Friday, October 30, 2015

Hallowed Ween

I've always loved Halloween, ever since I can remember, but I was a bit worried about it this year, concerned that it would hurt and open up old wounds... Halloween was one of the very few things I had in common with my brother, whom I lost earlier this year.

He and I really weren't close. We didn't see eye-to-eye and we really didn't get along, except for that magical few weeks every autumn leading up to The Big Day. Halloween unified us, created a bond like nothing else could. We decorated together, watched Halloween specials (An old Halloween episode of Martin, any of Roseanne's Halloween specials, Treehouse of Horror, and the classic Garfield special were among our favorites), critiqued the neighborhood decorations, helped each other out with our costumes, and sat together in his room, listening to Halloween themed (and anything you could even stretch to fit that theme loosely) records and 8-track tapes.

He loved inflatable skeletons. I briefly debated getting one and hanging it up in front of the house as some sort of memorial, but I couldn't make myself do it. I think perhaps it's because one of the last gifts I ever sent him was one of his favorite brand of inflatable skeletons.

Honestly, it doesn't hurt as much as I feared it would. I do still love Halloween. For a little while in there, I was almost afraid that I wouldn't, that I'd lose something that has been a defining factor in who I am as a person since I was very, very small. But I focused on some of the good Halloween memories I've had, and shared with others. I wanted to share a few of them with you, my friends and readers, as well.

When I was 3 or 4 and made my first Halloween costume all on my own. I was a picture of a vase of flowers, and I thought I was sooooo clever. I'd taken this big old picture frame I found in the trash, taken the glass and the picture out, and drawn flowers in a big vase on the cardboard backing. Then I cut a hole for my face, dressed all in black and put the hanging wire over my shoulders. No one got it. I mean NO ONE. I got progressively more crestfallen as the night went on and I had to keep explaining what I was to people.

When I was 5 or 6 and insisted on being Elvira, Mistress of the Dark for Halloween. I wasn't old enough or worldy enough to really understand why that might not be the best choice for a kid that young and I was absolutely adamant about the accuracy of my costume, right down to the plunging neckline and tiny dagger (which I made out of foil and poster board, colored, and glued glitter to). THANKFULLY it was bitterly cold out that Halloween and I ended up wearing a puffy coat over my hilariously (to look back on it, anyway) inappropriate costume.

When I was 9 and went as the headless horseman and my brother went as a skeleton. One of my happiest memories of him involves that night, when, for effect, he not only lent me but actually SUGGESTED I borrow one of his most prized possessions (an inflatable skull, which was apparently very rare and incredibly precious to him). I knew how much it meant to him and it really touched me that he'd let me carry it around the neighborhood just to add to my costume. Granted, he watched me like a hawk the entire time, but it was incredibly touching nonetheless.

When I was 15 and depressed, not planning on doing anything but hiding in my room, writing and watching whatever spooky thing was on television,  and my best friend, Laura, came over and dragged me out. For the first time in recorded history, I didn't have a costume planned and wasn't going to dress up, but she convinced me I had to (and she was right!) So I went outside and gathered some sticks and made a necklace resembling that thing from The Blair Witch Project, which had recently come out, and wore it over my all black outfit, calling myself the Blair Witch, which, I rationalized, was fair as the witch herself is never actually shown in the movie.

Halloween 2013, when I dressed up as a Calavera/Sugar Skull Makeup and enjoyed this interaction with a local kid:

Favorite moment of the night:
Teenage boy wearing a trash bag with arm/neck holes: "You're barefoot. Aren't you cold?"
Me: "The dead don't get cold."
TB: *scoff* "You're not dead."
Me: "Shine that flashlight in my eyes." (My pupils are hyperreactive so I don't blink in bright light, and I'm wearing FX lenses that look like red flowers)
TB: *takes a few steps back, then turns and calmly walks about 5 paces before bolting*

Those are a few of my favorite Halloween memories, now it's your turn. What are some of yours?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Maelstrom Girls

The sixth installment of Brian Keene's Maelstrom series from Thunderstorm Books goes on sale today, and as excited as I always am for those sets, this one is special... this one includes a novella by myself and 3 other truly fantastic authors.

I chatted with the other Maelstrom girls and asked them some brief questions about their novellas. Check them out and OF COURSE buy the set!


Tell me, in a sentence or two, what your novella is about.

It's about a young black girl in the 1960s who must deal with her everyday life of bussing and forced school integration, while accepting that she is so very different than the other children around her.

What was your inspiration?

The small town that I grew up in, Hopkinsville KY. The family dynamic and small town vibe all remind me of home. I write a lot about small towns because I moved to Atlanta at a young age and always missed Hopkinsville. But I realize it's not really home anymore. You know what they say, you can never go home again...unless you recreate your own version of it, I suppose.  

