Friday, May 31, 2019

Guest Post: Motherhood and Horror by Gemma Amor

Motherhood and horror

By Gemma Amor

Let me get this out of the way in the first sentence. Ready? Okay.

‘Mommie Dearest’.

There. I said it. Now that I have, that expression can sod off and climb into the bin and we can have a proper chat about Motherhood and horror without the spectre of maniacal, glamorous movie star Joan Crawford and her bloody coathangers looming above us.

Let’s get something else out of the way while we’re here. I’m both a writer of horror fiction AND a Mother. Does this make me more qualified to talk about it at length? Probably not. But it has changed how I consume and react to the brand of horror that centres itself around ‘Mother’ as not just a protagonist or antagonist, but a theme. And what I’ve realised, in the few years since I ungraciously pushed a giant baby out of my vagina and embarked upon my career as an author, is this: talking about Mothers as individuals in horror is one thing. Talking about Motherhood as a concept within horror is something else entirely- some would say it qualifies as a sub-genre within its own right. To Be a Mum, or Not To Be. Let’s be clear: horror can feature mothers, or be about motherhood. Unpicking this further so we can examine it properly can be both headache-inducing, and frustrating, and not least because ‘Motherhood’ the theme is rarely addressed, inside of horror and out, with rose-tinted spectacles.

On this note, being a mum in a horror movie is a bit like being a ‘final girl’- it either ends badly for you, or really badly, depending on the type of film. Either way, tropes abound, and very few of them are ever flattering. If you type ‘mothers in horror books’ into google, the first result (at least where I am) after the sponsored books ads is this: ‘The 16 Worst Mothers in Books’. When it comes to films, it is a frankly challenging task to find a mother that isn’t a raving lunatic or quivering victim (more on this later). What is it about Mothers that Hollywood finds so scary, exactly? Is it because of Freud? Is it because we actually love our mothers a great deal and find the idea of them behaving in any way that is threatening or dangerous so fundamentally scary we have to keep making movies about it? Or, worse, are there really that many lunatic, dangerous and downright dreadful mothers around in our society that we feel the need to make endless commentary on it seasoned liberally with with jumpscares and gallons of fake blood?

I don’t have the answers to this, but what I can do is breakdown different approaches to maternity in horror, based on my own observations:

Motherhood as a destructive force

Go on then, let’s talk about her: Norman Bates’ mother. The real, if somewhat anhydrous star of Pyscho (1960) wedged herself firmly into the minds of cinema-goers and filmmakers alike since she first reared her wizened head in 1960. Mrs. Bates  is something of a muse for motherhood horror: inspiring possessive, crazed tributes in countless other movies many years down the line. And it’s not without impact. Here we see the true power of shitty parenting: a small boy, abused by his domineering and over-protective Mother, grows up so dysfunctionally that he eventually becomes her in his own mind, having been systematically stripped of any of his own personality or mental agency from a young age. Thus when the credits roll, we the audience feel a little sorry for the deadly, deranged Norman, because, after all- none of it was his fault, was it? Course not. All down to terrible mothering. And this, in and of itself, wrought destruction.

This idea evolves with Margaret White, the neurotic, hyper-religious Mother of Stephen King’s Carrie (1976). This book, as with Pyscho, also looks at motherhood as a catalyst for terrible behaviour- Carrie’s abuse, like Norman’s, is the spark that lights the murderous tinder. Margaret White, however, makes Mrs.Bates look like a girl-scout leader. She is a monstrous woman who is equal parts fantasist and control freak, scared beyond belief of the outside world, and abusive by default to her teenage daughter, denying her basic rights like sanitary products and body shaming her repeatedly as puberty threatens to broadens Carrie’s horizons. The end result is much the same as with Psycho- that failing on the motherhood front only results in death, and ruination. Move forward three years to 1979, and you have V.C Andrews’ utterly chilling and extremely difficult to swallow book (no pun intended) Flowers in the Attic. In this, motherhood and abuse are generational concerns, coloured by incest (yay). The story places the mother of four children, Corrine, as both the abuser, and the abused (Corrine is regularly whipped by her own cold, emotionless mama, because, themes). Throw in some poisoned doughnuts and dodgy things going on in the attic and the end message is one we are now familiar with: motherhood as a shattering, angry force.

The next rather retreatist (is that a word?) progression of this is the sensitive, fragile, watery mother (who is still overbearing, stifling and ultimately lethal) that we find in The Others, where Nicole Kidman spends a lot of time twitching curtains shut and dabbing tears from her porcelain skin and spouting pretty words about how much she loves her precious children until we realise, in fact, that she’s, yep- another dreadful mother who actually killed her own children and herself, and surprise, everyone is now a ghost, hurrah. Motherhood as a destructive force, huzzah!

And then to the modern day, to Hereditary (2018), because it wouldn’t be a decent discussion on mothers without mentioning Ari Aster’s incredibly violent, devastating portrait of familial breakdown and demonic possession. The destructive force throughout this film is not, as the red herring often suggests, Annie, played by the incomparable Toni Collette. Sure, she has some fairly obvious mental health issues, sure she once doused herself in a flammable substance and nearly set her children on fire, sure she seems closed down and unaffectionate towards her family, BUT. The real darkness emanates from Annie’s dead mother, Ellen, who we never once see alive but nonetheless manages to destroy an entire family and probably most of civilisation as we know it, eventually, with her tricky demon-summoning antics. The sheer force of her will sweeps through every scene, from her dead body in a coffin at the start to her dead body in a treehouse at the end. Ellen sends tidal waves of evil crashing through what was, to begin with, a typically dysfunctional but otherwise unremarkable all-american family. It’s the most brutal demonstration of motherhood as an adversarial power that I’ve ever seen, and stayed with me long after I’d viewed it.

Motherhood and Victimization

Next up: motherhood and victims. And again, we can turn to King for an easy example of this: Mrs. Torrance, in The Shining. Abused, mousy, timid, uninspiring, she is a ‘good’ mother to all intents and purposes, but oh, boy, does she have ‘victim’ written all over her, so much so that her son Danny is almost better off without her when trying to escape from his homicidal father. The book is definitely not about motherhood, but does exemplify what tends to happen to the concept – it gets polarised. I personally find films where mothers are victims in any sense of the word difficult to deal with, perhaps because it strikes too close to home, but conversely, I also find the idea of motherhood not as a destructive force but one that diminishes us somehow more terrifying.

Take Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – an innocent woman, in the first flushes of her married life, finds herself impregnated with a demon baby. We, the audience, watch as a beautiful and bright young thing slowly breaks down both mentally, and physically as a result. Pregnancy as a theme should also probably be in a subgenre all of its own, and for many of us is scary enough, but the hopelessness of this movie strikes at the heart of something not talked about often enough- that some women find motherhood unnatural. This is so against everything we learn from a young age that it can be difficult to get your head around, which is why the movie works so well.

Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin might seem like a strange book to place in this category, but bear with me. When I read this, it had such a profound and lasting effect that when I did eventually fall pregnant myself, I would have nightmares about giving birth to a blank-eyed boy that I couldn’t bond with. Whether or not the novel falls into the genre of horror, the narrative is horrifying from start to finish. A woman, a normal, every day woman, who tries her hardest to enjoy the gift of motherhood and fails, is punished in the most awful of ways – by the unthinkable atrocities her teenage son carries out. Tormented by her own failure, isolated and shunned by her son’s crimes, I can think of no clearer example of motherhood as a stifling, victimizing entity.

