My 2017 Awards Eligibility Post

Awards season is here and the nominations for the Nebula, Hugo, Horror Writer’s Association, and a number of other writing awards, have opened. Here is what I had published in 2017.

 

A CURE FOR GHOSTS — Fireside Magazine — read here

How do them ghosts smell? Like dirt and damp moss and dank places closed so tight no air ever enters. Like the end. Like everything and nothing.

FOLK — PodCastle #494 — listen here

It is the mark my people use for their handiwork — no, I lie. Only the women use it. It is the women who show their pride this way…

SHINE, BLACKBERRY WINE — Shadows Over Main Street 2 — buy here

My tentacled hair is waving around wildly, growing longer and thicker, then the stalks shoot upward, out of the dream and into… like… real life. 

SOUPIE’S LOVER — Truancy — read here

“You aine gotta worry ‘bout my help no more. I’mma let the hag getcha.”

CRICKETS SING FOR NAOMI — PodCastle #477 — listen here

She took the man’s face in her lap, pulling and tugging at the flesh. It gave under her gnarled fingers, softening like clay, and she smoothed it into something—no, someone—new.

GRAVEROBBING NEGRESS SEEKS EMPLOYMENT — FIYAH Issue #2 — buy here

I pried apart the corpse’s lips, their slackness telling me she’d been dead more than two days, and worked the tip of my finger inside her mouth.

SWEETGRASS BLOOD — Sycorax’s Daughters — buy here

I wound the strands tighter, using the sharpened spoon to push them through each other, the stiff grasses leaving tiny splinters invisible to the eye but not to the flesh.

A LONG WAY FROM THE RITZ — Forever Vacancy — buy here

It was then she decided to put him in a jar. She knew how, had watched her mom and aunties do it many times.

 

This year, I also released a second collection of Southern Gothic horror stories, Spook Lights 2.

In February, in collaboration with Graveyard Shift Sisters, I put together a collection of 28 BLACK WOMEN IN HORROR FICTION HISTORY. Bios, pics, links to their work are in a Google+ collection here.

 

***A huge thing to note is FIYAH: A Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction is eligible for the Best Semiprozine category of the Hugo Awards in their first year! 

As such, please consider nominating:

  • Troy L. Wiggins and Justina Ireland for Best Editor, Short Form for FIYAH
  • Geneva B/Prinnay for Best Fan Artist for all of her stunning covers for FIYAH
  • All of FIYAH‘s fiction and poetry for Nebulas, Hugos, HWAs…
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Speculative Literature Foundation’s Good Work

Last year, I won the Speculative Literature Foundation‘s Diverse Worlds grant, and it changed my writing.

I’d gotten to a place where I felt a bit… hopeless. As though my writing wasn’t good enough… strong enough to get beyond where it was. I felt I’d hit a plateau. I was getting rejections, and each one felt like a blow.

When I was attending a lecture in Oxford by one of my favorite writers Jewell Parker Rhodes, I got the email that I’d been chosen for this grant. From what I recall (my mind goes a bit foggy here as I was in such shock) I sat on the bed in my hotel room and stared at the screen for a full minute.

Someone believed in my work! It sent my heart racing. It sent my brain racing too. Stories I wanted to finish. Ideas I’d had that I’d never committed to paper before. Suddenly, all of it seemed possible. Not sure I really slept much that night. But I do remember this:

I promised myself I’d submit more of my work in 2017. 

And I kept that promise. Most of my stories were published this year that I’ve ever had. I got my first professional sale this year. I have stories on the Nebula’s and the Horror Writer’s Association’s recommended reading lists.

Spec lit foundation

The SLF has just started its big fundraiser for the year, with the goal of getting enough sponsorships to ensure the Diversity Grants continue for five more years, and expand our other activities — reading series, workshops, and more, with monthly funding that we can count on as we plan activities.

About the SLF from Mary Ann Mohanraj, Executive Director: 

The SLF is a non-profit arts foundation, modeled on the National Endowment for the Arts, but focused specifically on serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community.  We aim to encourage promising new writers, assist established writers, facilitate the work of quality magazines and small presses, and develop a greater public appreciation of speculative fiction. 

They need your help.

If you can donate, please do. This fundraiser has 29 more days and I’d love to see them reach their goal as they helped me reach one of mine.

