Summer Reading: Pride Edition

Happy Pride! The entire month of June is a recognition, celebration, and honoring of LGBTQIA individuals. While there are many ways to celebrate, I plan to spend part of June reading books by LGBTQIA authors.

One of my 2019 resolutions was to read at least one book per month that someone recommended to me. I put out a request on Twitter for recommended reads by queer authors. One user recommended White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, which is on its way to my front door as we speak. I look forward to reading that one!

As far as my own recommendations, here are some books I’ve enjoyed that were written by LGBTQIA authors. I recommend them for Pride month and, of course, for any month.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado — a fascinating collection of feminist horror. My favorite story was “Inventories.”

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay — another great collection of short fiction. My favorite story was “Water, All Its Weight.”

Dry by Augusten Burroughs — Burroughs is one of my favorite authors, and you really can’t go wrong with any of his books.

Letters for Lucardo, Vol. 1 by Otava Heikkilä — a tender, erotic comic about a May-December romance between a human and a vampire.

F4 by Larissa Glaser — a wild, crazy, sexy creature tale that’s perfect for summer.

The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag — a graphic novel about a young boy who yearns to be a witch.

I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arcenaux — a wonderful, funny collection of essays.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby — I laughed now just remembering this book. The essays within are a scream.

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Allison Bechdel — a “best of” treasury of Bechdel’s amazing comic.

Do you have any recommended reads for Pride? Leave them in the comments below!

The Horror of Motherly Love

This Sunday, May 12, is Mother’s Day. Sadly, my mom lives several hours away in North Carolina; but we chat every Sunday and I always send her a gift (though it’ll be late this year — sorry Mom).

Ahead of the holiday, I found myself reflecting on how most of my love stories fall into two categories: romantic (however twisted it may be), or familial between a mother and her daughter. The titular stories in my two collections, “The Crow’s Gift” and “Wither,” both focus on relationships between the main female protagonist and her mother. “Wither” goes one step further and includes Mother Nature — and the destructive relationship that can occur between her and her children.

sharp objects
Left to right: Amma, Camille, and Adora from Sharp Objects.

Without Condition is my first story to examine both motherly love and romantic love. While the focus is largely on Cara and her boyfriend, my first inkling of the story was rooted in the relationship between Cara and her mother. It was her mother’s unconditional love for her, even in the face of horrendous activities, that helped me think of the rest of the plot (not to mention the title).

I once read a study that claimed the bond between a mother and her daughter is the strongest possible bond between any parent-child pairing. While I can’t say that for sure, there is certainly something special about the way a woman is bonded to her mother in ways we don’t see with her father, or don’t see between a mother and her son. It’s something special to witness when it’s good, and something terrify to witness when it’s broken or abusive.

Carrie touched on this perfectly. The terror doesn’t lie in Carrie’s powers, nor just in the way she’s bullied; but in the power and influence Margaret White has over her daughter. As evil and tormented as she is, you still see their bond and the fact that Mrs. White truly worries about her. I think of in the movie, when Carrie shatters the mirror; and Margaret stops playing the piano and says in her most normal, concerned voice, “Carrie?” She’s worried her daughter is hurt, even as she calls her sinful. It almost makes it all the scarier when Margaret comes for Carrie with a knife in the climax.

margaret white
Also, this scene is just creepy AF.

I also think that the TV show Riverdale has done an excellent exploration of mothers and daughters in the fraught connection between Betty and Alice. Season 3 has been a little uneven, but the show has quietly shown how hard it is for a daughter to sever a tie with her mother, and how that tie — even when dangerous — may be the least dangerous option she has. Alice has joined a cult called The Farm, a group that Betty wants no part of; even if it means losing a connection to her mom. Out of desperation, Betty turns to her jailed serial killer father instead of her cult-worshiping mother, but when her father is (purportedly) free, he comes for her and tries to kill her (this post was written on May 7, and it’s possible revelations in later episodes may dispute these facts, because that’s what Riverdale does and that’s one of the reasons I love it in all its messy glory). Betty gives in to her mother for safety, and she’s embraced. She may still be in danger, but she’s with her mother; and with her mother, the feeling of safety is stronger and perhaps more real. This could be to Betty’s advantage or her detriment — only time will tell.