Motherhood as a Vengeful Influence

This is very closely linked to the destructive force category, but there are some examples that deserve mentioning in a specific way: The Woman in Black, from Susan Hill’s book of the same name, a vengeful ghost mother who lures small children to commit suicide in a bizarre act of retribution for the death of her own child. Prevenge (2016), in which a heavily pregnant widow goes ape-shit and embarks on a killing spree, slaughtering those who facilitated her husband’s death. And then, back to Joan Crawford, because all things comes full circle eventually, and we can talk about Strait Jacket (1964) in which axe-murdering Lucy Harbin exacts revenge upon her cheating dirtbag husband by chopping him up. Ultimately, Harbin’s behaviour ends up inspiring her daughter to pick up the axe, in a feminist take on Psycho that is somehow more satisfying to accept, if still hard to stomach.

Motherhood and Salvation

So, here’s a question- can we have more of this, please? This is the type of Motherhood I want to see. I want heroism, I want saviours, I want healing and salvation. You can still work scary shit in around that, and peril, and monsters and blood, but let’s have some discourse on how incubating a child and overseeing its development and safety and wellbeing does not automatically render you a foul, scary, pathetic or vengeful presence. Let’s have more Babadooks (2014), where a furious Amelia Vanek battles grief and insanity and saves her child, banishing the metaphorical Babadook to the cellar, where she keeps it tied up. Let’s have more Ripleys, scrapping limb for limb with xenomorphs to save the life of her surrogate daughter (yes I know it’s sci-fi, but let me have this). Let’s have more of Malorie in Birdbox by Josh Malerman, doing whatever the hell it takes to keep her kids alive in a terrifying, post-apocalyptic world, and succeeding.

Finally, let me have more Angela Carter, more The Bloody Chamber, more mothers who are “indomitable” and “eagle-featured” and who once shot a motherfucking man eating tiger, for heaven’s sake. Let’s have more galloping in on horseback to save the day, only to crash into the bad Bluebeard’s castle in the breathtaking finale to shoot the bastard marquis dead in his tracks. Let’s explore motherhood as a force for good, as well as all the other things. In a genre like horror, which is so malleable and so ripe for diversity, it is criminal to keep adhering to the same worn Bates pattern of addressing motherhood.  

About Gemma Amor

I’m a horror fiction author, podcaster, artist and voice actor from Bristol, in the U.K. 

I write for the wildly popular NoSleep Podcast and various other horror fiction audio dramas. I’m also writing, producing and acting in two shows, ‘Calling Darkness’, and ‘Whisper Ridge’, out in 2019. My first anthology of short stories, ‘Cruel Works of Nature’, was released in 2018, and my next book is the novella ‘Collection’. 

I’m heavily influenced by classical literature, gothic romance and magic realism. I am most at home inside a dusty, rundown mansion or in front of a fire with a single malt and a dog-eared copy of anything by Angela Carter. 

I’m open to collaborations in 2019- find me at @manylittlewords on Twitter and throw ideas at me. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Guest Post for Latino Book Month: Writing Horror as a Latinx by Ann Dávila Cardinal

¡Qué horror! Life as a Gringa-Rican Horror Maven

By Ann Dávila Cardinal

In the early 70s I would arrive for my summer-long stay at my great aunt Ana’s house in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, with a stack of horror comics tucked in my suitcase: Tales From the Crypt, Creepy, Monsters Unleashed. My tía would shuffle through them with a look of disgust, making that disapproving clucking sound with her tongue that she did when seeing a dead animal or beggar in the street.

Photo: Ann Dávila Cardinal

“Ay Annie, why can’t you read somethingnice?” She would shuffle through the pile with the tips of her arthritic fingers,making little gasping sounds at the sight of each cover. “These are notappropriate for a little girl. Does your mother know you read these…things?”She pushed the pile away and clutched at the neckline of her prim blouse.

I smiled at her, (of course, becauseaccording to her I was usually a sinvergüenza, one without shame). “Mom bought them for me, Titi!”

She would shake her head of gray beautyparlor curls, and shuffle away in a flurry of swishing nylons stockings.

Truth was, my mother didn’t care what Iread, as long as I was reading. And besides, she was the one who handed me dog-earedcopies of Dracula and Frankenstein, telling me they were trueGothic literature…when I was ten. So, you could say that I received mixedmessages as to the appropriateness of my love of horror from my family.

When out among the rest of the world, itwas more a gender issue for me in those days. Girls in my school didn’t watch orread horror, they loved Disney and romantic comedies (hell, they also loved theband Poco, so there was no accounting for taste). So, I learned to keep thisparticular interest to myself.

Until I got into punk rock at fifteen. Now these were my people.

Photo: Ann Dávila Cardinal

The punk world and horror wenthand-in-hand, so I no longer had to keep my taste for all things macabre tomyself. I mean, I would go see the Bad Brains at CBGBs and The Plasmatics atMax’s Kansas City. The line between the two art forms was blurred, and I was inmy glory. By this time my great aunt had given up on me with my spiked hair andtattoos, limiting her judgement to a shake of the head, a disappointed sigh,and an “Ay, Annie…” thrown in for good measure.

It wasn’t until I became a writer in myforties that I wondered at the lack of Hispanic names in the field of horrorliterature. Was it a cultural divide? Or were they simply not being translated?Then I read a story from my cousin Tere Dávila (an award-winning author on theisland) that she wrote after Hurricane Maria. It was about a father and his twoyoung daughters, cut off without power in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Thingsget progressively darker as time passes, and the girls become feral and…well,let’s just say the family dog doesn’t fair well. It hit me in my gut, much likethe work of Cronenberg or Stephen King does. It was then I realized that in allthose magical realist novels and stories I was raised on—the short story byJulio Cortazar where the businessman becomes a salamander, the visits from theangel of death in Love In the Time ofCholera—the line between the Latin fabulismo/absurdo/surrealismo and Americanhorror seemed fairly blurred as well.

Consider the plethora of mythic horrorsthat abound in Latinx cultures. My novel FiveMidnights (Tor Teen, June 4, 2019) is based on the legend of El Cuco. Parentsin most Latin countries threaten their children with this variation on the boogeyman.“Best behave or El Cuco is going to get you!” Good lord! Talk about horror! Andin Mexico there’s La Llorona, who drowned her children and wanders aroundcrying and haunting people. I mean, these cultures give the Grimm Brothers arun for their money. But most of these tales come from an oral tradition, asmany traditional tales do, and are not translated from the original Spanishoften. But now there are so many brilliant Latin writers spinning tales ofhorror: Daniel Jose Older, Victor LaValle, Carmen Machado, Mariana Enriquez, andmany more. I think that a young Latinx girl with a penchant for scary storiesthese days will find more and more names like her own on the library orbookstore shelves. Not enough yet, but more than when I was a young girl with astack of horror comics clutched to my chest.

So, in writing this article I asked myself: was horror against character for this Gringa-Rican writer? Nah. Although I can pretty much guarantee that my Great Aunt Ana is not rolling in her grave necessarily, rather shaking her head and perhaps waggling her finger at me. Don’t worry, Titi, someone is actually paying me to write it now!    

About Ann Dávila Cardinal

Ann is a novelist and Director of Recruitment for Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA). She has a B.A. in Latino Studies from Norwich University, an M.A. in sociology from UI&U and an MFA in Writing from VCFA. She also helped create VCFA’s winter Writing residency in Puerto Rico.

Ann’s first novel, Sister Chicas was released from New American Library in 2006. Her next novel, a horror YA work titled Five Midnights, will be released by Tor Teen in June 2019.

