New Release & Stoker News

I’m thrilled to announce that my story “The Certainty of Silence” was released in the Sci-Fi & Scary charity anthology Twisted Anatomy: A Body Horror Anthology. This story was written as a protest against domestic violence. This fairy tale mash-up of “Bluebeard” and “Little Mermaid” also includes nods to the sirens found in mythology, Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligeia,” and Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber.” Best of all, the proceeds from this anthology benefit the Pulmonary Hypertension Association and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

February has been a banner month and a great way to start the year. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk about horror with an incredible group of women at Females of Fright!–an online panel hosted by HWA and WiHM. You can watch it at the HWA’s YouTube channel HERE.

In other news, the anthology Arterial Bloom made it to the Bram Stoker Award final ballot for Superior Achievement in an Anthology. My story “Rotten” is the last story in this beautiful book, which was edited by award-winning author Mercedes M. Yardley. This is the first time one of my stories has been included in an anthology under consideration for a Bram Stoker Award, and I couldn’t be more excited about it!

It’s wonderful to see so many women writers and diverse voices on this Stoker ballot! I think it’s simply marvelous, and I’m proud to be a member of an organization that works so hard to support all writers.

On Rejections and Awards

There is one thing all writers have in common, regardless of genre and skill. It doesn’t even hinge on author presence and publication history. At some point in every writer’s career, rejection hits. It’s just part of the game.

Yet, rejection stings. Every single time.

Prior to my current work in fiction and poetry, I had non-fiction career under a different name. I published hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles. I was a columnist and a grant writer. I compiled white papers for private companies and confidential reports for the Department of Defense. And, I contributed to dozens of travel guides; four of which I was the sole author. Yet even then, even when referrals came in faster than I could write, I still faced rejection.

When I turned my focus to fiction in 2014, I thought I had enough grit and experience to face the inevitable. However, no one told me that the rate of rejection is exponentially higher in fiction than it is in non-fiction. Being a writer of fiction is like being tossed in a pit with starving lions. It’s a blood bath.

One of the first stories I wrote as Carina Bissett was “Rotten,” a modern take on “Snow White.” In it’s polished form, it was good enough to earn an acceptance to the M.F.A. program in Creative Writing (Popular Fiction) at Stonecoast (University of Southern Maine). Yet, it took three years from this story’s first rejection to an acceptance, and it took another sixteen months after that before it ended up in print. Over the course of the three years I submitted “Rotten,” it was rejected fourteen times. I wondered if it would ever find a home.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when it was finally accepted by Mercedes M. Yardley (an award-winning author in her own right) for inclusion in an anthology published by Crystal Lake Publishing. It was even more exciting to discover that “Rotten” was slated as the final story in the book! (This was one of my “firsts” last year. In fact, my work took the coveted spot of the last story in TWO anthologies: Arterial Bloom and Bitter Distillations.)

When Arterial Bloom came out in March 2020, I didn’t think I could be happier. (Just look at the gorgeous cover!) And then, I opened my email yesterday to discover that Arterial Bloom made the Bram Stoker Awards preliminary ballot for Superior Achievement in an Anthology!

Will Arterial Bloom make it to the final ballot? I suppose only time will tell. In any case, I will always appreciate this moment. There were times when I nearly trunked this story. I became convinced no one would want to read it, which makes it all that much sweeter that self-doubt didn’t win. I’m considering this journey a lesson in patience and resilience. Sometimes, stories just need to find the right editor to believe in them. Mercedes M. Yardley just so happened to be the perfect reader for this particular story. Thank you, Mercedes! And a special thanks to all of the readers who nominated this beautiful little book. It’s been a fabulous way to start the new year!

Superior Achievement in an Anthology

Bailey, Michael and Murano, Doug – Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors (Written Backwards)

Cagle, Ryan and Jenkins, James D. – The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories, Volume 1 (Valancourt Books)

Flynn, Geneve and Murray, Lee – Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (Omnium Gatherum Media)

Givens Kurtz, Nicole – Slay: Stories of the Vampire (Mocha Memoirs Press)

Kelly, Michael – Shadows & Tall Trees 8 (Undertow Publications)

Kolesnik, Samantha – Worst Laid Plans: An Anthology of Vacation Horror (Grindhouse Press)

Neal, David T. and Scott, Christine M. – The Fiends in the Furrows II: More Tales of Folk Horror (Nosetouch Press)

