About A Horror Show

A beautiful, well-reasoned letter arrived in my inbox. Quite frankly, it was a nice change from some of the hate and threats that I’ve received lately. I wrote a post earlier asking us to be careful and thoughtful when dealing with important things like sexual assault and was surprised at the backlash.

I think we’re all basically saying the same thing: predators aren’t welcome in our community. We can unite on that. But I do urge caution that in the zeal to protect, we don’t become predators ourselves.

I will share this letter. Then I will step away. I won’t talk about this unfortunate situation in interviews, on social media, or in private messages. This has become a circus that greatly distracts from the original message, which is safety, love, and concern.

 

 

As this year’s Stoker Awards toastmaster Stephen Jones said in his opening remarks, “It truly saddens me when I see what is happening to our community.”

As writer Mercedes Yardley discussed on her website, these remarks are in reference to a series of cases involving allegations of white supremacy, theft, and sexual assault in our community. “These are important things, and that’s why this is so difficult.”

Since they claim to have disdain for what they call passive aggression (and what Mrs. Yardley and others might call tact in public speech), we’ll be just as direct as they prefer: This letter primarily regards Brian Keene and his Horror Show podcast, particularly the episodes from April 28, May 5,and May 19. (Brian and Dave, there’s your desired plug.) As Mrs. Yardley says, this is about a much broader problem in our community, but for good or ill, it’s one of which the show has recently chosen to put itself at the forefront.

We’ll say it up front: Brian and Dave are not bad guys. But even good men make mistakes, especially when they haven’t been trained in journalism ethics and procedure. And snarkily titling an episode, “Mercedes Yardley’s Rules of Broadcast Excellence” doesn’t mitigate that concern in the slightest, self­-evidently. We applaud them tackling issues of importance on their show, but the execution does leave something to be desired, and their colleagues shouldn’t be mocked for simply suggesting that we can all do better.

Among the chief concerns is assuming things not in evidence: First, the demonstrated accusation that Mercedes Yardley was not only speaking purely to Brian and the show, but attacking both. Given the title of her post and the totality of its content, that strikes us as an arrogant assumption. She was clearly speaking to the entire community. Part of Mrs. Yardley’s point revolved around the reactionary abdication of reason and scale going on, and their reaction has perhaps proved her point more singularly than anything.

Then there’s the demonstrated assumption that Mrs. Yardley was referring to RJ Cavender in everything she said. That is beyond not in evidence, and if one assumes that she was not referring to Cavender in that particular section of her remarks, it puts rather a lot of comments both on and off the show into stark relief. So, people got that backward: RJ Cavender is a very different man from the other man named on the podcast, and repeatedly conflating the two is not only unfair to the other man, but frankly negligent. The show not only allowed the other man named on­-air, but restated it and further opted to use the word “rape” in conjunction with that man through the duration of that episode. When even the accuser can’t attest to what happened, it’s not proper to name the accused, especially without also naming the accuser, in instances where neither party is a minor.

The show refers to people as witnesses simply because they call themselves witnesses. The show has that backward. A witness who can not say what he or she claims to have witnessed is not yet a witness, neither legally nor rationally. If a person isn’t attesting to anything, that person is just a guest or interviewee, not a witness. Those who did attest are potential witnesses, yes, but not all those the show called witnesses have done so.

They say, “If we’ve been deceived… if Mrs. Yardley has any information… share it with us,” but they’ve got that backward, too. They were right about the current culture being toxic, but wrong in assuming that part of that toxicity doesn’t stem from misapprehending the nature of process and rushing to judgment with only one narrative of events in hand. And to be clear, multiple accounts of the same narrative don’t constitute a hearing of both sides. It’s the show’s responsibility to be ethical and responsible in what and how it “reports” (in quotes because neither of its hosts are actual reporters), especially when accusations of felony behavior are involved. It is not Mercedes Yardley’s responsibility to remind anyone of this fact, nor to provide anyone with evidence or testimony that isn’t hers to share. In at least one instance, people other than Mrs. Yardley have confirmed that information exists and invited Brian to private dialogue about it. As of this writing, he has opted not to take them up on it. No one’s saying Brian and Dave were deceived. We’re saying they and others have chosen to focus on casting aspersions, impugning true motivations, and elevating unsourced gossip. And that’s not serious, sober examination.