Her stories have appeared in several anthologies, including A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (2005) and Women Writing the Weird (2012) and she contributed to the Encyclopedia Latina: History, Culture, And Society in the United States edited by Ilan Stavans. Her essays have appeared in American ScholarVermont WomanAARP, and Latina Magazines.

Ann lives in Vermont.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

What We've Been Reading #6

The Ladies of Horror Fiction have a few books we’d like to recommend to you because who doesn’t need more books?!

We Are Wormwood by Autumn Christian book cover

We Are Wormwood by Autumn Christian

Ever since she was a child, Lily has been pursued by a demonic girl with wormwood eyes.

As Lily struggles with her schizophrenic mother’s decline into insanity, the death of her somnambulist childhood love, and her own painful, disturbed adolescence, she must face the strange girl that haunts her.

Yet something is chasing her that is much more dangerous. 

A darkly surreal, drug-coated romance, We are Wormwood tells an inhuman love story, and the transformation that results from affection among monsters.

Amazon | Goodreads

Laurie’s Review Teaser

I loved this book about a young girl growing up with madness nipping at her heels. 

Laurie’s full review can be read at Horror After Dark.

Kill, My Darlings by Christy Aldridge Book Cover

Kill, My Darlings by Christy Aldridge

Kill, My Darlings is a collection of short stories exploring many possible outlets and styles from horror and diving into a varying amounts of subjects, from monsters and demons to cannibalism and psychological terrors. From erotica to flash fiction, Aldridge explores multiple sub-genres and subjects within the 13 stories published in this collection.From a twisted, female serial killer with The Mistress. . .To a demonic playground for the lustful in Insatiable . . .Follow Aldridge as she takes you through clowns, boogeymen, talking radios, and infomercials in this collection of horror. 

Better World Books | Amazon | Goodreads

Emily’s Teaser Review

Kill, My Darlings was my introduction to Christy Aldridge’s work, and there were quite a few fun stories in this collection. There were many different types of stories here, and I enjoyed the variety. 

Emily’s full review can be read at Goodreads.

Children of No One by Nichole Cushing book cover

Children of No One by Nichole Cushing

Sadism, nihilism, poverty, wealth, screams, whimpers, sanity and madness collide in Nowhere, Indiana

For Thomas Krieg, Nowhere is a miles-long, pitch-black underground maze in which he’s imprisoned dozens of boys for the past ten years — all in the name of art.

For two brothers, Nowhere is the only place they clearly remember living. A world unto itself, in which they must stay alert to stay alive. A world from which the only escape is death.

But for an English occultist known only as Mr. No One, Nowhere is much more…and much less: the perfect place in which to perform a ritual to unleash the grandest of eldritch deities, the God of Nothingness, the Great Dark Mouth.

Better World Books | Amazon |  Goodreads

Cat’s Teaser Review

I didn’t expect Children of No One to be so thought-provoking, but it was by a sizeable degree. It integrated the mind of a sadist with the dark schemes of a nihilist, and whilst Cushing put many things into the pot, the resulting concoction was addictive. Recommended to those that value distinct works where the horror is more complex than blood and guts.

Cat’s full review can be read at Red Lace Reviews.

Teeth by Kelli Owen Book Cover

Teeth by Kelli Owen

All myths have a kernel of truth. The truth is: vampires are real.

They’ve always been here, but only came out of hiding in the last century. They are not what Hollywood would have you believe. They are not what is written in lore or whispered by the superstitious.

They look and act like humans. They live and love and die like humans. Puberty is just a bit more stressful for those with the recessive gene. And while some teenagers worry about high school, others dread their next set of teeth.

Vampires are real, but in a social climate still struggling to accept that truth, do teeth alone make them monsters? 

Better World Books | Amazon | Goodreads

Toni’s Teaser Review

There was a lot to this novel and I appreciated that. It wasn’t just a story but rather there was a lot built into the story about tolerance and equality. I really appreciated that.

Toni’s full review can be read at The Misadventures Of A Reader.

Have you read any of these books? Please share your thoughts on these and any LOHF you happen to be reading!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Guest Post: The Mother is the Monster by Tabatha Wood

“The Mother is the Monster” — an Exploration of Monstrous Matriarchs in Modern Horror Fiction and Film

by Tabatha Wood

Women in horror frequently get a very bad deal. They arepunished, constantly and consistently, for no other reason than their genderidentity. Portrayed either as weak and fragile victims, or gratuitouslyover-sexualised, often their only purpose is to be assaulted, lusted over orboth. Enter: the Monstrous Mother. She may be possessive, narcissistic,overbearing, jealous, abusive, homicidal or sexually-oppressed. The very worstkind of monstrous mother is all of these things at once. Horror has a specialrelationship with its audiences — it relies on emotions and must illicit areaction. It awakens hidden fears and desires, and is frequently the mostunsettling when it imagines danger in “safe” places  such as the home. Because of this, monstrousmothers make ideal protagonists.

The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud described motherhood in a highlycontroversial way. He believed that women’s lives were dominated by theirreproductive functions, and a woman’s existence is only given real meaning when she becomes a mother. Sheserves as a container for her infants’ endogenous drives, and her influence isso powerful that should she fail to successfully realise these drives anddesires — especially during their formative years — she may cause irreversibleand catastrophic damage to her child’s psyche. Thus, mothers are supposed to besaviours and protectors. Their primary role is to nurture and care. When thatis compromised, we are forced to confront a kind of horror which makes us feelvulnerable and confused. The Monstrous Mother trope taps keenly into our primalfears. It fosters distrust in the mother’s role as a worthy protector. The ideathat all mothers should be sweet and caring homemakers is undermined by castingthem as villains. It is a Freudian nightmare made real.

No other monstrous mother better highlights this Freudian fearthan Vera Cosgrove (Elizabeth Moody) in Peter Jackson’s Braindead. Afterbeing bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey, becoming a zombie, and subsequentlyturning the entire town into the undead, she then mutates into a gigantic andrepulsive beast, complete with oversize breasts. That sequence of events couldbe quite terrifying enough for her nebbish son, Lionel, to cope with, but herwarped maternal instincts urge her to go yet further and suck her unwillingoffspring back into her womb, along with the line, “No-one will ever love youlike your mother!” Lionel escapes by performing his own twisted caesarean anddispatches his creator, running into the waiting arms of his young, femalelover. An Oedipal tale this is not, and yet it certainly toys with some ofFreud’s controversial ideas on psychosexual development — where the mother isthe first true love object of the child, all boys are drawn to andsubconsciously desire their mothers until a suitable substitute is found.Lionel has to effectively be re-born and destroy his overbearing mother beforehe can begin a new sexual chapter in his life.

Women who turn their back on creating offspring are often seen asmonstrous, simply for denying what Freud would argue is a woman’s sole purposefor existing. Yet some monstrous mothers most certainly should never haveaccepted such a role. In Stephen King’s Carrie, Carrie White’s motherMargaret (played by Piper Laurie in the 1976 cinematic release) is a fanatical,abusive zealot who brands her telekinetic daughter a witch, throws hot tea inher face and then tries to kill her. The fact that she has traumatised herdaughter throughout her entire life, and has been the catalyst for awakeningher powers, has apparently not occurred to her. Clearly Mrs. White is notmentally sound and is possibly suffering from a certain amount of unresolvedguilt and past trauma, however her unhealthy obsession with Jesus and a ferventrevulsion of sex, ensures that Carrie’s life, especially during her formativeyears, is a constant misery. Carrie has no knowledge of menstruation or what itmeans to her as a woman; her mother informs her that the onset of her period isdue to her entertaining “sinful thoughts” and forces her into a cupboard topray away the evil. Ultimately, after sustaining years of bullying and abusefrom her mother and her peers, and then doused in pig blood as a prom nightprank, Carrie herself takes up the mantle of monster and destroys herclassmates, her mother, and herself with her telekinetic abilities. Her actionsare seen primarily as an act of revenge, but also an act of liberation, asCarrie emancipates herself from a lifetime of matriarchal mistreatment.

