Guest Post: Decant Your Chaos—The Power of Poetry by Sara Tantlinger — Ladies of Horror Fiction

The first tattoo I ever had inked on me several years ago ended up being lines from Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night”—a poem that is thought to have been written about his father, so it’s no wonder that I found myself continually drawn back into those lines. I decided to…

Guest Post: Decant Your Chaos—The Power of Poetry by Sara Tantlinger — Ladies of Horror Fiction

Horrormance Recommendations

When I finished my poetry collection Love For Slaughter back in 2016, I had no idea how to send out this collection of what I dubbed “horrormance” to markets. Luckily, my macabre little creation found a home with StrangeHouse Books and was published in 2017, but the term horrormance has stuck with me ever since. To me, a work of horrormance is mainly horror, but with strong romance (or erotica) elements that help drive the plot. I love reading works that combine these elements, and this February I wanted to share some of my favorites with you!

Plus, since it’s my website, I’m allowed to self-promote — so if you haven’t checked out Love For Slaughter yet, come step into my laboratory where kisses bleed and lovers drive each other to madness.

*NOTE: This list is not meant to be conclusive (or gigantic). I just want to highlight a few that I have enjoyed — please feel free to recommend more in the comments! I’m always down for reading more horrormance.

I want to begin with two anticipated reads before I get into the recommendations.

Anticipated Reads:

A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson: As a huge Dracula fan, I absolutely cannot resist this one! Dowry just released at the end of January! I’ll be ordering a copy ASAP, and I cannot wait to read it.

Synopsis: “A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation. Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets. With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.”

Queen of Teeth by Hailey Piper — I want to thank Hailey so much because I asked her if she could share a little insight into her forthcoming debut novel and what role horrormance plays. Here’s what Hailey had to say:

“QUEEN OF TEETH chews at horromance when it thrusts together from page 1 Yolanda ‘Yaya’ Betancourt and Docia ‘Doc’ Hall. Shortly after a hookup where Yaya bleeds in Doc’s bed, it seems their paths aren’t again to cross until Yaya’s discovery inside her body sends her running from dangerous authorities. Sex and bloodshed paint hers and Doc’s relationship, and both assert there’s nothing more to it, but as Yaya’s condition takes on startling new elements, both must confront whether they really mean that distance or if maybe their individual troubles and trauma keep them from facing what else might be growing between them. A monster? Love? Or something stranger that’s a little of both?”

WOW. I need this book right now. Thank you for the teaser, Hailey!


Deathless by Catherynne Valente: One of my favorite books of all time. I adore Valente’s work so much. Deathless combines dark fantasy, Russian folklore, and an intense, twisted relationship between Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless. This gorgeous, wicked book has some of the most beautiful lines that I still think about all the time.

Two of my favorite quotes from Deathless:

“You will always fall in love, and it will always be like having your throat cut, just that fast.” 

“I do not tolerate a world emptied of you. I have tried. For a year I have called every black tree Marya Morevna; I have looked for your face in the patterns of the ice. In the dark, I have pored over the loss of you like pale gold.” 

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo: What a stunning book. The atmosphere, world-building, character arcs, and overall storytelling were all things I adored. This one contains more quiet horror and darkness, but those moments are nonetheless powerful as we follow Li Lan through historical Malacca, and then through a spirit world ruled in both intrigue and terror.

From the synopsis: “After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever…”

Nightbird by David Busboom: A quick read full of rich prose, elements of the Lilith myth, and a great balance of terror and sexy. Interesting arcs and raw characters who I quickly became invested in. It looks like this book is currently out of print, but maybe the author has a few copies on hand.

Synopsis: “Sixteen-year-old Isaac just wanted to see a midnight movie. He didn’t expect to meet the woman of his dreams: more beautiful, mature, and intelligent than any of Isaac’s high-school crushes, and (best of all) willing to fulfill his fantasies! So what if she didn’t have a computer, a phone, a car, or a job? So what if she shares an isolated farmhouse with a half-dozen insatiable, love-crazed people, all aching for her attention? She was ready and willing.”

You and Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes, with the third book in the series on the way! You Love Me is scheduled to hit shelves in April, and I can’t wait. I absolutely love this series — if you’ve only watched the Netflix show and haven’t read the books yet, trust me, you NEED to read the books! Kepnes’ writing style is addictive, laced with brilliant dark humor as we follow Joe on his twisted journey to manipulate, terrorize, and consume the women who have captured his sick heart.

Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts edited by Louise Zedda-Sampson and Chris Mason: I do have a few poems in this one, but it’s a charity collection for the Red Cross bushfire appeal, and fits so perfectly with the horrormance theme! With both poetry and prose, the anthology offers a little something for everyone, and it’s for such a great cause! I also really love the cover art by Luke Spooner! Featuring work by James Dorr, Michael Arnzen, Erik Hofstatter, Nadja Maril, Kurt Newton, Claire Fitzpatrick and many more.

Cats Like Cream by Renee Miller: This is a wild piece of long fiction that holds nothing back. I love this book — the dark humor, the sick plot, the pacing….Miller is a fabulous writer.

Synopsis: “It’s okay to watch. Watching hurts no one, as long as you don’t touch.
Elwin likes to watch. His position as star employee at a real estate agency gives him plenty of access to the homes of his clients. A camera or two hidden where no one will find it, and he can watch as often as he pleases. No one knows. No one gets hurt. But it’s hard to look without touching. Touching leads to bad things. Elwin knows this, but allows himself a moment of weakness. And then another. Soon, watching isn’t an option anymore. Not if Elwin wants his secrets to remain buried.”

