Monday, June 9, 2014

Blog Tour Post

At the end of January (2014) I attended Borderlands Press Boot Camp, and there I met Sean Davis. I’d kill for Sean’s energy. He’s a genuinely nice guy and serious about his writing. Sean invited me to be one of his guests for a blog tour started by Michael Cieslak, a Board Member for the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and a writer and editor. His latest anthology, Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails, includes tales of loneliness, isolation, and abandonment. A portion of the proceeds goes to benefit Last Day Dog Rescue. To learn more about Michael, please visit him at The Dragon’s Roost.  For this blog tour, Sean posted lasted Monday, June 2, at his blog The Chimerical Dark. Check it out. Meanwhile, here’s mine:

Why do you write what you do?
Admit it. You find this adorable.
You mean horror, dark fiction? Because I have a dark soul. I say that jokingly but there’s truth in that statement. In life you’re pretty much either a puppies and rainbows person or a bats and stormy clouds person. This doesn't mean you're evil; it just means you perceive the world through a particular filter. I watched a lot of horror movies with my mom when I was a kid. My dad was in the Navy and would be gone for months. Mom and I would stay up late and watch all the old monster movies. I think I was seven when we came across Night of the Living Dead for the first time. That was a game changer for me. So it’s the chicken/egg thing. Was I attracted to horror because of my dark soul or did I acquire my dark soul because of too many horror movies?

Aside from that, I believe in the horror genre. Probably more than any other genre it speaks to the human condition—every aspect of it. Horror is introspective and revealing. You want to learn about life, go read some quality horror stories.

What are you currently working on?
An epic novel. I’ve been working on a very long, supernatural, historical novel for some time. It’s required a lot of research and traveling, as far as France in fact.

After Deep Cuts—an anthology I co-edited with Angel Leigh McCoy and Chris Marrs—I knew that in order to finish this novel I needed to stop writing short stories and editing anthologies for a while. I had edited two anthologies in less than two years, Deep Cuts and The Haunted Mansion Project Year One.  I needed to focus my time and energy on my novel.

Last summer I was approaching the end of the novel (or what I thought was the end), when I came across the website for Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans Conference. What caught my attention was the list of editors and agents for the pitch sessions—editors from Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Tor and well-known agents from well-known agencies. Something in me said I had to go and I had to pitch. So I cleaned up the manuscript and prepared my pitch. My advice: Don’t wing a pitch. I didn’t. I wrote out mine by hand about twenty times just to help me memorize it. I had an elevator pitch and the longer version for the session. But I met writers who winged their pitches—let’s just say that’s not a pretty sight.

I came out of it with interest in the book and an agent, Donna Bagdasarian, who is really passionate about the project. I thought I was finished with the novel but Donna wanted me to add to it. It was a direction I had considered myself, but I’m glad someone else confirmed what I thought I should have always done. So I’m still working on it—new chapters, more plot, more character development—to my agent’s exasperation. Which leads me to my process...

Haunted Mansion Project Year One
How does your writing process work?
 I’m a full-time middle school English teacher. I’m a good teacher. This means I dedicate a lot of my time to creating interesting lessons and making sure my students learn as much as possible in the time I have them. I once had a student teacher tell me “You teach too much.” Because of teaching I don’t write (or edit) as much or as often as I like. It’s dependent on what’s happening in the classroom. Teaching takes a huge amount of brain space in order to do it well. Writing also takes up a huge amount of brain space too. Both require a person to be in the zone, that place in your brain where you do nothing but think about that one thing. Now, my husband teases me about my big brain, but to hold writing and teaching simultaneously in your head, that’s tough. I always feel that the teaching and writing are at war with one another.

I’m not going to accept anyone’s judgment about this as some sort of excuse not to write. People say if you really want to write then write. I teach 5 periods of 7th grade English a day to about 170 students. Until you’ve taught middle school English and taught it well, don't be quick to judge. I have to take writing at my pace. And I'm okay with that. I've seen a lot of writers give up because their careers didn't take the trajectory they wanted and expected. What I have seen is that some measure of success happens to everyone who sticks with the writing.

The irony of it—I would rather write than teach. I’m a natural teacher; it’s in me to teach. I'm also a natural writer, been doing it since elementary school. But I feel mentally healthier when I write.  I prefer writing to teaching. I’m an introvert. I can spend hours, days, weeks with just myself. So summer break and holidays are for writing. In order to get in that zone for writing, I’ll check into a local hotel for a few days and with no distractions or obligations, I can commit myself to writing. I have a favorite coffeehouse to write, Lestat’s on Park. I also have a home office/library. The trick is to stay in that zone and not get sucked out of it. So many things in life want to suck you out of that zone, and when writing time is rare and precious, I’ve learned to guard it.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?
Because I’m me and will never be anyone else. And that goes for everyone writing in the horror genre, and hell, all of life. Everyone’s original and everyone’s derivative. All of a person’s likes and dislikes shape that person’s work. I know a lot of writers. Not one of them writes like another writer. People are attracted to certain styles and tropes which could lump them into a particular category. Quiet horror versus Splatterpunk. Zombies versus vampires. Hemingwayesque prose versus Lovecraftian (I know, Hemingway’s not a horror writer but you get my point). But even within those veins, everyone’s writing is different from everyone else’s.

