Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Monday, February 29, 2016

Women in Horror Month #19: Renee Pickup, Senior Editor at "Dirge Magazine"

They say to save the best for last.  But they also say to march to the beat of your own drummer, so I'm ignoring that advice and bringing you today's guest last instead.  *rimshot*

In all seriousness, though, Renee is one of my favorite new people I've met since starting this writing career.  I first appeared on her (sadly) defunct podcast, "Books and Booze," the purpose of which was (I'm not shitting you) to get drunk and talk about books.  Since then she's become my go-to person (after my sister) for confusing questions about feminist theory.  And she also let me slaughter her entire family in my forthcoming novel.

So I'm very pleased to introduce to you all the one, the only, Renee Asher Pickup.

About Renee Asher Pickup:

Renee Asher Pickup is a mellowed out punk rocker living in Southern California. She is senior editor at Dirge Magazine, class facilitator at LitReactor, and is one of the hosts of the Unprintable Podcast. Renee writes fiction about bad things happening to flawed people and stands by the statement that "From Dusk Till Dawn" changed her life.

You can find her on the "Dirge" website, her own website, and Twitter (where she often livetweets horror movies/horrible movies/action movies):


SK:  What are your horror bona fides?

RAP:  No one told me there was going to be a test! I write and edit for "Dirge Magazine," which has a bit of a reputation as a horror magazine, though we focus on a lot of other stuff, people seem to really enjoy our commentary on the horror culture and the dark things that often go hand in hand with it. Also, I'm a life long horror fan and know so much about "The Exorcist" it makes people uncomfortable.

SK:  Who or what terrifies you?

RAP:  Cockroaches and ventriloquist dummies, mostly. On a more serious note (though my phobias of roaches and dummies are super serious), people scare me. It's incredible to me that humans are capable of so much good, and so much despicable evil. I think that's why I find horror that focuses on the human reaction more captivating than the average monster movie (though B Movies will always have a place in my heart).

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

RAP:  I think I have been very lucky in building a network full of really amazing people. I don't find that I hit a lot of gender-based bullshit, but I can't dismiss it as a real problem because unfortunately a lot of women I know personally do face it. Mostly I only encounter the run-of-the-mill awfulness that any woman with a social media presence has to face. I did recently discover that responding to unwanted advances via social media with photos of Danny Trejo was a great way to deal.

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

RAP:  Vampira! The Bride of Frankenstein! I love the women who stuck it out and made it worthwhile to watch horror when everyone was still so terrified of pussy that a smoking hot woman like Vampira could be the villain just for being smoking hot. 

Also, Mercedes McCambridge, the woman behind the voice of Pazuzu, in "The Exorcist," one of my all-time favorite horror films. The work that woman put into embracing and projecting pure evil is awe-inspiring. They really don't make movies like "The Exorcist" anymore, and that may very well be because they don't make actresses like Mercedes anymore.

SK:  What are you working on currently? Why should folks check it out?

RAP:  I just finished another true crime piece for "Dirge Magazine" which should be up around Valentine's Day. As I mentioned above, people scare the shit out of me - and it's most often people's responses to the scary stuff that's the most frightening. If you want to get an up close and uncomfortable look at how sex influences the way we view a human's right to live or die - check out my piece on Jodi Arias. Or, if serial killers are more your thing, and you haven't checked it out yet, my piece on Ted Bundy is a favorite.

About "Dirge:"

"Dirge Magazine" is the premier dark culture magazine, covering counterculture arts and entertainment, lifestyle, and editorials.

Sifting through generalized sites for things that fit your dark aesthetic can be tedious, and an abundance of redundant horror sites has created an explosive amount of coverage on a surprisingly narrow range of interests. While we appreciate what they do, we seek to expand beyond horror, into the strange, the subversive, and the beautifully grotesque.

We want "Dirge" to be a place you can come to see things you haven’t seen before, or a fresh take on the dark side of something familiar. A place where news isn’t robo-barfed at you, but rather experiences are shared in a meaningful way.

We reject the ideas of clickbait and garbage journalism. We keep it smart, sexy, and darkly funny.

Join us.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Women in Horror Month #18: Stevie Kopas, Managing Editor of "Horror Metal Sounds" and Author of the BREADWINNER Trilogy

Hey, everybody!  I am just pleased as punch to continue the Women in Horror Month interview series with one of my very favorite women in horror and my good friend, Stevie Kopas!  I've actually interviewed Stevie before on the blog here and even reviewed her debut novel, THE BREADWINNERhere.

Stevie never fails to amuse and, despite rooting for The Seahawks, is actually fairly intelligent, so I was really looking forward to this interview.  And she did not disappoint!  So let's jump right into the introduction and interview.

About Stevie Kopas:

Stevie Kopas was born and raised in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. She is a gamer, a writer and an apocalypse enthusiast. Stevie will never turn down a good cup of coffee and might even be a bit of a caffeine addict.

Stevie is the author of THE BREADWINNER TRILOGY.  Books 1 and 2, THE BREADWINNER and HAVEN were originally self-published in 2013 and 2014.  THE BREADWINNER TRILOGY was picked up by Permuted Press in May of 2014 and the second editions of both the first books were released in March and April of 2015. The third and final installment in THE BREADWINNER TRILOGYALL GOOD THINGS, debuted in May of 2015.

Kopas also participates in the AT HELL'S GATES horror anthologies and all profits are donated to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. Her short stories, "Nefarious" and "Patient 63" can be found in the first two volumes of AT HELL'S GATES.

She currently resides in Panama City Beach, Florida and tries to spend as much time as she can in the sun.

Stevie is also the Managing Editor of the website Horror Metal Sounds and a writer for the site. She is an avid reader of horror and post-apocalyptic fiction (especially zom-poc) and reviews for The Bookie Monster. Offline, Stevie is a telecommunications professional.

You can connect with her on her official websiteFacebook, and Twitter.