People are allowed to bring up the fact that no one has stopped to consider the possibility that evidence or information of that sort even exists; that in a community full of writers, no one could seem to come up with an alternate narrative aside from the one provided by an accuser, let alone one who admits to having no clear recollection of the events in question. Accusing Mrs. Yardley of “attacking” anyone for warning people to be careful with serious allegations is just distasteful. Accusing her of making things more difficult for victims in the future? Unacceptable. A victim is someone for whom victimhood can be demonstrated by a presentation of evidence, not by the collective reactions of a mob, and it’s a bit self-­righteous for the hosts to castigate any woman about the perils of sexual assault, nevermind one who just won a Stoker Award for a story about sexual assault.

Beyond that, of course, there’s the small matter of the accused being presumed innocent until proven guilty in our society. Simply using the word “alleged/allegation” doesn’t absolve anyone of the responsibility to bear that fact in mind at all times, and that is precisely why responsible people and media outlets try to account for gaps in coverage. Note, too, that there’s a difference between receiving no reply and getting the response, “No comment.” But then, perhaps one would have to be an actual journalist to know that.

They say, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” but in contextualizing that aphorism, they seem to get the crux backward again, because the expression doesn’t account for who actually set the fire. Which would be fine, except that determining who set the fire is essential to determining who deserves victim status and who deserves to stand accused. Only due process, which the community has not observed and which the show did not observe with regard to one who was named and accused, stands a chance of sorting it out. And since these topics are as important as they are, we don’t get to abdicate due process.

They say they’re embarrassed for Mercedes Yardley. For the culture everyone involved was critiquing, maybe, but for her in particular? They say “shame on” Mercedes Yardley.

Shame on Mercedes Yardley? For being the voice of reason? Really?

It seems to us that the only people who should be ashamed of themselves are those who’d even begin to suggest that Mercedes was somehow engaging in victim­blaming. That’s not only an ugly and perverse lie, but worse, one that misses the entire point of her post.

C.A. Suleiman & Craig Spector

A Recorded Interview! Woo!

 

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You guys, I had so much fun on Jackie Chin’s ZOMBIEPALOOZA radio show on Friday! It was a pleasure to talk about Little Dead Red, being a woman in horror, and showing you my ukulele briefly. (I strum it when I’m nervous.)  If you would like to watch, this is part two of the show. You’ll catch Nicole Cushing, John Palisano, and I. I hope you enjoy!

To watch the interview, please stop by here.

Shades and Shadows Reading: Pictures!

It was glorious. Such a beautiful, enchanting venue. I was simply charmed.

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It took place at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, and it was otherworldly.

 

IMG_1503The readings were beautifully done. They clocked in at about seven minutes apiece. We had three readers, then a short break, and then three more readings. It left me wanting more. The most memorable to me was John Skipp’s reading from his book The Art of Horrible People., about a couple who kidnap a clown. The story is chilling, but Skipp’s reading of it is superb. I’m so delighted that this will soon be up as a podcast so you can hear for yourself. Keep an eye on the Shades and Shadows site, but I’ll also link you here when it’s available.

flyerIt was so cool to meet Lauren Miller, Chris Farnsworth, S.P. Hendrick, and Adrian Mendoza. What a wonderful set!

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I look like I’m going to eat Xach Fromson’s delicious, delicious brain. I might have been considering it. Readings make me a bit peckish.

It was such a pleasure. It was food to my soul. I hope you can attend the next Shades and Shadows reading in July. I had a sneak peek at some of the lineup and my eyes blew out of my skull!

Join Us on Zombiepalooza Tonight!

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Jackie Chin was gracious enough to invite five Bram Stoker Award nominees and winners onto her show tonight! Kick back and chat.

Zombiepalooza Radio Live Presents: Winners and Nominees from the Bram Stoker Awards (May-2016)
Date: 5-20-16
Time: 8:00 pm till 1am EST
Place: YouTube- https://goo.gl/lQPXI2

1. 8:10-9pm EST: Author Patrick Freivald
Nominated for Superior Achievement in a Novel – Black Tide (JournalStone Publishing)
Book Link: https://goo.gl/ftwGhP

2. 9:10-10pm EST: Author Brian Kirk
Nominated for Superior Achievement in a First Novel – We Are Monsters (Samhain Publishing)
Book Link: https://goo.gl/DSHsS1

3. 10:10-11pm EST: Author Nicole Cushing
Winner for Superior Achievement in a First Novel – Mr. Suicide (Word Horde)
Book Link: https://goo.gl/0lTuFR

4. 11:10-12am EST: Author Mercedes Murdock Yardley
Winner for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction – Little Dead Red (Grimm Mistresses) (Ragnarok Publications)
Book Link: https://goo.gl/fynUHO

5. 12:10-12:50am EST: Author John Palisano
Winner for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction – Happy Joe’s Rest Stop (18 Wheels of Horror) (Big Time Books)
Book Link: https://goo.gl/eSErQY

