Comic-Con LA – Get Your Nerd On!

This was my second year attending Comic-Con LA (thank you for the Press Passes!), so I kinda had an idea of what to expect this time around. But what I didn’t expect was for the crowds to be even bigger than last year. Again, I attended only Saturday, as it seemed like the day with the most interesting panels.

One of the things that I simply love about Comic-Con is getting to see all the amazing and creative cosplays. I may have a soft spot for those who cosplay horror characters, so you may see more horror related characters than any others. In fact, one of the first booths I stopped by was that for Crypt TV. Last year, they had the LookSee creature, but this year they had one of my favourite creatures, The Birch! Not only did they have a Photo Op with the awesome Birch Forest but it was a way to promote the new series inspired by the original short. I even had a chance to attend The Birch panel and viewing of three episodes. If you’re into creepy woods, witchcraft, and a creature who gets rid of bullies, then I suggest you hope on over to Facebook Watch and check the series out. The panel followed with a short Q&A session with the creators, producers, and actors. Since my favourite character from the series The Birch was the seemingly complex bully, Thurston, after the panel was done I had a chance to chat with the actor, Dempsey Byrk who portrays him. He was really nice and I wish I hadn’t been popping cough drops like no tomorrow to keep a cough attack coming, so I wasn’t as talkative as I probably would’ve been in better spirits.

Afterwards, I attended the panel for Zombieland: Double Tap. The fans were promised a surprise and everyone thought that that meant that Billy Murray would show up. I knew that would be too good to be true, so had joked that most likely we’d be graced by Jesse Eisenberg presence instead. And well, let’s just say that Jesse Eisenberg did show up, but so did Zoey Deutch and (probably this was the surprise) Rosario Dawson. The panel was fun and some lucky peeps got to win tickets to the premiere that was happening that same night.

Once the panels I was interested in were done, I went comic book browsing. I was looking for some vintage horror comics but like always, most of the ones that were awesome were way too expensive. But I did find some vintage Archie Comics and even Joe Hill’s Tales from the Darkside. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t many new horror comic books there this year as there were last year. But all in all it was still a very fun experience. I love getting to check out all the vendors (there are so many talented artists!) and getting the chance to try out new food items (I tried this vegan ice cream from Nice Pops that was really good, and being lactose-intolerant it was a plus to have ice cream and not deal with a stomach ache afterwards). These pops are handcrafted and made from Cashew Milk. I got the chocolate one but they had other flavours too and they cost $5 a pop.

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With tired feet and famished, I was ready to call it a night once 6pm rolled around. But as always, Comic Con LA didn’t disappoint. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday in the company of creative people and getting the chance to check out new things in the world of horror and comics. If you’ve never been to Comic Con LA, I highly suggest that you book your ticket for next year (which it’ll be in late September) because I have a feeling that with each coming year, it’s only going to get bigger and better every time.

Photos by: David Hanger

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Flash Fiction: Catching Sunshine by Erica Ruhe

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It had been seven days since the cave in. Two thin and bloodied hands, fingers peeled raw from days of scratching at the immovable rock, protruded through a small crack above the boulder. Autumn sunshine warmed Camille’s battered palms. Her eyes closed to enjoy the sensation and she rested her head on her arm. Inside the abandoned mine, it was black and cold but just beyond two tons of fallen mountainside there was light. There was life.

“Camille…”

She turned to the weak call.

“I’m here, Ana,” she replied and climbed down the incline of loose gravel. She stepped over the rail tracks and knelt beside her friend, breathing hard from the small exertion. Anastasia did not move, as if the flat of her back had become rooted to the floor. Camille tucked Ana’s exposed arm back under her burgundy coat blanket.

“I caught you some sunshine,” she said and placed her palms on Ana’s cold, dirt-streaked cheeks. Her friend’s chapped lips closed, her throat squeezing down nothing more than dry, dusty air. Licking morning dew from the exposed rocks day after day had not been enough to sustain them.

“Warm…” Ana croaked.

Their breath rasped loud in their suffocating confines. They spoke barely above whispers, their vocal cords strained and silenced days ago from the endless hours of screaming for help.

Ana cracked open her eyes.

