BeavistheBookhead talks to the Sisters of Slaughter \m/
Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason are two writers that are about to make waves within the horror community with the release of their debut novel ‘Mayan Blue’, to be released through Sinister Grin Press on the 25th of this month. ‘The Sisters of Slaughter’ have been published in numerous anthologies over the past few years including the story “Hydrophobie”, a terrific tale from last years ‘Fresh Meat 2015’ anthology also released by Sinister Grin Press.
The sisters are incredibly supportive of other writers inside of the community, always sharing and helping to promote the work of others. I thought it was about time I sat down with the girls to talk about their writing adventures and to test their horror movie knowledge with a quiz that I am calling Mayan Movie Madness. Enjoy!
BeavistheBookhead: Thanks for stopping by my dark corner of the web. For the folks out there not familiar with you can you tell them a little (or a lot) about yourselves?
Hi! Thanks for taking the time to interview us and for reading our stories, that means so much to us. We are Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, a twin sister writing team from Arizona. We write horror and dark fantasy/sci-fi.
BeavistheBookhead: Where did your love of writing/books/storytelling/etc. come from?
We used to love to have our mother read to us when we were little girls. It was always something dark or magical, kids horror like the Goosebump books or fantastic stuff like Roald Dahl. The magic of storytelling came from listening to our father tell ghost stories to us while sitting around a campfire, our family would take vacations in northern Arizona and camp out, it was tradition that he would tell us spooky stories.
BeavistheBookhead: How long have you been writing?
We first started writing storied when we were eight years old. We wrote and illustrated a book about ghosts and werewolves on the moors. We thought it was pretty awesome at the time.
BeavistheBookhead: What was your first published story and where was it published?
We had our story She wore blue published in an anthology put out by Miles to go clothing, our good friend Tonissa Saul was helping edit it and she asked for a story from us. At that time we had a pile of rejections so that really boosted our spirits. It wasn’t long after that we got our story A church in the middle of nowhere accepted into Widowmakers a benefit anthology of dark fiction. That benefited our good friend and writer James Newman. That experience also stoked the fire within us to keep going, to never give up.
BeavistheBookhead: How does the writing process work with the two of you? Do you keep a pen and paper on you for the scribbling down of ideas or do you have a writing space you go to and the ideas simply flow from there?
We both carry notepads and pens, we are always writing down story ideas and writing by hand wherever we happen to be. We are both moms so we have busy schedules but writing is always added in there with everything else. We keep in constant contact, meeting in person three to five times a week, text messaging, e mails etc. We send drafts back and forth a million times as we create stories together. We have always done it this way, it feels like being kids again just sitting down and telling each other scary stories, taking turns to expand on those monsters that we are building.
BeavistheBookhead: After reading some of your works I get the impression that some of your influences come from the movies. Your writing has a very visual element to it, particularly when it comes to the gross out scenes. Would you say that horror movies are a big influence on your writing?
Horror movies have always influenced us. Our mom is a big fan of horror classics, she showed us the black and white classics first and as we grew our taste in horror did too. It went from those old Universal movies to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Just before dawn (our mom’s favorite) Dead Alive, then on to Fulci and Argento. We were schooled in horror from a very young age, it was never taboo in our house. We were allowed to watch and read whatever we wanted.
BeavistheBookhead: What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever been given?
I think it’s more the inspiration we’ve gotten from the people that came before us, guys like James Newman, he’s an honest to goodness good person on top of writing some killer stuff, he went through some rough times after getting injured but he didn’t give up. Ronald Kelly was a part of the fall of horror writers when Zebra shut down and he rose up again because you can’t keep a true writer down. There are so many that we call our horror family because they have been a constant source of support and friendship. We can’t thank them enough.