Needless to say, this book goes in directions I was not expecting, and I could not put it down. I don’t want to give too much away since it’s a quick read, but definitely pick it up during this horrormance season!

Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite: This one probably isn’t a shocker since I talk about the book all the time, but it’s pretty hard to forget after you read it. There are certain scenes that have haunted me, and at the same time, have probably helped influence my writing style. I’d recommend looking up the content warnings for this one, because it definitely isn’t for everyone, but I absolutely love this book.

Synopsis: “To serial slayer Andrew Compton, murder is an art, the most intimate art. After feigning his own death to escape from prison, Compton makes his way to the United States with the sole ambition of bringing his “art” to new heights. Tortured by his own perverse desires, and drawn to possess and destroy young boys, Compton inadvertently joins forces with Jay Byrne, a dissolute playboy who has pushed his “art” to limits even Compton hadn’t previously imagined. Together, Compton and Byrne set their sights on an exquisite young Vietnamese-American runaway, Tran, whom they deem to be the perfect victim.”

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Most of you have probably read the book (or watched the movie), but I’m a big fan of all of Flynn’s work, and this sick novel definitely belongs on a horrormance list. From the synopsis: “With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.”

Quote from Gone Girl: “I was told love should be unconditional. That’s the rule, everyone says so. But if love has no boundaries, no limits, no conditions, why should anyone try to do the right thing ever? If I know I am loved no matter what, where is the challenge?”

Sed de Sangre by V. Castro: Three short tales of erotic horror that were such a blast to read. Bloodlust, vampires, clever women who know what they want and how to get it…Castro’s writing is hypnotic, and these sexy tales will lure you deep into their wicked worlds.

Quote from Sed de Sangre: “Two humans, I can’t say what gender, race, or age because they are nearly stripped to the bone. It doesn’t really matter who you are in this state. We are all like this underneath it all and at birth; blind, writhing meat.”

This last one I want to mention before moving on to some poetry recs (keep scrolling to see these!) is likely difficult to find anymore (at least a physical copy) since it was part of a kickstarter, but if you’re familiar with NBC’s Hannibal series, the super-fans who love “Hannigram” (the shipping of Hannibal and Will Graham) created a beautiful anthology. Raw is such a stunning example of the power of fanfiction and fan art — around 50 writers and artists contributed to the book. Don’t ever underestimate the power of Fannibals! I’ve included some photos from my copy below.


Crush by Richard Siken: One of my favorite poetry collections ever. I come back to Siken’s words all the time. They’re stunning.

Synopsis: “Richard Siken’s Crush, selected as the 2004 winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize, is a powerful collection of poems driven by obsession and love. Siken writes with ferocity, and his reader hurtles unstoppably with him. His poetry is confessional, gay, savage, and charged with violent eroticism.”

Quote from Crush:

“Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we’ll never get used to it.”

The Demeter Diaries by Marge Simon and Bryan D. Dietrich: A striking collection that draws inspiration from Mina Harker and Vlad Dracula’s deadly courtship. Each poem holds its own beautiful tale dotted with blood and danger, yet the poems play off one another perfectly. The collection flows the way a prose story does, which I think heightens its appeal to poetry lovers and those who don’t read as much poetry alike. No matter where you stand, pick up this stunning collection of love, lust, darkness, and macabre beauty. One of my favorite collections of poetry I’ve read in years. Also the artwork included within the collection is gorgeous! 

“I want to sing inside you the way the dead / sing inside the sea, the way the last red / owl glows within the trunk of the last blasted tree” 

If You Died Tomorrow I Would Eat Your Corpse by Wrath James White: Brutal and gorgeous, this collection mostly features erotic horror poems and be warned, it’s not for everyone. But if you’re willing to take a dive into something with no boundaries, something that creatively plays with blood and romance, take a deep breath and wade into White’s gritty, writhing collection.

ForthcomingLost Letters to a Lover’s Carcass by Ronald J. Murray — I had the opportunity to read this one early, and it’s such a beautiful, dark, powerful collection. It truly is a strong followup to Murray’s Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower. Keep this one on your radar! The cover reveal actually just happened two days ago, and it’s quite striking, so go check it out!!

Bonus Things!

*A short story by Kathryn McGee. I love Kathryn’s writing, and this creepy short really delivers. I can’t say too much without giving anything away, but make sure to check out “Any Given Night” over on Kelp Journal. There’s so much about the story that’s deeply unsettling, and it’s just wonderfully written.

*Horrormance music? I’ve got you covered. Check out the Love For Slaughter playlist I made over on Spotify.

*Movie Rec: Only Lovers Left Alive

*Check out some witchy valentine cards by The Pickety Witch Shop or some cute & spooky pop-up cards and other goodies by Venus Complete

From Venus Complete
From The Pickety Witch Shop

2020 Recap

Usually I enjoy doing end-of-the-year recaps, but as with so much this year, I really had to force myself to do it because my heart just isn’t in it. I’m beyond tired and burned out (hello fellow adjunct instructors out there), but I still had some cool things happen this year, so I want to remember those. I’m not sure what 2021 holds in store, in terms of you know, the world, or for me personally, but I guess all any of us can do is take it one day at a time, be kind to each other, and maintain hope for a better future. Also, a huge thank you to all essential workers and anyone who has to go into work and cannot stay home. You are beyond appreciated.