Zombiepalooza Radio LIVE

Zombiepalooza Radio Live Presents: Winners and Nominees from the Bram Stoker Awards (May-2016)
Date: 5-20-16
Time: 8:00 pm till 1am EST
Place: YouTube- https://goo.gl/lQPXI2

1. 8:10-9pm EST: Author Patrick Freivald
Nominated for Superior Achievement in a Novel – Black Tide (JournalStone Publishing)
Book Link: https://goo.gl/ftwGhP

2. 9:10-10pm EST: Author Brian Kirk
Nominated for Superior Achievement in a First Novel – We Are Monsters (Samhain Publishing)
Book Link: https://goo.gl/DSHsS1

3. 10:10-11pm EST: Author Nicole Cushing
Winner for Superior Achievement in a First Novel – Mr. Suicide (Word Horde)
Book Link: https://goo.gl/0lTuFR

4. 11:10-12am EST: Author Mercedes Murdock Yardley
Winner for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction – Little Dead Red (Grimm Mistresses) (Ragnarok Publications)
Book Link: https://goo.gl/fynUHO

5. 12:10-12:50am EST: Author John Palisano
Winner for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction – Happy Joe’s Rest Stop (18 Wheels of Horror) (Big Time Books)
Book Link: https://goo.gl/eSErQY

 

So, Um. This Happened. Thank You!

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On Saturday night, I was blown away when I was awarded the beautiful Bram Stoker Award for my story Little Dead Red.  Little Dead Red is probably the darkest thing I’ve written. It’s a tale about little girls, their dead-inside mothers, and the Wolves of the world. It’s a tale of love and justice. It’s a difficult read because it isn’t fantasy. It’s real.

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(Thanks to S Scranton Photography for this gorgeous picture! I love it!)

 

I was so genuinely honored to be nominated. I know how cliché that sounds, but it’s true. I was seated in a room with F. Paul Wilson and other authors who make me starstruck. How surprised was I, you ask? So surprised that I didn’t hear my name called. So surprised that I didn’t have a speech prepared. Stephen King has won this award. George R. R. Martin won this award. I didn’t expect to win this award. What a dream come true.  I still can’t believe it. Thank you so much.

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To see a list of the complete nominees and winners, please stop by the HWA blog.

 

Get To Know A Bram Stoker Award Nominee

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After the official Bram Stoker Awards nomination ballots were announced, I was contacted and asked to give an interview as an official nominee. (I’m a nominee! Yay!) The awards are later this week and they didn’t have time to run the interview series, but I’m allowed to put my interview up here. Please take a second to read some of my thoughts about my long fiction story Little Dead Red. Have a wonderful day!

Please describe the genesis for the idea that eventually became the work(s) for which you’ve been nominated. What attracted you most to the project? If nominated in multiple categories, please touch briefly on each.

MMY: Stacey Turner invited me to a very cool anthology of Grimm Brothers’ stories that were retold exclusively by women. I’ve always been partial to Little Red Riding Hood and thought of how I could bring it into the modern day without losing the horror of it. I’m quite pleased with the result.

What was the most challenging part of bringing the concept(s) to fruition? The most rewarding aspect of the process?

MMY: Little Dead Red is all about abuse. Sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and murder. It was difficult to tackle something so realistic and try to do it justice. Little Aleta and her mother, Grimm Marie, are fictional characters who represent very real world problems. I feel like their stories were told with care and grace, and that’s rewarding.

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What do you think good horror/dark literature should achieve? How do you feel the work(s) for which you’ve been nominated work fits into (or help give shape to) that ideal?

MMY: I think great dark literature should make you feel. It should move the reader in some way, whether it be outright terror or quiet unease. Good literature is the antidote to apathy, and I think Little Dead Red makes the reader uncomfortable because it’s highlighting something that could actually happen to their children, if it hasn’t already.

I’m curious about your writing and/or editing process. Is there a certain setting or set of circumstances that help to move things along? If you find yourself getting stuck, where and why?

MMY: I have three young kiddos in a tiny house the size of a shoebox. I can’t wait for ideal circumstances because they will never come. I do like to have Coke Zero at the ready, and also comfortable, snuggly socks while I write. I usually don’t listen to music because I need to hear if the kids are murdering each other in the next room. Or right in front me, because they’re usually with me. 

I seem to get stuck when I try to force an idea that doesn’t grow organically. When I say, “Hey, I want to highlight a certain issue,” and stick a character into the story who doesn’t belong there, everything falls apart. The same thing happens if I’m writing strictly for deadline under duress, and I’m not emotionally invested in my piece. I had an editor fly out to Vegas for 36 hours so we could brainstorm and unstick me, because I’ve been at a halt on two books for about a year. She flew home yesterday, and I’m finally ready to face this demon.