A final story that delved into this in spectacularly creepy fashion is Sharp Objects (which I also wrote about when the HBO adaptation aired last summer). Here, you have three female bonds: mother, daughter, and sister; none of whom can abandon the other completely despite the misdeeds of each. It also shows the darker side of a mother’s desire to feel needed, and how her daughter will nearly die to fill that need.

Betty and Alice Cooper
Betty and Alice Cooper.

The bond between a mother and daughter can make for excellent dark fiction when done well. I’m less interested in “crazy mom/rebel daughter” narratives, and more the stories of daughters who can’t leave their mothers behind, or vice versa; despite their dark deeds. The bond is strong, even when it’s frayed — maybe even the strongest of all. But that isn’t always a good thing.

I hope that those of you with good bonds, though, have a wonderful Mother’s Day. And, I want to wish the happiest of Mother’s Days to my mom. Thanks for reading my work, supporting me, and being an all-around gem.

Busy Bee for Spring

One thing I don’t want this blog to ever become is a string of posts promising to write more. I figure, if there’s a prolonged period where I don’t have much to add, I’ll let the blog sit and hope that people see me tweeting or Instagramming to see what I’m up to. Of course, on Twitter and Instagram, I’m usually talking about hockey or terrifying beauty rituals if I’m not talking about writing.

That said, I realize it’s been a minute since I’ve posted; and I wanted to check in, especially since I already recapped a prolonged absence following the release of Without Condition. This time, my absence hasn’t been because of writing. I have some exciting things going on in my personal life, which I’ll talk about more once those pieces are in place; but I can assure you that they’re all good!

In between the hubbub, though, I’m doing some writing. I’m working on a piece for a food horror call for submission. Sadly, this call for submission doesn’t accept flash — otherwise, I’d totally submit Crust (which you should read if you haven’t yet!).

I’m also letting Little Paranoias sit before giving it one full read-through. I plan to send it to Evelyn for editing in June, and in the meantime, I’ve started working with Doug on what the cover will look like.

I’m a busy bee this spring, and I’m grateful for the energy warm weather gives me to juggle it all. In between new projects coming out soon, I hope you’ll pick up one or two of my books to read if you haven’t done so — I have four to choose from!

Happy reading, everyone.

Celebrating Women in Horror Month

Today is Feb. 1, meaning it’s the first day of Women in Horror Month! (Though really, every month can be Women in Horror Month if you try hard and believe in yourself)

I plan to celebrate as both a writer and a reader. I’m participating in the monthly Ladies of Horror Flash Fiction Picture Contest, and will be featured as part of author Elaine Pascale’s “Ones You Don’t Bring Home” series throughout February. You will also see me popping up on various blogs and review sites, doing interviews and being reviewed, because …

Without Condition will be released on February 12!!!

. Without Condition. Cover Art by Doug Puller
Art by Doug Puller

*throws confetti*

We’re less than two weeks away from the release of my next book. You can check out more on this very site, and also see some early feedback from reviewers on Goodreads.

I’m also pleased to see Without Condition included in the Ladies of Horror Fiction’s Women in Horror Month Read-Along. They’ve set up five categories for their readathon, with the books they both recommend and plan to read. Without Condition is included under Indie Author.

lohf-readalong

I have four books I plan to read for Women in Horror Month:

  • The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes by Sara Tantalinger
  • Let’s Play White by Chesya Burke
  • Cruel Works of Nature by Gemma Amor
  • The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

I plan to read more for sure.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Women in Horror Month this year, and beyond!

