I keep struggling with how I want this post to start. When I reflect back on this year, even though some really great things happened, there is also a sense of relief in this year being done. 2019 came with fantastic high points, and stressful, anxiety-inducing challenges that led to some rough lows for me. Some of the most impactful lessons I learned this year were that I need to be busy — I like being busy and it helps me thrive, but at the same time if I don’t learn to manage my stress better, I am afraid I’ll drive myself into an early grave because of how damned awful stress can be on your mind, body, and willpower. I hope 2020 shows me a better way to live (honestly being an overworked adjunct has just chewed up my soul, so send me good vibes in my job search for this year, please); again, I like being busy, but I don’t like being so overworked and underpaid that I feel desperately hopeless. I recently felt so guilty that I did not make my small Goodreads goal this year, but then I remembered how long I spend reading hundreds of student papers, journals, projects, and more in order to provide substantial and helpful feedback, so hey, fuck that guilt.
I want 2020 to be a year of hope, and a year where I do not feel guilty for things like the above example. While some things are out of my control, I will do everything in my control to make it a year that I can embrace and look forward to. I like keeping my private life private, and while I share a bit on social media, it’s been really peaceful to keep much of my life to myself and to those I love. I am immensely grateful to my friends and family who have been incredibly supportive this year and all years. And of course it’s been a blast getting to know more authors, readers, and reviewers through social media — I hope to meet so many of you in person soon!
Here are a few of my highlights from 2019, and a few things I am really looking forward to in 2020!
2019 in Review:
*StokerCon in Grand Rapids, Michigan was probably the highlight of my year. I wrote a recap of that here, so I won’t echo too much again, but in a nutshell I got to hang out with some of my favorite humans in existence and The Devil’s Dreamland took home a freaking Stoker Award, so it doesn’t get much more surreal and amazing than that. I also got to sit with Gwendolyn Kiste who has become such a sweet friend and watch her win an award for The Rust Maidens, which was spectacular!
*The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes was included in Night Worms! (yay!)
*My debut novella, To Be Devoured, was released in July by Unnerving! I was nervous about this book, so to see positive (and repulsed) receptions and reactions of this sick and twisted glimpse into my prose has been incredibly motivating. Thank you to everyone who picked up the book and dared to dine with the vultures.
*To celebrate the tenth year of Women in Horror Month this past February, I did 10 posts (9 of them feature interviews) with some incredible ladies in the genre that I hope you will check out if you did not before!
*Having my short story, “Smeared Star in Your Hands” be selected from over 700 others to be included in The Twisted Book of Shadows (I doubt myself a lot as a short story writer, so this was an amazing moment)
*Some other writing-related things I enjoyed this year included this podcast interview by Unnerving’s Eddie Generous with myself and Gwendolyn Kiste, guest editing an issue of Eye to the Telescope that featured an infection theme, writing up a post called “Killing the Tortured Artist” for the Ladies of Horror Fiction, doing this in-depth interview by David Cowen who asked such wonderful questions, and chatting about Pet Sematary with the Ink to Film Podcast!
I was fortunate to do a few other podcasts and posts this year, all of which are compiled here (plus other years) if you are interested.
*Shortly after StokerCon, Mike Arnzen and I collaborated on getting the HWA Pittsburgh Chapter up and running! We had our first two meetings this year and are greatly looking forward to the future of the chapter. Thank you to everyone who has attended meetings, helped organize events and readings, and been as enthusiastic as we are for this creation! If you are local and interested in joining the HWA and our Pittsburgh Chapter, email us at email@example.com
Bring on 2020:
What am I working on for 2020? Right now it feels like a million things, but let me share what I can…
*My third poetry collection, which is inspired by the Black Death and other plagues and diseases is coming along (I should be able to share more about this soon!) — you can read a poem from the collection below!
*I am currently working on a really cool collaborative project, but that’s all I can say for now 🙂
*I am so looking forward to working with my mentee through the HWA Mentorship program! (*waves* hi Angela!)
*Also looking forward to FINALLY attending Scares That Care! I will see you in Virginia this summer if you’re going — please come say hi!
*One of my biggest goals this year is to write a novel I’ve been plotting; if I can get a draft done by the end of the year, I’ll be thrilled
*And finally, perhaps what I am most excited for….NOT ALL MONSTERS! (!!!!) This gorgeous book brought to you by Strangehouse Books will be out in Fall 2020. It is all full of deliciously dark stories by women who write horror, and I cannot wait to get this beautiful beast into your hands. Check out the TOC here.
