Category: All Blog Posts

Lucy A. Snyder, Past SICCO Speaker, Makes Stoker Award Ballot

Lucy A. Snyder spoke to us last year about writing, publishing, and the specifics of the horror and dark fantasy genres. Her newest book, While the Black Stars Burn, was just listed as a contender for a 2015 Bram Stoker award. In keeping with our support of SiCCO speakers, we asked her to keep us updated and she shared the following guest blog post. Thanks for sharing and good luck Lucy!

0Raw Dog Screaming Press published my latest book While The Black Stars Burn two months ago, and since then it’s been well received by readers and reviewers. Most recently, it was selected for the preliminary Bram Stoker Awards ballot (titles which advance to the final ballot become official award nominees.) I’m very excited about being on the Stoker long list; other working horror writers vote on the award, and it’s always a joy to know that your peers enjoy the work you’re creating.

Publishers Weekly had this to say about the collection: “Malevolent lineages and emotionally fraught familial relationships propel the plots of most of the 13 genre-spanning stories in Snyder’s strong collection. … Snyder (Soft Apocalypses) excels in her depictions of characters struggling desperately—and often futilely—to extricate themselves from terrifying snares set by loved ones. Readers will find her stories a cut above most other tales of interpersonal and supernatural horror.”

While the Black Stars Burn is the follow-up to my previous RDSP collection, Soft Apocalypses. I think that readers will enjoy While the Black Stars Burn even more than Soft Apocalypses, and if you’re new to my short fiction, it’s an excellent place to start. It’s got a gorgeous cover from Italian artist Daniele Serra; he’s been creating covers for a whole lot of Lovecraftian and weird fiction books lately, and it’s easy to see why! He’s an amazing talent, and I’m thrilled that the folks at Raw Dog commissioned his work for my book. This is hands-down one of the best covers my books have ever received, and it’s even prettier on the trade paperback than it is on screen.

About three quarters of the stories in this book are tales I’ve written in the past two years. The collection is a mix of horror, dark science fiction, and dark fantasy. Several of the stories have Lovecraftian and King in Yellow mythos themes, and the stories all feature female protagonists, most of whom are struggling against terrifying family situations.

Here’s the Table of Contents with a quick description of the stories:

  1. “Mostly Monsters” – A literary short story about a woman attempting to cope with a recent PTSD diagnosis.
  2. “Spinwebs” – A medieval fantasy story about a family in a mutualistic relationship with giant spiders.
  3. “The Strange Architecture of the Heart” – A near-future science fiction story about a woman with an intrusively helpful android.
  4. “Approaching Lavender” – A horror story about a woman artist whose family is destroying her identity.
  5. “Dura Mater” – A science fiction horror story about a woman who encounters a malevolent force during a faster-than-light space journey.
  6. “The Still-Life Drama of Passing Cars” – A horror story about a desperate family on a road trip.
  7. “Through Thy Bounty” – A science fiction horror story about a female chef who’s forced to cook humans for her alien captors. It’s one of my older stories, and a reader favorite.
  8. “Cthylla” – A Lovecraftian story about the daughter of a cult movie star.
  9. “While the Black Stars Burn” – A horror story about a young violinist; this ties in with the King in Yellow mythos.
  10. “The Abomination of Fensmere” – A story about a girl detective named Penny Farrell who goes to visit her Southern relatives and quickly finds herself ensnared in a plot to summon Lovecraftian horrors.
  11. “The Girl With the Star-Stained Soul” – The continuing adventures of girl detective Penny as she finds herself transported to Carcosa and trapped in The King in Yellow’s sinister plans.
  12. “Jessie Shimmer Goes to Hell” – A horror adventure story featuring Jessie Shimmer, the protagonist of my urban fantasy novel series (the first book in the trilogy is Spellbent). This tale also features Lovecraftian monsters.
  13. “Fable Fusion” – A Doctor Who story that originally appeared in Doctor Who Short Trips: Destination Prague. It features the Seventh Doctor (portrayed on television by Sylvester McCoy) and his companion Ace.