Rector, Jeani and Wild, Dean H. – The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories (HellBound Books Publishing, LLC)

Tantlinger, Sara – Not All Monsters: A Strangehouse Anthology by Women of Horror (Rooster Republic Press)

Yardley, Mercedes M. – Arterial Bloom (Crystal Lake Publishing)

Publication Announcements & End of the Year Round-Up

I just received a parcel delivered through Royal Mail! Inside were my contributor copies of Bitter Distillations: An Anthology of Poisonous Tales, which was edited by Mark Beech and published by Egaeus Press. It is a beautiful book, and I’m beyond thrilled that my story “An Embrace of Poisonous Intent” closes out this gorgeous array of tales. I’ve been adding titles put out by Egaeus Press to by bookshelves for a couple of years now. The fact that copies of their newest anthology showed up on the last day of the year makes this story success that much sweeter.

Although 2020 has been a challenging year in many ways, it has also been one of my most productive. I finished my first novel, which I’m currently editing under the guidance of the amazing Angela Slatter. (If you have the opportunity to work with her, take it. Trust me on this.) I also wrote five original stories including “An Embrace of Poisonous Intent” and “The Stages of Monster Grief: A Guide for Middle-aged Vampires,” which came out in the October publication of Coffin Blossoms.

This year was a year filled with firsts for me. My story “Rotten” was the final story in the Crystal Lake anthology Arterial Bloom, edited by Mercedes M. Yardley. I also had a story listed as the opening story with the publication of “An Authentic Experience” in Wild: Uncivilized Tales from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. The linked vignettes I wrote for The Lost Citadel Roleplaying Game were published by Green Ronin Publishing in December. And I also celebrated my first translated story with the Japanese publication of “A Seed Planted” in Night Land Quarterly, Vol. 21.

In the end, my work came out in nine publications (including two reprints) in 2020. Although I only published two stories in 2019, they both received mentions this year as well. My story “Burning Bright” from Gorgon: Stories of Emergence received a nod from the renowned editor Ellen Datlow in The Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 12, and Terror at ‘5280, which includes my story “Gaze with Undimmed Eyes and the World Drops Dead,” won Best Anthology at the 2020 Best Book Awards (BBA) by American Book Fest.

In addition to my own publications, I co-edited the charity anthology Weird Dream Society: An Anthology of the Possible & Unsubstantiated in Support of RAICES, and I was a judge for the HWA Poetry Showcase, Vol. VII. I also had the wonderful opportunity to share my favorite books of 2020 at Vernacular Books.

My planner is full of hopes and dreams for 2021, and I look forward to the creative challenges ahead. Happy New Year!

Publication & Appearance News

I have a couple of stories that are now out in the world, so I figured it was time to write a post. “An Authentic Experience” was published in the anthology WILD: Uncivilized Tales from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I wrote this piece in August 2018, after a massive hail storm wrecked havoc on Colorado Springs and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Softball-sized hail destroyed several structures, hundreds of parked cars, and killed a few of the exhibits’ animals.

Luckily, the giraffes were spared serious damage. However, this had me thinking of the purpose of zoos and the fact that giraffes had just quietly slipped on Critically Endangered list. The end result was the story “An Authentic Experience”—a story about a zookeeper and the animals he cares for after Earth had been destroyed by an alien civilization. In all honesty, I just wanted the giraffes to have a chance to fight back.

This month, my flash story “The Stages of Monster Grief: A Guide for Middle-Aged Vampires” came out in the humorous horror anthology Coffin Blossoms, published by Jolly Horror Press. I read this piece at the inaugural Bloody Valentine event hosted by the Colorado Springs Chapter of the Horror Writers Association (HWA).

I’m thrilled that the HWA Colorado Springs Chapter is now its own entity. We have a powerhouse committee of founding members and plan on creating an inclusive community for all Colorado writers working in the realms of horror and dark fiction. It’s an exciting venture, and I can’t wait to see it evolve and grow!

In my final bit of October news, I will be speaking on two panels at MileHiCon this weekend: Building SF & Fantasy Mythologies (Saturday, Oct. 23 at 1 p.m.) and Modern Age of Poetry (Sunday, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m.). Both are in the Neverland room. I have a lot to say about both topics, and I’m looking forward to the panel discussions. I hope to see you there!