BeavistheBookhead: ‘Mayan Blue’ is your debut novel and will be released on May 25th through Sinister Grin Press. These must be exciting times and I know you are stoked at having Sinister Grin publish the novel. Can you tell us about ‘Mayan Blue’, where the idea came from and what it is about (without giving too much away, of course)
Melissa watched an interesting television show about how it was speculated that the Mayan’s could have settled in some of the southern states. We were always intrigued by ancient civilizations, mythology, things like that, so we began thinking up a story about what happened after they got here, and mixed in some of the creepiest aspects of their mythology about their underworld, Xibalba.
BeavistheBookhead: The cover art for ‘Mayan Blue’ is fantastic. I have bought books on the quality of their covers alone and this one really stands out for me. Did you have any input into the sort of cover you wanted or did you leave it to the press?
The boys at Sinister Grin asked us what we would like to see and kept us in the loop. We got to see sketches of its progress. We were absolutely blown away when we saw the color version, it brought tears to our eyes. A dream come true.
BeavistheBookhead: What do the Sisters of Slaughter have planned for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
HORROR!!! We are writing a novella with our buddy and death metal legend Kam Lee. We are also working on something twin related for an upcoming open submission period, the storyline is kinda secret and you are to cool to have to kill so we will keep it under wraps for now.
Great stuff! Now, let’s get stuck into the quiz: Mayan Movie Madness!
We will start with something easy; just to get you warmed up. Without reverse image searching, name the movies below:
Answer: The Howling
Answer: Dog Soldiers
Answer: Late Phases
Answer: Monster Squad
That’s the easy stuff done and dusted. Let’s take it to the next level! Unleash your horror knowledge…
- American Werewolf in London was officially released in the US in what year?
- How many Friday the 13th movies are there?
10-11 if you count Jason vs Freddy-
- How many Halloween movies are there, including the remakes?
- In Hellraiser (1987) Who is Julia to Kirsty?
- In the Movie The Shining (1980) what was Jack Torrance’s Profession before his alcoholism took over?
This is a guess, if it’s wrong blame Michelle- a teacher before a writer drunk (what writer isn’t a drunk? Heeeeeyoooo!)
- What was the Little Boy’s name in Cujo (1983)?
- Who was the Head Vampire in The Lost Boys (1987)?
David- Kiefer Sutherland (Spelling?)
- What Was Ash’s Last name in the Evil Dead Series?
Ashley James Williams
- What year was Scream released?
- What kind of doll is Chucky from the Child’s Play movies?
Good Guy doll..
BeavistheBookhead: Thanks heaps for coming along. You ROCK! Check back here tomorrow for a full review of ‘Mayan Blue’. \M/
Follow along the tour with these hashtags: #MayanBlue #Mayans #legends
Mayan Blue, Synopsis
- File Size:488 KB
- Print Length:149 pages
- Publisher:Sinister Grin Press (May 25, 2016)
- Publication Date:May 25, 2016
Xibalba, home of torture and sacrifice, is the kingdom of the lord of death. He stalked the night in the guise of a putrefied corpse, with the head of an owl and adorned with a necklace of disembodied eyes that hung from nerve cords. He commanded legions of shapeshifting creatures, spectral shamans, and corpses hungry for the flesh of the living. The Mayans feared him and his realm of horror. He sat atop his pyramid temple surrounded by his demon kings and demanded sacrifices of blood and beating hearts as tribute to him and his ghostly world.
These legends, along with those that lived in fear of them, have been dead and gone for centuries. Yet now, a doorway has been opened in Georgia. A group of college students seek their missing professor, a man who has secretly uncovered the answer to one of history’s greatest mysteries. However, what they find is more than the evidence of a hidden civilization. It’s also a gateway to a world of living nightmares.
Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza have been writing together since they were little girls. Dubbed The Sisters of Slaughter by the editors of Fireside Press. They are constantly working together on new stories in the horror and dark fantasy genres. Their work has been included in FRESH MEAT published by Sinister Grin Press, WISHFUL THINKING by Fireside Press, WIDOWMAKERS a benefit anthology of dark fiction.
