Friday, October 27, 2017

Horror List Book Review: Audrey's Door

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) To see the books I've reviewed so far, you can view the list at the end of this post where I rank them.

This week I'm reviewing Audrey's Door, by Sarah Langan.

There's a large focus on mental illness in this book, which I think is where the horror primarily resides. Though there are paranormal elements, the most fearsome thing is what is happening in Audrey's mind as she feels a compulsion to build a free-standing door in her new apartment. Audrey has OCD, as well as other issues, and her mother is bipolar. Her boyfriend holds his anger inside and lets the people in his life walk all over him, including his mother and girlfriend.

There was an element of Rosemary's  Baby in this story, as it's set in an old building full of lifelong residents (almost all elderly except for her sweet neighbor) who want something from her. No, they don't just want it, they need it, and they will do anything for it. Fear of the elderly is a big  factor in Audrey's Door, as well. They're creepy and weird, and they're not afraid of anything. Or that appears to be why we're supposed to be afraid of the elderly.

For me, this book couldn't decide whether it was about the horror of slipping from mental illness to straight up insanity, supernatural horror, or the danger innate in other people who want to use you. I don't think the paranormal aspects delivered, but I do think there was thorough character development that made me care about what happened to the characters we're supposed to worry about. The background is interesting, as is the plot overall. However, near the end, we start bouncing around to unexpected character POVs, and I think it would have been stronger sticking with the main character's POV. The development that came from the other POVs was unnecessary, and tore me away from what was happening to Audrey. We even jump to Audrey's boss's POV for a chapter. Why? 

Langan is a good writer, but there were elements that dragged the story down instead of improving it. Still, I could tell what stories had inspired her, and there were some wonderful creepy moments. Her characterization was the strongest aspect, which is important in horror. I wanted to see how it would end. Her voice is strong, the pacing solid. I wish she'd pared down the POV stuff, but some of the extra POVs provided touching moments--they just weren't necessary for this story.

My new rankings:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
4. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
6. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling)
7. Needful Things (Stephen King)
8. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
9. Those Who Hunt the Night (Barbara Hambly)
11. 20th Century Ghosts (Joe Hill)
12. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
13. Dark Forces (Kirby McCauly)
14. Swan Song (Robert McCammon)
15. Audrey's Door (Sarah Langan)
16. Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1) (Octavia E. Butler)
17. Wet Work (Philip Nutman)
18. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
19. Dead in the Water (Nancy Holder)
20. The Witches (Roald Dahl)
21. Psycho (Robert Bloch)
22. The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)
23. The Wolf's Hour (Robert McCammon)
24. Berserk (Tim Lebbon)
25. Prime Evil (Douglas E. Winter)
26. Best New Horror, Volume 1 (edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell)
27. Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)
28. The Tomb (F. Paul Wilson)
29. Shadowland (Peter Straub)
30. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
31. The Imago Sequence (Laird Barron)
32. My Soul to Keep (Tananarive Due)
33. Penpal (Dathan Auerbach)
34. World War Z (Max Brooks)
35. From the Dust Returned (Ray Bradbury) 
36. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan)
37. In Silent Graves (Gary A. Braunbeck)
38. The Cipher (Kathe Koja)
39. Drawing Blood (Poppy Z. Brite)
40. The Doll Who Ate His Mother (Ramsey Campbell) 
41. Hotel Transylvania (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
42. Naked Lunch (William S. Burroughs)

I don't know which one I'm reading next, but I stocked up, and have a whole pile of books on the list to read! Yay! 

Since I didn't do links on Monday's post, I'll do them today. Bear in mind that I am not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Fireside Fiction will be open for submissions for one week only. Short stories of any genre. Up to 4000 words. Pays 12.5 cents/word. Open to submissions November 5-11.

Lamplight is seeking dark fiction short stories and flash fiction. Up to 7000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline November 15.

Hinnom Magazine is seeking speculative fiction short stories. Up to 5000 words. Pays $10-15. Deadline November 15.

World Weaver Press is seeking solarpunk short stories for their anthology Glass & Gardens: Solarpunk Summers. Up to 8000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline November 15.

Ducts is seeking essays, fiction, poetry, and memoir. Up to 4000 words. Pays $20. Deadline November 15.