August News

Hath No Fury coverMy birthday is right around the corner (August 31), which makes all the good news I’ve received lately even more enjoyable. On August 23, Hath No Fury was released into the world. This gorgeous anthology hold special meaning for me as it contains my “Jack and the Beanstalk”/”Rappaccini’s Daughter” mash-up “A Seed Planted,” which was one of the first manuscripts I workshopped with Liz Hand during my time at Stonecoast. I received the acceptance letter while I was in Puerto Vallarta celebrating the fact that I’d survived the first year of my bicycle accident in June 2016. It seems a lifetime ago now, but it was worth the wait. It’s a gorgeous books and an incredible line-up.

In other news, my poem “Blood Work” will be included in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. V, edited by Stephanie Wytovich. I worked on this particular piece with Cate Marvin, an extraordinary poet who took the time to really help shape the way I approach poetry. In the past, I had a fascination with Anne Sexton’s Transformations–a collection I still admire–but, I am not Anne Sexton, and with Cate’s help, I’ve been able to find my own path.  I still have a fascination with fairy tales and myth, but my poems have started to evolve into pieces with more concrete connections. It’s an interesting journey, and one I hope to continue.

During my time at Stonecoast working with Cate, I also wrote an academic paper on the brides of Frankenstein’s monster. Body horror tends to crop up in my creative work, so this felt like a natural transition. I ended up presenting that paper at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in March, and I ended up with some interest in an essay adaptation on my research. I recently had the opportunity to view the final draft of  Birthing Monsters: Frankenstein’s Cabinet of Curiosities and Cruelties, which will include my piece “Mapping the Collective Body of Frankenstein’s Brides.” Firbolg Publishing will be hosting a book signing on October 28 at Dark Delicacies (3512 W. Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA). Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend because of a prior commitment at Sirens; however, you can be sure I’ll be watching the festivities remotely. It looks like it will be an incredible event.

gorgon-emergenceMy last bit of news was just announced today–I have a story coming out in the stunning Pantheon Magazine anthology Gorgon: Stories of Emergence“Burning Bright” is the result of an experiment in literary style. I started with a flash piece written about an abused girl hidden in the skin of a circus tiger, which was originally inspired by Angela Carter’s short story “The Tiger’s Bride,” collected in The Bloody Chamber. When I decided to expand it in order to take a look at the cycle of abuse, I settled on the opening reference to Frank R. Stockton’s short story “The Lady or the Tiger?”, which was originally published in magazine The Century in 1882. The story has come to represent an unsolvable problem, which I feel reflects the emotional state of victims trapped in relationships ruled by domestic violence.

I also borrowed the spelling of “tyger” from the William Blake poem “The Tyger” to indicate the shift from beast to woman, and the fierceness of the human soul once it is freed from the conventions that bind it. Other references include instructions on how to sew a lining, a circus calliope driven by a steam-driven carousel, the children’s counting rhyme “Eeny Meeny,” depictions of children’s string games, and hints of resurrection through the connection symbolized by the red thread of fate. This piece is meant as an acknowledgment of the fact that many victims return to their abusers, often several times. That final act of separation is a brave one and it often comes at a high cost. “Burning Bright” is a reminder that there is hope. The uncanny connection between a victim and an abuser can be severed. Freedom can be attained.

 

 

Hath No Fury! Story Announcement!

It has been a year since a traumatic twist of fate sent me hurtling 20 mph, face-first into the gravel-strewn asphalt near the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Just days after celebrating the fact that I survived that cycling accident and all of the related complications, I received notice that my short story “A Seed Planted” had been selected for inclusion in the Ragnarok Publications anthology Hath No Fury. Nearly 400 submissions were received, all competing for the one coveted slot left open in this curated collection. I’m overjoyed to report that “A Seed Planted” has been awarded that spot and will be published alongside stories written by some of my favorite writers including Seanan McGuire, Carol Berg, Nisi Shawl, Delilah S. Dawson, and Lucy A. Synder.

hath no fury.jpgI couldn’t be more thrilled with the acceptance issued by co-editor Melanie R. Meadors (science fiction and fantasy author, blogger at The Once and Future Podcast), and the realization that I will be joining the incredible line-up of talented authors and artists associated with the project. The anthology description is as follows: “Hath No Fury contains…meaningful stories that defy the stereotypes. In this anthology, readers should expect to find super-smart, purpose-driven, ultra-confident heroines. Here, it’s not the hero who does all the action while the heroine smiles and bats her eyelashes; Hath No Fury’s women are champions, not princesses in distress. Embracing the strong warriors to the silent but powerful, to even the timid who muster up the bravery to face down a terrible evil, the women of Hath No Fury will make their indelible marks and leave you breathless for more.”