Praise for Mayan Blue
“From the outset, Garza and Lason let the blood spill, plunging their small cast of characters into the depths of Mayan hell. There’s plenty of action to go around as the group is confronted with a number of horrors, from the labyrinthine and booby-trapped maze of the newly discovered Mayan temple to the angry gods and their owl-headed, sharp-clawed servants.” –Michael Hicks, Author of Convergence
“Their short works are wonderful to read. However this book proves that they can tackle longer works without missing a beat.” –Tom, GoodReads
”These two show no quarter dragging the characters–and by extension, the reader–into the depths of the Mayan version of Hell. There’s vividness to the scenes they craft that made me want to make sure I was reading in full daylight, or at least with most of the lights on.” –John Quick, Author of Consequences
Barnes & Noble
#2 Interview: Sara Brooke.
Women in Horror month may already be done and dusted for some, but here at BeavistheBookhead we are always celebrating women in horror. There are some truly exceptional talents out there and it was with great pleasure that Sinister Grin Press put me in touch with Sara Brooke. Sara was kind enough to spend some time answering questions about her writing and her life. Rock on and Read on…..
BeavistheBookhead: First of all, I always like to thank my guests. I know how busy life can be and I truly appreciate the time you take in answering these questions. For those not familiar with you could you please tell folks out there a little (or a lot?!) about Sara Brooke?
Where to start . . . hmm. This interview could go off track quickly, so let me stick with the primary facts. A writer. Red hair. Penchant for horror, paranormal romance, and suspense. Loves her fans, Diet Coke, avocadoes, jalapeno chips, and lazy Sundays writing and alternatively turning off the laptop and watching B-rated horror films on Netflix.
BeavistheBookhead: Do you have a blog or a website? Yes – http://www.sarabrooke.com
BeavistheBookhead: Where did your love of books come from? When did you first decide you wanted to become a writer? And why has dark fiction been your genre of choice?
I think I could read before I could walk. Honestly, books were always my salvation in a world full of perfect-haired pre-teen girls who didn’t have kinky red hair, braces, and acne. And, the world of imagination allowed me to live through the perspectives of others who had much richer minds than I did. To answer your second question, writing is not a choice. It is the only way of life I know. Writing is a form of expression, and it is a crucial part of me—like a limb or vital organ. I write . . . because I have to. I write, because without writing, I would slowly go insane (or at least crazier than I am now ;).
BeavistheBookhead: Are you are an eBook person or a paperback purist? Paperback purist.
BeavistheBookhead: Who or what influences your writing?
Writing is a personal endeavour, so I cannot honestly say that someone influences my prose. However, there are writers—such as Bentley Little—who write so beautifully that I possibly subconsciously attempt to emulate their style.
BeavistheBookhead: What was the title of your first published story? What was it about? And who published it?
My first novel was entitled Still Lake. It is about pollution horribly impacting a small town and it was published by Biting Dog Publications in e-version.
BeavistheBookhead: Do you carry a pen and paper around with you in case you get hit with an idea or do you have a writing space that you go to where ideas simply flow from there?
I once read that you can train your mind to free itself and allow it to be more receptive to ideas or thoughts by mental repetition. This is something I believe I’ve done, and it works very well. My writing “muse” is nothing fancy—a comfortable couch, Diet Coke resting on the coffee table, feet up, and epic music playing on YouTube. But it works! I can crank out more than 1500 words in a sitting by setting up my environment in that very manner. Works every time.
BeavistheBookhead: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received when it comes to writing?
Just write. Don’t spend time screwing around on Facebook (where I find that many writers like to spend their days). Sure, promoting your books is important and it’s a fun place to virtually meet with readers and friends. But come on. I have writers who send me “page like” requests every other day. Please! I am too nice to unfriend these people, but it is tiresome. Stop loving yourself in front of everyone else daily, and just WRITE. And don’t worry about what’s happening with everyone else. Yes, people will win awards, others will get great reviews, and some will hit high levels on Amazon sales charts. I’ve been there too and you know what? It all means nothing unless you keep on writing. Shut out the social media noise until an appropriate time, and focus on your writing!
