This past weekend, I received my first acceptance letter! *throws all the confetti*
Camden Park Press is releasing an anthology called “Quoth the Raven.” It will feature stories and poems that put a modern twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I adore Poe’s work (more on that further below), and decided to write a story and try my luck. I’m happy and proud to say that my story was chosen for the anthology! My story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes’,” moves “The Tell-Tale Heart” to social media. It was fun to write, and I can’t wait for all of you to read it as part of this awesome collection.
While I’ve self-published my last two books, I’ve been submitting short stories to contests and calls for submission from various journals, magazines, and anthologies. I started a rejection collection to collect my rejection letters. When I created it, I held out hope that one day, I’d start an acceptance collection. I officially started one today.
I chose a picture of Ina Garten because I admire her — I try to follow Roxane Gay’s credo, quoted on the binder cover, in my own day-to-day — and because when I found the picture of her cookbook, How Easy is That?, I smirked at how she’ll often say that even after preparing something that’s kind of complicated. I thought more deeply about this — as I do — and thought about how cooking seems easy when you’ve done it for years and when you’re seeing the finished product. It can be easy to forget all the ingredients and prep that went into an “easy” scone, just like it can be easy to forget all the failed scones that came before the successful one.
While I don’t consider one acceptance letter to be the perfect scone, I chose that Ina photo because I wanted to remind myself that it took many steps — and many falls — to get to acceptance. It can be easy to forget that it wasn’t easy, that there were drafts and unfinished stories and rejected stories before the first (and hopefully not the last) acceptance came through. I added that picture to help me remember.
I am especially thrilled that my first acceptance was to a Poe-themed anthology. I started reading Poe’s work when I was eleven years old. I did a dramatic reading of the ending of “The Cask of Amontillado” for a sixth grade project (and I, for one, think I was robbed of being selected to go to a district competition, as I put my all into Fortunato’s pleading at the end), and scared myself awake by reading “Hop Frog” right before bed. My friends and I also spent a Poe-themed day in Baltimore two years ago. We visited his home as well as his grave site. We also had a drink at The Horse You Came In On Saloon, where Poe was last seen before his death.
I can’t wait to be a part of “Quoth the Raven,” and can’t wait to read all of the stories included in the anthology. The collection will be released October 7, 2018 — the 169th anniversary of Poe’s death. I’ll share more details as they become available on my Facebook page and my Twitter account.
When I was little, I loved spending time in cemeteries. Not in a macabre way — they were simply places where my mom and I would take walks. There was a cemetery near our apartment in Holyoke with a large, flat-topped stump, and I spent many afternoons climbing onto the stump and jumping off of it. Mom and I also fed squirrels at a cemetery in Leesburg, and because two squirrels always appeared by our bench, I named them Squirrely and Nutkin, and said I was feeding those two each time (even though in all likelihood, they were different squirrels each week).
I met fellow author Loren Rhoads online, and was delighted to find someone else who felt the same pull to visit cemeteries. Rhoads is the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. She’s also the author of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes, a space opera trilogy that’s been described as grimdark. Her latest project is a collection of stories about a monster-hunting witch.
I asked Loren a few questions about her work and her travels. Read on for more information on both, and more!
Sonora: How long have you been writing?
Loren: The first time I felt like a real writer was in 2008, when Dark Arts Books published four of my short stories in the book Sins of the Sirens. It was amazing to see my work appear alongside Maria Alexander, Mehitobel Wilson, and Christa Faust.
Sonora: Have you always written horror? What other genres appeal to you?
Loren: I actually started out writing science fiction, before drifting into horror. Lately, I’ve been writing cheerfully morbid nonfiction. My books have included a space opera trilogy, a succubus/angel urban fantasy, and a nonfiction travel guide called 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die. In fact, 199 Cemeteries was my 11th book. I’m hoping to see another one published before the end of the year. It will combine horror, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance. I’m still struggling with its final title.
Sonora: I can’t wait to read Wish You Were Here — as I told you, I too have a fondness for visiting cemeteries. What drew you to visit them? What drew you to write about them?
Loren: I started visiting graveyards on vacation by accident, when I got routed unexpectedly to London during the first Gulf War. I discovered a photo book about Highgate Cemetery in the bookshop at Victoria Station and fell in love with the beautiful Victorian sculpture garden.
In the late 90s, I met Thomas Roche, the nonfiction editor at Gothic.Net, at a reading at Borderlands Bookstore. Tom said that he never got enough nonfiction for the site — and they paid real money — so I pitched him a series of essays about visiting cemeteries. That column won me my membership in the Horror Writers Association. The Gothic.Net essays formed the basis of Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel.
Sonora: Do you have a favorite cemetery you’ve visited? A cemetery that’s on your wish list?
Loren: My favorite cemetery changes. I often pick Highgate, because that was where I fell in love with cemeteries, but Poblenou in Barcelona has one of my favorite pieces of cemetery art, the amazing Kiss of Death. This year, I’ve been researching a new cemetery guide about the pioneer graveyards of the San Francisco Bay Area, so I’ve seen some really charming local places, graveyards with really good stories. One of my favorites is in Oak Hill in San Jose, where Mountain Charlie is buried. Although he got between a mama grizzly and her cubs, he survived being bitten in the head. For years afterward, he wore his hat pulled low over his face to hide his deformity. That kind of wilderness is hard to imagine now, in Silicon Valley.
Wow, are there a lot of cemeteries on my wish list. I add them faster than I can cross them off. I’d love to see the cemeteries of Savannah and the Rockies and the Nevada ghost towns, as well as Happy Valley Cemetery in Hong Kong and Okunoin on Mount Koya in Japan. I’d really love to go to Oaxaca for Dia de los Muertos. I have a big birthday coming up in a couple of years, so I told my husband that I’d like to see the Pyramids finally. So many cemeteries, so little time!
Sonora: Who are some of your favorite writers? What are some of your favorite books?
Loren: One of my favorite writers is Martha Allard, who should be better known. She wrote a rock’n’roll vampire ghost novel called Black Light that is just devastating. Dana Fredsti’s Lilith books, about a demon-hunting stuntwoman, are a lot of fun. And I’m loving Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children books. The second one — Down Among the Sticks and Bones — is set in a Hammer Horror-style of portal world.
My favorite books range from Dracula to Ray Bradbury’s early story collections to Angela Carter’s fairy tales and Dion Fortune’s books on practical magic.
Sonora: Do you have any projects in the works you’d like to tell us about?
Loren: I’ve been putting out a series of chapbooks this year, an ebook collection of three short stories every other month. The chapbooks collect up my stories about Alondra DeCourval, a young witch who travels the world to fight monsters. The stories were originally published in books like Best New Horror #27 and The Haunted Mansion Project: Year One and Sins of the Sirens, as well as online in Wily Writers or in magazines like Not One of Us and New Realm. The third volume just came out in June.
I’m finishing up two novellas to round out the series. One is about a firestorm in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which is an uncomfortable coincidence, since fire is raging near Yosemite right now [note: this interview was conducted in late July]. The final one is about the islands 25 miles off the coast of San Francisco, on the edge of the continental shelf, where the naturalists are vanishing. The ghosts are hungry.