SK: What are your horror bona fides?

SK:  I wrote these zombie books once, THE BREADWINNER TRILOGY. Then I wrote some scary stories for a charity anthology, AT HELL'S GATES. People might have heard of them. ;)

SK:  Who or what terrifies you?

SK:  Pustules... and answering interview questions with inside jokes.

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

SK:  I guess a unique challenge would be that women still get asked questions like this.

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

SK:  Ellen Ripley. So she's not real, but she's one of the single most important characters in horror, imo.

SK:  What are you working on currently? Why should folks check it out?

SK:  I was working on a science fiction novel, but I got bored. So now I'm back in horror. I'm working on a short story about a killer video game, a collection of zombie fiction, and hopefully my next novel about abduction and isolation will be complete by end of year. People should check them out because I think they'll be quite pleased.


The end of the world is not glamorous.

In a matter of days the human race was reduced to nothing more than vicious, flesh hungry creatures.

Criminal defense attorney, Samson, struggles to keep his family safe and his sanity intact when the world comes apart at the seams. Veronica, the high school track star, races to get her brother out of their doomed city. Ben, a military veteran, is forced to come to grips with the end of the world as he fights the undead. Andrew, a police officer, struggles to maintain some sort of humanity in a world overrun by death and destruction.

There are no heroes here, just survivors, and they all have one thing in common: who you once were can no longer determine who you will be in the face of catastrophe.

THE BREADWINNER, book 1 in THE BREADWINNER TRILOGY, thrusts you head first into post-apocalyptic Northwest Florida and will leave you craving more.

It's available on AmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwordsKobo, and can be discussed on Goodreads.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Women in Horror Month #17: Vanessa Ionta Wright, Writer and Executive Producer of "Rainy Season"

The Women in Horror Month interview series is winding to a close.  That means that some of my scheduling concerns and quirks are going to start coming out.

You may remember waaaaay back on February 9, I featured Samantha Kolesnik, the producer of the short film "Rainy Season" (based on the short story by Stephen King.)  Well, now I can finally reveal that Samantha did not come on the blog alone.  She also brought someone with her.  Someone...dark.  And twisted.  And...

But perhaps I've already said too much!!!

About Vanessa Ionta Wright:

You can follow Vanessa on her YouTube channel.  You can also see what she's working on and some teaser trailers for her projects at her website.


SK: What are your horror bona fides? Who have you scared?

VIW:  My scripts have done well in festivals, being a finalist 2 years in a row at Shriekfest Horror Film Festival in Los Angeles, 2014 & 2015, and official selection at The 2015 Indie Horror Fest in Chicago and the 2015 Northeast Horror Fest.
Who have I scared fictitiously or in reality?  I am an unpublished writer and this is my first film, however I think I've caused the hair to stand on several necks.  I have written several short thrillers that are a part of an anthology called "The Time Changer".  I am also developing a series for the small screen called "Phobic".  I am also developing a suspense/thriller feature called "Captain Midnight".  In reality I have scared just about everyone in my life, I enjoy hiding and jumping out at people when they least expect poor children.

SK:  Who or what terrifies you?

VIW:  You might expect me to say clowns or the boogeyman, but the thing that scares me the most is time.  It tortures me!  There is no stopping it and there is no end.  It is out of our control and it steals from us.  And the crazy thing is that time is nothing more than a perception created by us to keep some sort of measure.  That sounds insane.  I am also afraid of spiders.

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

VIW:  I think there are some challenges, it is a heavily male-dominated genre and industry, but women have made huge strides and have proven time and time again that we are more than capable of creating amazing works of cinema.  I look at being in the minority or the underdog as a good thing.  I think the work means more when you have something to prove.  Does that sound right?  I guess what I mean, is that I like a challenge and I like changing others opinions...I like making waves and getting people talking.  If I can scare them along the way, all the better.

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

VIW: that I just learned about, actually, a pioneer filmmaker, Ida Lupino who directed "The Hitch-Hiker" in 1953.  A total ground breaker in many ways.  Jennifer Kent writer/director of "The Babadook," I thought this was a great film, beautifully scary.  She is an amazing storyteller.  There were no cheap thrills, she created a chilling, and isolated landscape...and my god the colors!  beautiful film.  Also, Mary Lambert, director of "Pet Semetary," she did a great job bringing King's work alive on screen.  As far as performances...Jamie Lee Curtis kills it in "Halloween," loved Shelley Duvall in "The Shining," Glenn Close scared the crap out of me in "Fatal Attraction," and Kathy Bates in "Misery"...I could actually make a pretty long list here, but I'll stop.  next question.

SK:  What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

VIW:  I am currently working on an adaptation of "Rainy Season" based on the short story by Stephen King.  I am the writer/executive producer of the film.  It is a terrifying tale of sacrifice and I have had a great time adapting it for the screen.  I have assembled an amazing cast and crew consisting of director Grant McGowen, cinematographer Mark Simon, producers Stephanie Wyatt & Samantha Kolesnik and actors Tyner Rushing, Brian Ashton Smith, Amber Germain & Alpha Trivette.  We will be filming in Senoia, GA at the very location where they shot the film "Lawless" starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, and Shia LaBeouf.  This film is not able to be distributed per Stephen King's contract, but it is eligible for festival use.  We want to utilize this platform to showcase our abilities and talents as filmmakers and performers.  We can't do it alone which is why we are trying to get publicity and support. 

About "Rainy Season:"

when it rains...they pour

We have been trying to blow up the internet with this! A quick background on this film. I secured the non-exclusive rights to Stephen King's "Rainy Season" through his dollar babies program. We have 1 year to adapt the the story and shoot the film. I wrote the script this fall and we are set to shoot this Spring once we raise our $30k budget. I have also been posting a micro-short daily called "Fun With King" to drive traffic, and just to entertain. those can be seen on my YouTube channel.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Women in Horror Month #16: C.A. Hoaks, Author of TERROR IN TEXAS

Welcome back, everyone, to the Manuscripts Burns Women in Horror Month Interview Series.  Today we have a special treat: serialist C.A. Hoaks, author of the hugely popular TORN APART horror web serial.  Let's jump right in and meet the author.