Fare Thee Well, 2018

Fare thee well, my one true love …

Well, I didn’t love 2018; but there was a lot to celebrate this past year. As we approach the end of another rotation of Planet Earth, I’m looking back and remembering everything I read and wrote.

This was a great year for reading. I read 73 books this year, much more than I did in 2017. I wanted to get back into my old reading habits, which took a stall when I was in the thick of writing Please Give. Reading, I found, was a way to both relax and to replenish the writing well.

I read many good books, and I met many great authors whose works I enjoyed. I want to give a special shout-out to the following works and their writers:

Sacrificial Lambs and Others by Sheri White, an excellent collection of flash horror and short stories

Breathe. Breathe. by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a collection of short horror and dark poetry

Wish You Were Here by Loren Rhoads, a wonderful travel memoir detailing cemetery visits (read my interview with Loren Rhoads here)

Spin by Tiffany Michelle Brown, a time travel novelette about a man who tries to change his past by listening to a very special record (read my interview with Tiffany Michelle Brown here)

A Peculiar Curiosity by Melanie Cossey, a gothic/Victorian tale about two men driven to danger by their obsession with the possible discovery of a zombie (read my interview with Melanie Cossey here)

In between all of the books I read, I also found time to write. I completed my second novel, Without Condition. It was a much different experience than writing Please Give. One would think it’d be easier to sit down and write the second novel, but I found the words a little harder to come by and the doubts flickering in and out even more. There’s something to be said for putting pressure on yourself for what’s next. Still, I’m excited to share the final book with all of you on February 12, 2019. I hope you’ll pick up a copy!

2018 also saw my first acceptance. My short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,'” was included in Camden Park Press’ Quoth the Raven. I also had works included in The Sirens Call and Mercurial Stories. You can see my latest works, including links to stories available online, on my Books page.

I also completed several short stories, both flash pieces and longer stories. I’ve completed enough to where I plan to release another collection by the end of 2019. Be on the lookout for Little Paranoias: Stories.

Thanks to all of you who’ve read my work, commented on my posts, and joined me on this writing journey. As always, I’m cautiously optimistic about what 2019 holds for my writing. Onward and forward.

Happy New Year!

 

Donate Books This Holiday Season

(Note: this is not a paid or requested post — I’m writing this on my own accord)

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog because I don’t have much to report beyond the fact that I’m editing Without Condition. It’s going pretty well — I’m about 2/3 done, and I haven’t felt the urge to print it out and light it on fire, which I consider to be a success.

While this is a time of year where I’m typically editing, I’m also shopping; and I wanted to draw attention to one of my favorite annual charity drives. Each year between November and December, Barnes and Noble holds a book drive for a local school or library in need. They have a box of books that you can choose from to add to your purchase when you check out. They’re usually kids books, meaning you may be adding $5 – $12 to your bill — and sometimes less!

This drive means a lot to me because my love of reading and writing came from access to a variety of books at a young age. I had well-stocked school libraries and public libraries nearby, and friends and family who kept my bookshelf full. I’m grateful for that privilege, but access to good reading, especially for kids and teenagers, should be a right. Book drives like this one help get more books into more readers’ hands.

If you’re shopping at B&N this year, I’d like to ask that you add a book to donate when you check out. It’s for a good cause, and it’s an easy way to give. Thanks, and happy holidays!

Happy Birthday, Neil Gaiman

Today is Neil Gaiman’s 58th birthday, and I hope he has a happy one.

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read many of his books, and I’d have to say my favorite is The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s simple and elegant, sparse and yet full of story. I still remember in vivid detail the scene where the narrator falls back into Daisy Hempstock’s ocean.

I also really love The Graveyard Book. It came out when I was 22 years old, but I wish I’d had a book like that when I was in middle school — creepy and yet lovely. I think “creepy and yet lovely” describes most of his work, and explains why I love it so much.

Happiest of birthdays, Mr. Gaiman.