It has been an honor to be the editor for this project, truly. Huge thank you to Nicholas Day and Don Noble for their organization, team work, art work, and for being lovely humans.
*All in all, 2020 is shaping up to be busy. I am excited for the challenges, for the late nights and early mornings, for new adventures and for something that I hope continues to give me courage. I wish you all nothing but amazing successes in the new year.
And finally — thank you to everyone who voted on my Twitter poll for which poem I should share from the new collection. I hope you enjoy reading this piece, “Blackbirds, Black Death”
Blackbirds, Black Death
Blackbirds outside my window
have you come to take me away?
My sister is dying, but together we waste
and count the days, the days, the days…
I’d rather follow you into the skies
away from choking black smoke,
away from dark soil where death blooms
on grotesque petals and charcoal stems
swell until blood drips down the stalks.
Bells sing distorted songs in the distance
chiming again for departed souls, striking
melodies against the harsh growl of thunder,
but sister still dies, crinkled like a lifeless spider
in my arms, for she is dead, and I am dead
in this place the blackbirds call home.
When blackbirds come to drain my blood,
their beaks stuffed with straw and juniper
I offer my eyes as penance for sin, to combat
God’s severance, but we are despised
and left nothing but rot, and ruin, and rats.
When blackbirds come to take her away at last,
we decompose together, imprinted memories
stain childhood blankets, infection reeks
from frayed threads as doctors dressed in black
pretend they are birds, but it is too late,
and I no longer count the days, the days, the days…
We twine together and choke, smoldering embers
of our home reach across the floor
colored in our bloodletting, yet the smoke
smells like mint as the blackbirds retreat,
and we will never follow them into the skies.
Because when blackbirds come, they are but men
buttoned up in masks, coats, and presumptions
that they know better, they know a cure,
but they know nothing except death,
the scent of putrid bodies mixed with herbs,
the swelling of buboes before they burst.
Sister, we once planted imaginary gardens
for imaginary birds, but now blackbird men
have materialized from that secret place
and stand guard outside my window,
have they come to take me away?
Dear sister is dead, so together we waste
and count the days, the days, the days…
Thought Halloween was the last of the horror holidays? Nah. I asked Twitter users for some ideas on Small Business Saturday for horror businesses we could support. I enjoyed looking through the stores and websites so much that I thought I’d make a quick post with links/info on how to find these cool and unique shops so we could support them all year long! Check them out:
Night Worms — Horror will be your happy place here with exclusive book club packages
and goodies that you won’t regret subscribing to. I subscribe to Night Worms myself and can confirm that I’ve absolutely loved every package I’ve received. *Books and goodies
Let’s Get Galactic — One of my favorite book reviewers, Cassie, combines rainbows and horror, which I think is genius. Her work is beautiful and makes me so happy. Check out the photo of the Poe mug I bought from her shop. You can’t go wrong with her work! *Bookmarks, mugs, various artwork, and more
7Fetishes — Another amazing Etsy shop. This one was recommended by my friend Nelson Pyles who has great taste because the work here is stunning! *Various artwork
GrindHaus Podcast — For my podcast lovers out there, this one covers a lot of horror and cinema from a filmmaker perspective! *Podcast
Two awesome recommendations from Christa Miller are Elegant Gore (I love this name) and Wes Brooks. These links are for their beautiful insta but check out the respective websites at Elegant Gore’s Etsy and Undead Speed Equipment! *Stickers, prints, shirts, art, and more
Velvet Hand Designs — Shout out to the wonderful Tracy (@tracy_reads79) for
recommending this AMAZING shop! I already ordered work from here and am a little obsessed. *Various artwork
Die With Your Boots On — I love this recommendation from Jenna Moquin. 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 — A great recommendation from Just Dee on Twitter for this place I really want to check out if I ever get back to Cali, but they have an online shop, too! *Books, clothes, collectibles, and more
Witch Baby Soap — Their products are probably the best smelling things I have ever bought. Notice my collection below — I might have a problem. *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 — I bought a Jack the Ripper pillow from here years ago; they have a lot of interesting things! *Home decor of all kinds
You already know I’m obsessed with these bookmarks. I mean look at my collection. Plus, Karlee is awesome. *Bookmarks, prints, and more
And since I live near the area, some great places to check out in Pittsburgh:
Small and Indie Horror Presses:
*There are MANY more — I just ran out of brain power. Feel free to leave me comments on any more shops or presses to add!
I am so excited to share that my third standalone book is being released today! This is my debut novella, and I am thrilled to finally unleash its darkness. It is available in paperback and on Kindle here!
