Lisa's September 2017 Newsletter (#9)
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Hi Gang!

What a summer. Those of you who are in Texas or some other tornado alley, I hope you've come through the worst and haven't lost anything.

Here in SoCal, we had a surprisingly mild August...up until the end of the month. Now we're looking at a run of 100+ degree days. This means I'll be working a little bit harder to keep those pumpkins watered!

That's not all I'm working on, though. It's been a strangely busy month for the Horror Writers Association (I say "strangely" because August is usually pretty quiet for us, what with being stuck between dues renewals, StokerCon, and awards season). Don't get me wrong - I'm thrilled with all this activity! It means that more HWA members than ever are volunteering, making suggestions, and getting involved. This month, we accomplished everything from signing the deal for the StokerCon 2019 venue (yes, that's 2019!) to getting the organization's next anthology in place. Yes, this means time away from my own writing, but that's how it goes sometimes when you're the president of a (fairly) large writers' organization.

Speaking of HWA's anthologies, the one I co-edited with Ellen Datlow, Haunted Nights, just got a starred and boxed review in Publishers Weekly. I've always hoped to get a starred review from the publishing industry's bible, but I had no idea that it was an even bigger deal to get starred and boxed, so woohoo!

I have managed to keep up with most of my short fiction assignments, and speaking of short fiction - you'll see a brand spankin' new column in this newsletter: "Behind the Screams". In this new monthly feature, I'll talk about what inspired a story or book, be it a newly-published one, something forthcoming, or something old.

Thanks again for hanging in there with me. Here's to the coming autumn, right?

Still Life
In which I rhapsodize about favorite movie photos from my collection
We lost Tobe Hooper.

This one hurts, just as Romero did a few short weeks ago. It seems like we're losing all the icons of '70s horror filmmaking. a time that I think really re-defined the genre. Before the '70s, most horror movies were still mired in the Gothic castle; even Rosemary's Baby - arguably the first truly modern horror movie - had a touch of Gothic sensibility about it.

But in the 1970s, films like The Exorcist, Jaws, Dawn of the Dead, Alien, Eraserhead, and Suspiria completely flipped the genre on its ear. These new films were contemporary (or futuristic), urban, and stylistically innovative.

But none was more so than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I should stop here and say that I didn't see TCM during its initial 1974 release (I was too young). It was nearly ten years after that I finally saw it. Viewing it was a strange experience in itself: I was visiting my then-boyfriend, actor Paul Clemens, in Jackson, Mississippi, where he was starring in a horror film, The Beast Within. One night we noticed that a re-release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was playing a local theater, and we decided to go. We were the only two patrons in the theater that night.

I don't mind admitting that I was little nervous. I'd heard this film described as the goriest movie ever made. Fortunately, Paul had already seen it and assured me it wasn't, and that I'd probably dig it (thanks, Paul!).

I more than liked it - I LOVED it. I thought it was equal parts horrifying and hysterical, with a gritty look I'd never seen in a horror movie before. What it wasn't was incredibly gory; the blood was there, but it was all implied.

A few years later I also loved The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which featured a bigger budget, more insane comedy, and possibly the single most deliciously over-the-top performance ever by Dennis Hopper.

Although Hooper never again made anything I loved as much as TCM 1 and 2, those two films (along with his terrifying television version of King's Salem's Lot) are enough to mark him as one of horror's great auteurs.

RIP, Tobe. I'll always think of you whenever I hear a chainsaw revving.

ABOUT THE STILL: When I was a kid frequenting conventions, there were a lot of dealers who sold stills printed from slides; sometimes the slides they'd obtained were official studio issues, and sometimes they were oddball behind-the-scenes stuff they somehow got elsewhere. I loved this shot of Hooper on the set of TCM, although I have no idea if this is an official photo or somebody's own personal shot.
The Halloween Spirit
Tips for keeping it going all year 'round
I love silly Halloween tchotchkes. The sillier, the better.