13 Dark Issue #1 Dead Voices: A Review

After an unlucky stumble with Kickstarter, followed by a successful Indiegogo crowd sourcing, the first issue of 13 Dark is out.

While this project had to change from its original concept of 13 individual stories, released separately, the final product is no less stunning. And it holds fast to its original promise of story theme: Light and dark. Sacred and profane.

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Comprised of short dark stories by three authors, each with an intro by editor Joseph Sale, 13 Dark also gives each tale searingly gorgeous artwork packaged with an eerie cover.

A bit about each…

Bethesda by Ross Jeffrey

From the Intro: This story is a dialogue, both interior within the narrator, and exterior, presented in the two key voices of the story: the ‘pale man’ (Joe) and ‘Captain Haddock’. One is an atheist who has turned to God in desperation (and subsequently vilifies Him when he seemingly doesn’t get what he wants) and the other is a devout religious evangelist who talks about the Bible stories as though they were things that happened to him on the way to the shop. We walk the middle road with our narrator, and witness something truly spectacular.

Jeffrey uses atmosphere to present differences so well in this story. The beach is our setting, but it doesn’t have the sun-warmed sands we think of for a vacation. It is cold; the wind is damp and clinging. I shivered when reading, feeling the cold slant through me. In a windbreaker with the vibrant colors of Jamaica, the pale man — in his three-piece suit — looks out to sea. As he has done every day…

Our narrator observes the pale man’s ritual and relays the event to the reader, and it’s all done smoothly, this style that is more typical of a bygone age. Perhaps this is why it works here. Save for some modern touches of barista coffee and the like, the story feels as though it could take taken place at almost any time. The narrator’s conversations with rusty-edged Captain Haddock, a local beachcomber, fill us in on the details of how long the pale man has come to this stretch of beach, and watched the tides.

Bethesda is about a man who has given up hope, who is floundering with the hardest thing he’s ever dealt with, while beachgoers walk by him each day. Never stopping, never looking, never really seeing. Until he finally makes a desperate decision. He lifts a frail, wasted young man into his arms and begins walking into the sea.

At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Jeffrey has written about sacrifice, love, and miracles.

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Under Soil by Tice Cin

From the intro: …A tale of love, it would seem, but scrape away that painted veneer (again a Gothic concept) and you will see a buried truth, a dark beating heart. It is this hair-raising moment of revelation, when the illusion of our desiccated world falls away and reveals something buried beneath it all that must be seen, that makes Under Soil so powerful.

Anyone who reads my reviews with any frequency knows I love Gothic tales. Beauty giving way to decay, family secrets, doomed loves and lives. Under Soil gives me all of that and more.

Cin’s writing style flourishes with this dark tale. The language is like bouquet of flowers, each one chosen specially to convey a feeling that is almost beyond words. The hopefulness of love comes with a crack, a sharp sting that our protagonist relishes. Feeds on. Quickly, love and lust weave together, become something unrecognizable, unwanted.

I am surprised to write these next words: Cin was written body horror is such way that leaves me with both a churning in my stomach and a breathless fascination with its delicacy.

Simultaneously sensual and unnerving, Under Soil shows that Gothic has moved from mist-shrouded castles to wear a new, and modern face.

Undertow by Samuel Parr

From the intro: Descending into hell is such a popular theme in literature that there is even a specific word for this trope: katabasis. And Undertow is one, a modern katabasis that takes us into the river of eternity itself. As with all of Sam’s work, however, all is not as it seems. That which seems grandest can be most fragile, most illusionary, and that which is most fragile-seeming can be made of steel.

Mirabel enters the sewer-like Undertow to save her brother. But she is no ordinary girl.

Parr has created a quest in this story, one where a young magic-user encounters creatures of the grotesque as barriers to her goal. They are at once fearful of and hungry for her, but she has armed herself well. With a soul to barter.

Another tale with a narrator watching from afar, Undertow creates a vision of Hell that will stick with me for a long time. Fearsome monsters clamor for the new, the fresh. It’s what they see so little of, and what they desire most.

Parr seamlessly moves through this world and its sinister beasties, allowing the narrator to come ever closer to Mirabel, revealing a unusual nature, and finally becoming part of her story. It’s a fascinating, engrossing read. A tale of redemption, of resistance, of sacrifice.

zombie crowd walking at night,halloween concept,illustration painting

 

Editor Joe Sale ends the collection with one of his stories first published in Storgy magazine.