Do you (or have you) intend to write more about these characters or in this universe?


Tell me, in a sentence or two, what your novella is about.

A soldier returns to his rural Kentucky hometown after a long tour in Afghanistan and has trouble re-integrating into normal society, especially when his post-war symptoms begin to manifest as deadly hallucinations.

What was your inspiration?

I have a friend who came back from Afghanistan with a lot of interesting stories and experiences. Being a writer, I let some of those stories spin out of control in my mind until I came up with a psychologically damaged character with an eerie story of his own. I was born and raised in Kentucky so I knew a lot of storytellers growing up, and I wanted this weird, mental, pseudo-ghost story to be told in that Kentucky front-porch-gathering style, so a lot of the dialogue is pretty heavily southern.

Do you (or have you) intend to write more about these characters or in this universe?

Nope. I have a real creative wanderlust, so I find it tedious to stick with one person or group of people for too long. I guess there might come a day when I run out of stories to tell, or characters to exploit, and I might go back and revisit some folks from the past, but as of now I have no intention of coming back to the characters in this story.

Tell me, in a sentence or two, what your novella is about.

 I could write a few sentences about the plot, but I don’t think that’s what the novella is really about. I think it’s about an extremely damaged and broken woman – a woman who in a metropolis of Lovecraftian monstrosities is a greater monstrosity by virtue of being actually less monstrous (in the Lovecraftian way) - who is trying to simultaneously make herself better than circumstances and life have made her (as we all do) and discover the origins and purpose of her existence.
What was your inspiration?

Well, I’ve wanted for a number of years to write another long piece set in my colossal Lovecraftian megalopolis of Obsidia, so I decided to combine that with a setting that drew on the many years I’ve spent in the corporate world, in particular the publishing industry. There was an embarrassment of riches to draw on, I have to say.

Do you (or have you) intend to write more about these characters or in this universe?

I do intend to, but I can’t reveal anything more at this point. But, yes, readers will definitely see this protagonist and this world again – a number of times, in fact!


Tell me, in a sentence or two, what your novella is about.

A race of alien berserkers invades an airport and tries to take it (and maybe the rest of the world...) over by bloody, brutal force.

What was your inspiration? 

A few things. The idea itself came to me on vacation. I was standing in line at the gate, waiting to board a plane, and the woman in front of me was just so incredibly annoying... I imagined a gruesome death for her, and my story started to take shape. I also took some inspiration from the Clickers series (one of my favorites!), action movies, friends, family, and what have you. It's sort of a mash up love story/ode to everything good in my life that just happens to be populated by hungry, carnivorous aliens.

Do you (or have you) intend to write more about these characters or in this universe? 

I started a sequel to tell the rest of the story about a week after I finished the first draft. Hopefully, it will see publication someday...

The curator of this phenomenal collection, Mr. Brian Keene himself, also answered a few questions for me:

Daughters of Inanna is a very different project than anything you've worked on in the past. What inspired the idea for the collection?
Each year's Maelstrom set is designed with the same goal in mind -- one of the books is always by an author I enjoy, and that I think my readership would enjoy. It's a good way of convincing buyers to take a chance on that writer. Previous years have included Kelli Owen, Sarah Pinborough, John Urbancik, Geoff Cooper, and others. This year, I wanted to promote four writers instead of one. I thought if we did an anthology--something similar to NIGHT VISIONS or 4X4, that would be a good way to go.

 You've selected writers with very diverse styles and approaches, tell me a bit about that decision.

When I started going over my short list of  authors I wanted to use, I saw your four names (Chesya, Amber, Rachel, and Livia) and decided to reach out to the four of you. To be honest, once you all said yes, it also provided me a chance to champion diversity -- something which I try to do in my own writing, but here was a chance to do it from the publishing side. Diversity is something that is important to Paul at Thunderstorm, as well, and he happily agreed with the line-up.

Were you hoping for somewhat of a cohesive theme, or is the vast array of topics, styles and themes by design?

All four of you have VERY different voices and styles. You're writing very much in the vein of J.F. Gonzalez, Livia's got a real Clive Barker meets Thomas Ligotti kind of vibe, Chesya's novella is sort of Southern Gothic by way of Joyce Carol Oates, and Rachel is resonating with Jack Ketchum and Richard Laymon. All of which are exactly what I'd hoped four -- to showcase a broad range of voices and styles that will appeal to the widest variety of readers.

(Author's note: I have to admit to getting a little choked up when Brian compared me to J.F. Gonzalez, one of my literary heroes and the very first interview ever posted on my blog)


There you have it! The inside scoop! Now go order it already!