Saturday, February 22, 2020

Women in Horror - week 4

Week 4 of Women in Horror month is with guest blogger Renee S. DeCamillis

Have No Shame—
Promote to Stay Afloat
by Renee S. DeCamillis

     I am a newly published author, and when I had set out over ten years ago to start taking my writing more seriously I had no idea that there was more than just the craft of writing that I needed to learn about. The all too common saying—I wish I’d known then what I know now—is hitting me hard now that I realize I had never learned how to get my name and my work out to the masses in this monster publishing world. 
     Yes, I majored in English Lit. in college, and yes, I went on to earn my MFA in Popular Fiction Writing, and I learned a hell of a lot about writing and literature, but nowhere in my studies to become a published author were there any courses on Promotions and Public Relations, not unless you were a business major. Somehow there seems to be this illusion among new writers and the masses of non-writers that once someone gets a book deal everything else is all set and the sales and the money and the movie deals—yes, many people do believe this; luckily I wasn’t one of them—will start rolling in.
     The publisher will promote the shit out of your book, right? The publisher will send your book out to all the reviewers, right? The publisher will get established writers to blurb your book, right? The publisher will set up interviews for you, right? The publisher will arrange your podcast appearances, right? The publisher will arrange your book tour, right? The publisher will submit your book for all the award opportunities, right? The publisher will contact the book stores to get your work on their shelves, right?


     Since it’s the publisher that has all the connections, and it’s the publisher that is in the business of making money, and it’s the publisher who wants their authors to succeed it almost makes sense to assume that all of the promotional work will get done by the publisher. What isn’t widely known to new writers, and it’s especially unknown to much of the masses outside the publishing world, is that most authors will not sign book deals with any of the Big Five publishers; they will sign deals with the indies. (Thank the Gods and Goddesses for indies!) Still, it seems reasonable to assume that even the independent publishers will do a lot of promotional work for the books they’re signing and selling. Coming from a mindset of—Since they’re indies, they’ll fight even harder to promote and sell more books—seems like common sense. But that is not at all how this world works.
     New writers need to realize that most of the indie publishers don’t have the people-power to do all the promotional work that is needed to bring a book the recognition it needs to generate sales and find more readers. Of course the publisher wants the books they publish to sell, but at the end of the day they are small businesses doing the best that they can to stay afloat and put the authors’ work out into the world—just like indie authors themselves. Many of the independent publishing houses depend a lot on volunteers, people working for the pure love of literature, or working to gain experience for their resume, or working to simply help out their business-owner-friend and/or partner, etc. The staff members that they can afford to pay are often low in numbers.

     With that said, I want to stress that if you are with an indie publisher, be very thankful and appreciative for every single thing they do to help promote your work and to promote you as an author. Their job is not an easy one, just as your job as an indie author is not easy. We all have to wear multiple hats, and some of those hats may not fit us well, but that’s the nature of the beast.
     Speaking of those multiple hats, another thing an indie author should learn a little more about above and beyond the writing is how to use a fucking computer. Yes, I drop the f-bomb here because this is a constant struggle I contend with on a daily basis. Between figuring out who to email about getting reviews and podcast appearances and interviews and award considerations and scheduling reading appearances and getting your book(s) into bookstores, yada-yada-yada, there’s the “basic” online representation and advertisement of your work. Some personal experience of mine with this aspect: I had mistakenly thought it would be easy to post/share a video of my book launch reading as a way to promote my book and promote my narration ability, but even that became a two month process where I had to recruit the assistance of a very helpful and considerate friend to teach me how to condense a video from my phone into a small enough sized video to post online. Yeah, this shit is in no way quick and easy. Every time I turn around and want to promote something, I find that there’s something else with computers that I still need to learn how to do. Shit—I’m still trying to figure out how to use Instagram as a promotional outlet (My damn pictures keep getting cut off!), and learning how to convert my book into an eBook, among many other things.
     Seriously, promotional work is practically a full-time job, and there’s a constant struggle to balance time spent promoting versus time spent writing and creating. This, for me, is a constant battle, especially since I—a stay-at-home mom who also suffers from MS—can only work part-time. And many indie authors work full-time day jobs and have a family to raise/support. Finding balance is the key.
     Yes, we are not just writers, we are actual independent businesses all wrapped up in one person. Every indie writer needs to find balance. I personally am still trying to catch my balance. I have in no way figured this all out yet. There is so much I am learning every day, and so much more I still need to learn, and this is why I felt the need to write this piece. If anyone has advice to share with me and others about all of this mind-whirling work, please share it.
     Another important thing I have learned and want to share is that a lot of promotional work should be done before publication day. I am now realizing how crucial this is AFTER the publication of my first book. Reviews, interviews, podcast appearances, author blurbs—all of this promotional stuff is best done before your book comes out. Of course, it does help if you have hardcopy ARCs to give out to reviewers and authors you ask for blurbs and whatnot, which I did not have. Some people will accept digital copies, but not all of them. For those people who do accept digital ARCs, it helps if you have an edited ARC ready to send to them long before publication day, which I also did not have. Yes, you will still need to do this promo work after your book comes out, but the more promo work done before hand helps get you more promotional opportunities after. You can also try to gather a group of ARC readers by way of friends and acquaintances who may post reviews of your work on Amazon and Goodreads and social media, but from my own experience with that—don’t hold your breath for those reviews. Even when many of my thirty ARC readers raved to me about how much they love my book and what a great writer I am, only three people actually posted a review anywhere. But, hey, maybe they just really hated my book and didn’t want to tell me, and that’s fine. I hear that attending conventions also helps promotions a lot, but that takes money and time and good health, all of which are in very short supply for this indie author, though I still plan to somehow make that happen.
     At the end of that day we all just have to keep on pushing through, keep writing, keep promoting, and…Hell, when you get the chance, help spread the word for your writer friends, too. Even if your friend’s book is still in your TBR pile, it doesn’t take much time or effort to click share and give them a shout out. If you have read their work, it only takes a couple minutes to post a sentence or two review on Amazon and Goodreads and click some stars. If you want others to do it for you, you should be willing to do it for others. We are all in this together. Let’s help each other out. Have no shame. Promote. Promote. Promote!   