“Do you think they’ll…ever find us?”

A tear trembled on the ledge of her sharpened cheekbone. Her skin had shrunk around her already slender body. Camille moved a palm to Ana’s forehead and the other to her chest, absorbing fresh chill from her skin.

“Yes,” she gave a weak nod. “One day.”

Crevices of dirt around Ana’s eyes deepened in question and the tear plummeted to the waves of her matted braid. Camille lightened the weight of concern in her expression.

“One day, we’ll be someone’s archeological find. We’ll be a treasure unearthed in a thousand years. They’ll discover our bodies, arms embraced around each other, and they will mourn for our unknown lives. They’ll make up histories for us and give us pretty new names.”

Camille stroked her thumb along the blood caked on Ana’s brow.

“They’ll lovingly preserve our bones in a life-size diorama and we will become an exhibit in their museum of ancient history. We’ll be enshrined in glass and admired by millions. We’ll live forever, Ana.”

“You’re so…dramatic.”

A smile tinted Ana’s words but it was too weak to reach her lips. Camille coughed and lowered her head to Ana’s shoulder, snuggling under the torn coat. Ana sighed.

“At least you have…a sweetheart to mourn you, Camille. I’ve never even had my first kiss yet. I never…dreamed that I would die without my first kiss.”

“A first kiss can be a horrid thing, Ana,” Camille teased. “Peter nearly drowned me.”

The girls shared a frail giggle. Ana closed her eyes again.

“Oh, the people I would have loved. The places…I would have traveled to. Perhaps our spirits will escape from this tomb. One day…”

Camille nestled closer.

“Perhaps a small sparrow will find us first,” Camille continued, adrift on Ana’s thoughts. “Perhaps she’ll leave behind dandelions on our chests and as we decompose, the seeds will catch just enough sun and dew to sprout and flower out of us.”

She twisted a loose buckhorn button.

“Perhaps the wind will carry our fragmented bodies back out to the wild. It will be spring, warm and bright. We’ll float over the mountain meadows and along the rushing rivers of melted snow. We’ll float over our town and look down upon our aging families. And we will sweep past their ears and whisper “we love you so very much but we cannot stay” and somehow they’ll know it is us and it will bring them happiness.”

She sniffled.

“We’ll live on as memories. Then the wind will take us again and we’ll be free.”

Camille lifted her head.

“Ana?”

Only stillness.

“Ana?”

She shook her friend’s shoulder but Ana’s expression did not move. There was no breath in her mouth. Her chest did not rise. Camille tried to hold down the rising emotion in her throat but her grief, unlike everything else in the darkened mine, could not be contained. Soft sobs choked her. Tears carved deep ravines through the dirt on her face revealing clean, frigid skin beneath.

Exhausted, Camille watched the last ray of the afternoon seep across the toes of Ana’s boots. She lifted her hand to the sunlight and let the dust motes waltz and twirl between her flayed fingers.

“We’ll live forever, Ana.”

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5 Horror Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2020

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CANDYMAN

A “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 horror film ‘Candyman’ that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began. It’s gonna be produced by Jordan Peele and Tony Todd is reprising the titular role of Candyman, so I have high hopes for this one.

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MORBIUS

Biochemist Michael Morbius tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease, but he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism instead. Played by true-life Jared Leto (the man doesn’t age!).

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FRIDAY THE 13th

LeBron James of all people is actually going to be producing this remake. He claims to have always been a fan of the franchise, so I hope that he does a better job than the previous remake that was made a couple of years ago.

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FEAR STREET TRILOGY

A murder mystery shakes up the town of Shadyside, Ohio. Feature adaptation of R.L. Stine’s book series. As a huge fan of R.L. Stine and the Fear Street series, I am incredibly thrilled about this and can’t wait to see what they cook up since there are so many books in the series!

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SAW

A re-imagining of the franchise produced this time by Chris Rock. He says he’s a huge fan, again, I hope him being a fan means that he will do the franchise justice. But I really am looking forward to seeing Samuel L. Jackson in this project too.

What horror movies are you looking forward to? How do you feel about some of the remakes?

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Shriekfest 2019 – Let Me Hear You Scream!

