October Reads: Time for (More) Darkness

It’s October, the time of year when most people dust off their horror novels and horror movies. I, for one, like engaging with dark fiction all year long. But I do feel an extra pull to the darker corners of literature in October. There’s a chill in the air and an excited energy to immerse oneself in the macabre, the shocking, and the unexplained.

While my month is filled with writing projects — including two new releases, some short stories in progress, and making revisions to Without Condition — I’m still reading every day. I have a few dark novels on my “To Read” list, including Destroyer by Victor LaValle and Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott. If you have any recommendations for me, please leave them in the comments!

I also have a few recommendations for you, if you are looking for something new to read this October.

I recently finished Breathe, Breathe by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. It is a short collection of dark poetry and short stories. The short stories were good overall — my favorite was “The Madness of the Woodpecker” — but I was most impressed by the poetry. I have a hard time engaging with collections of poetry because I read too quickly to really absorb the meaning of the verse (my fault, not the fault of any poem or poet). Al-Mehairi’s poems stuck with me and chilled me as I read them. Some tell stories, others describe chaotic emotions, but all are terrifying.

I also recommend Sacrificial Lambs and Others by Sheri White. The collection contains several flash pieces as well as longer short stories. Flash fiction, like poetry, also has a hard time sticking with me because of how fast I read. White’s stories still find themselves in my head, though, even though I read the collection months ago. My personal favorites were “Ashes to Ashes” and “First Day of School.”

You may remember that last month, I interviewed author Loren Rhoads. I was excited to read her memoir, Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. I’ve now read it, and I highly recommend it if you’d like to read some macabre nonfiction — namely, if you’re interested in travel essays (I want to note that Rhoads did not ask me to review the book as part of our interview — I purchased the book, read it, and am now reviewing it all on my own accord). Her writing gives the reader a wonderful sense of place in cemeteries around the globe. I’ve now added several new destinations to my list, including Bela Lugosi’s grave and the skeleton-filled catacombs of Paris.

I hope you find some excellent eerie reads for October — and, I hope you’ll consider adding both Wither and Other Stories and Quoth the Raven to your reading list!

Two (!) New Releases Next Week

Happy October, everyone! The second week is a busy one on my end, but in an awesome way. I’ll have two books — one a collection of my own, and one an anthology I’m included in — available to purchase next week.

The first is the anthology: Quoth the Raven, a collection of contemporary re-imaginings of the works of Edgar Allan Poe, from Camden Park Press. My story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,'” is one of many stories and poems to appear in the collection, which is edited by Lyn Worthen. It’s a modern take on “The Tell-Tale Heart,” one of my favorite Poe stories. The anthology is available for pre-order now, and will be available on October 7, 2018.

quoth the raven
From Camden Park Press

Pre-order Quoth the Raven: Kindle | Paperback (Amazon)
Nook | Other ebook outlets

The second is my next short story collection, Wither and Other Stories. It will feature four new stories: “Wither,” “Nesting,” “Smoke Circles,” and “We Really Shouldn’t.” It will be available in ebook and paperback on October 9, 2018.

wither and other stories
Cover Art by Doug Puller.

Read more about “Wither and Other Stories.”

I hope you enjoy these stories. Both books will be excellent, fast reads for the Halloween season.

I also have a few other projects in the works, which I’ll share more about in the coming weeks.

Accepted!

This past weekend, I received my first acceptance letter! *throws all the confetti*

confetti corgi

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.

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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.

acceptance collection
I’m pretty excited.

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.

ina garten
This picture was a close second.

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.

poe's grave
Poe’s grave, located in Baltimore, Maryland.

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.

the raven
During our visit to Poe’s house, one of my friends bought a raven puppet in the gift shop. The puppet made the selfie rounds all evening.