Special Announcement: Check Out “The Devil’s Tree” from Fellow “Quoth the Raven” Author Susan McCauley

October is coming fast, and while many of us read horror stories throughout the year, there’s a special thrill in immersing yourself in creepy tales all month long.

One tale coming out is The Devil’s Tree, the debut novel from fellow Quoth the Raven author Susan McCauley! (Read my interview with her here)

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Preorder The Devil’s Tree today!

From the publisher:

Kaitlyn didn’t believe in ghosts—not until one killed her boyfriend and her best friend. Now she must stop the spirit haunting the Devil’s Tree, or she could be next.
 
Seventeen-year-old Kaitlyn wants to escape her drunk mama and her trailer park home life to enjoy a Saturday night off work. Instead, her boyfriend, Hunter, convinces her to go with him and their best friends, Dylan and Keisha, to photograph a desolate tree with an evil past. A terrifying presence chases them from the tree, killing Hunter and Keisha. Left alive with Dylan, Kaitlyn must struggle with her unexpected romantic feelings for him, come to terms with her loss, and face being trapped in a dead-end town. Kaitlyn is desperate to put the past to rest, but when their friends’ spirits begin haunting them, she and Dylan have no choice but to seek help from a Catholic priest and attempt to set the trapped spirits free. 

I was a fan of McCauley’s story, “The Cask,” in Quoth the Raven; and I’m sure readers of The Devil’s Tree are in for a real treat.

You can preorder the book from all major outlets on Books2Read.

Progress Report: Winding Down for Fall

My summer was busy. There were a few personal upheavals, and writing projects seemed to begin and end in a constant infinity loop. Fall is fast approaching, and with it is a desire to calm down a little. Let’s just hope my life gets the memo!

Most of the summer has been spent working on my next novel and putting the finishing touches on Little Paranoias: Stories. The latter seems to finally be done on my end, at least in terms of pre-release prep. Review copies are out, and I’ve made all the final corrections and gotten them back from Doug.

Little Paranoias: Stories will be out in ebook and paperback on October 22 — and you can preorder the ebook right now! Yay!

Ahead of the release, though, you’ll see ARCs (advance review copies) in the wild on social media. I’ve been loving pictures of reviewers taking selfies with the book and its amazing skull illustration. I’ve shared several on my own Instagram page (I’d embed them directly here, but WordPress isn’t reading the embed code correctly, boo).

The collection also received its first review on Goodreads: 4 out of 5 stars from reviewer Valerie Dorsey! Give her review a read, and don’t forget to shelve Little Paranoias: Stories on Goodreads if you haven’t done so.

With pre-release prep out of the way, I’m turning my focus back to Seeing Things, my third novel. As with any new writing project, I’m having to force myself to sit down and work on it, which has been hard given how hard this past summer has been. Since the end of August, though, I’ve been feeling a slow sense of calming down in the air and in my soul. While I’m hoping that extends to my sense of well-being in general, I also hope it will give me the patience to see this new story through.

Happy fall, everyone.

New Flash Piece, “Lock the Cellar Door,” Available on Spreading the Writer’s Word [reblog]

I have a new flash piece up on Spreading the Writer’s Word for their monthly flash picture prompt challenge. Check out “Lock the Cellar Door” at the link below!

Spreading the Writer's Word

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

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Lock the Cellar Door
by Sonora Taylor

“Hurry Sandi! Get downstairs!”
Sandi rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and in the resulting blur, she saw her mother standing panicked in the doorway. “What is it, Mama?” she asked.
“Get downstairs, honey. It’s a big one this time. I can hear the wind.” Her mother ran into Sandi’s room and pulled at her arm. “Come on, move!”
“I’m coming!” But Sandi had already been yanked from the bed. She ran behind her mother, through the hall and towards the front door. They had to cross the yard to get to the storm cellar – a design that Sandi didn’t quite understand, but one she didn’t question.
“It’s coming,” her mother said as she opened the door. Sandi followed behind, then skidded to a stop behind her mother, who stood and stared at the field…

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Check Out Three New Pieces From Me, and an Excerpt from “Without Condition,” in Issue 46 of The Sirens Call! [reblog]

I’m honored and proud to be the featured author in this month’s issue of Sirens Call Publications’ The Sirens Call, “Summer Nightscares!” In Issue 46, you’ll find an essay from yours truly called “Fear, Sadness, and the Horror of Pain;” along with the first two chapters of Without Condition. I also have two other pieces in the issue: “Petal, Page, Piel,” a flash story; and “I Walked Beneath a Shining Moon,” a poem. Check out the issue for FREE below! Thanks for reading.