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Red carpet at Shriekfest

Shriekfest is a bi-annual and bi-coastal horror film festival that takes place both in Los Angeles and Orlando. This was my second time going to Shriekfest and once again it didn’t disappoint! Denise Gossett is the founder of this festival and has been very influential in giving many horror shorts and movies a chance to be seen and discovered by a myriad of people. This year I got to chat a bit with Denise and she’s a very lovely woman and a very busy one since she not only runs Shriekfest but will also appear in a TV series about astronauts very soon.

 

Just like last year, I was able to attend the third day of the festival (Saturday). Luckily, I got right on time to the studios as the first short Finley aired. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE killer dolls in any shape or form, so a killer doll that kinda resembles R.L. Stine’s Slappy? I was ALL OVER THAT. It was by far my favourite short. This year, I noticed that some of the shorts explored some true horrors like domestic violence in short films such as She Fell and Listen. Although, I’ll admit that I preferred She Fell’s feminist message where the abuser gets what he deserves (the new program is very unconventional and effective). The Clapper was a classic horror short about an invalid girl who has to deal with an unknown presence in her house whilst in the dark.

 

The second half of the shorts started off with a bang with The Thing About Beecher’s Gate. A deputy that has recently transferred to the town of Beecher’s Gate, is ordered by the town’s sheriff to spend a night alone in a barn with only a shotgun as a rite of passage. This short was very intriguing and suspenseful. By far, this was my favourite short from the second half of the fest. We Got a Monkey’s Paw was a bit campy but fun. The two actors Jacqueline Jandrell and Zack Ogle had perfect comedic delivery and made the most amusing duo. Naughty was both a fun and twisted film about a little girl who gives a robber a run for his money. Just like last year, we also got to check out a music video. This year it was Aesthetic Perfection’s Gods & Gold, which is a very goth-inspired video with lots of old school vibes with a touch of glam.

 

What differed between last year’s event and this year is that they had a couple of hours reserved for a Meet & Greet. This gave everyone a chance to network, chat, and get some food. Which made watching the second part of the festival a little easier with the break in between. I took that time to explore Raleigh Studios, as it’s very fascinating to be on an actual movie lot studio.

 

I ended up staying for three feature films.

First was the viewing of The Field. A long-empty farmstead holds secret worlds, accidentally unlocked by an amateur photographer and his wife. This movie wasn’t that scary and had more of a sci-fi bent than horror. Initially, I was very intrigued by the premise of Norse witchcraft in the beginning, however, it was never fully explained in the movie why they were doing those rituals. That was what made the film fall short for me.

The second was the viewing of Volition. A man afflicted with clairvoyance tries to change his fate when a series of events leads to a vision of his own imminent murder. I really enjoyed this movie and again, it didn’t quite fit the horror bill for me. It had more a thriller sci-fi feel to it with time leaps and bending time. But it was a very original film that Tony Dean Smith directed, and I can give him props for having one of the most unique films at the festival.

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The third was the viewing of Max Winslow and the House of Secrets. This was one of the few films that actually had a very popular actor, with Chad Michael Murray (from One Tree Hill series and most recently playing an enigmatic cult leader in Riverdale) in the role of eccentric genius billionaire Atticus Virtue. Five teenagers compete to win a mansion owned by Atticus Virtue. To win the teens must face-off against a supercomputer named HAVEN who controls the mansion. The film had Escape Room moments and would be better suited for tweens and teens as it has scary elements but it never gets too bad. None of the main characters face any serious consequences but each character grows within the course of the movie, so at least you get good character arcs. I’d recommend watching this as a family movie more than a classic horror movie.

 

Viewing the movies from 11a.m.-11p.m. was a very intense but fun experience. I appreciate Denise for giving me the opportunity to attend Shriekfest once again! And this time around I managed to snag a tee before they ran out my size (small) since ya know, now I feel like a veteran of the event and all. Here’s looking forward to next year’s 20th anniversary, I’m sure it’s gonna be one hell of a horror ride!

DSC_0045 modified.jpgPhotos by: David Hanger

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Book Review: The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

dead

Red Lady, Red Lady, Show us your face….

Release Date: December 10, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Price: $26.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real–and she could prove it.

