May the 4th is more than just Star Wars Day for me. On this day in 2020, when everything was shutdown because of Covid and since I had nothing better to do, I created this website and C.C. Winchester was born. I was very focused during that time and began seriously writing, again, well, because there was nothing else to do. I now have 3 short stories published and a book published in another genre under a different name. I was very productive at first, but over the past year, not so much.
So, I started fighting my demons again. You know, the ones who say you’ll never be a writer. And it turns out, their leader is my mom. When I was in seventh grade I knew I wanted to be a writer and I voiced that dream to my mother. Her response, “You can’t be a writer, you don’t know anything.”
I guess technically, you don’t know a ton by seventh grade, but I already had plenty of angst. We moved constantly. My mother had a revolving door of boyfriends. The boyfriends made the rules, so my siblings and I were often beaten because we hadn’t received the memo about the latest rule changes.
My mother has been gone now for 23 years, but her negative energy lives on within my very soul. I’ll never stop fighting though. Life truly does go on. There is much love and support in my life right now and the horror community is a big positive for me. I am especially thankful for Jill Girardi of Kandisha Press. If it weren’t for her publishing my first story, “The Trial of Jehenne de Brigue”, I would have probably given up. She is a true supporter of the genre, especially women and even old ladies like me, who arrived on the scene very late. But as they say, better late than never, right?
Take care everyone and Happy Star Wars Day!
P.S. If you’re so inclined, check out Don’t Break the Oath, part of the the women of horror series published by Kandisha Press and where you can find my little ditty, “The Trial of Jehenne de Brigue”!
Why are writers so afraid? Well maybe I should just speak for myself, even though I know I’m not the only one. My journey as a writer began in Lancaster, Texas in seventh grade. A few of us were talking to our home room teacher before the bell rang for the period to begin and he asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I don’t remember what the others said. I didn’t really know what I wanted to be, but I thought, well I really like to read, so I said, writer. I actually said (thinking I was funny), “Well it requires a pen.” The teacher looked at me and he said, “What does that mean?” So then I said, “I want to be a writer.” His response was, “Wouldn’t that require a typewriter?” So then I just felt stupid…as usual.
I really answered writer because I thought it was my only option. At the time, I was convinced that I had no talent for science or math. My original dream was to be a jockey because I wanted a job that involved being around horses. I grew too tall, though. For a brief amount of time, I thought I could be a horse trainer, but there were no horses to train in the apartment complex where we lived. All my knowledge of horse related jobs came from Walter Farley’s, Black Stallion series of books. So…writing seemed like a reasonable alternative to the jockey/horse trainer dream.
In spite of being embarrassed regarding the pen vs. typewriter debate, I let the idea of becoming a writer gestate inside my brain. I had written a couple of stories in elementary school. One was about fishes (although my mother said that it’s incorrect to write fishes since fish is both singular and plural. I later found out that I was correct because there were different species of fish in the story.), the other was in the Greek mythology genre. I don’t remember what either story was about.
So, a few days, a week or maybe a month later, I say to my mother that I want to be a writer. She responds, “You can’t be a writer. You don’t know anything.”
Well, as you can imagine, I didn’t write stories for many years. Why would I? I didn’t know typewriters were necessary for writing and in fact, I didn’t know anything at all. So, I spent the next several years reading a lot of books, watching a lot of TV, and not writing at all.
So, fast forward to now. All that happened fortyish years ago, but it still sticks with me. I’ve had a couple of horror stories published; one with Kandisha Press and the other in the Sirens Call eZine. So you would thing that would make me believe I am actually a writer. It did for a minute, but then the fear sets in again. A lot of writers say the voices in their head stop them from creating. But for me, it’s not imaginary. My own mother said, “You can’t be a writer. You don’t know anything.” That kind of thing sticks with a person. Your mother is supposed to be the person who loves you most and believes in you more than anyone else in the universe.
A lot of shitty stuff happened in my childhood and I’ve been told by many people that I should write about that. But, I don’t want to. I want to be creative and original, not rehash old garbage. I’m just touching on it in this post, because I’m trying to shake off my chains. I haven’t written in months. I am drowning in depression. I think that when creative people don’t create, that lack of release turns inward and poisons our bodies and souls.
Maybe I don’t know anything, but I’m going to write anyway.
“From deep within the wild Welsh countryside, Catherine McCarthy spins dark yarns that deliver a sting in the tail.
She is the author of the collections Door and other twisted tales, Mists and Megaliths, and also the novella, Immortelle (published by Off Limits Press July 2021): a Gothic tale of grief and revenge, set on the West Wales coast.