About C.A. Hoaks:

I spent the last twenty years working as a Technical Writer for some of the largest technology and energy companies in Houston, Texas.  Now retired, I am devoting my writing skills and time to my passion, fiction writing. Being creative in a variety of ways has always been a part of my life.

I studied art at Glassell Contemporary Art School a few years ago since being creative included visual art as well as my interest in the writing fiction.  I work in a variety of mediums including Krylon, pastels, oil, acrylic and fabric.  I can stitch up a traditional quilt in no time…and design a book cover as well. I create new and interesting art through original paintings and image manipulation using and Picasa.

A life-long love of the written word and reading voraciously has provided a solid foundation for my fiction writing.   I have been involved in Houston area writer’s groups for over 30 years. I have been published in a number of on-line articles, editorials, and special interest newsletter.  As a founding member of the Houston Writer’s League, I organized and coordinated their first national writer’s conference.

Reading THE STAND by Stephen King was a life-changing read for me.  It really initiated my interest in the “end of the world as we know it” and “monsters in the dark”.  What better way to explore that genre than with the undead rising up to prey on the living?  I love writing about people caught up in a terrible situation and how they face the good, bad, and ugliness of a world gone wrong.

My latest efforts have been on a horror series set in Texas.  The TORN APART series explores the end of life as we know it after a terrorist attack that went terribly wrong.  Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS will be released in April 2016. I am currently editing the second book in the series.

You can find her on her website and Facebook.


SK:  What are your horror bona fides?

CH:  I worked as a technical writer for years documenting Information Technology Systems, Development Projects and creating a variety of procedural and process documents.  I am now working full time writing fiction.  I created a website nine months ago to use as a point of exposure for my latest project and have developed quite a following. In less than a year, I have followers asking when the next chapter and/or books will be published.

SK:  Who or what terrifies you?

CH:  Snakes and rats are the things that really terrify me.  They haven’t come up in my novels yet, but they could appear in the TORN APART series at some point. Take away man and the cities will quickly become overrun with rats.  As for snakes…in Texas we have a rattlesnake roundup once a year.

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

CH:  I think being a woman writing horror provides a slightly different slant.  Men tend to focus on the destruction, blood and gore. I think women tend to bring in more of the human interaction into the writing.  It’s not so much the mayhem or the gore but how people deal with whatever it is.  Women naturally focus more on survival and protecting the young.  Men tend to go for the shock value while women focus on how the victims, bystanders, or observers handle the horror. Women want a solution and I think it comes out in the stories.

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

CH:  Mary Shelley.  She wrote FRANKENSTEIN when women were not ever considered writers much less horror writers. My modern day female favorite author is Anne Rice.  Who can ever forget a vampire that was so terrifyingly appealing? And then there are witches…oh my!

SK:  What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

CH:  I am offering my 1st book in the TORN APART series online for free.  An updated TERROR IN TEXAS will be released as an e-book and in print in April 2016. 

The TORN APART series provides readers with a tale about what happens when a biological attack on US soil spreads anarchy and death. Adding to the confusion, the dead reanimate and attack the living.  Unlikely heroes amid the chaos are a young mother, a disabled veteran, and a hopeless alcoholic. Who will escape San Antonio to see friends and loved ones again? Will the infection sweep over the entire nation? It’s a race for safety and not all will survive.


TERROR IN TEXAS is the first part of the online serial TORN APART.  An army of reanimated dead prey on the survivors of a terrorist attack.  Check it out now for free!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Women in Horror Month #15: Rebecca Snow, Short Story Writer

Not every tale of the macabre needs to be novel-length.  Writing a compelling horror short is an entirely different discipline from unspooling a 100,000 word nightmare - one might even call it harder.  So I'm delighted today to introduce as our next guest for Women in Horror Month Rebecca Snow, who, following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Shirley Jackson and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, has focused her attention on short form horror to date.  Let's meet her now.  

About Rebecca Snow:

Rebecca Snow has been writing for almost as long as she can remember. She has a story on tattered notebook paper written with a shaky 5 year old hand about a haunted house. Her cats think she’s amazing as long as they get their food and don’t end up in too many of her stories.

You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and her website.


SK:  What are your horror bona fides?

RS:  As far as professional horror bona fides go, I’ve had more than 50 short stories published in small press anthologies and online. But if you ask my family, I’ve been scary since I was born. I love giving people that creepy feeling you get when walking through a dark yard from the car to the house. What was that noise? Is there something watching you from the bushes? Will you make it without having to run for your life?

SK:  Who or what terrifies you?

RS:  Not many things frighten me because I know that whatever happens, I’ll get through it….or I won’t. Not much I can do about it one way or the other, so why be scared of it? It’s all perspective.

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

RS:  A bevy of strong women raised me. They taught me that I could be anything and do anything. I’ve never looked at gender as an issue in any aspect of my life. I feel more of a gender gap in the way people look at me when I go into an auto parts store until they find out I know what I need than when I write.

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

RS:  I adore Wednesday and Morticia Addams. Their characters relished in being who they were, not in fitting into any mold that society perceived as normal.

SK:  What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

RS:  At the moment, I’m working on some short stories with various subjects. I’m editing a novel that’s been on the back burner for 5 years. And I’m putting together a photo serial that’s been in my head for 3 years. As for why folks should check it out, c’mon, it’ll be fun!

