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”!
“Has what?” asked Jack as he helped his brother sit up. “And who’s she?”
Reed was still gasping for air, so he didn’t answer.
“Who is she?! And what does she have?!” Jack asked again.
Reed’s breathing had returned to normal and he answered, “I don’t know who she is, and I don’t know what she has.”
“Have you lost your mind?!” shouted Jack.
“I know it doesn’t make any sense, Jack, but I have to trust my gut. Something very strange is happening here in Dale City. Something really bad. That woman holds the key. And I don’t think she’s a woman exactly,” said Reed as he stood up and attempted to brush off some of the grime that had attached itself to him from the filthy floor of the decrepit house.
“She’s not a woman…exactly? What does that even mean?” asked Jack as he took his brother’s arm and pulled him toward the front door of the house.
After they reached the sidewalk and started walking away side by side, Reed said, “We have to get back in there.”
Jack turned, grabbed his brother by the shoulders and spun him toward himself. Jack was taller than Reed and very fit. Reed was fit too, but taken by surprise. “Are you crazy?” asked Jack between clenched teeth as he faced his older brother and stared down into his face.
Before Reed could answer, Jack’s cell rang. Jack took his hands of Reed and pulled out his phone.
“It’s mom,” said Jack.
Jack tapped the phone before placing it to his ear. “Hi, Mom,” he said. “What do you mean? Are you sure? …where was she last seen?”
Reed’s heart reached out to Jack as he watched the expressions of fear, disbelief and loss contort his brother’s face.
“Okay Mom, we’ll head over there right now,” said Jack, before placing the phone back in his pocket. He ran his hand down his face, sighed and then facing Reed again said, “Adita’s missing.”
“I’m so sorry, Jack,” said Reed.
“She’s probably just getting her nails done somewhere and her cell battery is dead,” answered Jack with false bravado. Adita was as meticulous and dependable as her fiancé.
Reed fell in step with his brother as they trotted back to the Pharm-Mart where they had left Reed’s BMW X7 in the parking lot. He had already remotely started the engine of the luxury vehicle. They jumped in and Reed pulled out of the parking lot a little too fast, just missing a pickup that was passing on the main road. He continued to exceed the speed limit as they headed toward the old downtown.
“Jack, you know this whole area is monitored by the highway patrol,” said Reed.
“For once, I’m taking advantage of Dad’s position in this po-dunk town,” Jack snapped back at him.
Reed sighed, leaned back, and looked out the window. His view consisted of a mix old wood-frame houses, many of which were in desperate need of a new coat of paint. Some of them so dilapidated they were just the gray color of old wood.
Most people in Dale City and the surrounding area lived off the land or paycheck to paycheck, except for the lucky ones who worked at James Corp.
As they drew closer to the refurbished downtown, some of the prosperity could be seen. Several of the James Corp execs had remodeled the sprawling early 1900 era houses. Some opted for the traditional white, others were more creative, with sky-blue or some other pastel for the main color and trimmed in white. The houses had porches that ran across the entire front and sometimes the side of the house as well. Reed envisioned a past history of white ladies, in billowing dresses sitting in rocking chairs on those porches as a black maid served them a glass of lemonade or some such. Jack pulled into the driveway of one of the solid white houses. Their father didn’t like bold colors.
Their mother, Jaclyn James, appeared as if from nowhere beside the opulent vehicle. She was as elegant as ever attired in skinny jeans, sleeveless, Under Armour t-shirt and flat heeled leather boots. She had her long black hair pulled into a ponytail and her normally alabaster skin, was lightly tanned.
“C’mon boys, we’re going to Amir’s shop. He was the last to see Adita,” she said as she slid into the back seat on the driver’s side.
The brothers exchanged a look, but knowing it was a waste of time questioning their mother, said nothing. They got back in the vehicle and backed out of the driveway.
Amir Singh was standing on the sidewalk in front of his antique shop, waiting for them it seemed. Jack pulled his car into one of the slanted parking spots that lined the main street of downtown Dale City.
Amir locked the front door of the shop and switched off the neon open sign after they were all inside and then headed to the back without a word. The trio followed in silence as he led them through the shop, which was full of the standard antiques found in any small, Texas town. There were old wooden dressers with chips and scratches, ancient looking garden gnomes, decorative plates on little metal stands depicting women with big, old fashioned dresses, and ceramic figurines in the shapes of cats and roosters and the like. When they reached the back of the shop, he opened the door to the living quarters and waved them through. After he locked that door behind them, he turned and faced them.
“We need to tell them the truth, Jehenne,” he said to Jaclyn.
Jaclyn nodded, “I agree, but Sam won’t like it.”
“Samyaza is not in charge here, I am,” said Amir
Jaclyn, no, Jehenne laughed, “No Amir, this is not the time for warriors to charge into battle. There is much at stake here. The one responsible for all this is too powerful for even an immortal Rajput warrior and an angel.”
“An angel who led the Grigori to freedom from oppression,” interjected Amir.
“Even one who led a revolt against Heaven. This is the time for witches and shamans. We have been preparing for this for centuries. We must find the dreamwalker.”
Reed and Jack were dumbfounded. They exchanged a look and then turned their attention back toward the parental figures that they had known all their lives, who now seemed like strangers.
