skunk, brew some coffee, see our youngest boy off to school, then sit down to write. I plug away at the keys until about 4:00. Some days are more productive than others, though.

How about favorite writing spots, whether in or outside of your home, any place that just really puts you in the zone? 

There was a time when I wrote on the island in the kitchen. That’s where the best light in the house is. The coffee maker, too. But I’ve since set up a desk in the family room by the back door. That way I can let the animals in and out as needed. There are more distractions there, but I’ve gotten pretty good at overcoming them. Every writer knows that distractions love to pull us away from our creative process, and it can be easy to let them. But once I’m truly into a story, it owns my sole focus. It stays with me after I’ve finished for the day, and it calls to me when I wake up in the morning.   

How many hours a day do you write and are you a full-time author or do you also have a day/night job? 

I currently write full-time. Typically, I write eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. Sometimes on the weekends, too. Before this, I worked in behavioral health and substance abuse treatment. Then Covid happened, and the resulting lockdown. To make matters worse, I got Covid and was sick for a few weeks, followed by long-haul symptoms. After regaining my health (for the most part), I decided to take some time off to pursue my writing goals, hoping to make a career of it. But I’m still quite a ways from making that happen. 

How about influences and inspiration, who or what, most inspires you to write?

So many things inspire me to write. A sentence might pop into my head and ask for an entire story to be written around it. An idea arrives and begs to be explored. Nature inspires me a great deal. So does human behavior, the ever-changing world, relationships, society, politics, and those nightmares you just can’t shake from your head. Every experience, every observation is an opportunity for a story. 


So, speaking of inspiration, what inspired this story? 

This story is an extension of the first novella I ever wrote. Never released, it’s titled Funeral Music and introduces an elderly protagonist in his last moments. After he passes, he’s guided through a spectral city by a talking cat named Mister. He is tasked with finding his door to the afterlife. Using that general concept, I wondered: What if there was a separate city that occupied the territory between life and death? What if people’s souls went there when they were on the brink of death but not quite ready to pass? A place to await one’s fate, where they eventually get resuscitated and yanked back to the world or perish and pass through the black door to the afterworld. 


Do you have a favorite character or scene in the collection, something that is more personal to you or stands out for a particular reason?  Who or which part and what makes it a little bit more meaningful? 

Though he isn’t the most likable character, I’m fond of my protagonist Alistair. His is a redemption story of sorts. I also really like the couple Alistair first encounters on his journey, Nico and Miles. And, of course, I’m pretty attached to Ferret because…well, she gives off some light in an otherwise dark tale. 


The cover for this book is really great. Did you have the concept in mind already for it or did you work with the artist to create it together?  Who was the artist for this concept? 

Luke Spooner did the cover art for this book. I’ve always admired his work, so much so that this is the third cover I’ve commissioned from him. Usually, I give him my vision of what the cover should be. He takes those notes and works his magic, incorporating a few of his own ideas. That was also the case for the Carrion Kid cover.


Were you an avid reader as a child, if so, what was your favorite book and why? 

As a child, I was into The Hardy Boys, as well as those fun choose-your-own-adventure books. But I didn’t fall in love with reading until my mother bought me a horror anthology. I loved it. She bought me more, and I kept on reading. Those stories led me to the books by masters like King, Barker, Gaiman, Koontz, Lovecraft, Poe, etc.    


Speaking of favorite books, what is one book that you consider to be the most underrated novel of our time, or most underrated author? 

Not really underrated authors since they’re both mainstream and widely appreciated in the genre, but I think Barker’s IMAJICA and Gaiman’s NEVERWHERE are both brilliant. I love when characters of a story are transported to other worlds or secret places.  

Both of those are excellent books. IMAJICA is the first Clive Barker that I ever read as a teen. I"ve read it multiple times since.  So, you are here, published, accomplished, living out your dream as a writer. What would your definition of success be at this point? 

Whenever a reader shares that they’ve enjoyed a story I’ve written, I consider that a huge success. Other than that, I suppose making a living from doing something I’m so passionate about would be an absolute triumph. 


That's a great answer, hearing from the reader is certainly a favorite part. So, 

what’s next for you for this upcoming year? 

Right now, I have four short stories out on submission calls. As long as they’re accepted, you should see them popping up here and there in the coming months. I have the CARRION KID companion novella, which will soon go through a massive rewrite. And I am wrapping up a horror noir and cosmic fantasy novel titled THE ELEVENTH DOOR.  


And lastly, just for fun, what was the best money you ever spent, as a writer?  What was it, what was its purpose and what did it mean to you? 

The best money I’ve spent as a writer would probably be on the cover art and illustrations. It thrills me when a visual artist can read my work and create images from what I’ve described. For that reason, I’d love to see one of my stories adapted for film.  


I would have to agree with you, seeing any one of my stories on the big screen wuould be the ultimate thrill.  As always, its been great chatting with you, any last words for our readers? 

You can find all my books on Amazon. My new novella is available at Godless.com, too. I love interacting with readers and other members of the writing community, so visit my social media pages or come out to an event where I’m selling and signing. And if you've supported me by buying my books, I appreciate you more than I can adequately express.   


James Bio:

James G. Carlson is an author of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies. Two collections of his dark fiction have been published through Terror Tract -- SEVEN EXHUMATIONS and THE EVER-DESCENDING STAIRCASE -- as well as a sci-fi horror novella titled THE LEGION MACHINE. From the weird state of Pennsylvania, Carlson drinks too much coffee and writes at a desk surrounded by animals and family in the mad zoo he calls home.

 

A Review of "Midnight in the City of the Carrion Kid"

James Carlson has once again enthralled me with his creativity and imagination in his tale of a purgatory that lies beyond our earthly realm and the next. A city all of its own, on the verge of madness and ruin as the infection at its center grows ever stronger. The Carrion Kid, a rotting  half-demon, half-human soul of rage and hate has appeared here, and is intent on making this its new empire.


Two young lovers in the earthly realm, taken too soon by addiction, find themselves lost here amongst the travelers, those with a foot in and foot out of this in-between place as they wait for the finality of death, or the reward of a second chance. As they try to find each other and make sense of this place, they meet others that dwell there, others that are trying to defeat the Carrion Kid and his sickness that is threatening to condemn them all. 


With vivid imagery, and highly creative details, James brings his version of purgatory to life with one of the most unique storylines that I have read in recent years. A tragic tale lies within but buried underneath is one much more hopeful than you would expect from this city of nightmares and ruin.  


4.5 stars for “Midnight in the City of the Carrion Kid.”

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10/30/2021 
Meet Mike Thorn

New Release "Peel Back and See"

Congratulations on your new release! Such a huge accomplishment for any author, whether it’s the first release or the tenth release.  Before we begin, let’s tell the readers a little bit about you and your work on this book. 

Hey, Candace! Thanks for taking the time. I’m the author of the novel Shelter for the Damned and the short story collection Darkest Hours, both available now from JournalStone. 


I wrote most of my new collection, Peel Back and See, between 2018 and 2021. I’ve described it as my darkest and most personal book yet. I think I’ve been telling the truth.   


First, can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you have any rituals that you keep before you sit down to write or do you just write whenever and wherever inspiration strikes? 

I don’t have anything terribly interesting to report on this front. Sometimes I listen to music while writing, but not always. I almost never listen to anything while editing. 


How about favorite writing spots, whether in or outside of your home, anyplace that just really put you in the zone? 

I migrate between the desk in my office, the living room couch, and my bed. In pre-COVID times, I enjoyed writing in cafes—there’s a cognitive shift that happens when one changes locations, and that can be useful.


How many hours a day do you write and are you a full-time author or do you also have a day/night job? 

I’m currently a full-time PhD student with a teaching assistantship position. I’m taking seminars on screenwriting and prose writing, so I’ve had some opportunity to write new material for those classes this fall (though not as much as I’d like).  


How about influences and inspiration, who or what, most inspires you to write?

I’m probably most inspired by other writers. I try to read as much as humanly possible.

I also take inspiration from dreams and nightmares, relationships, films, daily news, visual art, music, poetry, teaching and being taught. 


So, speaking of inspiration, what inspired this collection, Peel Back and See? 

Given that it’s a short story collection, Peel Back and See draws on a wide range of reference points and influences. Most prominently, the book is informed by intense personal experiences and challenges that sort of consumed the past four years of my life. In terms of literary and philosophical inspirations, Peel takes cues from Kathe Koja, Arthur Schopenhauer, Herman Melville, Henry James, Shirley Jackson, Georges Bataille, Ann Radcliffe, Edgar Allan Poe, Hubert Selby Jr., H.P. Lovecraft, Charles Dickens, Clive Barker, Bret Easton Ellis, Stephen King, and Jim Thompson, among others. 


Do you have a favorite piece in the collection, something that is more personal to you or stands out for a particular reason?  Which piece and what makes it a little bit more meaningful? 

I’ve described “Havoc,” “Deprimer,” and “Fade to White” as something like the “spine” of Peel Back and See. These stories show me venturing into uncharted territory, trying to strike past the armature of genre imagery and get intimately close with the affective experiences of depression, psychological ruptures, and loss. 


Were you an avid reader as a child? If so, what was your favorite book and why? 

Yes, I have always loved reading. J.R.R. Tolkien is the first writer I remember connecting with in a major way. Before I started dipping my toes in adult fiction, my favorite novel was probably The Hobbit or The Fellowship of the Ring. I was drawn to these books’ immersive fictional realities.   


Speaking of favorite books, what is one book that you consider to be the most underrated novel of our time, or most underrated author? 

I don’t know if I could name just one of either, and I’m not even quite sure how I would define the term “underrated.” There are some writers I admire, who to my mind are quite successful, but who deserve to be even more successful: S. P. Miskowski, Lindsay Lerman, Farah Rose Smith, Randy Nikkel Schroeder, Niall Howell, Erin Emily Ann Vance, and Robert Dunbar.

Miskowski I Wish I Was Like You and Lerman’s I’m from Nowhere are easily two of the best novels published in the past ten years or so. 


All great writers! So you are here, published, accomplished, living out your dream as a writer, what would your definition of success be at this point? 

It would be nice to subsist off writing as a full-time job. Would anyone like to be my saintly benefactor? 


I would if I could, but that's also my dream!  So, what’s next for you for this upcoming year? 

I’m nearing the end of my next novel’s first draft. I’m hoping I’ll get the time to whittle that into something clean enough to send to my first readers and/or agent.


I'm sure you will, you're an amazing author. And lastly, just for fun, what was the best money you ever spent, as a writer?  What was it, what was its purpose and what did it mean to you? 

I’m glad I bought Kathe Koja’s The Cipher in my early twenties, because it ignited my imagination and reinvigorated my passion for writing dark fiction. That was money well-spent. 

Sounds like money well-spent! Anything that can keep those fires lit. Always a pleasure speaking with you, Mike. Any last words?

Thanks again for having me on, Candace! Friends and strangers alike: stay spooky, be kind. 

Mike's Bio:

Mike Thorn is the author of Shelter for the Damned, Darkest Hours, and Peel Back and See. The Spanish translation of Shelter for the Damned will be released by Dilatando Mentes in 2022. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, The NoSleep Podcast, and Tales to Terrify. His work has earned praise from Jamie Blanks (director of Urban Legend and Valentine), Jeffrey Reddick (creator of Final Destination), and Daniel Goldhaber (director of Cam).


Thorn has also written extensive film scholarship and criticism. His essays and articles have been published in American Twilight: The Cinema of Tobe Hooper (University of Texas Press), Beyond Empowertainment: Exploring Feminist Horror (Seventh Row), MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage, and elsewhere.


He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, and he is currently pursuing his PhD in Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick. Visit his website (mikethornwrites.com) and connect with him on Twitter (@MikeThornWrites).

 

Review of Peel Back and See

Mike Thorn once again treats us to his range as a writer, from slow burn to deeply disturbing horror, his new collection, Peel Back and See, invites us to take a deeper look at the inner workings of the author himself, at his most raw, with his darkest demons on display, for all to see. 


True to form, there is something for everyone to appreciate and discover within these pages, perhaps something about the writer, perhaps something dark and disturbing within themselves, if they look too closely.  Mike Thorn does Lovecraft proud with these stories, bordering on insanity, held together by loosely woven stitches of reality. Look any deeper and you might find yourself on the other side of the ink stains, screaming to be let out. 


These stories have teeth, big, sharp, jagged teeth that will bite into your gray matter and not let go. They will linger long after the nightlights turn on.  4.5 stars for Peel Back and See. 

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10/30/2021
Meet Philip Fracassi

Philip Fracassi has become a recognizable name in the genre these last few years. His current status is owed, in part, to the favorable reception of his debut collection BEHOLD THE VOID. And every release since has only served to draw in more readers. Inspiration, determination, and a strong work ethic seem to be at the heart of his endeavors. Well, that and an imagination that won’t quit.

But Fracassi isn’t only a writer in the sense that he can effectively commit lines to the page; he is a wordsmith who knows his craft. He knows that language is an art form, and he wields it as such. Whether it comes naturally or is agonized over, he has a sense of flow and structure that carries the reader through the tales he so masterfully weaves. He is adept at setting tones and developing characters. And he knows how to scare the hell out of you. 


I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Philip Fracassi. This is what we discussed… 


You’ve been quite busy in recent years, with a handful of well-received novellas and collections and short stories in magazines and anthologies. What set this writing frenzy in motion?

It’s really just timing. I didn’t have much come out in 2018-2020 because I was hunkered down writing. But over that same period of time a lot of these deals were coming together, and it just so happened, for one reason or another, they all kind of came out at the same time. In some ways, it’s a lot of fun to have so much stuff coming out at once, but on the other hand it’s a bit problematic because there’s not enough bandwidth to promote each project the way I’d like to. But I can’t control publisher timelines, I can only control my own writing, so I’m doing the best with it I can. 2022 is shaping up to be another big year, so I’m excited about that, as well. Would be nice to keep the momentum going if I can.


With your debut novel BOYS IN THE VALLEY just around the corner, would you give us a hint of what to expect from it?