The wonderful and talented Gwendolyn Kiste and Christa Carmen blurbed the book — check out what they had to say!
“Sara Tantlinger’s To Be Devoured capitalizes on our macabre preoccupation with the uglier side of nature, with love that topples into obsession, and with madness that is strangely beautiful in its barbarity. Her writing is equivalent to those unremitting avian beings her protagonist is so enamored of: It will hook its talons through your flesh, sink its neck into the ribboned edges of your wounds, and only relinquish your blighted body when it has swallowed your very soul.” –Christa Carmen, author of Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, winner of the Indie Horror Book Awards for Best Debut Collection
“Vultures, obsession, and an unnatural hunger: What more can you want in a horror story? With To Be Devoured, Sara Tantlinger has done it again as she ratchets up the terror in wonderfully surprising ways while crafting prose that’s always a heady blend of the vicious and the vibrant. A book that’s absolutely not to be missed!” –Gwendolyn Kiste, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Rust Maidens
*The cover for Not All Monsters, designed by the magical Don Noble, is live! I’m in love with it and want the design framed above my bed. It’s gotten fantastic responses so far, which makes me hopeful there will be good interest in this anthology and the future things we may have plans for… 😉 Stay tuned. There’s so much I want to say about the stories in the anthology, but I’m going to save it for later since the book won’t be out until Fall 2020. Good things are worth waiting for, my friends. We’re taking our time to make something really spectacular.
*There are 5 days left to submit to Eye to the Telescope #33 with the theme INFECTION, which I am guest editing. PLEASE read guidelines carefully. Poems MUST have speculative elements for full consideration. Deadline is June 15th. I look forward to your deadly contagions. I’ve already received hundreds of poems, so it’s going to be intense narrowing these down!
*If you missed it, Gwendolyn Kiste and I were interviewed by Eddie Generous for the Unnerving podcast. We talked about StokerCon and read excerpts from our upcoming books! My novella (paperback and eBook) will be out July 29th, but if eBooks are your thing, you can pre-order those.
Pre-order Gwendolyn’s chapbook here!
“While the story was fantastically and grotesquely perfect, it is not just the plot that has me gushing over this. The language in this novella is both beautiful and disturbing. Tantlinger shows off her mastery of language with incredibly poetic lines throughout the novella. I was in awe of the contrast between the perfection of the words used and the twisted subject matter they described.”
*Also last week, I stepped into Stephanie Wytovich’s Madhouse for an interview where we chatted true crime, H.H. Holmes, and more. Thanks so much to Stephanie for having me and providing great questions!
*Thanks for catching up with me — I’m working on story edits for Not All Monsters now and reading through the 300+poems I’ve received so far for ETTT, so maybe next month I’ll be caught up and get back into my own WIP project 😉
What a weekend. Where do I even begin? StokerCon 2019 was an amazing adventure. Right off the bat I have to say my favorite thing was the support of this community. Seeing the amazing work that everyone is doing is really exciting. I think it also encourages each one of us to do our best and challenge ourselves, too. I look forward to the HWA’s continued outreach for diversity and inclusiveness. This is an area I am really aiming to be more proactive in, as well.
I don’t think I could capture everything in a recap post, but here are some highlights from my favorite parts of the trip:
*Reuniting with friends and making new ones — I’m going to try and remember names here, but if I leave anyone out it’s because my brain is fried, so I apologize if I miss anyone!
Something I was really excited about this year was that my good friends from graduate school, Kristy and Mike, were able to attend. Hanging out with them and catching up was wonderful. They are two of the best people I know (and are both killer writers). I also got to catch up with many people I haven’t seen in so long: The brilliant EV Knight who has a debut novel coming that I cannot wait to read; Bill and Jeanne Bush, Linda Addison, David Cowen, Marge Simon, Nick Diak, Matt Betts, Brian Keene, Wile E. Young, Chad Stroup, Tim Waggoner, Donna Munro, Hanna Gribble, and more — it was fantastic seeing you all again!
I also FINALLY got to meet online friends in person, which was so delightful. These people included Gwendolyn Kiste, Gabino Iglesias, Sarah Read, A.E. Siraki, David Busboom, Kathryn McGee, RJ Joseph, Kathleen Kaufman, Leza Cantoral, Christoph Paul, Gaby Triana, Cina Pelayo, — even though some conversations were brief, it was incredible seeing you all in person. I hope we meet again! (sorry if I missed anyone, like I said, brain = dead)
*The poetry reading with Saba Razvi and Donna Lynch. This was honestly the most fun reading I think I’ve ever done.
