By Sumiko Saulson

“Saulson has collected magic in ways that hypnotize, entertain and make the reader shudder. In these stories desire and greed are answered with magical justice and getting what is wished for comes with ultimate, soul level prices. Walk with these women, through fables of magic, spells, werewolves, cursed days & nights and be prepared to be entertained and shook to your core.”

—Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of “How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend”

I’ve been a horror fan as long as I can remember. I grew up in the seventies, before people decided it was important to protect children from skinned knees, bruised heads and horror movies. As a child, my parents took me and my brother to drive-in movies like Its Alive, The Omen, and The Exorcist. I still remember being five years old, playing on the slides and swings with my four year old brother, and watching cartoons like Heckle and Jeckle or Woody Woodpecker. We knew that once the cartoons were over, we were supposed to leave the playground and return to the car. We weren’t afraid of being kidnapped, and we didn’t know that some people thought Heckle and Jeckle were probably racist and based on minstrel stereotyped jive-talking crows in Dumbo

We also didn’t notice that none of the people in our favorite horror movies were black. See, the eighties trope where the black guy dies first hadn’t started, and there were no black people to speak of in Carrie, The Hills Have Eyes, and Jaws. It wasn’t until 1976’s Dawn of the Dead that I saw a movie with a major black character in it. And he was the hero!

“In the 21th century there are very still few characters like us, and out of this small pool many are post-modern “Step-and Fetchit” stereotypes. This is why speculative fiction is so important. This genre helps us to see outside reality, to say: what if? It helps us to imagine and create spectacular, wondrous realms, step back and find the beauty and wisdom there, and then transform our own space.” 

— Valjeanne Jeffers, author of the short story The Lost Ones.

Like Valjeanne, I have noticed a dearth of African Diaspora characters in fiction. Where they are present, they are relegated to support or background roles. I believe it is important for the self-esteem of a people to be able to envision ourselves as heroes. That means that we should be able to read stories and watch movies where there are heroes who look like we do. We shouldn’t be brainwashed into viewing ourselves as less than central in our lives. 

Nowadays, it’s not as bad as it used to be. We see characters like Michonne on The Walking Dead, Bonnie Bennet on The Vampire Diaries, or Jenny and Abbie Mills on Sleepy Hollow, and feel encouraged that black people in general, and black women in particular, can be viewed as powerful, vital, and heroic. But the killing off of first Abbie, then Jenny Mills, and subsequent cancellation of Sleepy Hollow tell a darker tale; people aren’t ready for black women to be front and center. Even the creation of Richonne, the Rick and Michonne power couple on The Walking Dead, shows that people need a black woman to be clearly secondary to a white, male protagonist in order to be strong, or continue to live. Never mind the series of replaceable black men: T-Dog, Tyreese, Bob, Noah… and that other guy who was on there so briefly I almost didn’t register that he wasn’t T-Dog.

That’s where projects like Black Magic Women come in.

“It’s always an honor to be included in a project like Black Magic Women. Most of us are in our own corner, writing and promoting, so this project gives us a chance to catch up on each other.” 

Return to Me author Lori Titus.

I was inspired by older anthologies like the Dark Matter series, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas. It debuted July 18, 2000 with Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora. When I put together a blog series on black women who write horror in honor of Black History Month and Women in Horror Month back in 2013, I had to do a lot of research to come up with my first three lists that year. The lists, and the interviews with black women in horror that were a part of that blog series, were eventually published in 2014 as the book 60 Black Women in Horror

When I first put together 60 Black Women in Horror, a few women asked if they could add stories to the end of the eBook. That’s how I ended up with short stories by myself, Crystal Connor, Valjeanne Jeffers and Annie Penn at the back of the eBook. They weren’t in the print edition. So, when I started to work on 100 Black Women in Horror, an update to the original book with over 100 biographies and more than 20 interviews,  I decided that rather than toss a few stories in the reference guide, I should put together a separate anthology of horror stories written by women listed in the guide. I was thrilled when Nicole Kurtz from Mocha Memoirs Press expressed interest in the anthology, Black Magic Women.

“Black Woman Magic is the natural spiritual root for our ancestral legacy in life. It is protection, warrior work, praise/worship, love or it is root-work meant to hex those who harm, cause mischief or to even bring about life lessons and mores. Black Magic Woman is badassness others want.” 

—Kai Leakes, author of the short story Sisters.