That belief got Becca killed.

It’s been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night–that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She’s done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn’t seen since the night Becca died.

The night Heather killed her.

Now, someone else knows what she did…and they’re determined to make Heather pay.

Grade: A-

Review:

I’ll be honest, when I read the first chapter, I wasn’t too intrigued although it opened with a very disturbing admission, that the protagonist Heather had killed her best friend when she was a tween. It wasn’t until the following chapter reverted to the THEN portion of the story that I was hooked. The novel is sectioned in alternating chapters with a chapter in the present and the following chapter in the past. By far, the THEN chapters are way more interesting because it shows Heather as a twelve-year-old, and being best friends with Becca, and also with Rachel and Gia, whom like her and Becca also enjoy a fascination for the macabre. The girls are intrigued by deaths and serial killers so much that they decide to create the Dead Girls Club. A club made to share scary stories or true crime stories. The girls usually got together for these meetings at the basement of an abandoned house.

That summer though, Becca becomes obsessed with telling the story of the Red Lady, a witch who was killed in an atrocious manner. At first, the girls are intrigued by the stories, especially Heather, but she begins to resent the stories when she notices how it has begun to affect Becca. Because Becca is convinced that the Red Lady is real and the only one who can save her from her alcoholic, abusive mother.

In the present time, Heather receives a pendant that Becca was wearing the night of her death in the mail, which causes her to spiral in paranoia. Did somebody see her kill Becca? Is the Red Lady after her?

This book is so deliciously twisty that you find yourself questioning what’s real and what isn’t. I wouldn’t necessarily call Heather an unreliable narrator but more it’s an exploration of devout friendship and how often stories in our youth can begin to feel real if we allow ourselves to believe in them.

I honestly wish that we had gotten more chapters from the past or that we could’ve gotten a whole book about the Red Lady (the story was simply very fascinating as it was horrific). I suggest this novel to anyone who loves thrillers with a dash of supernatural spookiness into the mix.

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*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Review: Twisted Wonderland Perfumery

Ever since I happened upon the Instagram page for Twisted Wonderland Perfumery, I knew that I wanted to try it. The aesthetics totally tugged at my dark heart. Perfume for those with Gothic tendencies? Lip balms inspired by horror movies? I’m in!

For my first order, I decided to go with a perfume and lip balm, although after visiting their website I noticed that they offer so much more (horror-themed soaps and bath bombs are just some of the other cool items they have).

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The perfume I selected was The Rest in Confetti, which is described as “A cup of white tea, elegant white musk, marshmallow buttercream cupcakes, and soft rose petals.” I expected this scent to be sweeter based on the marshmallow buttercream cupcakes description. Rather, it was a bit muskier (and smelled more like patchouli which I’m not a huge fan of). Overall, the scent isn’t annoyingly persistent and after awhile the muskier notes die out and you’re left with the sweeter notes (which is what I really wanted all along). Scent-wise this isn’t my absolute favourite but I’m willing to try out the other scents they have to offer cause the formula is definitely good.

Retails: $15

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m a lip balm addict. Since I consistently wear lipstick every day, all day long, it means that my lips need some major TLC come night. Part of my nighttime routine is to lather on about three thick layers of lip balm before my head hits the pillow for some serious z’s. This routine allows me to wake up with incredibly soft, smooth lips every morning. Which means that I am very picky when it comes to lip balms cause no simple lip balm will do.

There’s a certain formula/texture that I favour (meaning more of the thick and emollient kind) and I can testify that this lip balm certainly gets my stamp of approval! I choose the Friday the 13th inspired Jason Voorhies lip balm called S’More-Hees, cause I have an unhealthy obsession with all things s’mores and of course a lip balm named after a summer camp serial killer would smell like my favourite campfire treat! As an aside, I’ve never been to summer camp, nor have I ever been camping, so the only times I’ve had real S’mores in real life is whenever we’d have bonfires at the beach at night.

The scent of this lip balm is I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E! You’ll certainly feel like you’ve just smacked some marshmallows on your lips, and the feel of the lip balm is incredibly soft. Just watch out for any machete-wielding hockey-masked serial killers coming your way!

