Blog

Radio Silence

I’ve been pretty book quiet lately. I just feel disheartened by events, and have lost interest because of those events. I can’t trust people I one supported and I have zero faith in organizations that I once thought were worth backing.

I have watched people who have done nothing be bullied out of their careers. And watched those same bullies surround and protect people who deserve to be called out publicly.

I have had my name connected to outcries and my story implied, have been dismissed as having a personal vendetta for reasons that are just untrue, and people try to use my name and story to further their own personal gain.

I have watched people be manipulated and attacked.

I have watched people share their stories of inappropriate behavior, and watched others jump on and make it all about them (and not the victims), watched others do what they can to control the narrative, to keep themselves looking like heroes.

I have been told stories of sexually inappropriate behavior and sexual assault at a convention I once loved, and seen the email dismissal (and denials) by the people running the convention (yes, calling the victims liars). I have seen the same convention heads call for the careers of others, claiming to believe and be on the side of all victims, those people destroying some and lifting up others.

I have watched people with virtually no talent hoisted on people’s shoulders as writing gods, watched them destroy careers of people they are jealous of, watched them skyrocket careers of the people that bow at their feet. (Sycophants, every last one of them. And they, sadly, don’t even see it.)

I have watched people grasp on to their relevance and hold on to it with every breath in their body, doing everything they must to keep it long past it’s sell by date.

I have watched the fake interactions between people that, in private, are very outspoken about the level of dislike they have for each other. In public, they schmooze and name drop and gush, all selfish and self-centered, using people to make their name/brand stronger.

I have also watched the fake (and often paid for) reviews on blogs I once looked up to as next-level, now run by desperate bloggers who take advantage of and destroy their name with every payment they take.

I have watched the blatant and disgusting lies. I have witnessed the pack mentality.

And I have been bullied – by bloggers, by authors – and have gone through it all with no (or virtually no) support system.

I have had people who call me friend to my face spread rumors and lies about me behind my back, and when confronted, they deny and deny, acting as if I did not have the proof I needed before I started asking questions.

I have spent almost eight years supporting and selling people – on and off my blog – and those people have taken and taken and taken until I have nothing left to give. And when I’m used up, they turn so quickly on me, looking for the next fresh face to take advantage of until they are dried up as well.

Through it all, I remained loyal.

I have lost all respect for the people I had once idolized and, to be honest, I don’t know if I will be able to come back from it this time.

Worse, I have lost my passion, my direction, any respect I may have once had for myself, and my self-worth.

I have struggled for several years, blaming myself for what I have lost, blaming myself for being bullied (and continuing to be bullied, rather than just give up and move on), blaming myself for not being able to do it, blaming myself for failing time and time again, blaming myself for everything. The truth is: It wasn’t my fault. I busted my ass at something I loved, and people didn’t like that. They made it a competition, where no competition was. My level of passion had nothing to do with them, but they made it a slight, they took it as an affront, and they did what they could to get rid of their “competition.” And I let them.

It’s time to get my head straight once again.

The direction may have been forgotten, and forgotten for far longer than it should have been, but it has never changed: I don’t need someone to tell me that I am relevant. I came here for one reason and one reason only – to talk books. I could NEVER speak to another author again and still be able to do that.

2020 Just Keeps Getting Harder

2020 has been an insane year almost from it’s beginning. Each month – can you believe it’s already the beginning of August? – has brought us a new thing to worry about, and sadly we all seem to be waiting with bated breath for the next big thing, almost joking about how it can’t possibly get worse than it already is.

As I sit here waiting for a hurricane – now tropical storm – that may or may not be hitting us (didn’t I go through this last year?), I can’t help but think about just how much loss has happened in this world.

I woke up this morning to the news that Wilford Brimley had died.

Such unfair news in this world today. Wilford Brimley was one of the best, and always will be. A lot of people know him because of The Thing and his Diabetes commercials, but I was obsessed with The Waltons and Our House growing up because of this man. And I watched the VHS tapes we had of Cocoon and Cocoon: The Return so much that they started to deteriorate.

