Weekly Posts from The Horror Tree for 03/24/2023

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Mar 24, 2023, 6:07:01 PMMar 24
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Word of the week: Bedlam – a scene or state of uproar and confusion.

Hello, readers! I’m able to officially share some great news with you all! It’s been a while in the making, but our EIC, Stuart Conover and I will be editing an anthology this year! The focus of this anthology will be to highlight the excellent fiction being published in semi-pro and token markets. We will be looking for reprint submissions to put together an anthology featuring the best semi-pro and token stories published in 2022. Our goals are to feature newer and emerging writers, and to highlight their amazing stories. If you are interested in learning more about this project (or submitting a story), you can find details on our website: Shadowed Realms: The 2022 Indie Dark Fiction Anthology.

I’ve always loved short fiction. Brief, but powerful moments are moments that ignite the reader’s imagination. Ever since beginning the weekly fiction round up in this newsletter, I’ve been impressed by the quality of short fiction currently being published, and I want to shout it to the world. Hopefully, this anthology can serve as a megaphone.

You can find me (Holley Cornetto) lurking on Twitter @HLCornetto or on Spoutible @Holley_Cornetto. Now, onto the latest articles on writing from around the web.

Newsletter Sponsor:

Hungry for some GORE? Order the anthology where WE feel that "Rowland successfully put together an excellent anthology (and that cover!) that all gorror fans will savor long after they put it down." So, order today! You can snag it directly from Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/yc5e5nxu

Horror Tree / Trembling With Fear Update (This section is generally updated by your fearless editor and chief, Stuart C.!):

The news is out! Shadowed Realms: The 2022 Indie Dark Fiction Anthology is happening! I hope that you've got something to submit and are excited as we are for this one. I'm sorry, I don't have much else to say this week. My MBA class is kicking my back end all over the place. I'm learning a lot from it. It's just... Time consuming.

Side note, we're almost at 100 followers on Horror Tree's Medium. If you use the platform, please, give us a follow; we're under 10 away from 100!

Future projects after the upgrade:
- Work on our next set of Trembling With Fear anthologies
- Add new features to the site that are waiting on the upgrade
- Potentially release an app for our mobile-first readers

One last request, please throw us a follow on MSN or on Horror Tree's Medium!

And now, I return you to your regularly scheduled update of awesomeness from Holley!

Newsletter Bonus:
Our subscribers now get 15% off at PsychoToxin Press for direct orders. Visit them today right here and use the code ToxicTree to claim your offer!


This week we have articles in our general, craft, and business sections. In general, “Do Less Than Your Best” urges writers to move away from the perfectionist tendencies many of us have, and to embrace the less than perfect. If we don’t have two hours for writing, then perhaps we can make do with two minutes. This article brings to mind the spirit of Anne Lamott’s famous “Shitty First Drafts.” In craft this week, an article discussing flawed characters, and why we love them. The article also includes a few tips for giving your character flaws, and how to make them realistic.

In our business section this week, two articles on social media. The first is on Instagram for authors, and it discusses the benefits and advantages of using Instagram as a platform. With current concerns over the longevity of certain social media companies, diversifying and trying out new platforms could be an excellent way to expand your readership. Our second article is on making social media “fun again.” I would go so far as to say that perhaps the article might help someone just starting a social media presence as well. There is such a robust writing community on social media, it can be easy to forget how intimidating it can be for new authors joining the conversation on social media, especially for introverts. If you find yourself thinking of social media as work, or a necessary evil, you might find the information in this article of interest.


FoxPrint Editorial: “Do Less Than Your Best


A Writer’s Path: “On the Necessity of Flawed Characters


Author Marketing Experts: “Instagram for Authors: How to Engage More Readers and Avoid Burnout

We Grow Media: “How to Make Social Media Fun Again

Free Fiction Roundup:

First up this week, we have “Somatic” by Emma E. Murray. This story was presented in an episode of Nocturnal Transmissions, and I must say I was impressed by the quality of the production for this podcast. Murray’s story featured themes of gaslighting and loss of bodily autonomy. In a time where control of our own bodies is not granted nor guaranteed by our government, it’s no surprise that body horror remains a genre that terrifies us, and rightfully so. Continuing with body horror this week is “Nothing Left to Sever” by Ryan Marie Ketterer. This tale also takes on loss of bodily autonomy, but this time at the expense of our jobs. The story’s protagonist continues to grow and increase productivity, despite the physical and mental toll. Our last story this week is a departure from the theme of body horror, but it was a beautifully told tale that I had to include. “Collector of the Dead” by Chelsea Catherine is a beautiful story about a woman who sees ghosts. Like many good stories of ghosts and identity, Catherine blurs the lines of what makes a person or thing monstrous, leaving the reader with a poignant ending.