Yeah, so BOYS IN THE VALLEY is releasing on Halloween 2021 as a limited (signed/numbered) hardcover from Earthling Publications. It’s my debut novel (I self-published a novel about 20 years ago called THE EGOTIST, but don’t really count that as my debut as it was such a small run). 


BOYS takes place in the early 1900’s and centers around an all-boys orphanage settled in rural Pennsylvania. When an evil pervades the orphanage, many of the children begin acting differently, and conflict ensues. It’s really a novel about sacrifice and belief—belief in yourself and in what you think yourself capable of, especially as a child who has been discarded by society, abused by those who should protect you. It’s a horrifying story, but one that I think offers the reader some hope, as well. Reviews have been out of this world so far, so I’m excited about getting into more readers’ hands.


I’m currently about halfway through BENEATH A PALE SKY, and I am admittedly more than a little impressed with your writing. What are your thoughts on short stories versus long-form fiction? 

Well, I sort of cut my teeth on short stories. Although I’ve been writing my whole life, I’ve only begun publishing over the last five years. So, initially, I was making my way and building readership through short fiction. Chapbooks like “Mother” and “Altar” and the occasional anthology sale. But there came a point where things were going well enough that I realized if I wanted to make a career out of writing I’d need to start focusing more on novels. It’s almost impossible to sustain a career writing short fiction, as publishers won’t pay much for collections and big-5 publishers aren’t really all that interested. Ditto for agents. So, I knew that novels would be the way for me to create a sustainable business model for my work.

And now that I’ve got a few under my belt, I really enjoy writing them. I still write short stories, as well, but it’s more something I do between novels. My goal is to have a similar output to folks like Paul Tremblay, Adam Nevill, and Josh Malerman, where they’re putting out a novel a year (give or take) but also publishing lots of short fiction. There’s benefit to short fiction, as well, since a lot of film/tv companies look to option short fiction for films. I currently have four short stories, for example, under option or in the process of being optioned. 


Of all your work so far, do you have a favorite? And to add to that, which project did you find the most challenging?

I don’t know if I have a favorite story or novel. If you were to put a gun to my head, I’d say I’m very pleased with how BOYS IN THE VALLEY turned out. That’s a story I’ve been working on for years, and I’m sentimental about it. On the short story front, I’d say “Mother” only because it was my first published story, and it was a turning point in my life when it was published. 

Regarding the second part of your question, I just wrapped up my first mystery/thriller, a novel called THE BLUE BUTTERFLY. And that was challenging in the sense that there are a lot of things structurally that go into that kind of story versus a straight horror story. Red herrings, misdirection, and all these little pieces you need to place just so to make the mystery engaging for the reader, and to make sure the twists work.

That said, the book I’m working on now is science-fiction and it’s creating a whole different set of challenges regarding time travel, technology, quantum physics, etc. Trying to make that all realistic enough to carry the story takes a lot of research. My novella SHILOH, a civil war story, was the most intensive thing I’ve ever written research-wise. 


From what I understand, you do a fair bit of screenwriting. As a creative, what is that like compared to writing novels, novellas, and short stories? And do you have a preference between the two writing disciplines? 

Yeah, for about a decade I was pretty focused on screenwriting. This was the part of my life prior to publishing “Mother” in 2016. I have a couple screenplays produced, one by Disney and the other by Lifetime. Generally, screenwriting is most similar to writing a novel, and nothing at all like writing a short story. Both screenplays and novels need structure to be told well, and writing screenplays really enabled me to learn about story structure, beats and acts, etc. It’s made writing novels very comfortable. 


Short stories and even novellas are more fluid. I always have a beginning-middle-end before beginning a short story or novella, but I’m less worried about outlining each beat or scene. It’s much more stream of consciousness, I guess you’d say, and I prefer to let the story come to me as I’m writing it. That said, I always want to have an end goal so that I’m keeping the reader, and myself, focused on the inevitable conclusion to any piece. 


I could say without a doubt I much prefer fiction writing to screenwriting. Fiction writing is totally in the author’s control, and I love writing prose. Screenwriting is more about creating a structure, a foundation, that a team of creative people can then build upon, change, and dissect. It’s less about art and more technical. Plus you end up having to rewrite a script 20-30 times before it’s actually filmed, and the check stays the same. So that’s a drag and not something that interests me much anymore. I’m happier writing a short story and selling it and letting some other screenwriter deal with all that nonsense. 


Speaking of the big screen, of all your stories to date, which would you like to see adapted into a film?

Well, like I said, there are a few stories being optioned for film at this time. One by a major studio. So I’m very curious to see where that all goes. But personally, I’d love to see my story “Mandala” get the big screen treatment. I think that would be a wild movie.


What an author enjoys writing and what an author enjoys reading can sometimes be quite different. Does this apply to you? And what are some of the books that have inspired you most over the years?

Haha, yeah, I’m a massive reader. I actually owned a bookstore here in Los Angeles for nearly a decade. So I’m also a huge collector and my home library is a tiny bit out of control.

Regarding inspiration, I’d say there are a handful of writers who have inspired me in my own work. I’ve learned so much from reading widely, and it’s had an incredible impact on my own prose, or story pacing, or generally how I construct a piece. Laird Barron is probably pound-for-pound the best writer of our generation. His prose is black oil. I’ve learned a mountain from both reading his work and discussing my own work with him. Other writers who I’ve gleaned from would include Ralph Robert Moore, whose prose is so visceral and heartbreaking, Paul Tremblay, Josh Malerman. And poetry, lots of poetry. Anne Sexton, Arthur Sze, Frank Stanford, Sylvia Plath, Louise Gluck. I also read a lot of non-fiction. I’m a huge fan of Michio Kaku.


So, what do you do when you’re not plugging away at the keys on a new story?

Honestly, these days I’m either reading or writing pretty much full-time. I recently took an open-ended hiatus from my day job to focus all my time on my writing career. I don’t have much of a social life, I’m not really a big fan of being in public, and I prefer drinking my own scotch. So writing is pretty much my life. Pathetic, I guess, but it makes me happy so I’m good with that.


Do you have any advice for those aspiring authors just starting out?

I could go on for pages, but I’ll say one thing that Laird Barron told me early on: The greatest virtue of any successful writer is perseverance.


There are so many ups and downs. So many dry spells and then exciting moments and it’s hard to stay even-keeled, but you really need to as a writer otherwise you’ll make yourself crazy. Keep your nose down and stick with it.


The only other advice I often give writers is something I practice myself. When things are bad or not going your way, when rejections are piling up or the editor isn’t getting back to you and it’s been months, or you’ve been rebuffed by yet another agent—focus on the work. Put on the blinders and put all your energy into that next story. Focus on what you love and what made you want to write in the first place, which is the creative process. Let all that other BS fall away and fall in love with your next story. It’ll keep you afloat.


What’s next for Philip Fracassi?

Let’s see – BOYS IN THE VALLEY comes out on Halloween. The trade edition of my novella COMMODORE will be out in early November. I just released a book of poetry called TOMORROW’S GONE, and later this year I’ll be announcing the release of my first “literary” novel.


In 2022 I’ll be releasing A CHILD ALONE WITH STRANGERS, a big doorstop novel coming from Skyhorse / Talos Press in the summer. I’ll also be releasing, if things go as planned, a third story collection called NO ONE IS SAFE, as well as a children’s book called THE BOY WITH THE BLUE ROSE HEART. I have three novels being shopped by my agent, so fingers crossed they find homes in the upcoming months. Otherwise, banging the keys on my new novel and wrapping up a few short stories that’ll be coming out next year through different publications.

Lastly, hopefully there’ll be some news on the adaptation to film/tv in the upcoming weeks. But that’s out of my control. I just keep writing and hope for the best.

 

Available 10-31-2021!!

Check back for the Review, Coming Soon!

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10/23/2021 
Meet Kelsey Josund

Author of "Pretty Deadly"

Congratulations on your new release! Such a huge accomplishment for any author, whether it’s the first release or the tenth release. Let’s tell the readers a little bit about your and your work on this book. 


First, can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you have any rituals that you keep before you sit down to write or do you just write whenever and wherever inspiration strikes?


I typically write in the evenings after work, but I am thinking about writing almost all the time! I usually work through plot points while trying to fall asleep (and then have to sit up and write them down when I get something great!) and discuss worldbuilding and character development with my partner over dinner. He’s a saint for putting up with it. I’m very good at being disciplined and writing when I have time for it, but that’s largely because by the time I’m at my desk, I’ve already figured out what I want to write next.



How about favorite writing spots, whether in or outside of your home, anyplace just really put you in the zone? 


I love writing on the couch, with my feet propped up on the coffee table and my laptop on my lap. Ideally, it’s dark outside and the only light comes from fairy lights around the room. I’ve used the same general setup through all of the different apartments I’ve lived in over the past decade, and keeping the aesthetics of my space consistent really helps. However, sitting in that position isn’t very comfortable, so I can’t write a whole book that way! I also write at my desk, which I also use for working from home, which is much more comfortable but much less cozy.

How many hours a day do you write and are you a full-time author or do you also have a day/night job? 


I usually work on things related to my secondary author career for about two hours every evening, and then however many weekend hours I have to in order to make the deadlines I’ve set for myself. This includes drafting early projects, revising/editing later-stage projects, meeting with publishers or other authors, and all sorts of promotions tasks--like this interview! I also have another full-time job, which is luckily fully remote so I don’t have to take any time out of my day for commuting or anything like that.

Along those same lines, what did you do for a living before becoming a writer ? or what would you do, if you weren’t a writer? 

My primary career is as a machine learning engineer at a reforestation startup. Basically, I design and train machine learning models to predict forest health and biomass accumulation from satellite images so we can understand and quantify carbon offsets and forest regrowth. It’s super cool and I love it, but it’s very, very different from writing books!

How about influences and inspiration, who or what, most inspires you to write?


I find inspiration everywhere! I love coming up with ways to overturn tropes I encounter in books or TV shows. I love experiencing a place or meal or emotion and finding a way to work it into a story. I don’t think I can say what most inspires me, because truly it’s everything, all the time.

Were you an avid reader as a child, if so, what was your favorite book and why? 


I was an almost pathological reader as a child--I was that kid reading under the blankets when I was supposed to be asleep or holding a book on my lap during class so I didn’t have to stop. Some of my favorites which I still turn to for familiarity and comfort were Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale--sweet and lovely fairytale retellings nothing like the ones that I write, but I think they still got me thinking about new twists on old tales.

Speaking of favorite books, what is one book that you consider to be the most underrated novel of our time, or most underrated author? 


Oh wow, this is a tough question! There’s no way I can name the most underrated novel or author; I’m sure I don’t know about them. But for someone who way more people need to read, I’m a big fan of Nicole Kornher-Stace (who blurbed my first novel, which I was extremely excited about). Her stories are weird and unlike things I’ve read, and wonderfully center friendship rather than romantic relationships as an ideal.


And continuing with your favorite books, do you have one that makes you cry, and how many times have you read it? 


I cry really easily. I’ll just start by saying that. However, I don’t really re-read books, so I can’t think of anything that has both made me cry and that I’ve read more than once. But the most recent book to make me cry was Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson, a botany book for a general audience. There was a chapter about seed banks, and as the author recounted dedicated botanists defending their seeds to the last--starving to death during the Battle of Stalingrad, escaping bombings in Syria--I started crying and ran into the other room to tell my boyfriend about it. Some people care so much about seeds they’ll die for them! Little baby plants! They’re so helpless and so powerful and humans can be so good!

So you are here, published, accomplished, living out your dream as a writer, what would your definition of success be at this point? 


I don’t like to define success, because then once I reach it I will be at a loss for what to do next (this happened to me before: when I was in college I set my sights on getting a job working in artificial intelligence at a startup doing cool things, and then when I got that job I had an identity crisis). I just want people to read my books, and I want them to love them. I have lots of goals: I want an agent and a book deal with a Big Five publisher someday, but more than that, I want to find the perfect home for all of my future books.


For Pretty Deadly in particular, I think it will appeal to a lot of people, and I just hope I’m able to find them. All those people who will love it deserve to read it. This book has the potential to do well; I just hope I can make that happen. I feel like I have an obligation to my previous self and to this book I created!

And lastly, just for fun, what was the best money you ever spent, as a writer?  What was it, what was its purpose and what did it mean to you? 


A good desk chair. I didn’t even know how comfortable a chair could be until I got fitted by an ergonomics person at work and she ordered me a special, super-adjustable chair. It cost $400 to order one for myself to use at home, but it was definitely worth it. Maybe that’s a sad answer--oh, my best purchase was to make my achy self not hurt!--but it’s much easier to write when I can forget about my human body and disappear into the story.


Thank you so  much for joining us today. I really enjoyed reading "Pretty Deadly" and I wish you a lot of success with it. Any last words that you would like to add and please tell readers how to find you. 


Thanks for the opportunity to chat! This was fun. If your readers want to learn more about me, they can find me on Twitter and Instagram and TikTok @kelseyjosund, on facebook at @kelseyjosundauthor, or my website www.kelseyjosund.com. And if they want to support me but aren’t in a place to buy books right now, both of my publishers regularly offer the ebooks free for 24 hours, and I always tweet about it! I want people to read my books more than I care about making money.


Finally, I don’t think readers know how much reviews matter. Obviously I want to know if you loved my book, and I’d rather get a 5-star review than anything else, but please, please, please review the books you read no matter how much you liked them! Goodreads and Amazon are the two main places to write reviews. It helps so much to read what you think, no matter what you

 

A Review of Pretty Deadly

Book Synopsis for Pretty Deadly:


Cinna would quite literally kill for the throne.


She’s spent years forced to serve her wealthy cousins rather than attend society events alongside them, waiting for the chance to prove herself and exact revenge. When a ball is announced at the castle, promising to bring many powerful people to town, she seizes the opportunity to strike.