He was the loving and caring person that he portrayed on TV and the world will truly miss his talent and his heart. It hurts that things seemed to stand in the way of me getting to meet him again, as every convention that we were both going to be attending, either he had to back out of or I did. But just having met him once was enough to know the man that he was.

This just days after the horror community found out about the loss of Jon Recluse.

He was one of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. A really good friend. Someone who meant the world to me.

People have tried discussing the loss with me, people who knew how much he meant to me, how much I admired him, but I just can’t right now. Losing a friend is hard, but losing a friend that truly inspired people in this world, a friend that had a lot more to give, is just hard. So so hard.

We originally met on Goodreads, what seems like eons ago. He was always there for a conversation about books, and there were many times that we messaged into the wee hours about a book one or both of us were reading. He was such a horror connoisseur, and a really dedicated fan. There wasn’t much about horror he didn’t know, and he was spot-on every time he recommended I read something, after learning that I loved something else. His reviews were always so thought out, so perfect. He was such an asset to the horror community, and I actually feel more for the people who never got the chance to get to know him, having never had that experience, than the people who knew him and loved him who are now grieving.

Somehow our friendship ended up going beyond just books, almost like we were just meant to know each other. Even when he was down, he was there when people were having a bad time of this or that, and would defend those who were treated poorly with everything he had. He was my biggest supporter, and he made me feel important, made me feel strong, just knowing that was how he saw me in this world. He would never let me give up on what I loved, and would remind me how much I was hurting myself (and others) by taking a step back, reminded me that I was better than that. I didn’t always listen to his advice, didn’t always be the friend that he needed, no matter how hard I tried. His loss is crushing.

We talked about family – his and mine – and I don’t think he ever recovered from the deaths of his sweet dog (his brother) and his mom. I’m happy to know that he is with them again, and that thought brings me comfort.

In my sadness, I try to remind myself of what my priest told me when my father died: On that day, there was a child being born, and God looked everywhere – in heaven and on earth – for the perfect guardian angel, and when he saw Jon, he just knew. Having known Jon the way I did, I can tell you that he would be the perfect guardian angel, and I hope that the baby he is watching over today lives a long and happy life, one filled with love, friendship, and definitely a love for horror.

Maybe the two are up there together now…

An Open Letter to My Bully

Beware the person who stabs you and then tells the world they’re the one who’s bleeding.”

~Jill Blakeway

Dear… Well, you know who you are. I have been told by several people (those people that give you information whether you want it or not, whether you care about it or not) that you still follow my blogs, still read my posts, so I know that you’ll read this one as well.

Today I’m writing as a different person than I was yesterday, as a different person than I was last week, last month, even a different person than I have been over the last couple of years.

I forgot who I was.

Or maybe I let you steal who I am from me.

When I got bullied, harassed, and attacked by authors, I was told to be proud, that this meant I had made it. It is worn almost as a badge of honor, or at least people tell you it’s supposed to be.

This is the world we live in, where this kind of behavior is acceptable, where there’s nothing you can do about it. People tell you it’s no big deal because it’s just online. It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t bother you. It’s not real life. Just get off the computer, get off the internet, and it will all go away.

(No matter how much it really hurts. No matter how much it doesn’t go away.)

When I was attacked by you, a fellow book blogger, I was ignored. And worse, I was abandoned.

They believed your lies, with zero proof of the allegations you piled at my feet. (Ms. M to the public, my name in private.)

No one wanted to hear the truth, or even cared to find out the other side of the story.

Your wife destroyed my reputation, liabled me to the point of considering legal repercussions, and threatened me.

I lost business because of your lies. I lost followers because of your lies. I lost working with some authors and even some publishers because of your lies.

I was scoffed when I tried to eloquently, but abstractly, speak out about what I was going through. I wanted someone to listen, someone to hear what I was going through, someone to care, to understand… and maybe explain to me how something I love, something I am so passionate about, can give me such anxiety now.