BeavistheBookhead: Let us talk about your most recent release ‘Gardens of Babylon’ where did this idea come from? And can you tell us a little about the writing process for this book?
I love that book. GOB is my way of taking a topic that is sexy as hell (I mean, have you ever seen people in the Babylonian times?) and bring it into the present. It’s an idea that I was noodling over for a few months and decided that inclusion of a fatal, totally gross bacterial infection would give it just the proper ingredient. I wrote this book during my recent divorce, so it took some time and focus to complete it, but it was very enjoyable.
BeavistheBookhead: What did you enjoy most about writing this book and what was the hardest part?
It was easy to create because I worked out the entire plot before I started writing it. The hardest part was the end. I enjoyed the novel so much that typing the words “The End” stung a bit.
BeavistheBookhead: Novels, novellas, short story collections….which are your favourite to write and why?
Short story collections are fun because I’ve found them to be wild pleasures.
BeavistheBookhead: What are you working on now and what projects do you have coming up in 2016 and beyond?
It’s a long list, I’m afraid. I’m working on Book Three of my Bloodmane Chronicles Series, with Book Two releasing in May. I’m working on a short story collection for Crossroad Press. I’m working on releasing a book called “Renovation” with Sinister Grin Press, who is also re-releasing my novel “The Zyne Project”. And there are the TV projects. None that I can publically speak about yet, because all are in development and multi-media endeavours move awfully slow. But soon . . . my friends in the blogging and interviewing world will be the first to know.
BeavistheBookhead: What do you think of the state of dark fiction in 2016?
Not entirely sure. I don’t think we’ve returned to our 1990’s heyday when Zebra and Bantam books were publishing fun horror fiction with those crazy covers. Many great books were coming out, including a slew of good stuff from the likes of Stephen King and others. Lately, it’s all zombies, and vampires, and such. While there is a strong market for those books, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of those books, I think something’s missing from the industry. And (not to sound self-serving, but it’s true) that’s why I write books that are coined “different” or “unique”, yet commercial in nature. So, you can enjoy them . . . and they’re also treading on different ground at times.
BeavistheBookhead: Finally. What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book but nobody has?
Oh dear. I’ve been asked every question you can imagine. Many times, people ask many questions about me, but don’t share which book of mine is their favorite or if they’ve ever even READ any of my books! I did a live interview recently on the radio, where the host really grilled me about Gardens of Babylon. He went into the plot, asked about specific characters and challenged some of the twists. I LOVED it. Wish more people would just stop to chat about the actual book. It would be a refreshing change.
Sarah. Thanks heaps for your time and we wish you nothing but the best for the future.
Make sure you check back tomorrow for a review of the gruesome ‘Gardens of Babylon’
To find out more about the books of Sarah Brooke you can follow these handy links.
Interview #3: Jason Murphy.
A few weeks back I came across a book called ‘Black Goat Motorcycle Club’ I was already familiar with the author, Jason Murphy through the anthology from Sinister Grin Press called ‘Fresh Meat’ I had read a review elsewhere that heaped praise on this novel, so I took the plunge and ripped into it myself. I started and finished it the same day! For me it is a classic horror book. It featured great monsters, lifelike characters and lightening quick pace-three core ingredients for a great horror novel. I guest reviewed the book for Jack Bantry’s ‘Splatterpunk’ magazine but have re-blogged it here in case anybody didn’t see it. I can safely say that ‘Black Goat M.C.’ will be one of my top reads this year. I absolutely loved it.
Jason Murphy was kind enough to give me some of his time and talk a little about the genesis of the book and also what else we can expect from him in the future….
BeavistheBookhead: Jason. Firstly, thanks for taking the time to visit my dark little corner of the web. For those out there not familiar with you, tell us a little (or a lot, if you like!) about Jason Murphy.