Next Appearance: On Saturday, February 22 at 2 PM Renee will appear at the Lewiston Public Library in Maine to read from her debut book, The Bone Cutters. A Q&A, book sales and signing will follow her reading.   

Visit Renee @:
Twitter @ReneeDeCamillis  

The Bone Cutters is also currently available at Barnes & Noble, on Indie Bound, as well as at Bull Moose, Longfellow Books, and Quiet City Books—indie book stores in Maine.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

#WIHM Week #3

This week's Women in Horror guest blogger is Angi Shearstone.

Angi Shearstone
WiHM blog post for NEHW

Representation matters.

I believed it and supported it as soon as I heard the phrase, however long ago that was, and as a concept before the phrase came into use, however long ago THAT was.

But I don't think I really 'felt' that truth until I saw a very specific movie a few years back, and wished I could send it back in time to 14-year-old me.

Sure, there were several excellent / atypical / 'different' female characters along the way of my 1970s childhood and 1980s teenage journey in to nerdolitry, geekery, and horrorness …

Wonder Woman (Linda Carter)
Charlie's Angels
Isis (spin-off from Shazam)
Princess Leia
Ellen Ripley
Sarah Connor

Please forgive me for pulling from several genres (and across decades), because for me, it was loosely all "that weird stuff" that most of my female friends just didn't get. Yeah, for a while, with our age still in single digits, we shared ghost stories, psychic tales, and ouija board activities, but that faded away for them, somewhere in the transition into make-up and more gendered expectations.

Other geeky loves were problematic with regard to gender (Star Trek TOS, with Captain Kirk boinking his way across the galaxy, tho' Lt. Uhura made strides for both women and PoC), or just unmemorable wrt gender (Battlestar Galactica – unmemorable possibly because I started crushing on the boys, or don't remember because I can't bring myself to go back and watch them).

In retrospect, it mattered to young me that the 'princess' in Star Wars was a leader of rebel forces, could also shoot a laser gun, and wear something other than that dress, and stomp around the woods in camouflage. She wasn't the same kind of princess in most of the other stories i'd heard by that time (I was 7 in 1977).

It mattered that there was a Bionic Woman counterpart to the Bionic Man.

Later, it also mattered that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had so many other things to do than a boyfriend.

And it would have mattered even more, when I was a teenager & loved the orginal classic in all its glory, to see something like Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016). Because so many, if not all of the genre women up to that point, well, they were all pretty attractive, and fit, and sexy in a way that didn't deviate much from standards.

But the female Ghostbusters? Badass and silly and further challenging the notion of ladylike behavior and the lens of 'standard' attractiveness. All spectacular at their respective talents, all while suffering the same kinds of micro-aggressions I and so many women (almost all?) have experienced throughout life.