I sat in silence as people I knew for years spoke about being Team Other Guy, publicly calling for the head of the person who was daily trying to make you quit.

Something that never happened.

You made it all up. Every single bit of it. And the worst part of it all is that you needed no proof to rally the public to your side.

And now, the people who knew your name and know what you did to me, they like to remind me that you are no longer a blogger, as if that changes things, takes away from the hurt and pain that you caused, means I won.

It doesn’t.

And I can’t. Can’t be a blogger. Not really. No matter how much my heart wants to.

My brain just won’t let me.

I have always been so strong. I was not stronger than this.

I was so confused when you did what you did. Followed by hurt, then angry for so so long. But now? I just feel sorry for you. You felt so unimportant that you had to steal your importance from someone else, rather than create your own.

You compared yourself to others, and you chose to systematically destroy someone that you were… what? envious of?

No one knows the real story. Just you. Just me.

It’s time I spoke out and let people know what REALLY happened.

We were friends. We spoke often about books, I listened to you share problems and concerns you were having in the book community, and when you decided that you wanted to be a book blogger, I spent MONTHS helping you create your world. I was there when you were picking apart every little detail of the blog, when you were nervous about writing your first post, when you needed someone to remind you that you could do it. That was me. I was the one. I gave you my opinion when you asked for it, advice when you asked for it, and read every post you put up so that I was ready to discuss it with you when you contacted me. (And you did. Every day. Discussing your post. Needing feedback. Needing validation. Needing someone to tell you how good you were.)

And it wasn’t just me. In your forgetting all that I did in our friendship, you forgot that my mother was a part of this as well.

It went on for weeks, months. Every single day. Hours, daily, of our time.

(Note: I don’t regret the time that I spent helping you. I do, however, regret the time that I put into a friendship that clearly was not one.)

(Do you remember how angry you used to get when I didn’t respond to you quick enough, even though you knew that it was in the middle of the night for me, expecting me to sit up all night helping you in whatever way that you expected? Do you remember the fits you would throw, the nasty, negative things you would say? Your childish behavior? I sure do.)

I told everyone I knew to read your blog. I put links to your blog on mine. I shared your posts on social media.

During this time and after, you had a public falling out with a fellow blogger who I happened to also consider a friend. I spoke to him at great lengths about the issue and you at great lengths about the issue, never once judging either one of you or choosing sides, not because I needed or wanted gossip, but because that’s what friends do. They listen when their friend has a problem. And that’s what I considered us. Friends.

At some point, I noticed that you weren’t messaging me every day like you had been for weeks. When I reached out to you, you didn’t respond. I figured that life had just gotten busy for you – I mean, blogging is not easy. People who don’t blog think that it’s just a bunch of fun and games, but it’s a lot of work. I gave you your space, but still supported you just as strongly as I had been.

That’s when I started hearing the whispers.

You were going to quit. Not because you wanted to, but because this terrible, horrible person was trying to force you to do so.

Some said blackmail. Some said bullying. All agreed that there was some vendetta, some campaign against you.

But no one knew a name.

I reached out to you on several occasions to find out what was happening and how I could help. Nothing.

Then one day, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw a friend of mine comment about how you were being attacked and he was so emotional about the fact that anyone could do that to you. I read his words, his call for anger from the community, his support of you, and his venom for this person that was bullying you across social media.

The infamous Ms. M.

Your wife had a lot of stuff to say about this woman – threats and condemnation and a call for war, but nothing more about who the person was that was attacking you.

More whispers. A couple of odd questions from people that didn’t make sense at the time. Some people blocked me on social media (including a friend of mine from real life that was part of the book community).