As you probably know, many of our readers are writers and/or editors. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can share?

MMY: The best advice I’ve ever received was to celebrate every little step of the process. As a creative, we like to challenge ourselves. We’re always thinking about the next project. But if you enjoy every aspect, every relationship created and every small advance toward the ultimate goal, the journey becomes a thing of beauty.

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If you’re attending WHC this year, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s event? If not attending, what do you think is the significance of recognitions like the Bram Stoker Awards?

MMY: I think these awards are all about being recognized by your peers in the industry. A typical reader hasn’t heard about The Bram Stoker Awards, but the genre authors have. It’s very cool to have the members of the HWA read and ultimately care enough about your work to put it to a vote.

What scares you most? Why? How (if at all) does that figure into your work or the projects you’re attracted to?

MMY: I’m terrified of losing my children. I’m also uneasy about the idea of there being a Big Bad Horror out there that is too tough to handle. I like to take on projects that hit a core terror in each of us. Losing those we treasure is horrifying. Losing the critical fight and having the ancient horror overrun you? Unthinkable in Western horror.

What are you reading for pleasure lately? Can you point us to new authors or works we ought to know about?

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MMY: My favorite book from last year is Brian Kirk’s We Are Monsters. I was lucky enough to read an ARC of that and it was dark, psychological, and strangely sensitive. I love Therese Walsh’s The Moon Sisters. Matt Betts has quirky, unexpectedly poignant poetry alongside his fiction. I tend to read nonfiction for pleasure. I love that feeling of constantly learning. I hunger for knowledge.

 

 Mercedes M. Yardley is a dark fantasist who wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She writes short stories, nonfiction, novellas, and novels. She is the author of Beautiful Sorrows, Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, Nameless, Little Dead Red, and her latest release, Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy. Mercedes lives and works in Sin City, and you can reach her at http://www.mercedesyardley.com.

 

Greetings From Moon Hill!

The Big Secret: GREETINGS FROM MOON HILL

Tony Rapino and I have teased you relentlessly over the last several weeks, and now we’re finally pulling back the curtain on a project that’s been nearly two years in the making.The project is this: A limited hardcover run of a new collection by Anthony J. Rapino, titled GREETINGS FROM MOON HILL. This will be the first title published by Precipice Books that isn’t by me. As you can imagine, it’s a huge step for me and for Precipice, and if successful, it will lead to subsequent titles by other authors. This Kickstarter campaign will combine Tony’s fiction with his sculptures, allowing the reader to hold a piece of Moon Hill in their hands.

Our goal is $6,800 in 30 days, but we have a lot of really cool stretch goals planned should we exceed that amount. Things like glow-in-the-dark variants of the sculptures, a video documenting Tony’s sculpting process, illustrations for the collection, T-shirts, and possibly even a story collaboration between Tony and me.

You can get the full details on the project here. This probably goes without saying, but supporting this projectmeans supporting Precipice and its future. Any and all support is greatly appreciated.

So there you have it, folks. That’s the big secret. We have 30 days to raise nearly $7k. Please help us get there.

TK

This Mother’s Day Thing Is A Mixed Bag

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We love our mothers. Of course we love our mothers. But they drive us crazy. They raised us wonderfully/strangely/amazingly/poorly or they didn’t raise us at all. They fill us with love or hate or guilt or horror or remorse. We take care of them or they take care of us. Perhaps we have never met them. Perhaps we like it that way. Perhaps we spend our entire lives searching for them. What if we lost them to death and the thought is still to much to bear? Mothers fill us with emotion. But they make us So. Very. Tired.

No matter how you feel about your mother, somebody will tell you you’re wrong. She’s sweet but overbearing. She was abusive but at least you had a mother. She was missing or dead but at least she wasn’t abusive. Be grateful for what you have. Think of all of the other people out there who love/hate/avoid their mothers. They really had it bad. You’re lucky and ungrateful.

Happy Mother’s Day.

We love our kids. Of course we love our kids. But they drive us crazy. They disobey and spill things on the carpet. They get into our things and date people that scare us. All three of them try to sit on our laps at the same time. They’re always in the hospital. They’re always in rehab. They scrape their knees and pierce their faces and take razors to their skin and hurt our hearts. They make us so incredibly happy and so desperately sad. They want their arms around us 24/7 when we need a break or won’t hug us when we’re dying for their affection. Perhaps we’ve lost one or two or several, and Mother’s Day reminds us keenly. Children are made of kisses and starlight and demons and magic and they make us So. Very. Tired.