Sign me up.

Hath No Fury will include an introduction by Margaret Weis and nearly two dozen stories written by such speculative fiction authors including Seanan McGuire, Lian Hearn, Elaine Cunningham, Carol Berg, Gail Z. Martin, William C. Dietz, Nisi Shawl, Dana Cameron, Django Wexler, Delilah S. Dawson, Philippa Ballantine, Anton Stout, Elizabeth Vaughan, Bradley P. Beaulieu, M. L. Brennan, Michael R. Underwood, Erin M. Evans, Eloise J. Knapp, Marc Turner, S. R. Cambridge, and Lucy A. Synder. How incredible is that?

In addition to the stellar story selections, Hath No Fury will also include short essays by Robin HobbSarah Kuhn, Diana Pho, Monica ValentinelliK. Tempest Bradford, and Shanna Germain. But this anthology is not just a collection of stories and essays, it will also be filled with original art. Each piece of fiction will be individually illustrated, with the majority of the illustrations completed by Oksana Dmitrienko. However, the collection will also feature art by Wayne Miller and Keri Hayes, who were selected from the open art submission window offered as one of the project’s Stretch Goals.

The acceptance of my story also hinged on the open submission window made possible by all of the people who backed the anthology’s Kickstarter campaign. “A Seed Planted” is a tale about family, justice, and revenge. It was one of those stories that surprised me even as it was being written and I’m so glad I will be able to share it with you all soon. Hath No Fury is looking at a publication date in August. Stay tuned!

Women Writing the Weird

twilight talesMy preference for weird and dark fiction is something that is often reflected in my writing. This wasn’t always the case.

When I was growing up, I tended towards fantasy. I would occasionally dip into murkier water, but the books in the horror section were most often written by men and that flavor of the macabre didn’t suit my tastes. The fantasy I penned often examined the dark places in the soul and I wished there were other women writing in the same vein.

armless maidenOver the years, I’ve been pleased to see more and more weird and dark fiction being produced and published by women. However, we are still a minority among writers working in a male-dominated genre.

There have been efforts in increasing the visibility of women writers of horror. In fact, the whole month of February (the shortest month of the year) is dedicated to spreading the word about women writing weird and dark fiction. During Women in Horror Month, lists of fabulous female horror writers are bandied about. The Horror Writers Association has even taken a stab at cultivating women writers in the field with the $2,500 Mary Shelley Scholarship (the first scholarships were awarded in 2014).

Erasures by Catherine Chauloux

 

It’s wonderful that the efforts are bringing women horror writers new readers, but what happens when February comes to an end? What happens to the visibility of the fabulous female writers working in the field the rest of the year? For the most part, we disappear.

armless maiden 2“Do we vanish from your minds the rest of the year?” writes Damien Angelica Walters. “I understand compiling lists and such, but is this the only time you pay attention to the women writing horror? If that’s the case, I’d ask you to ask yourself why. If your current reading lists or end of the year lists contain little or no work written by women or you typically don’t read horror by women, why? Yes, please read our work and talk about it in February, but please also read our work and talk about it the other eleven months of the year.”

These are questions that need to be broached. It’s a complicated business, but I have hope that women who are writing horror will continue to make their presence known. And that presence will grow.

Here are a few suggested reads (ranging from horror to dark fantasy) to whet your appetite:

Palingenesis by Megan Arkenberg
All the World When It Is Thin by Kristi DeMeester
The Maiden Thief by Melissa Marr
eyes I dare not meet in dreams by Sunny Moraine
It Feels Better Biting Down by Livia Llewellyn
Stopping by Woods by Lise Quintana
Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma
Armless Maidens of the American West by Genevieve Valentine
Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters
Even In This Skin by A.C. Wise
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong
Secondhand Bodies by JY Yang

Manuel Bujados (1889–1954), Illustration for 'La Esfera' magazine, April 1927

Images: The Mystic Wood by John William Waterhouse; Handless Maiden Series by Jeanie Tomanek; Erasures by Catherine Chauloux; illustration for La Esfera (1927) by Manuel Bujados

A Great Start to a New Year

6a00e54fcf7385883401a3fc18bb0e970b-800wiWinter is my favorite season of the year. There is something about dark days and long nights that nourishes my soul. The cold and quiet that comes with deep winter allows me the time to contemplate the direction of my creative work.