She bets her best friend, a small-time thief and con-man, that she can land a greater score than he can the night of the ball. They embark on parallel heists. But as their plots unfold, things begin to unravel: by the end of the night, the castle’s on lock down, a duchess is dead, a mansion has burnt to the ground, and Cinna hasn’t stolen anything. Or has she stolen something more valuable than gold and jewels?

Review:

While Pretty Deadly is not the typical book that we feature on Uncomfortably Dark, I found the premise to be intriguing, so I agreed to read it.  This is a very creative take on the Cinderella story that I enjoyed a great deal. Involving mystery, intrigue, suspense and a dash of romance and revenge, Kelsey created a great story well worth reading. It is beautifully written, lush in its descriptions, superior in its delivery and keeps up a pleasing pace without dragging. I highly recommend “Pretty Deadly” if you enjoy your fairy tales shaken, not stirred.  


4.5 stars for this delightful debut. 

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Meet the Ladies behind "Tortured Willows."

Authors Christina Sng, Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith and Geneve Flynn.

Ladies, congratulations on your new release! Such a huge accomplishment for any author, whether it’s the first release or the tenth release. This is such a beautiful collection of poetry, as artistic as it is lyrical.  Let’s tell the readers a little bit about you and your work on this book.


LEE: Thanks so much for inviting the Willow-sisters to Uncomfortably Dark, Candace. At its core, Tortured Willows is a spin off really: a tribute and a kind of sequel. After the success of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, we still had things we wanted to say, so the four of us set out to expand on the dialogue opened by Black Cranes, only this time we each took narrower deeper focus—and, here, we have shared our experience through poetry rather than prose in the hope of reaching an even broader audience. I think I can speak for all of us when I say it’s been a life changing experience, each of us undertaking a very personal approach to our series of poems appearing in Tortured Willows. What’s been surprising is that the collection remains true to the original themes of otherness, expectation, and oppression prevalent in Black Cranes. 


UDH: That's truly an impressive accomplishment. This is the kind of book that truly sticks with you, long after the pages end. Let's begin with the process. 

Can you each tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you have any rituals that you keep before you sit down to write, or do you just write whenever and wherever inspiration strikes? 


GENEVE: I’m very fond of tea, so there’s usually a cup or three on my desk. My dreams are the springboard for a lot of my stories, whether it’s an image, an emotion, or an entire sequence, so I make sure to jot down what I can remember as soon as I wake up. I also like to go down lots of rabbit holes researching odd bits and pieces, and often ideas will coalesce from these excavations. Then I’ll try to plot out the acts in my story. Once the itch in my brain is nice and maddening, I dive in and write.


LEE: Hmm. In terms of rituals, it’s not so much mine as my husband’s. His team is US-based, and because of the time differences, most of his work meetings start at 6am or 7am New Zealand-time, so he gets up early, makes me coffee in bed then goes off to his meetings in our home office. Meanwhile, I start my day by reading the news, or checking any messages (usually from Angela Yuriko Smith) while I’m still snuggled up in bed with coffee. Then I get up, cuddle the dog, and make our second cup of coffee (which I bring to my husband in the office.) I start my day at around 8.00am, and, because I work from home and am horrible at maintaining a work-life balance, I usually finish up late in the evening. I work most weekends, too. Yes, yes, I’m working on being better at taking care of myself. As far as storytelling goes, I’m often given the kernel of an idea from a commissioning editor or publisher’s theme, but I find plotting hard, so I usually brainstorm with a couple of colleagues to tighten up the story arc before I knuckle down to write. Hampered by my bossy editor brain, I’m also very slow, so a short story will often take me a week or more to write. (I operate on coffee in the mornings and tea after lunch.)


CHRISTINA: I don’t have a set time, but I do go for days without writing. These days, I’m lucky if I finish one poem, but in better days, I wrote 5 poems a day.


ANGELA: I don’t have a ritual so much as just writing all the time. I’ve written chapters of books on my phone in a waiting room and poetry at stoplights (shhh!) I do have preferences for my tools. I’m picky about my keyboards and prefer it to have low profile chiclet style keys that are backlit, and I use an extra small keyboard with no number pad. I also think everyone should be issued at least two monitors with every computer screen. At least.


UDH:

I see that no one has the same ritual, but these are the little things make us unique. It’s nice to hear the variety of ways that you each use to get started. If I get the chance to plan a day of writing, it’s coffee in the morning and then off to my attic library to write in peace.  If I’m on the go for the day, then no time for rituals and I grab my phone whenever time allows or the mood strikes and write on my notes app while I’m out and about. 


How about favorite writing spots, whether in or outside of your home, anyplace just really put you in the zone? 


GENEVE: I have my own little office with a sit-stand desk that I love to bits. I can’t work with other people around, but I do sometimes like having music playing in the background to set the mood. I recently wrote a story for an ’80s anthology and I had the Lost Boys soundtrack playing. That was great fun. For Tortured Willows, I listened to composer Tan Dun’s music.


LEE: Our house has two living areas and the second one has been turned into our home office, which I share with my husband, who also works from home. Our desks face each other in a Victoria and Albert-style approach, with my husband’s screen getting progressively bigger as the years have gone on. I’m sure he’s trying to blot me out! He says I talk to myself when I’m writing, or rather my characters talk to each other, and at times it can be like sharing an office with a fog of ghosts. Otherwise, the space has all the usual office paraphernalia: bookcases, a sofa, a comfy leather armchair for reading, a basket for the dog (she prefers the sofa!) and our favourite artwork. Although we live in town, the picture windows from our office overlook a cow paddock, so there’s usually something to look at if either of us decide to gaze off into the distance.


CHRISTINA: I don’t have a writing spot, but I do write on my phone.


ANGELA: My office is pretty special to me. I’ve painted the walls silver and filled it with all of my favorite things, including a refurbished newspaper box. I have an old yellow chair I rescued off a corner that is quite possibly the most comfortable chair in the world for reading.


UDH:

All great answers. I write on my phone, like Christina, while I’m out. I have a Victorian library on my third floor that I love to write in when I need peace and quiet to focus, but my daily writing and website work is typically done at my dining room table. 


How many hours a day do you write and are you a full-time author or do you also have a day/night job? 


GENEVE: I have a family and I’m a freelance fiction editor, so I don’t always get to write every day. But when a story takes hold, it’s very hard to think about anything else until I get it done. If I can, I’ll sequester myself in my office and write and write until it’s late at night, then I’ll emerge a little glassy-eyed and half-in-half-out of the story world. 


LEE: Like Geneve, I’m also a full-time writer-editor, so writing or writing-related activities pretty much consume my life. It’s not unusual for me to put in a 14 or 16-hour day. I’m also highly invested in community building activities such as Young New Zealand Writers (which I co-founded a decade ago and which provides development and publishing opportunities for New Zealand school students) and The Wright-Murray Residency for Speculative Writers (which I also co-founded, and which provides an annual stipend and residency space for a selected New Zealand speculative writer). I’m also very active with my local writing group, convening their monthly professional development workshop series for the past three years—among other things. So while I am a full-time writer, a lot of my activities involve growing the genre and building connections. Mostly, my work-life balance needs an overhaul because I find it hard to say no. It’s a challenge that arises from the ‘conscientious Asian girl’ trope which I have seem to have internalised to the nth degree. In fact, my poem “Tiyanak’ in Tortured Willows sums up my feelings about this. 


CHRISTINA: I write whenever I can, usually when everyone is sleeping, but I’m so sleep deprived these days, I will confess to writing on instinct and that includes stories about my life and the atrocities I see around me. But truly, I think my tale has been told many times and by much more skilled writers than myself that I try to bring triumph to my stories and poems, to write it as if we’ve won. God knows, we need that.


ANGELA: I can do 16 hours straight if I’m on a deadline, but in general I spend about 7 hours a day in my office. I am a full-time writer, but I also publish, so my time is mixed up between all of it. Research, writing nonfiction, layout, columns, blog, and social posts… recently Austin Gragg came on as Editor-in-chief and Anthony R. Rhodes came on for the layout for Space and Time magazine and I’m grateful to share the load. I’m hoping to be able to spend more time on my own writing and supporting other writers.


UDH: I see you are all very busy ladies, much like myself. I can appreciate those schedules. I’m a mom, with two kids still at home. I also have a full-time day job and do freelance editing on the side, as well as my own writing and running my website.  All of my editing and writing related activities I do in the evenings and on weekends. I’m constantly working like each of you are. 

So, Along those same lines, what did each of you do for a living before becoming a writer? or what would you do, if you weren’t a writer? 


GENEVE: I love editing fiction almost as much as writing it. I’m lucky enough to be able to do both. I’ve always loved puzzles, and pulling apart a manuscript and helping the author to bring out their story is like a giant puzzle, with lots and lots of pieces. 


LEE: My background is science and business, and I have master’s degrees in both disciplines. In a former life, I worked as a research scientist and in science administration and policy. I’ve also worked in Health and Safety and have a degree in massage therapy. If I wasn't a writer, I think I’d like to be a penguin. I know, I know, that’s weird. I like the idea of sliding down ice floes in a custom tuxedo. I imagine Geneve, with her psychology background, will have an inkling of what that means; no doubt it’ll point to something like a desire to release my inner child, or to overcome the trappings of expectation while also looking classy, or something similar. However, being a penguin is becoming a perilous profession, what with climate change progressing at its current rate, and given that I’ve read Robert Payne Cabeen’s Bram Stoker Award®-winning novel Cold Cuts, I may need to rethink the whole idea, but that’s my answer for today.


CHRISTINA: I have always been a writer, but my day job before giving it all up to raise my children was in IT as a content producer.


ANGELA: I’ve always been a writer, but with nonfiction for newspapers and online outlets. I did publish short stories and poetry here and there. In 2011, I wrote my first piece of long fiction, a novella called End of Mae. It was to win an argument that nonfiction writers do have imaginations. I wound up winning, but I consider it a draw. I’ve written more fiction ever since, so maybe we both won that bet. If I wasn’t a writer, I would like to be a professional ghost hunter… but I imagine I’d have to write about that, too.


UDH: I’m going to have to go with Lee for the best answer on this one. Being a penguin does sound lovely right about now.  Honestly, if I didn’t have a day job, I would be a full-time writer. There’s nothing else that I have ever wanted to be. 

So, let’s talk about influences and inspiration, who or what, most inspires you to write?


GENEVE: There are so, so many authors who inspire me. We could be here all day! There are so many wonderful stories being written, and everything I read bleeds into what I write. When Lee Murray and Angela Yuriko Smith invited me to contribute to Tortured Willows, they inspired me to try my hand at poetry—something I had never done before. I also like an interesting submission call-out: having parameters forces me to be creative. 


LEE: Where do I find inspiration for my work? This is a common question asked of authors. Here’s an excerpt on this topic from the Afterword of my Bram Stoker Award®-winning collection Grotesque: Monster Stories: 

“At workshops and schools, when children ask me this question, I give them a naughty smile and say, “I steal them”. I explain to them how I steal character traits from people I know, splicing physical appearances and personalities together like Frankenstein to create new characters—some likeable and some not so nice. I steal people’s words, too; I’ll sit at cafés or on the bus, pretending to drink my coffee or look out the window, when, in reality, I’m eavesdropping on conversations, writing expressions and phrases into my notebook to extrapolate or exaggerate into a story of my own. I pinch mannerisms and points of view. Settings. Themes. If I need names for my characters, I’ll steal them from my friends’ list then, if it suits me to, I’ll gleefully kill them off. “I’ll steal your heart, your thunder, even the shirt off your back if it serves the story,” I tell my students. Writing is a subversive act and it’s important that children learn this as early as possible.

But the truth is, while I do steal my story ideas from sources around me, occasionally the stories find me. They hover in display cases and archives at museums, galleries, and libraries, waiting for me to pluck them from the edges of history, from dusty photographs, and, occasionally, from taxidermy exhibits.” 

In Tortured Willows, some of the poems found me this way. “Cheongsam” is inspired by a photograph of my grandmother in her wedding cheongsam-dress, “Defining Character” from the back cover art of Xinran’s groundbreaking book, The Good Women of China, and “Foxgirl” is plucked from New Zealand’s newspaper archives, for example.


CHRISTINA: Sylvia Plath, whose absolute mastery of poetry is still my inspiration.


ANGELA: Everything inspires me to write. At all times the world is spinning around in my head and I’m piecing it back together for some poem or story. This explains a lot about why sometimes I trail off mid-conversation and stare over someone’s shoulder. I’m an abrupt daydreamer. I apologise in advance.


UDH: Plath is a huge influence on many writers, she’s in a class of her own. So, were each of you avid readers as children, if so, what was your favorite book and why? 


GENEVE: Oh my gosh, yes. My mum used to tell me off for always having a book at the dinner table. Such an unsociable habit, but one I still hang on to. I read anything I could get my hands on, but it wasn’t until a high school friend handed me Stephen King’s It that I found a favorite. Suddenly, a light went on in my brain. I’d discovered a favorite genre.


LEE: Same! I remember being told off for having my nose in a book, which meant my reading was getting excessive because my parents always encouraged reading. I was raised on my dad’s made-up tales, Grimm’s fairy tales, Aesop’s fables, and anything available in our public library, which, being a colony, was dominated by English authors. So I read JM Barrie at age 8, Tolkien and Lewis at age 9, Ursula LeGuin, Maurice Gee. And then in high school, I moved to Austen, Shelley, Poe, Dickens, Attwood, Lee, Mansfield, Weldon… already there was a dark, bizarro, and socio-political theme running through my reading preferences. 


CHRISTINA: I loved Enid Blyton books. They took me to new worlds.


ANGELA: Yes. I read anything and everything—even shampoo bottles and packages. As far as favorite books… so many. Anything by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, anything scary… David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Star Wars by Alan Dean Foster/George Lucas, any and all the Alfred Hitchcock anthologies I could get my hands on. I read to escape and figure out how things worked, so each of these books was my favorite for what it taught me. I don’t remember a lot of my childhood because I spent so much of it in other people’s worlds.


UDH: Angela, you sound a lot like me.  I read absolutely anything within reach, bottles, packages, coupons ads, the phone book. I used to give myself book reports to do and would write little essays using our set of encyclopedias, just to have an excuse to read the massive books. 