Thanks for having me! I’m a lifelong horror fan from Austin, Texas. I’ve done a lot of podcasts over the years and can still be found doing the occasional Let’s Play on www.rageselect.com. It’s filthy and juvenile, but a tremendous amount of fun.
Recently, I acted as a segment producer, writer, and co-host of a television show on National Geographic called ‘Hacking the System’. The simplest way to describe it is ‘Evil MacGyver’. We had one season that just premiered to big numbers on Netflix, so that’s pretty exciting. Now you can find similar, albeit more ‘questionable’ activities, on our weekly web show, ‘the Modern Rogue’.
Oh! And about a year and a half ago, I decided to get serious about something I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid – writing horror stories. I hooked up with the guys from Sinister Grin, who were kind enough to publish my short story ‘Homunculus’ and then the Black Goat Motorcycle Club after that.
BeavistheBookhead: Do you have a blog or website?
BeavistheBookhead: What are some of your favourite books/authors of the past 12 months or so?
Although I always come back to horror, I try to push myself outside of those boundaries by reading a broad variety of genres. Right now I’m reading ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ by John Henry Toole, which is a sublime comedy set in New Orleans. It’s fantastic and relentlessly funny. I finally found time to read Joe Hill’s ‘Horns’. It was, as with everything Hill writes, outstanding.
BeavistheBookhead: How long have you been writing? What was your first published story? Who published it and where did it appear?
I think I realized how much I loved writing when I was in the 4th grade. Once per week, we were assigned to draw a picture and then write a story about it. Mine were completely derivative, as I think most budding writers are at that age. I even recall ripping off the ‘Bishop of Battle’ segment from the horror movie anthology ‘Nightmares’. My teacher was troubled by my short stories and actually had another student ask me if I was on drugs. My response was, “No. I’m nine years old.”
My first published short story was ‘Homunculus’ in the Sinister Grin anthology ‘Fresh Meat’.
BeavistheBookhead: Who or what influences your writing?
The usual suspects. I don’t watch as many movies as I used to, but I do have a pretty broad knowledge of horror films. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is my favourite, but I’m also a huge fan of Cronenberg. If I can write something that’s even a tiny fraction as intelligent as anything Cronenberg has ever done, I’ll be happy.
I’ve been reading comics and playing video games voraciously for the past few decades, so I’m sure those bleed into my psyche and my output.
Short answer? Stan Lee, George Lucas, David Cronenberg, Nigel Neale, HP Lovecraft
BeavistheBookhead: Do you carry a pen and paper around in case you get hit with an idea or do you have a writing space where you go and the ideas simply flow from there?
I almost always have a moleskine in my back pocket. Everything starts there. I’ll flesh it out quite a bit with my pen – always an RSVP Pentel (fine point!) – and then take it to the computer to put it into some semblance of order.
Incidentally, I’ve been told on several occasions that I have ‘serial killer handwriting’.
BeavistheBookhead: What do you think of the state of horror fiction in 2016?
That’s a tough question because, like so many other forms of media, horror seems to be suffering in the mainstream. I don’t know how true that is since I haven’t seen sales receipts, but it seems that there are far fewer major horror releases in fiction, movies, etc.
That said, there’s an incredible amount of trailblazing with smaller publishers. They’re not afraid to get weird and experimental. That’s where you’ll find the good stuff, the challenging stuff. There are so many amazing titles out there if people look outside of what they can find on the shelf of a mass retailer.
BeavisthBookhead: What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
The one thing every writer tells you really is the most useful. To be a writer you have to write. You hear it all the time. Every established writer will say that to the point that it’s a cliché. That’s because it’s true. Write every day as much as you can. It’s a discipline. It’s a job. Treat it like one.
As far as the least useful? This is a funny one. One night, I was sitting around chatting with a close friend who is a far more successful and talented writer than me. I asked him if I was harming my writing by planning everything out. Before I could finish, he asked, “Oh God, you read that damned book, didn’t you?”
