My poem “Fairy Tale Prohibition” is out now at Alphanumeric. This piece examines cautionary themes in familiar fairy tales and the consequences that come from breaking the rules. This piece draws threads from more than a dozen fairy tales. Can you identify them all? In addition to Alphanumeric, this poem can be read in NonBinary Review Issue #25: Prohibition.
“Even when a prohibition in a fairy-story is guessed to be derived from some taboo once practised long ago, it has probably been preserved in the later stages of the tale’s history because of the great mythical significance of prohibition. Thou shalt not – or else thou shalt depart beggared into endless regret.”― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays
In other poetry news, “Radiant” was nominated for Best of the Net! This piece is a tribute to the radium girls, female factory workers who were poisoned by radiation while painting watch dials (1917-1926). Several of these women joined forces to file a lawsuit. Their eventual win paved the way for labor rights in America and the institution of industrial safety standards. “Radiant” is included in NonBinary Review Issue # 24: Industrial Revolution.
This last weekend was a whirlwind of activities, panels, and readings. The pandemic has affected many things over the last 15 months, and StokerCon 2021 was one of those things. Through a truly massive effort on the part of co-chairs Brian W. Matthews and James Chambers, StokerCon shifted to a virtual platform in a matter of just a couple of months. It was an impressive feat.
During StokerCon, I was lucky enough to take part in three prerecorded panels: From Poetry to Fiction and Vice Versa, Reinventing the Classics, and HWA Chapters: What They Do and How to Start One. I also moderated the readings by two guests of honor: Lisa Morton and Seanan McGuire. And, before I knew it, the Bram Stoker Awards® presentation hit the schedule Saturday night. Normally, I enjoy the awards as a spectator there to cheer for the finalists. This time, it was a little different.
A couple of months back, I was notified that I was won the Silver Hammer Award alongside Brian W. Matthews. This is the first year there have been two recipients of this award since 1997 when it was given to Lawrence Watt-Evans and Robert Weinberg. With the truly massive amount work Brian dedicates to HWA (StokerCon co-chair in 2019 Grand Rapids, 2021 virtual, and 2022 Denver), he represents the epitome of dedication and devotion in his efforts to shine a light on the best horror has to offer. However, I have to admit that winning an award for my own volunteer efforts threw me for a loop. The entire experience of recording an acceptance speech and writing something for the souvenir anthology was somewhat surreal.
Every single minute I’ve spent volunteering for the HWA has been a minute well spent. It is rewarding work, and I find great joy in contributing to an organization dedicated to providing a safe and supportive space for members. I’m grateful to be a part of this creative and compassionate community.
The Silver Hammer Award is periodically given to “an HWA volunteer who has done a truly massive amount of work for the organization, often unsung and behind the scenes. It was instituted in 1996, and is decided by a vote of HWA’s Board of Trustees.” Since I won the HWA Scholarship in 2016, I’ve volunteered annually as a member of both Stoker and Scholarship juries. In 2020, I started work on the HWA Membership Committee and worked alongside Hillary Dodge to create the Colorado Springs Chapter of HWA. I also helped with StokerCon 2021 as the Sponsorship Coordinator. The work in itself has always been rewarding, and I look forward to many more years of service in supporting this organization that has given me so much.
One of my favorite parts of the virtual conference was that I was able to see everyone’s panels and all of the author readings. So often during a physical conference, I’m forced to pick and choose. For my own reading, I shared “Twice in the Telling,” a mashup of the murder ballad “The Twa Sisters” and the fairy tale “The Water Nixie.” I was lucky enough to have this story included in the anthology Upon a Twice Time, which is now available from Air and Nothingness Press. Best of all, I was able to see comments from attendees who stopped by to listen to my reading.
To say the weekend was important to me would be an understatement. Even though we were not able to be together at a physical conference, I was happy that I had the opportunity to see and speak with friends-old and new-at the virtual conference. The entire experience has been an amazing one, and I’ve learned a little more about myself along the way.
