More than monsters

Horror has been much maligned.

Regarded as little more than “blood and gore” with no true message. Shock for shock’s sake.

This couldn’t be any further than the truth.

The horror genre is slowly seeing a resurgence of respect on a wider scale through recent films, but horror has always deserved to be regarded as meaningful and worthy.

There has been many a time at book expos or signings when some people have visibly winced when I’ve mentioned I’m a horror writer. It used to bother me, but over time I’ve shrugged it off and told myself that these people are missing out on an opportunity to not only be entertained, but to explore themselves.

I’ve always maintained that horror is a mutli-faceted genre, more so than others. It provides more than chills and goosebumps. Beyond the werewolves and zombie viruses, is a map of the human condition, of emotion, psychology and even social commentary. Below are some examples of works that I believe speak to the power of the horror genre.

Bird BoxJosh Malerman’s novel Bird Box, is a remarkable example of horror that delves deep beneath the surface of feverish fright. The characters, by being forcibly blinded, are in turn forced to look within themselves and into the eyes of each other at close quarters. The paranoia is palpable, driving the story forward. It’s a story of survival, loaded with symbolism and there’s barely a drop of blood spilled.

By comparison, Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart sheds much blood in its exploration of curiosity gone horribly wrong, but if you peel back its layers there are issues of abandonment, the objectification of women, the empowerment of women, and the power of desire. The Cenobites are secondary monsters – the embodiment of punishment, yes, but moreover they serve as warnings against human frailty.

A Head Full of GhostsPaul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts is equal parts family tragedy and a look at the impacts of mental illness plaguing today’s youth. The story is told so keenly that you almost forget that it’s also about an exorcism. Through sleight-of-hand, Tremblay weaves all of these ideas together while pointing the finger squarely at the sensationalist nature of reality television.

Into The MistPast regrets, losses, and guilt pervade horror fiction. Tim Waggoner’s Deep Like the River is a painful journey both literally and figuratively, as a canoeing trip down a river forces a woman’s past to rise to the surface of her mind. Daniel I. Russell’s Entertaining Demons is an even deeper look at the evil of reality TV, with our worship of it becoming fodder for demons. Lee Murray’s Into the Mist is an exciting action-packed monster hunt, but it also provides an insight into Maori culture, mythology, and the New Zealand landscape. There’s also subtle environmental commentary, the darkened forest where the hunt takes place threatened not just by the creature, but also the dominance of military authoritarianism. Brett McBean’s The Awakening is on the surface a coming-of-age story, taking the zombie sub-genre back to its voodoo roots, but it’s actually a beautiful story about life and death told lyrically through the eyes of a young boy and an old man.

Many books and films that are considered “mainstream” are actually horror. The Lovely Bones by author Alice Sebold and later as a film by Peter Jackson, is one example. On one side you have the psychological aspect of the family processing the grief of losing their daughter, while on the other you have the spirit of the victim herself coming to terms with the fact that not only is she dead, but that she died horrifically. The Silence of the Lambs is another mainstream book and film that would be considered by many more crime thriller than horror, but actually contains all the key elements that comprise good horror fiction, particularly in the second half of the story.

Horror has also encouraged diversity, with acclaimed authors of colour like Victor LaValle (his novella The Ballad of Black Tom won a Shirley Jackson Award and numerous nominations for other awards) coming to the fore. The film Get Out written and directed by Jordan Peele, won an Oscar and a Bram Stoker Award for its screenplay, and could be compared to other psychological thrillers like The Strangers or You’re Next, but what its sets it apart is that it’s a commentary on prejudice and racism. LGBTQI authors also thrive in the horror genre, with numerous films and books containing gay or transgender characters and themes. Again, Clive Barker and other authors like Poppy Z. Brite, Aaron Dries, Mark Allan Gunnells and Caitlin R. Kiernan come to mind.

