I’d gotten to a place where I felt a bit… hopeless. As though my writing wasn’t good enough… strong enough to get beyond where it was. I felt I’d hit a plateau. I was getting rejections, and each one felt like a blow.
When I was attending a lecture in Oxford by one of my favorite writers Jewell Parker Rhodes, I got the email that I’d been chosen for this grant. From what I recall (my mind goes a bit foggy here as I was in such shock) I sat on the bed in my hotel room and stared at the screen for a full minute.
Someone believed in my work! It sent my heart racing. It sent my brain racing too. Stories I wanted to finish. Ideas I’d had that I’d never committed to paper before. Suddenly, all of it seemed possible. Not sure I really slept much that night. But I do remember this:
I promised myself I’d submit more of my work in 2017.
And I kept that promise. Most of my stories were published this year that I’ve ever had. I got my first professional sale this year. I have stories on the Nebula’s and the Horror Writer’s Association’s recommended reading lists.
The SLF has just started its big fundraiser for the year, with the goal of getting enough sponsorships to ensure the Diversity Grants continue for five more years, and expand our other activities — reading series, workshops, and more, with monthly funding that we can count on as we plan activities.
About the SLF from Mary Ann Mohanraj, Executive Director:
The SLF is a non-profit arts foundation, modeled on the National Endowment for the Arts, but focused specifically on serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. We aim to encourage promising new writers, assist established writers, facilitate the work of quality magazines and small presses, and develop a greater public appreciation of speculative fiction.
They need your help.
If you can donate, please do. This fundraiser has 29 more days and I’d love to see them reach their goal as they helped me reach one of mine.
Tananarive Due was born in Tallahassee, Florida is a recipient of The American Book Award (for The Living Blood), NAACP Image Award (for the In the Night of the Heat: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel, with Blair Underwood and Steven Barnes), and the Carl Brandon Kindred Award (for the short story collection Ghost Summer).
Due was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for The Between (Superior Achievement in a First Novel) and My Soul to Keep (Best Novel). Due, author of twelve novels and a civil rights memoir, was inducted into the Medill School of Journalism’s Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University in 2010.
Danger Word, a short horror film funded by a successful crowdfunding venture, is based on the post-apocalyptic sci-fi short story of the same name by Due and husband Steven Barnes. The short story has also sparked full length YA horror novels Devil’s Wake and Domino Falls.
Featuring an award-winning novella and fifteen stories—one of which has never been published before— her first short story collection, Ghost Summer is a must read. Keep up with Tananarive on her website, her mailing list, and on Twitter.
Mocha Memoirs Press is celebrating the new Fall season by showcasing their love of horror and the authors who write it. Please welcome TOM OLBERT as he shares his thoughts on fall and horror.
WHAT LIVES IN THE DARKNESS?
And fall is here. Only just, but its chill fingers can already be felt creeping up our spines. Before we know it, the leaves will turn, the days will shorten, and the shadow of the equinox will creep in silently in summerâ€™s wake. The time of transition, when, it is said, the veil between this world and the next runs thin, and spirits walk the earth. Time for tales of horror to slip under the wire of our reason and stoke the fires of our nightmares.
Horror takes many forms, both subtle and gross. Ghosts, vampires, werewolves and ghouls. The shadows of arcane superstition that never stop haunting us, even into this digital age. The unknown touching our primal fears from the inky blackness of the dark.
But, there’s another kind of horror, too. The horror of the dark places within the human mind and the dark places buried deep in the human soul, where we fear to look, perhaps even more than we fear the darkness outside. The demons we carry within are the ones we can never escape. Such evil can take many forms. Like the shadowy figure of Jack the Ripper skulking in the shadows of dark, misty, gas lit midnight streets, transcending time and space, a seemingly eternal horror that will always be with us. Because such evil is waiting to be born in the depths of each human soul, and will never die.