Before lockdown, I was on a road trip in February and went to see Graffiti Highway in Centralia, PA (which I think is now filled over in dirt?). I had no idea that would be my last road trip of the year besides going to local trails and parks, so I’m grateful I got to have that exploration on the other side of the state. I also spent some time in Jim Thorpe and it was the most whimsical little place. The town filled my brain with all kinds of story ideas, and I really hope to go back there one day.

Writing News Recaps:

  • Both books were featured alongside K.P. Kulski’s amazing debut novel, Fairest Flesh, in the December Night Worms package! It’s been so neat seeing all the photos of the books.
Photo by Ashley (@spookishmommy)
  • I was a guest on one of my favorite podcasts — This Is Horror! I’m not sure when the episode will be out, but I had a lot of fun chatting with Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella
  • I sold 12 poems, two flash fictions, and one short story, most of which are hopefully updated on my Publications page. I was particularly excited to have a story narrated on The Wicked Library.
  • I began the Delicious Horror series on my blog and had so much fun with it. Submissions are always open if you have a love for baking/cooking/mixology and horror! Thank you again to everyone who participated and who has submitted
  • I was on a panel titled “The History and Future of Women in Horror” also featuring Gwendolyn Kiste, Kathe Koja, and Michelle Lane, and hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Archives & Special Collections– I loved listening to my fellow panelists and was really inspired by this conversation
  • Earlier in the year, To Be Devoured was nominated for a 2019 Stoker Award in Long Fiction, and won the 2019 Ladies of Horror Fiction Award for Novella! Also, edits for the forthcoming Spanish translation of the book are ongoing with the amazing Dilatando Mentes Editorial!
  • I was so honored to appear on the 10 Weird Writers to Save us All list by Silent Motorist Media alongside so many writers I admire!
  • I co-organize the HWA Pittsburgh Chapter and enjoyed our online meetings this year, but I miss seeing our chapter in person so much! We held a spooky reading in October which was a blast
  • I blurbed a lot of books and wrote a few introductions (and a lot of reviews on Goodreads) — things I very much enjoyed doing, but I’m going to have to cut back on that in 2021 because I really need to catch up on my own projects
  • I appeared in a coloring book of horror authors! This awesome project was done by the very talented Cassie Daley — and you can find the coloring book here
  • I’m positive I’m forgetting a few things, so I’ll just say how grateful I am to my writing friends, whether we’ve met in person yet or not, and everyone else who has helped make this year not so awful
  • I explored a lot of trails around the local area, which was not only fun but really helped keep me sane (some of my pictures below)

What will 2021 be like? Not a clue, but I am quite happy to see 2020 go at any rate. Stay safe everyone, and I so look forward to seeing you all in person again someday!


Horror for the Holidays 2020

The following list consists of mostly small businesses with a few exceptions, and a diverse group of creators! I know shopping is tight during this strange pandemic year, so remember that even just sharing shops you love helps support these artists, shop-owners, and creators.

I first put together a Horror for the Holidays list last year — check out the creators from last year below since I definitely wanted to include their amazing work again, and then all the additional ones I added (shout-out to everyone who sent me recommendations, too!) below that.

From last year’s list: (check out this link to see photos and more from last year)

Let’s Get Galactic — Cassie Daley combines rainbows and horror! She’s added so much new stuff since last year, such as coasters, books, and resin coffins!

7Fetishes — Artwork, original drawings and paintings

GrindHaus Podcast — For my podcast lovers out there, this one covers a lot of horror and cinema from a filmmaker perspective!

Elegant Gore (I love this name) and Wes Brooks. These links are for their beautiful Instagrams, but check out the respective websites at Elegant Gore’s Etsy and Undead Speed Equipment! *Stickers, prints, shirts, art, and more

Velvet Hand Designs — Gorgeous artwork, original illustrations

Night Worms — Horror will be your happy place here with exclusive book club packages and extra goodies in store!

Die With Your Boots On — Horror Christmas sweaters and more! *Clothing, patches, pins, and more

Goods and Evil — From their website: “If you could mix together all the things that make you happy and those things were Sci-Fi, being Vegan, Horror movies, Pop Culture, Art and Punk Rock, you would get Goods And Evil.” *Shirts, hates, decals and more

Dark Delicacies — Books, clothes, collectibles, and more

Witch Baby Soap — Body butters, oils, bath products, and lots of witchy goodness

Beautiful Carcass — Another great name. *From their website: “Pleasantly Grim & Handcrafted Skincare Products”

Horror Decor — Home decor

A Stranger Dream — Bookmarks, prints, and more 

And since I live near the area, some great places to check out in Pittsburgh:

The Weeping Glass

Trundle Manor — When I visited, I gave the owners a copy of my H.H. Holmes book and they showed me their jar of dirt from Holmes’ grave!

10 Oddity Places in Pittsburgh

New This Year

Witchcraft, Soaps, Body & Spirit

The Naked Wytch made by Brooke Warra, who also wrote the Shirley Jackson Award-winning novella Luminous Body

Belladonna’s Botanicals: “Belladonna’s Botanicals (formerly Restorative Aromatics) was started in 2018 by Jennifer Vatza, a Left Hand Path Witch, certified aromatherapist, herbalist, perfumer, skincare formulator, and incense crafter.”

Witchy Washy Bath Co: “All products are handcrafted by Taylor and are vegan/cruelty-free.”

Mystical Blossoms: “We are two sisters from Southern New Jersey — We make natural products from nature for the mind, body and soul. We are herbalists and artists.”