Lucy A. Snyder is a four-time Bram Stoker Award-winning writer who wrote the novels Spellbent, Shotgun Sorceress, and Switchblade Goddess. She also authored the nonfiction book Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide and the story collections While the Black Stars Burn, Soft Apocalypses, Orchid Carousals, Sparks and Shadows, Chimeric Machines, and Installing Linux on a Dead Badger.

Her writing has been translated into French, Russian, Italian, Czech, and Japanese editions and has appeared in publications such as Apex Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, Pseudopod, Strange Horizons, Weird Tales, Steampunk World, In the Court of the Yellow King, Shadows Over Main Street, Qualia Nous, Seize the Night, and Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 5.

She lives in Columbus, Ohio and is a mentor in Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. She also writes a column for Horror World. You can learn more about her at and you can follow her on Twitter at @LucyASnyder.



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President’s Letter: 2016

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 7.07.34 PM

Hello and welcome to 2016!

It’s that time of year to try new things.  New foods.  New clothing.  New personas.  As for me, I’m gonna start talking like Georges Collinet from the popular NPR show Afropop Worldwide, just because I love the way he pronounces his name in his native Cameroon dialect:

“Alo!  This is Georges (pronounced ‘Josh’) Collinet (pronounced ‘Collinay’), and you are reading a SICCO blog in Columbus, Ohio!”

“But Patrick,” you say.  “There’s already someone named Georges Collinet who pronounces it ‘Josh Collinay.’  You can’t just take his name as your own.”  To which I reply, “Bullpoopy.  I already share the same name as the actor who plays the captain on the Star Trek Enterprise.  You know how many times a week I hear the phrase ‘full speed ahead, number one?’  If I want to be Josh Collinay, or Jeff Hollandaise or anybody else, I’ll do it.  And you want to know why?”

Because.  It’s.  A.  New.  Year.  And by that celestial right of the New Year Code, Volume 3, Bylaw 14, Sub-paragraph G-5, all of us are allowed to do something unique and foolish at the beginning of each year.  Like pretending to be the host of a cool public radio program.  Because if you can’t inhabit somebody else’s skin for a wee bit, how will you inhabit the skin of your characters?  Determine personality traits?  Physical quirks?  Dialogue?  Backstory?  And then combine that character with others, orchestrating an entire cast of players like a conductor to carry out a plot line?  Because you, sir, madam or non-gender-specific honorific, are a writer.

Hear that?  A writer.

And as a writer, you get to be as foolish as you want to be.  Make characters that are psychopathic rodeo clowns.  Demented dilettantes.  Murderous motorcycle gangbangers. Harmless little old ladies on the outside, but with closets full of skeletons.  I mean, real skeletons.  Throw stuff against the wall in a Jackson Pollack-like fit and see what sticks, what explodes, and what slithers down.  Write flash fiction.  Short stories.  Novellas and novels.  But most of all, let it go.  Use this time of the year as an excuse to freak out, dial it up to ten and mash the accelerator.  And most importantly; have fun.

Looking forward to seeing what you all do in 2016. Stay chill.

—  Patrick Stuart, SICCO President

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Holiday Luncheon -Contest results

SICCO_christmas revised

Thank you for joining us at our annual Holiday Luncheon on Saturday, December 12th at the Rusty Bucket in New Albany.  It was great to see old friends and meet wonderful new ones!

Along with great food and fabulous company, we were a part of the “Wright Family Book Exchange”.  Then came the our story contest.

The contest consisted of writing a story of 100 words or less using the following (5) words:  elf, hoof, pen, froze and blood.  EVERYBODY WHO SUBMITS AN ENTRY WILL RECEIVE A PRIZE OF DUBIOUS VALUE (and the better the writing, the dubious-er the prize).

Here are the entries of the brave souls:

Submission #1:

Not a Creature was Stirring

By: Connie Campbell Berry

“Watch your step, “Sgt. Rudolf said unnecessarily. He’d arrived at the crime scene at dawn. Now, at nine, Lt. Donner breezed in like a man who had places to go. He probably did. Christmas morning.

Donner froze.

Five bodies lay sprawled in front of the still-lit tree. Blood and glitter were everywhere.

“Nicolas family,” Rudolf said, “Mom, Dad, kiddies. No weapons. Doors and windows locked from the inside.”

“Outside?” Donner pulled a notebook and pen from his pocket.