Then there were several nasty emails. Nothing specific. Just calling me out of my name, telling me where they thought I should end up after my death. Ya know…

It wasn’t until I tried to message a publishing company that I was working with, and found out that they had blocked me, that I really started to question things. I spoke to the gentleman I mentioned before, and he assured me that this had nothing to do with me, that I wasn’t this Ms. M, that I was just reading too much into the fact that you weren’t responding to my attempts at contact, that I was just trying to make this all about me (boy was I selfish and self-important).

A week or so later, the same publishing company over on Goodreads recommended a book to me. And I’ll admit, I was rather unprofessional in my response to them. I called them out for the fact that they blocked me somewhere – WHILE WE WERE WORKING TOGETHER – and then had the gall to think that I would want to read a book that they recommended to me. Their response floored me. But I now finally knew the truth.

I was the infamous Ms. M. It was ME that your wife was stirring hatred up for, it was ME that everyone was against (without knowing who I was, because apparently you only spoke my name in private to people you were sure would believe you), it was ME that you were spreading outright lies about.

I was, to be completely honest, livid. Not at first with you, interestingly enough. (As I said before, I was concerned, and then hurt.) I was angry at this person for not asking me anything about the situation. He actually apologized several times, saying that he had been bullied before and that he just immediately believed it, but then later, questioned whether he thought this was actually something I could or would do to someone. He used the book request as a way to reach out.

You made everything up. Because I NEVER bullied you. I NEVER once tried to get you to quit. I supported you FROM DAY ONE of you deciding you wanted to be a blogger.

I cannot fathom how you were so believable that NO ONE asked you for proof. Which would have sucked for you since you have none.

In this day and age, when everyone screenshots everything – this happened after the author-blogger battle on Goodreads – and you don’t have anything to post to prove what I supposedly did to you? You calling me a bully was all you had to do? Oh and put up a post on your blog with a sign saying you quit?

(Trust me, the fact that no one made you PROVE IT really made me lose all respect for LOTS of people. A respect that no one has been able to earn back yet.)

I spoke your name to less than ten people, never anything more than to defend myself to people I really cared about. You spoke my name to a lot more than that.

I quit. Not really, I couldn’t do that – I loved my blog too much to be an actual quitter, to admit to anyone, including and especially you, that I had – but the reality of it is, I quit. I’ve hardly written a review or a blog post in all these years. I couldn’t read for over two. I’m lucky if I can read 50 books in a year, when before I was reading 200+. My Kindle is not something I pick up every day like it was before. (In fact, and it makes me want to cry to think about it, but it’s something that goes ignored an awful lot in my world now, this ever present companion that has gotten me through the worst of times.)

I realize that I am not STUCK on what you did to me, as I always thought, but AFRAID that I will have to go through the whole situation again with some other blogger that, for some reason, has decided I’m in their way.

TODAY I speak out.

TODAY I say that it is NOT right, that it is NOT okay, that it is NOT a right of passage.

Bullying is wrong. No matter what venue they pursue it in. It is WRONG.

This is ME taking back my name. Taking back my voice. Taking back what I am so passionate about.

This is ME letting go.

And to you, the man who bullied me all those years ago, who still has the nerve to speak my name and still try to ruin me…

I forgive you.

I pray for you.

And now… I forget you ever existed. Because you are not worth taking up space in my brain.


UPDATE: I figured something out today, after reading this post 50+ times, making sure it was perfect and that I was really ready to speak my truth to the world. NOTHING has been the same since this event. I have never looked at the community, or the people in it, the same. I no longer feel a part of it, instead seeing myself as someone standing outside looking in (like Charlie at the candy shop). No matter how much I try to be a part of it, no matter how much I help, no matter how much I do, I am no longer a part of this community. And that’s fine because I no longer feel anything for it. There are some people that I still very much care about, but as a whole, it means nothing. (You took more from me than I already knew.) I blame them as much as I blame you. I supported everyone and have been all these years since, but in my darkest hour, when I was being bullied, not a one of them supported me.

