The Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship — Horror Writers Association

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When I was in my early teens, probably fifteen or sixteen, I recorded a movie from TV called Gothic (1986), directed by Ken Russell. The film presents a fictionalized account of what may have happened on that fateful weekend during the summer of 1816.

Gothic 1986 film posterLord Byron (Gabriel Byrne) invited his fellow Romantic poet Percy Shelley (Julian Sands) to the Villa Diodati in Switzerland along with Mary Godwin* (Natasha Richardson) and her half-sister, Claire Clairmont (Myriam Cyr) as well as Byron’s personal physician, Dr. John Polidori (Timothy Spall), who later wrote and published The Vampyre (1819). During this time, Mary Shelley wrote her most famous novel, Frankenstein (1818), one of the earliest horror novels.

Even though I already had an obsession with horror fiction by this age and devoured countless books and films, this movie, Gothic, fueled a dark fire inside of me to want to write from a place of fear and stoked my love of the supernatural. The film prompted me to read the novel Frankenstein to experience it for myself, and it has stuck in my mind ever since.

Fast forward to many years later, and my path as a writer has been a bumpy ride to say the least. But, to quote the immortal Freddie Mercury–one of my all-time heroes:

“I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face. But I’ve come through.”

The past decade has had both ups and downs for me, but this is a huge “up” for which I will be eternally grateful. When I found out I was selected to be this year’s recipient of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship–one of four given by the Horror Writers Association–it blew me away. I could not believe that they chose me.

Mary Shelley

Writing is a lonely profession. There are many pitfalls, and it’s not an easy thing to undertake. From time to time, writers need something–a sign from the universe, from somewhere out there–that what we do matters–that even though believing in ourselves seems impossible at times, we can do this.

I feel so honoured to have received this prestigious scholarship, and I am proud of all my fellow scholarship recipients this year! Congratulations also to John C. Mannone (HWA Scholarship), Ashley Dioses (Dark Poetry Scholarship), Kelly Robinson (Rocky Wood Nonfiction Scholarship, one of two recipients), and Stephanie M. Wytovich (Rocky Wood Nonfiction Scholarship, one of two recipients).

Along with Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley was one of the first women to kick open the door and pave the way for other women writing genre fiction. Although the unbalanced ratio between female and male writers in horror continues to be an issue, the past fifteen years has seen an explosion in more women being published in the genre, and this trend is here to stay.

There are a plethora of women whose works spring to mind when I think of who is doing amazing work in this genre, and will continue to do so for years to come. Stephanie M. Wytovich is one. Eden Royce is another. Among my favourites include: Maria Alexander, Kristi DeMeester, Paula D. Ashe, Rebecca Jones-Howe, Chesya Burke, S.P. Miskowski, Jessica McHugh, Lucy A. Snyder, and countless others.

It is my hope to one day join the ranks of these amazingly gifted and talented women. In the meantime, excuse me while I go off and do one of these:

Love Actually movie still

* In 1816, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was still known by her maiden name, Mary Godwin, because she was Percy Shelley’s mistress at the time and not yet his wife.


Book Review: Haunted Nights, edited by Lisa Morton and Ellen Datlow

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Haunted Nights Horror Writers Association Anthology book cover
Haunted Nights
edited by Lisa Morton and Ellen Datlow
Anchor Books
October 3, 2017
*** Disclaimer: Review copy received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated or paid in any way to review this product. *** 

Description: Sixteen never-before-published chilling tales that explore every aspect of our darkest holiday, Halloween, co-edited by Ellen Datlow, one of the most successful and respected genre editors, and Lisa Morton, a leading authority on Halloween. In addition to stories about scheming jack-o’-lanterns, vengeful ghosts, otherworldly changelings, disturbingly realistic haunted attractions, masks that cover terrifying faces, murderous urban legends, parties gone bad, cult Halloween movies, and trick or treating in the future, Haunted Nights also offers terrifying and mind-bending explorations of related holidays like All Souls’ Day, Dia de los Muertos, and Devil’s Night.