Mother’s Day, a Troma Entertainment “exploitation film” from 1980 (and looselyremade in 2010) also takes the idea of an unsuitable mother and runs wild withit. The titular Mother has raised her two sons to be murderers, rapists andthieves and actively encourages their horrible exploits — indeed, they engagein such acts to impress her. Of course, the victims are invariably young andattractive women, and in another warped example of the Oedipal and Jocastacomplexes, Mother ensures she eliminates any competition for her sons’adoration and maintains total control over their lives. Mother’s background isnever revealed, and we are left to assume that her proclivity towardsderangement is simply due to some warped enjoyment. The character is eventuallydispatched by her sons’ would-be victims wielding a sex-toy, serving to furtherhighlight Mother’s fear that eventually all mothers are replaced by younger,more sexual women in their sons’ lives.  

Horror mothers are often angry, and that rage fuels theirhomicidal urges. In David Cronenburg’s The Brood, Nola Carveth (SamathaEggar) is abused by her alcoholic mother during childhood. Her unprocessed rage— coupled with a new type of experimental psychotherapy — is so powerful thatshe is able to parthenogenetically give birth to a brood of homicidal dwarveswho physically enact her subconscious desires by murdering everyone who angersher. An obvious physical manifestation of her unresolved psychological pain,Nola’s ability to spawn these children of vengeance is somewhat ironic, giventhat her sole aim for undergoing therapy is to prove that she is emotionallystable. Thanks to the actions of her supernatural children, her desire to gaincustody of her real, human child is a goal which is sadly never reached. Yet,just as alcoholic Monster Mother begat traumatised and unstable Monster Mother,we are shown in the conclusion that Nola’s daughter might also have inheritedher mother’s vengeful talents.

One such child who definitely inherited his mother’s temperamentwas motel owner-manager Norman Bates, he of Psycho fame. The domineeringand narcissistic Mrs Norma Bates is equal parts jealous, manipulative, needyand homicidal. She is a mean-tempered and puritanical old woman who raised theseemingly mild-mannered Norman with abject cruelty. She teaches him that allwomen — except her — are whores, and that any sexual contact is a sin. Shecontrols his entire life and forbids him to leave her or the motel. It ishardly any wonder then that when his mother takes a lover, a confused andjealous Norman dispatches them both. Later, unable to bear the pain of beingseparated from her, he exhumes and mummifies his mother’s corpse, and keeps herin his fruit cellar. Eventually we discover that Norma’s influence on her sonhas had terrible consequences, to the point where he not only commits homicidein her name, but does so while wearing her clothes. We are led to believe thatNorman is not merely pretending to be his mother, but has essentially becomeher: his personality has been split and overcome by the murderous “mother”persona. Norma may not have ever taken up a knife herself, but her terribleparenting certainly made her indirectly responsible for a multitude of deaths,by actively contributing to Norman’s psychological distress.

Horror films are all too happy to pervert the results of apersonal tragedy into some form of biblical vengeance and perhaps the mostwell-known monstrous mother is she who only becomes a monster to avenge thedemise of her child. Driven mad by bereavement, Pamela Vorhees (Betsy Palmer)in Friday the 13th, wreaks murderous vengeance on the teenagecounsellors of Camp Crystal Lake, who she blames for the accidental drowning ofher son, Jason. It is an extreme decision, but it shines a light on a mother’sprimal instinct to protect their child, or to make sense of their death.Pamela’s actions are indeed monstrous, but we can also appreciate how thetragic circumstances have influenced her mental state, and driven her to pursuelethal reparations.

Other monstrous mothers seeking either homicidal justice include:Mrs Loomis in Scream 2 who wants revenge for the death of Billy, hermurderous son; the ghostly Jennet Humfrye from The Woman in Black whoseeks to avenge the accidental death of her child by taking the lives of anywho dare approach Eel Marsh House; and even the Alien Queen from Alienswho as a six-legged, double-jawed beast with acid for blood becomes even moreterrifying when she discovers that Ripley has incinerated her precious eggs.Going back as far back as the Anglo-Saxon era, when Beowulf kills Grendel, itis Grendel’s mother who arrives seeking murderous revenge. Such behaviour isclearly an extreme over-reaction, but these monstrous mothers see their deedsas completely reasonable. And as any real-life mother knows, when the “MommaLion” has been unleashed in her, woe betide anyone who hurts her child.

Horror mothers don’t always start out as monsters, often they aresimply struggling with the responsibilities and pressures of motherhood. Sleepdeprivation, physical and mental exhaustion, behavioural difficulties in theiroffspring or financial worries all have a considerable impact on any newmother. In The Babadook Amelia Vanek (Essie Davis) is an exhaustedwidow, struggling to raise her troubled and violent son without help. Mentallyfragile and clearly gripped by a terrible depression, Amelia voices theunthinkable: she wishes her child were dead. She is subsequently possessed bythe Babadook, which urges her to act on her desires, yet through a feat ofgreat emotional strength, she is able to overcome the monster and drive it intothe basement of her house. Amelia does not vanquish the beast, but instead shelearns to tame and control it. The Babadook serves as a powerful metaphor forthe destruction mental illness, and specifically maternal depression, can wreak on a familyunit. Director, Jennifer Kent,stated in October 2014 that: “it is a very taboo subject, to say thatmotherhood is anything but a perfect experience for women.” And yet it is onewhich many mothers, new and old, readily identify with. Caught in the grip ofpost-natal depression, for example, real life can feel like real Hell for manywomen.

Lionel Shriver captures this struggle uniquely in the characterof Eva Khatchadourian in her novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin. Somemight argue Eva is included unfairly, as after all it is her son who is thereal monster, but her indifference and coldness towards her own child and thedistance she maintains between them, pushes him down a dark path. It is unclearif Eva herself is suffering from some form of PND, but her ambivalence to motherhood,borne from her struggle to adjust to life with a challenging infant, andperhaps compounded by the fact that having a family meant she had to give upher successful career, drives an already disturbed young child to commitatrocious acts. Why, we wonder, did Eva not seek professional help for herchild, and also for herself? Perhaps, to some, a monstrous mother is not onlyone who commits evil, but one who also quietly distances herself from it andallows it a space to thrive in her own home.

In The Monster the mother herself is not necessarily thetitular monster, but she is still a terrible mother, and as such, her behaviouris deemed to be monstrous. A raging alcoholic who is both incompetent andabusive, the relationship between failed mother and neglected daughter ishideously strained, and it is largely Mummy’s fault that they both findthemselves in a perilous situation. Only after the introduction of the “real”monster — a stereotypical scary beast with sharp teeth and claws — is the monstrousmother thus able to redeem herself. She acknowledges and apologises for herprevious bad mother behaviour, and offers herself up as a sacrifice to ensureher daughter can survive. Her selfless sacrifice cannot necessarily negate herprior monstrousness, but it does reassert her role as a protector and saviour,and suggests that even the worst mothers can change and rediscover theircaring, maternal role.