Scent From Hell: “Horror-inspired candles by writer Kristi DeMeester”

Greywick Lane: Horror candles & wax melts

Houss Freya: Intention candles, smudge sprays, and more

The Witch’s Bath: Gorgeous products — also featuring a BLM Donation Bath Bomb

Jewelry & Apparel

Handmade jewelry at The Peculiarity Shop: “The Peculiarity Shop started as two queer folks (Hillary and Becky) adopting a hobby.” As you can see from their gorgeous shop, it has morphed into so much more!

Probably the most stunning jewelry you will ever see is found at Sofia Zakia’s shop. A fine jewelry selection made from what looks to me to be actual magic.

Antisocial Jewelry: Also check out their very cool Instagram

Toxic Femme 666: “Shirts, patches and bags for queer and trans people.”

Crooked Teeth Keys: Personalized vintage key or a human tooth necklace? This shop has you covered.

Death Couture: Seller note since there are real animal skulls and bones used, “Cruelty Free! Everything I use is ethically sourced from USA!”

Red Hot Gals Boutique: From the shop — “handmade accessories, jewelry, vinyl decals & T-shirts inspired by my love of vintage, pop culture and horror!”

Wickedland Jewelry and Redbubble Shop: “Handmade Jewelry Craft for Werewolves, Witches, and those who have fallen through the Looking Glass”

Lenore and Co

Team Manticore: So many amazing things! Frightdorables are a must-see; apparel, decor, and so much more!

PlusHiiKawaii: “Plus Size Kawaii Fashion and accessories” — great for pastel goth lovers!

Melty Chocolate Moon: Another dream for pastel goths!

Badmouthed Bruja: Horror inspired enamel pins and more!

Crow Treasures Co: Jewelry, dishes, trinkets, etc…

Artwork, Crafts, and Decor

Fiyah Lit Mag: Bookish things, art, and apparel

Forest Noir: You may have seen Alyssa’s stunning work around Instagram; I have her Autumn Eternal photo book and few other small pieces and am obsessed. The work is truly gorgeous.

Claire L. Smith, author of the novella Helena, has gorgeous artwork available here!

Fright Night Sketches: Zombies, monsters, famous horror icons, and more!

Imaginarium Arts: Custom art pieces, handcrafted jewelry, and so much more! You may recognize Ellen from being a reviewer at Divination Hollow Reviews and more within the horror community!

Death Positive Art: Jody Monochrome Art

Destiny Kelly’s Etsy shop can be found here, and her amazing art portfolio here

Vicki Be Wicked: “Kawaii Afro, Pastel, Fun and Geeky Original Art Shop”

Tales from the Stitch: Crochet horror dolls! Twitter:

Art, ornaments, candles, and other unique items: Me and Annabel Lee (who could resist that shop name?)

Black Nook: Handmade spooky wallets, wristlets, and more

Shayna J. Feinstein Arts

Abigail Larson: “Hugo Award winning illustrator Abigail Larson specializes in macabre and gothic illustration using a unique mix of traditional and digital media.”

Molly Violence Art

Bat Factory: Creepy and cute custom creations

Lost Graves: Real bone and art jewelry

Glitter Thread Designs: Glitter Halloween and spooky tumblers

Our Dark Days: Handcrafted gothic accessories and décor

The Creep Boutique

Retech_org: Sci-fi sculptures (can DM for customs)

Ghost Girl Greetings

South Street Mart


Hot Pink Black Ink

The Art Experiment — Kevin Simpson Illustration

Scott Bokma: “Morbidly tasty twisted goodness”

Little Spooky Studio on Etsy and Society 6

Lovely Landfill

Classy Creeps

The Haunted Bouncy Castle: First of all, I just love that name. Great art, products, stickers, mugs, and more!


I’ve Created a Monstah by Jose Souza: Unique sculptures & original artwork

A place I hope to visit in a post-pandemic world, The Mutter Museum! Their online medical gift store has an array of the strange and macabre, including museum exclusives.

Tooth and Veil: Oddities and Macabre Shop (everything from upcycled art, to taxidermy, to home furnishings!)

Glam Goth Beauty: “a creepy chic vegan and cruelty-free indie brand. We pride ourselves on having a glamorous combination of a deadly and luxurious aesthetic.”

Antique and vintage garments: Black Cat Clothiers

Brain Fever Artwork and Taxidermy

Cabinet of Curious Clay: “Curious Ceramics for Unconventional Individuals”

Dark Rain Designs: Clockwork critters, oddities, and darksome market finds

Rex Boucher: Gothic glass (stained glass artist)

Fanbase Press: Bookish gifts

Small and Indie Horror Presses:

I created this list last year as well, but have since added to it!

Strangehouse Books & Rooster Republic Press Design Services

Scary Dairy Press

Raw Dog Screaming Press


Crystal Lake Publishing 


Cemetery Dance

Death’s Head Press

Independent Legions

Off Limits Press

Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing

Sinister Horror Company

Neon Books

Clash Books

Author Stephanie Rabig has a great Queer Horror Database found here

The Ladies of Horror Fiction have an amazing directory here for book buying needs!

Lynne Hansen Art: amazing book covers and art!

Delicious Horror: Jacqueline West

I have a wonderful submission for Delicious Horror today that I am so excited to share with you all! Author Jacqueline West has paired Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia with a very tempting treat. I read Mexican Gothic a few months ago and was completely immersed in the rich storytelling, so I was thrilled to see Jacqueline’s pairing. Enjoy!

