Saturday, February 16, 2019

Womin in Horror Month - Week 3

This week we bring you E. A. Black.




Real Locations For Famous Horror Stories
By E. A. Black

I'd like to thank New England Horror Writers for inviting me to post during Women In Horror Month. So far, my horror writing has consisted of short stories with topics running the gamut from infectious disease to crazy cat ladies. I've been published by small presses. My story "Fog Over Mons" appears in "Wicked Tales: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers Vol. 3".

I used to work in the movies and on TV. I mostly worked as a gaffer (lighting) but I also did scenic painting and makeup including F/X. I did lighting for "Die Hard With A Vengeance" and the movie "12 Monkeys". I did makeup for the TV show "Homicide: Life On The Street". I also did crew work for a slew of concerts and stage shows. So the making of movies and TV has always interested me. I also like to travel, especially to haunted locations, so I always check to see where something is filmed. More often than not it's a sound stage but sometimes there are real locations involved.

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

I'd wanted to know where 1963's "The Haunting" was filmed ever since I first saw the movie when I was a child and read the novel later as an adult. I wanted to know what influenced Shirley Jackson to come up with such a fun house of a haunted mansion. Turns out she may have been influenced by the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. I've been there twice. This rambling mansion has doors that open into dead space and stairs that go to the ceiling without opening into anything. Sarah Winchester's purpose for having the house built like this was to confuse the spirits searching for her from within. She was told by a psychic (I mean flim flam artist) that the spirits of those killed by her family's famous rifles were out to get her so she needed to build onto the house to keep them at bay. I can see that mansion inspiring the doors that won't stay open in Hill House and the Gothic design of the place.

The Ettington Park Hotel in Warwickshire, England provided the exteriors for Hill House in Robert Wise's 1963 film "The Haunting". This 60 room mansion is reportedly haunted. Of course it is. I've never been to this hotel but if I ever travel to England I'd love to spend some time there.

THE SHINING

And now I come to Stephen King's "The Shining". The Overlook Hotel was based on both The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado (book) and the Timberline Lodge in Oregon (Kubrick movie). I visited the Stanley Hotel in 2015 for the second Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat.  It was a bit on the run down side but still enjoyable. The hotel is of course rumored to be haunted (aren't they all?), but I didn't see or hear anything unusual. Guests included Josh Malerman, Daniel Knauf, and Jack Ketchum. The thing I liked best about the retreat was how informal, cozy and accessible everyone was. I attended some informative lectures and toured the hotel and grounds. I even did some writing.



REBECCA

Manderly is based on Menabilly, an Elizabethan-era mansion author Daphne du Maurier first saw in the 1920s while trespassing on the grounds. Two decades later she rented the place and lived in it with her family until 1969. Don't try to find the mansion as depicted in the movie since Alfred Hitchcock filmed on a stage set.

THE BIRDS

More du Maurier and Hitchcock. Bodega Bay is a very small village located on the northern California coast. I've been there. It's very remote. The Potter house, which was used as the schoolhouse in the film, is now a private residence but I managed to drive past it and get a good picture of it. There isn't much reference to the movie in the village but one shop had pictures of the actors and Hitchcock on the walls.

OTHER FAMOUS LOCATIONS

The Murder House from the first season of "American Horror Story" – The Rosenheim Mansion in L. A. Built in 1908 by Alfred Rosenheim who designed it himself.

The Exorcist – The famous staircase where Father Karras met his end is located on M Street near Prospect Street near Georgetown University. The house where the movie was filmed is a private residence but the stairs may still be open to the public.

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E. A Black had enjoyed telling scary stories to a captive audience since she was a child. She grew up in Baltimore, the home of Edgar Allan Poe who has inspired her to write. Due to her love for horror and dark fiction she joined Broad Universe, a networking group for women who write speculative fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Zippered Flesh 2, Zippered Flesh 3, Teeming Terrors, Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2, Wicked Tales: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers Vol. 3, Heart of Farkness, and more. She won a Best Short Story mention on The Solstice List@ 2017: The Best Of Horror for Invisible, which appears in Zippered Flesh 3. In addition to horror, she writes erotica and romance as Elizabeth Black. Friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, where she posts as Elizabeth Black. Check out her web site at eablack-writer.blogspot.com. She lives on the Massachusetts coast in Lovecraft country. The beaches often call to her, but she has yet to run into Cthulhu.
 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Women in Horror Month - Week 2 2019

For our second installation of Women in Horror month, we welcome Christine Lajewski.