Horror as a genre is frequently dominated by male writers anddirectors — out of all the books and films mentioned previously, only three: TheBabadook, The Woman in Black, and We Need to Talk About Kevin, werepenned by women. Playing heavily on the stereotype of the “hysterical” woman,most other male-written monstrous mothers become shrieking harpies, incapableof expressing themselves rationally or calmly. Perhaps locked in a permanentstate of post-menstrual tension or driven mad by unstable hormones, they areseen to be devoid of logic or compassion. Male writers are only able to commenton their perception of motherhood — and one also has to seriously question therelationships they have with their own mothers when looking at their sources ofinspiration! Their fictional mothers are frequently zealous, domineering, orseek to emasculate their offspring. They are usually post-menopausal, and ifnot outright unattractive, they are certainly not depicted as sexual, orsexually active — suggesting that a woman loses all her urges and sensualityonce she has given birth. She does not need to be an actual beast, when herbehaviour is beastly enough, (excluding Vera Cosgrove of course.) However, allfaults aside, Monster Mothers are also frequently strong and formidablecharacters. It shows an interesting awareness that even when the female horrorcharacter has lost her physical allure or her sexual “purpose”, her role as aMother can offer her a different kind of power as a woman.

In traditional horror literature, when the females are strongerthan the males, they are frequently depicted as sexually depraved monsters whoindulge in exhibitionism and sadism. Not true in monstrous motherhood. Thesewomen have no need for sex or procreation — their work is already done. Whenthe female is able to transcend these predefined gender roles, she has thepotential to be both feminine and masculine, and to be as nurturing andprotective as she is dominant and aggressive. These females then become athreat by simply proving they can be stronger or more powerful than any male —a concept which Freudian theory claims a man is incapable of enduring — and themother becomes a monster more frightening than any supernatural beast.

“The mother is the monster” is not a typically common horrortrope, at least not when compared to the use of women as victims or sexualobjects, but a number of modern horror writers and directors are becomingincreasingly aware that it is a chillingly effective one. The bond between amother and child forms one of the strongest emotional ties in human nature, andexploring those feelings through horrific narratives awakens a primal terrorwithin us. An anxiety that suggests that if we cannot even trust our ownmothers to nurture and protect us, nothing in our lives is truly safe.  

About Tabatha Wood

Kia ora, I’m Tabatha, mostly known as Tabby.

I live in Wellington, the ‘Coolest Little Capital’ of New Zealand, with my husband and two boys. I spend most of my days educating my children at home, and in my free time I write short stories, online blog articles, and the occasional poem.

I have written and published three non-fiction books for education with Continuum International Publishing Group, (two of which have been translated into Portuguese and Malay, and sold internationally,) and I have worked as a secondary-level English teacher, a school Library Manager, and a technical editor for other authors with Wiley Publishing and Bloomsbury Academic.

My short stories are mostly horror, fantasy, and suspense; while my online blog focuses more on my life and experiences in New Zealand. My creative writing is often inspired a great deal by my family, my life experiences, and by the power of the land where I live. I enjoy writing pieces which may challenge the way people think, or that offer a fresh perspective on the world.

I write a lot about the benefits of writing for positive mental and emotional health, using words and art as tools to connect, inspire and heal. I created the online collective Well-Written in 2017 which works to promote this belief, and I help run a regular monthly writing group and workshop to support other female writers in Wellington.

Outside of writing, I have organised charity events to support and help raise awareness for equality and Women’s Rights, made and sold my own jewellery, and immersed myself in the world of cosplay – often dressing up to help fundraise for a good cause.

My debut fiction collection of original short horror stories, Dark Winds Over Wellington: Chilling Tales of the Weird & the Strange, was independently published by Wild Wood Books in March 2019 as an eBook and Print on Demand softcover with Amazon.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Winter People Readalong: Week 3

The LOHF Readalong of The Winter People

We are now 75% through The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. Be sure to check out week 1, week 2, and the full readalong schedule.

Spoiler discussion ahead! The Ladies of Horror Fiction team has come up with some discussion questions for this section, and we’d love to hear your thoughts as well!


1. After reading this section, have your opinions changed on whether or not Gertie was murdered? Who do you think is responsible for her death?

Lilyn: I think she was murdered but not sure on the whodunnit.

Tracy: I still think Gertie was murdered. Signs point to dear old Dad but I’m willing to be there’s some kind of twist. It feels a bit familiar.

Jen: I still have no idea, but I’m narrowing it down.

Cat: You know those times that the culprit just seems too blatantly obvious? I feel that’s the case here; all signs point to Martin. He was indeed my first guess as well, but after some thinking, I want to change direction a bit. My primary suspect is now Lucius. He seems a bit too eager to lock Sara away.

Audra: I definitely think she was murdered but I don’t know who did it. I think it’s supposed to be a surprise.

2. Do you think Fawn’s health/fevers are part of the larger story?

Lilyn: No. I think it’s just for convenience.

Tracy: If they aren’t a part of the larger story then I’m even more annoyed with having to see the word fever almost every other page. I feel like every time I read about fevers now, I will think of this book.

Jen: I don’t. I think her fevers are part of her character development. This book has a lot of elements, and I’m not sure they are all integral to the story.

Cat: I have no doubt! It’s been mentioned a lot, hasn’t it?

Audra: If they aren’t, then why is she sick all the time? I hope that gets explained at least.

3. How does Katherine’s husband Gary fit into all of this?

Lilyn: Again I say convenience. She needed a reason for the photographs and the women to meet.

Jen: I’m hoping Gary ties deeper into all of this. There are so many threads, I’d like to discover they are tightly woven.

Cat: I think, since he was in possession of the missing pages and whatnot, he sought out Alice to get some answers. He probably ventured into the Devil’s Hand out of curiosity, and likely some desire to bring his son back from the dead.

Audra: Gary met up with the girls’ mom, so he must have known something about Ruthie’s past, or maybe what’s going on in the woods.

4. Have you noticed any parallels with Pet Sematary? What about other literary works?

Lilyn: I choose to remain silent on this question.

Tracy: So much in common with PS. There are lines that could’ve been taken right from Kong’s work. They aren’t, but the content is so similar. Not plagiarism or anything.

Jen: It’s been so long since I’ve read Pet Sematary. Our group discussions are making me realize just how overdue I am for a reread!

Audra: This book is Pet Sematary city. King doesn’t have a copyright on bringing people back from the dead, but the themes in this book of losing children are very similar to his book.


“I told you not to go in the woods,” Fawn whispered to Mimi. “Bad things happen to little girls who go in the woods.”

She was his great adventure; his love for her had taken him places he’d never dreamed of going.

Do you have any favorite quotes from this section? We would love for you to share them!

Thanks for joining us for week 3! Let us know your thoughts on this section in the comments and be sure to hashtag us on social media at #LOHFReadalong so we can join in and share! We can’t wait to hear what you think next week as well. We are already diving into the last section to find out all of the answers!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Guest Post: Mothering the Horrific by R.J. Joseph

Mothering the Horrific

By R. J. Joseph

Blindingpain vibrates throughout, snatching the remnants of my breath. Soiled demonstear at my spirit as they claw their beings from deep within my body. I am lefta revenant, as they refuse to allow me solace even after their evacuation. Theyhaunt me, expending my soul as they insist I give all. I am never free of themuntil they have depleted me and gone out to seek other forms of sustenance.