Holy shit, that mattered. Like, I got tears in my eyes at the end. That's when I really felt it, in my heart and in my soul: Representation matters.

It may not qualify as a great film in the eyes of history or anybody else, but it's absolutely excellent at what it did for me. I genuinely wish I'd had something like that when I was a teenager.

Representation matters. Let's see all kinds of women and men and every other and in-between. Because there's someone else out there who needs to see 'em.

On a side note, does anyone else feel kinda squidgy that WiHM coincides with Black History month? Like, it’s already the shortest month, can they share without detracting from one another? I don't know. I hope that what I've put down here can be at least tangentially relevant to thoughts on both. It's important to see all kinds of people  in our stories, and important to bring to light hidden and underrepresented truths.

Me, I’m Angi, and it’s a small miracle I got this short post done before February 29. You can see more about the things I do at and

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Women in Horror Week #2 #WIHM

For the second entry supporting Women in Horror we have Elizabeth Black.


Haunted Places In New England
By E. A. Black

New England is a hotbed of ghost activity. Whether you like unsolved murders or hiking in a haunted woods, there are plenty of locations where the veil between this world and the otherworldly meet. Here are a few of those places.

Lizzie Borden House – This notorious house in Fall River, Massachusetts hosts the second most famous unsolved murder in the world. The first is Jack the Ripper. It's easy to understand why Lizzie might have done what she was accused of doing because the house, although neatly furnished and quaint, is cramped and there is little room for privacy. Lizzie's skinflint father refused to move to a larger home, which he could have afforded. She was supposedly quite angry over it. After she was acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother, she moved a few miles away to the rambling Maplecroft mansion, to which she was much more suited. Maplecroft is also open to tours but I don't believe the place is purported to be haunted. The Lizzie Borden house now operates as a bed and breakfast, and it is reportedly haunted by her father, Andrew Borden, and the most commonly experienced ghost, her stepmother, Abbie Borden. She is heard yelling, supposedly reinacting her death. Lizzie is also alleged to haunt the house, appearing in the basement.

Snedeker House – Southington, Connecticut. Ed and Lorraine Warren made this house and the story behind it famous in their self-appointed roles as demonologists. The residence used to be a mortuary but the Snedeker family moved in and called it home. The family consisted of Allen and Carmen Snedeker and their three sons, daughter, and two nieces. However, not long after moving in violent and horrific events began to occur including sexual attacks, apparitions, and disturbing personality changes in Matt, the eldest son who had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. It turned out that Matt admitted to being behind much of the alleged haunting. Horror writer Ray Garton was hired to write a book based on this case and he railed into the phony Warrens. When Garton questioned the validity of what the Snedekers were telling him about their alleged demonic experiences including conflicting testimony, Ed Warren told him to ignore all that and just make things up. Despite the entire business being an outright lie, the story became a popular hit movie "The Haunting in Connecticut". For more on Ray Garton and the Warrens, please read my interview with him at The Horror Zine.

Ocean-Born Mary House – The story of how Mary was born at sea and a pirate saved her life and the rest of the people on board ship when the child's parents named her after his mother is true. The haunting is not. There is a wonderful yet fake story about how a couple dropped by the house and were given a tour by a tall, attractive woman with red hair. It turned out no one was home at the time, and the description of the woman fit a description of Mary. She was a ghost who gave a tour of her own home! Sadly, this story is not true. Mary never even lived in the house in Henniker, New Hampshire. She lived a few miles away. A man who bought the house was a bit of a marketing genius who kept the "legend" alive by charging admission and telling ghostly stories himself. He even charged a small fee for tourists to rent shovels to dig on the property for the rumored pirate treasure supposedly buried there that no one has ever found.