Retails: $4

Overall, this is a cool niche online shop for all things dark and bloody. I can see these items becoming awesome Halloween gifts or party favours for any horror-themed party!

Where you can buy these awesome items: Twisted Wonderland Perfumery site 

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Book Review: We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

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A girl with a guitar never has to apologize for anything.

Release Date: September 18, 2018

Order On Amazon

Price: $18.49 (hard cover)

Plot Summary:

Every morning, Kris Pulaski wakes up in hell. In the 1990s she was lead guitarist of Dürt Würk, a heavy-metal band on the brink of breakout success until lead singer Terry Hunt embarked on a solo career and rocketed to stardom, leaving his bandmates to rot in obscurity.

Now Kris works as night manager of a Best Western; she’s tired, broke, and unhappy. One day everything changes—a shocking act of violence turns her life upside down, and she begins to suspect that Terry sabotaged more than just the band. Kris hits the road, hoping to reunite Dürt Würk and confront the man who ruined her life. Her journey will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a celebrity rehab center to a satanic music festival. A furious power ballad about never giving up, We Sold Our Souls is one woman’s epic journey to reclaim her life—and save her soul.

Grade: A+

Review:

Ever wonder what happens to musicians that don’t make it? Kris Pulaski was the lead guitarist for the heavy metal band called Dürt Würk in the late 90’s. Now, nearly two decades later, she’s a night manager for a Best Western. In other words, it’s hell and her life sucks, while the band’s original lead singer, Terry Hunt reinvented himself with a new sound (nu-metal) and band (Koffin) and became a rock icon. When Kris see s a billboard advertising Terry’s farewell tour, something inside of her sparks Kris to leave her sad life behind and seek out the remaining members of Dürt Würk to get them to confront Terry with her and demand answers over what happened the night the band broke up.

This book was everything you’d want a horror and rock band novel to be. There’s action, gore, and passion for music all woven into a kickass tale of what it means to fight for your dreams and to never give up hope. There were many times where Kris could’ve just given up her mission, but she always prevailed no matter how difficult the task seemed or physically ailing she was. This book isn’t just about some Faustian deal gone awry, the heart of this book is to take a hard look at yourself and see if you’re living for what you believe in or lie Terry, you have sold your dreams in exchange of a cozy life.

I honestly love Kris so much in the novel that if it had been about anyone else, I don’t think the journey would’ve been as much fun or as meaningful. This book has seriously been one of the most fun to read this whole year, because even when there were moments of despair, there was always an underlining hope that maybe our heroine, Kris would save the day.

I highly suggest this book if you love horror, death metal, rock stars, and road trip stories.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Quirk Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Cover Reveal: Betty Bites Back – Stories to Scare The Patriarchy

When I first saw the call for submissions last year for Betty Bites Back, I somehow saw it late (as in I had only ONE week to come up with an idea and write a short story). And I knew that it was almost impossible (especially to come up with a story worth publishing). Since I had time against me, I didn’t even have the time to send it to my friend Erica (who acts as a beta-reader for some of my stuff) for any feedback, nor did I have the time to send it to my go-to editor for any missed typos or grammar mistakes.

Essentially, I thought I had an awesome story (who wouldn’t love to read a story about a kickass Muslim gal who also ends up becoming a shapeshifter?), and prayed that that would be enough for me to be considered. Because, honestly, I wasn’t expecting to be published (I was going to be up against veteran YA authors who had agents and publishing deals! How could I possibly be on the same level?!).

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But the writing muses were kind to me that day as my story, Good Sister, Bad Sister was indeed considered, if only I was willing to make some edits. I can’t even begin to count how many edits have been made to this short story. There were moments where I thought, UGH IF I’M GETTING ALL THESE EDITING NOTES I MUST SUCK! Good thing my inner cheerleader was like, “Come on, these amazing authors wouldn’t be wasting their time GIVING YOU EDITING NOTES if they didn’t think the story was worth being published!” So thanks to my inner cheerleader, and my close Muslim friend, Derya (who have me invaluable advice on how to portray Dilay as authentically as possible.