About Rebecca's Work:

Rebecca's work has appeared in such recent collections as 31 NIGHTS OF HALLOWEEN, THE LAST DINER, and A QUICK BITE OF FLESH.  For a look at some of the rest of her bibliography, check out Amazon.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Women in Horror Month #14: J.L. Murray, Author of BLOOD DAY

Er, so, when I put out a call for women in horror to join me on the blog this month, I was expecting a few of the usual suspects, maybe one or two of the lurkers on my friends list who don't normally chime in, something like that.  I was not expecting the plethora of big names that have graciously stepped up to appear.  And about the time when I knew something really special was going on was when today's guest's publicist reached out to me.

So, yeah, now I'm fielding calls left and right from agents, publicists, studio execs, all kinds of Hollywood people, all the while trying not to become the kind of phony Holden Caulfield would look down on while wearing a giant, oversized pair of Hunter S. Thompson glasses.  (And if you believe any of that, I have a bridge to sell you in New York...)  But the upshot of it is that highly prolific and famous author J.L. Murray has joined me in my humble abode for the day.  Let's get to know her, shall we?

About J.L. Murray:


Murray is a firm believer that horror can be beautiful, and that good and evil are very far from black and white. She lives with her family in Eugene, Oregon and can be reached through her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon.


SK:  What are your horror bona fides?

JLM:  Thank you for having me. I'm J.L. Murray and I write dark fantasy, mostly, but most of it is so dark that it's considered horror.  THE NIKI SLOBODIAN SERIES was my first toe in the water (BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEATHE DEVIL IS A GENTLEMANBEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEADTHE DEVIL WAS AN ANGEL, and THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE.)  My AFTER THE FIRE series has some true terrors in it, but it's more fantasy than horror.  THE THIRTEEN SERIES (JENNY UNDEADEAT THE ONES YOU LOVE) is my first true horror series, set in the POV of the monsters (monsters have feelings, too!). Soon after, I published BLOOD DAY about a world run by Nosferatu-type vampires. I go back and forth between fantasy/sci-fi and horror, but mostly I squash them all up together.

SK:  Who or what terrifies you?

JLM:  People who think their rights are more important or more relevant than the rights of others. Being stuck in a theater that's playing a romantic comedy. Cockroaches. Running shorts. Ice cream socials.

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

JLM:  There are many challenges to being a woman in this genre. I've actually been shocked by the amount of people that assume I write romance because I'm a woman. It's especially awkward when other women complain that my books aren't romantic. They're really not. I tend to have especially violent and dark plots with (usually!) a lot of blood and guts. It's weird to get “compliments” saying I write like a man. I don't. I write like myself. 

I'm also often irritated that my books are considered feminist because I often write about strong women. I consider myself a feminist, but to put a label like that on a book is silly. Books are stories, and I tell the story that needs to be told. The fact that it's about a woman should make absolutely no difference.

Not being taken seriously, though, just because of my biological makeup is the most challenging of all. My pen name is J.L. Murray, and I actually, in the beginning, thought of not disclosing my gender. But then I thought about it and decided, “if you're going to judge a writer on gender, then I don't want you to read my books.” I write about monsters, both human and otherwise. I write horror and suspense and mystery. I am also a woman. These things can go hand in hand because I'm an individual.

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

JLM:  I know she's not technically considered horror, but Margaret Atwood kills it with her imagery. ORYX AND CRAKE specifically was mind blowing to me. She goes so deep that the horror elements jump into your soul and hang on for a very long time. Obviously Mary Shelley, because she was amazing. And when I was in college, I read “The Company of Wolves” by Angela Carter, which completely changed the way I thought about writing. If you haven't read it, I insist you go looking for it. It's strange and dark and not at all like the Little Red Riding Hood you remember.

SK:  What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

My newest release is BLOOD DAY. It's a sort of dystopic gothic horror about vampires taking over the world. Everyone has to donate blood on their assigned blood day, and if you can imagine, people are not very happy about it. It's also about how good people can turn bitter and monstrous in the face of horrible adversity. It's very dark, maybe my darkest to date.

Currently, the book I'm writing is a time travel book. Sort of. It's equal parts noir, horror, beauty, and even a little bit of love (Heaven forfend!). I actually started it because my fans kept asking for a love story. But I kept adding things like vodou, gods, time traveling mobsters, and sentient nebula and it became something quite different. I think my readers will be pleased. It's not nearly as dark as BLOOD DAY, and it's a whole lot of fun. I'll be sad when I have to let it go because I'm having such a good time hanging out with the characters.

After this, I will be returning to my roots and starting a new Urban Fantasy series called BLOOD OF CAIN, about a woman that has to fight her way to redemption by murdering serial killers. So, you know. Just your typical female stuff. 



The lights went out and the streets ran with blood. When the power came back on, the monsters were in charge. And the children were missing.

When the Reverents take over, they force humans to donate blood to feed their insatiable hunger. They overthrow governments and take away the music, television, and free will. The very meaning of humanity is about to change. But four people from completely different walks of life are about to deal the Reverents a blow that might rock the world to its foundations.

Sia, a classical musician, who wakes up in an experimental hospital. Mike, a journalist with a past, who finds himself on the run. Viv, a doctor who has lost everything: her job, her house, even her son. And then there is Joshua Flynn, a Reverent with a grudge, who wants to shatter what the other monsters have build into a million pieces. 

The players are cast.

But who will survive?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Women in Horror Month #13: Tonia Brown, Author of SKIN TRADE

Today's guest needs no introduction.

About Tonia Brown:

Tonia Brown is a southern author with a penchant for Victorian dead things. She is the author of BADASS ZOMBIE ROAD TRIP, LUCKY STIFF, RAILROAD, and many others. She lives in the backwoods of North Carolina with her genius husband and an ever fluctuating number of cats. She likes fudgesicles and coffee, though not always together. When not writing she raises unicorns and fights crime with her husband under the code names Dr. Weird and his sexy sidekick Butternut.

You can find out more about her on Twitter, her professional Facebook, her personal Facebook, or her website.


SK:  What are your horror bona fides?

TB:  This immediately made me think of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?

"He’s bona fide!"