The atmosphere was so relaxed, the three of us were into each other’s work, and everything was fun and supportive.
We had a great Q and A session with the audience after our readings, and I think we just really dominated as women in horror who write bloody good poems. Getting to know both of these ladies better and spending time with them was a real joy. Please check out their work!
*Panels: Moderating the historical horror panel was incredibly fun. I received great feedback from the attendees, which didn’t surprise me because the panelists are literal superstars, and their answers to my questions were informative, inspirational, and
genuine. Thank you again to Lisa Morton, Lisa Kroger, Kevin J. Wetmore, Alma Katsu, and Kathleen Kaufman.
*I was also on the weird poetry panel moderated by the wonderful David Cowen. I had a great time with my fellow panelists answering David’s thoughtful questions and delving deeper into how weird poetry can be defined.
*Also, the panels I attended were really fantastic overall — everyone killed it this year. Thank you so much to the organizers, Brian Matthews, and all the volunteers.
*And of course, the Stoker banquet Saturday night. Saturday was especially exciting to
me because Nick Day and Don Noble, the minds behind StrangeHouse Books, made a crazy one-day trip just to come hang out and be supportive of my nomination. This meant the world to me (and still does). I am still stunned, humbled, and thrilled that The Devil’s Dreamland took home the Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry Saturday night. Being nominated along with such great talents (Donna Lynch, Marge Simon, Alessandro Manzetti, Bruce Boston, and David Cowen) was a huge honor. I could not believe I was even nominated.
I sat with a wonderful table at the banquet, which included the lovely Gwendolyn Kiste. The fact that we both got to share our wins together was really incredible. The whole experience has been surreal. Again, thank you to everyone who has supported the book and myself in any way. It means the world. You can watch the speeches from the livestream on YouTube — they start around the 3:50:00 mark, and then the first category starts around 4:19:00. As I mentioned in my speech, having my former thesis mentor, Mike Arnzen, be the one to announce that I won was a pretty special moment. Hearing my friends cheer and whoop and clap, having friends and family text me congrats and raise their glasses, was all something I will never forget. It’s giving me goosebumps and making me grin as I write this out. I love you all to death. Thank you for your support and faith when I could not always see it in myself.
Huge congratulations to all the winners and nominees!
*I always learn so much from these experiences. This year, I think I am finally learning that sometimes you may encounter someone who decides to snub or dismiss you for whatever reason, but that it always says more about their own insecurities and issues than it does your talent and how damned hard you work. I don’t have time for people like that. Instead, I am going to continue to surround myself with supportive friends and company who have often taught me and are continuing to teach me to believe in myself. The biggest thing I really did learn from this con experience is to simply believe in myself and my work, to understand that I do belong in this world and community. To all who have helped show me that through all the support and love, thank you.
It’s doubtful I’ll make it to StokerCon UK 2020, but I will absolutely see you all again in Denver for 2021!
Two more days until Grand Rapids! Despite the hefty grading pile haunting me, I am really looking forward to StokerCon 2019.
There are basically panels every hour that I want to go to, but we will see what’s humanly possible. Otherwise, here’s my StokerCon schedule for the things I’ll 100% be at. Come say hi! I’m ridiculously excited to see everyone…and okay, for the ice cream social, too. I’m still comprehending that I’m nominated for a Stoker, but you know I’m beyond excited to be at the banquet, too!
*Find me wandering around, braindead from the amount of grading I did this week, probably wherever there’s a bar; I may be hysterically excited to see some of my grad friends at this time (fair warning)
10:00am, Emerald Room: I’m moderating a SUPERSTAR-filled panel for Historical Horror: Kathleen Kaufman, Lisa Kroger, Lisa Morton, Alma Katsu, Kevin Wetmore, Jr. (like seriously these people are amazing and I can’t wait to interrogate them)
3:00pm, Winchester Room; Reading Block with Donna Lynch, Saba Razvi, and myself (will it rock? YES.)5:00-6:30pm, Crown Foyer BOOKS AND ICE CREAM; I’ll bring copies of things and sign things. Will people buy them? I don’t know but there will be ice cream, so it’s all good.
12:00-1:00pm, Grand View Room B-C; Weird Poetry panel moderated by David Cowen; I’ll be on here with these amazing poets: Mary Turzillo, Randy Rubin, Donna Lynch, Marge Simon, Frank Coffman
7:00-10:00pm, Bram Stoker Awards and Banquet (yay!)
*Crying because it’s over; stumbling downstairs in the morning to the hotel’s Starbucks; telling everyone I love them