Somatic” by Emma E. Murray at Nocturnal Transmissions.

Nothing Left to Sever” by Ryan Marie Ketterer at Dark Matter Magazine.

Collector of the Dead” by Chelsea Catherine at Luna Station Quarterly.

– Writing Exercise:

This week, write (or start) a story with elements of body horror. Body horror often deals with themes about loss of control. After all, what is more terrifying than having no control over your own body?

Imagine someone says or does something to your protagonist, and that thing manifests as a physical change to their body. Perhaps the women at the office gossip about them, and each embellishment they make changes your protagonist. Maybe every time the protagonist hears a comment about being overweight or obese, they gain five pounds. Have each comment, thought, joke, or decision make an impact on the protagonist. Remember to emphasize not the physical change as the sensation of horror, but the sense of helplessness.

If you post any writing content during the week and think it would be a good fit for us to feature, do reach out and let us know at con...@horrortree.com

Thank you, Patreons! As always, the site's lifeblood is in your hands, and we truly appreciate your support. 

Looking To Help Horror Tree?
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- Someone to help create videos for social media (we have tools, but not time!) 
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- The obvious one here is also to become one of our Patreons or donate via Ko-Fi!

If you're interested in contributing and think you have something that would help out, PLEASE don't shy away from contacting us! (con...@horrortree.com)


Top-Paying Open Calls for Speculative Fiction Writers | Week of March 18-24, 2023

Hello and welcome to our latest installment for #authors and #writers! We’re excited to continue celebrating Women in Horror Month, and in this video, we’ll be showcasing the latest opportunities for sharing your speculative fiction with the world. Our expert, Belinda Brady, has carefully curated a list of the top-paying and most interesting markets from the past week for you to explore. Whether you’re an experienced writer or just starting out, finding the right home for your creations requires hard work, persistence, and patience. But the rewards can be priceless. In this video, we’ll take a closer look at exceptional open calls that are happening from March 18th to March 24th, 2023. You’ll receive valuable insights and inspiration to help you find the perfect home for your stories. Remember to subscribe to our channel for more valuable content like this. You can find direct links to the open calls from this week in the video description below. So, grab your writing tools and join us on this journey to discover new opportunities and take your writing career to the next level. Thank you for watching, and we’ll see you in the next video! Direct links to the open calls from this week are found below: https://youtu.be/SD2SxbZjP58 Horror Tree’s very own first BEST of anthology! Check it out! Shadowed Realms: The 2022 Indie Dark Fiction Anthology A Thin Slice of Anxiety – Mirrors Reflecting Shadows Live Real Press – An Anthology Set in the 5 Second Rule Universe Jolly Horror Press – Graveyard Boots If you’re looking to support Horror Tree, please be sure to subscribe to our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/horrortree Donate to our Ko-Fi: https://ko-fi.com/horrortree or order one of our recent editions of Trembling With Fear! You can find Trembling With Fear: Year 5 here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B3GK87LQ and Trembling With Fear: More...

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Taking Submissions: Shadowed Realms: The 2022 Indie Dark Fiction Anthology

Deadline: May 31st, 2023 Payment: 1 cent per word Theme: The best 1,000-9,000 word dark fiction published in semipro and token paying markets in 2022. Horror Tree is pleased to announce the first Shadowed Realms: The 2022 Indie Dark Fiction Anthology.  Here at Horror Tree, we believe there is excellent fiction being published at semipro and token-paying publications, and we’d like to celebrate and highlight these authors and their stories. This anthology will be a collection of reprints, featuring the best dark fiction published in semipro and token-paying markets in 2022. What we’re looking for: Dark-leaning speculative fiction that was published for semipro or token payment in 2022. In order to submit to us, you must either have, or be able to retain non-exclusive rights to the story. Please do not submit stories that you do not have the rights to; we will not be able to publish them.  Stories between 1,000 – 8,000 words.  Stories need not be horror but should be dark in tone. Only stories published in semipro or token-paying markets (less than 5 cents/word USD). We are specifically looking to highlight semipro authors and publications.  What we’re not looking for: Stories published at professional paying markets. (There are other anthologies who do this, and do it well!) Stories you do not have the rights to. Self-published stories. Drabbles, novelettes, or novellas. Hate speech, including racist, misogynistic, homophobic (or any other “phobic”) content Fan Fiction Heavy use of vulgar language Graphic depictions of torture, sexual violence, and gore for gore’s sake Pedophilia Beastiality Submission Guidelines: We will only consider material published in 2022.  Authors: Please send the story formatted in Shunn Modern using our submission form. We prefer word docs where possible. If not, then we will accept PDFs.  No multiple submissions, so please send us your...