Her short stories and flash fiction have been published in various places online and in anthologies, including The British Fantasy Society Horizons, Flame Tree Press, Kandisha Press and Curiosities.
In 2020 she won the Aberystwyth University Prize for creative writing for her magical realism story, The Queen’s Attendant.
Having traded the challenges and rewards of teaching for the hurdles and merits of writing, Catherine McCarthy now lives with her illustrator husband in a two hundred year old cottage in West Wales amidst spectacular, story-inspiring countryside.
When she is not writing she may be found sewing in her ‘Garden Beehive’ or wandering the coast path, complete with picnic, sun-cream and just enough money for ice-cream.“
Catherine McCarthy is well known among women of horror and can be found engaging in many a Twitter conversation. Her books have rave reviews on Amazon and she has an avid following of devoted readers.
Janine’s bio on Kandisha Press (but she has been up to so much more since):
JANINE PIPE – Press Agent, Author, Red Sox Fan, Best Frightening Fiend.
“Janine Pipe is a Horror lover and writer who was first introduced to the genre by her ghost story telling dad – and she hasn’t looked back since. Citing Glenn Rolfe and Hunter Shea as her favourite current writers and mentors, she likes to shock, and create twists and turns. There is usually a lot of gore and plenty of swearing … She is very thankful to her biggest cheerleaders, her husband and daughter. She reviews for Scream Magazine and is a friend of Nightworms.
You can find several of her short stories at Kandisha Press, the charity anthology, Diabolica Britannica, 25 Gates of Hell, and Campfire Macabre from Cemetery Gates Media. She is currently writing a splatterpunk vampire hunter novella and an 80’s slasher. You will also find her podcasting with fellow Brit and indie author, Lou Yardley on Cryptids, Crypts and Coffee or buddy read reviewing and interviewing with Ben Long on her YouTube channel.”
“Hello everyone! I haven’t used this page for updates in *checks watch* 15 years (High Five if you get that reference) but I noticed several new likes over the last couple of weeks so thought I’d do a quick couple of posts.
I released my debut short story collection Twisted: Tainted Tales just over a year ago and it continues to do pretty well so thank you for any and all support with that.
Jill Girardi of Kandisha Press is very special to me because she was the first person to consider a story of mine worth publishing. She is the chief cook and bottle washer at Kandisha Press where she along with her crew, publish horror anthologies written entirely by women. She is currently taking a break from that though so she can focus on her own writing. Jill has earned a break since she has already published five anthologies through her press.
Jill is the author of Hantu Macabre, (Published by Fixi Novo) the best-selling novel featuring punk rock paranormal detective Suzanna Sim and Tokek the toyol. The book was shortlisted for the 2019 Popular/The Star Readers’ Choice Awards. Suzanna and Tokek will also be taken to the big screen, as a full-length film based on the characters is set to start shooting in 2021, with former MMA Fighter Ann Osman starring as Suzanna.
Jill has several short horror stories published (many of which feature various small, wicked creatures) and will soon begin working on the next volume in the Hantu Macabre series. She currently lives in New York where she is the editor of the Kandisha Press Women of Horror Anthology books.
Don’t Break the Oath is the fourth women of horror anthology put forth by Kandisha Press. Look no further for your summer read, guys! There is a lot of awesome horror within these pages written by many seasoned authors along with a few debuts, including yours truly. My little ol’ witch story is included and is the origin story for my most favorite character I’ve ever created, Jehenne de Brigue. Okay, I didn’t totally create her, she can be found amongst the wealth of historical knowledge regarding the witch trials in Europe which persecuted innocent women so many centuries ago.
“The Trial of Jehenne de Brigue” synopsis: (Spoiler Alert!)
The “Trial of Jehenne de Brigue” is the origin story of an herbalist healer who is destined to become a powerful leader among the Italian witches, known as Strega. She would have been lost in obscurity if it weren’t for the ruthless persecution of women by the Catholic church in 14th century France, but with a little help from a son of perdition, she would not only survive those dark times, but eventually become The Last Strega.
Revised ending to “The Trial of Jehenne de Brigue”:
“Stop crying,” Jehenne cooed, smiling at the hysterical woman.
Haus then appeared between them just as the executioner began lighting the pyre. Macette screamed. Haus ignored her and placed his hands on Jehenne’s shoulders. Haus smiled down at Jehenne. She looked up at the demon and returned his smile.
Macette screeched, “But Haussibut, my lord, my love, why do you only take her?! Why have you forsaken me?!”
“She has proved her loyalty to me.”
“But she betrayed us by confessing!”