Jacqueline West is the author of the New York Times-bestselling middle grade series The Books of Elsewhere, the Schneider Family Honor Book The Collectors, and several other middle grade and young adult novels of the dark and twisty variety. Her most recent book, the YA horror novel Last Things, was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards and was selected for the Bram Stoker Awards preliminary ballot, and her next book, the MG ghost story Long Lost, is forthcoming from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in May 2021. Jacqueline’s poetry and short fiction for adult readers has appeared in Mythic Delirium, Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, Liminality, Mirror Dance, and Star*Line. Her first full-length poetry collection, Candle and Pins: Poems on Superstitions was published by Alban Lake in 2018. Jacqueline lives with her family in Red Wing, Minnesota.  

Find Jacqueline at or on Instagram @jacqueline.west.writes and Twitter @JacquelineMWest

Tell us what horror book you chose to highlight and why it’s a favorite of yours: 

I just read—and loved—Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest novel, Mexican Gothic. Its imagery has been fixed in my brain ever since: Foggy forests, private cemeteries, molding wallpaper, crumbling ancestral homes filled with horrifying family secrets. The book is gothic in all the classic ways, but it’s infused so craftily with elements that make it its own, like the rural Mexican setting, the effects of colonialism, the ways that some husbands and fathers turn their families into their own brutal little kingdoms. And the protagonist, Noemi Taboada, is GREAT. She’s not the naïve and innocent Mrs. DeWinter-ish gothic heroine, and she’s not the reserved and unassuming Jane Eyre type, either. She’s completely herself.  

What did you decide to make to pair with the book, and what from the book inspired your delicious treat? 

Chocolate Socialite Cake with Meringue Mushrooms felt like the perfect fit. Mold and fungus are an important element of Mexican Gothic’s setting. Inside the Doyle mansion, mold covers the walls and infuses the air, and outside, mushrooms sprout from the graves of the family cemetery. The fungus is also a symbol for the family at the heart of the story: this vast system of interconnected organisms that feed on death and decay. So there had to be meringue mushrooms. And bittersweet Chocolate Socialite Cake seemed right for Noemi, a wealthy party girl from Mexico City who’s a lot deeper and stronger than she’s given credit for. Plus, the two recipes fit together with weird perfection—the cake uses egg yolks, and the meringue uses egg whites, so there’s a sort of mushroomy symbiosis happening. More symbolism!  

Can you share the recipe or a link to the recipe? 

I found the cake recipe in a magazine forever ago, and I can’t remember the source’s name, but she was some wealthy and fashionable socialite who mentioned having served this to Andy Warhol. In my notebook, I wrote it down as “Chocolate Socialite Cake.” And the meringue mushrooms come from Martha Stewart. (You can add a few drops of food coloring along with the vanilla flavor, if you want your mushrooms tinted an eerie green or yellow.)

Chocolate Socialite Cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the pan
4 bars (3.5 oz. each) of good quality bittersweet or dark chocolate, broken into pieces (I’ve used Lindt and Ghirardelli; Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips work too)
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour 

Preheat oven to 350.
Butter a 9-inch round pan.
Melt butter and chocolate together in a heat-safe bowl over a pan of hot water, or melt in short increments in the microwave, stirring frequently. Once chocolate is smooth, set aside.
In another bowl, with an electric mixer, beat eggs and egg yolks until frothy. At medium speed, beat in sugar until creamy. Beat in flour.
Fold flour mixture into chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula until blended. Spread in buttered pan.
Bake until set in the center, roughly 40 minutes. Let cool.
Top with meringue mushrooms and/or berries and whipped cream, and serve on a tarnished silver platter. 

Easy Meringue Mushrooms: 

Thank you so much Jacqueline for this excellent post! If you feel inspired, find out how to submit a Delicious Horror post of your own here!

Delicious Horror: Michael Arnzen

What a month! I can’t believe it’s Halloween Eve and October is almost gone. I have enjoyed the Delicious Horror series so much, and I hope you have, too! While this is the last DH post for October, I’m leaving submissions open and already have received a post I am very excited to share soon in November!

Enjoy this very fun (and detailed) dish by Mike Arnzen (whom I co-organize the Pittsburgh HWA Chapter with!) below, and have a wonderful, spooky, and safe Halloween weekend!

Michael Arnzen has won the Bram Stoker Award four times over his career, including awards for First Novel, Fiction Collection, Poetry and the now-defunct Alternative Forms.  His books include Proverbs for Monsters, Grave Markings, 100 Jolts, and The Gorelets Omnibus, with several titles currently available from Raw Dog Screaming Press

As a writing professor holding a PhD in English, Arnzen teaches fulltime at Seton Hill University and is a resident horror instructor in their MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. He serves as Academic Advisor to the “Dark Short Fiction” series of primers on various authors (who include Kaaron Warren, Nisi Shawl, Jeffrey Ford, Steve Rasnic Tem and Ramsey Campbell) for Dark Moon Books.  He is working on an experimental new vampire novel. While his creative “gorelets” website is under renovation, visit Mike on twitter @MikeArnzen or at

Tell us what horror book you chose to highlight and why it’s a favorite of yours.

The Books of Blood by Clive Barker have long been a favorite story collection — one of the first I read that made me realize just how “creative” horror writing could be — they really embody Clive’s mantra that “there are no limits” when it comes to the imagination.  And when I say long, I mean since they first came out back in 1984.  I’m elated to see that Hulu has produced a series based on them — it’s about time for a Clive resurgence!