"Do not seek the treasure…"

"I don’t want Fop, goddamn it! I’m a Dapper Dan man!"

Oh, sorry, I am easily distracted by shiny things. Though, to be fair to me, you don’t hear the word bona fide often. I don’t know if I have bona fides. Sounds like an infection. Like, I got the bona fides and now I have to take these antibiotics. Well, I suppose my bona fides are a couple of novels, a couple of stories, and a couple of other projects.

Okay, okay, in all seriousness (and this is really hard for me as you know) I am the author of the heeeeelarious BADASS ZOMBIE ROAD TRIP, the horrific SKIN TRADE series, the severely depressing DEVOURING MILO, and the zombie sex fest known as LUCKY STIFF. I have some short stories in various anthologies such as the recently released FRIGHT MARE: WOMEN WRITE HORROR edited by Billie Sue Mosiman. I also write a crap ton of other genres, but I enjoy horror almost as much as humor. I am currently penning a terrible web serial, but we will get to that later. *whispers* I read ahead in the questions… wait… a head… ahead... a head… ahead! Definitely ahead.

SK:  Who or what terrifies you?

TB:  Aw, geesh, several different things scare the poopies out of me. On a very realistic level, I am terrified of responsibility. I try to dodge it when I can. It’s not that I am not a responsible person, I just don’t want to be responsible. It’s not the doing, it’s the fucking up. I think at the heart, what I am really afraid of is disappointing people. Wow, that was like a super revelation.

I am also scared of spontaneous human combustion. That shit is no joke. One minute you’re relaxing in the bed with a cigarette or on walking down the beach with a pocketful of fireworks or sleeping far too close to the fireplace or napping next to a frayed wire in the wall and voom! You go up in unexplainable flames! It’s horrifying!

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

TB:  I know the poor thing is old and rotten to the point of being nothing but a husk of a horse, but get out your paddles because we are going to do this thing. I sincerely believe that folks are swayed by the thought that a woman wrote the novel. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have things like Women in Horror Month. Hit the corpse of the horse harder, damn you! I think most folks don’t mean to let it flavor their opinion. But, and bear with me here as I smack that deceased Equus caballus, I think there are a handful of folks, both male and female, who look at the author’s name and think, “Ah, crap. This horror novel was written by a lady with gross lady parts. She probably wrote it with her gross lady parts, too. That means it’s going to be full of feeeeeeelings and roooomance and kisses and junk. Not for me!” (imagine them tossing the book to the floor and moving onto the next book, then imagine them getting arrested for roughing up bookstore property… yesh! Justice!)

Just for the record, I have never written a novel with my vagina.

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

TB:  Sigourney Weaver is one of my faves as far as actresses in horror. She made running from a terrifying face eating space monster the most badassiest thing in the history of evah. I also have to give props to the scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. Then there are those incredible directors, the Soska twins. Twins, Basil! Those ladies know what they are doing and they do it so good.

In the written word, I am a huge fan of Shirley Jackson and Anne Rice. I slobber over anything that Ellen Datlow gets together in anthology form. Oh! I mean I highly respect her opinions. (And totally slobber…) I have a lot of contemporary peeps I respect and would like to give mad props to as well, but I will stop myself before this becomes a ten page shout out list. You ladies know you all rock!

SK:  What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

TB:  I am currently writing the third novel of the SKIN TRADE series. It’s slow going.

Aaaaaand I am also erratically turning out a new web serial, "Dick of the Dead." It’s awful. No, seriously. It’s sexist and offensive and generally terrible. Not badly written, it’s just offensive. And hilarious. (if you haven’t figured it out, that’s the whole idea…) Weird I should bring this up during Women in Horror month, because the protagonist, Dick, is the last man alive amongst a world full of zombie women. And Dick is oh so true to his name. It’s written in a loose journal format, following Dick around the US as he tries to stay alive. All zombie women want him, all men want to be him. Well, the men used to want to be him before they died. I should really call the series "Don’t Read This Offensive Shit Because You Will Get Offended and Stuff."

Here’s the link if you want to read it. Forget everything I said before, you should totally read it!


The Great Undead Uprising of 1870 devastated the western frontier and destroyed the Indian Nations. Though the Army was able to contain the menace before it could devour the entire country, the United States lost claim to her western territories as the survivors fled to the relative safety of the east coast.

Samantha Martin is among the rare folks traveling west, seeking asylum within the infected territories. Running from a past that threatens to consume her, the young Sam dons the mantle of a male and hides in an all boys’ workhouse that borders these Badlands. From there she is thrust into the service of the skin trade; the terrible deed of trapping and skinning zombies for profit. The work is grueling and perilous, but along the way she finds out what it takes to be a man, why she misses being a woman, but most of all she learns what it means to be human.

Can Sam keep her masquerade up long enough to flee the Badlands, or will the outlaws that rule the western frontier find out she’s female before she can escape?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Women in Horror Month #12: Trista M. Borgwardt, Reviewer and Author of THE TEMPIE ROSENTHAL SERIES

Welcome back, my friends, to the Manuscripts Burn Women in Horror Month Interview Series!

Trista M. Borgwardt is a prolific reviewer and a huge supporter of the indie horror community.  She's also an author of some truly macabre tales in her own right.  You can imagine my surprise this past Christmas morning when I woke up to a severed rabbit's foot in my stocking...along with copies of RABBIT'S FEET and POLARITY.  Ho ho ho to me!

But let's not waste any more time and jump right into the introduction and interview.

About Trista M. Borgwardt:

Trista is an avid writer who was born, raised and still resides in South Dakota with her family. She has two wonderful boys, a devoted significant other, 2 cats, and 2 dogs. In addition, she is passionate about helping others and currently works in the health care field as a registered nurse.  Trista currently writes supernatural horror novels, including RABBIT'S FEET and POLARITY, the first and second in THE TEMPIE ROSENTHAL SERIES.

You can follow her on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.  You can also now subscribe to her blog.