“Night Drive” is a great fit for this collection of tales. It’s dark, even claustrophobic at times, making the reader feel the impending doom closing in on the driver, the former Reverend John. Perfectly paced, it winds between a frantic pace and moments of relief, where we drag in deep cleansing breaths before plunging back into the pit again.

Reverend John can’t outrun his past—of lust, power, and baneful gods. He can’t outrun what he himself has called forth through poorly advised ritual.

You can get a paperback copy of 13 Dark Issue #1 at Lulu. Use code LULU25 to get 25% off the purchase price.

 

More Fragrances to Wear This Halloween

You may have seen my post on Fluky Fiction’s site earlier this month titled, Five Fragrances to Wear This Halloween. If not, check it out!

But I realized I had so many scents that didn’t make that list, so I decided to another post. No matter what costume you choose, even if it’s none, adorn yourself with one of these mood-creating fragrances.

The Morrigan by Swan Children Alchemy (women): From their Goddess collection. Dragon’s blood, juniper, black pepper, fir needle. Not to mention an obelisk of onyx in the bottle, for protection against evil magic and negative energy. When I wore this, I felt powerful, capable of conquering my to-do list with ease. The fact a piece of flash fiction came from wearing it is even better.

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Photo by Swan Children Alchemy

Devil’s Nightcap by Lush (unisex): Inspired by the Agglestone, a megalithic rock in England known as the “Devil’s Nightcap.” Invoking Druid rituals with oakmoss, oak wood and clary sage, it’s reminiscent of dead fallen leaves. The scent of weather turning.

 

The Revenge of Lady Blanche by Penhaglion (women): From the Portrait’s collection. Elegant, mesmerizing, heady, and dangerous… Who cares if she poisoned her husband? Perfectly described on the parfumier’s website:  a green floral narcotic.

LADYBLANCHE
Photo by Penhaligon’s

Bulletproof by Tokyo Milk (unisex): smoked tea, coconut milk, cedar, and ebony. A cool, dark place out of the heat of the sun, with a lingering touch of smoke and the barest whiff of heated metal. A perfect scent to wear to disguise your own smoking gun.

 

Tabu by Dana (women): A back-in-the-day classic. Spicy, with a touch of woods and resin. Dark and gorgeous, frightening to some, addictive to others.

 

Gibbon’s Boarding School by Solstice Scents (men): Designed to evoke the atmosphere of a schoolhouse. Rife with magic, mystery and closed doors. Woods, leather, smoke, dirt, leaves, and moss. A hint of apple. Maybe you’ll get to be the teacher’s pet.

Poudre de Riz by Huitieme Art (women): Tiare flower, rice, maple sap, tonka bean, and balsam. Vintage in nature, but not outdated. Powdery, intimate, and innocent, with a lasting cocoon-like feel. Who can I imagine wearing this? An elderly woman, who would smother you in your sleep. (And me, obviously.)

Poudre de Riz

My Interview on Talking With Authors

I do a lot of interviews, I rarely am interviewed myself.

But Curtis Anderson of Talking With Authors reached out and asked me for an interview. I’m so glad he did. We spoke about my influences, Southern Gothic horror in general, and why some people may shy away from horror as a genre. And of course, we spoke about my writing!

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Curtis is a phenomenal interviewer– enthusiastic and engaging, and his questions are thoughtful and fun. For those who are nervous about being interviewed on live audio, he also makes you feel comfortable, and if I may say it… really good about yourself and your work.

Thanks to Curtis for this amazing interview, and for reaching out in the first place. I appreciate all he does to boost and bring attention to our work. Listen to the entire interview below:

 

The Beautiful Ones: A Review

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest release The Beautiful Ones is a lush tale of betrayal, innocence lost, romantic obsession, and telekinesis. A departure from her prior release, Certain Dark Things, which I reviewed on Graveyard Shift Sisters. Moreno-Garcia’s strength and confidence in moving from the alternate history of struggling vampires in Mexico to the luxurious ballrooms of historic France is enviable.

Synopsis: 

In a world of etiquette and polite masks, no one is who they seem to be.

Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society. Under the tutelage of the beautiful but cold Valérie Beaulieu, she hopes to find a suitable husband. However, the haphazard manifestations of Nina’s telekinetic powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.