But I’m choosing the Books of Blood because there’s a particular story in one of them (Volume 2, to be precise) that had a profound influence on me.  It changed the way I understand (and write) horror fiction — and it’s since become a staple in my teaching of horror as a college professor.

The story is “Dread,” and it’s one of the greatest horror stories ever written.

What did you decide to make to pair with the book, and what from the book inspired your delicious treat?

I’m no chef, but like many people during the pandemic, I’ve discovered pleasure in experimenting with food and enjoying the results of whatever I can concoct.  So when I saw you were running the “Delicious Horror” series, I was inspired to try something new.  And for the sole purpose of honoring Clive Barker, I have created something…evil.  I call it DREAD STEAK.

Barker’s story includes a very devious scene of sadism, in which the story’s philosophically morbid and evil villain, Quaid, tortures an overweight vegetarian who is dying of starvation in a room he’s locked her up in. He gives her nothing to eat; just water, and, “On the table, on an unpatterned plate, a slab of meat” with a bone sticking out of it. A stern vegan, she refuses to eat the meat on principle, but as the days pass by, her hunger breaks down her defiance, which degrades in concert with the steak that gets more and more rancid as the days go by… until she can resist no more, and eats the horrifying, bug egg-riddled slab of “meat” for survival, sitting on the floor “like a primitive in her cave.”

The story is cruel…and as ingenious as something Poe might write, if he were alive today.

It deserves a corresponding dish.

Can you share the recipe or a link to the recipe?

Dread Steak is prepared simply, just like any steak you might sear to perfection in a pan. But with a twist:  the steak must appear ROTTEN AND MOLDY when placed on the plate.  Rancid-looking with the appearance of fly-eggs or maggots.  And yet it must taste really good.  This can easily be achieved with a little playful trickery that’s not too difficult to pull off… and I have a feeling your readers would easily be able to surpass what I did by taking it to another level. But here’s how I did it, with photos — much like Quaid’s snapshots of his victim’s agony — taken along the way:


1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons steak sauce (A1 works nicely)

2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Green and Black and Blue Food Dye (can substitute any raw/green seasoning herbs)

A dozen or more crackers (preferably a sleeve of Ritz)

2-4 sirloin steaks (bonus points if you can find or cut them into coffin-like shapes)


First, you’ll just be cooking a steak as you normally might do it in a frying pan.

Prepare the sirloin beforehand by “buttering” the meat with 2 teaspoons of minced garlic, spread copiously so that the pieces of clove look like pustules.  Then heavily marinate the beef in A1 Steak Sauce, sprinkled with salt, pepper and (very optional) a dash of old bay for flavor. Massage these ingredients into the meat and let sit for ten minutes; longer is fine, and purists might leave it covered on a plate in the fridge to marinate overnight. (Clive’s protagonist would leave to marinate in warm open air for several days until reeking and rotten… avoid that, unless you want an extra dash of Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis).

Next get your large frying pan ready by cranking the oven top to medium heat, simmering up the oil in the pan until it has a nice glistening sheen of heat on it.  Once the oil is warmed up, gently lay the cutlets into the oil and let them sizzle for a good three minutes.

It should be nicely browned on the edges by now.  Flip steak once at this point (i.e. after 3-4 mins) to sear the other side. Trick: Press against edges of pan to brown the edges of the meat.  Cover with lid or another pan to retain heat and ensure cook-through.

While this is happening, you might want to prep your mold (though it might be easier to do this in advance).

For me, that meant emptying half-a-sleeve of Ritz crackers into a plastic food bag (aka “ziplock”) and crushing them into fine crumbs with many violent punches against the countertop. Then I added a teaspoon of oregano.  You might add your own dried or fresh green herbs to the bag, to taste.  Anything that might resemble green fuzz and fly eggs, but be careful about flavors.  I next carefully added about ten droplets of green coloring and shook. After the green was evenly disbursed, I added another five droplets of black color.  I neglected to acquire blue food dye, but I would have included that in the mix too.  I chose food coloring, so as not to interfere with the flavor of the A1 marinade.  Shake and squeeze and work the dye around the bag so that the cracker bits are as evenly coated as you can get them. There can be white crumbs… the batch does not need to be entirely saturated… and the tiny white pearls of crumb only add to it.

Remove your steak from heat and let sit for one minute. When it’s cooled a bit, drop the steak into your plastic bag of “mold” and shake it around, ensuring the entire cutlet is coated.  It should stick just fine to the oils of the cooked steak but you might need to squeeze it inside the bag a little to ensure full coverage. This will look and feel gross.

That’s really the whole gimmick.  It tasted great, and since the crumble was uncooked it didn’t feel “breaded” like a baked or fried coating (which often would use egg as glue) would feel. However, the dye did leave some staining.  If the reader is wanting to avoid artifice, then a foodie substitute might just be pure oregano and other Italian herbs.  But this might result in an unpalatably herbaceous flavor if you’re not careful.

I enjoyed my steak with roasted red potatoes (since Quaid does eventually give his victim potatoes after she eats his meat) and a salad on the side. It occurred to me that the steak could easily be cut into strips and placed into the salad bowl, making a DREAD STEAK SALAD alternative that is drizzled with a fine dose of irony.

Bon appetite!  There is no delight the equal of dread…steak.