“No, you set the wheels in motion by betraying Jehenne to your husband! You sealed your fate!” And with that, Haus vanished, taking Jehenne with him as the pyre burned.
So, I am totally excited about my first officially published horror story! It’s so cool to see my name on a cover like this, well pen name, Lol. But the initials, C.C., do stand for my real name at least. 🙂 My short story is included along with the writings of much more accomplished Women of Horror than myself, so I am proud and honored to be included. I hope to one day achieve as much success of many of the women included in this anthology.
The synopsis for, “The Trial of Jehenne de Brigue”:
The “Trial of Jehenne de Brigue” is the story of an herbalist healer who lives in 14th century France during a time when women who indulged in medical pursuits were highly scrutinized by society and the Catholic church. It is a story of betrayal, revenge, and a woman who is willing to fight until her dying breath to have the right to live as she chooses.
Just finished reading this delightful romp through the mind of the extremely talented, Janine Pipe! I had read her stories before in the women of horror anthologies published by Kandisha Press and loved them, so it was a no brainer to purchase this little ditty! As usual, she wows the reader with her creativity by presenting this collection as lost papers of a semi-famous author written as an 80s mixtape, complete with titles of 80s songs for each story. Since my partying days long, long, ago were in the 80s, I was drawn to that. But then again, who doesn’t love 80s music?!
Each story is so well done and fires up the reader’s imagination and anticipation immediately upon entry. Many of them leave the reader wanting more, much in the same style as shorts by the illustrious, Stephen King. The collection is permeated with ghosts, legendary creatures, folklore; a buffet of all things horror.
I also love that she put author notes at the end of each tale. I love getting a glimpse into the writer’s mind. And of course I’m drawn to her writing because much like me she is heavily influenced by the TV show, Supernatural.
Janine Pipe with her awesome range when it comes to writing horror, is on her way to being a force to be reckoned with in the horror writing community. I give this anthology 5 stars!
Bio: Trading in a police badge and then classroom, Janine is a full-time Splatterpunk Award nominated writer, whilst also being a mum, wife and Disney addict. Influenced by the works of King from a young age, she likes to shock readers with violence and scare them with monsters – both mythical and man-made. When she’s not killing people off, she likes to chew the fat with other authors – reviewing books and conducting interviews for her podcast and YouTube channel. You’ll likely find her devouring work by Glenn Rolfe, Hunter Shea and Tim Meyer. Her biggest fan, beta reader, editor and financier is her loving husband. He just wants her to write a story about werewolves that wear shoes on their hands …
Guys! I’m doing my first author interview with Janine Pipe, my kindred spirit of horror!
Thank you for being my first interview victim, Janine! Here goes…first question:
CC: I’m sure you’ve always been drawn to writing as many of us are, but at what point did you decide to pursue writing with publication in mind?
Janine: A couple of years ago I was made redundant due to budget cuts. My daughter was school age so I suddenly had some time on my hands. I had been blogging in the travel genre for a while but my passion for fiction had always been horror. I started writing a few bits and pieces, just the kind of stuff that I would want to read and fully immersed myself in the community to learn about how to sub, who to sub to etc. which was vital and as with most people, I had rather a lot of rejections. My first ever proper acceptance was with Kandisha of course and the rest as they say is history. It is still nerve-wracking though for sure, each and every time something gets released as you are putting yourself out there. But that’s the game.
CC: Why the horror genre? What specifically drew you to it?
Janine: Horror and dark, psychological thrillers have always been my bag. Right from a young age, I was drawn to the more macabre side of things and had a fascination/deep terror of all things supernatural. To this day ghost stories both excite and scare the crap out of me. As a teen I loved the cat and mouse type fun of Point Horror and the character driven small town narrative of King. I also read a lot of crime books as I always wanted to be a police officer. Lore in particular has always really interested me too, I love the origins of certain legends and growing up near Glastonbury and Stonehenge was just the icing on the cake.
CC: Who are your greatest influences in the horror genre?
Janine: It would be remiss of me not to say King as the genesis of my love of this genre and his work like Carrie, Salem’s Lot and IT have had a great impact on me. But more recently, I am for sure inspired/influenced by my own 3 favourite authors – Glenn Rolfe, Hunter Shea and Tim Meyer. Also, women like Caroline Kepnes and Kenzie Jennings and although not best known for her fictional writing, Sadie Hartmann for her passion and spark.
CC: Okay, here’s the really cliché question, where do your ideas come from?