What’s the point of this whole sweat and tears post my friends? WELL, to announce that you can now pre-order Betty Bites Back: Stories to Scare the Patriarchy (the book will officially be released September 16, 2019). And I’m not telling you to pick up this book just cause I’m in it (although my story is one of the best I’ve personally written so far) but it includes short stories from these amazing authors:

Liz Cole
Shannon Green
Elaine Griffin
Lindsey Klingele
Kamerhe Lane
Jenna Lehne
Demitria Lunetta
Emilee Martell
Tracie Martin
Cori McCarthy
Kyrie McCauley
Mindy McGinnis
Kate Karyus Quinn
Melody Simpson
Amanda Sun

Also, you should check out Mindy’s blog for a chance to win some fantastic swag!

Let me know which of these authors you’re looking forward to seeing some new stories from!

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Book Review: Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé

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They took my sister.
I’ll take her back.

Release Date: August 6, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Skye is done playing the knight in shining armor for her insufferable younger sister, Deirdre. And moving across the country seems like the perfect chance to start over as someone different.

In their isolated new neighborhood, Skye manages to fit in, but Deirdre withdraws from everyone, becoming fixated on the swampy woods behind their house and building monstrous sculptures out of sticks and bones.

Then Deirdre disappears.

And when something awful comes scratching at Skye’s window in the middle of the night, claiming Skye’s the only one who can save Deirdre, Skye knows she will stop at nothing to bring her sister home.

Grade: A-

Review:

I’ve waited a week after reading this novel to decide to write a review because I wanted to wait and see if my feelings for this strange little book would remain the same or somehow change. Thing is, I walked into this book thinking that I was getting something like The Blair Witch Project (or at the very least some sort of witchcraft) since it was advertised that way, but instead what I got was a strange tale of childhood monsters and magical kingdoms that come to life in the woods and a missing girl case.

So I’m going to divide this review into two sections: Pros & Cons.

Pros:

I love the dark, atmospheric imagery woven throughout the whole story. It was mighty creepy and rocked in all its dark gothic glory.

The characters reacted to situations in realistic ways (meaning that the characters didn’t give the protagonist Skye a free pass when she shared a very dark secret about her past).

It kept me invested in the story and I really wanted to know what was going to happen next.

Cons:

It wasn’t until halfway through the book that we finally received confirmation that something supernatural was indeed happening.

All the characters were unlikeable, except for William. The protagonist Skye, not only was she unlikeable, but she was also manipulative and had a cruel streak that she justified endlessly and blamed a lot of her actions on her sister.

Dead pets and other animals.

The ending. While it was realistic, it seemed to just end leaving a lot of questions unanswered.

Overall, this was a unique story and I did enjoy it, but I don’t know if it’ll be something that a lot of people could get into unless you’re into dark tales and don’t mind the somewhat slow pacing.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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What Does It Mean To Edit an Anthology? – The 10 Steps You Need to Take!

My American Nightmare 2

Two years ago I put together my first anthology, My American Nightmare – Women in Horror Anthology. I had always wanted to put together an anthology, and finally, after much thought and trepidation, I decided to bite the bullet and launch myself headfirst into this project.

The experience was both overwhelming and fulfilling. I got to read a lot of awesome horror short stories and in turn, meet new authors and become acquainted with their works.

Many people may not understand what exactly an anthology editor does, or may think that we simply select the stories, check for typos, and then slap our names on the cover. However, there’s a lot of work involved in the whole process and it’s a process that takes up several months, if not almost a year before the book is ready to be released to the world.

Now, for the second time, I’ll be putting on my anthology editor hat on and selecting stories for my upcoming anthology collection: Strange Girls – Women in Horror Anthology.

Below are the Ten Steps I do while putting together an anthology.

Step One. Select the Theme

For both anthologies, I knew that I wanted to help promote the writing of women in horror. Why am I closing the doors to the other half of the writing population? Simple. The horror genre has always been noted to be male-dominated, but women too have written some notable horror novels and short stories (from Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice, and Poppy Z. Brite just to name a few). For my first anthology, I knew that I wanted all the stories to have the U.S. as the setting, hence the title, My American Nightmare. For my current anthology, I knew that I wanted to explore the theme of Strange Girls, and what exactly it is about these girls that makes them strange.