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The Fantastical Five with Willow Croft and P.A. Cornell

Welcome to the first-ever “Fantastical Five” interview with speculative fiction author P.A. Cornell. Since this is the science fiction version (it also comes in fantasy flavour), we’ve taken our tea out to the far reaches of space! P.A. Cornell (She/Her) is an award-winning, Chilean-Canadian, speculative fiction author who was raised on a steady diet of books. When she was five years old she learned where all these books were coming from and decided then and there that writing was the path for her. She penned her first speculative story as a third-grade assignment: a science fiction piece about shape-shifting aliens. Over three decades later, she still has this story, which she keeps in her writing desk to remind her of how far she’s come. Despite her early interest in fiction, her first publications were in non-fiction as a journalist and copy editor in Toronto, Canada. Since 2016, she’s dedicated herself to writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror full time. Her stories have appeared, or are forthcoming, in multiple genre magazines and anthologies, including Flame Tree Press’s Gothic Fantasy series, ZNB Presents, and Apex Magazine, to name a few. Her short story, “Splits,” first published in Cossmass Infinities, went on to win the 2022 Short Works Prize for Fiction. That same year she also published her debut science fiction novella, Lost Cargo, through Mocha Memoirs Press. An avid collector of joyful moments, when not writing she can be found reading, drinking various varieties of tea in ridiculous quantities, building Lego sets (check out some of her builds on Instagram), hiking, making felt art, and watching movies, among other things. She also enjoys travel and hopes to do more of it in the future. Cornell is a 2002 graduate of the Odyssey writing workshop, and full member of the Science Fiction &...

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The Spooky Six with Willow Croft and Ben Fitts

For this Spooky Six tea with Ben Fitts, I sought out the most unusual and unique flavors of yogurt I could find, and we grabbed some very big spoons and dove right into the interview! Ben Fitts (he/him) is a writer, musician and zinester from New York. Fitts is the author of the books My Birth And Other Regrets and Snailbutter, as well as over forty published short stories. He has been writing for fun since around the time he learned how to read, but began to taking the craft seriously as an undergrad at Hampshire College when he realized he wanted another creative outlet when the band he was in at the time broke up. His short stories soon began receiving publications in a variety of zines, anthologies, and other DIY publications that weren’t turned off by their oddball content and dark humor. Nineteen of these early stories were collected in his debut collection My Birth And Other Regrets, which was published by the press NihilismRevised in 2019 when Fitts was twenty-two years old. My Birth And Other Regrets has received praise from a variety of notable authors within the bizarro fiction movement, including Danger Slater, Sam Richard, and Ben Arzate, among others. Grateful to the zine community that had given him his start, Fitts created The Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine in 2018, a DIY hand-stapled publication that published only rock, punk, and metal themed genre fiction stories. The Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine was published between 2018 to 2019 for a total of six issues that featured works from a wide variety of underground writers. In addition, he created the one-off zines Choose Your Own Death, A Beginner’s Guide To Bizarro Fiction, Ant Sniffing Zine, and A Beginner’s Guide To Witch House. Following his graduation from Hampshire...

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WiHM 2023: The Best Horror Books Written by Women: A List of Must-Read Titles