Yet dazzling telekinetic performer and outsider Hector Auvray sees Nina’s powers as a gift, and he teaches her how to hone and control them. As they spend more and more time together, Nina falls in love and believes she’s found the great romance that she’s always dreamed of, but Hector’s courtship of Nina is deceptive.

The Beautiful Ones is a sweeping fantasy of manners set in a world inspired by the Belle Époque.

 

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This novel is reminiscent of a sinister Jane Austen work, set several decades later in La Belle Époque, or The Beautiful Era. This brief period of France’s history, from 1871 to 1914, is said to be the last hurrah of the societal elite.

After this time, technology and industry began to advance at speed. The lower classes began to question the status quo of upper class rule. The playing field began to level out, and the influence of the elites began to dwindle. Trapped in their traditions, they ignored the changes in society, instead choosing to bury themselves in elaborate restrictions to differentiate themselves from lower classes.

The Beautiful Ones is set during this last hurrah and the rigors of the society are keenly drawn. Antonina is an ingénue, and not familiar with the rules of the Loisail’s Grand Season. She quickly discovers proper ladies do not have powers, or go to great lengths to hide them. When she meets Hector and sees his firm control of his powers, she asks to be tutored, soon falling in love with the magician.

But even Hector’s newly found wealth doesn’t exempt him from scorn. He is “new money” and looked down upon by Nina’s family and society at large. And he has secrets of his own, that will destroy Nina’s innocence and hope for a future with him.

Nina is a sympathetic character and thankfully, doesn’t fall into the simpering victim category. Society itself is a character, with all the strength of a well-crafted villain. Character progression (or regression in on particular case) pulls the reader along, deeper into the mystique of this world, showing that even with manners, dirty deeds can be accomplished with ease. Deception is hidden behind smiles and promises, as it seems everyone has a say in what Nina’s life should be.

Except Nina.

Moreno-Garcia brings deceit, and first love with a touch of magic power to create a historical romance with power and redemption.

The Beautiful Ones will be released this month. Check Moreno-Garcia’s blog for updates.

 

Blood of My Blood: A Review

Vampirism as plot can be a tough sell, when the market is awash in tales of bloodsuckers and their effect on humanity.  But, occasionally, I’m lucky enough to find a fresh take on a beloved horror staple.

Awakening of The Spirit is a new three-part, mystery/suspense series about the supernatural criminal world in Washington, D.C.

In Book One titled Blood of My Blood, award-winning writer Montiese McKenzie creates a criminal underworld with supernatural creatures, ancient and powerful. But the government has its own plans to grasp this power for itself.

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Agent Alexander Rubidoux has been working kidnappings for years, but he’s never come across anything like the disappearance of wealthy financier, Paul Kirsch. He’s also never been stirred by woman like he is by Kirsch’s wife Kathryn Spencer, an Afro-Russian who requests his help to locate her husband.

During his investigation, D.C. goes from a town he’s known forever to a hotbed of paranormal creatures and abilities he’s never seen before. And he’s out of his depth. Blood of My Blood brings readers into a battle between darkness and light with a unique focus on actual historical events like The Bolshevik Revolution, the Holocaust, as well as race relations in America incorporated in a modern-day setting.

Kathryn is a multi-layered character. Exactly what we want to see, especially from a Black female protagonist, where in dark fiction the range of our emotions and responses is rarely explored.  She is a vampire, a mother, a reluctant — yet loyal — wife, not always in that order. Her feelings about her vampirism, her Russian heritage, and her abusive relationship all shift with the events of the story.

And Rubidoux finds himself willing to do anything for her.

A fast-paced, well-researched read. Themes of Christianity, spirituality, and eternal life alongside race relations, and violence.

Blood of My Blood is available on Amazon.

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Montiese McKenzie is a lifelong Philadelphia girl, writer, who somehow stumbled into accounting. As a kid if she wasn’t writing stories exploring the human condition, she was stealing her mother’s matches to light things on fire. With a B.A. in both History and Sociology from Bloomsburg University, Montiese combined her love of the human condition, time periods, and writing to survive five years in the boondocks. A cat mom, a sock collector, and lover of MerchantIvory films with too much dialogue, Montiese is about to enter her fourth decade riding high on naps and snickerdoodle cookies.

For more information about her and her work, visit her website, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram pages.