I’ve been working on a project for a couple of months now, and I decided that May 1st was the perfect day to formally announce it. After all, May Day is the halfway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. I happen to like the liminal space measured in halfway points. And although May Day has a connection to the alignment of the stars, it is also deeply rooted in agriculture and the earth. It turns out both the stars and the land link to cartography, which provides the underlying connections in the upcoming anthology Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas.
This project is the brainchild of myself and my fellow editors Hillary Dodge and Josh Viola. The cover art was created by the award-winning artist Aaron Lovett, who will also be completing original interior art for the individual stories as well. Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas is scheduled to be published in October 2021 by Hex Publishers. And yes, there will be an open call for authors and poets interested in submitting. (More about that later.)
From the very beginning, we decided that this was not going to be a conventional anthology. We were steadfast in reserving spots for an open submission call. We knew we wanted a strong representation of dark poetry alongside short fiction. And we were determined to have a table of contents dominated by women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized and underrepresented voices.
When sending out invitations for Shadow Atlas, we were able to bring together authors and poets from various subgenres existing under the umbrella of speculative fiction to create a unique discourse examining the American continents through a multi-faceted lens. It’s truly been a remarkable experience to see the ways this diversity adds to the exploration of these lands and all they encompass. Interspersed throughout the anthology, nonfiction “field notes” bring in additional narratives focused on location-based cryptids, haunted sightings, lost cities, mysterious forces, and the layered textuality of peoples past and present.
The open call will be held from June 21 to June 27, 2021. Anything sent BEFORE or AFTER these dates will be deleted unread. If you want to get a jump start on your submission, here is a bit about the theme:
Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas will be a collection of dark tales intrinsically rooted in the places from which they’ve sprung. We seek haunting and folkloric tales where setting is character and landscape is an essential part of the story. We want stories that draw from the wellspring of cultural destinations and local folklore in their shaping – most especially, stories that are tied to a specific and concrete location. This can include places that never existed, or those with connections created by the author, but they must take place in South America. Original tales, mash-ups, and new takes on known folkloric elements/cryptids/legends are all welcome.
There is an old saying that wisdom sits in places. Open an atlas across the Americas, and you will soon discover this knowledge hidden in fragments of shared memory marked on maps. The ancient peoples knew which areas to avoid, which spirits to appease. Later, invasive superstitions from far-flung countries seeded into the landscape. In order to survive, newcomers learned the cautionary tales and secret lore linked to the terrain. But not all paid heed to superstitions. These are their stories, each tale a new entry in the field guide to dark landscapes. From folk to urban horror, tell us about the places that leave their mark on the human psyche, those that resonate deep inside and leave something behind in return.
Shadow Atlas Submissions
We are seeking short stories exclusively set in South America.
We are seeking poetry set in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and South America.
Payment: $250 for short fiction; $25 for poetry Rights: Exclusive rights for 18 months after publication Length: 2500 to 3000 words for short fiction; up to 35 lines for poetry Submission Period: June 21 to June 27, 2021 Expected Release Date: October 2021 No reprints, multiple or simultaneous subs
Use classic Shunn formatting. Send as an attachment in doc or docx. In the subject line, put “Shadow Atlas,” the name of your story or poem, and author name. Example: Shadow Atlas – Story/Poem Title – Author Name.
As a fan of fairy tales and myth, I’m always on the lookout for new takes on old narratives. Last year, specialty publisher Air & Nothingness Press captured my attention with a lovely book filled with fairy tale mash-ups that had been retold in a variety of genres. I was hooked.
I backed the Kickstarter for the first anthology Upon a Once Time and delighted in the variety of stories and genres. In fact, I loved it so much that I included it in my top reads of 2020. (You can read my review at Vernacular Books.)
And then I heard whispers about a second volume in the works, and I knew I had to take a stab at my own fairy tale mash-up.
I’ve been thinking about retelling the murder ballad “The Twa Sisters,” so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to twist this particular tale in a different direction. My retelling incorporated “The Water Nixie” along with a few nods to some of my favorite folklore. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it.
Luckily, publisher and editor Todd Sanders liked it as well. I’m proud to announce that “Twice in the Telling” has joined the line-up of what is proving to be yet another successful anthology.
