Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Women in Horror Month - Finale.

Technically it ended yesterday, but we still had one guest blog post left. The final guest blogger for Women in Horror 2017 is Kristi Peterson Schoonover.



Wandering Women: Four Types of Female Ghosts and Why They’re Scary
There’s no mistaking that urban legends tend to favor the female ghost: along with “ladies” of every spectral color (from green and blue to grey, white, brown, red and even pink), we’ve all heard of Bloody Mary, the Bell Witch, and Screaming Jenny. While there’s no evidence to support that female haunters are any more frightening than their male counterparts, it’s interesting to note that females—many who have been featured in my own fiction—seem to be more terrifying because of what they represent.
Here are four of my favorites. What do you think?
The Faceless/Altered Woman
Many cultures have variations of the faceless or altered woman.
In Japan, there is the noppera-bo, who at first can appear as someone the victim knows; then the face dissolves completely, even though the body and head are still there. This apparition is sometimes confused with the mujina, a magical badger who can take the shape of a faceless woman (in my short story, “Mujina,” published in Skinwalker Press’s Dark Passages II: Tales from the Black Highway, I used the concept of noppera-bo but called it mujina with intent: noppera-bo just didn’t have as melodic a ring to it within the context of the narrative).
Japan also has the Slit-Mouthed Woman. There are many variations of the tale, but the one usually told most is that she was a woman whose jealous husband thought she was cheating. He slashed her mouth with scissors, laughing at her and asking, “Who will think you’re pretty now?” She supposedly approaches her victims and asks them if they think she’s pretty. Whether or not she kills them—or just cuts their mouths to match hers—depends on the answer given.

The Faceless/Altered Woman frightens because she represents a loss of identity. Noppera-bo or mujina represents the awareness that we may be ignored, or that our sense of self will be watered down (consider the person who had a passion for dance but had to give it all up, or the formerly diversified person whose entire existence is now predicated only on his or her spouse). Similarly, the Slit-Mouthed Woman is scary because it is about the loss of another aspect of our identity: we can be young and beautiful, but life or illness takes its toll. In other words, we age; in a more extreme context, consider the beauty queen who needs face surgery following an accident: her sense of who she is and what she could do has now been altered due to circumstances beyond her control.

The Vengeful Spirit
Thanks to the popularity of Suzuki’s Ring and its American counterparts, this is the stringy-haired specter who comes to mind when we think vengeance. She’s based on the Japanese revenant onryou, one who seeks revenge because she was wronged by a man.
Just about every culture has female wraiths hell-bent on retribution. Hindu folklore has the churel (pronounced choo-dale, although she is called by many other names), a woman who dies during menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, or due to her relatives’ neglect; she rises from the grave to suck the blood of her kin. The Venezuelans have La Sayona, who kills adulterous men. In Scandinavian lore there is the mare, who sits on a man’s chest at night and gives him sleep paralysis or nightmares; while there’s little evidence to suggest she is an instrument of justice, her roots have been traced to a story in which an angry queen summoned a devil to kill her womanizing king in his sleep.
Each of us carries an inner dread that we may someday be punished for the injustices we’ve done. The idea that something could manifest itself and attack us in retaliation for those deeds—whether we committed them knowingly or not—is alarming.
The Wailing Woman
Many towns, especially in America, have “White Ladies”—most of who are wandering and crying because they’re grieving a dead loved one. The most famous—and dangerous—is La Llorona.
The story goes that she murdered her children by drowning them in a river so she could be with her lover (he hated children or didn’t want to take responsibility for them, it depends on which version you read). The lover, however, spurned her, and she drowned herself. It’s said she wanders the riverbanks, weeping, wailing—and looking for children to snatch to replace her dead ones. While her roots are most definitely in Mexico, there are versions of her in many South American legends and in the American Southwest—especially in San Antonio, home to a place called Woman Hollering Creek.
The presence of these ghosts suggests a very bleak eternity: they perpetrate the idea that when someone we love dies, we may never move on to find happiness. Grieving a loved one can be the darkest time of any life. It’s bone-chilling to think we’ll be sad for eternity.
The Lost Soul
These popular phantoms are usually the product of suicide or victimization.
My favorite tale is that of the Adirondacks’ Lady in the Lake. In 1963, a mannequin-like body was discovered at the base of Pulpit Rock, deep under the surface of New York’s Lake Placid. She was later identified as Anna Mabel Smith Douglass, who went rowing in 1933 and was never seen again. I don’t think the reason for her death has ever been pinpointed with certainty, although these days people speculate it may have been suicide. Either way, residents say you can often see her spirit, hovering above Pulpit Rock, looking distant and forlorn.
Canada has its Headless Nun, who had her head chopped off in an encounter with some undesirables (again, it depends on which version you read) while she was on her way to a convent in the great north. She spends her nights wandering about, searching for her head.
A third type of lost soul can be connected to punishment. Buddhist traditions have preta (“hungry ghosts”)—famine-stricken beings who are being punished for their greed in a past life by being made to wander the earth in a state of constant, insatiable hunger and unquenchable thirst. Preta, however, aren’t necessarily female.
There’s probably nothing more unnerving than thinking you may spend the rest of your earth-bound allotment in despair. These spirits remind us that there could very well come a time in our lives when our bodies have many years left—and so do our broken hearts.
___
Kristi Petersen Schoonover loves reading ghost stories as much as she loves writing them. Her short fiction has been featured in several magazines and anthologies; Dark Alley Press published her novel, Bad Apple, in 2012, and a novelette, “This Poisoned Ground,” in 2014. She holds an MFA from Goddard College, is the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony residencies, and is a co-host on the Dark Discussions podcast. Find out more at http://www.kristipetersenschoonover.com/.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Women in Horror Month - Part 6

