Masks out now featuring “Blood & Gingerbread”

Masks - final coverWhat a great way to start off autumn. My latest story “Blood & Gingerbread” has just released as part of the anthology Masks from Black Shuck Books, an imprint of Great British Horror. It seems I am becoming a British author by proxy as this is my second in a series of at least four sequential books lined up with British presses.

This story was fun to write. Inspired by Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and real-world accounts of militant separatist compounds, “Blood & Gingerbread” is set in a secluded community where bizarre annual rituals keep death at bay. It explores the raw human need to control, holding domain over violence, nature, families, behavior, life, and death. What happens when that power is disrupted?

Check out the table of contents below featuring some of the great writers you’ll find in the independent horror field right now. Masks is edited by Dean M Drinkel and the cover art is by the late and great illustrator James Powell, may he rest in peace.

  • PORCELAIN  by James Everington
  • BLOOD & GINGERBREAD  by D T Griffith
  • THE HOUSE OF A THOUSAND FACES  by Chris Stokes
  • VARIETY NIGHT  by Russell Proctor
  • AFTER THE END, THE BEGINNING  by Christine Morgan and Lucas Williams
  • THE MAN WHO FED THE FOXES  by Phil Sloman
  • MANY HAPPY RETURNS  by Kyle Rader
  • TRIXIE  by Christopher Beck
  • THE FACE COLLECTOR  by Stephanie Ellis
  • AN ABSENT HOST  by F A Nosić
  • THE SILENCING MACHINE  by Clockhouse London Writers
  • HIS LAST PORTRAIT  by Adrian Cole
  • THE JAR BY THE DOOR  by Icy Sedgwick

Purchasing info and other details are available on Black Shuck Book’s site: blackshuck.greatbritishhorror.com/masks.

Masks anthology from KnighWatch unveiled

Masks cover artwork by James Powell

Masks cover artwork by James Powell

I am always excited to announce my involvement in a new book, this time for my first of hopefully many publications with the UK-based KnightWatch Press. Masks is a new anthology compiled and edited by Dean M Drinkel anticipated to release later this year.

Inspired by the great Shirley Jackson, my story “Blood, Gingerbread and Life” is set in a secluded community where bizarre annual rituals keep death at bay. It explores the raw human need to control, holding domain over violence, nature, families, behavior, life, and death. What happens when that power is disrupted?

The table of contents features a group of diverse talents, including a handful of authors with whom I’ve had the honor of sharing other anthology titles.

Many Happy Returns – Kyle Rader
Trixie – Christopher L Beck
An Absent Host – F.A. Nosić
Variety Night – Russell Proctor
The Silencing Machine – Clockhouse Writers
After The End – Christine Morgan / Lucas Williams
The Face Collector – Stephanie Ellis
The Jar By The Door – Icy Sedgwick
Porcelain – James Everington
The Man Who Fed The Foxes – Phil Sloman
The House Of A Thousand Faces – Chris Stokes
Blood, Gingerbread and Life – David T Griffith
His Last Portrait – Adrian Cole

If you are interested in reviewing Masks before publication, please send an inquiry to theresa.derwin@yahoo.co.uk.

Challenging myself

Orange sky over Rye, NY - November 2011For those who don’t know me well, I am not a religious person. I don’t hold claim to any one belief system or ideology, nor do I reject any. I hold a high level of respect for everyone’s individual beliefs or lack thereof. It’s not my intent to prove or disprove, rather, it is to learn facts, listen to stories, and understand our world as it exists today. This level of comprehension includes the natural world and human societies and cultures, for which many are built around belief systems and have significantly impacted on the natural world – good or bad. I am also a strong advocate of the sciences.

In needs to be stated with regard to our current polarized climate of religion versus science, that science does not exist to debunk or counter religion. Nor is science a belief system. It is a methodology applied to the pursuit of facts in how things function in our world. It is the exploration of our intelligent minds, the ocean depths, and the minuscule building blocks of the trillions of atoms that make up each of our bodies.

My views on religion – of any faith – are straight-forward, if not over-simplified. When the supernatural elements are removed they provide frameworks that help some people live their lives, to cope with difficult situations, to provide a community of like-minded people, to serve the less fortunate in times of need. In this high-stress, fast-paced digital era of individual isolation – think of how often people are outdoors talking with neighbors as compared to the pre-Internet days of twenty-plus years ago – religious organizations hold an invaluable role in fulfilling a need to belong to a group and provide a purpose in life. I acknowledge that not everyone seeks these fulfillments, or maybe not in a faith-based setting.

So here I am, embarking on what is the most challenging journey yet in my professional creative life. Without giving much detail away at this early stage, I have committed to writing a biography following the lives of two sisters, where religion and gender identity are major factors in their life stories. Funny enough, the challenge for me is not in taking on the subject of gender identity, it’s learning in close proximity about the high value and trust in a faith that is rather foreign to me, one that I may not agree with at times.

Through this writing exercise I have finally reached a point of clarity consistent with my views: a story about another’s beliefs is not reflective of my own.

Am I a horror writer?

question mark coverI’ve had stories appear now in six horror anthologies. Some of those books, in full disclosure, I had a hand in designing the covers or page layouts, though completely separate from my story submissions and inclusions. A few more horror-genre publications containing my work are on the way to print in the next few months, but I still often wonder whether I am truly a horror writer.

Before anyone lambasts me for such a self-serving ponderous statement, I’m being completely honest about this question, and this is my personal blog. All organization and personal blogs are self-serving regardless of their intents and purposes, don’t blind yourself to this one truism.

Thing is, I never set out to be a horror writer. I am always drawn toward dark material for the books I read or TV shows I watch, which in turn influences or inspires what I write. I’ve tried my hand at happy stories and they never feel authentic to me. Difficult decisions, personal conflicts, and imperfect flaws that lead to dramatic and usually tragic conclusions are what drive me. They are sometimes allegories, other times criticisms on or responses to our current day culture and society. The messages may not be obvious to everyone, and I don’t expect them to be; they typically serve as starting points from which a story takes on its own life. As a story should for every writer.

These statements or criticisms on the world, our society, or our culture come from a perspective of gritty realism, they are neither optimistic nor pessimistic. They just are. The world exists as we shape its existence, both good and bad. This perspective spawns the perpetual evolution of my creativity: a dark point-of-view mired in grit and horror; a creative process carried by a glimmer of hope that challenges an ominous darkness and crushing fear. Think Baroque music and painting. Think Gothic architecture and literature.

Looking back at these paragraphs I just wrote I realize just how subjective it is to define one’s work in any particular genre. This is art and not science after all, there are no mandated axioms on the natural world’s behaviors that dictate creativity, just concepts and ideas.

So my stories may not contain much gore, graphic sex or violence, or the standard supernatural creatures that account for many horror movie and story tropes, but they do contain accounts of mental anguish, trauma, shock, and the deterioration of one’s mental faculties. In that sense, these attributes are real life everyday horrors of the human experience, whether they are set in a dystopian backdrop or a current-day real-world environment that may or may not be affected by a supernatural influence depending on the protagonist’s perspective.

The answer, then, is yes. I do write horror.