I could go on, but I urge you the reader to look beyond the misconceptions and explore the horror genre for yourself. These are just a few of the stories that provide the “depth” horror can encapsulate. You’ll note that these authors all strive for meaning in their stories. They’re not all just out solely to splatter you with buckets of blood. Authors like the ones I’ve outlined above and others such as Kaaron Warren, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Mercedes M. Yardley, strive to push the boundaries of the genre and carry on a fine tradition that horror has always had – one of relevance and introspection.

All we horror authors ask is that you look past the lurid cover, put your assumptions to one side and see the meaning between the lines. But most of all, look within yourself.



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Horror Fiction: A bleak and depressing look at truth

Today’s guest post comes from horror author Greg Chapman, who recently released Pandemonium through the incredible Bloodshot Books. Greg’s essay deals with why his work may considered bleak or depressing and the importance of the truth when it comes to horror fiction. This is an insightful piece that gives readers a look at Chapman’s work and what […]

via Horror Fiction: A Bleak and Depressing Look at Truth by Greg Chapman — Ink Heist

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Hollow House re-opened!

A bit of news I’ve been keeping to myself that I am now able to share!

THUNDERSTORM BOOKS in the US is releasing a limited edition of my Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, Hollow House!

The special ‘Black Voltage Series’ signed and numbered edition will contain Hollow House, plus my novella Torment – and incredible dust jacket artwork by Ben Baldwin.

The book is available for pre-order NOW and is limited to just 52 copies.

Thunderstorm Books has produced amazing limited editions for almost a decade, publishing works by authors including Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, Jonathan Janz, Brett McBean, Ronald Malfi, Tim Curran, David Bernstein and Kealan Patrick Burke. I’m honoured to be part of Thunderstorm’s library of horror!

I’m very excited about this limited edition release and it’s been a great experience working with Thunderstorm’s publisher Paul Goblirsch, so I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy of this special edition.

Thanks for your support!


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Interview with author Jason Franks!

Fellow dark scribe Jason Franks has a new novel out – Faerie Apocalypse from IFWG Publishing Australia. If the title doesn’t make you want to read it then there must be something wrong with you. I tracked Jason down and demanded he told me more about his latest piece of fiction, and what makes him tick…

How was the seed planted in your mind to write Faerie Apocalypse?

The first novel I ever read was The Magic Faraway Tree, so this genre has been dear to me since I first learned to read. I was an adult when Neil Gaiman’s STARDUST came out, and that led me to look again at all these adventures I’d loved as a kid. There are some dark ideas underpinning that sense of wonder and whimsy. The tropes keep it very constrained on story and character, and I had this idea that someone from a contemporary society would have to be quite damaged to want to really travel to a pastoral world full of talking animals and magical elves in order to execute some narcissistic quest. The fairy folk are bound to participate, as either side characters or villains, and I wondered if they understood that, and how it would affect them.

So that’s what I wrote. What might be the outcome of characters taking a modern awareness of the genre tropes into fairyland, and how far would the infection spread?

What can readers expect with Faerie Apocalypse?

Faerie Apocalypse is a series of tales in which human protagonists transition to Faerie Land and have adventures. Each one is looking for something different: the most beautiful of fairy queens, magical power, a wayward father, an escape from reality, revenge, or just some kind of purpose. Most of these quests begin the way readers might expect, but they soon go awry. Things get darker yet when the different quests become entangled.

This book is written in a much more writerly style than my usual work for and I’ve put a huge effort into the language, trying to make it beautiful but still pacy. It’s Cormac McCarthy meets Neil Gaiman and I know it’s not going to appeal to everyone–but I do think it’s quite a different sort of book and I’ve been really pleased with the way my advance readers have accepted that.

Tell us about when and where you write? Does the lighting have to be just right? Do you need background music? A feather quill?

I write in my home office, on a computer. I’ve tried going to cafes and all I do is get self-conscious and drink too much coffee and then fret about what to do with my laptop while I run to the toilet.

I do most of my writing work in the evening, once my toddler has gone to sleep. When I was younger I used to have music on as well as the TV, so there was stuff to listen to or look at, but I couldn’t get too immersed in any of it. Nowadays I mostly write in silence.