Christine Lajewski                                                                             

                                                             She’s Got Agenda
            Women in Horror Month is a good opportunity to praise horrible women.  My appreciation for dreadful femmes has grown over time, and they have become frequent companions in the creative process.  I don’t just enjoy reading or writing about them.  For six weeks every year, I get to be one of them.
            I am a scare actor during the Halloween season.  I played bad people in haunted attractions for about ten years before I started writing horror. (Prior to that, I wrote about my teaching experiences and spiritual fantasy.) Something shifted during those seasons I spent made-up as something wicked, waiting for the next group of guests to stray past my shadowy corner.  During the lulls between scares, I began writing short pieces of horror fiction in my head.  It was inevitable, I suppose, that the first ones revolved around terrible ways to die.  Mental images of the big dust storms of the 1930s, for example, eventually became a story that asked:  What if dust had a malevolent will?  What if it ebbed and flowed and rippled across your parched land, and crashed in filthy tsunamis against your house?
In time, my stories moved from horrible deaths to horrible women, inspired by the characters I portrayed each Septober:  a mole rat woman at a toxic dump, a spider woman protecting her egg sacs, and a variety of ill-tempered hags. The horrible women on the written page were not necessarily the same ones lurking at the spooky attraction, but I found myself channeling a certain energy when the Halloween season ended, and I resumed writing.  The stories not only included dangerous ladies; they often skewed into insane agendas.
In a haunt, an actor has anywhere from thirty seconds to a couple of minutes to make an impression on her “guests.”  Costume and makeup help but they will not carry the scare any more than good cover art will sustain the book.  I am an older woman who can be physically imposing up to a point. If I’m going to make you scream, however, I’m going to do it by being disturbing, and setting every expectation of what a matronly woman should be on its ass.  My most successful characters have pursued the insane agenda--motives that are never fully explained but hint that something unusually horrifying is about to happen.  Guests will always pose questions: “Are you a witch?  Are you a vampire?”  They want to identify my character with something they already know, something that is less scary because it is familiar. I won’t give them an answer. I’ll make insect clicks or animal noises or croak nonsense.  I will silently pursue.
 It turns out the haunt minute is not far removed from a piece of horror flash fiction.  The insane agenda became an intrinsic part of many of my fictional females, quickly sketched out in my head, then expanded on paper.  (In my collection Erring on the Side of Calamity, “Dämon Tanze”, “Tiny Spider Love”, “Yum-yum, Bite-bite”, “Evicted” and “Babies” were hatched over long hours spent in a creepy locale.)  Certainly, male characters have crazy motives, too.  But I believe our ancient expectations of the feminine imbues dysfunctional, infanticidal, despotic and cruel women with a peculiar and appalling flavor.  
            What makes a character a truly horrible woman with an insane agenda?  Francisca in The Eyes of My Mother is one of my favorite examples.   For my purposes, she needs something beyond a hunger to feed on hapless victims or to carry out acts of violent retribution.  I’d like to think she might have been a goddess, displaced by new gods, unceremoniously dumped into a lower order of being.  At one time, she might have lashed out against her humiliators, and the devotees who turned their backs on her.  Five millennia later, she no longer feels any rage. Her compulsion to inflict pain and death is now merely ritual.  She neither knows nor cares how to answer her victims’ cries for reason or release.
            Perhaps she is a more maternal sort.  She thought she had a loving spouse until Daddy did something awful to her children.  But Mommy is benevolent.  She’s not interested in punishment. She believes it’s more important to teach Daddy how to be a good father—no matter what it takes, or how long Daddy needs to be schooled.
Or, maybe she is not the matriarch she used to be.  Long ago and with good reason, her children abandoned her. She is more obsessed with feeding others than in satiating herself.  She is a harpy with a bared breast, and the teat she offers lets down a black, viscous, toxic milk.  Woe to the unattended babe in the cradle.
            She could be young, newly independent and inquisitive about the world around her. She opens one Pandora’s box after another, just to see what happens.  But it’s not actually a box; it’s someone’s skull or abdomen. Flies gather, the stench is horrible, and the plaything begs for death. She is not bothered by that.  Her curiosity is detached and fathomless. She takes a last look at her handiwork and moves on to the next surprise.
            Some of these horrible women popped into my head during the most recent haunt season, others later, but it is a process that continues through the year—story ideas alongside potential haunt characters for next fall.  I don’t know which ones will be acted and which will be written.  But this is how I keep Halloween going all year, with horrible women as my co-celebrants.
                                                                        ⸸⸸⸸

Read the first 60 pages of Bonebelly, about a hell dweller fascinated by a local haunt, at this link:
Author page:

Friday, February 1, 2019


Clutching My Pearls; or Sushi Rolls Not Gender Roles

By Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel


            This post has no swear words.

            You see, I recently received some notes from an editor for a flash story I submitted. It was rejected, but I’m always happy to see feedback with my rejections. Constructive criticism is rarely a bad thing.

            Except most of the feedback was positive. “I was engaged from the beginning. I loved this.” But. In rejection notices, there’s always a but. “Your language was excessive.”

