|Like Lee Allen Howard, author
Michelle Renee Lane started writing stories at the age of twelve and won a short story contest in elementary school. She really started exploring different kinds of writing in her mid-teens—poetry, fan fiction, short stories, and even a bit of erotica, “which,” she says, “I’m sure I would be embarrassed to read at this point.”
Lane now writes under the speculative umbrella, so her stories usually mix genres—horror, fantasy, often with a romantic/erotic element as well. “But,” she admits, “most of my stories don’t end with a happily-ever-after, unless you really dig monsters.” We do.
Michelle, what have you published so far, and where?
My first publication was actually in an academic journal. I presented a paper comparing the AIDS epidemic to vampirism for a colloquium at Shippensburg University many moons ago.
But my first short story, “The Hag Stone,” appeared in the anthology Dark Holidays (Dark Skull Publications). Earlier this year, my short story, “Crossroads,” appeared in Terror Politico: A Screaming World in Chaos (Scary Dairy Press). And my debut novel, Invisible Chains is available July 22 from Haverhill Housing Publishing LLC. I have a few other short stories coming out later this year, and next year as well.
What am I trying to say with this book? That’s a great question. And honestly, for long time I didn’t know what I was writing about. I didn’t have any lofty goals or an agenda in mind. I wanted to write a vampire novel set in antebellum New Orleans told in the voices of several characters.
However, Invisible Chains evolved into a first-person narrative told by Jacqueline, a young Creole slave. In her quest for freedom, she encounters real monsters while dealing with the everyday horrors of slavery.
Jacqueline’s voice became the strongest voice in the story and I soon realized it was her story to tell. As I wrote her story, I realized she was experiencing many things that women of color are still experiencing today: racism, sexism, and violence against women. While history tells us that much has changed since Jacqueline’s time, there are several things happening in the novel that connect with the current state of our society that I hope will resonate with readers.
I also tried to create a vampire who was truly a monster. Despite his good looks and charm, I didn’t want to maintain the current trend of casting vampires as romantic leads. Personally, I love a good vampire romance. The bloodier, the better. But I often wonder how dangerous it is to keep creating male characters that normalize stalking and the threat of violence (sexual or otherwise) against female characters. While I enjoy reading about sexy vampires “wooing” their potential mates, I’m also aware that vampires are undead creatures who prey on the living. And, if you want your happily ever after with a vampire, your love interest must literally murder you.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
My tuition to attend Seton Hill University’s MFA in Writing Popular Fiction Program. Not only did the program reignite my love of writing fiction, but the experiences and connections I made with mentors and fellow students gave me the confidence to really think of myself as a writer. I gained knowledge of the industry, an invaluable education in genre fiction, and friendships that have led to important introductions to the people who have decided to take me seriously as a writer and publish my work. SHU changed my life.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Growing up in rural Pennsylvania in the 1970s and 80s as a racially mixed kid meant that I heard racist epithets and jokes on a regular basis. I didn’t enjoy hearing this disgusting use of language, but it was common and, unless someone was targeting me, I tried to ignore it. Which seems odd now that I think back to how I coped with racism as a kid. People said a lot of hurtful things around me when they thought I wasn’t listening. Sometimes, I felt invisible. And other times, people said things directly to me that were more painful than any injury I’d experienced.
When I was fourteen, I was dating a boy I had known since first grade. We weren’t a couple in public. He cared about me, but it was a secret. I didn’t think much about that until I called his house one evening and his dad said, “Mark, your nigger is on the phone.” I remember the physical effect those words had on me. It felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. I couldn’t swallow. My skin felt hot and feverish. I was stunned into silence. When the boy I cared about grabbed the phone from his dad, he told me that he would be right over and hung up the phone. About an hour later, he showed up at my house with visible signs that he had had a fight with his dad. He apologized to me, and my tears made him want to cry. Seven words changed both of our lives that day. And even though our young romance didn’t last, we both learned that regardless of whom you choose to love, love is worth fighting for.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Ha! I’m almost afraid to answer this question. Carlos Velasquez is based on a real person. When I was fifteen and very impressionable, I had a pen pal that was ten years older than me and more obsessed with vampires than I was at the time. He dressed like Barnabas Collins, fantasized about becoming a vampire, wrote extremely inappropriate love letters to me with erotic fiction that featured our vampire alter egos, and he even sent me a vial of his blood. I met him in person three times. The second time, he tried to convince me to spend the weekend with him in New York when I was sixteen. Can you say sexual predator?