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? Do you know of other horror stories involving fear of the elderly or mental illness as a main plot?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, October 23, 2017

S.A. Larsen Guest Post - Marked Beauty

Please welcome S.A. Larsen on her blog tour to promote her new release, Marked Beauty. 

Title: Marked Beauty
Author: S.A. Larsen
Publisher: Ellysian Press
Release Date: October 2017

Uncovering hidden secrets can sometimes kill you . . . or worse, steal your soul.

Anastasia Tate has a secret. She can feel the emotions of others through their life energy auras. Not a welcome gift for a teenager. Especially when a sinister presence begins stalking her.

Viktor Castle also has a secret. He’s tasked with protecting humanity yet cursed by an ancient evil to destroy it.

After Viktor saves Ana’s life, her abilities grow stronger. Drawn together, she senses Viktor has answers to lifelong questions. Only he shuns her at every turn, knowing he has saved her only to put her in more danger.

As Ana struggles with her attraction to Viktor, he tries everything to bury his unexpected feelings for her. But they must find a middle ground. For only together can they combat the dark forces threatening both their lives . . . and their souls.

Purchase Links:


I asked S.A.the following question:

Did your writing routine change at all between writing an adventure and a romance--how so and what was surprisingly similar?

Writing For Different Genres and Ages
by S.A. Larsen

When I took my first literary stab at writing a fictional tale I did just that—I wrote. Literally sat at my laptop and began typing. There wasn’t much thought about age group, setting, or even a story problem. Before I knew it I’d created two characters, each with a distinct teen sheen that began to breath. I could almost hear them. From there, I explored possible worlds to drop them into, story problems, and all that encompasses being a teenager: school, parents, worries, fears, angst of growing up, wants, and romance; all age appropriate, of course. Looking from my own experiences to those of friends I’d grown up with along with reading YA novels took me on a journey of what it’s like being on the outside of growing up teen. Thus gave birth to my first young adult story.

Then came this tiny voice inside my head Pick me, it said. A different character and one that wouldn’t fit into that first YA novel I wrote. (If you’re wondering, yes – it was Marked Beauty. <3) So I pressed fingertips to keys, and a story poured out of me. Only thing was the more I wrote this new character the younger he began to sound. No, wait . . . he wasn’t a he at all, either. He was a she. And that’s when I realized the character chatting up a storm in my head was a middle school-aged girl full of fast-paced adventure and a bit of snark with a love of cheese. Great! I can write a middle grade novel. Uh, but how was I to do that?   

I used the same methods I did when I began writing in the first place. I listened to my characters and revisited my earlier days and experiences. Reading a ton of middle grade to switch gears for the younger age group and change in genre also helped. If I’m going to be completely honest, I also robbed the middle grade feel of wonder, exploration, adventure, and excitement from my four kids. They’ve given me a plethora of MG material to use. Point being: don’t fear writing in different arenas.

Writing in more than one genre and for more than one age group can present a writer with unique challenges. But it also brings growth in writing and in personal perceptions. I definitely see the world of our youth with more appreciation and awe. 

S.A. LARSEN is the author of the award-winning novel Motley Education, the first book in a fantasy-adventure series for middle grade readers. Her work has appeared in numerous local publications and young adult anthologies Gears of Brass and Under A Brass Moon by Curiosity Quills Press. Marked Beauty is her debut young adult novel. Find her in the land of snowy winters and the occasional Eh’ya with her husband of over twenty-five years, four children, a playful pooch, and three kittens. Visit her cyber home anytime at

There are two giveaways for this book launch!

Blog Tour Giveaway:

1 lucky winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Release Party Giveaway:
What better way to celebrate a book birthday then by a giveaway! There are many ways to enter, which you'll find below. You can win an iTunes, Amazon, or Starbucks gift card, an authentic Vera Bradley Little Crossbody in Cobalt Tile, an assortment of bookish swag, and even a KINDLE Fire HD 7"! The giveaway runs from release day, October 17, 2017 to December 5, 2017. Winners will be announced via social media December 7, 2017.

*No purchase necessary to win*
However, if you have read Marked Beauty or purchase it and read you can earn extra entries by posting a review on any major online retail bookstore and Goodreads! All the information you'll need is in the form below.
BUT there's more...

Writers who enter can WIN a first five pages critique!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can find the tour schedule HERE.

Thanks for stopping by!