In An Unspoken Hunger, Terry Tempest Williams writes about these connections between place and creative healing. “Writing becomes an act of compassion toward life, the life we often refuse to see because if we look too closely or feel too deeply, there may be no end to our suffering. But words empower us, move us beyond our suffering, and set us free. This is the sorcery of literature. We are healed by our stories. By undressing, exposing, and embracing the bear, we undress, expose, and embrace our authentic selves. Stripped free from society’s oughts and shoulds, we emerge as emancipated beings. The bear is free to roam.”

6a00e54fcf73858834019b047d4108970d-800wi“We are creatures of paradox, women and bears, two animals that are enormously unpredictable, hence our mystery,” Williams continues. “Perhaps the fear of bears and the fear of women lies in our refusal to be tamed, the impulses we arouse and the forces we represent….As women connected to the earth, we are nurturing and we are fierce, we are wicked and we are sublime. The full range is ours. We hold the moon in our bellies and fire in our hearts. We bleed. We give milk. We are the mothers of first words. These words grow. They are our children. They are our stories and our poems.”

indexThe duality represented by bears presents a balanced cycle that mirrors my own journey through each year. Summer and autumn months offer prime opportunities to explore my surroundings. I collect material, capture color, and walk through the world gathering material for my own personal hibernation. When winter comes, I travel inwards through collected dreams and senses. This is my chosen time for creative work.

6a00e54fcf7385883401a51093139b970c-320wi“If we choose to follow the bear,” Williams writes, “we will be saved from a distracted and domesticated life. The bear becomes our mentor. We must journey out, so that we might journey in. The bear mother enters the earth before snowfall and dreams herself through winter, emerging with young by her side. She not only survives the barren months, she gives birth. She is the caretaker of the unseen world. As a writer and a woman with obligations to both family and community, I have tried to adopt this ritual of balancing public and private life. We are at home in the deserts and mountains, as well as in our dens. Above ground in the abundance of spring and summer, I am available. Below ground in the deepening of autumn and winter, I am not. I need hibernation in order to create.”

6a00e54fcf7385883401a510c7aab2970c-800wiThere is a rich history of mythic traditions relating women to bears. According to J. C. Cooper in An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols, bears represent resurrection. In Women Who Run With the Wolves, psychologist and storyteller Clarissa Pinkola Estés links their transformative and regenerative power to many goddesses around the world.

6a00e54fcf73858834019b046fee95970d-320wi“The bear is associated with many huntress Goddesses: Artemis and Diana in Greece and Rome, and Muerte and Hecoteptl, mud women deities in the Latina cultures. These Goddesses bestowed upon women the power of tracking, knowing, ‘digging out’ the psychic aspects of all things. To the Japanese the bear is the symbol of loyalty, wisdom, and strength. In northern Japan where the Ainu tribe lives, the bear is one who can talk to God directly and bring messages back for humans. The crescent moon bear is considered a sacred being, one who was given the white mark on his throat by the Buddhist Goddess Kwan-Yin, whose emblem is the crescent moon. Kwan-Yin is the Goddess of Deep Compassion and the bear is her emissary.”

6a00e54fcf7385883401a510962d6f970c-800wi“In the psyche, the bear can be understood as the ability to regulate one’s life, especially one’s feeling life. Bearish power is the ability to move in cycles, be fully alert, or quiet down into a hibernative sleep that renews one’s energy for the next cycle,” she continues. “The bear image teaches that it is possible to maintain a kind of pressure gauge for one’s emotional life, and most especially that one can be fierce and generous at the same time. One can be reticent and valuable. One can protect one’s territory, make one’s boundaries clear, shake the sky if need be, yet be available, accessible, engendering all the same.”

It’s going to be a wonderful year, indeed.

6a00e54fcf7385883401b7c7354494970b-800wiImages: “Playing With the North Wind” by Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), photography by Katerina Plotnikova, “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” by Kay Nielsen (1886-1957),  “Hibernation” by Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), “The Snow Princess” by Ruth Sanderson, “Bear Woman” by Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), “The White Bear King” by Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914), and “Pink Moon” by Jackie Morris.