Speaking of favorite books, what is one book that you consider to be the most underrated novel of our time, or most underrated author? 


GENEVE: I don’t know if this counts as underrated, but Nadia Bulkin’s story collection She Said Destroy is amazing. It was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award and a This is Horror Award. Nadia’s writing is sharp, exquisite, and political, and everyone should read her work.


LEE: Yes, I agree with Geneve here, please read other works by our Black Cranes colleagues. And if you haven’t already, consider the works of K.P. Kulski who wrote the Foreword to Tortured Willows. A navy veteran, poet, and historian, her prose is deadly, beautiful, and relevant all at once. Here’s the link to her debut novel, Fairest Flesh.


CHRISTINA: Robert McCammon’s Swan Song.


ANGELA: The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis, and I’m told by a trusted friend with great taste that I’m missing out by not having read R.A. Lafferty. I plan to fix this soon.


UDH: Don’t mind me, just adding more books to my ever-growing TBR pile! Thanks for that! 

Let’s continue with your favorite books, do you have one that makes you cry, and how many times have you read it? 


GENEVE: The Green Mile serial novel by Stephen King makes me cry every time I read it. When it first came out, it was pure torture having to wait for the next slim volume to be released so I could find out what happened next. When I got the final book and the series concluded, I bawled my eyes out. Then I immediately reread the whole thing again. As you do.


LEE: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it first when I was around thirteen, I think, and I try to re-read it every year. Sadly, it’s as relevant today as it ever was. The conflict that arises at the intersection of cultures has always fascinated me, as has the importance of champions, those heroes who can see past the prejudice to see the commonality and the humanity in all.


CHRISTINA: For me, Robert McCammon’s Swan Song is still the best novel I’ve ever read in terms of the sheer scale of the story and the unadulterated beauty of the language that always struck me and made me realize that words can be a mesmerizing piece of art too. Although, real life makes me cry more.


ANGELA: There is a book I read as a child that never ceases to make me weep: The Visitor by Gene Smith. Sadly, it’s out of print. I got my hands on a copy recently and just holding the book made me cry. I’ve probably read it 20 times at least. Recently I read Speak, Okinawa by Elizabeth Miki Brina and I probably cried almost as much as all the times I’ve read The Visitor, but all in one day.

UDH: All masterful works of fiction. If they make you so emotional, why do you keep reading it? What is the draw to want to read it again? 


GENEVE: It’s [The Green Mile] some of Stephen King’s finest writing. The story does what great horror so often does—sees that the world is both light and dark, love and hate, justice, and injustice. 


LEE: Because “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Because “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.” Because “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks,” And because “The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.”


CHRISTINA: To escape. I saw myself as Sister in Robert McCammon’s Swan Song while growing up. She was broken from life and found a new purpose in the apocalypse. Now I have reached her age and I am living her life! :D


ANGELA: Because if I don’t cry sometimes my heart might dry up and crumble. It’s important to remember sadness so we keep our empathy fresh.


UDH: I love the variety of responses here, all valid and unique reasons. I read emotional novels mostly to escape, to feel something differently than what I feel daily, maybe sometimes as a reminder that those other emotions exist. 

Changing angles here a bit, here you each are, published, accomplished, living out your dream as a writer, what would your definition of success be at this point? 


GENEVE: I’m happiest when I have a story thrashing around inside me and I’m in the throes of wrestling it onto the page. Being paid to do that all day, every day, would be pretty neat. Having my work appear alongside authors I’ve admired for a long time definitely counts as a win. 


LEE: I’m scared to utter my writing dreams. It’s like putting out a tooth for the tooth fairy or blowing on a dandelion: if you mention your wish, then the universe will ensure those dreams dissolve into nothingness, like candy floss on your tongue. So I won’t mention the future. In some ways, though, I’m living the dream now. My poems appear in a book with three Sister-Willows whom I admire and respect, whose gorgeous poems give me frissons, haunting me and sending me down research rabbit holes to learn more. What more could I ask for? On a personal level, I’ve been married to my soul’s heart for nearly 31 years, so that seems like a success. One thing, wherever they might go in life, whatever they do, I always want my children (26 and 22 years) to feel they can come home, that they’re always welcome and safe here. To me, that would be success. 


CHRISTINA: Being able to feed my family with writing income would be the dream.


LEE: Yes, Christina. We mustn’t forget that very practical goal. Financial security for writers, and especially women writers, is a haphazard and precarious thing. We need to do better for our creatives. 


ANGELA: If I could write something that made a difference, that would be true success. Like when David Bowie wrote the song Heroes and it helped bring down the Berlin Wall. If I could write something that clarified the state of the Uchinanchu to the world, so their status as a people could be returned, or stop war forever or convince corporations to create win-win business models…that would be awesome. Until then, I’m happy with what I’m doing. I love what I do, and in the end that’s a good marker of success, I think.


UDH: Those are all very noble goals and dreams, each worthy of being dreamt and pursued. I can see that you each are hoping to leave a legacy behind and that is a beautiful thing to hear. 

And lastly, just for fun, what was the best money you ever spent, as a writer?  What was it, what was its purpose and what did it mean to you? 


GENEVE: My absolute favorite things to spend money on are writing conventions. Conventions are days where you get to just celebrate writers and writing, and to learn and connect. I first met multi-award-winning New Zealand author and editor Lee Murray at GenreCon (a genre writing convention in Brisbane, Australia) in 2019. That’s when we came up with the idea for Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. The anthology has gone on to win the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson awards, and been nominated for the Aurealis, Australian Shadows, and British Fantasy awards. So many opportunities and friendships have come from that one meeting. 


LEE: Snap! I was going to mention that, too. I also spent several thousand dollars to attend my first StokerCon convention in 2016 and it was worth every cent. As Geneve says, conventions can be such a fulfilling experience for both learning and connection. A place to find your ‘tribe’. On the first day of that 2016 StokerCon, I met Angela Yuriko Smith, and this year the two of us have collaborated on two books—with more planned!


CHRISTINA: Buying the books of my friends. It keeps us all going.


ANGELA: I’m probably dating myself here, but it was about $800 for a word processor. It had a five-inch screen and there was no mouse. The text was green blocks and once I finished, I could put my document on a floppy drive or choose to print. No one I knew had even heard of the internet yet. That clunky old machine was a dream come true. Before that I had to write on a typewriter or by hand. It was horrible. I love technology.


UDH: All great answers! I hope to attend my first convention this coming year, the StokerCon in Denver. I believe it will be well worth the experience. I also had an old Brother Word processor that I used to write on, green font and floppy disks.  But so far, the best money I have spent on my writing career has been for this website, so I could create a platform to support other writers like myself. On that note, it has been an absolute pleasure having you all here today. Any last words before I dive into your review? 


GENEVE: Thanks so much for hosting me on Uncomfortably Dark!


LEE: Yes, thanks for having us!


CHRISTINA: Thank you for the interview!


ANGELA: Writing Tortured Willows has been the hardest and best thing I’ve ever worked on. The research required for these poems tore out my heart and answered questions I’ve had since I was a child. It helped me to understand my mother and grandmother and why they may have done things as they did. It solved mysteries and pivoted my whole career to face another direction. At 53, I finally learned who I was… better late than never. Usually we put ourselves into our creations, but writing for this collection made me feel like I was connected to something living. We created each other.


UDH: Angela, that is a beautiful sentiment. That, right there, is my entire reason for doing these interviews. For wanting to go beyond the pages, I want to see the experience, see how it’s changed you, or impacted you. Answers like this one, just makes it all worthwhile. Thank you for that, thank you all for being here and thank you for creating such an incredible collection. 


Readers-keep scrolling for the bio’s for each lady and for my full review of “Tortured Willows”. 

 

Meet Lee Murray

Lee Murray is a multi-award-winning author-editor from Aotearoa-New Zealand (12-time winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award, three-time winner of the Australian Shadows Award, a double Bram Stoker Award® winner, and winner of the Shirley Jackson Award). A NZSA Honorary Literary Fellow, Lee is the Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow for 2021 for her narrative prose-poetry work Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud. Her debut poetry collection, Tortured Willows, a collaboration with Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, and Geneve Flynn, was recently released from Yuriko Publishing. Read more at leemurray.info

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Meet Christina Sng

Christina Sng is the two-time Bram Stoker Award®-winning author of A Collection of Dreamscapes and A Collection of Nightmares. Her poetry, fiction, essays, and art appear in numerous venues worldwide and have garnered accolades such as the Jane Reichhold International Prize, nominations for the Rhysling Awards, the Dwarf Stars, the Elgin Awards, the Pushcart Prize, as well as honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and the Best Horror of the Year. She is one of the recipients of the 2021 Ladies of Horror Fiction Writers Grant. Her essay Final Girl: A Life in Horror was a finalist in the 2020 Bram Stoker Awards® for Superior Achievement in Short Non-Fiction and her first novelette “Fury” was anthologized in the multiple award-winning Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Christina was born and raised in Singapore where she now lives with her children and a menagerie of curious pets.

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Meet Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is a third-generation Uchinanchu and an award-winning American poet, author, and publisher with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. Publisher of Space & Time magazine (est. 1966), a Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist and HWA Mentor of the Year for 2020. To find out more visit angelayurikosmith.com.

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Meet Geneve Flynn

Geneve’s short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree

Publishing, Things in the Well, and PseudoPod. Her latest short story, “They Call Me

Mother,” will appear in Classic Monsters Unleashed with some of the biggest names in

horror, including Joe Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, and Ramsey Campbell.

Geneve loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies. If that

sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au.

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A Review of "Tortured Willows."

“In Tortured Willows, four Southeast Asian women writers of horror expand on the exploration of otherness begun with the Bram Stoker Award-winning anthology, Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women.” 


I recently had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Tortured Willows: Bent. Bowed. Unbroken and it was every bit as beautiful to read as it was heartbreaking and passionate. Each offering brings with it deep raw emotion: loss, grief, sadness, despair, worthlessness, hopelessness, and anger.  In direct contrast to this, their words also impart hope, pride, and courage to do more than survive, courage to overcome. Almost every poem is followed by a brief note from the author explaining the meaning, and origin of it.  


Each poem and personal note combines to give the effect of a personal exploration into the memory of the author, into their heart, soul and bloodline to see what lies within. I have noted a few of my favorites and most heartbreaking below:


Lee Murray’s poem, Exquisite, is heartbreaking and haunting. A young woman desperate to please the man that has deemed her unworthy.  Geneve Flynn’s, Bride Price, is a tragic  shocking tale that speaks to the ghost marriage practice that thrives in China, wherein women are deemed more valuable as a corpse rather than alive.  


In Christina Sng’s, Conversations With The Dead 1928, Death sits at a fresh grave of a young girl, gone too soon, before her time, but she begs to not go back. Even Death seems dismayed by her demise, choosing to allow these young spirits to choose, something they were not allowed in life. 


Angela Yuriko Smith pens a beautifully written poem, Four Willows Bound, that symbolizes the four women that created this book, their triumphs over all, their strength that has kept them standing and enduring for decades. I found this to be a gorgeous tribute to these lovely ladies, and to the lovely willows everywhere, for whom this book is written. 


The sheer act of creating this book is victory alone for what they have endured, experienced, and witnessed. Victory for them and a symbol for the thousands of bent but beautiful willows out there. As a female person of color, I was able to empathize with many of the words within these pages, having felt many of the same feelings of discrimination, loss of identity and worth.  As a person outside of their culture, this collection also opened my eyes to the many hardships endured within their culture, at the hands of their own people, their own men and fathers, and their role models.  There is strength in these pages, if you choose to see it. Courage, bravery and a deep fierceness that will not be silenced.  


This is a Five star collection, worthy of every accolade and collection. 

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Meet Maxwell Gold

Oct. 2-New Release of Oblivion in Flux

Congratulations on your new release! Such a huge accomplishment for any author, whether it’s the first release or the tenth release.  Before we begin, let’s tell the readers a little bit about you and your work on this book. 


Max:

I’m very happy to be here and to talk about my new book of cyber prose. I’ve been professionally published now for almost 5 years and having this book released is such a huge milestone for me. Not only that, but to have the ability to celebrate it with so many colleagues and friends I’ve come to respect and admire. 


Candace:

First, can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you have any rituals that you keep before you sit down to write, or do you just write whenever and wherever inspiration strikes? 


Max:

I do my best to write as much as I can every day. One to two hours is the ideal amount of time I prefer to spend when writing poems or if I’m working on a specific project it helps to carve out longer periods to focus. We can’t always have these specific routines, so, sometimes I grab time whenever it's available. I’ve talked about this before in other interviews, but I usually carry a notebook or pad of paper with me everywhere I go. I’ll jot down words or phrases. Maybe It’ll be a title, the first line of a prose poem or a story that I can revisit later. Seeds of something terrifying or beautiful. 


I don’t have any rituals per se, though I always listen to music. No specific genre. Everything from Holst to Hip Hop. 


Candace:

I can understand that.  Time can be very limited, especially with busy schedules. How about favorite writing spots, whether in or outside of your home, anyplace that just really put you in the zone? 


Max:

There’s a steakhouse in town I go to every other weekend where I’ll set up shop in the bar, put my air pods in and write for hours. I’ve been going there for almost four years now. 


Candace:

I’m surprised you’re not eating a ton of steak while you are there! Okay, so, how many hours a day do you write and are you a full-time author or do you also have a day/night job? 

Max:

I try to commit one to two hours each day. At the very least if I can write something that’s just as good. It’s like exercise. I’m not a full-time author…yet, but that’s definitely on the horizon. For now, I work in business development and corporate philanthropy. 


Candace:

I’m in corporate America myself, so I find myself working with limited time as well. Let’s move on to influences or inspiration, who or what, most inspires you to write?


Max:

Clark Ashton Smith, Arthur Rimbaud to name a few. As for what inspires me, it's anything and everything. A random word in my head to the events in the news. 