Step Two. Advertise the Call for Submissions

After I select the theme, I write up an open submission call on my official author website and share the link on all my social media venues. Also, Stuart Conover from Horror Tree has been invaluable in his support by posting my submission call on his website, which has helped word of mouth travel extensively fast because of this. In the submission call, I not only state the guidelines and theme but also set a deadline and state the author’s compensation.

Step Three. Read the Short Stories

Once the stories start pouring in I begin reading right away (so that I’m not overwhelmed by reading a ton of short stories all at once) and also have found that this way it gives the stories time to marinate in my head and allow me to see which ones have remained memorable and which have become forgettable. By the deadline date, I usually have an idea of which stories will make the cut and which will not.

Step Four. Select and Reject Stories

This is where I make two lists, Accept vs. Decline, and start compiling which stories go where. Sometimes, I’ll put some stories in the Maybe file and read them over another two or three times before I decide if they’ll be a good fit for my theme. Once that’s complete, then I send out rejection and acceptance emails.

Step Five. Contracts & Issue Payment

Whenever you’re putting together an anthology it’s important to have each author sign a contract so that they are aware of their compensation and what to expect. This helps things become official and allows both you and the author to hold each other accountable to keep up both ends of the contract.

For payment, since it is an anthology and trying to figure out how to divide royalties evenly amongst a large group of people, I have found that a FLAT FEE is the best way to go. This is not to skimp out on the authors, it’s actually more in the authors best interest as if I were to divide the royalties, depending on sales they’d only be making a few cents. Besides, all money I made from My American Nightmare was used to cover expenses for the cover art, formatting, and promos, and to fund new future anthologies.

Step Six. Editing

Now the editing begins. Usually, there are three rounds and they go like this:

Developmental Editing: This is where you look for plot holes and what doesn’t make sense.

Line Editing: Checking if all sentences make sense.

Copy Editing: This is where you check grammar, spelling errors, and typos.

And then once the editing is over, that’s when you have to decide what order the stories go in. Again, this is kind of an art form that needs mastering. For my first anthology, I decided to start and end the anthology with what I thought were the strongest stories. Then I arranged others where I alternated between a long and short one and also if one was too similar in theme to another, I would space it out.

Step Seven. Choose The Cover

For my previous books, I’ve relied on James’ (goonwrite.com) graphics expertise. I can’t state how crucial it is to have an attractive book cover, cause people DO judge a book by its cover (at least on the first impact). The majority of the times, the cover alone will sell the book (not everyone reads the blurb or looks inside the book!). So, if you’re not competent or don’t have the means to design a book cover yourself, delegate this job to someone else who’s a professional. I REALLY RECOMMEND THIS.

Step Eight. Formatting the Book

Both ebooks and print require formatting the original file. I can’t stress how important this part of the process is, because if the book isn’t correctly formatted, then readers will have trouble reading your work, and if readers are having trouble reading, then you can bet they’re going to give up and leave a poor rating to boot! So, again, if you’re not competent with formatting digital or print files, then pay someone for this service. I’ve always done this and it’s one last thing I need to worry about.

Step Nine. Book Promos Ahead of Time & Send ARCS

Even before the book is released I begin contacting book bloggers for interviews or reviews, I book a book blog tour in advance (especially if you want them to coincide with your release date), sent out ARCS to reviewers, send out promo kits to the authors to help promote the book in their area. With My American Nightmare, I had both business cards and postcards made and also bought merch for an author in the anthology since she had gotten a table at a Halloween con in her area to help promote the book.

Ten. Upload & Publish the Book

Upload the book to retail sites (in my case I prefer to use Amazon) and contact any indie bookstores who may be interested in carrying a couple of copies of your book in their stores.

PHEW! So that’s the TEN STEPS required to do to publish an anthology! So if you’re interested in putting your own anthology together, this is pretty much a rough estimate of what you need to consider before you take the plunge!

Oh! And just as an FYI, I have funded these anthologies on my own (I know some like to have crowdfunding to help with expenses and that’s fine), but I don’t like having to worry about trying to raise money while also doing all those other steps in between!

Let me know if you’ve put an anthology together or are planning to put one together!

strangegirls

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