Book Excerpt: “Baby Teeth” from Midnight in the Pentagram

“I had to do it,” I say. “I had no choice.” I pick at a hangnail, watch the blood pool beneath my thumb and press it against my mouth to suck on the blood. The taste of copper comforts me as I try to ignore an itch at the center of my palm. I adjust myself on the seat, although the handcuff on my right-hand keeps me tethered to the chair.

“I know you’ve said this before, Melissa. But I’m finding it difficult to understand.” The prison psychiatrist stares at me over her black rim glasses. Her dark hair is pulled back in a tight bun at the base of her neck. She sighs, tapping the pencil against her notebook, reading over the arresting officer’s scribbled notes about me. “It says here that you killed your daughter.”

“You’re not listening to me. I had to do it.” My voice is cold, unfeeling. Ana wasn’t my daughter. At least, not anymore. Something had taken possession of her. Something evil.

***

Excerpt of my short story, “Baby Teeth” out today in Midnight in the Pentagram, out NOW!

The other amazing authors:
Brian Keene
Graham Masterton
Jason Parent
Catherine Cavendish
James Newman
Tim Curran
Allan Leverone
PD Cacek
Todd Keisling
William Meikle
Chad Lutzke
Laurel Hightower
Owl Goingback
Tony Tremblay
Tim Meyer
Shannon Felton
Brian Moreland
Kenneth W. Cain
Armand Rosamilia
Charlotte Platt
Wesley Southard
JG Faherty
John Quick
Edward M Erdelac
Cameron Ulam
Kenneth McKinley
Michael Patrick Hicks
Bob Ford
Mark Towse
Mark Steensland
Amanda Niehaus-Hard

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Excerpts From: Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology

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It’s officially Women in Horror Month and in less than two weeks, this anthology will be released (February 18!). You can pre-order the book in both ebook and paperback formats! If you’re from the Los Angeles area, then you can find signed copies of the book over at Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Ave.!).

Excerpt from Night Terrors by Angela Sylvaine

I wake up unable to move, pinned to my bed by an invisible force. I struggle against it but can’t even wiggle my little finger. Each beat of my pulse pounds through my veins. My eyes are wide open. I try to blink, but even my eyelids are frozen, immovable. With my head locked in place, I can only stare straight up at the ceiling. What’s holding me down? Why can’t I move?

The air is too thin. I can hardly breathe. Every muscle in my body tenses as I twist and strain, but it’s no use.

My vision is hazy as if my face is covered by a gauze veil. Blurred figures are visible in my peripheral. They wear light blue tops, surgical masks, hospital caps, and latex gloves. There are seven in all, three on each side of the bed and one at the foot. I want to open my mouth, to scream for help, but I can’t.

That figure at the foot of the bed speaks, his voice the low baritone of a man.
I strain to hear. Something about administering medication. The person closest to my head on the left responds, “Yes, doctor.” A woman. She has something in her hand. I focus on the object, try to see through the veil.

A syringe.

My breath catches in my throat. No. Leave me alone. Let me go!

Pain pricks the inside of my elbow, and a slow burn spreads through my veins, building into a raging inferno. Tremors shake my body, and a scream swells in my throat. Unable to open my mouth, the shriek stays locked inside, silently ripping through my brain.

Excerpt from Leda and the Fly by Marnie Azzarelli

But that noise, that thing on her wall was neither plain nor right. The thunder was spreading to her chest, walloping her ribcage with each loud boom. She got up achingly, her body accustomed to anything but her bed. She crouched when she got closer to the wall, her knees popping protest, but she knew she needed to be as quiet as possible.

She moved in closer to the ring of light and that terrible sound like a stalking cat ready to spring; her body taut and still, her eyes closed to slits. The thing started to flit in and out of the light, but Leda’s usually dulled senses were sharpening just by the sight of her prey. She could see it almost too clearly.

It was there staining her pristine wall with its filth covered feet, buzzing, buzzing, buzzing through the quiet of her mind.

A fly.
Musca domestica.

Six hair-covered legs, antennae, a small head with two compound eyes, prothorax, mesothorax, a large abdomen, and two transparent wings.

Its front two feet were probing the pure white of Leda’s wall, searching for sustenance only to buzz out its frustrations over the empty surface. Her frustration was built on its existence in her, once sacred, space. Her only solitude after her body had been hollowed out, wiped clean from the toxins and waste that fly thrived on.

She felt the storm rage throughout her and let it out with a low moan, her vocal cords cracking to attention after months of disuse. She groaned softly at first, her knees starting to shake slightly. She took another step towards the fly and her voice came out louder, her legs ready to give out on her in any second.