Candace: 

Definitely some great authors there. I can relate to your sources of inspiration. I often will get just a word or a line stuck in my head and an entire poem or story will evolve from there. 


So, speaking of inspiration, what inspired this collection? 


Max:

I think the quest was twofold; firstly, the need to create a space where the Cyber Gods might have a home for readers to consume and indulge, a space for the new weird prose poetry. Secondly, there was an advocacy to really shine light on prose poetry and its merit with the hope it might stand out 


Candace:

Do you have a favorite piece in the collection, something that is more personal to you or stands out for a particular reason?  Which piece and what makes it a little bit more meaningful? 


Max:

This is such a difficult question. Honestly, Ad’Naigon stands out as that poem and it’s the prose poem that started it all. Strangely, this piece embodied my trepidations of a world on the brink of madness and chaos, where uncertainty happily gripped us all and the only way I knew how to respond, was writing. 


Ad’Naigon was originally published in Spectral Realms No 7 from Hippocampus Press in 2017 and it was my first published piece. 


Candace:

Were you an avid reader as a child, if so, what was your favorite book and why? 


Max:

I read anything and everything I could get my hands on as a kid and ironically, horror was not my first choice. J.M. Barries’ Peter Pan and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings were two of my favorites to read as a child.


Candace:

So you are here, published, accomplished, living out your dream as a writer, what would your definition of success be at this point? 


Max:

As cliché as it may sound, my definition of success would be to have the ability to continue doing what I am doing with the hope I’ll grow, learn, and keep honing my craft. 


Candace:

And lastly, just for fun, what was the best money you ever spent, as a writer?  What was it, what was its purpose and what did it mean to you? 


Max: 

Year to date, the best money I’ve spent so far was going to my first and last convention, the NecronomiCon in Providence, RI.


Candace:

Well, that does sound like a good way to spend some money. I hope you enjoyed it and made some lasting connections.  What else would you like to tell the readers about you? 


Max:

I’m just very thankful for you taking the time to speak with me and I hope that you enjoy Oblivion in Flux! 

Candace:

It's been a pleasure talking with you. Readers, please read on for Max's Bio below and a full review of "Oblivion in Flux". 

Max’s Bio:

Maxwell I. Gold is a gay Jewish Rhysling Award nominated prose poet whose work has been featured in numerous publications including Spectral Realms, Space and Time Magazine, Weirdbook Magazine, Startling Stories, and many others; and has published over 100 prose poems and short stories since 2017 focusing on weird and cosmic fiction.

 

Review of Oblivion in Flux

“I watched their clawed appendages dance with sinister jubilation, black ink dripping from their yellowed teeth while I cowered under the streets.”  -from Nightmares of Ink, Dreams in Blood. 


“My mind had become nothing more than a malleable tissued plastic shell of cobwebbed shadows and muscled catacombs, haunted by cosmic ghouls and dreams of desolate oblivion.” - from The Variant



Oblivion in Flux is a collection of Cyber Prose penned by Maxwell Gold, the very term Cyber Prose coined by Maxwell, himself and it fits what he has done here. I cannot think of a more appropriate term to describe the imagery within these pages. The above two quotes are just mere bites of a full gourmet dinner, served up from the finest chef at the most perfect temperature.  I hope you made a reservation to sit at this table, every night for the next nine nights, because that is how long it will take you to properly consume each serving of divine richness poured upon your plate. 


The beauty of the prose, seasoned with the delicate blend of horrific and obscene, creates an ambrosia of images, both visceral and sublime, in tone, taste, and texture. You will understand what I mean before you finish the first page or first course.  This book is not meant to be devoured by a starving man in the early evening, but rather sampled and savoured, over several days' time. It’s best to read a page or two and then sit and ponder over your whiskey and tea, just what it all means.  Maxwell takes the reader on an incredible trip through his mind or the mind of an insane man, questioning his reality, his world and his universe, all while struggling to survive the nightmares he finds. 


Each sentence is worthy of a second look, the meaning often hidden somewhere beneath. This was a refreshing joy to read and one I hope to read again. This is a gift that comes along rarely, enjoy it with friends, share it around, and pass it down, its prose will survive the ages even as it questions your own mortality. 


Five Sublime Stars. 

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Meet Tylor James

Sept. 25-New Release of "The Gator House"

Hey Tylor! 

Congratulations on your new release! Such a huge accomplishment for any author, whether it’s the first release or the tenth release. Let’s begin by having you tell the readers a little bit about you and your work on this book. 


Tylor:

It’s good to visit with you again, Candace! Thank you for sitting down to do this interview with me. This is fun.  


What should readers know about me? Well, I live in a small town in Wisconsin with my lovely wife and daughter, and I’m a writer of the macabre. I’ve had a fascination with the strange, the fantastic, and the grotesque ever since I was a young child. For this reason, I write about the savage oddities of life in a hopefully thrilling, unnerving, and shocking fashion. 


GATOR HOUSE is an eighty-page novelette that I wrote in February of 2021. At the time, I was working at a toy factory. This may sound fun, but as it turns out, eight hours on an assembly line does not suit my nature. Factory jobs are monotonous, tedious, and soul draining. I was filled with dread and loathing the two and a half weeks I worked there --- thankfully, as a creative person, I have my writing as an expressive outlet. During that time, I wrote GATOR HOUSE, and for this reason I have remained (relatively) sane. 


Candace:

Well, as boring as the job was, at least the time spent was not a complete loss, since "The Gator House" was the result. I’m glad to have you here for this interview. It’s always nice to spend some time with some of my favorite authors. 


So, let’s dive into some other questions, can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you have any rituals that you keep before you sit down to write or do you just write whenever and wherever inspiration strikes? 


Tylor:

Ah, Candace, I love writing questions! I’m a nerd about these things. Trivial as writing habits can seem beneath the shadow of one’s work, they still prove fascinating. Ritual is a luxury, and as of right now, I have a ritual of waking up early every morning, ensuring I make the time to slink down to the basement and write.


However, life often intrudes on our plans. I’ve had rituals previous to this one that I have lost, due to time and circumstance (similar to entropy, a theme that pops up in my stories). For instance, I wrote my first two books inside an old, crumbling, shut-down dairy factory. As night guard there, I performed twelve hour shifts by occasionally making a round of the facility (making sure there were no giant leaks in the pipes, no break-ins, etc.), and writing, writing, writing. It was wonderful --- until a new company bought out the place and I was immediately terminated. “What’s this lout doing here?” they said.


But one adjusts as necessary, in life as in writing. In terms of writing whenever the inspiration strikes, I do this in the form of notes. I always keep a slim Sharpie pen and a memo notepad in my shirt pocket. It comes in handy. How about you, Candace? I must say, your creative productivity amazes me. All these Uncomfortably Dark interviews and book reviews and yet you still manage to write novels. How do you do it? 


Candace:

I love the idea of a ritual and actually wish that I had time for one. I would love to tell you that I get up at 5am, do my morning stretches, brew a pot of tea and hunch over my tiny writing desk in my attic library for two hours before I start my work day as a Corporate Analyst, but sadly, that is not the case. Maybe one day it will be.

In the meantime, I write where and when I can. I utilize the notes feature on my Iphone a great deal to outline my novels, track my book reviews and schedule interviews.  My dining room has been taken over by two giant whiteboards upon which I track everything, down to the hour for any particular day. 

I mentioned my attic library, yes, it’s a real thing. I’ll post pictures one day and it really is my favorite place to write. How about you? Any favorite writing spots, whether in or outside of your home, anyplace just really puts you in the zone? 


Tylor:

I enjoy writing in my basement. It’s cold down here, and that keeps me awake. No distractions. Just several cups of coffee, some atmospheric music, then I begin typing out my dreams. In terms of getting ‘in the zone’ --- the Twilight Zone, that is --- I enjoy listening to John Carpenter soundtracks (his Lost Themes albums are wonderful), as well as classical music. I’ll put on Bach’s Goldberg Variations, or some Beethoven sonatas, or Shubert, or Vivaldi, or perhaps Gustav Holst’s The Planets, and then I do my best to relax and drift away into a new world. 


Sidenote: I’ve recently discovered something quite important. Writer’s block is merely writer’s anxiety. This was made clear to me after reading one of Tim Waggoner’s blog posts about writing. Therefore, I believe it’s best to be in a state of relaxation when one writes, or at least a state of mind that is conducive to creative play.  

Candace:

I’ve heard many writers say that they listen to music as they write. I’ve not developed that habit yet, at least not while I am actually writing. I have been known to put something on to get into the right mindset before I actually begin writing.  


So, how many hours a day do you write and are you a full-time author or do you also have a day/night job? 

Tylor:

Generally, I write for two to three hours every morning. If working on a new project, I focus on producing a minimum of 1,000 words. If editing or revising, I just do as much good work as I can in that 2-to-3-hour block of time. Whether writing new stories, or editing, I believe it’s important to work on one’s craft every single day. 


I have a long road ahead of me before I become a full-time author, I’m afraid, but it’s a road I’m determined to travel. It might take five years, it might take ten or twenty, but when that road meets a publisher who believes in me and my work, I’ll be there as usual. I consider myself a ‘working class writer’, which simply means that I make my living doing manual labor and, whenever I get the chance, I dream and write. 


Although I miss my days at the ‘haunted factory’, as I like to call it, I do very much appreciate the job I have now. I work at one of the largest used bookstores in the state of Minnesota. And, of course, I have the joy of stocking the horror and fantasy shelves. The people I work with couldn’t be kinder, smarter, or more fun. It’s crucial to find a means of living that one enjoys, and although some days are trying, I make it a habit to remind myself of my good fortune. 


I enjoy being around books. Handling them. Opening them up and reading the first sentence or paragraph. Every day, I’m surrounded by half a million stories, voices, ghosts, some ancient and others new. It’s wonderful. 


Candace:

Ah, the bookstore. That would be my true dream job, if I couldn't write full time. To be surrounded by millions of pages, stories, universes waiting to be discovered. Getting a paycheck for that would only be a bonus. 


Alright, so along those same lines, what did you do for a living before becoming a writer? or what would you do, if you weren’t a writer? 


Tylor:

If I weren’t a writer, I would likely be somebody else entirely. I’ve always written, be they stories, or poems, or songs, or merely journal entries. Back when I didn’t think I had the talent to be a writer of strange tales, I attempted forging a career as a singer-songwriter. Armed with a guitar and harmonica, I performed in a plethora of Midwestern dive bars in my early twenties. After some time, I realized this career wasn’t quite for me. 


To be honest with you, Candace, I consider myself to be several people in one. Some days, I feel I could be anyone, and do just about anything. The classic Whitman line is, of course, “I contain multitudes”. Yet if one wants to become a master at something, they ought to pick just one art form and work diligently at it. For me, that’ll always be writing. However, in an alternate life, I could see myself being an actor for stage and film. I could see myself directing films, too. In fact, I sometimes direct films . . . they’re short and hilariously bad, but good heavens, do I have a terrific time making them. A life goal of mine is to write and direct a full-length feature film, then show it at the local theater here in town. 

Candace:

Whitman, a very wise man. That was also one of my favorite quotes. I read a lot of Whitman growing up during my teen years and found him to be very inspiring. How about you? Any major influences and inspiration, who or what, most inspires you to write?


Tylor:

Just as I have a multitudinous (arguably fractured) personality, I have just as many influences. I’m influenced by life and the people I meet. Their quirks, faults, mannerisms, and stories. I’m also influenced by death, life’s opposite. The fear of death is really what pushes me to write every day, along with the simple joy and fulfillment that comes with creative expression. It might sound pretentious to say that one writes out of fear of death, but I honestly think it’s true. I wish to extend myself into the future in the form of printed words, like a message in a bottle sent to sea. It’s a silly wish, and a very human one.


As far as particular influences, there are people one discovers in life that are, in some sense, reflections of themselves. For me, those people are Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut, and Robert Bloch. These are men of creative dreams, of fantasy, and supreme passion. Men after my own heart, as it were. I cannot sing their praises enough. And although these figures may be vastly different from myself, I feel as if I understand them. An illusion, perhaps, but a lovely one.


I adore the works of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, and, more recently, Joyce Carol Oats. Her collection of grotesque tales, “Haunted”, is a work of creative genius, in my humble opinion.

Candace:

I don’t find your reason for writing silly at all. I think many of us seek to leave a part of ourselves behind, something other than our children or some random belongings. Something more that says “I was here.” 

With so many influences, one can infer that you are quite the reader, were you always into reading? Were you an avid reader as a child, if so, what was your favorite book and why? 


Tylor:

Yes, I’ve always been taken with the printed word. My only regret in life, really, is that I hadn’t read even more than I did. Sometimes, I fantasize about being seven years old again, and all I do is lounge in the lush green of my old back yard, with all the time in the world to read book after book. Regardless, I discovered “War of the Worlds & Other Stories” by HG Wells in the sixth grade and absolutely fell in love. 

Candace:

A man after my own heart, just wishing for more time to read. That is my fondest and deepest wish, on a daily basis.  Speaking of favorite books, what is one book that you consider to be the most underrated novel of our time, or most underrated author? 


Tylor:

Oh boy! There are many wonderful books that I think people ought to read. Where to begin?

Although I wouldn’t say these books or authors are necessarily underrated, I’ll include the following titles as some of my personal favorites. These are (fiction) works of high inspiration to me, ones which I’ll return to throughout my life again and again. 


Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates.

Strange Wine by Harlan Ellison.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury.

Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut.

The Complete Stories of Robert Bloch, Volume One.

Dracula by Bram Stoker.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare.


As for the most underrated Stephen King novel, I recently discovered “Needful Things”. Its interweaving of characters and scenes is masterful. I’m a great fan of Joe Hill, as well. I enjoyed his novels, “HORNS”, “NOS4A2”, as well as his novella collection, “Strange Weather” and his story collection, “Full Throttle”. 


As for non-fiction books that I find highly fascinating and important for our times:


The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby. 

How to Read and Why by Howard Bloom.

Voltaire’s Revolution: Writings from His Campaign, edited by G.K. Noyer.

Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein.