I’ve realized that I AM stronger than this… and I forgive them too.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Troy Gardner

Sadly, this is my last interview with some of the authors from Blood Bound Books’ latest anthology, Burnt Fur. It’s been great fun getting to know some authors I had never met before, and I hope that you have enjoyed these as much as I have.

Meghan: Hi, Troy. Welcome! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Troy Gardner: I’m a New Englander transplanted to Florida who writes, watches, and talks about horror. It’s the most expansive genre out there. I’m a cat dad and garage enthusiast.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Troy Gardner: Hmmmm, let’s see. 1- I’m color slow, 2- I never learned to drive, 3- I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I can’t turn down trail mix, 4- I don’t understand electricity, 5- I love music but I’m basically tone deaf.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Troy Gardner: The first novel was Jurassic Park. The movie came out when I was nine and I loved it so I read it.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Troy Gardner: Shit Politicians Say by Governor Jesse Ventura. It was a Christmas gift. I enjoy outsider perspectives that poke fun at both parties.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Troy Gardner: Since most of what I talk about is horror-related, I’ll say Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. Such a beautiful book. I have a soft spot for Virginia Woolf so his fictionalization of her hits deep.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Troy Gardner: I’ve always been a writer. We got this Tandy-900 when I was a kid and I filled floppy disks with fiction stories when I was nine or ten.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Troy Gardner: I cleaned out my garage and put in my uncle’s old futon and built a four foot by four foot screen I hooked a projector to. It’s a great place to be isolated and write in the dark with some movie playing. Downside is it’s unusable during the peak summer.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Troy Gardner: I almost always have the TV on when I’m writing first or second drafts. Occasionally, if I need to focus, I listen to music. It’s extremely rare that I write in a quiet space.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Troy Gardner: Editing, in a good way. Revisions make the story stronger, but it’s far easier to say, “Act two needs to be strengthened” than to actually strengthen the act.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Troy Gardner: I lost someone very important to me to drugs and I wrote this long YA supernatural book about grief and magic and time travel and it’s all over the place and maybe some day it’ll find publication, but I didn’t write it to be published, I wrote it to process. And it did help.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Troy Gardner: Every single book I read inspires me. Everything. I’m the type of guy who watches a documentary, then wants to write a book about that topic. I read a murder mystery and it makes me want to write a murder mystery. Specific books, I’d say The Picture of Dorian Gray was a big influence. David Sedaris is up there. Christopher Rice.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Troy Gardner: Characters. There’s a famous quote (that’s been attributed to different people) that says there’s two types of stories: a man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. Characters are what makes narratives distinct and memorable.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Troy Gardner: I’d say relatability is pretty high on the scale. If a reader connects to a character, not necessarily even the protagonist, then the story becomes so much more than words on pages.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Troy Gardner: I have a project that my agent is currently querying that I can’t say too much about, but it’s about a young filmmaker who is a little too enthusiastic about movies. It’s a comedy/drama with a pinch of romance, and he’s me in many regards. I just tapped into my life when I built his backstory for how he fell in love with movies and the horror genre and gave him all my insecurities.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Troy Gardner: “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is one of the oldest sayings we’ve all heard, and it’s true, we can’t help it. If a cover looks cheap, there’s that gut instinct of “oh, the story is bad,” but logically I know that’s not true. I’ve had a lot of say with all the small publishers I’ve worked with, and none with the anthologies because usually an anthology cover is done before they even choose which stories will go in it. No complaints there.

Meghan: What have you learned throughout the process of creating your books?

Troy Gardner: I’m constantly learning as I write, edit, and publish work and beta read and edit other writers’ works, and read for pleasure and watch movies as a habit.

Characterizations, dialogue, plots, what to avoid, what techniques work. I have an obsessive personality, so I’m fairly good at deconstructing elements. You analyze art, you learn from it.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Troy Gardner: I can’t think of a specific scene, but generally the hardest parts of a manuscript to write are in revisions. When you realize a sub-plot is weak and needs something, but you’re not entirely sure what, and you spot a great place to hone in on it. So you sit there with the cursor blinking thinking, “Right here, this is the spot where I’ll make the whole sub-plot and side character worth it. Okay, so… what now?”