Perhaps unwisely, I maintained contact with him until I was about twenty-five. So, it was a long and strange friendship. He never hurt me though or tried to do anything inappropriate beyond the fantasies he shared with me in his letters. As you can imagine, he made a lasting impression.
What does literary success look like to you? Do you think you’ve attained it?
I suppose success is something my favorite writers have achieved—publishing multiple books and stories, establishing a writing career that pays the bills, gaining a following of readers who look forward to their next book. Writers I admire who immediately come to mind as successful are Toni Morrison, Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Joe R. Lansdale, Anne Rice, Octavia Butler, and Joe Hill. With these folks who inspire me in mind, no I haven’t attained it, but I’m going to keep writing in the hopes that I do.
Have you read anything that really made you think differently about fiction?
Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories (1991) had a major impact on how I thought about my own writing and the kinds of stories I could tell as a woman of color. I wanted to write about vampires, but as far as I knew, women of color weren’t writing about them.
I had read a lot of vampire fiction, seen a lot of vampire movies and TV shows, but there weren’t many black characters in these stories. Aside from the Blaxploitation film Blacula (1972) and Akasha and Enkil, the original vampires in Anne Rice’s The Queen of the Damned (1988), I wasn’t seeing a lot of black vampires. To be honest, I didn’t really think of Akasha and Enkil as black even though they were Egyptian, because their skin had turned to the color and texture of marble. Gomez is not only a woman of color, but she wrote a vampire novel about a black bisexual female vampire that challenged many aspects of the traditional vampire myth. Gomez’s book gave me the green light to write the kinds of stories I wanted to write. So, a few months ago when Jewelle Gomez agreed to read Invisible Chains and had some very positive things to say about the book, I was beside myself with joy. I think I actually squealed when I read her feedback.
What was your hardest scene to write?
There were a lot of scenes that were hard to write, because they deal with some very difficult subjects. But, oddly enough, one of the hardest scenes to write is when Jacqueline takes back her power and stands up to the vampire. I don’t want to give too much away, because I hate spoilers. While I was writing that scene, I felt like I was Jacqueline summoning the strength she needed to protect herself and establish herself as a formidable and powerful woman. I had to dig deep and exorcise some of my own demons to write that scene. It took me three months to finish it, and I had a lot of encouragement from my mentor, Lucy A. Snyder, and my critique partners, Patricia Lillie and Amber Bliss. They gave me the support I needed to make that scene happen.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
Very much so. I am extremely fortunate to have such a supportive family who believes in me and encourages me to keep following my dreams.
How often do you write?
Not as often I should. I’ve been struggling to make writing a top priority for quite some time, but I know that must change if I’m going to take myself seriously enough to keep cranking out fiction. I work full-time and I’m a single parent, so there are plenty of days when I don’t write a single word. But I’ve come to realize that writing is one of the few things that makes me happy and, unless I’m doing it every day, I’m not happy.
What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
At the moment, finding the time and motivation to write every day. I get hung up on all the other things happening in my life and I neglect the thing that matters most to me.
What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?
Finding story ideas. My brain is constantly coming up with plotlines and snippets of dialog for characters I’m writing about or who want to be written about. I live in a fantasy world inside my head much of the time, so coming up with stories is easy. Making the time to write them, not so much.
Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?
I mentioned some of the writers I admire earlier, like Charlaine Harris, Toni Morrison, and Jim Butcher. I try to read often, but lately I’ve been listening to audiobooks because I can do other things while I listen. In the past three years, I’ve listened to every novel in the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, and her Night Price series.
I dove into the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. I enjoyed listening to Joe Hill’s Heart Shaped Box, Horns, The Fireman, NOS4A2 and Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, so I’m well-acquainted with Inscapes.
Some of my guiltier pleasures include the 50 Shades series, which is great to listen to on long drives because the books are very entertaining and can make you feel much better about yourself as a writer. I have some biographies lined up to read later this summer to research some new characters while plotting the sequel to Invisible Chains.
You can connect with Michelle Renee Lane at Girl Meets Monster blog: https://michellerlane.com/.
Her Amazon author page is https://www.amazon.com/Michelle-Renee-Lane/e/B07Q7XSJR5
Horror authors across Northern California have come together to release Tales for the Camp Fire, a new anthology of short stories, to support wildfire relief efforts. All profits from the sale of the anthology will be donated to wildfire relief funds administered by the North Valley Community Foundation.