And then there’s that on the shoulders of giants thing. I’m influenced by both movies and books. Romero, Carpenter, Argento, Bava. Jackson, King, Rice,  McCammon.  I’ll never forget my first Robert McCammon novel, They Thirst. I was sixteen. The neighborhood tough girl who chain smoked was also a ferocious reader. She lent it to me. Wow. One more influence on my writing. You know what bothers me? Writers who don’t know the history of the genre in which they write. Learn it, if for no other reason than out of respect for those who came before you. 

It’s not a good idea to set out with the plan to be original. Absorb what interests you and what doesn’t. Let it ferment. Practice the craft. And then write. You will be who you will be.

Here are next Monday's, June 16, guests:


Kelly Dunn's career in journalism when horribly wrong when she became editor of the horror anthology Mutation Nation: Tales of Genetic Mishaps, Monsters, and Madness. Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies The Dead That Walk, the Bram Stoker Award-winning After Death, and the forthcoming Midian Unmade, published by Tor Books. Visit her at

Derek Clendening lives in Fort Erie, Ontario. His writing interests include horror and young adult fiction and finding whacky ways to weave lgbt themes and humor into his young adult horror. In some of his young adult work, horror takes a back seat to humor and lgbt themes. Visit him on the web at

Erinn L.Kemper grew up in an isolated mill town in coastal British Columbia Canada. From there she moved to the city to study Philosophy at the University of Victoria. Over the years she’s worked as many things, including an eye glasses repair person, fish farmer, cabinet maker, parks department laborer, small museum staff, book store clerk, home nurse, teacher—and lived in a camper, in Japan and on a forty foot wooden sailboat. She now lives in a small town in Costa Rica on the Caribbean Sea where she plans to write her first novel from her hammock. Erinn has sold stories to Cemetery Dance Magazine and [Nameless] Digest and appears in various anthologies including Chiral Mad 2, Zombies: Shambling through the Ages and Handsome Devil: Stories of Sin and Seduction. Visit her website at for updates and sloth sightings.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Beginnings and Endings

"Sisters Doing It for Themselves" panel


Life's been tough since we returned from the Bram Stoker Weekend/World Horror
Convention in New Orleans last Wednesday. Greg and I deeply miss Pimm's Cups and beignets and cocktails at the Roosevelt Hotel and seafood.

I miss all my writer friends. I'm all for Angel's plan for a writers' house. Writers are so inspirational for other writers. I don't miss the heat and humidity. I felt perpetually wilted.

Chris, Me, Ann, Erin, Loren, Angel, and Greg taking the picture










Haunted Mansion Project Year Two is now available. Edited by Loren Rhoads, the anthology contains essays, fiction, poetry, and photos from the Haunted Mansion Retreat 2012 organized and hosted by Rain Graves.

What's it about? Horror writers getting together for a weekend retreat in a haunted house. Come on. You know this has to be good...and scary. 

Visit Amazon or your favorite independent bookseller for these two anthologies that document and celebrate this amazing experience.  
Haunted Mansion Project Year 2 and Year 1


I just logged on and saw that Richard Matheson has passed. What an influence he was. Last year it dawned on me that 90% of my childhood nightmares were his fault. I always wanted to tell him that, and now it's too late. So thank you, Mr. Matheson--for I AM LEGEND (Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price) and that damn Zuni fetish doll that chased me through my nightmares.

Oh sure, it starts out all cute and innocent. 

Then it comes alive...                                                                                                                                                                                          

    And it ends badly. 

Happy Nightmares!    

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New Orleans One Hour at a Time: Part 2

You have a problem:

You’re going to the Bram Stoker Award Weekend/World Horror Convention (June 13-17, 2013) and you want to go to all the fabulous panels but you also want to see and experience New Orleans (beyond Bourbon Street).

**Always start your visit with the Visitor's Center, which is located in Jackson Square (where the St. Louis Cathedral is located). This is the real visitor's center. The others are all time share traps. Pick up brochures and coupons.

**There are great tour companies. I trust and really like Haunted History Tours:  This is the one I always use.
I'll * and ** those things I've personally done and enjoyed.
Here’s your solution if you're crunched for time or just have some spare time:

One hour experiences.

The great thing about the French Quarter is that everything is within walking distance, easy walking distance. Here are some one hour ideas so you can enjoy the Convention and New Orleans.
1. Take a free walking tour and enjoy French Quarter architecture-

-Frommers French Quarter Tour
-Self-Guided French Quarter Walking Tour

2. Take One of the Streetcars. Just Ride. You don’t even have to get off-
-Buy an all day or multi-day Jazzy Pass. You can find a vending machine at  Canal at N. Peters RTA Shelter.


 *St. Charles takes you through the Garden District. Very safe.
 *City Park/Museum takes you up to City Park. Great place to get off and check out.  Or walk along Bayou St. John.  When the streetcar deadends, get off. You'll see City Park to the left and Bayou St. John to the right. Very safe.