The Best Horror Books Written by Women: A List of Must-Read Titles by: Kaaron Warren    I have a running list in my head and on my bookshelves of must-read (and re-read) horror books. Not all of them are by women, but many are, and for Women in Horror Month, I’ve jotted down just some of the books that have impressed, horrified, delighted, and influenced me.   Horror lends itself to short fiction. The terrifying image, the unbearable ending, the twist you didn’t guess; all of these are served well by short fiction. The novella also works well because you can explore further themes in a slightly longer piece, and add some layering to your plot and to your characters. The horror novel is harder to pull off. You can’t rely on gimmicks if it is going to be good. So to impress the reader at this length is quite something. These women all totally win the horror game. I’ve chosen one title for each author, but I recommend you seek out everything from them.   SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS Lisa Tuttle Stranger in the House Livia Llewellyn Furnace  Celia Fremlin By Horror Haunted  Lynda Rucker The Moon Will look Strange  Chesya Burke Let’s Play White R.J. Joseph Hell Hath No Sorrow Like a Woman Haunted Patricia Highsmith Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes Angela Slatter The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners   NOVELLA Lisa Morton The Talking Board Elizabeth Hand Wylding Hall Gemma Amor Dear Laura Charlotte Perkins Gilman The Yellow Wallpaper   NOVELS   Lucy A Snyder Sister Maiden Monster Kate Maruyama Family Solstice Kirstyn McDermott Madigan Mine Daphne du Maurier Rebecca Sarah Read Bone Weaver’s Orchard Mary Shelley Frankenstein Shirley Jackson The Haunting of Hill House Sarah Langan Good Neighbours Gemma Files Experimental Film Sarah Pinborough The...

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Indie Bookshelf Releases 03/24/2023

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Taking Submissions: Steel True, Blade Straight

Deadline: June 30, 2023 Payment: Contributors Copy Theme: Stories, poems, and scholarship inspired by and about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. Steel True, Blade Straight The Belanger Books Journal of Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Inspired Stories, Poems, and Scholarship 2023 Annual Description: This anthology will have stories, poems, and scholarship inspired by and about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. While the anthology will contain new Sherlock Holmes stories, the intent would be for at least 25% of the material to be stories and poems inspired by the life and non-Sherlockian writing of Sir Arthur. Another 25% of material would be scholarship on Holmes and Doyle. All proceeds from the Anthology will be donated to The Beacon Society, a 501c(3) nonprofit scion society of The Baker Street Irregulars (BSI), that serves as a link to other scion societies, providing teachers, librarians, children museums, and children theaters with local resources to bring the magic of Sherlock Holmes to life. Guidelines: Stories – 3,000 – 10,000 word submissions that connect to the writing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. These can be Sherlock Holmes stories, or stories connected to Sir Arthur’s additional writings (far too many to list here). Poems – format and length are open. The poetry submission would have to somehow connect to the life or work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Scholarship – 1,000 – 3,000 word submissions. Essays must connect to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or his writing (Sherlock Holmes or other work). Multiple submissions in the same or more than one category are welcome. Payment: All authors will receive a paperback copy of the anthology. Rights: All authors shall retain the rights to their submitted work outside of the anthology and may reprint their submission one year after the anthology’s publication date....

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WiHM 2023: The Most Chilling Women in Psychological Horror: A Ranking of Most Disturbing Female Characters

The Most Chilling Women in Psychological Horror: A Ranking of Most Disturbing Female Characters By Yawatta Hosby   How does the saying go? Villains are the misunderstood protagonists in their own heads. I love horror movies so much that I thought it’d be fun to rank the most chilling women in psychological horror. Jill Roberts in Scream 4   Scream is my favorite horror franchise. There’s no way I wouldn’t have any of the Ghostfaces on my list. Jill Roberts was truly scary and psychotic. When she didn’t take her cheating boyfriend back, I rooted for her. When I found out she was Sidney’s cousin, I hoped she would survive the end of the movie. If Sidney liked her, then so did I.   It was an epic twist finding out Jill was actually a Ghostface, more fierce than her co-killer, Charlie. She had her own mother killed and was very close to killing Sidney. All because she wanted fame. Why be a celebrity with talent when you can just go viral for something tragic that happened to you?   Debbie Loomis in Scream 2   Debbie Loomis, a.k.a. Debbie Salt, was another frightening Ghostface in the Scream franchise. I loved how we thought Debbie was a reporter, then it was revealed that she was actually Billy Loomis’s mother! Billy had wanted his girlfriend, Sidney Prescott, killed because he blamed her mother’s cheating with his dad to cause Debbie to abandon him and his family.   Debbie blamed Sidney for her son’s murder. She also blamed Maureen Prescott for her abandoning her own family. There was no getting through to her; her mind was already made up–Sidney had to die.    Randy was a beloved character in Scream, so I cried during his death scene. I believe in my heart...