She watched as the taller human helped the shorter one sit up and then stand up from the filthy floor of the old house. But this house did not belong here. Where she was from, this house glistened with pure white columns throughout and long corridors that led toward towering, ornate, solid marble doorways that opened to various, parallel worlds. She made a sound of disgust that she had ended up back in the universe that contained the sniveling humans.
The two young men hadn’t noticed her because there was no sound in this void. The one who had discovered her, hadn’t even seen her as she was flung from the other realm along with him. She almost had the object, when he interrupted her trance. She now sensed the two were brothers, and not quite human…they were something more.
She stood up as she watched them exit the house. She looked down at the skimpy outfit the human had imagined for her and with just a thought, her attire became black leather pants, black top, and black boots to match. Her hair changed from black and piled on top of her head, to wavy, blonde, and flowing past her shoulders. Her face no longer full of sharp teeth, but the face of an angel, she thought to herself. She laughed softly as the thought came to her that the humans would liken her to an angel.
She stepped out of the house into the bright sunlight, and laughed again as she watched the two brothers running in the distance.
Jill Girardi is a woman of horror that is near and dear to my heart (Cliché, I know, but sometimes a cliché is accurate!). She’s not just an awesome horror writer, but she fully supports and lifts up other women who have chosen to write in this historically male dominated genre. Jill was the first person to believe in me enough to give me the opportunity to transition from writer to published writer. When someone helps another person on that level, helping them believe that dreams actually can come true—well, nothing beats that. Jill Girardi is proof that one person really can make a difference.
Jill Girardi is the founder of Kandisha Press, an independent horror publisher which supports women horror writers around the world. She is also the author of multiple short stories, which feature her own brand of dark humor, beasties, and out of this world, nefarious creatures of her own design. Jill is also the best selling, award-nominated author of the Hantu Macabre series.
Jill Girardi is well known and loved among the horror community at large. She is extremely talented and a truly kind person. I am honored to have worked with her and hope to continue to do so. Her Twitter handle is @jill_girardi
So, after a long hiatus accompanied by multiple day job changes which resulted in massive life disarray, I am making my triumphant return with a review of an excellent anthology that seems to have been overlooked by the masses.
Lydia Prime edited this anthology and also has a story within its pages. The incomparable, Ramsey Campbell, introduces the stories inside with an insightful foreword.
The writers were asked to come up with stories that expressed who they are as authors. Many of them explore the true demons that haunt humanity. Alcoholism, death, lost love, and cowardice are themes that many of us have experienced first hand. Horror as a genre often utilizes monstrous beings to represent our greatest fears and weaknesses.
Some of these stories, like a great many horror stories, straddle the lines of horror/sci-fi/dark fantasy. This is one the things I love most about horror. It colors outside the lines.
There is a Stephen Kingish, leave you guessing, element to many of these tales, which is another thing I love about this genre. It encourages deeper thought after the story ends and I think many writers are drawn to it because of that. There is always more to the story, thus more that can be written.
I highly recommend this book, a five star read for sure!
So, tell me, how have I not read any of Shirley Jackson’s work? I vaguely was familiar with her name, but had no idea of her inspiring work in the horror genre. I had heard of the Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House of course, but had no idea it was written by a woman of horror.
I haven’t watched the series yet though, because I recently watched this one:
I have to take a break between well done ghost stories if I want to get any sleep at night. Couldn’t look in mirrors for awhile after watching The Haunting of Bly Manor, and also didn’t realize how many mirrors there were in my house until I watched that series…
So why, have I not read Shirley Jackson? When it comes to famous authors, am I like a lot of people and only focused on the male ones? Especially when it comes to horror? And the funny thing is that according to Shirley Jackson’s Wikipedia page, great male writers like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, count her among their influencers.
So, The Haunting of Hill House, is apparently “considered to be one of the best ghost stories ever written.”-Wikipedia
Ghost stories are my favorite in the horror genre, so of course, I’ve downloaded it on my Kindle and it will be my next read.
It saddens me that because of the time period in which she lived, Shirley Jackson was held back by society. Mainly, societal expectations for women, it seems. Although through her writing, she made much more money than her professor husband, he controlled the finances and she was given an allowance. Also, he apparently strayed quite often with his students. Shirley suffered from a great amount of anxiety and was prescribed barbiturates by her physician. She also battled alcoholism. I’ve read many counts of women in the past who weren’t allowed to reach their full potential and turned to drugs or alcohol. She died at the young age of 48. She contributed so much, but one has to wonder how much more she might have been accomplished if given a loose rein.
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.
“Alyson lives in West Yorkshire, UK with her husband, teen son and four rescue animals. Her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1, Stories from Stone, Ellipsis, Rejected (ed. Erin Crocker)and in many ezines, but most often on the Horror Tree site, in Siren’s Call.
She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.”
Alyson is a prolific writer and most recently wrote a little ditty for:
She also has a story in the Kandisha Press anthology, Don’t Break the Oath, where my debut story “The Trial of Jehenne de Brigue” can be found. I’m so honored to be in an anthology which includes a talented writer like her and so many others more talented than me! These Women of Horror, inspire me to continually improve my craft.
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.