I don’t write anything by hand. I don’t keep any notebooks.

Faerie Apocalypse isn’t your first book – what lessons have you learned on your authorial journey?

Faerie Apocalypse is my third book, kind of.

My first book, Phillips Head, was a straight-up horror novel that I wrote while at university. That was all about seeing if I could go the distance. If I could manage a novel-sized story and a large cast of characters. The book resultant book is unpublishable, but that’s how I learned how to work at scale. Not long after it was done I started writing both Bloody Waters and Faerie Apocalypse. I forget which came first. I’d alternate on the two projects day to day, or, if I had a whole day free–I was young, single, and sometimes unemployed– I’d do a session on each. Bloody Waters proved an easier book to complete– it had a leaner style, with a linear story–so that was the one I started trying to sell first while I continued to struggle with Faerie Apocalypse.

I guess the big learning from Bloody Waters for me, from a craft point of view, was not to be afraid to cut. The published version of Bloody Waters is 50,000 words shorter than the biggest draft and contains just as much story.

Faerie Apocalypse was a different experience. I had to find a new voice for the story, as well as a different approach to character, dialogue and storytelling. This is probably not something I can use for other projects, but I think it’s made me a much better writer overall.

Just as important as the craft, though, has been to learn to own the work. When Bloody Waters went live I was terrified that people would think it was awful and see me for a fraud, and I basically buried my head in the sand when I should have been telling people that the book was out. It wasn’t until Narrelle Harris blogged about it that I realized it was all going to be ok. It went on to be an Aurealis Award finalist, but it never really found its audience. So that was another huge lesson: it doesn’t matter if the book is good if nobody knows it’s there.

You’ve dabbled with writing comics and penned novels in the horror and dark fantasy genres. Which one excites you the most?

Whatever is my current first draft.

I can’t say that I prefer one medium over the other because they afford different pleasures. The most exciting thing about comics is the collaboration, I think–seeing your words realized visually; seeing how an artist improves the story. Prose gives you the pleasure–and anxiety–of direct contact with the reader. Everything the reader ingests from prose is the way I chose to express it.

As for genre, I love the SF, fantasy, and crime genres, and I’ve even done a bit of realist fiction (the phrase ‘Lit Fic’ makes me stabby). But I’m a horror writer at heart and I think you can see that inflected in everything I do–including my comedy stuff. I look for the bad side of everything. I like endings that will disturb readers, rather than comfort them.

Favourite book/film/comic?

Today, my answers are:

Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, Unforgiven by Clint Eastwood, and Uzumaki by Junji Ito. Ask me tomorrow and I might give you different answers.

What’s next for Jason Franks?

Probably the next thing I have coming out is a short (56pp) horror-comedy-SF graphic novel called Gourmand Go, which I like to think of as Cannibal Star Trek. It features beautiful sequential art by Harold Purnell, Laura Renfrew, Gavin Thompson, Matt Kyme, Cristian Roux, Nicole Lawson, Aly Faye and Ben Byrne. The book is all done but for some lettering and colouring.

I am also probably going to self-publish a short novel called Shadowmancy, just to understand the experience. This project actually began life as a comic serial and has a gorgeous cover and interior illustrations by the Nic Hunter.

Otherwise, I am just grinding out the final draft of my new novel, XDA Zai.

How can people purchase a copy of Faerie Apocalypse?

With gold, paper or credit. It’ll be in stores, or you can snaffle a copy online from the following links:



Barnes and Noble:



Book Depository:



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Midnight Echo Issue 12 unleashed!

Midnight Echo Magazine is back from the dead!

Australasian Horror Writers Association

The new edition of Midnight Echo Magazine is here!

Midnight Echo #12, edited by Shane J Cummings and Anthony Ferguson contains short stories and non-fiction by some of Australasia’s leading horror authors.