The support for these beautiful books continues to be strong. In fact, the Kickstarter for Upon a Twice Time funded in the first day! Six days into the fundraiser, and this second volume has reached its stretch goals. Isn’t that marvelous?
The support of small publishers is more important now than ever, and I can’t wait to see what happens as new stretch goals are added. Have you reserved your copy yet?
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.
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.
The next open workshop at The Storied Imaginarium starts the first week of March and runs through the first week of May. Best of all, it’s not too late to register! If you’ve been looking for some inspiration to help you jumpstart your creativity, this is your chance!
There are two workshops running this spring: Monday evenings 6-8:30 pm MST (5-7:30 PST; 7-9:30 CST; 8-10:30 EST) and Tuesday evenings from 6 to 8:30 pm MST (5-7:30 PST; 7-9:30 CST; 8-10:30 EST). There are only a couple of open seats left, so act soon. We hope you will join us at The Storied Imaginarium!
As a participant, you will have the opportunity to mine fairy tales, history, science, and other prompts to write 6 stories + 2-3 revisions over the course of 10 weeks. The maximum word count is 3,000 words per story. The portfolio can include up to 3 story revisions up to a total of 10,000 words. The portfolio sessions are held during the last two weeks. The price is $500 with a 10% discount for returning participants. Workshops are capped at five participants per group (plus facilitator!)
The modules for Spring 2021 will be:
MODULE 1: “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” & Cartography MODULE 2: “Rumpelstiltskin” & Alchemy and Transmutation MODULE 3: “The Flayed Old Lady” & Anti-Aging Research MODULE 4: “The Wild Swans” & Social Isolation MODULE 5: “Rapunzel” & Foraging MODULE 6: “The Story of Urashima Taro” (Japanese Fairy Tale) & Underwater Realms and Sunken Cities
REGISTRATION: To save a seat for Intersections: Science Fiction, Fairy Tales and Myth, send an email request for an invoice to Carina Bissett at email@example.com. The fee to attend the workshop is $500, payable to firstname.lastname@example.org via PayPal. There is a $100 non-refundable deposit required to hold your spot with payment in FULL prior to the first class. Returning students receive a 10% discount. Space is limited.
I’m also excited to share the gorgeous cover for the StokerCon 2021 Souvenir Anthology, edited by Josh Viola. As always, Hex Publishers puts out a gorgeous book with The Phantom Denver Edition. StokerCon 2021 has moved to a virtual platform this year, but we will have the opportunity to meet up again in Denver at StokerCon 2022! The Phantom Edition of this year’s anthology includes my interview with past HWA president Lisa Morton. It was definitely a thrill to see my name on the back cover along with so many incredible writers and poets. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!
In 2016, I won the HWA Scholarship. It changed my life. Sometimes, I think it might have even saved my life. The news came just weeks after a bicycle accident that left me with substantial physical and cognitive damage I still struggle with to this day. The depression and pain nearly won. But then, I was rescued.
That simple phone call gave me hope. It gave me purpose. As part of my introduction to the Horror Writers Association, I met women who were compassionate instead of competitive. It was an experience unlike any other. These brilliant, bold, creative women opened doors to paths I’m still walking today.
I met other women, too. Remarkable women who held me up and guided me towards the realization of my dreams. I am lucky, indeed, to be blessed by the presence of the female friends who surround me. My life has also been enrichened by mentors who believe in me, even when I forget to believe in myself.
How can there only be a single month to celebrate the accomplishments of these women who I hold so dear? How can a mere 28 days lead to the discovery of new writers, all of those inspiring and imaginative women who I haven’t even met yet?
The answer, of course, is that a single month is not enough. It will never be enough.
There is not a day that passes when I feel alone. There is not a day, not a single one, when I am not graced by the presence of these beautiful, brave women. It’s a community I cherish with every fiber of my being. We are legion.
I feel it is important to add to this community in any way I can. One of those ways is to support writers whose work I admire. I’m also ardent in my attempts to discover new authors to follow. Even when times are tight, I figure I can purchase a book or two a month. And when I’m flush, I’m a madwoman. Books show up every few days.