But this anthology doesn’t only consist of badass women. It is a collection of horror tales where blackness is up front and center, and a black woman is always a significant player, even in stories like Delizhia Jenkins’ Dark Moon’s Curse,  Valjeanne Jeffers’ The Lost Ones and Kenesha Williams Sweet Justice, and Cinsearae S’s Killer Queen, where the protagonist is male. The women may be sensitive souls, like preteen title character in Kamika Aziza’s zombie apocalyptic slice of life Trisha and Peter, thoughtful and introspective, like the witch in Lori Titus’ Return to Me, or idealistic justice seekers like Kai Leakes’ Sisters and the circle of friends in Dicey Grenor’s Black and Deadly

“In a world where Black Women are portrayed to either be mammies, angry, or sassy, I’m so happy for a project like Black Magic Women where we get to be the heroes and maybe even the villains. So many times, because of our lack of portrayal in the media, it seems as if all Black Women characters must be paragons of virtue lest we “shame the community”. Embracing both sides of someone’s humanity, the good and the bad, is to allow them to be fully human. We shouldn’t have to be one end of the spectrum or the other, like all people, we are varying shades of gray and I think this anthology will show that.” 

—Kenesha Williams, author of Sweet Justice.

Of course, a well-rounded book of black women contains characters that are not necessarily good. Morally ambiguous creatures haunt stories like Mina Polina’s Appreciation, Nuzo Onoh’s Death Lines, Nicole Givens Kurtz’s Blood Magnolia, Crystal Connor’s Bryannah and the Magic Negro and my own Tango of a Telltale Heart. You have to read the whole story to figure out if they are heroes, villains, or something in between. In some cases, even after you’re done you aren’t entirely sure. 

Some of these stories fit into the ancient and honorable horror tradition of the cautionary tale. What would it mean to have had a black scream queen in movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, or Nightmare on Elm Street? The hopeless romantics, hapless nice girls, clueless ingénues, and ordinary janes in Tabitha Thompson’s Alternative™ , Alledria Hurt’s The Prizewinner, R. J. Joseph’s Left Hand Torment, Kenya Moss-Dyme’s Labor Pains, and L.H, Moore’s Here, Kitty! face extraordinary situations. Will they make it out alive?

“Black women have always been magical. It’s our tradition, our heritage. It’s in our blood. A part of that tradition is a belief in the fantastic and supernatural. And yes, we do write and enjoy horror. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” 

—LH Moore, author of Here, Kitty!

The first time I walked into a book store – Marcus Bookstore, a historical black bookstore in San Francisco – the proprietor expressed shock and awe at the idea of a black person writing horror. The closest thing she’d ever heard of was sci-fi writer Octavia Butler, and wanted to know if that’s what my stories were like. So I started to research horror by black authors, to see where I fit in, in this wild world of unknown and potentially amazing stories by black women, on the edge of this new frontier.

Why have there been so few documented black women horror writers up until now? Part of it, I think, has to do with respectability politics. Black writers of any gender are told we should write literary fiction, be serious, and not involve ourselves in trash genres like horror. To this day, I am invited to speak at speculative fiction conventions and on panels where they start right out insulting my genre. They act like calling Beloved a ghost story is paramount to calling Toni Morrison a dirty name. That being the attitude of a lot of authors and academics many scribes are loath to admit to writing horror, even if they do.

The other factor is the tendency to view horror as a male thing. If a woman, say L.A. Banks, writes a series called The Vampire Huntress Legends about a bad ass slayer of demons and vampires, her hero, Damali, is in a paranormal romance. Conversely, if two white dudes, Sam and Dean Winchester do the same thing, they are in a horror series called Supernatural. This is not limited to black women: Buffy and the Vampire Slayer, The Medium, Charmed, and The Ghost Whisperer aren’t really horror, because they center around girls and girly stuff like marriage, children and romance. So people tend to categorize our stories as something other than horror; urban fiction, paranormal romance, supernatural, or even magical realism, because girls don’t do horror, therefore it cannot be horror and must be something else.That’s why projects like Black Magic Women and 100 Black Women in Horror are so important.

Rock Hill, SC- Newly relocated small press publisher, Mocha Memoirs Press, has released a horror romance that will keep the heat burning well into the fall. Canadian author, Ren Thompson’s latest novel, DEAD HEAT offers the terror of a zombie apocalypse and the fire of a LGBTQ romance.

Blurb: The heart just knows…The city of Toronto is now a thriving hotbed of undead activity, and Dana Layton, brash zombie hunter with a temper as fiery as her hair, believes in only one thing: taking care of business. As a member of an elite zombie hunting organization, Dana can hang with the best of them, but the wall around her heart is as high as the one erected around her fortified home.Kelly Forrester thought she had what she wanted most of all—a career that made a difference. Blindsided by a crash course in reality, Kelly is left with a life-altering choice: Should she play it safe or follow her heart?In an already dark world, a new kind of terror emerges, one that threatens to tear apart Toronto’s fragile peace.