The issue features fiction by
Rebecca Fung
Angela J. Maher
Chris Mason
Andrew Grenfell
Matthew J. Morrison
Lauren Butterworth
Simon Dewar
Christine Ferdinands
Matthew R. Davis

Non-fiction by
Anthony Ferguson
Kyla Lee Ward and;

Fiction by AHWA short story and flash fiction competition winners
Rue Karney
Glenn H. Mitchell
J. Ashley Smith
Zoe Downing

The issue is on sale for just 99 cents until January 1, 2018 – so get it while it’s hot people!

Thank you for your continued support of the AHWA

Amazon Australia:

Amazon US:

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Seven years later…

They say seven is THE magic number.

So it’s fortuitous then that the sequel to one of my first published works, The Noctuary, has been released exactly seven years to the day since the original first appeared on the scene.

The Noctuary: Pandemonium was hell to write. The original novella, first published by the now-defunct Damnation Books, came about when I was knee-deep in the mentorship program with the Australasian Horror Writers Association. Pandemonium was simultaneously the sequel I’d been putting off and the one I needed to tell.

Pandemonium, which has just been published by Bloodshot Books in digital and print formats, collects the original novella with the sequel and incorporates it. It’s all very meta and writing it nearly sent me mad.

In the original novella, a down and out author named Simon Ryan is summoned by dark forces to be their “scribe”. When he writes he has the power to alter his own reality. If you could change something with the stroke of a pen would you? What are the subsequent ripple effects of that change?

Pandemonium is all about the power of words and the power of the mind. Losing your sanity is probably my idea of hell and I wanted to explore that fear in the sequel and of course, give readers more insight into the creatures that draw their power from Simon’s words.

Fate is the underlying thread. Was it fate that Pandemonium has been published seven years after the original novella? I hope it’s just a coincidence. Will I be writing another chapter in this saga another seven years from now?

I might be damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

Check out these early reviews of Pandemonium and then see if you’re willing to peer into its pages.

Collings Notes

Horrible Books Reviews

There’s also a few videos with excerpts that I made with voice actor Ricky Grove – one from seven years ago and a new one.

The Noctuary: Pandemonium – read it and weep.

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On the Australasian Horror Writers Association

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again: I wouldn’t be a published author if it wasn’t for the Australasian Horror Writers Association (AHWA).

Australasian Horror Writers AssociationI happened across the AHWA online way back in 2009, just when I was starting to find I had a penchant for writing dark stories. The AHWA was just what I needed. Not only did I discover that there was quite a large community of horror writers, there was also a burgeoning small press industry dedicated to getting horror into the hands of readers.

What’s more, the AHWA wanted to help fresh authors get their work published. The AHWA’s mentor program was a godsend and I applied immediately and was extremely lucky to make the cut. Paired with Melbourne author Brett McBean, I managed to get my first two novellas published with a small press in the US in 2011 and I haven’t looked back. A chance discussion with another member led me to connect with late author and friend Rocky Wood, who I eventually worked with on Witch Hunts. It also turned out he was president of the Horror Writers Association, so I truly was in the right place at the right time.

After the success of the mentor program, I always wanted to give back to the AHWA for the assistance they gave me, and in 2014 I joined its committee as a general member. As we are all volunteers, it wasn’t always an easy task. The last few months have been particularly tough for the AHWA, but I didn’t want to see it fail.

To that end, I recently decided to taken on the role of President of the AHWA. It’s going to be a massive job to get the organisation back on mission, but I have an incredible group of people on the revitalised committee coming along for the ride. I’d even go so far as to say that the members of the horror community are the some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet (despite their dark predilections). I’ve been absolutely blown away by the support and generosity of the members.

I hope to do my utmost to keep the AHWA growing, but most of all, I hope to see other authors in the future telling people that they wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for the Australasian Horror Writers Association.

A new call for membership in the AHWA will be going out soon. If you are an emerging Australasian horror author I hope you’ll take the next step and join our community. To those who are continuing to support the AHWA I say thank you. With your help, the AHWA will only get stronger.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s October. That time of year when I go into full Halloween mode with creepy art and even creepier words.

Being an Australian, (living in a regional city with about a population of about 70,000 people) where Halloween hasn’t really caught on (yet), I feel like I’m the only one getting into the spirit. But there’s a revolution happening.