Our 2nd to last guest Blog. This one blog brought to us from Christa Carmen.



February’s Women in Horror Month as a platform to explore the dreaded question: Do you believe in writer’s block?  

By Christa Carmen

February is Women in Horror Month, which means…absolutely nothing if you are a female horror writer who is anything like me. During the month of February, I write. I also write on Christmas, my birthday, on the day when I had applied for a new job and found out I didn’t get it, and I write on the day, a year and a half later, when I had applied for the same job and I found out I got it. I write when the writing’s good and I write when the writing sucks (Jodi Picoult’s quote: “You can always edit a bad page…you can’t edit a blank page,” is printed in purple chalk on a blackboard atop my desk); I write when I want to write and I write when I really rather wouldn’t.
But what if someday, the time comes when I go to pick the gel off the tip of a new Bic Cristal 1.6 mm blue pen, lean in to smell that new-notebook scent, and realize that I haven’t the foggiest idea what to put on the damn page? What if I just stare and stare until the lines blur together and the clock leers at me from the wall and no matter how hard I try and coax my brain into transcribing a message to my fingers, nothing comes???
Well, I’m here, the February 2017 version of ‘Woman in Horror,’ Christa Carmen, to tell the future, potentially-plagued-by-the-dreaded-‘W-B’-phrase, Christa Carmen, how to escape from that blank-paper Hell. It won’t be an exact science, but it will at least be a blueprint to refer to should the Four Horses of the Apocalypse show up to drag each and every embryonic storyline from my head before I’ve had a chance to deliver and properly nurture them.
Step one: read! This is a nice and easy one.  Read books that recently debuted on the New York Times bestseller list and read the classics. Read outside the genre of horror and read hardcore horror books within it. Read something of which the dust jacket blurb calls to you like an old friend, a friend you can envision being curled up by the fire with, your beagle next to you on the couch and a monstrous cup of tea in front of you on the coffee table, and read something that prior to picking up, you would have never imagined yourself reading in a thousand years.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be coming up with short story, novella, and novel ideas over the past year faster than I can write them…but with the addition of both the Audible (Amazon’s audiobook division) and Overdrive (e-and audiobook distributor for American libraries) apps to my mobile device, I’ve been averaging two books a week in that same amount of time.
Starting with the recommended reading list at the end of Stephen King’s On Writing and moving on to devour everything from Michael McDowell’s Cold Moon Over Babylon and Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door to Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and David Ebershoff’s The Danish Girl; from Frans de Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? and Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk to Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, I have always been a voracious reader in conjunction with being a writer.
My mother knows I like to try out different brands and sizes of notebooks like some people try new IPAs at their local watering hole, and so she recently presented me with an ‘ideas’ notebook (the cover inscription of which declares: Remember, ideas become things). The white ruled pages are intermittently interrupted by inspirational quotes written in large font and centered against fun, mustard-yellow backdrops (perhaps an interruption another writer might find disruptive enough to elicit a serious case of writer’s block!), and one of these quotations was from MovieMaker Magazine’s January 22, 2004 interview with Jim Jarmusch. It reads as follows:
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to."