SK:  What are your horror bona fides?

TMB:  My horror bona fides have to include Stephen King. That man’s creations are seriously sick and twisted in a very horrific way. I grew up reading his books and many of his characters are utterly terrifying. His imagination works in a way no others can and I have always been impressed.

SK:  Who or what terrifies you?

TMB:  Honestly, it’s not the made up monsters that scare me. It’s what human beings are capable of doing to each other and to animals. I’m a huge animal lover and all the animal abuse stories terrify me. How a human being could be capable of inflicting that level of torture and pain on innocent beings is scary.

Bridges….those also terrify me…especially the thought of driving on a ‘floating’ bridge.  

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

TMB:  I always thought gender was irrelevant until I started answering these questions and I realized, I have not read many women horror authors. I have decided that I need to rectify this situation ASAP. I think my list of women horror authors include Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton. So, yes, after re-evaluating the situation, I do think that woman are not as well known in horror, but that’s not because they are not as gory, or horrific as men. They most certainly are just as terrifying as men, sometimes even more so.

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

TMB:  Unfortunately, I am sad to say that I don’t have any. This is also a problem that I will need to rectify.

SK:  What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

TMB:  I’m working on the third book for my supernatural/horror series, THE TEMPIE ROSENTHAL SERIES. I’m also working on several short horror stories which I plan to put into an anthology.

I also love to read and review books, (especially supernatural and horror books). So, if you are an author that would like me to read and review your book, please submit it through my website.



Tempie is an exceptional high school student with an amazing boyfriend and best friend; a life everyone dreams of having. Living carefree among the sands of Hawaii, she has a compassionate side to rival any other. After a gruesome personal loss, she flees to South Dakota in search of a safe haven.

However, Tempie’s new home is not as she expected. As she settles in, she is intrigued by an alluring stranger and terrorized by a dark and vile fiend. She must fight an emotional internal battle while fighting outwardly with a tenacious enemy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Women in Horror Month #11: Chantal Noordeloos, Author of ANGEL MANOR

I've talked briefly (or, more likely, at length) on the blog before about the pleasures and perqs of being part of the horror community.  One of those perqs is that if there's a horror type I'm interested in getting to know, I'm not really afraid to approach them on social media or in real life because we usually have dozens of mutual friends.

That's exactly what happened with today's guest.  I kept hearing everyone talking about "Chantal Noordeloos this" and "Chantal Noordeloos that" and finally I decided I just had to friend her on Facebook.  And it's been quite a whirlwind ride ever since.  And because I am a river to my people, you, dear blog readers, are now going to be treated to but a mere tip of the iceberg that is knowing Chantal with our next Women in Horror Month interview.  Enjoy!

About Chantal Noordeloos:

Chantal Noordeloos lives in the Netherlands, where she spends her time with her wacky, supportive husband, and outrageously cunning daughter, who is growing up to be a supervillain. When she is not busy exploring interesting new realities, or arguing with characters (aka writing), she likes to dabble in drawing.

In 1999 she graduated from the Norwich School of Art and Design, where she focused mostly on creative writing.

There are many genres that Chantal likes to explore in her writing. Currently sci-fi steampunk is one of her favourites, but her 'go to' genre will always be horror. "It helps being scared of everything; that gives me plenty of inspiration," she says.

Chantal likes to write for all ages, and storytelling is the element of writing that she enjoys most.  "Writing should be an escape from everyday life, and I like to provide people with new places to escape to, and new people to meet."

You can follow her on Amazon, her website, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.


SK:  What are your horror bona fides?

CN:  *points with wide eyes* Look over there!!! *runs away*

Sorry… that was my very subtle and mature way of saying… I don’t think I have any. Don’t get me wrong, I respect a lot of horror writers. Clive Barker, for example, is an excellent author… but I’ve read about one book and maybe three novellas/shorts by the man, so I can’t really call him my ‘authorly hero,' can I? It’s not like I have a little shrine with his image on it, like I do for Neil Gaiman… wait… what? Who said that?

As a young pup I used to read a lot of John Saul. And as much as I enjoyed his work, he’s an author of my past, not one that I have strong fuzzy feelings for right now. I don’t pray to him, like I pray to Pratchett…. I mean… eh…

All kidding aside. As much as I love horror, I don’t really have any great examples in the genre. There are some excellent books out there. I really recommend people to look into some of the small press/ or indie writers in horror, since that’s where some of the most spectacular hidden gems can be found.

SK:  Who or what terrifies you?

CN:  I’m scared of everything. It’s nothing short of ironic that I write horror stories. Part of me thinks that’s why I write horror… I’m really good at being afraid. 

I’m a real hero at 3 in the morning, when I have to go to the bathroom. You know… when you accidentally catch a glimpse of something moving in the corner of your eye, which turns out to be your own image in the darkened bathroom mirror, and you start wondering how you would react if you saw your own face change? It’s moments like that where I’m most inspired to write horror stories.

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

CN:  …

Wow… that just got all serious, didn’t it?

See this is where I would love to laugh and say ‘no.’ In fairness, when I’m writing I don’t feel any difference. And I’m quite lucky that I am surrounded by a lot of amazing people, who appreciate me for my work, and not my ‘feminine parts.’

But… (and these are not the type of big but(t)s I like)… there are challenges. Still too many people are gender biased within certain genres (it’s not horror alone, and I’m sure guys suffer in romance a bit too, so I’m not trying to make women look like victims here… we’re not, we’re tough cookies.) Horror is definitely one of them. It’s not as bad as science fiction (which I also write,) the genre that seems to be the king of misogyny, but it can still be pretty bad. At least in horror our peers tend to stick up for us.

I have had people tell me to my face (well, my internet face) that they refuse to read horror work by a woman. Not just one person either. I’m sure I would get a lot more of this if I wasn’t actively trying to stay away from certain threads and topics. But I have been told that women are just not capable of writing as gruesome as a man. Whoever thinks that… I invite you to read my novel ANGEL MANOR. Please tell me how soft and sweet it is.