I haven't always had great Halloweens. A few have been downright terrible, frankly (why does tragedy strike my family so often in October?). But one of the things that's always gotten me through tough Octobers has been dropping into stores and checking out the crazy Halloween toys and decorations. In the past, I've purchased everything from "Halloween Grow Capsules" (you drop them in water, the capsules dissolve, and you get little Halloween sponges) to solar-powered Halloween "nodders" to Dia de los Muertos clothespins (yes, really). Not only do they make me smile at Halloween, but just glancing up at a shelf of them in my office brings me pleasure throughout the year.

So far, the winner of the Best Halloween Toy Name of 2017 has to go to Target's "Light Up Squishy Mummy." I mean, come ON - who isn't going to giggle just saying "Light Up Squishy Mummy"? And no, I haven't yet removed this fine fellow from his package yet, so I'm not entirely sure how he works.

I've also found treasures so far this year at Big Lots and Pier 1. What's your favorite Halloween tchotchke, or tell us your favorite store to grab the best Halloween gear from. Drop me a line, and I'll include your answers in my October newsletter (you can also send me photos).

Also, here's a great tip from K. A. Opperman, poet and Halloween fan supreme: go to Michael's or another craft store, pick up a plain wooden box, decorate it with Halloween cut-outs or stickers, and use it to hold a little hint of October you can return to throughout the year. I asked him what his Halloween box would contain, and here was his answer: "I plan on keeping all kinds of knick-knacks in mine--gathered acorns, a couple scarlet leaves, pumpkin seeds--things that breath the haunted essence of autumn." Here's a picture of K.A.'s lovely box:
Tell Me About Your Halloween Stuff!
Strange Fruit
The weirdest thing I've recently uncovered in my research
This edition of "Strange Fruit" isn't going to be about an oddball fact I've uncovered in research, but rather how I go about researching interviews.

I do a lot of interviews for Nightmare Magazine. I've interviewed everyone from Joe Lansdale to Joyce Carol Oates to Jack Ketchum. For an upcoming issue, I interviewed one of my favorite new(er) writers, Josh Malerman.

Nothing makes me crazier than to read an interview that the interviewer has plainly not prepared for. Sure, sometimes you don't have a lot of time, or you might be doing a batch of interviews with authors for a blog series, so maybe you can get away with picking a few standard questions. But if you're doing a feature interview for a major market, then by gawd you need to be prepared. Nothing's worse than reading an interview with an amazing writer where the interviewer asks the same tired old questions ("What scares you?") that they've asked a hundred times before.

When I know who I'm going to be interviewing, the research begins and it usually takes weeks. First I read the subject's latest book. If they've also put out some short fiction, I'll read that as well (or at least as much as I can fit in).

Once I've read the books, I'll visit the author's website and/or Facebook page. From the website, I'll go over the biography. From Facebook, I'll try to get a feel for what they're currently working on or what their interests are. Lastly, I'll google the subject's name and read as many previous interviews with them as I can.

At this point I'm ready to start formulating my questions. I'll probably revisit all of the above materials as I craft the questions. That process usually takes a few days.

Yes, I know this sounds like a lot of work for an interview that may end up taking twenty minutes to read, but when a writer is giving generously of his or her precious time to answer questions, I think it's disrespectful to not be as knowledgeable about the author and her/his work as I can.

Plus I get to dive into a lot of great reading this way!
Read more about my Nightmare interviews
Behind the Screams
About a Story
On September 28, the anthology Dead Ends: Stories from the Gothic South will be released. I was really pleased to be asked to write a story for this since the other contributors all come from the mystery field. 

The concept behind this book was intriguing: all of the authors were provided with the same photo of a man standing before a creepy abandoned mansion and asked to craft a Southern Gothic story to go with the photo. It took me about a minute to decide on two things about the story I would write: 1) the house would (surprise!) haunted, although I also wanted to play with other tropes of the Southern Gothic genre, like twisted families and history; and 2) my protagonist would not be a Southerner. I made that latter decision because, frankly, I'm not a Southerner, so it was a cheap way of not getting something wrong.

So, who would my protagonist be? Why would someone from Southern California be in the South? The answer to that came quickly: they'd be working on a movie. I decided to make my hero a location manager who is looking for an existing house to feature in a horror movie. 