For the past four years, my family and I have decked out our front yard for Halloween and attracted hundreds of trick ‘r treaters (check out this time lapse from a couple of years ago). Last year we also ran a small fundraiser for the Heart Foundation and we raised about $200. Every year we have to make our display bigger and better so the pressure is on, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited.

Halloween is my Christmas (I love Christmas, but I love Halloween more). I go creatively crazy. It’s the time of year that I just want to write and draw. I’m sure other horror writers feel the same.

I’ve started a challenge to draw a Halloween themed illustration every day in October. So far I’ve done two. Better yet, because it’s Halloween, and I like to giveaway treats, I plan to give one lucky person ALL of the original artwork when they’re done. Yes, that’s right – I’m going to give the artwork away! So keep an eye out on my Facebook wall every day to see what I draw next.

And the Halloween generosity continues. My collection of stories, The End of Halloween is on sale for just 99 cents over at Amazon! The book is also part of a massive giveaway, hosted by my author pal Patrick Reuman (note the giveaway is only open to US residents). Be sure to check out the giveaway and the book online.

Last but certainly not least, my novella, The Last Night of October, has been resurrected in the pages of Halloween Carnival – a five-volume anthology series published by Cemetery Dance and Random House/Hydra. Volume 3 will be published on October 17, but you can pre-order it now. It’s great to be sharing word space with authors such as Kelley ArmstrongKate Maruyama  and Taylor Grant. The novella is regarded as one of my best stories, so I hope you can consider picking up a copy.

If you don’t hear from me I hope you all have a fantastic Halloween! Keep it creepy.




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READ (Small Press) HORROR!

This week I heard the disappointing news that Dark Fuse Press was no more.

This is the latest small press publisher to be forced to close down (Samhain Publishing closed in 2016), but there are still many small presses still producing and publishing fantastic work.

What these publishers might lack in resources when compared to the big publishers, they make up for with passion. Having been published in the small press since my first novella back in 2009 I know how hard the publishers, editors, designers, artists – and authors – of these presses work to share their love for horror with readers.

In the end, it’s the small press that keeps the horror genre’s heart beating. But they need the support of readers, reviewers and all horror aficionados to survive.


So if you can, BUY their books, SHARE their good work on social media and most of all, if you loved a book that came out through the small press LEAVE A REVIEW.

Let’s keep that heart beating!

Here’s a list (in alphabetical order) of just a few of the current small press publishers. If I’ve missed any I apologise, but please feel free to let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

Apex Publications

Black Beacon Books

Blood Bound Books

Bloodshot Books

Cemetery Dance Publications

ChiZine Publications

Cohesion Press

Comet Press

Crossroad Press

Crystal Lake Publishing

Dark Arts Books

Dark Moon Books

Dark Regions Press

Deadite Press

Grey Matter Press

Grinning Skull Press

IFWG Australia


Kraken Press

Lycan Valley Publications

Necro Publications

Night Shade Books

Omnium Gatherum Books

Oscillate Wildly Press


PMMP Publishing

Postmortem Press

PS Publishing

Raw Dog Screaming Press

Severed Press

Sinister Grin Press

SST Publications

Stitched Smile Publications

Thunderstorm Books

Ticonderoga Publications

Voodoo Press





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Guest post by the Sisters of Slaughter!

Today, the Sisters of Slaughter, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason have hijacked my blog to talk about how they write together. Their latest novel, Those Who Follow, is out now from Bloodshot Books. Take it away ladies!


My name is Michelle Garza and I write with Melissa Lason. We are known as The Sisters of Slaughter. We are a twin sister writing team from the deserts of Arizona. We have written together ever since we were little girls and the love of stepping into imagined worlds has never left us. We usually write horror but also dabble in science fiction, fantasy and bizarro. All of our writing has a healthy dose of darkness in it, kinda like sneaking our love of horror into everything. Writing for us is a continuation of playing pretend as kids, it’s an escape we get to participate in and also give to other people, a glimpse into our imaginations. Storytelling has always been something really sacred to us because some of our fondest memories come from our father telling ghost stories around a campfire and we hope to capture that magic and share it with other people.