In my novella Black Goddess I tried to explore those dark depths we call evil. The evil of the torturer. Of the murderer. The evil of hate and revenge and unimaginable cruelty that defies all reason and devours the soul of both victim and victimizer. Such darkness has been with us from the beginning, in particularly dark chapters of history, taking on forms of evil so pure, so horrific that our darkest dreams pale in comparison.
The eternal question presents itself to a troubled young man who has seen evil up close and intimately: Is evil merely a random perversion of human emotion spawned by violence and chaos, or is evil a primal force, like a dark infection stealing its way into the human soul, feeding on it from within like a parasite, until nothing beside remains?
The protagonist of Black Goddess becomes obsessed with the nature and essence of the evil that has destroyed his life and his faith. His search for answers evolves into a dark quest that is destroying him, little by little. The closer he draws to the dark, forbidden cosmic truth at the heart of the darkness, the more he hungers for it to the exclusion of all else, like a drug addict endlessly seeking his next fix. He has given his life, and possibly his soul to a dark experiment through which he reaches closer and closer to the center of time and space. What will he find at the center of creation? God, or Satan? When he looks into the mirror of the first moment of time, will he find light or darkness at the core of his own soul?
What can any of us expect to find, when we peel back the layers of sanity we show to the world, and face the darkness we carry inside?
Comment below and click on the rafflecopter options below for a chance to win the tour prize, a $25 Amazon Gift Card! a Rafflecopter giveaway Continue on with this FALL INTO HORROR. You can join Mocha Memoirs Press authors and share in their love of horror on Facebook. You can also click on the links below to meet other horror authors:
Mocha Memoirs Press, LLC is a genre-oriented publishing company. Their vision is to provide an outlet for outstanding speculative and romance stories that often fall beneath the radar of traditional publishing houses. They seek to provide quality stories that invigorate the reader’s literary palette like a good, strong coffee. Like great coffee houses, they offer a variety of flavors. They publish stories in the following genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror, and romance, including the sub-genres of steampunk, cyberpunk, diesel punk, alternate history, weird westerns, and mash-ups.
It is my pleasure to have on the blog today, Jeff Carroll: author, filmmaker, and hip-hop dating coach.
Yes, you heard that last one correctly. Jeff isn’t on my blog for his dating advice today, but you can find out more about that aspect of his career here.
I had the chance to catchup with Jeff and ask him about his writing, what inspires him, and what he’d like the future of speculative fiction to be.
ER: Thank you so much for granting me this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing style.
JC: I am a Gemini to the fullest so my stories have deep political subject told with a lot of action and fun. I’ve done a lot of things in my life from leading marches with Rev Sharpton to booking comedy shows with Kevin Hart. I’ve always been a movie fan. When I was 12 years old my cousin and I would see movies on 42nd street and recommend them to our local Harlem movie theater. Since movies are my first love my stories read like movies. People tell me all the time that they would love to see my book as movie.
ER: When did you start writing and what drew you specifically to speculative fiction?
JC: I started writing screenplays in 2003 after my mother had a stroke. I made two movies low budget B movie horrors, Holla If I Kill You and Gold Digger Killer. In 2007 after my second film Gold Digger Killer was released I wrote a tie-in comic book. I sold the comic book while screening my film at film festivals. Finally in 2009 I wrote the novelization of Gold Digger Killer. It was so liberating to write without having to be limited by my production budget that I decided to write another book. After writing the novelization of my movie I fell in love with writing. I even started reading more and learning a the different genres and Black Science fiction.
ER: What was the impetus for your story in The City anthology, “Dreamer’s Recall”?
JC: When I read the City bible outlining all of the elements I felt confined and felt that if I were there in the City I would want somebody to help me escape. So, as a story creator I wanted to tell a story where someone could have that possibility. Dreams have always been a form of escapism for me so that was the entry point for me to starting my story.
ER: How did you perform research for your characters and scenes or did you work from existing knowledge?
JC: I am not necessarily your grandmother’s sci-fi writer. I am a hip hopper. I grew up on movies like Krush Groove and Boyz in the Hood as much as I did Star Wars and Independence Day so I blend the energy of hip hop with the speculation of Sci-fi. With the characters of “Dreamer’s ReCall” I simple said what if there was a couple and one of them started having life changing dreams. I didn’t go as far as Love and Hip Hop but I did want to have something for Streetlit readers who’s stories have a lot of relationship drama.