On the morning of November 8th, 2018, the worst wildfire in the state’s history erupted in the foothills of Northern California. While emergency efforts were immediate, the Camp Fire burned for seventeen days before it was finally contained. It destroyed the town of Paradise and burned over 150,000 acres. At least 85 people died in the blaze. The impact of the fire was felt across the entire region as air quality became the worst in the world.
When a group of local horror authors got together, they asked what they could do. “We’re writers,” said San Leandro resident and author Ben Monroe. “How can we can help with our stories?” Soon they formed a plan to produce a charity anthology, contacting horror authors across the region to ask them to donate stories. Some wrote new pieces for the book, while others submitted favorite reprints for inclusion. In the end, the anthology topped out with 24 great stories totaling over 300 pages.
“Tales for the Camp Fire is a brilliant collection of truly creepy tales by horror’s hottest voices! Dark, funny, heartbreaking, and bizarre. Highly recommended!”
—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Glimpse
Tales for the Camp Fire is edited by Loren Rhoads and is being published by E.M. Markoff’s Tomes & Coffee Press. It is now available in both paperback and ebook formats through Amazon. Members of the publishing team are attending the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley on May 4 & 5, and will have copies of the book available for sale there. All profits from the book will be donated to the North Valley Community Foundation efforts to support the ongoing wildfire relief efforts.
“A brilliant editor and author, Rhoads skillfully weaves together a collection of new and old yarns to create an exemplary tapestry of horror literature that will spook fans of the genre for years to come.”
—Moaner T. Lawrence, author of “The Great American Nightmare”
The book includes stories by Clark Ashton Smith, the grandfather of horror in Northern California, as well as by Bram Stoker Award winners Nancy Etchemendy and Gene O’Neill. Tales for the Camp Fire ranges from fairytale to science fiction, from psychological terror to magical realism, from splatterpunk to black humor, all rounded out by a messed up post-apocalyptic cookbook. Through these pages roam werewolves, serial killers, a handful of ghosts, plenty of zombies, Cthulhu cultists, mad scientists, and a pair of conjoined twins.
You may purchase Tales From the Campfire here: https://amzn.to/2V1ZTo0
About the Editor: Loren Rhoads served as editor for Bram Stoker Award-nominated Morbid Curiosity magazine as well as the books The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, Death’s Garden: Relationship with Cemeteries, and Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Tales of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual.
About the Publisher: Tomes & Coffee Press is an independent publisher of diverse and dark literature. Operated by Latinx author E.M. Markoff, it previously published The Deadbringer and To Nurture & Kill.
About the NCVF: The North Valley Community Foundation provides visionary community leadership by identifying emerging challenges in our region. NVCF brings together diverse groups of problem-solvers, mobilizes resources, and equips community leaders. We build and energize a community of engaged citizens and philanthropists who strengthen the common good.
“Lee Allen Howard’s The Bedwetter is an inventive psychological horror novel with a voice that’s as stylish as it is dark.” —Dustin LaValley, author of The Deceived
Armed with electric hair trimmers and a military fighting knife,
Russell accepts his dark commission.
His urination led to ruination.
Russell Pisarek is twenty-six years old and still wets the bed. He grew up different from other young men because his vicious mother punished him for wetting by shaving his head. When he confided this to his girlfriend Tina, she betrayed him by advertising his problem to all their high school classmates. He took out his frustration by skinning neighborhood cats.
Now Russell fantasizes about finding just the right woman—so he can shave her bald. He struggles to overcome his dark tendencies, but when his sister discovers he’s wetting again, she kicks him out of her house.
During this time of stress, the mythical Piss Fairy appears in his dreams, and Russell is driven to satisfy his twisted desires with his innocent coworker Uma, who also needs a new roommate.
When his plans go awry, the Piss Fairy commissions him for a much darker task that graduates him from shaving to scalping—and worse.
“Highly disturbing and electric.” —US Review of Books
“A brutal, dark, compulsive read… stark, powerful, and satisfying.” —Online Book Club
Read trigger warning below.
THE BEDWETTER is available now in trade paperback and ebook formats.
“Grotesque, bizarre, and uniquely written, The Bedwetter will shake you and scare the piss out of you.” —Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of Hysteria: A Collection of Madness
This novel depicts intense violence, hardcore horror, and disturbing psychological terror in the vein of such works as Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God, Joyce Carol Oates’ Zombie, J. N. Williamson’s The Book of Webster’s, and Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me.
Although THE BEDWETTER is a fascinating in-depth character study into the mind and actions of a misogynistic and homophobic psychopath, the story events are vicious and brutal, the language coarse, and the approach to their reporting is cold and unflinching.