3. * Tour St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. 
 This Quarter's first proper cemetery was St. Peter's, which no longer exists. St. Louis #1 is now considered the original French Quarter cemetery because it still exists. Some people say you shouldn’t go there by yourself.  So if go, go with a large group.
*There are great tour companies. I trust and really like Haunted History Tours:

Located at back of the French Quarter, where the Quarter ends at Rampart St.
Basin at St. Louis St.
New Orleans, LA 70112
Neighborhood: Treme
Hours: M-Sat. 9-3; Sun. 9-12
Admission Cost: Free

 4. Tour the Garden District-
Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District
You really should go on a paid tour. However, if you’re short on time and money, take the Frommers tour:
*Haunted History Tours:

5. *Enjoy a Carriage Tour-
Every day from about 8 a.m. to midnight mule-drawn carriages line up on Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square. These tours are a staple in New Orleans tourism. Some carriages hold four people, others hold six. They roll through the French Quarter, rain or shine, pointing out all of the expected sites. The carriage drivers will regale you with French Quarter history. (Carriage tours are not cheap but remember the horses have to eat and be cared for.)

6. **Experience the past by visiting one of the many Historical Homes-
$12  Tours last from 45 mins to an Hour.
Museum schedule as of June 1, 2012

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday = 10am, 12pm, & 2pm
Saturday = 12pm, 1pm & 2pm
Wednesday = Closed, open by appointment only

Monday, Thursday, & Friday = 10am, 12pm & 2pm
Saturday = 12pm, 1pm & 2pm
Tuesday & Wednesday = Closed, by appointment only

7. **More Historical Homes-
Beauregard-Keyes House
1113 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA 70116

Madame John's Legacy
Madame John's Legacy
632 Dumaine St., New Orleans, LA 70116  
Tuesday - Sunday 10 am - 4:30 pm.
Closed Monday and state holidays.
Admissions:  Free

Along with the Old Ursuline Convent, the only existing original French structure (sort of). The others burned.

8. Learn some history by visiting a museum-

If you like history, then this is the primary museum for a comprehensive overview of Louisiana's history. Plus, the Louisiana Purchase was signed here. For me, it's a must see.

Tuesday through Sunday 10 am - 4:30 pm.
Closed Monday and state holidays. $6

*Old U.S. Mint
A National Historic Landmark

400 Esplanade Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70116
Tuesday - Sunday 10 am - 4:30 pm.
Closed Monday and state holidays.

*Historic New Orleans Collection

533 Royal St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
Attraction Type/s:  Museum, Historic Home, Research Facility
Admission Cost: $5 per person

**I believe the Williams Gallery itself is free (or was). You can do the gallery itself in less than an hour which gives you a little taste of different aspects of Louisiana history. The tour is longer if you visit the entire complex, of course. This place has a great bookstore/giftshop.

I suggest you walk into the Williams Gallery on Royal Street and check it out. You can access the bookstore without going through the exhibits.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except holidays). Tours of the history galleries and the Williams Residence are at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m., Groups of eight or more require a reservation.

 9. Believe it or not, the French Quarter has two National Historical Parks—something unheard of in an urban setting.

matt with blond hairThe New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
916 North Peters St., French Market
New Orleans, LA 70116

Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Admission Cost: Free

If you love jazz or just want to learn its history, visit their website. You’ll find a long list of free programs on their website that are usually only an hour long.

*Jean Lafitte
National Historical Park and Preserve
French Quarter Visitor Center

419 Decatur Street, New Orleans
Open daily 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Great historical visitor center with displays and exhibits that only take an hour. And it has a great bookstore.

The Center has a regularly scheduled program that I’ve done once before. It’s free but you have to there early so you get one of the 25 tickets.
Every day at 9:30 a.m., rangers lead riverfront history walks to the Mississippi River, sharing the story of how the city began and grew.  Walks last about an hour. First-come, first-served; each person wanting a ticket must pick up their own ticket.

10. *Visit the St. Louis Cathedral-a must!

11. **Visit the Old Ursuline Convent-
The Museum is open for self-guided tours.
Monday - Saturday 10:00am - 4:00pm
1100 Chartres Street

This place is amazing!!

12. Shop the French Market     
1008 N. Peters
Hours: 9AM-6PM Free

If you have a big chunk of time, try out these experiences:

*Haunted History Tours
Vampire and Ghost Tours. Cemetery and Garden District Tours

*Steamboat Natchez

All cruises will begin and end at the Steamboat NATCHEZ Lighthouse Ticket Office, located at Toulouse Street and the Mississippi River, just one block from Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

The lunch is okay. You can take just the cruise, which I've done. But the lunch isn't much more expensive, making it an okay value.

Cost: $27.50/Just the Jazz Cruise     $38.50/Jazz Cruise with lunch

Boarding 11:00am; Cruising 11:30am – 1:30pm
Boarding 2:00pm; Cruising 2:30pm – 4:30pm

Warning: Visit the websites to get the most up-to-date information.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!