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

32 Nights of Horror & New Short Story Available!

To celebrate October, I've been watching a horror movie each night (including midnight on the first, which is why it's 32 instead of 31). Most of them have been old favorites, but some have been new to me, so I thought I'd pass along some recommendations from the new (to me) films.

Before we jump into the movies, I wanted to announce a new short story release. My short story Unwelcome Guests is now available for Kindle via The Society of Misfit Stories. It's a standalone e-book for $.99, and will not be available in print until 2018, when it will be included in the annual anthology from Bards and Sages.

Okay, now for the movies. First, an older one that I just hadn't seen yet.

Cube was released in 1997. In it, a group of people wake up inside a giant cube with small entryways between each different room within it. None of the people know each other or how they got there, but each has a skill that could help them get out of the cube. In the meantime, traps in the rooms eliminate those entering them.

Despite the fact that there are some nasty deaths, this isn't gore porn, like Saw and similar films. Rather, I found it to be a character study in the way Lord of the Flies was. Is the cube more dangerous, or is it the people within it?

Next, how about one that's out in theaters? (Totally counts.)

I went to see IT. This was actually the first Stephen King book I ever read. I'm a huge Tim Curry fan, but he was limited by being Pennywise in a television miniseries. Skarsgard didn't have the same limitations, and was overall a freaky killer clown. He didn't try to copy Curry's Pennywise, which is what I think made it all the more successful.

As anyone who is familiar with any aspect of IT knows, this is a tale of bullying, of adult complicity, of childhood bonding, and so much more. There's a reason this new version of IT has surpassed Exorcist as the top-grossing horror film.

One of the newer movies I watched was The Autopsy of Jane Doe. This one came out in 2016, and I'm not sure it was even in theaters around here. In it, a father and son team of coroners gets the body of a young woman found under mysterious circumstances. She has internal injuries, but no external damage to indicate how they happened. As they proceed with the autopsy, strange then frightening things begin to happen.

The movie is compelling, with a series of puzzle pieces resulting from the autopsy. The father/son relationship of mentor/mentee is an interesting one, and the details are well played out.

This next one was pure camp, and a lot of fun. The Babysitter is a Netflix original. A boy decides to stay up to see what his babysitter does after he's supposed to be asleep. To his shock and horror, he witnesses her murdering a young man to collect his blood in order to do a spell with a group of teens. But they also need the blood of an innocent.

Full of familiar, but loved, tropes, with a great sense of humor. I enjoyed watching this one, because it doesn't take itself too seriously, yet still delivers. The bullied 13-year old finds himself while fighting off a group of sadistic teens.

The rest of the movies I've watched so far this month are:

The Others
Friday the 13th (ON Friday the 13th, duh--the original)
It Comes at Night
American Psycho 2 (not recommended)
Alien Resurrection (my daughter has seen the rest, and we're watching them in order, so next is Prometheus)
Silence of the Lambs
Pet Sematary
The Bad Batch
Cult of Chucky
Flatliners (old one)
Fright Night (newer one)

Obviously, the original Halloween must be saved for Halloween night.

Time for links. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

The Literary Hatchet is seeking dark fiction and poetry. 1000-6000 words. Pays $5-10. Deadline November 1.

Rosarium Publishing is seeking water-themed speculative short stories for the anthology Trouble the Waters:Tales From the Deep Blue. 2500-7000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline November 1.

The First Line is seeking fiction using the first line for this submission period. This period's first line is "I'm tired of trying to see the good in people." 300-5000 words. Pays $25-50. Deadline November 1.

Spring Song Press is seeking fantasy/noblebright short stories for the anthology Fell Beasts and Fair. 1000-10,000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline November 1.

Kenyon Review is seeking prose, drama, and poetry. Up to 7500 words. Pay is not mentioned, but this is supposed to be a paying market. Deadline November 1.

The Sun is seeking essays, short stories, and poetry. Up to 7000 words. Pays between $100 and $2000. Deadline November 1.

Seen any of the movies I listed? What did you think of the newer ones? Any of these links of interest? Anything to add? Submission news?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Release - Dusk's Warriors, by Emerian Rich

Today I'm pleased to host Emerian Rich, author and editor extraordinaire, as well as the hostess of the podcast. Her book, Dusk's Warriors, is now out.

Welcome, Emerian!