Dana’s back is against the wall, and time is running out for both her beloved city, and the woman who’s stolen her heart.

Owner, Nicole Givens Kurtz stated, “DEAD HEAT is right at home in our line of Dark Mocha Bites stories. It’s a story that’s outside the mainstream, amplifies marginalized voices, and tells a great, harrowing story.”

Don’t take Nicole’s word for it. Reviews have already started pouring in.

“It is well written and highly descriptive…” says Arttoa, giving the novel a four star Amazon review.

JJ Dunway stated, ..”the journey is action packed and each piece meaningful and a realistic view of a world with zombies – not always easy and never clean,” giving it a four star Amazon review.

DEAD HEAT is not for the faint of heart, which is why it comes with an 18+ warning.

You can get a copy of DEAD HEAT at the Mocha Memoirs Press website, Amazon, and other fine online retailers. You can also order the paperback from brick and mortar bookstores.

Contact:
Nicole Givens Kurtz
Publisher
mochamemoirspress@gmail.com
www.mochamemoirspress.com

By H.E. Roulo

All books require a relationship between reader and text. The reader is searching for the book that’s right for them, but how can they be sure? A good cover image and blurb, goes a long way, but that’s the bare minimum for even a Tinder match. For that extra touch, a searchable book trailer communicates a lot. After all, a picture is worth… well, you know.

With the release of the newest book in my series, I wanted to get the word out. I’d never done video for my books, and my publisher, HorrorAddicts.net Press, requested I put something together. I wanted it to be quick and give the mood of the book.

First, I wrote up a few bullet points as if set in the Plague Master Universe. What I got wasn’t so much a book trailer as a three-episode miniseries. Whoops! It was fun and engaging, but not the professional book trailer I’d intended to post on Amazon and Goodreads.

A picture containing text, book

Description automatically generated

I started over at square one.

I was fortunate to know of a site with rights-free images. After pouring through them, I found a dozen that I thought represented parts of my book. By organizing them logically, I got enough of a storyline to think of a sentence for each. I wrote up a quick script for a narrator and remembered to include a sentence about going to my web site for more information.

Although I could have recorded the lines myself, I knew someone with a cinematic voice. He recorded the lines. A quick search gave me rights-free music to run under the video and narrator.

In searching for images, I’d found enough that related to each book that it was simpler to divide and organize them all at the same time. With a day’s effort, I had not one but two book trailers.

or

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/9cdgC9k_wO4″ frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

AND

I don’t know whether more people will match with my book because of the trailer. I hope that those interested in dystopian zombie sci-fi find it fun.

Visit Amazon to purchase Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome, the first book of the Plague Master series, followed by Plague Master: Rebel Infection.

PRAISE FOR
PLAGUE MASTER: SANCTUARY DOME

“A perfect mix of classic sci-fi and zombie horror. Once you start, you are hooked!”

-Jake Bible, author of Little Dead Man.

Sanctuary Dome is fast-paced zombie sci-fi on a prison planet of the dying and the undead.”

-Stephen North, author of Beneath the Mask

In my middle-grade chapter book, The Right Hand of Velachaz, the twelve-year-old hero asks his companions a question that no one else seems to have considered…if dragons are intelligent, why not talk to them before attacking with sharp pointy things? Taking the time to do that winds up saving the day.

Similarly, in Mutiny on the Moonbeam, one of the most misunderstood characters in the story proves key to the final resolution because our heroine bothers to be kind to her. Who is this mysterious creature? 

The spider Queen Mab.

Mab is seen, when we first meet her, to be a fearsome, untrustworthy menace good only for supplying the silk to mend the pirates’ sails. She is locked in a crate when not working so that she will not hurt Branwyn—though to be fair, the elves do like to keep people in cages—and considered to be dangerous and insane.

When Branwyn bothers to be kind to her, however, she finds companionship behind Mab’s behavior, and learns that there is intelligence and wisdom behind those multi-faceted eyes. 

Johnny is shocked to find she can talk—but no one had ever bothered to ask before. And the story she tells is heartbreaking. 

The spider is the last of her family on the ship. Her children were all taken from her—it’s enough to drive anyone mad! But when Bran, and then Johnny, actually listen to her, they find an entirely different creature than they had originally surmised.