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Taking Submissions: Graveyard Boots

Submission Window: April 2nd to August 31st Payment: Half cent per word Theme: Speculative Fiction taking place in the Wild West Graveyard Boots: The Old West. Lawless. Filthy. Challenges were numerous. Justice was haphazard. One could die from a gunshot, a snakebite, a disease, or any number of reasons. It was not a place for the weak of heart. And that was just the wild west all by itself. For “Graveyard Boots,” we seek stories that add creatures, gunslingers, ghouls, ill omens, bad luck, evil minds, monsters and more to the already desolate landscape and ghost towns. Yet there was still humor back in those days of yore, and with “Graveyard Boots,” stories with humor will give you a leg up. “Graveyard Boots” Guidelines: Here are a couple of tips to put your story in better position to be accepted. 1. Fit the theme. Old West. Horror. Of course, Jolly Horror Press loves humor. 2. Be within our word count guidelines (for “Graveyard Boots”, 2500 to 5500) or query us for shorter/longer. 3. No matter how good your story is, if it hasn’t been edited, there is a big chance we won’t accept it. In the past, we’ve accepted stories that needed a lot of editing work, but it took so much effort to make them presentable. We aren’t doing that anymore. If within a page or two of reading the story we find a bunch of editing issues, it’s going to be rejected. 4. Be unique. No matter what the theme of the anthology is, you should always be unique. If it’s a stalker anthology for example, and your ex or some guy you work with is your stalker, it’s trite. If your grandma is stalking your fiancée, well, that’s unique. 5. At Jolly Horror Press, we prefer subtle horror. We generally don’t like gruesome and overly bloody stuff. If someone...

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Epeolatry Book Review: Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt

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WiHM 2023: Saddle Up! 5 Supernatural Westerns by Women For Your TBR

Saddle Up! 5 Supernatural Westerns by Women For Your TBR By KC Grifant   In honor of Women of Horror month, here’s a roundup of five relatively recent supernatural westerns by my fellow “weird west” authors you don’t want to miss. So shake off your boots, hang up your hat, and settle in!   If you’re new around these parts, the “weird west” mashes Old West elements with other genres, such as horror, science fiction and fantasy. Think The Wild Wild West, Preacher, Jonah Hex, the Dark Tower series or Cowboys & Aliens. The weird west is where you’ll find werewolves, demons, zombies, aliens, and other speculative elements lurking in the vast landscapes of the American West.    Novels, novellas, anthologies and graphic novels in this genre range from blood-soaked extreme tales to more light-hearted adventures. Here are five with a supernatural hook to kick off your weird western TBR. 1: The Night Silver River Run Red by Christine Morgan (Death’s Head Press)   Book description: Some things, according to Cody McCall, are worth risking a whipping. Such as, sneaking out with your friends after dark for a peek at the traveling show setting up just outside of town. Oddities, the signs promise. Marvels. Grotesqueries. Exotic attractions and mysterious magics. Not as if they’d be allowed to attend otherwise, not with parents and preacher and schoolmarm all disapproving. But how often does a chance like this come along? There isn’t much else by way of excitement in quiet, peaceful Silver River, a once-prosperous boom town slowly gone bust. Worth risking a whipping, sure. Worth risking life and limb, and maybe more? Worth risking being ripped to pieces by ravenous, inhuman brutes? Worth crossing paths with those strange, silent cult-folk from the high valley? Worth all the fire and bloodshed and horror...

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Taking Submissions: Haven Speculative 2023 General Submissions Call #2 (Early)

Submission Window: April 1st – 30th, 2023 Payment: 1 cent per word for fiction, $5 for poetry, 1 cent per word for non-fiction, $35 for cover art Theme: Speculative fiction It’s our goal to publish diverse voices from around the world, and to do that, we are actively seeking stories, poems, and non-fiction pieces by authors from backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented in the science fiction and fantasy canon. Our submission cycle is therefore split into two categories, where every other month is explicitly reserved for submissions by authors of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and other underrepresented groups. The interposing six months remain open to everyone. Guidelines for Fiction We are seeking stories in the English language up to 6,000 words by writers from around the world. We favor submisions that have not been published before (including on your own website), though we do accept a limited number of reprints not currently appearing anywhere online. For our two issues focused on the climate crisis, we’re particularly interested in publishing stories from people displaced by or threatened by the climate emergency (see our themes below). For our other four issues, we’re open to a wide variety of stories across the SFF and weird spectra. We pay 1¢ per word for fiction, and we try to respond to all submissions within ten weeks. We will also accept a limited number of previously published stories, so please indicate on the form if your submission is a reprint. All submissions must use the Shunn manuscript format (we prefer Courier New) and be either .rtf, .doc, or .docx. We like stories that are subtle in their telling and stick with us long after we’ve finished. We’re more likely to buy stories that balance a sense of wonder with a bold plot and...