Delicious Horror: John Edward Lawson

Today I have the very talented and very kind John Edward Lawson on my blog with a wonderful contribution to Delicious Horror! I’m very excited to share what he made below — enjoy! And check out submission guidelines here if you want to contribute to Delicious Horror yourself!

Although John Edward Lawson has been called “the forgotten Black man of horror” his novels, short fiction, and poetry span all genres. His writing has garnered nominations for the Dwarf Stars, Elgin, Rhysling, Stoker, and Wonderland Awards, as well as the Puschcart Prize.

John has released five horror soundtrack-influenced metal singles over the last year, and his horror photography is also available online. When he is not creating new works or traveling for events he is busy leading workshops at Broadkill Writers Resort.

In addition to being a founder of Raw Dog Screaming Press, former editor-in-chief of The Dream People, and editor of six anthologies, he currently serves as vice president of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction and has been organizing virtual events through AllAccessCon since late 2019.

John is a member of the Horror Writers Association, International Association of Innovation Professionals, Internet Marketers Association, and Nonfiction Authors Association. You can connect with John on Instagram, Goodreads, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Spy on him at

Tell us what horror book you chose to highlight and why it’s a favorite of yours:

The book I chose to highlight is a translation: Audition by Ryu Murakami. Yes, more than just being one of the films credited with launching the “J-Horror” craze there is actual source material in the form of a novel.

Audition is the story of a widower named Aoyama, and his film producer friend’s scheme to get him a new wife by holding auditions for a fake movie, which is how he meets a young woman named Yamasaki Asami. That totally sounds more like the set-up for a questionable romantic comedy as opposed to horror, but let’s just say things don’t go as expected.

It’s difficult to totally hate or totally like anybody in the story, except maybe the dog Gangsta, and I’m a fan of characters that live in the gray area. Also, it’s excruciating in the way that romantic comedies can be, with it being painfully clear to see how things could go well, how things could even maybe have a perfect ending, except: horror. It’s been 19 years since I first saw the film, then read the book, but I hadn’t seen a story done this way before and it made a huge impression on me.

In terms of currently being timely, there’s a moment when characters bond over the outsider experience of attempting to partake in society by way of dining out. “At it’s worst it’s a culture of collusion,” Aoyama tells Asami, going on to add, “…you need courage to walk into a place like that. It’s a tight-knit little community, and harmony is of the utmost importance.”

I found this relatable on so many levels despite the fact that eating in public is meant to be a communal experience, at least by sociological standards. Now, though? Who isn’t dying for a return to some semblance of normal public awkwardness? Who wouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief to be part of the out crowd publicly dining at the fringe while others take up all the air in the restaurant?

Audition is a story of social isolation, manipulation, naïvité, and unexpected, irreparable harm…things many of us associate with our childhood. It’s like the COVID-19 pandemic in that regard, forcing us to explore this difficult to navigate world through a disenfranchised and powerless perspective. It’s no wonder so many of us are trying to rebel against authority figures amidst all this chaos.

And above all Audition’s antagonist — if you want to call her that — is guided by childlike simplicity.

What did you decide to make to pair with the book, and what from the book inspired your delicious treat?

For me the final quarter of the year is what I most strongly associate with childhood, starting with Halloween. My family was poor and only ran our gas oven during the cold months, in part to reduce air conditioning costs during summer but also to warm the home as autumn slowly decayed into winter. That meant baking sweets and casseroles and squashes and, among many other things, one of our family favorites: rumaki.

My mother was fond of hyping up the Japanese origins of the dish, in particular so she could then run down sushi and unsanitary and unsavory while somehow ignoring the fact Japanese cuisine includes so much else. Of course, as an adult I have learned that rumaki was likely concocted by Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. — a.k.a. Trader Vic — at his Don the Beachcomber restaurant in California, as its first appearance was in their 1941 menu. Some form of the food itself might have come from Japan by way of Hawai‘i, and the name is likely an Americanized version of “harumaki,” the Japanese spring roll.

In this way rumaki goes perfectly with Audition because it is a delightful fraudulence that might be unhealthy in large amounts, not unlike a certain deceptive character in the book. And when it comes to the book, as you might expect with an adaptation, there are things left out of the film. One such element is Aoyama’s obsession with the traditional Christian pipe organ music of Germany, in particular orchestrating a concert for a specific organist from Wittenberg, in the former East Germany, to record a documentary about. Why pipe organs? No idea, but it certainly stood out to me.


Naturally, the way my mind works, I think of literal organs such as chicken livers, and what non-meat substitutes we might find for internal organs. Hence the addition of canned beets. Sure, I love roasting fresh beets, but few foods are as visually visceral as lumps of beet-flesh in the spilled liquid they are packed with, that rich maroon eerily reminiscent of large, freshly spilled quantities of blood that haven’t yet had time to react fully to the oxygen-rich air.

Just like that which was splashed across the news segments of my childhood rife with wounded soldiers, bodies left behind by terrorist or government massacres, and the remnants of car accidents in the background as journalists with butterfly collars and earth-tone jackets tried to work their way up the local media food chain by somberly reciting details of the incidents. The 1970s were wild like that.

Can you share the recipe or a link to the recipe?

·  3 tbsp. soy sauce

·  1 tbsp. brown sugar

·  4 chicken livers, cut into thirds

·  3 water chestnuts, quartered

·  4 strips bacon, cut into thirds

·  1 (1″) piece fresh ginger finely chopped or grated

You’ll find fatty membranes, stringy sinew, and various clumps and blobs attached to the chicken livers. Go ahead and trim all of that off with a knife when cutting the livers into thirds; if it doesn’t look like a liver then it’s not part of what you’re meant to be eating.