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Troy Gardner: One thing is I can’t stick to one genre and I love blending them. And it’s rare that I don’t throw humor into even tense and frightening scenes.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours?

Troy Gardner: Oh, my God, I HATE coming up with titles! That’s the absolute worst. I’ve written a few things and worked with my friend Josh Winning (check out his YA fantasy action SENTINEL series) and he’s blessed with the ability to create titles. I am not. I slave over them. With the Burnt Fur anthology, I just named the story after the central figure, “Randall Rabbit,” because alliteration is fun.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Troy Gardner: Oh, tough one. I’d say short story only because I can write ten shorts in the time it would take me to write one novel, so that feels like I’ve done more. But that one novel might be greater than all the shorts, so it’s a tough call. I do think that shorts don’t get the respect they should in some literary circles (or all film circles).

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Troy Gardner: My target audience is me. I write stories I’d like to read. And hopefully, other people, too. I don’t read one genre, so I don’t write in one genre, and I often blend them. I like quirky, out there, queer stories. I like to be surprised. These are the things I strive to write.

Meghan: I am always excited to get my hands on anthologies, especially ones from publishers that I have grown to trust. Tell us about Burnt Fur and your story in it.

Troy Gardner: I love anthologies, too. Ever since I was a kid watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? on Saturday nights. A fur-themed, extreme horror anthology just sounded fun, so I came up with this story about a young hustler with a client dressed up in a rabbit costume that reminds him of a stuffed animal that crossed his path a few years back. I’d been writing a lot of YA, and Middle Grade, so it’s always fun to change tracks and write something more extreme once in a while.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Troy Gardner: That’s funny you ask that, because this is the first short I’ve published in which I ended up totally changing the ending. There’s always an editing phase to make the story stronger. I cut quite a bit of fat out of “Randall Rabbit” which I’m happy to do to make it a leaner, more effective read. I’m happy to trim stories to make them stronger. I’ve had publishers and editors compliment me on being enthusiastic to edit and rework pieces, and this was the most major change I’ve made. My original idea was to focus on psychological terror, but we ended up going with a shorter, more physical ending. The Burnt Fur team’s been wonderful to work with and I’m very happy with the changes we made.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Troy Gardner: Not sure if you’d call it my trunk because I devote a LOT of free time to it, but I’m working on making a no-budget horror movie anthology. I had the idea last June and I already have seven segments done totalling eighty minutes. I don’t know what shape the final project’s going to take, but it’s been fun, it’s been challenging, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with an audience in the next year.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Troy Gardner: Besides my film opus 🙂 , I’d love to write some more extreme horror. I’ve got a short coming out on the Monsters Out of the Closet podcast and I write reviews and random articles for Gayly Dreadful.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Troy Gardner: I wrote “Randall Rabbit” for Burnt Fur with my Elliot Arthur Cross pseudonym, but I’m on Twitter under my real name and I post Are You Afraid of the Dark? fan art every week on Instagram.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Troy Gardner: Thank you for reading. As a writer, I sit alone in a room typing on a laptop and it always amazes me that someone somewhere will read that story and (hopefully) enjoy it.

About the Book:
Sit. Roll over. Who’s a Good Boy?

There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.

Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.

The Moon in Her Eyes by Sarah Hans
Mallard’s Maze by Joseph Sale
Salivation by Theodore Deadrat
The Hamford Pigs by N. Rose
The Willingness of Prey by Paul Allih
6 Dicks by Rachel Lee Weist
The Others by C.M. Saunders
Randall Rabbit by Elliot Arthur Cross
A Concubine for the Hive by Rue K. Poe
Five Nights with Teddy by Thurston Howl
Oh Piggy, My Piggy by Matt Scott
Ware the Deep by Stephanie Park
The Molt of a Diminishing Light by Michelle F. Goddard
The Victims by James L. Steele

About the Author:
Troy H. Gardner was born in Florida but left at the ripe age of six months. He grew up and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in New England before returning to the Sunshine State just in time for Hurricane Irma.