The Sirens Song

Sirens Call Publications is pleased to announce the release of the latest issue of

The Sirens Call

The 46th issue of The Sirens Call eZine features one hundred and five pieces of dark fiction and horror prose from seventy two different authors and poets. It also features an interview with, and dark imagery by artist, Jessica F Holt. This month’s featured author, Sonora Taylor, talks to us about ‘Fear, Sadness and the Horror of Pain’ and also offers an excerpt from her novel, Without Condition!

Click on the cover for your #FREE download!

eZine46_cover

Visit the web site to check out the other The Sirens Call issues!
www.sirenscallpub.com

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Preorder “Little Paranoias: Stories” Today!

My next short story collection, Little Paranoias, is now available for preorder! You can preorder the ebook on Amazon ahead of its release on October 22.

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About the collection:

Is it a knock on the door, or a gust of wind? A trick of the light, or someone who’ll see what you’ve done?

Little Paranoias: Stories features twenty tales of the little things that drive our deepest fears. It tells the stories of terror and sorrow, lust at the end of the world and death as an unwanted second chance. It dives into the darkest corners of the minds of men, women, and children. It wanders into the forest and touches every corner of the capital. Everyone has something to fear — but after all, it’s those little paranoias that drive our day-to-day.

Little Paranoias features 20 short stories, flash pieces, and poems. It will be out October 22, just in time for Halloween.

Preorder your Kindle copy today!

Thanks for reading, everyone.

Remembering Toni Morrison

 

Photo: Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images
Photo from vulture.com. Photo: Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images

I just read that Toni Morrison has died. I felt my heart break when I read the news. She is one of my all-time favorite authors.

I was never assigned Toni Morrison in school (a damn shame, in my mind), but her works were listed as optional reading in AP Literature. I made a mental note of her work and, when I started college, I checked out my first Morrison novel from the vast rows of stacks at NC State: Song of Solomon. I was struck by the beauty of her prose amidst the sadness and darkness of her story.

Afterward, I read what would become my favorite Morrison novel: The Bluest Eye. My heart broke for the young girl who longed for blue eyes in the hopes of being accepted by everyone around her. It ached the most at the end, when she thought the staring at her pregnant belly was everyone’s awe at her eyes, at last, having changed.

I read many more of her books, including Beloved and Sula. In 2015, I was fortunate enough to see her speak at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, in promotion of her latest book, God Help the Child. She spoke about her books, but what I remember most was when she spoke about the recent, tragic murder of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Md. She spoke with disdain about the media giving their usual spin and asking their usual, fruitless questions. She answered their spin and their questions with a simple, powerful statement that she shared with an astonished voice: “A child is dead.”

Morrison’s voice will live on in her work. Still, I am saddened that she has left us. I will mourn and remember her. Rest in peace.

No Matter What, You’ll Always Need an Editor

I’m currently on my third reread of the Harry Potter series. I came to the series late, my first readthrough being in 2014; and while I’m not a superfan, I love the series. It’s a great story across seven books, with wonderful characters and world-building. I also admire anyone who can write that much and have it all come together and make sense.

With the third reread, and thus the story well-settled into my memory, I’m starting to notice more little things in terms of style. And one thing I’ve noticed is that, around the time the series truly exploded — from what I recall, after Goblet of Fire was released — the tightness of the editing waned.

This struck me during Order of the Phoenix, which I’m almost done with. Now, it’s a good story, like all the rest. Its length isn’t a huge deterrent to me, though Harry doesn’t even arrive at Hogwarts until almost 200 pages in. It’s more the stylistic choices. A popular style choice in the book is to end every other sentence with ellipses. Almost everything Harry does or thinks trails off, especially after the halfway mark. It was okay the first 50 times, but after, oh, the fifth paragraph in a row with three sentences ending in ellipses, it starts to get irritating.