This lesson of taking time to listen, of learning to accept and adapt to new circumstances is something I like to come back to time and again in my work. It is a lesson that serves all of us well.

Mutiny On The Moonbeam

From the moment I conceived the idea of Mutiny on the Moonbeam, I knew my pirates would be elves. This is not the usual profession for those enigmatic beings, and that’s part of the fun.

Aidrian is a bored aristocrat who wanted to go off and have adventures. While he could just as easily been a human lord, it seemed to me that adding the fey component gave me a lot to play with. The enmity between the elves and the fairies speaks to a common history that is outside the human realm.

There is a song by the Corsairs called Pirate’s Life that outlines a pirate code of conduct. This was one of my key references in creating Aidrian’s code. However, I picture the elves making some adjustments:

The Pirate Code (with Elven Amendments)

  1. We accept no man as master, lord, or king.  (or woman as Queen for that matter!)
  2. We call no place home. 
  3. We take what we want. (Pate will take care of paying)
  4. We speak truth in all things. (within moderation)
  5. Captains drink rum (brandy); ale (wine) for the crew.
  6. We live every day like it might be our last.
  7. We allow every man an equal vote. (But the Captain has final say)
  8. We allow no woman aboard the ship. (Except the fae, of course.)
  9. We give Quarter when craved in time of Engagement.
  10. He that may be Drunk in time of Engagement shall suffer what Punishment the Captain thinks fit.
  11. The Captain and Quartermaster shall each receive two shares of a prize, the Master Gunner and Boatswain, one and one half shares, all other Officers one and one quarter, and private gentlemen of fortune one share each.

The bottom line is that the elves are mostly playing at piracy. They are not out to hurt anyone, though they might steal a cargo or two. But even that goes against the laws of the Elven Court, and this is what gets them in trouble.

MoonerIt’s become a fact of life that fear follows you as a woman. Fear of safety, fear of getting
something wrong, fear of misinterpretation, fear of being labeled, fear of failure (because it can follow, because it could feasibly affect everything else you do forever), just plain fear.

I grew up well aware of my place in the world as a child, as a girl, then as a teen, and a woman, that at any given point something could happen that could upset the apple cart forever. Horror movies and stories only amplified it.
And yet they still intrigued me. There was something about monsters, about dark urban legends, about the horror genre that felt subversive. At some point, instead of focusing on being perpetually afraid, I started focusing on the things causing the fear. I favor paranormal, because that usually serves up some amazing metaphors, and I like the distance provided between it and everyday life. I love exploring why characters might do the things they do, love terrorizing them with some well-placed machinations. I also love that nothing is easy – a lot of the time, the things that set off the moments that my characters consider life-ruining very well happen in part because of them. It’s a great avenue to explore characters and creepy creatures alike, as well as take a look at some really complex situations without the burden of trying to figure them out.

And if I manage to scare the hell out of some people in the meantime? So much the better.


About the Author: Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little when she wondered if fairies lived in the nearby state park and worried that vampires hid in the old barns outside of town. Her appreciation for a good story was enhanced by a love of reading, the many talented storytellers that surrounded her, and a healthy curiosity for everything. A talent for warping everything she learned didn’t hurt, either. Everything she does feeds the idea machine and she often finds a story in the strangest of places. She gravitates to writing fantasy and horror but will give any genre a chance if the idea is good enough. Her work has appeared in the winter 2012 issue of The MacGuffin, issue three and five of The Realm Beyond, and the back to school issue of Stories for Children Magazine. She has also contributed to multiple anthologies including The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil, the upcoming Thunder on the Battlefield, and the upcoming Bedtime Stories for Girls. She has multiple e-books with Mocha Memoirs Press, including Holly and Ivy and The Other Man. Olde School, the first book in The Kingdom City Chronicles will be out later this year with Seventh Star Press. Catch up with Selah in the following places:Blog – www.selahjanel.wordpress.comFacebook – www.facebook.com/authorSJTwitter – www.twitter.com/SelahJanelGoodreads – www.goodreads.com/selahjanel


 

 

The first of the new year brings us the beginning of something great. Mocha Memoirs Press and horror author, Sumiko Saulson, have come together to celebrate African American women’s contribution to horror as well as Women in Horror Month.

We’re looking for 20 short horror stories between 3,500 and 5,500 words in length, by black women who write horror. This anthology is in association with 60 Black Women in Horror’s upcoming update, 100 Black Women in Horror, so if you aren’t already part of the Black Women in Horror project, please include a 50 word bio and a photo to be added to it, along with your submission. Continue reading “Open Call: Black Magic Women Anthology”