If that is not good advice for how to beat writer’s block, then I don’t know what is! Jarmusch’s quote immediately had me contemplating A&E’s drama series (this description is per its Wikipedia page – I would have called this baby a straight horror show, but hey, what do I know, I’m just a lil ol’ Woman in Horror;), Bates Motel. Robert Block wrote Psycho in 1959, and unlike Norman’s companions in slasher film serial killing, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger, all of who have had film installments which did justice to their respective backstories, the original mama’s boy was a bit of a tabula rasa in terms of his genesis.
Creativity kudos goes to Anthony Cipriano, who wrote Bates Motel’s first script, as well as to Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin, who joined seven months later as executive producers and head writers. Ironically, Cuse cited the drama series Twin Peaks as a key inspiration for Bates Motel, actually stating, “We pretty much ripped off Twin Peaks...If you wanted to get that confession, the answer is yes. I loved that show. They only did 30 episodes. Kerry [Ehrin] and I thought we'd do the 70 that are missing.” The cycle of reinvention and reinterpretation continues!
Step two: attend conferences! StokerCon, BookCon, Terror Con, Necon, Comicon...the cons go on and on! First, conferences are just a lot of fun in general, a great excuse to be around other writers and/or horror fans and learn a ton, but in addition to being enjoyable, conferences are inspiring in myriad ways.
Take a look at the schedule of events for any horror and/or writing conference and you’re in for a real trick-or-treat.  The lineup for StokerCon’s 2016 Horror University included courses on Building a Better Monster, Poetic Forms: The Scary World of Structured Poetry, Vice and Virtue in Horror Poetry, Writing from Experience, Writing from the Wound, How to Write Scary, and Making the Reader Squirm.
Finally, a conference in and of itself can be fodder for a story idea. Take Nick Mamatas’ I Am Providence, published by Night Shade Books, the tagline of which reads: An author's murder during an H. P. Lovecraft fan convention reveals dark secrets beneath the printed page in this biting murder-mystery satire. Not only do I want to read this book, I want to go to NecronomiCon this coming August!
Step three: write anyway! When all else fails, write through the barriers. Write a journal entry that’s the equivalent of your sister’s Instagram feed, i.e., pictures of palm trees and champagne brunches. Write a grocery list. Write one-hundred times in a row, I CAN’T THINK OF WHAT TO WRITE.  No matter what, just write. Eventually, instinct will take over, and before you know it, future, potentially-plagued-by-cerebral-obstruction, Christa Carmen, your writer’s block will be the stuff of nightmares. And hopefully, so will your writerly brainstorming.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Women in Horror Month - Part 5

We still have a few entries left to post for the guest bloggers for Women in Horror Month.So we'll be carrying these into March. Next up is April Hawkes.



Women in Horror Month
April Hawks

I have been participating in, and interested in, Women in Horror Month since I learned of its existence, in 2014. 

My first experience in WIHM was interesting. During a thread that I was following, there was a guy named Scott Lefavre, who saw an image that was for Women in Horror Month with red lips and the logo, and a tongue. He claimed it was the official picture for the month (it wasn’t) and that it was sexual in nature. So I hopped in, thinking that he meant well as he dug deeper into the hole he was making, and tried to help him explain what he meant. Turns out he meant that women’s mouths were better suited to sex stuff and that the red lips were suggestive of that and it was just a crash and burn that blew up in my face. When I realized what he was REALLY saying, to me at that point, about red lips and vagina dentata and more weirdness, the whole thing blew up and FaceBook was flooded with profile pictures of lips in bright red lipstick. Mine was my husband wearing it in support. So, that was year one for me, in a nutshell. 

Year two for me for Women in Horror Month began in a group for New England Horror Writers. Rod Labbe asked if there were any horror writers in Maine. Someone mentioned the trio of us that make my Writer’s group. He dismissed us as not real writers. I ignored it. Then he posted, publicly, on Facebook a continuation of that initial conversation. The thing was, that the beginning in the private group, was unknown to most that saw it. I copied his post, or maybe screen shotted it, and posted it to my own page and said ‘If you want to be friends with him, whatever, but this is what he is posting about my friends and I and I have blocked him.” So that was another big boom. And, again, the majority of the damning (for the other person) conversation was between myself and them. At one point, he classified women horror writers as hags. He condemned library readings and tables for book sales on lawns. Those were things that our group had advertised as they happened, and to my knowledge we were the only ones that mentioned tables on the lawn, because there is a big festival in our town and one of the members lives right on the street where most of the events take place. I think it was in the part I posted on Fb. Soon, once again because I have amazing people in my life, pictures of Hags in all forms were profile pictures. The posts about hags were everywhere and Haggate was a thing. I coined the phrase Resting Hag Face (which I am so proud of.) and made it a hashtag.

I  was primed and ready for Year Three to involve some stupid person and a bunch of drama, but it passed quietly and peacefully.

I ADORE our community, and how they stand up for what is right, and when one or several of us are attacked, they DO NOT stand by and watch. Horror writers are some of the nicest people I have ever met.
Having said that, I am interested to see what this year brings. I will not be bringing national politics into this, except to say that the political climate is restless and in some ways aggressive and I think that there is an attitude that anything can be said, no matter how hateful, and that the attitude by many is that it is encouraged. So, given all that, and several governmental policy changes, this current time is, in and of itself, horrific for women (and for SO many others for SO many reasons. I am not discounting you, nor forgetting you) But I have seen my Horror friends do what they do best. Rally for what is right. And should there be some sort of ridiculousness within the confines of Women In Horror Month, I know that we will unite once again. And, hey. Maybe we’ll get some new hashtags and some new profile pictures for the month, too.