I won’t use this post to air all my style grievances with Order of the Phoenix (though seriously, the all caps yelling could also stand to take a chill pill). But as I noticed this sudden hard left turn from Book 4 to Book 5 — one that coincided with what I remember as the rise in the series’ popularity — I wondered if the series’ increased popularity, and J.K. Rowling’s subsequent increased clout, had the negative effect of the publisher taking a step back in terms of editing. Rowling’s books were immensely popular, and now that her work was proven — and rightfully so — perhaps there was less insistence to change or edit her work too much. But as I’m seeing in Order of the Phoenix, that isn’t always for the best.

I can’t say for sure that was the case for Books 5-7 in the Harry Potter series, since I wasn’t in the publisher’s office when the book was finished (though my Potter-loving friend said in response to my tweets about this, “No good editor would have let 400 fucking pages of idling in the damn woods stand. Also, the epigraph.”). But I can site a similar example that was in fact a documented case of a creator receiving little to no editorial interference: George Lucas and The Phantom Menace.

According to a book I just read and loved, Best. Movie. Year. Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery; George Lucas had earned the right (and money) to tell the studios that he wanted complete creative control over the return to the Star Wars universe. However, this led to a movie that many fans consider the worst in the series — it’s slow, the acting is wooden, it misses the forest for the trees in terms of lore, and the dialogue is god-awful. To the latter point, Lucas even admitted he wasn’t good at writing dialogue. And yet, he didn’t want assistance with dialogue — and the studios allowed him that freedom because of his clout.

I saw The Phantom Menace when I was 13. Even then, I knew what I was seeing was bad. George Lucas is a creative genius who has devised a modern legend that will live beyond any of us. That doesn’t mean he didn’t need an editor.

Everyone needs an editor, and yet almost no one wants to admit it. Editors are for amateurs, some think; or are deployed by anxious big-wigs who don’t trust their creators or anyone’s vision that’s different from theirs.

Yes, there may be publishers who overstep and edit to their expectations as opposed to the writer’s voice. But just because that happens, that doesn’t mean an author outgrows the need to be edited. It just means they need a better editor — one that respects them as a writer and wants to encourage their growth.

I know both the temptation to go at my work alone, and the sting of being told what parts of my creation need to be fixed. When I get my memo and edits back from Evelyn Duffy, I use them to learn and remember them as I write my next piece — and I’ll admit, I occasionally think, “Ha! I remembered to do [blank] this time! I’m doing one better!” I submit my work to her and wait to see if she notices and remarks on any improvement. I don’t kid myself into thinking a piece won’t need to be edited, but I feel a special sense of glee with the piece that only needs a few copy edits.

Still, those pieces are few and far in between — and lucky for me, I’ve found an editor who doesn’t let improvement on my part diminish any editing on her part. Evelyn even remarked that one of my short stories she recently edited “made me step up my editing game.” This is good for both author and editor, but in my mind, it’s especially good for the author because it challenges the author to keep growing and improving with each piece.

Even if one doesn’t have an editor like Evelyn (and I pity those who don’t, because she’s amazing), it’s still important to remember that, no matter where you are in terms of writing experience, popularity, or clout, you should always be edited and you should always consider the input of others. And if you’re an editor or publisher, you should always maintain that role over your authors’ work, even if they’re established and popular. It results in better outcomes for everyone involved.

I’m all for giving creators more freedom, especially when they’ve proven themselves. But there’s also such a thing as giving a creator too much freedom because they’re so popular. Everyone needs an editor. Everyone needs advice. Everyone needs oversight.

To bring this point home, I present a tale of two creators, as shared anecdotally by friend and fellow beer writer Will Gordon. On one hand, we have David Foster Wallace:

I won’t add much of my two cents, since I haven’t read Infinite Jest; but from what I’ve seen online, the general consensus seems to be that, at best, it’s an ordeal to finish.

On the other hand, we have David Sedaris:

David Sedaris has one of the most distinctive voices in literature. He is edited, and he listens to his editor.