            I completely understand there are stories for which peppery language is unnecessary and even distracting. I wouldn’t write a story in which the protagonist was a child and drop infinite F bombs. That would be inappropriate.

            This story, however, was about the front-woman for a punk band. It’s been pointed out to me that this probably explains the hesitancy of this publication to accept something they otherwise enjoyed. I have a strong female protagonist who––GASP––uses swears.

            Women––and men, too––are conditioned to believe that women are soft and proper. We’re not supposed to swear or have ambitions beyond being an agreeable doormat. And if we do voice dissenting opinions, we’re expected to be reasonable and polite about it.

            Horror itself has long been a genre dominated by men, despite Mary Shelley’s significant contributions.

            Growing up, I read speculative fiction almost exclusively. Horror and science fiction writers were my rock stars. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be one of them. I learned how to be a writer from people like Stephen King and Octavia E. Butler and Harlan Ellison and Flannery O’Connor. They fueled my imagination.

             It was pointed out to me by well-meaning but judgmental, backwards, and narrow-minded relatives that romance was a great and lucrative genre in which to write. And they were right, of course. Romance is popular. I have nothing against romance novels or their writers, but it wasn’t my place.

            I was a bookish dork who loved B-movies and comic books. What did I know about romance? More importantly, romance fiction held no interest for me beyond the dogeared pages my friends passed around at our lunchroom table in middle school. The implication was clear. Romance was acceptable for a woman to write.

            The language of romance is soft and proper. The more vulgar words for male and female genitals are window-dressed in ambiguous terms like “manhood” and “flower.” Swear words are kept at a minimum and are almost always uttered by men in a fit of passion or rage. Curse words are manly.
           
            Eons ago, I dated a jerk who seemed genuinely appalled that I drank and swore. This was a person who fancied himself a “progressive.” Spoiler alert: That relationship did not last long at all. My former husband once suggested I might have Tourette syndrome because I swear so much. I have no neurological disorder, I’m not a loose or immoral woman, and I’m not possessed by a demon––not that there’s anything wrong or bad about any of those things. I’m actively seeking a demon, as a matter of fact.

            What I am is a human being. There are times when a swear word is the only one that will properly convey what you mean or how you feel. There are times when you’re just really CENSORED angry, and a well-placed expletive makes you feel better. And, yes, there are situations in which excessive language is absolutely appropriate.

            Let’s say I’ve written a story set on the high seas. Bartelby Q. Squigly, sailor extraordinaire, gets whacked in the back of the head by a mast boom. This is probably going to hurt. Should our hero shout out:

A)    Golly-gee, fellows. I say. That conked my coconut but good. I shall have to lie down.
B)    Boy-howdy, does that smart! I am truly one foolish individual, getting smacked like that.
C)    CENSORED! CENSORED, CENSORED, CENSORED!

If you chose option C, you’ve probably been hit in the head before.

      Choosing the proper swears and the proper occasions to use them in fiction is just as important as choosing any other word. In short fiction––and especially in flash fiction––words are at a premium. Selecting the right ones is crucial to building a world beyond what you see. Painting a picture is essential for your reader. The frontwoman for a punk band is probably going to swear. A lot. She’s probably going to be a take-no-crap strong woman because, much like horror, her world is male-dominated. In order to make a name for herself, she’s had to claw her way past a lot of people who didn’t believe she deserved to be there.

      There will always be people who object to strong language. There will always be people who believe women should be quiet and proper and obedient. You’re not writing for those people.

Lady writers, let the F bomb drop if it suits your needs. If your beer-swilling, punk-listening protagonist needs to let fly and call the President of the United States a name Samuel L. Jackson has made his trademark, go for it. And if anyone tells you women shouldn’t swear, feel free to wave at them with your favorite finger. 

***

About Sheri:

Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel’s short fiction has appeared in a number of publications over the past decade. Spirits, her first novel, will be released in July from Haverhill House Publishing. She lives in the Northeast with her partner, the writer Matt Bechtel; her three children; and an 80-pound lapdog named Nya.

Women in Horror Month 2019

The New England Horror Writers are once again featuring some of their women members. Like last year we will be having guest bloggers all month. We'll keep updating entries throughout the month, until we're out of entries. It begins now.  Do enjoy and please follow the author's links and info at the end of each post.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Women in Horror month 2018 - Finale

As February comes to a close, our last guest Victoria Dalpe will be rounding out this year's guests.

Have a good read and do check out her site/books if you've liked what you've read.



Hello and Welcome to my guest post!

First off, thanks so much for opening up the facebook page for a woman takeover. As with most things, I think the sheer volume of women horror lovers, readers, writers, and fans is under reported.