He started writing stories on his Tandy Personal Computer as a child in the ’90s after devouring the works of Stephen King in elementary school.

Red is his favorite color, but blue hasn’t gotten the memo yet. He doesn’t understand why fans can’t equally love Star Wars and Star Trek (they’re different genres, people!). When Troy isn’t writing, or talking about writing, he enjoys killing hours on his PlayStation or watching horror movies (both really great and incredibly bad are his jam).

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jonathan W. Thurston Howl

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl is another author from Blood Bound Books‘ latest anthology, Burnt Fur, edited by Ken MacGregor. I learned a lot about this interview, including some interesting facts about HIV, the difference between sexual and erotic, and sex trafficking.

Meghan: Hi, Jonathan. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: I am a PhD student in English at Michigan State University, an activist for HIV destigmatization, and an editor for Thurston Howl Publications and Weasel Press.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl:
1) I got HIV through a partner who lied about his status.
2) I identify as a furry.
3) I have a very sex-positive household with lots of toys and art everywhere.
4) My fiance and I met through publishing.
5) I have a TED Talk out!

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Dr. SeussFox in Socks.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: I’m always reading eight books at once, so I finish several a week. Currently I am reading the following: Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, Imperial Earth by Arthur C. Clarke, a collection of stories by Lovecraft, Overflow by BGK, Fragments of Life’s Heart by Weasel Press, Silver Sword by Michael Morpurgo, Politically Correct Fairytales by James Garner, and a collection of spooky fairytales.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: War & Peace. It’s infamous as such a large book that is incredibly dry, but I actually have loved the book each of the three times I read it. Its social critiques are often still relevant, and I love the characters.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: I decided I wanted to write after realizing my writing could make people feel something. It made me feel like a magician, tricking the audience. I first started writing in eighth grade, when I wrote my first novel.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Usually just any cafe.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: I often write via the Snowflake Method. I write the whole story as one sentence, then one paragraph, then one page, so on and so forth, until it’s done.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Descriptive prose. My writing style is very fast and animated. It’s hard to just slow it down to let the setting tell a story by itself.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: One of two works. Either my experimental horror book The Devil Has a Black Dog or my nonfiction exposé Blood Criminals.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: David Clement-DaviesThe Sight, Jack London’s White Fang, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, Bill Kieffer’s The Goat, and Clive Barker’s Sacrament.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: One that makes its reader feel what the author intended.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: It takes quirks and active personality. However, as a horror writer, it means I’ll make my most fleshed out character the one who gets their flesh outed.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Probably the protagonist of my award-nominated book Straight Men.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Yes, I can’t stand bad covers. I often work as a cover advisor for a few different publishing houses because I’m so nitpicky.

Meghan: What have you learned throughout the process of creating your books?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Formatting experimental fiction sucks.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Some of the explicit scenes of Straight Men definitely. Doing bad things to good people is hard.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: They take popular narratives and queer them. There’s just not enough solid gay fiction out there, not that isn’t a coming-out story.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: I usually choose my titles fairly fast. I think for me they are usually simple but have multiple layers of meaning.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Usually a novel. It just takes more time, and you get to hold it in your hands with its own cover.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Usually, my target audience is erotic horror readers. I like them to be aroused but then made uncomfortable for their arousal: they feel complicit in the consequences of the intercourse scenes.

Meghan: I am always excited to get my hands on anthologies, especially ones from publishers that I have grown to trust. Tell us about Burnt Fur and your story in it.

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: So, my story in Burnt Fur twists a couple of narratives: Tusk (an old body horror film) and the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s. Furries are all about wish fulfillment. They buy art of their fictional character. They get fursuits of them. They imagine themselves as that character sometimes. So, my story tackles the question of, “What if you got your wish and could be plastic surgeried into being your character?” But as is usual with wish fulfillment horror stories, you really should have been more careful of what you wish for.