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Taking Submissions: Eidolotry Digital #7

Deadline: May 15th, 2023 Payment: $10 plus a contributor copy Theme: The best LGBTQ etc voices out there in the world of horror. No limits, no theme, just your very best stories. Come out, Come out, whoever you are. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but I wanted to open up the submission call as soon as possible for our June issue. We here at PTP are all about good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. In June we will be celebrating Pride month and we’re on the hunt for the best LGBTQ etc voices out there in the world of horror. No limits, no theme, just your very best stories. This issue will be double sized so we look forward to seeing your work. Oh and like all of our work, our writers and artist get paid. ​Pay is $10 plus a contributor copy. ​ Send submissions to psychoto...@gmail.com with Pride in the subject line, or upload a .doc, .docx, or pdf file below. Via: Pyschotoxin Press.

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An Interview With Gareth Worthington

Greetings and Welcome. Today I have a privilege to interview Gareth Worthington. Gareth Worthington is the author of several books and series such as The Children of the Fifth Sun Series, It takes Death to Reach a Star Series, A Time for Monsters, and Condition Black. He holds a degree in marine biology, a PhD in Endocrinology, an executive MBA, is Board Certified in Medical Affairs, and currently works for the pharmaceutical industry. Gareth is an authority in ancient history, has hand-tagged sharks in California, and trained in various martial arts, including Jeet Kune Do and Muay Thai at the EVOLVE MMA gym in Singapore and 2FIGHT in Switzerland.  His work has won multiple awards, including Dragon Award Finalist and an IPPY award for Science Fiction. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers Association, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the British Science Fiction Association. Born in England, Gareth has lived around the world from Asia, to Europe to the USA. Wherever he goes, he endeavors to continue his philanthropic work with various charities. Find out more at www.GarethWorthington.com.  Mr. Worthington’s latest release, Dark Dweller, hit shelves on February 28th 2023, and has already received numerous 5-star reviews, yours truly included [insert shameless plug for my own review]. Dark Dweller takes place in the future where Earth’s resources have become depleted. To restock helium, the crew of the Paralus travel to Jupiter for what should be a routine scoop. The discovery of an escape pod puts those plans on hold and leads to a fight for humanity’s salvation.  Mr. Worthington, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. 1) Beyond the synopsis of Dark Dweller, how would you describe your book to a fan? Fans of my work know my novel are generally action heavy, especially...

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WiHM 2023: One Goddamn F*cked Up Horror Picture: Carmen Maria Machado, Pearl, and the Psychoanalytics of Horror

One Goddamn F*cked Up Horror Picture: Carmen Maria Machado, Pearl, and the Psychoanalytics of Horror by Tenacity Plys   Generally, horror doesn’t scare me. It’s not that I don’t feel fear; I feel fear literally all the time. Don’t you?! But typically when a book or movie is supposed to be scary, something in me is numb to the experience. Like, there’s a guy killing all these people while they’re on vacation; who cares? Or some doll is creepy, and it’s gonna kill everyone; whatever. Even Midsommar didn’t really do it for me, because I was basically nodding along like, “okay, these Swedish people are a death cult and they’re going to kill all these teens in ~symbolic~ ways until only Florence Pugh is left. Got it.” Once you know the shtick of a horror story, that’s kind of it for your emotional response, even if the story is as smart as Midsommar.    I used to be way too scared of horror movies. As a kid, I basically couldn’t watch them; they upset me way more than anyone else my age. Over time, I believe I developed defense mechanisms to keep me from being so overwhelmed, resulting in my anhedonia—in fact, sometimes I feel moved to nervous laughter at horror movies, my distress taking a detour through hilarity to make me look like a sociopath rather than a crybaby. Progress?   Fear is a primary emotion, meaning it’s a reflexive reaction to our environment; primary emotions are sometimes called precognitive emotions, because they happen before you can think about the fact that they’re happening—and while you can mitigate them by thinking once they’ve happened, you can’t prevent them by thinking. To instill fear, horror has to sneak up on us, before our conscious minds can catch on and intellectualize...

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