The History of Philosophy by A.C. Grayling. 


I also enjoy reading (and memorizing) poems by Stephen Crane, R. Frost, Emily Dickinson, Whitman, and Blake. This is a healthy practice that Bloom encourages in his book, ‘How to Read and Why’. As a bonus, if I ever survive the post-apocalypse, I’ll be useful for something. Need to hear a poem for inspiration, a reason to keep trudging through the ashes of a dying world? I’ve got several!

Candace: 

I see you are a very well-read individual, indeed! So, continuing with your favorite books, do you have one that makes you cry, and how many times have you read it? 

Tylor:

I’m afraid I’m just not wired to cry while reading a book, nor even watching a film or play. My wife tells me that I’m “a soulless monster!” She’s right, of course. My only defense for such callousness is that I’m too aware of verisimilitude. 


However, there are many works that touch me deeply. For example, in “The Halloween Tree”, a group of friends each selflessly gives one whole year from their lives to their dying friend, Pipkin, in order to save him. I find such selflessness to be very touching. It’s a testament to true friendship. I also find “We Were the Mulvaneys” by J.C. Oates utterly heart-breaking. I’ve read the former twice, and the latter recently. I read these books so that I might feel a greater connection to my fellow humans. We all share in the same mortal dreads, and it comforts us to know we aren’t alone in them. How about you, Candace? What are your favorite books, and what do you adore about them?


Candace:

Oh man, my favorite books?! I am afraid we will be here all night. I will answer that question at another time, as I believe that the end of this year will bring a list to Uncomfortably Dark of my favorite books of the year, and another list for my favorites of all time. You can stay tuned for that answer! 


Alright, so moving along here. How about another question, from a different angle this time. So you are here, published, accomplished, living out your dream as a writer, what would your definition of success be at this point? 


Tylor:

If, solely through writing, I can reach the point of paying bills and keeping the household in good standing for my wife and daughter, it would be a marvelous success. To foster a crowd of readers who admire and look forward to my books, too, is something I hope to achieve one day. I’m certainly hungry for it. 


Candace:

That is certainly something to reach for and I wish you all the best in obtaining those goals. 

So, lastly, just for fun, what was the best money you ever spent, as a writer?  What was it, what was its purpose and what did it mean to you? 


Tylor:

It was a frigid day in mid-January. The street was choked with slush. Precariously, I drove my beat-to-hell Cavalier into the small town of Amery, Wisconsin, on my way to play a gig at the local downtown theater. My guitar was safe and warm in the backseat. I used to work in this quaint, wintery downtown area, and I stopped off at the factory I had so sluggishly and loathingly labored for. The place had manufactured rubber cords, of all things. Upon parking outside the front entrance, I discovered the factory had shut down. Now, it’d become a thrift shop.


Being a sucker of old crapola, I was delighted. Climbing through a fierce northward wind, I trudged through the sleet, then stomped the snow from my books on the welcome mat. I nodded, said hello to the nice old lady behind the counter. 


Lo, and behold, in the far corner of the shop: a 1940’s Royal Typewriter. 

With a little white tag hanging off its gleaming silver bale: $15.


I’d always wanted a typewriter, and now, I knew I had one. I happily paid fifteen bucks, loaded it into my trunk (the damned thing was heavy, easily forty or fifty pounds), then sped off to my gig. After a few songs played, I drove home with glorious visions of myself sitting down at the typewriter.


But it didn’t type. The keys stuck together, bunching, and cramming before hitting the page.

I ordered a fresh ink ribbon that stained my fingers black when it arrived. I cleaned out the typewriter with a can of penetrating oil (it stunk up the entire house, much to the dismay of my wife and daughter --- I opened every window in the place, letting in the frigid air, and only then did I think, “Geez, guess I should’ve sprayed this stuff outside”.)


Soon, the machine was typing brilliantly. Crisp, black letters on a crisp white page. 

A phrase came to me, suddenly, as I sat there, hammering away on the keys: And the slugs shall blossom.


Strange phrase, indeed. But I knew there was something there. Turns out, there was. That phrase went into my first professionally sold story, which I wrote on my typewriter. The name of that story, quite appropriately, was “The Typewriter”. I sold it for $25 to Jolly Horror Press to publish it in their horror anthology, “ACCURSED”. 


Long story short, the best money I ever spent as a writer was that fifteen dollars. I still have the typewriter, by the way, and we write a lot of poems and first drafts together. Lila is her name, as anyone who’s read my horror tale, “The Typewriter”, will know. 


Candace:

That is a great story, one that I hope you will tell for years to come! I wish you all the best in your future stories and I can’t thank you enough for taking the time out to join me for a chat. Anything else that you would like to add? 


Tylor:

Well, Candace, this was damned fun. I hope readers may enjoy GATOR HOUSE, or perhaps my best collection of stories to date, MATTERS MOST MACABRE. Thank you again for this opportunity to discuss writing with you, and to promote my books. You’re doing wonderful work, on every creative front, and I wish you the absolute best with them. 


Candace:

Thank you so much for the compliments and the encouragement. I am just doing my small part to help promote the industry that I love so much and I shall continue to do so as long as I can. I have big plans for my site and hope to continue to evolve it to bring the best in horror to all fans, one uncomfortably dark page at a time.  Read on below for Tylor's bio and the full review of "The Gator House."



Tylor’s Bio:

Tylor James lives in the American Midwest. As a writer of the strange and macabre, he’s had tales published in Cosmic Horror Monthly, HYPNOS Magazine, The Literary Hatchet, Penumbric Speculative Fiction, Forlorn – The Periodical, and The Other Stories Podcast. He’s twenty-seven years old, an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association, and author of the highly chilling, MATTERS MOST MACABRE. Be sure to also seek out his new, terrifying novelette: GATOR HOUSE. 

 

Review of The Gator House

Once again, Tylor James shows his impressive range as a new writer with his novella, Gator House. This short but scary tale follows a pair of honeymooners, Amy and Samantha, as they make their way to their destination.  A wrong turn leads them down a lonely stretch of road to a murky swamp, and a run-down old house turned barroom, called “The Gator House.” 

The girls reluctantly head inside for a cold drink and hopefully directions back to the interstate. Barely ten minutes pass before the scrawny kitchen cook delivers their basket of fries and an ominous warning. A single word, uttered quietly but urgently. “Leave.” 


The girls, already uncomfortable in the bar full of rowdy men, decided to take heed of the warning and quickly make their way to the exit, only to find it blocked by the very large owner, Doyle. What happens next sets off a series of events that neither woman saw coming. The swamp comes alive with a frenzy as Amy and Samanatha set off to save themselves at any cost, from “The Gator House.”


Tylor James is a new writer on the horror scene and I had the pleasure of reviewing his collection a few months ago. I was impressed by his writing talent and wide range of storytelling skills and have been waiting for his next release.  I was not disappointed with this novella. He pulls you in very early on with a high tension scenario, a disturbing location and a dark swamp that is hiding more than secrets. 


Four solid stars for “The Gator House.” 

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Meet Christina Bergling

Sept. 24 New Release of "Followers"

Hi Christina and Welcome! 

Congratulations on your new release! Such a huge accomplishment for any author, whether it’s the first release or the tenth release. Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you. Let’s just dive right in, the water is warm. 


First, can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you have any rituals that you keep before you sit down to write or do you just write whenever and wherever inspiration strikes? 


CB: I try to always be writing. What I’m working on changes, whether it is a novel or a short story, but I try to commit a couple hours every day to words. It is like exercising in that if I take a break, I quickly fall out of the habit and struggle to get back. Generally, every weeknight, I put my children to bed and spend the remaining time before I go to sleep writing as I watch TV (usually horror) with my husband. The inspiration drives what I am working on, but the habit and routine makes sure work is happening regularly.


Whenever I finish a novel draft though, I rent myself a hotel room and spend the weekend editing in a sprint of energy drinks and whisky. That is my ritual. Editing is a special circle of writer hell (like public readings), so it requires a little extra encouragement.


Candace:

I can see your editing ritual quickly becoming a favorite one. A reward and quiet time to just work on polishing and perfecting, sounds like an ideal end to finishing up a novel. So, how

about favorite writing spots, whether in or outside of your home, anyplace just really puts you in the zone? 


CB: My favorite writing spot is alone, preferably in a room in the mountains, but just alone. However, I am rarely alone. Busy life, busy family. So my regular writing spot is on the couch in our home. I have also been known to write in the car while my children are in some sort of class or scribbling in a notebook in the dark when I wake from a nightmare.


Candace:

Alone, a favorite wish of mine as well for optimal writing time, but I can relate to the busy life. With so much going on, how many hours a day do you write and are you a full-time author or do you also have a day/night job? 


CB: Unfortunately, I am not a full time writer. I have a day job in IT. I am a Solutions Consultant for a software company, which means I help vet customer requirements into a design then assist in the implementation of a following services project. Very different from my time spent writing. I try to write 2-3 hours a night every weeknight. If I am particularly inspired and pressed to complete something, I will find more time on the weekends or later into the night.


Candace:

I see that you are like many of us, toiling away both day and night. Along those same lines, what did you do for a living before becoming a writer ? or what would you do, if you weren’t a writer? 


CB: I guess I would be a Solutions Consultant for a software company. Though I think I would always need something artistic in my life. I used to work in an art gallery. I have worked with photographers. Art, expression, and creativity are always somewhere in my life.


Candace:

That would make sense, creative types like ourselves always seem to gravitate towards something artistic, even if they are not creating it themselves.


How about influences and inspiration, who or what, most inspires you to write?


CB: Honestly, depression and pain inspire me to write the most. Writing has always been a way for me to exorcise the darkest parts of me. I had very vivid nightmares as a child, and writing them out was how I expelled them from my head. Then, beginning in adolescence, I struggled with severe depression. Again, writing it out has been my way to get those thoughts, feelings, and pain outside of my mind to process and deal with them. They are smaller and quieter on the outside.


I consistently get asked “why horror?” All I can answer is that dark and twisted things have always come out of me, and horror is the only place they have always seemed to fit. When I have read and watched horror, it feels like coming home or talking to kindred spirits, seeing part of my darkness on the outside.


Candace:

I can relate to this, writing is a very healthy outlet for emotions, especially the darkest ones. Depression and emotional trauma were my earliest reasons for writing and still are a big part of it today.  So, how about in your younger years, were you an avid reader as a child, if so, what was your favorite book and why? 


CB: Yes! I read more than I did anything else as a child. My parents used to let me run wild in the library. I devoured books. I went through Goosebumps and Stephen King. My favorite childhood book was probably Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards. I read it over and over until I wore out the spine and wilted the pages.

Candace:

Goosebumps will never grow old for many authors! I read a lot of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe as well.  Speaking of favorite books, what is one book that you consider to be the most underrated novel of our time, or most underrated author? 


CB: Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay blew me away. The scenes are so visceral and disturbing. The book is bold and daring in its horror. Jean-Nicole Rivers is also taking horror in new directions that it needs to go, In particular, her novel To the Moon and Back breaks some taboos about motherhood in horror, and I found it brilliant.


Candace:

I have Head Full of Ghosts on my reading list, and I am looking forward to it that much more now! Continuing with your favorite books, do you have one that makes you cry, and how many times have you read it? 


CB: As a child, Where the Red Fern Grows. I probably read it five times, maybe more. I just loved the dogs. As an adult, White Oleander. I have read it twice. That bitter mother-daughter dynamic gets under my skin. 


Candace:

Where the Red Fern Grows was one of my absolute favorite books too! I read it repeatedly. 

Why do you keep reading it?  

CB: I am drawn to what moves me enough to hurt. Even though it hurts, I want to be that affected. For horror, The Girl Next Door broke my heart like that, though it would be hard to read again.


Candace:

I can relate to that, sometimes we need to feel something beyond ourselves, outside of our current feelings. Red Fern gave me that outlet, the ability to experience other emotions, to feel a different type of pain, other than my “normal”


So you are here, published, accomplished, living out your dream as a writer, what would your definition of success be at this point? 


CB: Published is always success. Every acceptance by a publisher is a success. I love holding a book in my hands with my name on the pages. I guess the next level of success at this point would just be to reach more readers. I am OK with not supporting myself as an author; I just want more people to read my work. I want to be more widely read.

Candace:

Then I wish you many more days of publishing success, I can see big things happening for you, if “Followers’ is any indication of what you have in store for us. 


And lastly, just for fun, what was the best money you ever spent, as a writer?  What was it, what was its purpose and what did it mean to you? 


CB: Wow. This is a harder question than it should be! I’ve spent a lot of money in my time as a writer. Services like editing and marketing, book signing tables at events, paperback copies for promotion events, different promotional materials, costumes, computers. Yet, in all that, the best money ever spent was probably the tuition for my creative writing classes in college. More than the lessons and the books, it was the critique sessions that forged me, that taught me how to take criticism, that allowed me to grow as a writer. Those were probably my most valuable dollars as they laid a stronger foundation for everything else I would do as an author.


I wrote a non-fiction essay in college entitled “How to Kill Yourself Slowly.” That critique session was brutal. The piece was maybe the first time I fully came into my voice and wrote at full volume. It floored the class but also deeply unnerved them. They had questions and concerns; they were even angry about it. And I had no scripts to really deal with that feedback. I learned so much from the experience. Most of all, I learned to remain true to my vision and my writing. “How to Kill Yourself Slowly” ended up being my first published piece.


Candace:

That is an impressive answer and I would very much like to read that piece, if you would  like to send it to me sometime.  I know for many writers, especially new writers, learning how to handle feedback and criticism is often the most challenging part of being a writer. It’s not easy to put yourself out there, to literally pour your soul into something and then have strangers rip it apart. It’s a huge lesson in humility but it can also encourage you to be better, to give more, and to learn more as a writer. 


Before we wrap things up here and move on to the review, is there anything else that you would like readers to know? 