In case you don't know about location managers, let me give you my take (and I've worked with a lot of 'em, both on films that I'd written/produced, and as a worker at a bookstore that sees a lot of shooting). Locations managers are the first people who show up when a movie crew is considering shooting in a real place; they take pictures of the locations, find out if the owners are open to shooting, discuss dates and size of the crew, and report back to the producers and director. If the bigwigs like the look of the photos, they may visit the location with the location manager. If shooting takes place at the location, the location manager will be there to act as liaison between the crew and the location owner.

I like location managers. They're usually personable, enthusiastic guys; they need to be charming to make these locations work sometimes, and they're also very organized. During filming, they're walking treasure chests - they often wear safari vests, and have just about anything you might need on a location in one of their pockets (phone charger? Here ya go. Extra cash because that grip knocked a hole in the wall? How much do you need? Gaffer's tape? Right here.). 

So, by making my protagonist a location manager, I had a guy who I knew was friendly but business-like, and prepared for anything.

For the house (haunted, remember), I thought about some research I did for Ghosts: A Haunted History about "elementals". Elementals as supposedly the Big Bads of the ghost world - powerful entities that may or may not have ever been human, and are the most malicious and destructive of supernatural bogies. I wanted my poor location manager to encounter an elemental, or - because I also wanted to work in family dynamics - an elemental in the making.

I'm pleased with the final story, which I titled "The Perfect House". I'll leave it to you to tell me if it worked or not.

SPECIAL OFFER: Pre-order Dead Ends before the September 28 release date, e-mail me a proof of purchase, and I'll send you "The Perfect House" to read right away! Please specify your choice of .MOBI (for Kindle) or ePub format. 
Pre-order Dead Ends: Stories from the Gothic South
My current works-in-progress
In a few weeks, an anthology I contributed to, Adam's Ladder, will launch a crowdsourcing campaign. Stay tuned to either my Facebook or the editors' (Michael Bailey and Darren Speegle), and I hope you'll help to spread the word. My story in this one, "Eyes of the Beholders", is a science fiction/horror crossover piece, so it's a little unusual for me.

Oh, and you should pick up The Lovecraft Squad: Waiting, edited by Stephen Jones, due to descend upon the world on October 3. Am I in this book? No. But...I...ahem...might have something in the following volume(s), and it might be something that I'm really proud of, and besides, with Steve at the helm you know this is going to kick ass!

CD Select: Lisa Morton

Cemetery Dance is now offering my mini-collection in a signed and limited edition . The four stories included are "Joe and Abel in the Field of Rest", "Pound Rots in Fragrant Harbour", "Black Mill Cove", and the Bram Stoker Award-winning "Tested".
Reserve Your Copy NOW!
My acclaimed book Ghosts: A Haunted History will be available this October in an affordable trade paperback.
Haunt Yourself
This great new anthology edited by multiple award-winner Joe McKinney and Mark Onspaugh includes my story "High Desert", about some cult madness in the not-so-Old West.
Get Lost!

Haunted Nights

This anthology of all-new Halloween (and Dia de los Muertos/Devil's Night/All Souls' Eve) fiction features sixteen stories by some of the genre's hottest authors. To be released on October 3rd, 2017. Stay tuned for announcements of signing events, launch parties, and giveaway celebrations!
Haunt Your Nights!
Dark Screams Vol. 6 includes my story "The Rich are Different". 
Scream and Scream Again!
Open the pages of Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders and step into the world of "LaRue's Dime Museum", about a young photographer's encounters with some very special people. 
Step Right Up!
This month we're going to celebrate the start of the Halloween season by giving away a paperback edition of The Samhanach, the first of my Halloween novellas (and a Bram Stoker Award nominee). This edition, which also features Frank Walls' incredible cover art, is now out of print. Of course I'll be happy to personalize it to you, if you're the lucky winner. Just click the button below to enter, and good luck!
Sorry - this giveaway has ended
  • Sunday, October 8th - Signing Haunted Nights (with a bunch of the contributors) at Dark Delicacies
  • Sunday, November 12th - Signing Haunted Nights, 2:00 PM, Mysterious Galaxy San Diego
  • Thursday, March 1st through March 4th, 2018 - StokerCon in Providence, Rhode Island!
Copyright © 2017 Lisa Morton All rights reserved.

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