No matter how you feel about your children, somebody will tell you you’re wrong. If you’re weary from not sleeping through the night for 16 months or for crying about their newest and greatest hurt, somebody will tell you to think of those who can’t have children. Who would be grateful for the nights spent worrying, calling their friends and hospitals looking for them, for helping them through their nightmares, for finding out that you couldn’t protect them from the monsters in their lives. Think of all of the women who would be better mothers to your children. You’re lucky and ungrateful.

Happy Mother’s Day.

There are women who are mothers, but not physically. They’re teachers, aunts, babysitters, Nana’s, friends, family by blood or by mutual decision. Perhaps they ache because they have no children of their own. Perhaps it’s by choice.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Single fathers, who do all of the work, go to all of the plays, and fall asleep in front of the TV at night.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Individuals who want nothing to do with children at all, but have pearls and cards and chocolate advertisements shoved in their faces.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I know people who love the holiday. I know people who hate the holiday. It can stir up the happiest and darkest of emotions. I have friends who won’t come to church on Mother’s Day because the speakers wax on about their virtuous mothers, and it makes my friends feel inadequate. It feels like a day where we’re judged. Put on a pedestal or judged too harshly or perhaps we have distorted views of ourselves. We see ourselves when we’re frazzled and stressed and sick and we’re feeding everybody cold cereal for dinner. It’s easy to forget the love and cuddles when all we can see is that we can’t afford the money or time for a child’s gymnastic’s class or football practice.

Let’s forget the judgement. Let’s be kind. Celebrate this Mother’s Day, and give each other (and yourself) a pat on the back. Enough with the Mommy Wars, the Gender Wars, and every other single kind of war that saps us of our energy.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Becoming Mob, Judge, Jury, and Executioner

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The horror world has been a mess lately, and I mostly try to stay out of it. I want to help where I can, lend support to those I love, and lift my skirts above the spilled blood we’re all wading through. But things are reaching a fever pitch and I need to say something.

Be careful.

Be careful of what you say. Be careful of what you read. Be careful of clinging so tightly to unverified facts that you become a beast and lose your humanity along the line.

We, as writers, especially know that words have power. When we send them out into the world, they grow bigger, sprout teeth, and turn into things we can no longer control. One person’s account of things can not and should not be taken as gospel. It is up to us as individuals and communities to be responsible, level-headed, and decent human beings.

That’s right. Be decent.I’m talking about charged topics, I know. We’ve been dealing with white supremacy, narcissism, theft, and sexual assault. These are important things, and that’s why this is so difficult. We should be angry about them. We should rush to support anybody who is victimized. But on the other hand, when we lose all sense of reason, we create new victims.

What if, heaven forbid, the person accused of crimes is innocent? What if, in the blur of time and emotional duress, some circumstances aren’t remembered with perfect clarity? What if the accuser simply makes a mistake?

There is more information coming out in one of these situations that leads one to believe that it was physically impossible for one of these things to occur. That changes everything, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t it? Or is the smell of blood in the water so delicious that we can’t stop thrashing long enough to think it through?

I was just reading a thread where an interviewer said that he hadn’t reached out to the person he publicly named and accused on his show, but explained that away by saying that his contact information was readily available and the accused could always reach out to him.

That isn’t how it works. That shouldn’t be how it works.

People are not collateral damage. Look at what we’ve become. Look at our politics. Look at our lives. School children are being beaten to death in their school restrooms while nobody intervenes, but we have self-appointed Bathroom Vigilantes making sure we don’t pee-while-being…I don’t know. Don’t pee while being human. Isn’t that the bottom line? We are all human.

Until we allow ourselves to turn into beasts.

I read about the witch hunts in Salem and I wondered how such a thing could happen. I learned about the holocaust and my mind was blown. How could so many people allow a vocal few to override reason and humanity? How could an entire group be so cruel?

I see it now. This is how. We whip ourselves up without facts. We allow our disgust to overthrow careful consideration. In some cases, love of the spotlight trumps all.

Lives will be lost over this attitude. I hope we realize it. In our passion to protect the victims from bullies, we become the bullies. A single, solitary person can’t stand up to the crushing weight of a crowd, and some won’t even try. I think our intentions are good. We want to protect. We want to punish people we see as threats and predators. But inciting the mob isn’t the way to do it. We have a legal system. We have police. We have people trained to follow protocol that is there for a reason.

My soul hurts. We have become so ugly as a society that I fear for us. I fear because of us.  Please take care with each other. A knife can be used to protect or to harm. A torch can light the way or cause uncontrollable destruction. Put down your torch. You’re going to set everyone around you on fire.