CB: Followers is my fifth book to be published (seventh if you count the fact that Savages and The Waning have been published twice). Yet the experience remains a duality and also quite surreal. On the one hand, it is the dream, the goal, what I have wanted since I was making little paper books in fourth grade. Yet that joy is so fragile and tenuous, balanced on all the insecurities of putting a piece of myself out into the world. From the previous four times, I know I have to brace myself for the negative reviews and all the people who will hate my baby. The Waning really toughened the skin in this area. So this is a raw and tender happiness. Yet just like the books that make me cry and I kept rereading, I will forever be drawn to feelings so vivid.


Candace:

Thank you so much for your time today. I wish you much success with Followers and for those stories you have yet to tell! 

Readers-please keep reading to see Christina's Bio and the full review for her new novel, Followers.

Christina’s Bio:

Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade. In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing on a small scale. It all began with “How to Kill Yourself Slowly.”


Limitless Publishing released her novel The Rest Will Come. HellBound Books Publishing published her two novellas Savages and The Waning. She is also featured in over 18 horror anthologies, including Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, Graveyard Girls, Carnival of Horror, and Demonic Wildlife. Her latest novel, Followers, is released by Crystal Lake Publishing.


Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado. She spends her non-writing time hiking, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life.

 

Review of "Followers"

Sydney is a horror blogger and gore model, spending her days taking sexy nude photos covered in blood, while spending her nights online posting articles and checking in with her social media accounts.


A divorced mom with a young son, she lives with her best friend, Kendra, also divorced with a daughter at home. The two women deal with their lives in typical fashion, day jobs, weekend dads, and dating issues all while Sydney hopes to go viral with her horror blog. 


Sydney maintains a casual relationship with one man, only when her son isn’t home and two online friendships with two other men, who befriended her over two years ago, online.


While away at a horror fest, she is attacked by a stranger but escapes. Once she goes home, strange events begin to plague her, both in real life and online. More mysterious men begin to friend her, threats begin to roll in and her house is broken into. 


As her friends rally around her, warning her to be careful online, her life continues to rapidly spiral out of control.This story takes the more disturbing side of social media and cuts it open to its core, displaying the terrifying reality behind it. 


Four stars for the chilling account of the Followers, in this shocking and hard hitting story of online stalking.

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All Things Deadly- Salem Stories

by E.C. Hanson

August 1, 2021 New Release.

“All Things Deadly” is the debut collection of short stories penned by author E. C. Hanson. Hanson has a long list of short plays that have been produced in the US, as well as many fiction and non-fiction pieces that have been published by Horror Oasis, Curious Blue Press, Collective Tales, and Ghost Orchid Press, among others. 


“All Things Deadly” marks his return to fiction with an excellent collection of short stories that are based in one of America’s creepiest towns, Salem, home of the witch trials. The stories seem to be unrelated but a pattern soon appears as the story of the Frost Family is woven in-between the other tales. 


Each short story delivers a relatable character with a disturbing story line, each one just a bit more chilling than the last. Some are a bit humorous while a few others stick to a darker dose of humanity and horror.  I had a couple of favorite stories, other than the Frost Family central story, which kept me intrigued to the very end.  My favorite short story was “Crunchy Bits” because I loved the dark humor it held and the sense of irony that was carried throughout. I love when a story reveals the darker side of human nature and this one delivered it exceptionally well. 


This is an impeccable collection of short stories that sets itself apart from the rest by carrying a central story along with the rest. Well-written, carefully-planned, “All Things Deadly” carries the chills that Salem is known to deliver. Five stars for this debut by E.C. Hanson. 

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House of Stitched Magazine

August 1, 2021 Edition

I had the privilege of reviewing the new issue of “House of Stitched” Magazine, #3. This issue releases on August 1, and is jam-packed with more than 150 pages of deliciously dark poetry, and exceptional artwork, along with inspirational and thought provoking articles. Contributors to the articles include Brian Keene, Jae Mazer, Lisa Vasquez, D. Pardee Whiting and Tommy Clark, amongst others. 


The opening pages begin with a selection of poetry that is prefaced by an outstanding article titled “Of Rhyme & Reason” by Larissa Bennett, which explores dark poetry as a genre and how it began. It also discusses the reasons for its appeal to both writers and fans of the genre. I found the article to be extremely well researched, and well-written. As a writer of dark poetry, I appreciated the time that was taken to explore the nature of the genre and the reasons behind it.  Often, dark poetry is written as a release, an outlet for those all too human emotions that we cannot easily express, fear, trauma, pain, loss, grief, identity. All of those hidden struggles that our psyche fools us into thinking that we are the only one that feel this way but millions of people feel the same thing, every second, of every day.  


Normally, readers that gravitate to reading dark poetry do so because they see themselves in it. They see a kindred spirit, someone else screaming into the void begging to be heard, just like they are. They relate to it on a deeper level, even while they struggle to relate to another person in the same manner. The selection of poetry that follows the article contains some exceptional examples of dark poetry, beautifully written and displayed. Poetry is by Larissa Bennett, Max I. Gold, James Matthew Byers and others. Poet Max I. Gold is also interviewed in this edition. 


Book Reviews included in this issue were written by Lisa Lee Tone and include “The Slob” by Aron Beauregard, and “Succulent Prey” by Wrath James White. Lisa also reviews “The Virgin’s Embrace” by Dacre Stoker and Chris McAuley. Each review contains the full book synopsis, book cover images, and an in-depth review of each book. 


Notable interviews included Dacre Stoker and Jonathan Janz, both of which were extremely informative and captivating.  I strongly advise getting a copy of this issue for the interviews alone. Other interviews include James A Moore, Danielle Lang, Desiree Byars and Rob Prior.  


Brian Keene penned an amazing article in this edition titled “The Arc of Arterial Spray: A Brief History of Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror.” He breaks down the difference between Splatterpunk and Extreme horror by discussing the origins of each. He discusses many of the authors of each genre, what sets them apart from each other and how the two genres, once divided, have almost merged into one and the same genre, with many authors writing both what is considered splatterpunk and extreme all rolled into one. He ends the article with an excellent list of reading recommendations for both Splatterpunk and Extreme horror. 


Another excellent contribution was penned by Jae Mazer. This article is “Triumvirate of Terror: An Exploration of Three Types of Monsters in Horror. “ This article defines the three monster types as The Impossible, The Plausible and The Flesh & Blood Monsters.  “The Impossible” includes monsters such as Swamp Thing, Dracula, and Cthulhu, while “The Plausible” includes the Blair Witch, BigFoot, Loch Ness monster, ghosts and demons because these beings could, maybe, exist.   


The last category as you might expect discusses real life monsters, those humans tainted by evil. The killers, the rapists, the torturers that walk around us every day, in real life. I found this article to be fascinating especially when Jae brings it back around to why such things appeal to us, why humans like to be scared and why we are fascinated with the dark side of human nature. 


There are far too many articles, interviews, reviews, and art packed into this magazine for me to discuss them all but I promise that you will not be disappointed by any page in this edition. It is a gorgeous magazine, impeccably designed, brilliantly laid out and full of entertaining and interesting articles and art, each one designed to delight the darkest horror denizen. 


Make sure to check out House of Stitched Magazine. 


You can support their kickstarter by clicking on the link below. 

 

August 2021 Issue

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June 1-New Release: Unburied

A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction

Book Synopsis:

An asteroid miner recovering from an accident learns that the cure might be scarier than the trauma. A man discovers a mirror in an antiques shop that allows its gazers to climb inside and visit paradise. A teenager is haunted by the memory of a strange boy who appeared in his bedroom when he was a child. A future pandemic survivor is forced to make a terrible sacrifice in order to save the world's gay male population. A cult survivor sees a man who reminds him of someone from the past and begins to lose a bit of his hard-earned control. An entity that exhibits characteristics of both angel and vampire tells its peculiar story to an anonymous confessor and potential lover in the shadows of an LGBTQ club.


Silent film actresses who haunt a Hollywood Hills mansion, mysterious beings who lurk in the closet, and witches who may or may not live under the bed: these and many other dark fiction entities from this twisted box of curiosities come together to serve the reader a cornucopia of chilling horror, sci-fi terror, and dark fantasy. In a bloody twist on the antiquated trope of "burying the gays,” sixteen established and award-winning genre fiction scribes from around the globe, including Felice Picano (Lambda Award nominee and co-founder of The Violet Quill), Greg Herren (Lambda Award winner and co-founder of the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival), Daniel M. Jaffe (Rainbow Award and American Fiction Prize finalist), and Thomas Kearnes (Lambda Award nominee), put forth a dazzling array of creature features, shadow fables, and dreadful delusions spotlighting LGBTQ+ characters. 

From the website(https://rowlandbooks.com/unburied)


This anthology has something for everyone. I was delighted to find so many great stories within this collection.  Right out of the gate, M.C. St. John immediately drew goosebumps with the story “Sweet Dreams”. As a childhood survivor of many nightmares and years of night terrors, I immediately was a child again, begging for my dad to look under the bed. Young Harold insists that what he heard was real, that what he saw so often under his bed, was really there. Tonight, his father finds out if Harold was telling the truth or not. 


Sarah Lynn Eaton creates a chilling tale of off-world horror in “When the Dust Settles,” where an injured asteroid miner is recovering from her wounds, but does not remember her accident. She has been fitted with some prosthetic limbs which she is still learning to control, or are they learning her? 


Another story truly left me feeling haunted when I finished reading  it, Laura DeHaan’s “Open Up and Let Me In.” This story follows Dana as she is left grieving the death of her wife. Her grief, pain and sense of loss is truly heartbreaking as she reaches out to friends and counselors for help with her sorrow. She also feels like she is losing her grip on things as she begins to see her wife’s face everywhere, at least in reflective surfaces. Her descent into obsession and madness ends with a deeply disturbing twist. 


Every one of these stories delivers a haunting tale that will linger long after you put the book down. This is a 5 star collection, make sure to pick this one up today. 

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Matters Most Macabre by Tylor James

April 24, 2021 New Release

“Matters Most Macabre” is a surprising collection of short stories by Tylor James. Tylor is a new author with a new and strange perspective of the world that I found intriguing. His first story broke my heart, as an author and avid reader, I am sure you will understand why.  The title is “The Day The Stories Died,” and man, I just have never had such a thought. The events that unfold in this story and haunting tale will leave you more than a bit disturbed. I was left quite unsettled by the entire thing and that for me, is horror at its finest. It’s not always a monster under the bed. 


In another tale, “Godly Business”, I was once again, disturbed and amused by the tale told within. America does run on big business and well, this tale is no exception to that rule. Farmer Eddie Rednick, sets out to make a dollar anyway that he can when the body of God falls from the sky onto his land below. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m just going to leave that here and let you read it for yourselves.  You won’t regret it. 


“Box of Chocolates” tells us the story of Jeremy, sad and depressed after his break-up with Angela. After three years, she just got up and moved out. As we do, Jeremy seeks out a way to just talk to her once more, just see her again and then, then she would listen. A lone box of chocolates at the grocery store lands in his cart and he finds himself standing outside of Angela’s mothers house later on that day. Estelle refuses to let him see Angela and rudely snatches the chocolate from his hands. Jeremy returns home, depressed and defeated but oh no, dear reader, the tale does not end there. This is truly one of those boxes of chocolate in which “you never know what you’re gonna get…”to quote the great Forrest Gump. Go see for yourselves, I’ll be over here in the corner, eating chocolate. 


Another favorite of mine was “The Typewriter,” and how could it not be?  It is about a typewriter, the very thing which inspired me to create stories in the first place. The weight of the machine, the clicking and clacking of the keys, the ding as the return reaches the end of the line, all glorious aspects of the vintage machine. In this story, sweet Kendra finds a vintage typewriter at an old shop and buys it for her boyfriend, Andrew, her amazingly loving writer boyfriend. Andrew is just overjoyed by the gift and soon is clacking away on the well-oiled keys. Not only is he using it daily instead of his computer but he is twice as inspired as articles and stories seem to just flow from his fingertips. Soon he is like a man possessed, come along with me and find out what happens to “The Typewriter” in this terrifying tale.


There are many other stories to choose from in this collection and several are sure to whet your appetite for “Matters Most Macabre.”  This was so well-done and each story so finely crafted that I am giving this five stars. Go get a copy today, it’s worth reading several times over. 

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Meet Tylor James

What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?

I’ve always felt a strong inclination to write and be creative. 

At six years old, I wrote a series of hand-made books: Dinosaur Land. These were time travel stories accompanied by terrible, yet somewhat charming illustrations of dinosaurs eating people --- rendered in those delightfully clumsy Crayola color markers. I wrote Dinosaur Land 1, 2, 3, ad infinitum, having always had a desire to be "prolific". Two of those funny little books won me the semi-prestigious Young Authors award, handed out by my Kindergarten teachers.

Another early attempt, at eleven years old, was CICADAS --- a tale about gross bugs raining down on people from the sky. Well, what can I say? I've had a sufficiently warped imagination since a very early age. 

I'm twenty-six years old now, with two short story collections published (Daydreams of the Damned, and my best and latest, MATTERS MOST MACABRE), plus several magazine, journal, newspaper, podcast, and anthology credits to my name. 

My first professional story sale landed in the fall of 2019; a pulpy horror tale called, The Typewriter, which I sold to Jolly Horror Press for twenty-five bucks. I’m still very early on in my career, and I get quite excited thinking about the future. 

Why did you choose to write horror?

I've chosen to write horror because I have an incredibly deep affection for it. Horror agrees with me, you see. It sits well in the stomach, like a hearty and balanced meal. It’s a part of my nature.

Rarely do I ever sit down and think, "I'm going to write a horror story." More so, it's the case that what I write just turns out that way.

I don't necessarily "see" horror in the world, for which I'm very fortunate. I live in a first world country, with a roof over my head, surrounded by people who think I'm okay (most of the time). However, I still feel horror in the world. Horror is part of the human condition. I write about this “feeling of horror” in terms of fiction in order to make it understandable, and thus, bearable. Maybe that comes across as highfalutin nonsense. If so, I apologize. Still, I think this is partially why I write so many horrifying tales. 