I could be talking about motherhood here…but I’m not. Ashorrific as pregnancy and childbirth can be, I’d only characterize my childrenas demons on every other Monday, especially as they’ve grown into teenagers.Instead, I’m really describing my horror writing process. I’ve experienced manyparallels between motherhood and my writing life. In fact, the two are now fusedand don’t exist as separate entities.

Though I’ve been a lifelong fan of horror, I didn’t alwaysfeel comfortable writing horror. Beyond my brief childhood forays into the“dark and stormy night, monsters under the bed” exercises, I put off writinganything horror related of substance. It wasn’t that I didn’t have plentyhorrific experiences I could have written about…I’ve lived my whole life in ablack, female body. My childhood was marked by very little money and spent witha mother who was borne of goodness and light and a father who apparentlyalternated his residences between the seventh and ninth levels of darkness—allin the inner city of Houston, no less. There were plenty of terrifying things Icould have written about. However, I wasn’t moved to do so until my firstpregnancy.

At twenty-one, I became pregnant with my first child. No matter how much information I devoured about pregnancy and the delivery experiences, I never found anything that came close to explaining the nightmares being pregnant delivered into my life. Every pregnancy brought bolder and more invasive demons. I’d always had vivid dreams and nightmares, but pregnancy took the stories to a level I’d not previously achieved. Every fear and insecurity I owned manifested itself in dreams so vivid I would wake up, jolted, heart pounding. Sweating. And often, crying. I spent many a night walking around my house, caressing my swollen belly, struggling to understand what the images were saying.

Would my father reallyeat my baby? Was I really relegatingmy little brown babies to lives of racism and sexism and ableism that mightkill and discard them as if they were merely nothing? Did I ever really want a partner to help me raisemy babies when the only men I had known were terrible and needed to be disposedof? Would I make a deal withdiscarnate spirits if it meant my disabled baby could walk and talk? How couldI continue living if something everhappened to these little beings that I would die for? As tired as I was when mythree younger kids were all in diapers at the same time, would I run away fromhome, and them, even if they were turningto zombies? Since my baby was born dead, had she seen things that mosthumans didn’t since she had been resuscitated to “undead”?

I had never known terror before I had children I wanted toprotect more than anything I ever desired in my life. My nightmares exposed theworst of my fears: that I, a mere mortal, couldn’t possibly ever hope to fightagainst the multitude of evil people and institutions that threatened mychildren’s lives at every turn. That fear spurned one of the most overpoweringdimensions of my identity: that of mother. I cannot escape the reality that Iam a black, female who is also a mother, and these are the dominant influencesover my horror writing. Everything I write in the horror realm, whetheracademic or creative, hinges on my fears and observations as a black, female,mother. Injustices I may have been blind to before revealed themselves as soonas I had little people who depended on me to understand these things.

So I must love, protect and embrace all my spawn—the onesbirthed from my body, my inherited children, and my literary offspring.

There is only one way to conquer the insistence of their existence—give them their due. Birth them, and pour my soul into them, giving everything, even that which they will ultimately take by force. I must then exorcise them into the universe, where they will wreak havoc on others, transplanting slivers of my being that will become an infinitesimal part of all.

About R.J. Joseph

R. J. Joseph is a Texas based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so they don’t haunt her being. A life long horror fan and writer of many things, she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two important aspects of of her life: horror and black femininity.

When R. J. isn’t writing, teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one of various sprouts or sproutlings from her blended family of 11…along with one husband and two furry babies.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

What We've Been Reading #5

Here are some of our recent favorite reads with links to our team members full reviews.

Lizzie, Speak by Kailey Tedesco

A conjuring, an invocation, a communion with Lizzie Borden herself. These poems reveal—letter by word by line—a spirit, a history, an identity. Lizzie speaks through Tedesco.

Amazon | White Stag Publishing | Goodreads

Emily’s Review Teaser

Lizzie, Speak was my introduction to Kailey Tedesco’s work. As soon as I heard about this book of Lizzie Borden poetry, I had to have a copy. That amazing cover also grabbed my attention!

Click here to see Emily’s full review at Goodreads

A Primer to Kaaron Warren Book Cover

A Primer to Kaaron Warren

Australian author Kaaron Warren is widely recognized as one of the leading writers today of speculative and dark short fiction. She’s published four novels, multiple novellas, and well over one hundred heart-rending tales of horror, science fiction, and beautiful fantasy, and is the first author ever to simultaneously win all three of Australia’s top speculative fiction writing awards (Ditmar, Shadows, and Aurealis awards for The Grief Hole).

Dark Moon Books and editor Eric J. Guignard bring you this introduction to her work, the second in a series of primers exploring modern masters of literary dark short fiction. Herein is a chance to discover—or learn more of—the distinct voice of Kaaron Warren, as beautifully illustrated by artist Michelle Prebich.

Included within these pages are:

• Six short stories, one written exclusively for this book
• Author interview
• Complete bibliography
• Academic commentary by Michael Arnzen, PhD (former humanities chair and professor of the year, Seton Hill University)
• … and more!

Enter this doorway to the vast and fantastic: Get to know Kaaron Warren.

Amazon | Better World Books | Goodreads

Jen’s Teaser Review

I highly recommend A Primer to Kaaron Warren. The stories in this collection made my dark heart happy

Click here to see Jen’s full review at Book Den

Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond Book Cover

Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond

A mysterious lab. A sinister scientist. A secret history. If you think you know the truth behind Eleven’s mother, prepare to have your mind turned Upside Down in this thrilling prequel to the hit show Stranger Things.

It’s the summer of 1969, and the shock of conflict reverberates through the youth of America, both at home and abroad. As a student at a quiet college campus in the heartland of Indiana, Terry Ives couldn’t be further from the front lines of Vietnam or the incendiary protests in Washington.

But the world is changing, and Terry isn’t content to watch from the sidelines. When word gets around about an important government experiment in the small town of Hawkins, she signs on as a test subject for the project, codenamed MKUltra. Unmarked vans, a remote lab deep in the woods, mind-altering substances administered by tightlipped researchers . . . and a mystery the young and restless Terry is determined to uncover.

But behind the walls of Hawkins National Laboratory—and the piercing gaze of its director, Dr. Martin Brenner—lurks a conspiracy greater than she could have ever imagined. To face it, she’ll need the help of her fellow test subjects, including one so mysterious the world doesn’t know she exists—a young girl with unexplainable, superhuman powers and a number instead of a name: 008.

Amid the rising tensions of the new decade, Terry Ives and Martin Brenner have begun a different kind of war—one where the human mind is the battlefield.

Goodreads | Amazon | Better World Books

Laurie’s Teaser Review

This book is less about monsters than it is about science experiments, unexpected friendships and uncovering a devious government project. It has engaging characters, is emotionally painful and lacks the humorous bits of the series but I did not want to stop reading. It’s a terrific addition to the show and a fascinating story all on its own and I highly recommend it.

Click here to see Laurie’s full review at Horror After Dark

Please share all of your favorite LOHF reads in the comments!