Whisk the soy sauce, brown sugar, and ginger in a medium bowl. Add water chestnuts and chicken livers, tossing to coat; place in refrigerator to let marinate for 1 hour.

While preheating your oven to 400° strain the liver and chestnuts, reserving the marinade. Bring the marinade to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan; set aside.

Place 1 slice of bacon on a cutting board, then top with 1 piece of liver and 1 water chestnut. Wrap bacon around liver and chestnut; skewer bacon in place with a toothpick. Repeat process with remaining livers, water chestnuts, and bacon.

Transfer rumaki to a wire rack on a baking tray or cookie sheet lined with parchment or foil for easier clean up.

Bake at 400° for 15 to 20 minutes occasionally basting with the marinade. The bacon should be golden brown and, if cut open, the liver should be

If you want to take things over the top use a pastry/paintbrush to add a glaze — it should be noted that’s not what’s pictured here. While some people advocate all sorts of dipping sauces I’m not a fan since the marinate is already so strong without totally obliterating the natural flavors.

Variations: a Kosher alternate to this bacon-based recipe is to wrap the liver and chestnut in pastrami, and vegetarian options include pineapple or marinated watermelon in place of the liver and extra firm tofu pressed for 30 minutes in place of bacon (not something I’ve attempted, so I’m not sure if the tofu is just added to the skewer or actually wrapped around the other ingredients). Brown sugar substitutions that work well in this recipe are agave or honey.

As for the canned beets, although you can eat them straight from the can I prefer them heated in a saucepan; if you are not using pickled beets I strongly recommend saving the beetroot juice the beets are packed in for use with other recipes, as a natural dye, or for staging a crime scene.

CRADLELAND OF PARASITES is now live on Amazon! —

We promised a follow-up post as soon as CRADLELAND OF PARASITES went live, and here it is: you can now grab Bram Stoker Award-winner Sara Tantlinger’s excellent collection of plague-inspired poetry from Amazon. CRADLELAND OF PARASITES is the latest from the author of THE DEVIL’S DREAMLAND and LOVE FOR SLAUGHTER and this new collection may […]

CRADLELAND OF PARASITES is now live on Amazon! —

Delicious Horror: Hailey Piper

Happy Wednesday, spooky friends! Can you believe we’re three days away from Halloween? This month seriously went by in a blink. To help us count down to Halloween, Hailey Piper is here with a recommended horror read and one of my favorite desserts! Hailey also has a wonderful story in Not All Monsters, which was just released yesterday!

Hailey Piper is the author of The Possession of Natalie GlasgowAn Invitation to Darkness, and Benny Rose, the Cannibal King. She’s a member of the HWA, and her short fiction pops up in Daily Science Fiction, The Arcanist, Flash Fiction Online, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, and elsewhere. She lives with her wife in Maryland, where they sometimes bake monstrosities of the living dead. Find her on Twitter via @HaileyPiperSays or at

From Hailey: My new cosmic horror novella The Worm and His Kings releases on November 15 from Off Limits Press! A swirl of shadowy monsters, creepy cultists, and a woman trying to find her missing girlfriend in a subterranean world beneath 1990 Manhattan. Paperback pre-orders are up at the Off Limits Press site.

Tell us what horror book you chose to highlight and why it’s a favorite of yours:

I chose White Is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi as my Delicious Treats book. In some ways, it’s about a troubled young woman Miranda Silver and her family, but it’s also about the terrible Silver House where they live and operate a bed-and-breakfast, and it’s also about another young woman, Ore Lind, with troubles of her own. But it’s also very much about sicknesses that spread and linger in families, racism as a legacy. White Is for Witching demands close attention; it is a dense, beautiful, haunting novel.

What did you decide to make to pair with the book, and what from the book inspired your delicious treat?

Warning: my treat offering isn’t exactly deep! In the novel, Miranda suffers from pica, a condition that compels a person to eat inedible things such as plastic or dirt. Miranda’s number one go-to pica craving is chalk. To that end, my wife and I made lemon bars coated in white confectioner’s sugar. Cut thin as shown here, they’re slivers of chalk that are perfectly safe to eat!

Can you share the recipe or a link to the recipe?

For this recipe, you’ll need:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

In a bowl, combine flour, butter, and confectioner’s sugar. Pat into an 8×8 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Beat eggs, and then add other ingredients. Whip until frothy and pour into the cooked crust’s pan. Bake 25 minutes. Dust the top with confectioner’s sugar (much or little as desired). Let cool for 1 hour in the fridge for ease of cutting.

Thank you for having me, Sara!

Thank you so much, Hailey! I already want to make these as we plunge deeper into these wintery months. Lemon bars feel perfect for the season.

Check out submission guidelines here if you want to contribute to Delicious Horror! See you all tomorrow with another very delicious post.

NOT ALL MONSTERS arrives early! CRADLELAND OF PARASITES on the way! A sale on COVER ART! AND… we spill some beans about Christmas. —

Ah, best laid plans! They always go EXACTLY how you want them to. And, yes, that’s sarcasm you are detecting. We wanted to offer up a Halloween surprise and make NOT ALL MONSTERS and CRADLELAND OF PARASITES available early for those of you looking for something to settle in and read over Halloween, and… well… […]

NOT ALL MONSTERS arrives early! CRADLELAND OF PARASITES on the way! A sale on COVER ART! AND… we spill some beans about Christmas. —