It’s not easy finding your place in some of the writing communities as a woman. We are often judged by the most irrelevant things… like our appearance. People have called women in horror many things. We’re judged because we’re not attractive enough, or because we’re too attractive and that means we don’t have talent, but only sell books with our looks (like it works that way *rolls eyes*) If we show any type of sexual confidence, we’re slutty, sad, needy or are trying to hard. If we don’t, we’re prudes that probably don’t dare to go very far in our writing… and thus the perfect example why we shouldn’t be read. 

It’s also more difficult to become seen. Women are often not included in lists of ‘best horror authors’. So many ‘classic top ten’ lists will exclude Mary Shelley, who was one of the founders of the freaking genre. It’s getting better though, and I believe things like ‘Women in Horror Month’ are a big key in helping to get women on the map and acknowledged. 

So, yes… there are challenges, and quite a few, but we’re overcoming them. Slowly, but surely.

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

CN:  Ohhh there are so many to chose from. I really love a good female villain and monster, so I’ll start there!

Samara is one of my absolute favorites. One of the few characters in horror films that still terrifies me. Great character. She’s the perfect ‘creepy little girl’, which happens to be my favorite monster.

Aside from films, I love the urban legend girls, like Bloody Mary, de witte wieven (which are a Dutch myth), and I’m always a fan of the ghostly bride.

SK:  What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

CN:  Well… I promote all my work, of course *winks*. My latest released work is the second story in my EVEN HELL HAS STANDARDS collection, called WRATH. Why should folks check it out? *scratches head* I think it depends on what said ‘folks’ are looking for. The EVEN HELL HAS STANDARDS series is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever written. It’s about real human horror, which can be quite the slap in the face. Not everyone will enjoy that. If you’re looking for ‘lighter’ topics (aka straightforward gore and horror tropes) I would suggest picking up either ANGEL MANOR or DEEPLY TWISTED (which is my short story collection). Coincidentally, the current project I’m working on is the sequel to ANGEL MANOR.


A beautiful house – with a dark and deadly secret. 

When Freya inherits her mother's childhood home, she sees it as an opportunity. A chance for a new life with her best friends, as they convert the crumbling mansion into an exclusive hotel.

Instead, they'll be lucky to escape with their lives.

As the first hammers tear through the bricked up entrances, a dark, terrible and ancient evil stirs beneath the house. An evil that has already laid claim to Freya and her companions' souls.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Women in Horror Month #10: Rhiannon Frater, Author of THE TALE OF THE VAMPIRE BRIDE

I am immensely grateful to today's guest, Rhiannon Frater, a titan in the horror world who is probably the biggest name we've ever had on the blog.  To be frank, she's someone who needs no introduction, so let's just skip right to the bio and interview.

About Rhiannon Frater:

Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of the AS THE WORLD DIES zombie trilogy (Tor) as well as independent works such as THE LAST BASTION OF THE LIVING (declared the #1 Zombie Release of 2012 by Explorations Fantasy Blog and the #1 Zombie Novel of the Decade by B&N Book Blog). She was born and raised in Texas where she currently resides with her husband and furry children (a.k.a pets). She loves scary movies, sci-fi and horror shows, playing video games, cooking, dyeing her hair weird colors, and shopping for Betsey Johnson purses and shoes.

You can find her online at her website, TwitterFacebook, Tumblr, LinkedInGoogle +AmazonGoodreads, Pinterest, or you can e-mail her at rhiannonfrater at


SK:  What are your horror bona fides?

RF:  When it comes to books, I love the early stuff by Stephen King. I’m a big fan of SALEM'S LOT, THE SHINING, and THE STAND. I also admire Richard Matheson’s work, and Shirley Jackson. I love supernatural horror, so I love the disquiet that often manifests when I read some of the works of Neil Gaiman. I thought CORALINE was going to be a lighthearted kid’s book, but I slept with the light on by the time I finished. I like the sort of books that creep into your bones and leave you paranoid.

SK:  Who or what terrifies you?

RF:  Clowns. Clowns terrify me. I have the phobia. I see a clown and my first instinct is to run for my life. That’s probably why I included one in my supernatural horror novel, DEAD SPOTS. I also fear sharks, and again, one makes a very unusual appearance in DEAD SPOTS.

I like to write about supernatural or fantastical occurrences. It’s through the fantasy aspect of horror that we can scare ourselves safely. I firmly believe that the horror genre is a way to alleviate our everyday stress by “surviving” the terrors inside a book.

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

RF:  When I started my career, it didn’t really occur to me that I was in a genre heavily dominated by men. This was back in 2005 when I was writing my online zombie serial, AS THE WORLD DIES, that was later self-published, then picked up by Tor. There was definitely some push back from some of the male writers. Not only was I a woman writing about the zombie apocalypse, my primary leads were women. A few gave me a really rough time. Interestingly, later on one of them told me he was intimidated by my writing and jealous of the reader reaction. He apologized for trying to stop me from writing.

It was demoralizing to have some trying to shut me down, but I was heavily encouraged by the positive reaction from the readers. So I kept on writing what I wanted to write and ignored the naysayers.

I occasionally get comments like “I was surprised how scary this book is since you’re a woman.” I’ve also had people ignore me at book signings and head straight to the men. I’ve had both men and women tell me to my face that they read “real horror” and scoffed at my books.

Reviewers are sometimes harder on female writers if they include romance or sex. Men can do it all they like and it’s fine. A woman does it and her book is automatically a romance novel (even if there is gore, monsters, etc). I get really annoyed by the double standard.

Happily, there are a lot more women in the genre now, which makes things easier to some degree. I’m not sure why people regard horror as a “male” genre, but that seems to be changing.

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

RF: Mary Shelley, Anne Rice, and Shirley Jackson immediately come to mind.