Writing horror is a way of ordering one's psyche, a means of remediating encroaching chaos. Plus, it’s just good fun. As a boy, one of my earliest loves was horror films. At five or six years old, I watched Pet Sematary and A Nightmare On Elm Street --- deranged artifacts of cinema I'm told I should never have watched at such a vulnerable age. Yet I did, and I don't regret it, and it has warped me in a way that is agreeable (to me). Consider me gratefully scarred. Amor fati!  

Do you only write horror stories or do you cross-over into other genres? 

Essentially, I like to sit down in a chair and dream with my eyes open, then apply those dreams to paper as faithfully and craftily as I can. It just so happens that a lot of my daydreams are exceedingly dark. I'm a fantasist, in the same vein and approach as Ray Bradbury or Harlan Ellison --- although perhaps I flatter myself at the very mention of those names.

Bradbury. Ellison. They are gods of the written word, in my opinion. Paper Gods.

I cross genres quite often, usually by accident. Daydreaming is an activity centered around a spontaneous unfolding of the subconscious (i.e., "making shit up on the fly"). Therefore my dreams gift me many surprises. Every story I've written has been a surprise. They follow the dictates of dreams. Sometimes my dreams are schlocky pulp-horror, sometimes they're morbid existential fantasies, and sometimes they're science-fiction, or western, or a mixture of stuff.  

What was your idea or original concept for “Matters Most Macabre”?

MATTERS MOST MACABRE, a collection of thirteen tales, was written ON THE CLOCK, working the graveyard shift at a shut-down cheese factory located in Nowhere, Wisconsin. I was employed as a security guard, assuring there weren't any break-ins, and that the boiler kept functioning and the pipes didn't burst in this stinky, musty, vacated building. I wrote from 5:30 in the evening into the early hours. It was a wonderful gig, and I'm grateful to have had it. The original concept behind M.M.M., however, was to simply collect the best (largely unread) work that I've written to date and put it all in one book.  

What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else? 

I have no shame in telling you that I am a Beggar on the Street of Dreams. I'm always hard-up, starving for stories, eager to sink my teeth into any idea which will bear fruit.  I use everything to inspire my stories --- things that happen at the day job (I work as a used bookseller, at the moment), the people I meet, the movies and music I imbibe, my fears, my childhood, everything. I hold nothing sacred, and if I want to write about something, I will do so unflinchingly. As Harlan Ellison once wrote, "You must never be afraid to go there." Likewise, according to Faulkner: "If a writer has to rob his mother he will not hesitate; the Ode on a Grecian Urn is worth any number of old ladies."

On a related note, a few words to the wise: never double-cross a writer, as they will inevitably use you as 'grist' for the 'creative mill'. 

Which author has most inspired or impacted your writing style, alive or dead? 

The act of writing is predicated upon a synthesis of influences, however --- if I were to pick a singular author which has most impacted my work, it's Ray Bradbury. His remarkable talent for crafting beautiful prose is something I aspire to. His basic approach, however, is one I already embody wholeheartedly --- to fantasize and dream and have a ball putting it all on paper.  


Many other writers influence me as well, a few of which include: E.A. Poe, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and Kurt Vonnegut. 

What was your earliest experience with horror? Movie, book, a real-life moment or nightmare?

As a child, my favorite films expose a rather schizophrenic personality. Here they are, in any order: Toy Story, Pet Sematary, The Lion King, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, Child's Play 2, and the Goosebumps TV series. 

My dear Grandmother once ambled into the room while I sat cross-legged on the carpet, watching one of the Child's Play films on our big, boxy Toshiba television. Slightly appalled, she turned to Mom and said, "Why do you let him watch these things?" 

To which Mom shrugged, "He likes it."

My parents weren't fans of horror, in particular. But they had a few VHS tapes lying around, and you can bet I got my curious hands on them. One of the best things my parents ever did for me was this: they sat me down and explained to me that there is a vast difference between real violence, and “pretend-violence”. They made me understand that the people who suffered terrible deaths in the movies were only acting, and that the blood was some mysterious combo of Karo syrup and red food dye. Movies were different from the real stuff, they said, and that murder and war were no good for anyone. Keeping this distinction in mind, I grew up appreciating a great many horror films. 


As for books, I chanced upon War of the Worlds by HG Wells when I was in the sixth grade and adored it, along with The Time Machine. Not long after that, or perhaps a bit before, I read Stephen King's The Shining and The Mist. These early 'experiences in horror' are indelible, in a sense. They've been embedded in my psyche.


One more experience I'd like to share (please forgive this terribly long answer): When I was thirteen years old, I lounged in a chair in my backyard. A beautiful summer day. The sun was hot, the grass lush green, and the breeze was refreshing, if not chilly at times. I was reading a paperback. I don't remember the title, but it featured an introduction by Boris Karloff, and the story was about a guy who cultivated bees which he unleashed upon unsuspecting victims. The ancient yellowed pages held a sweet scent to them, and continually broke loose from the spine, crumbling in my hands as I read. It was just damned lovely. 

What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?

I get a certain high working with kind, creative people. The "horror industry", such as it is, is absolutely loaded with kind, creative people.


Name your top 3 most admired horror authors and/or novels and explain why? 

I’ve mentioned Bradbury and Ellison, so here’s three equally awesome writers:

E.A. Poe --- the man has touched, and continues to touch, a billion tell-tale hearts. His peculiar gothic sensibilities, his immense passion and genius, and his gargantuan shadow is unmistakable. I notice, too, that he has transcended "genre". When I stock Poe books at the book shop, he's not just in the horror section, but in the mainstream fiction aisle as well.


Robert Bloch --- Witty, passionate, charming as hell. When I read a Bloch story, much like I read a Bradbury story, I think to myself, "Man, I want to write something great like that!"  Bloch inspires and uplifts, even when telling the most chilling of tales. In terms of craft --- just pick up The Complete Stories of Robert Bloch, Volume One and one will see that this guy is the MASTER of clever alliteration. And I appreciate alliterations, see: Matters Most Macabre. 


Stephen King --- The man is incredibly prolific, a master of his craft, and possesses a delightful talent for churning out memorable horrors for us all to enjoy (sleeplessly). He's dependably brilliant, in my opinion. 

What is your favorite Horror movie and why?

It's a tie between Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Old Dark House (1932). I love black and white films. They provide me an immense sense of comfort. Watching NOTLD, I'm transported to an eerie, gothic, black and white domain, and for me, it's as timeless as any fairy tale --- The Wizard of Oz, Snow White, Cinderella, Night of the Living Dead.


The Old Dark House, meanwhile, is wonderfully and atmospherically fun. The performances by Ernest Thesiger, Eva Moore, Charles Laughton and Karloff are excellent. It's one of James Whale's best films, in my estimation. I cannot think of a better flick to watch on a dark and stormy night. 

What legacy would you like to leave behind?

Frank Zappa once remarked in an interview, "Being remembered isn't important."

I wish I were as wise as Frank. However, yes, I want a legacy. I want to be remembered. It's utterly egotistical, when you think about it. Why should I, ought of the billions and billions that have lived on planet Earth and have been swiftly forgotten, erased by entropy, even the chiseled gravestones rubbed down into flat, faceless tablets --- why, amidst this chaotic sea of space and time and countless lives, should I be worthy of remembrance? 

I find such reflections on our mortality to be humbling. That said, I'd like people to remember me as a passionate, kind, and loving human being with a hell of a flair for writing GOOD stories --- stories people will remember and think about at the oddest, most random moments.

What would you most like your fans to know about you? 

I'm a fool and I make mistakes, but I'm only human and I mean well. For all past, present and future trespasses, please take it easy on me. I'd do that same for you. (Probably.) 

I'm also quite approachable. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you'd like to chat, or to let me know how my work has touched you personally, or how absolutely wonderful I am as a human being. So long as you're not crazy. Please don't talk to me if you're crazy. I have enough craziness for the both of us. 

What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention?

I write one short story every week. This way, I always remain continually in practice, forever attempting to get better at what I do. According to one of my heroes, George Carlin, "If you're not getting better at what you do, might as well hang it up."

I always want to get better. 

I don't want to hang it up.  

This is very exciting (and, a note to all inquiring publishers out there): I'm preparing a third collection of short stories, BENEATH THE JACK O' LANTERN SKY, which will feature incredibly wild work --- my best yet, always by best yet. 

I also have a novelette I'm polishing, entitled, GATOR HOUSE. I'm considering putting this one out as a short, yet satisfying read. Similar to WEIRDSMITH: Number One which was published by Too Much Weird (Terry M. West's baby) back in January of this year. GATOR HOUSE, rest assured, will thrill you, chill you, leave you cowering in the corner with simultaneous terror and satisfaction. 

I'd like to write a novel someday, too. I'm not quite there yet, but damn it, it's going to happen! "A man's reach must exceed his grasp" and all that . . . 

Tylor's Bio:

Tylor James, born in Clark Fork, Idaho, now resides in New Richmond, Wisconsin. He's an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association, with weird and dark stories published in Hypnos Magazine, The Literary Hatchet, The Periodical, Forlorn, Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine, and such anthologies as ACCURSED: A Horror Anthology and SCARE ME (from Esskaye Books). One of his best tales, "A Skeleton Reads Shakespeare" was adapted for dramatic narration by The Other Stories Podcast. He's the author of Daydreams of the Damned: Tales of Horror & Oddity, Weirdsmith: Number One, as well as his best and latest, MATTERS MOST MACABRE.


His website: tylorjames.com

Facebook: Tylor James 

Instagram: @tylorthewriter

Twitter: @creaturekillswe

 

Malinae by Josh Schlossberg

April 24, 2021 New Release

“Malinae” is a disturbing story that masterfully weaves a large helping of horror into an already terrifying take on aging and Alzheimer’s. Ward is a loyal and loving husband to Malina, his aging wife that is slowly giving way to Alzheimer’s, the disease that is slowly erasing the woman he once knew. He watches her fade a bit more every day, helpless and frail with his own aches and pains.
Their daily lives are almost fully governed by their two caretakers, Celeste and Daria, while their adult daughter, Brooke, comes for her obligatory visits on Sundays.
During dinner, Ward sees an odd protrusion in Malina’s mouth, which he tries to remove but is not successful and their caretaker harshly scolds him for not being more careful. When he looks again, her mouth seems normal and he brushes it off as old age or hallucinations from his meds, both viable options at his stage of life.
As the days go by, he becomes more alarmed by Malina’s behavior and asks his grandson, Jason, to help him investigate the caretaker, Celeste, who has become increasingly more erratic in her behavior and her protective attitude of Malina. Things escalate as Jason uncovers more information about their caretaker and Ward comes to understand that his life is in danger, and the life of his beloved wife. The story unfolds at an ever-increasing pace as Ward fights to save his wife from the thing inhabiting her body, but will he lose himself in the process?
I enjoyed this story and how well it played out. Not too much backstory but enough to fill in who the main characters were and who they are now. The emotions were heart-wrenching and relatable as it paints a very honest picture of what aging looks and feels like, to those going through it. The loss of family, friends, social life and hobbies along with the sense of isolation are very real things that many of us don’t think about until it happens.
Josh takes an already sad situation and weaves a horrific tale around it. I’m giving this four out of five stars.

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Meet Josh Schlossberg

Author of "Malinae"

What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?

I had no choice in the matter. The demons that incubated and hatched in my head demanded an outlet, and I was powerless to resist. I’m no more a professional writer than a hostage is a professional captive.


Why did you choose to write horror?

Writing romance is far too disturbing.


Do you only write horror stories or do you cross-over into other genre’s? 

I used to write children’s stories, but the public protests made me stop.


What was your idea or original concept for “Malinae”?

I wish I knew. I had an eight-month blackout last year, and when I regained consciousness, the manuscript was on my laptop. 

Malinae’s plot, however, seems to be about an elderly man watching his wife succumb to dementia, until he realizes a far darker force is to blame and decides to do something about it. As an aspiring old man, myself, it hits close to home.


What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else? 

A chemical imbalance, I’m assuming.


Which author has most inspired or impacted your writing style, alive or dead? 

Dead authors, definitely. Especially the ones who somehow keep putting out books.


What was your earliest experience with horror? Movie, book, a real-life moment or nightmare?

Leaving my mother’s womb. Sadly, that was only the beginning.


What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?

People tend to avoid boring small talk. Or having conversations with me at all, come to think of it.



Name your top 3 most admired horror authors and/or novels and explain why? 

Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree: A so-called “children’s book” about a sociopath who grows up experimenting with different ways to mutilate a sentient tree.

Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now: A terrifying tale about getting stuck in a moment of time for all eternity. Basically, a modern-day Dante’s Inferno.

Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: A book so heavy it maims anyone who picks it up and so long it blinds the reader. 


What is your favorite  Horror movie and why?

Any Adam Sandler movie. No other films in existence are remotely as painful to watch.  


What legacy would you like to leave behind?

A general sense of unease.



What would you most like your fans to know about you? 

How I appreciate the fact that they spread cool air around my bedroom while providing soothing white noise to fall asleep to, all without requiring much electricity.



What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention?

Most of my time is taken up by writing apology letters to my readers. I’m also being blackmailed by [NAME REDACTED] to write an environmental Jewish modern-American folk horror novel, as if there aren’t enough of those already. 


Please include a brief bio here: Include birthplace, city of residence, degrees or awards of note. Novels / stories published, website info, etc. 

Birthplace: A god forsaken hollow in New York’s Hudson River Valley.

City of residence: An undisclosed bunker in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

MALINAE (D&T Publishing, 2021); Numerous biological and microbial horror tales in a variety of horror fiction publications and anthologies. 

Lead editor of TERROR AT 5280’ (2019), an award-winning, bestselling Colorado-based horror fiction anthology; publisher of CONSUMED: TALES INSPIRED BY THE WENDIGO (edited by Hollie & Henry Snider, 2020); editor of the forthcoming THE JEWISH BOOK OF HORROR (due out Hanukkah 2021), all published by Denver Horror Collective.

JoshsWorstNightmare.com and DenverHorror.com.

Josh’s Worst Nightmare and Denver Horror Collective are also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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