Zack is just a street kid who has lived past his expiration date. He figures if he has no life left, he might as well follow a stranger into a magic puddle. What he doesn’t know is that things are going to get a lot worse…

Excerpt from Dusk’s Warriors

Two yards away from the thugs, the man jumped into a puddle and sank into the earth.
“What the Hell?” Zack hid behind a pile of pallets, watching the hoods curse and scatter.
After the gang cleared off, Zack crept up to the puddle. It was a regular puddle, nothing unusual about it. Seeing his reflection, he frowned. He looked dead already, with his chapped lips, white complexion, and dark circles under his eyes. Stepping back, Zack walked away, chalking it all up to his active imagination.
Just a vision, that’s all. People don’t disappear into puddles.
Gazing out at the dark water, the bay seemed bottomless. Maybe drowning would be an easier death? To be forever part of the Earth and drift around from stream to river to ocean seemed pleasant to him. He could go places he’d never dreamed of before.
Places I’ve never dreamed of.
Looking back at the puddle, he rubbed his neck. A kink had been there longer than he could remember. Had the man really disappeared into the puddle?
He closed his eyes, as a gust of chilly wind blew through him.
I’m gonna die anyway. What do I have to lose?
Walking toward the puddle, he picked up speed as his resolution grew. When he got to the puddle, he closed his eyes and jumped in.
I want a second chance to live. I don’t care what I have to do. Please, just give me that chance!
Jumping into a mud puddle like he was seven, part of him thought he would hit solid ground. The other part of him—the part that still believed in fairytales—knew what he’d seen was real.
Zack’s feet sank into thick sticky sludge and soon his entire body became submerged. Mud filled his ears, nose, and had he not shut his eyes before the jump, they would have clouded with the murky slop, too. Hoping the huge gulp of air he took before jumping would last until he got wherever he was going, he allowed his body to be digested by the Earth.
A wave of helplessness washed over him, the likes that would drive him to commit suicide had he any way to do it, but he could no more move than scream. His ears hurt, head throbbed, and even the stiff neck he suffered paled in comparison to the pain filtering through his limbs. As he sank, he realized what caused him pain. Noise. So much noise, he couldn’t comprehend one single voice. Cries, moans, and screams echoed through every vein in his body.
Help me.
Feed me.
Com-ere my pretty.
I ache so.
Take me with you!
I’m so hungry.
Eyes closed, Zack couldn’t bring himself to open them to find out what horrible creatures made such noise. Pressure pushed at his limbs. His body felt squeezed through a too small hole. Like release from the birth canal, Zack sloshed out, landing on a slippery pile of sludge. Grasping for something to steady himself, he reached out to touch wet rocks or an animal or... Flesh moved beneath him. Sticky fingers grasped his arm. Toes pressed to his cheek and as he opened his eyes, he saw bodies undulating in a sea of brown, murky mud, tinged with blood. The whites of human eyes, bloodshot and red, pleaded with him to help as they gasped, teeth thick with sewage.
How did I get here?
I am in misery.
Let me taste you.
I’m not like them, I don’t belong here.
Zack screamed, but the place swallowed his noise into its walls, turning it back to him in pieces. The realization of where Zack landed brought him close to insanity. He was in a place every little kid is threatened with, a place absent from God, a place where your soul is forfeit.
“Hell!” Zack screamed and laughter echoed back.

Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

Heaven has opened up and welcomed the vampires of Night’s Knights into a new reality. As they struggle to find their place in their new world, trouble brews on Earth.

Demon servant, Ridge, is causing havoc by gathering up all the souls on Earth that have been touched by immortality. When he injures one of the Night’s Knights crew, he launches a war between the vampires of Heaven, the Big Bad in Hell, and a mortal street gang of vigilante misfits.

Will Julien, Markham, and Reidar be able to defeat the evil that’s returned, or will they once again need Jespa’s help?