Janine: Sometimes I’ll just be hit with a spontaneous idea and that it almost always somewhere inconvenient like in the shower, lol. Then it’s like some sort of fever dream as I desperately try to write it all down. Other times, I get ideas from things I have read or seen. Not copying obviously, but taking the initial idea and growing it, changing it, making it my own. An example being The Special by James Newman and Mark Steensland – that is a story ultimately about sex addition and a dude that fucks a box. I turned my version into teen boys and a hole in a tree but it definitely originated from that. I actually sent James my story and he liked it. Thank god 😉
CC: Once you have an idea, how do you flesh out a story?
Janine: So, I’m a total pantster, I’ll have like an egg of an idea and then I’ll just write and let the rest come organically. Sometimes even I have no idea where we are headed until said egg hatches and I’m like woah I did not see that coming haha. One of the things that I enjoy writing and developing is banter between my characters and I have had some lovely feedback about how realistic it is, especially between male characters. I’m not sure how I can delve into the teen boy mind quite so well but it seems to work!
CC: You have your first book coming out, could you tell us a little about it?
Janine: Sure. Whilst I am super proud of all of my anthology contributions, I really wanted to work on something of my own and something longer. Cue two WIPs that will hopefully see the light of day some time, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I realised that what I enjoy writing most is flash and shorts. I had quite a few already that I had stored waiting for the right anthology to come along and I just thought to myself, why don’t you put them altogether and see what you got? Alongside two of my favourites which we already published – Footsteps which is my Splatterpunk Award nominated work and They from Glenn Rolfe’s Alien Agenda Sampler, I had another twelve stories that were ready. I wrote three more, two which would be considered extreme/splatterpunk. There are seventeen stories in total, varying in sub-genre from creature features to gothic, to haunted houses to urban legends. They are mainly set in the 80s/90s and are tied together with an overseeing narrator who has happened upon the collection along with a mixtape which contains the songs which are the titles of the stories and three more relating to the others. I created a Spotify playlist to go along with it and honestly because I love the 80s, it was just so much fun to litter it with pop culture references.
CC: You’re also an editor and publicist for Kandisha Press, could you tell us a little about that as well?
Janine: Jill was the very first person who accepted one of my shorts for the Kandisha Women of Horror Anthology Volume 2 Graveyard Smash. After working with her for that, we became friends and as well as contributing to Volume 3, she asked if I would help out with some publicity too. The next logical step was to become an editor and we have some amazing plans already for 2022/23 and beyond. Jill is one of my very best friends and working with her is like a dream come true. We have the same hopes and aspirations for Kandisha and between us, we hope to amplify women in horror and become a place for more of us to have a voice.
CC: As you know, I loved your story, “The Invitation” which was featured in the second anthology, Graveyard Smash, put forth by Kandisha Press. It seems that you and I both have a love for the TV show, Supernatural, because I felt a real vibe from that show in your story. Am I right?
Janine: 100% lol. I didn’t actively channel Sam and Dean when I wrote that but I guess it’s always in my subconscious as it is for sure my favourite TV show. One of the things I love most about SPN, asides from the great characters, is the humour and a lot of my work shows that. Even if I’m trying to write a genuinely creepy piece, I usually end up breaking the tension calling someone an ass-hat or the like. I can’t help it. I love my horror to be funny too. I have another story in TTT which is a definite nod to Dean. Now if someone can just ask Jensen if he wants a copy …
CC: What advice would you have for writers like myself that are just starting out?
Janine: The best advice I can give is keep at it and just write as much as you can. Once you have words on a page, you can edit, change, play with it. You can’t do that with a blank space. Read as much as possible too. Support other indies but also read some of the classics. There is a reason people like King, Ketchum, Keene and Laymon are considered the Masters. Learn from them. Books like King’s On Writing and Tim Waggoner’s Writing in the Dark are essential too to hone your craft. Also you need a super thick skin. Everyone gets one star reviews, everyone gets negative comments because not every reader will like your voice, your style. I roll that dice often with my more extreme stories. Some people dig that, others really, really don’t like it and will tell you. And it hurts because that’s your baby but you have to just accept it, learn from it and move on. As has been seen over and over, never ever retaliate as it is their right to have an opinion. Be kind, civil and respect reviewers. They matter. Which shouldn’t need to be said, we should all just always be civil all the time.
CC: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Janine: Characters. I love creating these people. Sometimes they are a mixture of real-life friends or an homage someone fictional e.g. I love Richie from IT. I love the camaraderie of Sam and Dean. I love the shit the kids give each other in again IT and more recently, Malignant Summer from Tim Meyer. Building relationships with my creations is one of the best things about writing 100%.
CC: Thank you for being my first ever author interview! Any parting words of wisdom for me and my readers?