Stories of Horror: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Yellow Wallpaper Part 2

In our last episode we met an unnamed woman who was suffering from what we would now know as postpartum depression. Due to her nervousness she is prescribed the rest cure by her physician. Her husband wisks her away to live for the summer in a large and isolated country house. The room they take is the old nursery at the top of the house with hideous yellow wallpaper. As part of her cure she is not to do anything that may cause her nervousness to become worse. So, the woman spends most of her time confined to her room. At some point she starts to believe that something is trapped in pattern of the wallpaper. However;  she knows saying anything won’t help her……

If you would like to reach out to the LOHFpodcast, our emailaddress is We would love to hear about new releases, news inthe community, and suggestions for the podcast. You can find out more about themembers of the Ladies of Horror Fiction via our website at

The music for this episode is by Nicolas Gasparini at

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

LOHF Shelf Edition: Gloria McNeely

This month, we have our first writer for Shelf Edition! Gloria McNeely is an Irish horror writer, reviewer, bookstagrammer, and horrorlesque performer to boot. Currently querying her own demon possession novel, she’s always looking for more books to review on her dark fiction blog.

Do you have any recent favorite LOHF books?

Yes, I’ve recently picked up some horror anthologies edited by women that I’m excited to read. ‘Irish Ghost Stories’ edited by Rosemary Gray, and ‘Phantoms’ edited by Marie O’Regan. I think we look for stories written by women a lot and forget to support women who edit anthologies, publish horror etc. Recently I’ve read ‘Something Borrowed Something Blood Soaked’ by Christa Carmen – inspired me to edit some of my own horror short stories.

Gloria McNeely's Bookshelf #1

What LOHF books do you have on your TBR?

At the minute I have quite a few ebooks – so easy to download, so easy to overlook when they aren’t sitting on your desk threatening to fall on your head! The eBooks I am looking forward to are ‘Blood Drops’ by WB Welch and ‘Forest Underground’ by Lydian Faust. In my physical TBR pile I’m yet to enjoy ‘We have Always Lived In The Castle’ by Shirley Jackson, and ‘The Unforeseen’, second in a two-part gothic series by Ireland’s (and my very own Donegal’s) very own Shirley Jackson, Dorothy MacArdle. Those were both re-printed recently by a female owned Irish publisher called Tramp Press who champion all kinds of writing and won’t publish anyone unless they can name five female writers they look up to. I love Tramp Press.

Where do you find recommendations? Are there any LOHF books that have been recommended to you that you loved?

I don’t get enough recommendations and I am always on the lookout for more! I try to follow a lot of reviewers and writers on Twitter and Instagram to see what they’re reading and love getting ask to review for my own blog – but don’t get nearly enough ladies in getting in contact with me. Obviously I follow LOHF religiously and find so much good stuff there. The first book I reviewed on my horror review blog was sort of recommended by Twitter and I even got to attend the launch and meet the author. ‘Dark Wood Dark Water’ by Tina Callaghan is a great YA horror set in Ireland deals with a haunted river and the ghost of a medieval monk. Also reviewed on my blog was ‘Late Night Partners’ by Fennel Steuert, an Indie urban vampire story with diverse characters.

Gloria McNeely's Bookshelf #2

Where do you shop for books?

Aside from the obvious online store, I like to buy directly from the author website when I can, and failing that I support my local indie bookshops like ‘The Gutter Bookshop’ here in Dublin and ‘Books Upstairs’ as well, and even the historical ‘Hodges Figgis’. These are shops that support local authors and throw great book launches where I’ve met authors in the community and got signed books, which is always great for Instagram photos!

Are there any upcoming LOHF releases you’re excited about?

I can’t think of any at the moment but I want more to be excited about! If anyone has any suggestions for releases I can review or just enjoy, please let me know!

Gloria McNeely's Books #3

Can you tell us anything about your own new or upcoming releases?

So, at the minute I don’t have anything published but I’m about to change that. I have a full MS with a publisher at the minute and am sending it out to agents this month. My first novel will deal with demon possession through the lens of a young girl in the broken Irish foster care system with help from half Nigerian female medium. I’m also working on a second novel which is about the majesty and mystery of a dark and evil tree taking over a small town. I’ll be posting short stories to my blog soon as well, so follow me there if you want more writing!

Where can people find you on social media?

Twitter – @gloralot
Instagram – @gloriamcneelywriter
Horror Review Blog – gloriamcneelywriter

Gloria McNeely's Bookshelf #4

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Gloria! Readers, let us know if you want to share your shelves, too!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Guest Post: Creeping from the Womb by Kristi DeMeester

Creeping from the Womb

By Kristi DeMeester

In the past, I have said that motherhood is the most monstrous thing you can do. I’ve now been a mother for five years, and I still believe that. Female bodies have often been treated as objects of horror. Our monthly blood; the infinite mysteries we carry in our wombs; the pain and violence of childbirth; our bellies swollen and unrecognizable even after an impassive doctor has pressed a squalling child into our arms. We turn away from it because it is primal. Because of all the things in our world that have been lessened, made more delicate, this act of birth and then of mothering is still the thing we wish to close our eyes to. Even when we are the ones bringing the child into the world.

But of course, the monster doesn’t die after a child is born. It bends and grows and shifts into things with different kinds of sharp, unknowable teeth. Guilt. Shame. The deep-seated knowledge that this was something you were not born to do; something you should not have done, and you sit with your child pressed against your aching breast, and wish for something, anything to take away the deep exhaustion that has cut itself into you in a way that you know you will never be rid of it. Women, fundamentally, when they dare to admit it, are the only ones to truly experience and then write about this emotion. The love and despair and fear and loneliness when your life has become somehow…reduced. Compressed into something not lovely. Perhaps this is why there are so many stories about evil children. Because despite our love, despite our adoration, they leech out of us everything we so desperately need to keep for ourselves, and what else is the creature in horror fiction than exactly this?

And our fear of becoming the terrifying mother—our fear that we won’t be up to the task, or that we will become new variations of our own terrible mother figures—looms over all, coloring the sunlight in the years of infancy a darker stain. For where children are designed to consume, so are mothers as the child grows older. The monstrous feminine who leeches off the child, drawing from it everything it felt it lost. In fairy tale, in fable, the mother has frequently done this. Trying to reclaim the person she was before motherhood altered her into something she no longer recognized. Even when we read of these terrible women, there is a sense of pity. A sense of empathy. Because there are parts of so many mothers who have needed what those evil women needed. At least in some capacity.

Or, in the aching fierceness of our love, we become willing to do anything in the name of protecting our children. We write that love in blood. In pain. And we smile serenely over the chaos we create, comforted by the safety we have offered, that mewling, yawning mouth that opens and opens, the arms forever reaching.

We tell our stories because no one else is brave enough to tell them, and they call them horrific. They call us horrors. And we wear that veil. We take the name into our mouths. Because it is the truth. And there is beauty in that.

If you read a horror story closely enough, you will find it.

About Kristi DeMeester

Kristi DeMeesterKristi is the author of BENEATH, a novel published by Word Horde, and the author of EVERYTHING THAT’S UNDERNEATH, a short fiction collection published by Apex Publications. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year Volume 9, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volumes 1 and 3, Black Static, The Dark, Apex Magazine, and several others.

She is currently at work on her fourth novel and seeking representation.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Winter People Readalong: Week 2

The LOHF Readalong of The Winter People

Today we are wrapping up week 2 of The Winter People readalong. If you are just now joining us, be sure to check out our week 1 discussion and the full readalong schedule.

The Ladies of Horror Fiction team has come up with some discussion questions for this section, and we’d love to hear your thoughts as well!


1. Do you think Gertie was murdered? If so, who might have done it?

Lilyn: I don’t know if I think she was murdered or not. Is it murder if the murderer wasn’t in his right mind? She didn’t just fall down the well, no.

Jen: I’m not sure what to think at this point. I still have more questions than answers, but I’m open to theories!