Dogtown, Massachusetts – This five-mile stretch of woods straddling Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts is the home of an abandoned Colonial settlement. All that remain of this ghost town are granite cellar holes of about a dozen houses. The area got its name when the male residents moved from Dogtown to the coast to enter the fishing industry and to go to war. Women were left behind with dogs to protect them, hence the moniker "Dogtown". Others left behind included gypsies, war widows, former slaves, and the poor. Some of the women were said to be witches, including Tammy Younger, referred to as the Queen of the Witches. She charged a toll to anyone who dared to come close to her property. Younger accepted fish as payment, otherwise she would put a curse on those who refused to abide by her demands. Strange goings on include bizarre equipment failures and an eerie silence throughout the forest. A large cat (thought to be a mountain lion) was supposedly seen on the grounds. Werewolves were also said to haunt the place. An apparition of a woman dressed in black is said to roam Dogtown only to disappear when approached. It is said to have been the location of a few suicides. A schoolteacher was murdered in Dogtown in 1984. Her husband found her there with her skull crushed in. A man known to wander the woods was convicted of her murder. Dogtown is popular with mountain bikers and hikers. Babson boulders with sayings such as "Truth", "Intelligence", and "Courage" are scattered throughout the area. These boulders were carved and placed in the 1930s. I live near Dogtown and I've walked through it several times. It's very secluded and even peaceful albeit quite spooky. I made the mistake of hiking through Dogtown immediately after watching "The Blair Witch Project" and scared myself silly. There are several paths to take through Dogtown. I recommend the one by Cherry Street in Gloucester that takes you directly to Dogtown Common (the former town's center) and some of the Babson boulders. Park your car and then go for a walk. Just don't do it after dark, not so much because of ghosts but because it's very easy to get lost.

Danvers State Hospital –Danvers State Hospital was built in Danvers, Massachusetts in the 1880s and initially served mentally ill children, but things took a turn for the worse in the 1920s. The place became known as a snake pit. It is said the prefrontal lobotomy was invented there. Phantom foot steps have been heard and shadows have followed investigators. There has been only one reported apparition which appeared to Jeralyn Levasseur who claimed a ghost pulled the sheets off her bed when she was a child. The ghost took on the appearance of an older, scowling woman. The horror film Session 9 was filmed here before the place was torn down. What remains of the hospital was turned into luxury apartments.

Betty and Barney Hill Site – Betty and Barney Hill were the first reported couple who claimed that they had been abducted by aliens and they said aliens had experimented on them. Their experiences took place in 1961 and they include lost time, nightmares, grey aliens, and alien experiments upon their bodies. Much of their experiences were discovered through hypnosis. The Hill's alien abduction claims introduced the culture to the phenomenon as we know it today. Their fateful journey can be traced down US 664 and Route 3 in Kingston, New Hampshire and is commemorated with a sign. The Hill's story was turned into a movie, The UFO Incident, which starred James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons.

Hoosic Tunnel  – This railroad tunnel in North Adams, western Massachusetts is supposedly haunted by the hundreds of men who died while it was under construction. It is popularly known as "The Bloody Pit". One of the more chilling stories involved thirteen men who were trapped in the tunnel following an explosion. While rescuers were certain no one survived, months later workers discovered that some had actually lived for a brief period of time, creating a makeshift raft to deal with flooding. Trains do use this tunnel so be careful if you travel there.

Houghton Mansion  - Also located in North Adams, Massachusetts, this sprawling home was built in 1890 and was home for a time to the Masonic temple. Ghosts include A. C. Houghton, a suicide victim, and the ghost of Houghton's daughter Mary who died in a car accident in 1914. Incidents in the mansion include disembodied footsteps and doors opening and closing by themselves when no one else was in the building aside of the person who witnessed the events.

Margaritas Mexican Restaurant, Salem, New Hampshire – This building was home to the town jail before it was converted into a restaurant. You may request a table inside one of the jail cells. I recall a story written by a man who had stayed there in the drunk tank when the place was a jail. He returned when it became a restaurant and requested his old cell – but with the gate left open. A ghost named George supposedly throws food, moves furniture and table utensils, drinks unattended beverages, and in general makes a nuisance of himself, but I've never run into him. The history of the building is fascinating enough without adding ghosts to the story. The food isn't bad considering this is a chain restaurant. The prices are fair. Just remember to ask your server to turn up the lights when you dine there. The last time I went the light was so dim it was  hard to see our food.

Whether you want to dine in a jail cell or sleep in the room where Lizzie Borden's stepmother met her fateful end, there are plenty of spooky places in New England where you may satisfy your penchant for weirdness. Most are open to the public. Dress your best and take a walk on the wild side!


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 appeared in Zippered Flesh 3.  She has written author interviews and fiction for The Horror Zine using her real name, Trish Wilson. The Horror Zine won first place for Best Fiction Magazine/e-zine, Best Poetry Magazine/e-zine and Best Magazine/e-zine Editor at the 2020 Preditors and Editors poll. Her horror story The Storm shall appear in The Horror Zine's Book of Ghost Stories in 2020. 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 Sign up for her newsletter: She lives on the Massachusetts coast in Lovecraft country. The beaches often call to her, but she has yet to run into Cthulhu.