As part of my reading endeavors, I’ve preordered several books scheduled to be released in February and March. Some of these writers are familiar, and some are new to me. However, I’m eager to read them all, and I hope they will be of interest to you, too.
Subterranean Press is releasing The Best of Elizabeth Hand in February. When I was at Stonecoast, I had the incredible opportunity to work under the mentorship of Liz Hand on several occasions. She was the first writer to recommend my work to an editor. Even though I was still struggling with the cognitive issues linked to my brain injury, Liz believed in me. Not only that, but she guided me away from the familiar with new ideas and challenges. She was a pivotal force behind that first step into developing a voice of my own. I have a book shelf dedicated to her work, and there is a spot waiting for my personal copy of this limited edition gem.
I remember the first story I read by Isabel Yap. It was “An Ocean the Color of Bruises,” which was published by Uncanny Magazine. I loved Isabel’s voice, so I made sure to keep her work on my radar. In addition to supporting new voices, I also make an effort to support small presses. When I saw that Small Beer Press was publishing Isabel’s debut collection Never Have I Ever, I knew I had to preorder a copy. It’s described as a collection of “Spells and stories, urban legends and immigrant tales .” Luckily, it’s also coming out this month. I can’t wait to dig in.
I love it when the stars align, which is exactly what happened when I met Julie C. Day. Her stories are magic–pure and simple. Vernacular Books included one of Julie’s stories in the future crime anthology The Way of the Laser. The stunning splendor of her world-building skills in that story led to the development of the mosaic novel project Shattered. A new installment is scheduled to come out each month in 2021. (You can read the first installment HERE.) The world Julie has built is terrifying and gorgeous and brilliant. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Several years ago, I read the title story of this collection. It was one of those pieces that haunted me for a long time. So, when I saw that Veronica Schanoes was releasing Burning Girls in March, I knew I had to have it. In addition to the darker side of fantasy, I have a passion for fabulism. Veronica’s work reminds me of stories I’ve enjoyed by other fantasists including Kelly Link, Carmen Maria Machado, and Aimee Bender. I briefly met Veronica at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, where I awkwardly admired her creative work. She is kind and brilliant. And I think she is simply fabulous.
One of the most anticipated books of spring is All the Murmuring Bones by A. G. Slatter. Although it won’t be released until March 9, I preordered my copy way back in October. It is described as a dark, Gothic fairy tale, which is right up my alley. However, it’s also by one of my favorite authors of all time. I met Angela Slatter online back in 2016, just a few months after my accident. Not only has her work inspired and informed my own, but she has also become a valued mentor and friend. I encourage you to read her work. I promise you’ll be glad you did.
It is easy to purchase books by writers whose work I admire, but I also try to make a point of discovering new (to me) authors. In addition to dark fantasy and horror, I enjoy collecting non-fiction books on subjects of interest. It just so happens that Jess Zimmerman is releasing Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology on the same day All the Murmuring Bones comes out. This seemed like a sign, so into my shopping cart it went. This book is described as a cultural analysis of monstrous women in Greek myth through a feminist lens. How could anyone resist that?
One of these has already been filled. There are only five seats remaining to be claimed.
Workshops will begin the first week of March and will run through the end of April (3/1/21-5/2/21).
The Spring workshop will be ten weeks long and include six modules. The maximum word count will be 3,000 words for each module. The portfolio will include 2-3 revisions (10K max) and these sessions will take place over the course of two weeks. The price is $500 with a 10% discount for returning participants. Email Carina Bissett at email@example.com or The Storied Imaginarium at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The modules for Spring 2021 will be:
MODULE 1: “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” & Cartography MODULE 2: “Rumpelstiltkin” & Alchemy and Transmutation MODULE 3: “The Flayed Old Lady” & Anti-Aging Research MODULE 4: “The Wild Swans” & Social Isolation MODULE 5: “Rapunzel” & Foraging MODULE 6: “The Story of Urashima Taro” (Japanese Fairy Tale) & Underwater Realms and Sunken Cities
You can find the complete schedule and registration information HERE.
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)