Meghan: You wrote a book called Straight Men, published by Black Rose Writing. Explain to us what a gay sexual thriller is.

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: (Content warning: all kinds of sexual abuse) So, first off, there is a difference between sexual and erotic. Erotic implies that the author hopes the reader is aroused. An erotic thriller could involve, for example, a very Stockholm syndrome case of a person falling for their kidnapper and having lots of sex and then later regret when they escape, masturbating to fantasies back in the safety of their home. Sexual thriller takes out the arousal but keeps the sex. Straight Men does not make me aroused. It didn’t at any portion of writing it. Unfortunately, sex is not always beautiful. There is sex trafficking in this country. There is sexual abuse. There is rape. There are bestiality shows in almost every state, and people live their lives as if these things could only happen on the news, not in real life. Straight Men follows a young man who goes on a hookup without telling anyone and is entered into the sex traffic market, drugged, shock collared, and unable to escape for months. It might sound crazy and extreme, but it almost happened to me. I once had a hookup where I was raped and told that if I didn’t do as I was told, the man’s dog was going to rape me, and I wouldn’t be allowed to leave. This novel came from a very real place for me.

Meghan: I’ve never met someone who has done a TED Talk and this has intrigued me. Tell us more about your nonfiction expose called Blood Criminals and that talk.

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Sure! So, I was diagnosed with HIV on January 7, 2015. It was from a partner who had lied to me about their status. And since then, I’ve had some interesting things learned. Did you know, if you have HIV, you take one pill a day, and you both don’t have symptoms and can’t actually spread it to anyone else? You could literally drink my blood, and you wouldn’t catch HIV from me. Because of my meds. The hardest part of HIV is people telling you once a week to go kill yourself. That’s kind of what my TED Talk and book are about. They’re not focused on my experiences. They’re focused on what having HIV in the 21st century is like. It’s not the death threat it used to be in the 80s, but it has wholly new problems that people don’t think about, and it needs to be addressed.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Not really. I can’t think of anything notable that was deleted.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Well, the third book in the Straight Men series is the next book I will probably write. Also, I have a book coming out this year called Spiders in Our Bed, a collection of a few erotic horror stories centered on the troubles that can happen if a spider interferes with your sex life.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: Spiders in Our Bed soon! Plus an erotic horror monster anthology I’m writing with my loving fiance, Weasel.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: My Twitter account (18+ only), and my publisher’s webpage. And if you’ve read this far, you can always feel free to reach me through any of those places or email me at: jonathan.thurstonhowlpub@gmail.com. I am always willing to answer questions, provide recommendations, give tips, etc.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Jonathan W. Thurston Howl: If any of this sounds interesting, just hit me up, and I can possibly get you a discount on any of my books. Just mention the interview! I’d love to just have more readers of my work honestly.

About the Book:
Sit. Roll over. Who’s a Good Boy?

There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.

Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.

The Moon in Her Eyes by Sarah Hans
Mallard’s Maze by Joseph Sale
Salivation by Theodore Deadrat
The Hamford Pigs by N. Rose
The Willingness of Prey by Paul Allih
6 Dicks by Rachel Lee Weist
The Others by C.M. Saunders
Randall Rabbit by Elliot Arthur Cross
A Concubine for the Hive by Rue K. Poe
Five Nights with Teddy by Thurston Howl
Oh Piggy, My Piggy by Matt Scott
Ware the Deep by Stephanie Park
The Molt of a Diminishing Light by Michelle F. Goddard
The Victims by James L. Steele

About the Author: Jonathan W. Thurston Howl is a PhD student in English at Michigan State University. Aside from working on their dissertation, they are an editor of two publishing houses and an activist for HIV destigmatization. They are an avid horror writer, particularly when it comes to erotic horror.