To that point, here’s a great article about women accounting for 50% of horror fandom:

My name is Victoria Dalpe, and I am a writer and visual artist based out of Providence, RI. I am also an unabashed lover of horror, monsters, gore, the gothic, the gruesome, the weird and all that all of that entails. My short fiction has appeared in various anthologies. Take a look here: https://www.amazon.com/Victoria-Dalpe/e/B00GKT7JN6

My first novel, Parasite LIfe, put out by ChiZIne Publications, is a horror YA novel that features a sapphic coming of age story. It was directly influenced by Le Fanu’s 1872 book Carmilla and the films of Jean Rollin, in particular The Living Dead Girl (La Morte Vivante) from 1982.

So that is what I am going to talk about today: the intersection of vampires and lesbians.

 



Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla is without question the wellspring from which most lesbian vampire fiction sprung: A classic gothic tale of two gal pals, where one girl gets stronger while the other weaker. Carmilla was distinctive in the staunch Victorian period it was written: She was a female character who only preys on women, and is actively courting/seducing Laura. Carmilla was the first female vampire in Victorian fiction; she predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by almost 20 years. Carmilla is a predator. She is inhuman and yet seemingly starved for love and affection. A creature centuries old, moving from one victim to another, ancient but also unchanging, forced to be a young girl forever. The book asks a great central question: If you could make someone love you, make them die for you even, and you had to kill them to live… how would that change how you saw the world? How would that affect your emotional life?

Since Carmilla was published, there have been many attempts at updating its themes and character relationships for modern audiences.

One of the best examples is the recent Canadian Carmilla web tv series. (Fun fact:  it is sponsored and heavily advertised within by Kotex, which is so apropos it just cracks me up). The show updates the story by both bringing it into the modern day and by severely shifting the tone away from the gothic and towards a kind of post-Buffy pop culture sensibility. Perhaps the best thing about it is its almost blase’ approach to same sex relationships. Carmilla just happens to be a lesbian and a vampire. The two lead’s relationship is treated as part of the story but not the whole story. Check it out here:  https://youtu.be/h6_3IwC3hC4

Vampirism has always been an effective metaphor for homosexuality because it allowed authors to pair same sex relations in the safe place of genre fiction. It was okay that they were two women or men, because one of them was a monster. Using mesmerism and coercion, characters could interact in ways that normally would be seen as taboo. An article about homosexuality and vampirism if you want further reading on that: https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Homosexuality+and+the+Vampire

The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein also explored the Carmilla story and grappled with that quandary. Klein’s story deals with it by using an unreliable narrator as a protagonist. This protagonist is questioning her sanity as well as her sexuality. The book (and the film based on it) are ultimately more about jealousy and feelings of displacement than sexuality. The issue of whether or not the protagonist is in love with her friend Lucy is not the key issue, instead it is merely a part of the larger question of if Ernessa is a vampire, or even real at all.

In Jean Rollin’s film Living Dead Girl, best friends deal with a most unfortunate conundrum: one of them is newly back from the dead with a hunger for blood, and the other is loyal and desperate to help. https://youtu.be/f3TXqJg7e3Q

Rollin’s film explores how hard it is to be in a lopsided relationship. Vampirism is the perfect metaphor for a toxic/unbalanced relationships. In Rollins’ hands, it is a sweet/sad story that shows the inherent tragedy of both love and vampirism.

Rollins’ take on this was a big motivation for my book. His film presents an honesty to the women’s  relationship that connected for me. It manages to take the stark, exploitation elements of a lesbian vampire story and turn them into fertile emotional territory.




Every relationship in the works cited above is toxic to some extent. They also all tell their tales largely from the perspective of the victim, of the partner in the relationship that is being taken from.

In writing Parasite Life I wanted to approach the standard tropes of Carmilla from the other perspective.

Which is to say, Parasite Life isn’t written from the perspective of the human lover. It’s not a victim’s tale. It’s the story of the vampire. How does it feel to be the aggressor? What if you couldn’t stop being the taker no matter how hard you might want to? If you can coerce your partner, where is the line between consent and rape?

How does it feel to be inside the head of a teenager, raging with latent sexuality and confusion, who also needs blood to survive?

I felt it was important to explore vampirism and sexuality without making Jane’s sexuality the big deal within the book. Taking a page from the Carmilla web series and The Living Dead Girl, I felt it was important to approach the character’s sexuality with a light touch, because I didn’t want to conflate homosexuality and “monstrousness.”

I tried to load my story with as much teenage emotion and angst as possible. It is about sexuality, yes, but also about issues of abuse, parental neglect, and the resultant emotions. It is a book about feeling like an outsider… and then realizing that you are an outsider and what that means. I thought this might all bring a fresh perspective to a well-worn tradition.


And now I will put it out to you readers, got a favorite lady vampire? And what fictional characters/books/movies have inspired your work?