Long ago, I read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and in it, Uncle Stevie insists that writers not use an outline to map out a story. I held onto that advice for years. For some people, it’s great advice. Clearly, it worked for King, but I think it’s very misguided. What he may not have taken into account is that no one else is Stephen King. When I try writing without planning out a story it turns into a God-forsaken mess.
I really think that most people need to outline their stories to some degree. It’s the only way I can see the big picture and know the bones of the tale as intimately as I need.
And yes, I realize that what I just said is akin to a kid with a crayon questioning Michelangelo’s technique on the Sistine Chapel. . .
BeavistheBookhead: What is the writing process like for you? How do you go about constructing a novel?
As I mentioned above, outlining is key to my process. I’ll jot down pages of notes in my moleskin, try to arrange them in order, and make sure everything I have in there works and builds upon what came before. Then I fill in the gaps, making changes along the way. Most of my work ends up very cinematic, so I tend to think in a typical three act structure, for better or for worse.
BeavistheBookhead: Tell us about ‘Homunculus’ – the story featured in ‘Fresh Meat’ I thought this was the best story in there, I really did dig it!
Thank you for saying so! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Much of the set-up (and setting) is based on growing up in a small town in West Texas. I was that curious and bored kid, riding my skateboard on a hot summer afternoon. ‘Homunculus’ is definitely one of the stranger tales I’ve written, and by far the most disgusting. I’ve always enjoyed the conceit of something horrible lurking in a small town. Much of my writing ends up taking place in an arid, Southwestern town. Maybe it’s my way of exorcising some demons.
BeavistheBookhead: In my review I described ‘Black Goat M.C.’ as a cross between the movies ‘From Dusk till Dawn’ and ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ Can you tell folk out there a little about the book, but without giving too much away?
Mild spoilers here, even though I think the presence of werewolves is pretty clear from the first chapter. . .
I’ve always loved ‘siege’ movies, stories where a small number of characters are trapped and surrounded by an army of antagonists. ‘The Seven Samurai’, ‘the Alamo’, etc. There’s something terrifying about being overwhelmed by a legion of faceless bad guys, but it also leaves room for heroism and self-sacrifice. I wanted to capture that, but add a few twists to the formula.
It was also important for me to make the werewolves a truly frightening threat. In most of the werewolf fiction that I’ve read or watched, there’s only one werewolf. Not all of them, of course. ‘Dog Soldiers’ stands out as a similar set-up to BGMC in a few ways. Rather than having that singular monster, what if the protagonists were up against an entire army of them?
BeavistheBookhead: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I really found myself enjoying the characters. I got attached to them. They weren’t all good people. In fact, many of them were kind of terrible, but I started to feel a bond with them, which I think is extremely important when you’re telling your story. I was relieved that I was able to capture their voices and understand what motivated them.
BeavistheBookhead: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
I wanted something relentlessly paced, a real punch to the face. The horror element was important to me, even though the set-up lends itself to something action-heavy. I wanted to strike a balance between the two. I think I did a decent job of that. Admittedly, I would have liked a few more scares, and a bit more genuine horror. Then again, I say that after everything I write.
BeavistheBookhead: Novels, Novellas, Collections, Flash fiction….what do you prefer to write the most and why?
Novels, definitely. I think you’ve got a lot of room to surprise yourself there. While you don’t want it to be bloated, there’s more room to play around and when you have that opportunity, you could discover something completely unexpected about your story.
BeavistheBookhead: What does the rest of 2016 have in store for Jason Murphy from a writing perspective?
Probably more than I should have taken on! I’m doing work on an audio drama I wrote, researching a dark fantasy novel, editing a draft of a new horror novel, and writing the one after that.
BeavistheBookhead: Jason. Thanks for being a good sport!
You can find out more about Jason Murphy and his books through the links below. And check out Sinister Grin Press for more great horror reads!