ER: When using real events and people, how do you decide when to fictionalize and when to stay true to history?
JC: In my book It Happened on Negro Mountain I used the Mountain as my inspiration because it’s name was profound. Sci-fi is the genre which explores the “what ifs” and I use that use question to determine what person or event I fictionalize.
ER: For you, what makes a great tale? What do you like to read?
JC: I love adventures with happy endings. I love good triumphing over evil. I also like the escapism that Sci-fi provides. I like urban stories with a paranormal element. The writer which provided me with the most inspiration was LA Banks. I also like Steven Barnes but my favorite Sci-fi book is Zuro a Tale of Alien avengers. However after writing in the City I am fully turned onto CyberFunk and Afrofuturism. I am planning to write my story “Dreamer’s ReCall” into a novel.
ER: What scares you?
JC: A lot of things scare me. I’m not a sacredly cat because I fight through my fears. I am scared of sharks in the ocean. I am not scared of ghosts or demons. I am scared of people. Psychopaths and serial killers. I am also squeamish so my stomach can’t take realistic operations with lots of organs and blood. However, I was there for the delivery of my son.
ER: Of the works you’ve written, what’s your favorite? Of which are you most proud?
JC: I am proud of all of my writings. I’ve written a piece of myself and my family and friends into each of my stories. I do think my third book It Happened on Negro Mountain was my most unbelievable book to sell and it became the first of my stories to get a publishing deal.
ER: How can African American artists (actors, writers, filmmakers) succeed in speculative fiction circles? Do you feel your work has been received differently?
JC: I think we are at an opportune moment where opportunities for black creators are opening up. I think the main thing a black creator could do is hone their craft and put it out in the market for people to see.
ER: What’s your next project?
JC: I am currently writing a story I had for a movie into a novella. It’s about transgender serial killer in a CyperFunk world. I also have three manuscripts circulating for possible publishing deals so any of those could be my next book. I just released my first collection of short stories this past August called Sci-Fi Streetz.
ER: What’s missing in fiction? What shape would you like to see the future of speculative fiction take?
JC: When I first started reading Sci-fi there were a lack of stories I wanted to read but now there are more books than I can read. I still feel we are on the tip of the iceberg with manifesting our unique African America Sci-fi expression. I think when we fully developing our variation it will be as different as manga (the Japanese comic book form) is. I think black people have a unique worldview and cultural past which inspires our ideas and solutions to the problems and discoveries of the future. I even think we will have a common storytelling pace that will appeal to black people like the TV shows Empire and Scandal.
ER: Many black authors of speculative fiction tell me they struggle for fans. What’s your advice?
JC: Thinking of the future is directly connected to your knowledge of the past and because many black people don’t know of the glory of African people they see the future as frustrating as the past. I remember watching Brother From Another Planet feeling that “Dagg, we are slaves in the future too”. Dystopian stories are big right now but for Black people the Black Lives Matter movement makes them feel like we are living in a Dystopian present day world. I think also that since white male writers dominated Sci-fi so much that Black Sci-fi is still new most black people. Once we get that hit book like The Coldest Winter Ever then everybody will know about Black Sci-fi.
ER: What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
JC: Because I work full time finding the time to write and work social media are the hardest aspects of writing for me. The actual writing process presents its own challenges with each story.
ER: What do you do when you’re not writing?
JC: When I’m not writing I’m reading as much as I can. I make it a point to read Black Sci-fi but not exclusively. I try to read the latest Sci-fi books and I mix it up with old Sci-fi.
ER: Thank you for the interview. Is there anything else you like to mention?
JC: I just want to say that The City is an amazing project and I would like to thank Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade for creating such a glorious project. Inviting other black writers to share in their universe was a historical move. The City is the first of its kind.