Janine: Thank YOU for taking the time to talk with me and letting me be your first victim, I mean guest. Ha. Words of wisdom from me? That’ll be hard. The best advice I was ever given and I live by it, is write what you would read. That way it feels authentic in my opinion. If I tried to write in one of the sub-genres I don’t like, my heart wouldn’t be in it so it wouldn’t feel so real. That’s not always the case of course and as you become more prolific you are likely able to put yourself into any character, setting, plot with ease. But when you’re starting out, writing something you know and enjoy makes it far easier. This is why a lot of my stories involve creatures, cryptids and cops. It’s what I know.
When I was ten years old, I had watched, helpless, as the monster killed my mother. Now, ten years later, I almost pitied him in his weakened state. But I had no time for pity, forgiveness. I don’t know why the vile, smelly creature let me live that day ten years ago. But I had promised him that one day, I would be the one to kill him and I was here to make good on that promise.
The room I found him lying in reeked of beer and cigarettes. I guess that’s what his kind subsisted on between their bloodthirsty hunts. He was lying on a small mattress in the corner of the room…mouth open and in mid snore. It was one of those nasty sounding, phlegm producing types of snores belonging to a creature who is succumbing to some illness, or very old age. But the monster wasn’t that old for his kind, so maybe he did suffer from some affliction.
He opened his eyes, but in his delirium thought I was someone else.
“Bring me some water,” he croaked and closed his eyes again.
I didn’t move. I stood there watching him and listening, but no one else was in the crappy, little, run down house. He resumed his death rattle snore. I decided I needed a little fresh air. I left the room and exited the house through the front door. I stood on the front porch of the old house and spread out before me was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. A mixture of different shades of pinks, oranges and reds streamed across the western sky above the grove of Cedar and Fir trees that blocked the view of the house from the long, winding, country road. The house was secluded, which made sense since his kind preferred to remain isolated from society.
As I watched the sunset, the old John Denver song came back to the forefront of my mind…sung so many years ago in elementary school. Country road, take me home…to the place, I belong… I didn’t belong here, but I guess he did…his kind.
I turned back toward the house. It was small, and the wood was grayed out from years of exposure to the elements because there wasn’t a drop of paint to protect it. There were a couple of Texas live oaks on either side of it and the skeletons of dead bushes in front, under the windows on either side of the porch. This had been someone’s family home long ago, but now the monster desecrated its memory.
The light was fading fast, so I walked back into the house to finally exact my revenge and feel the closure I desired so much…after all these years.
I walked back into the dank, musty, bedroom. He was sitting up…a gun in one hand and a beer in the other.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“You don’t recognize me?”
“Um, no. Should I?” he asked as he took a swig of the stale beer and pointed his gun at me.
“So, you’re going to murder me too? And you’re using a gun? You were a little more hands on with my mother, but I guess you’re weaker now,” I said, taking a step toward him.
“I don’t murder…” he began as he was overcome with a violent coughing fit and dropped the gun, while managing to hold onto the beer.
I stepped closer and snatched the gun from the floor. The monster laughed and downed the rest of the beer before smashing the bottle against the wall beside the mattress and then pointing the broken, jagged, end that remained toward me.
“I won’t go down without a fight,” he said.
“No, your kind never does,” I answered.
“My kind? I’m no monster. I save lives.”
“Not a monster?!” I shouted, “You save lives?! You murdered my mother! She was innocent!”
“I don’t kill innocents. Only evil scum. Those that deserve to die. I’ve always been careful not to kill those that do no harm.”
“My mother never hurt anyone!”
“Look boy, if I did kill your mother, she deserved it. You just weren’t aware of your mother’s crimes.”
I wanted to kill him right then, the self-righteous bastard. But I needed him to remember. I wanted him to know who I was.
“Think back old man, to ten years ago. Do you remember murdering a young woman in her own home in front of her ten-year-old son?”
The monster just looked at me with dead eyes.
“You can’t remember a ten-year-old boy who made a promise to you?”
It finally sinks in. I see it in his eyes. But there is no fear in them, just realization.
“Well go ahead and kill me. It’s better than the Big C anyway, as Stephen King likes to call it.”
I just stare at him, while he stares back. This is not how I envisioned it. I raise the gun and point it at his face. He just sits there. I shoot him and it’s over in an instant. I look at his lifeless body slumped over on the aging mattress and I feel nothing. Ten years of hating and hunting, but I feel numb. Closure is not a thing.
I walk up to his lifeless body, letting the gun drop from my hand and summon the six-inch claws to extend from my fingertips. I then drive them into his chest and pull out his heart. It’s still beating as I rip into it with my fangs and devour it.