The fly buzzed louder, startled by the other presence in the room. Its movements became a little more frantic as it bounced to different parts of the lit wall. Leda tried to follow, but she was so focused on that one spot, she couldn’t imagine it going anywhere else. But it decided to move and ruin more and more of her wall.

She started to cry, small tears hot and salty falling down her tingling face. Her nerve endings were all firing at once and she suddenly felt like she was dancing on a thousand pins and needles. Each step was another sharp stab to her that almost broke the skin but didn’t. Her legs finally gave out on her and she fell keening to the carpet.

Patterns of Faerytales by Azzurra Nox

A dreadful chill ran down his spine. It was like having a million spiders crawling down his back. He shivered. The last thing he wanted to do was lose his soul mate.
“So what exactly am I supposed to do with this box?”
“Keep it locked and away from Olivia.”
“Why haven’t you just buried it then?”
The look she gave Cillian was that of disbelief, almost as though he had suggested torching the damn box.
“You must never do such a thing!”
“Why not?”
“Because this is part of her, and you can’t bury it like it’s a box of bones you’re trying to get rid of!”
“What would happen?”
“There could be fatal consequences.” With that, she got up and handed the box to Cillian. “Be careful, and remember….never let her see the contents of this box! Keep it locked.” And with those parting words, Lydia left as swiftly as she had entered.

STRANGE GIRLS: WOMEN IN HORROR ANTHOLOGY DROPS FEBRUARY 18, 2020 BUT IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!

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Excerpts from: Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology

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In five weeks, Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology will drop just in time to celebrate Women in Horror Month. The stories found within this anthology are very diverse. They range from slasher, psychological horror, sci-fi horror, Gothic, mythological, thriller, and speculative. But the common ground is that the girls presented in the anthology are all uniquely strange in their own ways with elements of horror.

If you’re a reviewer on NetGalley, the book is currently there for you to pick up in exchange for a review. For the rest of you, here’s a small sample of what sort of stories you’re bound to come across in the book:

Excerpt from “Tribal Influence” by Erica Ruhe

“Por favor! You don’t understand,” the terrified mother pleaded in Spanish. “My daughter needs special care. Only I can look after her.”
A guard stood stone-faced on the other side of the open chain link gate.
“Ma’am, the child needs to come with me.” He gestured the girl forward. “Vamos, chica.”
“Mama?” The little girl’s dark brown eyes grew wide. Her father stepped in front of his wife and child.
“No!” he demanded. “My daughter is staying with us.”
The overflowing detainment center hummed with apprehension. Confused conversation and the shuffling of feet hung heavy under the musty weight of acrid sweat and fear.
“Por favor, she is a very special girl,” the mother continued. “You must let me stay with her.”
The guard pulled out his baton.
“Sir, step aside. Ma’am—”
“My daughter needs me.” Tears rolled down the mother’s cheeks. “Por favor, let us stay together!”
“Hey!” An impatient supervisor called across the imprisoned throng of immigrants. “What’s the hold up, Sam? We gotta keep these cattle moving!”
“My daughter is not going anywhere,” the father insisted.
“Listen to me!” The guard pointed his baton at the young Guatemalan family. “Escúchame! Tu hija viene conmigo.”
“No, Mama!” the little girl clutched her mother’s neck. “No, Mama! No, no, no!”
The mother began to shake.
“Shh, shh, my love,” she cooed, suddenly sinking to her knees. A strange vacancy filled her face as the blood drained out of her cheeks.
“Mama!” the girl wept.
“Last warning.” The guard pushed the father aside with his baton. “Mueve tu culo.”
“Mama!”
But the father stepped in again, this time turning to his girls.
“Joaquina?” the father asked, tension in his voice. “Joaquina?”
“Enough dicking around!” the guard shoved the father aside. “C’mon!”
He grabbed the mother’s arm but he faltered and gasped.
“Let her go!” the father cried out. “Let her go!”
“What the hell?” the guard yelled, holding up a shaking hand to his face. “What the fuck is happening?”
The mother looked up from her crying child, tears trembling on the rims of her eyelids. She gazed in to the guard’s eyes with an eerie stillness.
“I can’t stop it,” she whispered.
“Sam?” the supervisor called, concerned.
The guard suddenly spasmed, as if stung. He grabbed his heart. Eyes rolled back. Jaw snapped wide. And in the next instant, his terrified scream consumed him.

Excerpt from “Sideshow” by Jude Reid

His tongue is in her mouth again.