We get asked about our collaborative writing process quite often. It comes naturally to us because we’re twin sisters, for writers who usually work alone it can be tough but it’s not out of the question. We find that when we come to the writing table we do so with open minds but we are also both focused on a storyline we wish to create. We are both outline warriors which means we have an idea of how the story will play out from the beginning to the end whether we’re sitting in the same room or not. I think, to us, writing without an outline would be more foreign than collaboration but those of like minds could pull off a joint effort without an outline if both writers were down for some surprises and could continue the story no matter what their partner threw at them… which actually sounds like a fun challenge that Melissa and I may explore. Collaboration can also be achieved by simply sharing a world or scenario but writing your own small stories that can connect but again there can’t be differences in important details that could totally derail someone’s reading experience if they aren’t caught and rectified before publication.

Those Who Follow by [Garza, Michelle, Lason, Melissa]Our process always begins with story ideas, we keep them written in notebooks and saved in files on our desktops for future use. We will discuss what kind of projects we really want to tackle, some of them are submission calls we wish to attempt while others are projects we have promised to a publisher. Once we zero-in on the story idea that feels right for our next project we begin to build a skeleton of it through outlining it on a sheet of paper. During the actual writing is when it is fleshed out and sometimes even changed if we agree that there is a better way of propelling the storyline. A ton of our writing is done by hand first, it’s a long process but we use that as our first rough draft. Next we type it and the typed version is the second draft because there are always things we change, expand upon and even cut out or only elude to until further in the book in an attempt to not give everything away too early. We like to write a few chapters and then read it out loud to each other to see how everything flows. This can be accomplished even if collaborators live far away through the magic of the internet, using Skype and even just a phone call keeps writers up to speed and gives them a chance to hear the story spoken from the mouth to the ear to be certain the story is building into something people will care to read. We divvy up the workload sometimes when we are too busy to actually see each other or call one another like over holidays or weekends when our writing can only be done after family responsibilities are done. Using an outline is helpful here; we know where the story is going so if we are separate we can still get good word counts without worry about getting the storyline disjointed or going off the tracks completely. Once the entire story is done and completely typed is when we go back and read it again to each other, the third time around is where we’re really looking for anything in the story that isn’t too our liking. It is edited after that, our editing isn’t the greatest but since we found the Grammarly program our manuscripts have become tighter and neater. All that’s left after that is submitting the work and keeping our fingers crossed. This may sound like a good system to some or it might sound too time-consuming to others but the point of this article is to remind people that whenever a writer wants to team up with someone they must consider these things.

Mayan Blue by [Garza, Michelle, Lason, Melissa]

1. Go into the project with an open mind. Collaborating is a joint effort and opinions should be given equal importance, and the rejection of ideas isn’t personal.

2. Each person involved must be willing to carry their own weight. It takes equal dedication to get it done.

3. If you aren’t working from an outline or a general idea as to how the story will flow all the way to the end, be ready for compromise and surprises.

4. If your collaboration is more of a shared concept and both stories tie into each other then you can’t forget to be certain those storylines still jive and important details don’t contradict each other, say for instance my character’s father lost his legs in Vietnam and then Melissa comes along and writes that same character running into a burning building to save someone etc.

Collaboration can either be the beginning of something really great since two heads are better than one or it could turn into a big mess so choose your partner carefully. If you happen to be teamed up with someone you don’t really know through a publisher to create something just remember that professionalism and dedication goes a long way.

Now get your asses back to writing!!!

Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza have been writing together since they were little girls. Dubbed The Sisters of Slaughter by the editors of Fireside Press, they are constantly working together on new stories in the horror and dark fantasy genres. Their work has been included in FRESH MEAT published by Sinister Grin Press, WISHFUL THINKING by Fireside Press and WIDOWMAKERS a benefit anthology of dark fiction. Find out more by visiting 

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