This book is not for the faint of heart or those easily offended by language, sex, or violence. Read at your own risk.
My mother’s lying on the basement floor of our house, where we lived when Becky and me were in school, fugly and naked on the red linoleum, with the electric hair clippers jammed up her cooz. They’re plugged in and running, eating her alive on the inside. She’s diddling herself with her big manly hands, yowling like a cat, and I can’t tell if it’s from pleasure or pain. Till I step up and piss on her. Then it’s all pain.
My arc of hot whizz hits her right in the face and splashes over her buzzed head & the pile of gray hair like dirty laundry on the tile. She gasps and spits and curses me like she always does.
I say, “Shame on you, now. Shame on you! SHAME ON YOU, YOU FUCKIN EVIL BITCH!”
I spray a golden fountain down her body, over her flat tits, the bunched hysterectomy scar, and onto the mound of matted gray fur between her ricotta thighs.
When my piss hits the trimmers, she’s electrocuted and bucks like a rhino getting shock therapy. Sparks fly. She spews blue lightning out her hole, and then she bursts into flames, screaming like a demon. The flame dances up my piss stream like it’s lighter fluid, an unquenchable fire climbing the stairway to heaven.
But in the dream I never get electrocuted, I never get burned. At least I ain’t yet.
I always wake up. And I always wet the bed.
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Cover art by Jeffrey Kosh.
Trade paperback, 246 pages.
The Morgan family and Tredegar House have always fascinated me, in particular Evan Morgan, Papal Knight, sexual predator and Satanist, along with his more tragic sister, Gwyneth Morgan, who died in mysterious circumstances.
In ill health, weakened by enteric typhoid and drug abuse, Gwyneth was a severe embarrassment to her family and was all but incarcerated in the “Niche,” a large house in Wimbledon.
In the early hours of Thursday, December 11, 1924, she slipped out of the house and vanished. Six months later, her body was fished out of the Thames near Wapping.
The mystery is manifold. By all accounts, Gwyneth was severely ill, unable to walk far without feeling tired, and spent much of her time in bed. On the night she disappeared, London was shrouded in one of those legendary fogs, an impenetrable “pea-souper,” and the nearest entry point to the Thames was Putney Bridge, four miles from where she lived.
It’s hard to believe that a semi-invalid could walk four miles in thick fog through unfamiliar streets and fall into the river at Putney Bridge. The fact that her decomposed body was found in Wapping, even farther away, compounds the mystery. It would have to have floated along one of the world’s busiest waterways beyond Hammersmith and Rotherhithe without being seen.
Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the press. In the absence of hard facts, newspapers had a field day with theories involving white slavers, Chinese opium lords, and lesbian lovers.
In this context, The Gift was born.
Whilst the ostensible heroine in The Gift is an orphan, Lizzie McBride’s interaction with the Morgan family drives the story.
Born in a Liverpool slum, Lizzie McBride is the daughter of an Irish seer who dies when Lizzie is twelve, leaving her in charge of two younger sisters and a grieving father. When her father commits suicide, Lizzie is caught between two worlds. An aunt and uncle decide the three orphans would be better off with them in America. Just as they are about to board ship, Lizzie, on impulse, runs away, and her life changes forever.
Pursued by a vengeful aunt, Lizzie cannonades into the young and charismatic magician, Aleister Crowley, who for his own reasons introduces her to Lady Gwyneth Morgan, daughter of the richest family in Wales and sister to the flamboyant occultist, Evan Morgan.
Unknown to her, Lizzie possesses one devastating gift. When the occult world discovers this, governments and powerful individuals seek her out. Only one man can protect her: the magician John Grey.
Though there are elements of the fantastic, the novel is grounded in historical fact. It involves real people and historical events as it explores the occult underbelly of the English aristocracy and its links with the emergent Nazi movement.
The Gift is the first book of a trilogy, beginning in 1912 and ending in 1941. The three books trace the occult rivalry between two sisters, Elizabeth and Elsie McBride, and interweaves historical events and the cracks between—the ultimate prize, the unlocking of Hell.
The second book, Bloodline, traces the corruption of Elsie and the love/hate relationship between the two sisters.
The final book will describe Elsie’s attempt to engineer a bloodbath—World War II—through the occult manipulation of diplomacy; it ends in a struggle to the death between the two sisters as Operation Barbarossa begins.
The three books are inspired by the rich but wasted lives of Evan and Gwyneth Morgan, and the dynamics of three fictitious characters, Elizabeth and Elsie McBride, and the magician John Grey.