Thanks for the interview, Jeff! Find out more about Jeff and his work on his blog, Facebook, and on Twitter.
(According to my mother, since I think I am, I must not be. Cold comfort, but I digress.)
A writer friend of mine, Nicole Kurtz, approached me and asked what I was doing for Women in Horror Month this year. I hadn’t decided anything at the time and she suggested a collaboration. I agreed.
Then came the time to decide on the project. We both wanted to write something horror centered, but different from any other work we’d done. Not thinking it would fly, I suggested doing something in the old school Choose Your Own Adventure style. And Nicole thought it was a great idea.
Not long after that, I came across an article of how difficult these types of books are to write. Then I looked at my list of projects that need to be finished in 2015 and I worried I’d taken on too much. Add on top of that the dreaded second person point of view—it’s frowned upon by publishers now, certainly not popular like it used to be—most of these stories take and I wanted to recant. Run! Run away!
I thought a good idea might be to involve the Twitter-verse with helping Nicole and I with our ideas on where to take the story. During 2015, we’ll be posting flash fiction on our blogs and giving readers a choice of which path they’d take if they were in the main protagonist’s situation.
Graveyard shift Sisters has posted our project idea on their site, along with one of our banners. Here’s the other:
As Black female speculative fiction writers, Nicole and I are in a minority. There is an idea in the field of horror that woman—especially women of color—don’t enjoy horror. In our circles, that isn’t true. We wanted to give a voice to women that enjoy reading horror: What do you want to read? We’re looking to involve you in a storyline to give us an idea of what female readers of horror are looking for in a tale.
To give you an idea of what we mean, here’s a short flash piece I wrote:
You walk down the deserted basement hallway toward the last room on the left, your confident strides from earlier in the day things of memory. B302. Labored, ragged breathing emanates from under the heavy steel door and your hand trembles on the knob as you turn it.
The lamp on the bedside table is covered with a scarf and it colors everything in the dank room with a pale amber hue. With a subtle sniff, you determine the odor of decay emanated from the hospital bed in the far corner.
“Welcome to my humble home, Doctor.” The woman in the bed sneers, her words a seductive hiss. The woman’s papery skin looks moist, her greying hair is lank and greasy, but her eyes are vividly green and wild. You notice she is secured to the bed with wide leather straps across her arms and legs. The way she is bound briefly reminds you of a mummy.
“Good evening, Ms. Costa,” you reply, doing your best to keep your voice steady in spite of the disgust you feel. “I’m Doctor Abrams and I—”
“I know who you are.” Foul-smelling watery discharge seeps from her nose and mouth, but she makes no move.
You check the readings on the beeping monitors along the wall, an unusually long distance from the bed. “I need to check your vitals, Ms. Costa.”
“It’s ‘Miss’ Costa. And call me Marilyn. I’d like for us to be on a first name basis. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
“I’d prefer to keep our relationship professional.”
“Because of my condition?” The woman’s bone-white hands search the bedcovers blindly. Soon a whirring sound severs the quiet and the bed raises her to a sitting position. She watches you closely.
“We’ve run a number of tests and they’ve all come back conclusive,” you tell her.
“I’m pregnant.” Her laughter is hoarse, as though she’s been screaming for hours.
“Miss Costa, this is serious.”
Marilyn laughed without mirth. “Oh, I’d say my case is most definitely serious. I’d go so far as to say it’s a permanent condition, not a terminal one. Terminal means you’ll be released from your suffering at some point.”
“Advances are made every day. There might be—”
“Give me a break, Doctor. We both know that curing me isn’t on the American Medical Association’s list of priorities. Seems they’re more concerned with keeping eighty year-old men with full heads of hair and their willies pointing north.”
Your assignment here is to take a blood sample from Marilyn. Do you:
Treat her as you would any other patient and tell her your intent?
Try to get the sample without warning her beforehand?
Come back when you think she’s asleep?
Try to drug her and get the sample?
What would you choose in this situation? Or would you do something else? Each choice will lead down a different path. (Some will lead you in a circle. Others to a dead end.)