Against her back, she can feel the fabric of the tent, the wet canvas smell mixing with the taste of ketchup and soda and Juicy Fruit gum. Her right hand is closed around a guy-rope; her left, for want of anywhere else to put it, is on Richie’s belt. He has taken hold of her right breast and is squeezing it rhythmically and not especially gently. This is your fault, she thinks to herself, eyes closed and mouth open. You didn’t say no.

The tongue retracts back into his mouth, slick, fat and slug-like. She imagines it leaving a trail of thick mucus behind itself, and her stomach lurches at the thought, sending a tide of acid rushing into her mouth. Her own tongue flicks out and runs across her lower lip, as if it were possible to lick away every trace he had left behind.

Excerpt from “The Girl Who Never Stopped Bleeding” by Sam Lauren

Barb washed her panties in the bathroom sink between classes and the water ran pink. It stained her nails. She scrubbed them with hand soap and course paper towels but they never came clean. Neither did the panties.

It was her first time. Some of us knew how she felt. We didn’t give her advice; we teased her as if we didn’t have folded bits of toilet paper stuffed between our linens and our aching, leaking bodies.

By the fifth day everyone knew. Boys wouldn’t touch her. Girls claimed to smell her from lockers away.

The Bible says a bleeding woman is unclean. We thought it was funny, a myth, a lie told by parents to make kids remain chaste. It didn’t prepare us for Barb.

Two weeks in she killed a plant. We can’t prove it but they both sat by the window, wilting in their own filth. The plant hadn’t changed its dirt. She hadn’t changed her panties. Some say she touched the stem of the flower, turned it toward the light, but others say it died just from being near her.

A month later she was still scrubbing her panties after every bell.

Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology drops February 18, 2020 but is available for pre-order!

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

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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!

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Upcoming Books: Betty Bites Back – Horror Stories for Young Feminists

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I’m thrilled to announce that my short story, GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER is going to be included in the upcoming anthology Betty Bites Back – Horror Stories for Young Feminists (coming out October 2019). This anthology is put together by award-winning badass authors, Demitria Lunetta, Mindy McGinnis, and Kate Karyus Quinn.

Here’s a little teaser of what my story is about:

GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER by Azzurra Nox

Puberty comes with many changes, but after being bitten by a mysterious animal in the forest, Dilay finds out that some changes may just give her a certain edge she didn’t have before.

Until then, support me and the amazing authors that are going to be included in this awesome anthology by stopping by the Kickstarter Page for it (even if you can’t contribute monetarily, forward the link on your social media so we can spread the word!).

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My American Nightmare – Giveaway & Book Launch!

My American Nightmare 2

October had me uber busy between Halloween events (I was at a new event every weekend cause I LOVE Halloween) and launching my horror anthology MY AMERICAN NIGHTMARE – WOMEN IN HORROR ANTHOLOGY.

This anthology is a bit of a passion project where I selected short stories from a vast amount of entries to bring readers the very best of horror (and all the nuances of the genre) and incredible new voices that I wish to showcase.

For two weeks now the book has been featured on Amazon’s bestselling list in short stories, and I couldn’t be more proud of these ladies that helped my dream of compiling an anthology come true!

So support women writers by purchasing a copy of the book: HERE (or if you have Amazon Kindle Unlimited you can read the book for FREE!).

ALSO: Don’t forget to enter the giveaway I have for my book launch HERE (where you have a chance to win a $15 Amazon Giftcard & amazing book themed swag!)

P.S. For a limited time my book DOLL PARTS: Tales of Twisted Love is being offered FREE HERE!

By: Azzurra Nox

Launching a New Weekly Series & Other News

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Happy October! This is my favourite month of the year!

I’m going to be launching a new weekly series (I’ll still write reviews or tutorials once a week) but in lieu of “Throwback Thursday” I’ve decided to start a series called “My Bad Romance” where I share stories about the people I’ve loved, lusted after, been crushed by, and inspired by. I’m gonna try to keep these stories in chronological order for better clarity.

My first ever giveaway is happening right NOW: So mosey on over to the previous post for more details on how to enter and what amazing beauty products you may have a chance of winning. Did I also mention that this giveaway is WORLDWIDE? Cause it totally is.

I feel as though I don’t follow enough blogs and that’s entirely my fault for lack of time. So please! Share me some of your favourite blogs for me to follow so that I can get to know more of you wonderful people!

Also…..the anthology I edited MY AMERICAN NIGHTMARE – WOMEN IN HORROR ANTHOLOGY is coming out OCTOBER 31st! Please check it out and the book trailer!

By: Azzurra Nox