SK:  What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

RF:  I’m currently writing THE LAMENT OF THE VAMPIRE BRIDE, which is the third book in the DARK REBIRTH Trilogy that started with THE TALE OF THE VAMPIRE BRIDE. It’s a very dark gothic horror series that takes place in Eastern Europe during the Regency Era. It’s my only historical horror series, and I’m very fond of it.

Of course, I have a ton of other books to read with a wide array of monsters from zombies to Lovecraftian-type beasts. People can find out more about all my books at my website.


Coming 2016...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Women in Horror Month #9: The Sisters of Slaughter, Authors of ISOLATION

If you haven't heard of Arizonan twins and writing partners Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason (known collectively as The Sisters of Slaughter) you must have been living under a rock for the past year.  After their debut in Sinister Grin's 2015 FRESH MEAT anthology, they have been blowing up the horror scene.  They even stole the show from luminaries such as me and Ian McClellan - er, well, maybe just me - in REJECTED FOR CONTENT 3.  In fact, they are so busy, that they were unable to respond to my request for a Women in Horror Month interview.

Not to fret, though, dear friends!  The SoS tasked their good friend Metal Wolf with answering their interview questions, and so I am pleased to present our first video entry in the WiHM 7 interview series.  So let's meet the Sisters and have a listen to the interview.

About The Sisters of Slaughter:

Pictured: One of them (L) and...the other one? (R)

Their writing has been published by Sinister Grin Press, Fireside Press, JEA/WETWORKS, and Caliburn Press is releasing their gothic novella ISOLATION.

You can follow them on Facebook and Amazon (Michelle.)




A collection of 7 short horror stories from 7 new authors. Sinister Grin Press brings you a collection to carve a smile on your face. Sit back and take a bite of FRESH MEAT.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Women in Horror Month #8: Rachel Aukes, Author of THE DEADLAND SAGA

Welcome back, boils and ghouls, to Women in Horror Month!

I was just pleased as punch when today's guest agreed to come on the blog.  Rachel Aukes (pronounced "oaks" if, like me, you were wondering) is, first of all, a genuine big name and one of the most popular horror writers I've ever interviewed, so I am hyperventilating just a bit.  But I'm also a big fan because we've been in two anthologies together: FAT ZOMBIE and AT HELL'S GATES.

But rather than force you to listen to me glurge any further, let's just meet the author and jump right in to the interview!

About Rachel Aukes:

Rachel Aukes is the author of 100 DAYS IN DEADLAND, which made "Suspense Magazine’s" Best of 2013 list. Rachel lives near Des Moines with her husband and an incredibly spoiled sixty-pound lap dog. When not writing, she can be found flying old airplanes and preparing for the zombie apocalypse. 

She can be reached on social media: 

And you can join her free newsletter!


SK:  What are your horror bona fides?

RA:  Good horror will always be character-driven, delving into the deepest, darkest parts within us. That’s why I love writing it—that exposure of the human element. Regardless of fads and socio-economic impacts on the genre, horror will always remain focused on the darkness within, and good stories are timeless. There are so many amazing stories out there that I'll just touch on the ones that drew me into the dark... As a kid, I was absolutely obsessed with comic books (okay, I still am). Through comics such as "Weird Tales," I was introduced to fantastical, terrifying stories of horror.  
After those early comics, I ventured into Poe’s tales, and many of them remain my favorites. It wasn’t long before I read I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson, the story that story shaped me most as a writer. In that story, with a slight shift in perception, the monsters aren’t perhaps the worst thing to fear; sometimes the worst thing to fear is ourselves.

SK:  Who or what terrifies you?

RA:  My fears tend to run along the "this could really happen" path. EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) top my list of what could screw up our modern, comfortable lives in the blink of the eye, especially with the risk of EMPs increase every year. Oh, and big spiders... they really freak me out. 

SK:  Are there unique challenges to being a woman in horror or do you feel like gender is irrelevant?

RA:  I've found horror to be the most progressive genre in which I've written. From the writer side, I've found gender to be irrelevant. I've never experienced editors, agents, or other writers discriminate against gender... or any other demographic, for that matter. Maybe I've been lucky, but I tend to think the horror industry is full of some pretty damn good folks.
Gender is a bit more noticeable from the reader side. I've received several email from readers saying they gave one of my books a shot based on someone's recommendation and that they were surprised they enjoyed it. This sounds like a normal fan mail except that in these email they explicitly pointed out that they rarely or wouldn't read anything written by a woman. Too fluffy, too romance-y, that sort of thing. So, there's a stereotype still hanging out there, but I'm glad to see women horror writers winning over male readers, one reader at a time. 

SK:  Who are your favorite female horror icons?

RA:  My favorites have the gift for writing main characters that blur the lines between good and evil. My favorites cover a broad range, from the superstars--Mary Shelley and Anne Rice--to some fresh newcomers--Rhiannon Frater, Shana Festa, and Sarah Lyons Fleming

SK:  What are you working on/promoting currently? Why should folks check it out?

RA:  I've recently wrapped up the three-part DEADLAND SAGA with the final book, DEADLAND RISING. It was an absolute blast writing zombies, and I suspect I'll get the zomb-itch to write more down the road.


The conclusion of the critically acclaimed DEADLAND SAGA

Winter has arrived.

It has been nearly one year since the zombie hordes claimed the world. As the plague eats away at its victims’ bodies, the Fox survivors search for a safe place to rebuild what they have lost. But a dangerous new threat has risen, hunting them from every direction. To survive, Cash, Clutch, and their small band of refugees must put their faith in a group of strangers and a new government with radical plans. It will take all of the Fox survivors’ strength and courage to endure in this barren, hostile world. Even that might not be enough.

(DEADLAND RISING is a journey through Dante Alighieri's PARADISO, the classic tale on the seven virtues… zombie apocalypse style!)


The entire trilogy is also now available.
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