Praise for Dusk’s Warriors:
“All hail, the queen of Night's Knights has returned! Emerian Rich's unique take on vampires delights my black little heart.” ~Dan Shaurette, Lilith's Love

“A world of horror with realistic characters in a fast paced thriller you won't be able to put down.”
~David Watson, The All Night Library

Praise for Night’s Knights: 
“Fresh, original, and thoroughly entertaining.” ~Mark Eller, Traitor

“Emerian brought the Vampire Novel back from the dead.” ~C. E. Dorsett, Shine Like Thunder

Emerian Rich is an artist, horror host, and author of the vampire series, Night’s Knights. She is the hostess of the internationally acclaimed podcast, Under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal, she writes the musical romance series, Sweet Dreams and she’s the Editorial Director for the Bay Area magazine, SEARCH. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

IWSG - Rejection, Stats, & Links

Before I jump into my IWSG post, I've got a story out that's free to read! It's free and short and humorous. For those who avoid my horror stories, this one has zero horror! Check out The Rejection at Fabula Argentea, and if you're so inclined, I'd love to know where else you think he should be rejected. Note that it's totally free, and there's no sign up or anything like that. No hoops to jump through. The editor said: "Shannon Lawrence's humorous rejection letter is pure fun in 800 words." So please check it out!


It's the first Wednesday of October, which means it's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Today's the day to air your writing insecurities and/or support your fellow insecure writers. Anyone can join by clicking on Alex's name above, adding your blog to the linky, posting about your insecurity of the month, and visiting fellow IWSG'ers.

Our co-hosts this month are Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan!

The optional question for this month is: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

I've used real life events to inspire my fiction, and I'm sure there are plenty aspects of my personality and thought process that show up in characters. I've also used my neighborhood as a setting in at least one story.

My insecurities this month include the fact that I've gotten three rejection letters from agents for my novel. I know that's not many so far, and I'm more than familiar with rejection, but none have even been personal. WHY do we do this to ourselves?

Another insecurity has to do with a collection of short stories I want to put together. They're ones I've gotten the rights back on. Plus a couple more that I might skip the traditional publishing route on and just put in the collection. But first I have to research the business logistics, how to put together the different types of files and formatting, covers, editing, etc. On the flip side, I considered trying a traditional publishing route on it, but I doubt they'd be interested in what amounts to mostly reprints in a collection, especially coming from an unknown. So yeah, I've got some work ahead of me, and no idea how to fit it in. I'll figure it out. We always do, don't we?


Time for submission stats! Every month, I post the previous month's submission stats to keep myself accountable.

In September:

2 novel queries to agents, both rejected (I will be stepping it up and sending multiple soon, but haven't gotten there yet.)
7 short story/flash submissions
9 short story rejections
1 short story acceptance
13 short stories currently on submission (I have several waiting to go back out, but I didn't have time this week.)


Now for some links! Bear in mind I'm not endorsing any of these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Uncanny is seeking fantasy and science fiction short stories and flash fiction. 750 to 6000 words. Pays $.08/word. Submission window is just October s2 to October 16.

Horrified Press is seeking short stories in the following themes for anthologies: Trumptopia and The Devil's Piano. Up to 8000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline October 20.

Icepick is seeking both writers and voice actors. Their next theme is Heroes. Rather than giving a word length, they give a time length under 10 minutes or 10-30 minutes. Vignettes, poetry sets, essays, and more, which will be voice acted. They pay 8-10 pounds. Deadline October 22.

Horror Addicts is seeking short horror stories with music as an integral component for their anthology Crescendo of Darkness. 2000 to 5000 words. Pays $10. Deadline October 31. (I do personally endorse this publication. I enjoyed working with them, and am able to get contributor copies for a lesser charge, which allows me to sell them at conferences and events, thus making more than the $10 originally paid.)

Subprimal Poetry Art is seeking poetry and flash fiction that is lyrical. 350-750 words. Also looking for art and essays. Pays $20. Deadline October 16.

NonBinary Review is seeking poetry, fiction, essays, and art. Submissions should related to Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline October 31.

Sirens Call is seeking horror for their themed anthology If It Bleeds, It Leads! Must embody the spirit of the old newspaper headlines. 2500 to 5000 words. Pays $15. Deadline October 31. (Note: I also worked with these publishers and found it to be a good experience.)

Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking personal stories with the theme Christmas and Holiday Collection. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadline October 31.


The Kathy Fish Fellowship is open through SmokeLong Quarterly. Winner is the virtual Writer in Residence for four quarterly issues, in which a piece of their flash fiction will be published each time. Will also receive $500. Deadline October 31.

Did you read The Rejection? What did you think? Where else would you like to see a rejection letter from? What are your insecurities? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.