April Hawks lives in Maine with her four boys and her husband, all avid supporters of her writing (even though the younger three aren’t yet allowed to read most of it) Her blog can be found at www.aprilhawks.com and her email is april.hawks@yahoo.com She has been published by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Great Old Ones Publishing, has appeared on The Taco Society Presents, and is co founder of Tuesday Mayhem Society, a writing group that usually, now, meets on any day but Tuesday. She has permanent Resting Hag Face.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Women in Horror month - Part 4

The newest guest blogger is Juss Stinson!



Well, hello there sweet Darklings! I suppose introductions are due, yes? My name is Juss Stinson, I am an author, a mother, a life consultant, an oddity enthusiast, and I am proudly blogging for Women in Horror Month! I began my author journey in 2014 at the age of 23 and have since then self-published five books including: two paranormal romances, a horror themed poetry/short story anthology, a children's book about a sweet werewolf pup, and a free verse horror story. Many more creepy creations are also in the making, of course! *Insert delightful evil cackling here* I am writing to give forth a few pieces of my mind regarding this awesome month, filled with awesome women, and the most awesome genre. I am sure you are thinking to yourself that this sounds pretty awesome...YOU WOULD BE RIGHT! Anyway, I certainly hope you can take something from my playful prattling. 

What is my biggest advice to anyone dabbling in horror? Don't dread the brainstorming of your projects because dread is exactly what we want. I mean, think about it, we are talking about horror here! I know that when we look at something as a whole that it can get overwhelming. Break it down, turn that stress into scream fuel, and place that dread we were talking about into the details of your work. You won't be disappointed. My biggest problem when I began was the feeling of a stop sign directly in my view in the moments I was whisked away into my world of writing. I quickly learned that this is exactly the place you need to be in order to create the best ideas. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT allow yourself to dial it down when that scream fuel creates a fire! There are always moments of reflection later on. This means that later on if you really don't like how something played out, you will have plenty of time to edit. Just remember that editing can happen whenever, but those crazy floods of thought are spontaneous. Embrace that rush and prepare to grab a bucket for its collection. Ps, write it all down as it comes just in case you want to recycle thoughts later. You may want to take those thoughts and manipulate or tweak them to enhance things down the road as you edit.

Is horror really where it's at? Hey! Who asked that?! Don't be ridiculous, horror is one of the most amazing genres, no question about it. Don't get me wrong, there are so many epic genres that I am also in love with, but horror is surely my favorite and is unforgettable. It is elaborate and a place that the grotesque can be made gorgeous! I can certainly tell you that when you dabble in the realm of horror you really aren't going to forget it. When I was a kid and saw my first horror movie it was simply monumental. In entertainment, one of the most sought after factors is a range of emotions. Emotions are put into play in order to make something fantastic and create an impact in the mind. Horror is a genre that really invokes the strongest of emotions. I have sat through sad movies and blubbered like an idiot, but have you ever launched a popcorn bucket three rows in front of you in just a matter of seconds? I can tell you this, the popcorn bucket made for a better memory rather than leaving a snotty mess of tissues on the floor. I also love getting a strange look from someone when I am reading and give out a sharp audible gasp or make a variety of twisted faces while I go through the motions. If you just naturally love horror than you know exactly what I am talking about. It's almost like a roller coaster of excitement, confusion, mystery, and fear. Some people greatly enjoy taking that ride. 

I suppose one of the biggest things to mention is do not be surprised if you start somewhere specific and then end up with a product that has you questioning what in the world happened. You can map things out all you'd like, outline your troubles away my friend, but sometimes you still end up taking a scenic backroad. When things don't go as planned take it as a sign that the brainchild spoke for itself. Isn't that the magic of storytelling? If it surprises even you, the creator, than clearly originality has taken its proper place in the process. Also, feel free to yell "IT'S ALIVE" after creating whatever you are working on because that is always appropriate in this genre. When you are working with horror be prepared to play with some funky ideas. I can't tell you how many times I am reading my own material and find something strange, even in my eyes! I treasure those moments because molding them into a story is always fun.

Speaking of fun, I may have had a bit too much fun writing this, but I hope it shows why I am so passionate about horror. I am more than honored to be able to live in a world where I am a woman in horror. I suppose it is not just this month, but actually every day of every year! More about me and my work can be found in the links I will provide below! I am also on most social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Please feel free to reach out to me for any reason because I am a sucker for conversation, especially when it comes to horror! 

My Website:
www.AuthorJuss.com
My Books:
www.amazon.com/Juss-Stinson/e/B00P5O9GBK