Table of Contents:
“With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfbane Seeds” by Seanan McGuire
“Dirtmouth” by Stephen Graham Jones
“A Small Taste of the Old Country” by Jonathan Maberry
“Wick’s End” by Joanna Parypinski
“The Seventeen Year Itch” by Garth Nix
“A Flicker of Light on Devil’s Night” by Kate Jonez
“Witch-Hazel” by Jeffrey Ford
“Nos Galen Gaeaf” by Kelley Armstrong
“We’re Never Inviting Amber Again” by S. P. Miskowski
“Sisters” by Brian Evenson
“All Through the Night” by Elise Forier Edie
“A Kingdom of Sugar Skulls and Marigolds” by Eric J. Guignard
“The Turn” by Paul Kane
“Jack” by Pat Cadigan
“Lost in the Dark” by John Langan
“The First Lunar Halloween” by John R. Little

Review: Who better to present a series of short stories revolving around the theme of Halloween than the Horror Writers Association? Each of these twisted tales collectively comes together to form a trick or treat bag haul—readers will recognize their own individual favourite “candies” so to speak and some will be sweeter or more savoury than others but in that bag of goodies will be something for everyone. Standouts for me included “A Kingdom of Sugar Skulls and Marigolds” (Guignard), “A Flicker of Light on Devil’s Night” (Jonez), “A Small Taste of the Old Country” (Maberry) and “With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfbane Seeds” (McGuire).

Tribute to Rocky Wood

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As most folks in the horror community have already heard by now, HWA president and author Rocky Wood passed away earlier today from complications of ALS.

rocky wood hwa president

ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease is not known for having a high survival rate beyond a certain number of years after the diagnosis, so when word spread that Rocky had been diagnosed, we knew that one day we would have to face the reality that he would be taken from us unexpectedly and shockingly. Just because we knew the day was coming, that did nothing to prepare us for its arrival.

In spite of his numerous daily challenges, Rocky put up a hell of a fight against ALS, and although he sadly succumbed to its complications, the way that he conducted himself was a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit. Not a single person would have blamed him if he chose to lead a quieter life.

But he soldiered on day after day and under his HWA administration he made some of the biggest, most positive changes that the HWA had seen in years. The HWA and the horror genre in general have always had a bad rap. Let’s just say you don’t have to do dig too deep to find online posts from embittered and disenfranchised horror authors bashing the HWA.

He did more to change perceptions about the horror genre and horror authors than anyone I know, and it was both an honour and a privilege to work with Rocky and to say hello to him at past World Horror conventions.

Under his leadership, the HWA instituted several programs including a scholarship, YA and library promotions, an annual Halloween Haunts series of blog posts from HWA authors, and many more efforts that brought in many more members to the organization.

I can’t count the number of intelligent, well-argued interviews he gave that highlighted the ghettoization of the horror genre and what the HWA was doing to change that.

I worked alongside Rocky and HWA vice-president Lisa Morton as the HWA’s social media coordinator, which included two World Horror conventions spreading the word and generating interest before the events.

Note: I am not saying the following to brag, boast, or otherwise promote myself, but rather to highlight how gracious and generous Rocky was: I was honoured when Rocky let me know my work impressed him. He was such an absolute pleasure and joy to work with, and his strong work ethic never wavered even in the face of his challenges.

In New Orleans at the 2013 World Horror Convention, I was on a panel moderating a discussion on social media promotions for authors. Rocky attended this, and although that made me a touch nervous, it also filled me with a sense of honour that he chose to be present–not because it was an ego boost. That’s not what it was about at all.

It filled me with honour because he was so generous with his support. He didn’t have to be there. He could have gone to any of the other panels and activities going on at that time. He could have used that time to rest in his hotel room. He could have been anywhere else for that panel’s time slot, but it meant the world to me that he was there. I can only hope that he enjoyed the panel.

For what it’s worth I cannot begin to imagine how difficult his circumstances were day in and day out. One of the best ways you can help Rocky’s family is by buying his books. He was one of the most foremost, if not the foremost experts on Stephen King in the world.

You can buy his books on Amazon or from his website.

To say that Rocky Wood will be sorely missed doesn’t do justice to the great man that he was. Anyone involved in the horror genre owes him a great debt of gratitude, and those to come in the horror genre will owe him the same debt. His work and all its effects will continue to be felt for years to come in the horror community.