Laurie: I’m still thinking Gertie’s dad did the deed. He was either possessed or confused but there is something fishy going on there.

Toni: I think that Gertie’s dad killed her. But why that is a whole other can of worms. I totally think that he was possessed.

Alex: I think the dad killed her BUT I don’t think we know the entire scene/story. Was he possessed? Did things take a turn and Sara begged him?

Cat: The particulars of Gertie’s death confuses me a great deal. I would like to point the finger at Martin, that in some way he was tricked into killing her, that maybe she was the fox he shot. However her body was removed from the well and buried, so my theory doesn’t make sense.

2. How did Gary end up with the bone ring that he gave Katherine. How does she tie into all of this?

Lilyn: No clue. Evil, like life, finds away?

Jen: I believe in last week’s section, Gary acquired it in an antique shop, but there are no coincidences, right? I’m anxious to see how everything pulls together.

Laurie: I don’t know. I need to know. I hope I find out soon because it’s driving me crazy.

Toni: I need to know. This is a part of the story that is driving me crazy. I personally think that he found it with with some old photos but I want to know why it had the power over him that it did.

Alex: This is one of the biggest mysteries to me and I really have no idea!

3. How do you think Gertie’s spirit was able to communicate with Mrs. Willard when Gertie has supposedly returned to her body?

Lilyn: Really good question. I think maybe resurrecting the body doesn’t resurrect the spirit. Maybe the body comes back but something evil fills it a la Pet Sematary? Sometimes dead is better.

Jen: I’m going to agree with Lilyn that Gertie’s spirit remains separate from her body.

Laurie: This confuses me. I’m wondering if Gertie’s “behind the door” persona is NOT Gertie. I’m guessing it is not.

Toni: Her behind the door persona is a changeling. It isn’t actually her so therefore she was able to communicate with Mrs. Willard.

Alex: I’m thinking there are “two” Gerties because or diff spirits/changelings/SOMETHING!

Cat: I have to agree that I don’t think Gertie’s spirit returned, but merely her body. As to what’s in her body, I don’t know, just something else.

4. Who is the lady with the cats eye glasses, do you think?

Lilyn: I honestly don’t remember her so…no clue.

Jen: There will definitely be more revealed about this woman from the bakery. At least there better be. Haha!

Laurie: Again, there are gaps here that I hope are filled in soon. The bakery memories and the cat’s eye glasses lady are definitely a part of this but my brain can’t piece it all together yet.

Toni: I think there is a dark secret that Ruthie isn’t aware of yet. The lady with the cats eye glasses is part of that secret. I want to know all the things now!! LOL

Alex: I have no clue who she could even be but she HAS to play a part in this story to be revealed. I can’t imagine that she wont be more involved.

Cat: I think it’s Ruthie’s biological mother, as it was heavily insinuated that the bakery played some role in her past. That, and being unable to find childhood pictures of herself, it just all adds up.


The dead never really leave us.

Ask him what he buried in the field.

…if you’d lost someone you love, wouldn’t you give almost anything to have the chance to see them again?

“The message your Gertie has for you is this,” Mrs. Willard said. “She says to tell you the blue dog says hello.”

Gertie dreams of a blue dog that takes her “to see a lady with tangled hair who lives inside an old hollow tree. She’s been dead a long time. She’s one of the winter people.”

Do you have any favorite quotes from this section? We would love for you to share them!

Thanks for joining us for week 2! Let us know your thoughts on this section in the comments and be sure to hashtag us on social media at #LOHFReadalong so we can join in and share!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

What We've Been Reading #4

We are still reading fiends over here at Ladies of Horror Fiction! Here’s a little peek at some of what we’ve been reading and loving.

Zombieville by C.V. Hunt

Chris is your friendly neighborhood zombie. He has desires and hungers just like the rest of the undead, which is convenient since his brother, Spencer, is the village mortician. There’s just one problem: Spencer has met a girl. There’s no winning for Chris. If things go well with the girl, Spencer is going to neglect him. If things go poorly, the consequences could be very far reaching. What’s a zombie to do?

Goodreads | Amazon | Better World Books | Grindhouse Pub

Emily’s Review Teaser

This definitely isn’t your standard zombie book, and it’s a very intriguing (short) character study. I’ve still been thinking about it a bit since I finished, and I recommend picking this one up!

Click here to see Emily’s full review at Goodreads

Lilyn’s Review Teaser

The best part of the novella was how the zombies moved. I could totally see some weird awkward soundtracked scenes as they tried to perform basic functions to the beat of whatever they were forced to listen to. 

Click here to see Lilyn’s full review at Goodreads

Toni’s Review Teaser

I really appreciated the twist in the Zombie genre. It didn’t follow the normally formulaic story lines. The love story within the story was sweet in a twisted way and I really appreciated that. It wasn’t over done. I find that a romance in a book can really mess up the flow for me. But Hunt handled the romance just perfectly for me.

Click here to see Toni’s full review at Misadventures of a Reader

Tracy’s Review Teaser

I loved the quirkiness of the tale and because I read this with a group of friends who had different experiences with this book, I think I liked it all the more.

Click here to see Tracy’s full review at Goodreads

The Carrow by Darcy Coates Book Cover

The Carrow Haunt by Darcy Coates

“The dead are restless here…”

Remy is a tour guide for Carrow House, a notoriously haunted building. When she’s asked to host seven guests for a week-long stay to research Carrow’s phenomena, she hopes to finally experience some of the sightings that made the house famous.

At first, it’s everything they hoped for. Then a storm moves in, cutting off their contact with the outside world, and things quickly become twisted. Doors open on their own. Seances go disastrously wrong. Red liquid seeps from behind the wallpaper. Their spirit medium wanders through the house during the night, seemingly in a trance. 

Then one of the guests dies under strange circumstances, and Remy is forced to consider the possibility that the ghost of the house’s original owner, a twisted serial killer, still walks the halls. 

But by then it’s too late to escape. 

Amazon | Better World Books | Goodreads

Emily’s Review Teaser

I can always be drawn in with a haunted house story. The Carrow Haunt has such a fun set-up – it’s kind of similar to Hell House, except it doesn’t suck (sorry, not sorry).

Emily’s full review can be read at Goodreads

Garden of Eldritch Delights by Lucy A. Snyder Book Cover

Garden of Eldritch Delights by Lucy A. Snyder

Master short story author Lucy A. Snyder is back with a dozen chilling, thought-provoking tales of Lovecraftian horror, dark science fiction, and weird fantasy. Her previous two collections received Bram Stoker Awards and this one offers the same high-caliber, trope-twisting prose. Snyder effortlessly creates memorable monsters, richly imagined worlds and diverse, unforgettable characters.

Open this book and you’ll find a garden of stories as dark and heady as black roses that will delight fans of complex, intelligent speculative fiction.

Goodreads | Amazon | Better World Books | Thriftbooks | Raw Dog Screaming Press

Tracy’s Review Teaser

Lucy Snyder is an author I will definitely seek out more from. This collection houses a wide array of horror/dark fantasy sub genres and I’m confident that a wide array of people will be able to find something to enjoy within these 12 tales. 

Tracy’s full review can be read at Goodreads

Emily’s Review Teaser

Garden of Eldritch Delights is a collection of 12 stories by Lucy A. Snyder, and this was my introduction to her work. I was a little bit concerned about this one going in because I’m not a huge Lovecraft person, but it’s still easy to grasp what’s going on. I was happy about that. 

Emily’s full review can be read at Goodreads

What have all of you been reading and loving lately?