“Not even a hoof print.” Rudolf barked a laugh. “We checked the roof.”

The elf on the shelf chuckled behind his plastic smile and slid the knife up his red felt sleeve.

Submission #2:

By: Gwynyth Lozier Mislin

My uncles, Nikki and Fred, were both obsessed with preparations for Christmas. Uncle Fred’s masterpiece was his pork blood sausage, but it was understood that, if necessary, he would appropriate any mammal on hoof or paw.

“Blood is blood, “ he liked to say.

Onions, sauerkraut, potatoes, and think dangerous-looking mustard were on tables set in the barn for his Christmas Eve dinner. Uncle Nikki ate quickly, for too soon we would hear steps crunching the frozen ground outside. Opening the door, an elf would call in; “Time to go!” and Uncle Nikki would lumber off while we ate on.

Both of whom won the dubious award.  Gwynyth won the Edgar Allen Poe Air Freshener scented with “Poe-pourri.” and Connie received the Shakespeare Air Freshener.   How sweet smelling they are!








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Killer Nashville Recap Part 2 Pacing







Terry Odell has kindly granted Sisters in Crime Columbus Ohio permission to reprint her recaps of Killer Nashville.

By: Terry Odell

Now, onto my Killer Nashville Recaps.

I’m always inter­ested in pac­ing pan­els, because there are so few ref­er­ences devoted to the topic. These are my bullet-point take­aways from the panel, and, as always, are based on my inter­pre­ta­tion of what the speak­ers said. Errors are mine.

The pan­elists for this ses­sion were David Bell, Don Helin, Sharon Marchis­ello, and Ken Vanderpool

They included two hand­outs, which were for ref­er­ence and cov­ered the basics—the things most in the audi­ence prob­a­bly knew. The sec­ond hand­out demon­strated how punc­tu­a­tion can also be used to con­trol pac­ing, so I’ll share that:

“I have never in my entire life seen any­thing like this.”

“I have never, in my entire life, seen any­thing like this.”

“I have never, in my entire life, seen any­thing, like this.”

Punc­tu­a­tion is a tool. In dia­logue, sim­ply decid­ing where to put the speaker tag, beat, or inter­nal mono­logue can affect the pace.

Most of us think of pac­ing as mean­ing things have to move quickly, but that’s not the case. Watch­ing a movie that’s one huge action scene after another doesn’t give you time to know the characters.

They con­tin­ued by com­par­ing con­ver­sa­tion to writ­ten dia­logue. In a live con­ver­sa­tion, pitch and emo­tion are what pac­ing is in a novel. When speak­ing, vari­a­tions in tone and inflec­tion keep peo­ple inter­ested, and vary­ing sen­tence length, dia­logue, inte­rior mono­logue, and nar­ra­tive serve that func­tion in a book.

Bell said the first page is prob­a­bly the most impor­tant words you write. Some­thing has to hap­pen, but it has to hap­pen to a char­ac­ter. Ini­tially, you want to ‘accelerate.’

Helin stressed that the reader needs to know only what it takes to get to that point at that par­tic­u­lar time—the incit­ing inci­dent. Can me men­tal, emo­tional, as well as physical.

After you hook them, then you can add the back story.

Marchis­ello agreed, say­ing it’s impor­tant not to start the story too soon.

The next topic was how to han­dle pac­ing when deal­ing with inter­nal tensions/emotions. Dia­logue and nar­ra­tion need to be bal­anced. (*Per­sonal note: Long ago, when I was sub­mit­ting a requested man­u­script, the edi­tor said she could judge pac­ing sim­ply by look­ing at the words on the page. Lots of dia­logue prob­a­bly meant it was too fast-paced, while lots of dense nar­ra­tive meant it was prob­a­bly too slow.)

Helin: Con­flict gives sus­pense, sus­pense gives you pacing.

Inter­nal con­flict and back story have to relate to a big­ger con­flict in the story.

Van­der­pool: Inter­nal con­flict can slow things down.

Pac­ing as it relates to char­ac­ters – what does another char­ac­ter think about that char­ac­ter? This gives reader a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, can slow things down and let them think.

Dia­logue can accel­er­ate the pace, nar­ra­tive can slow it. You don’t want every­thing to come across as one break­neck car chase. Read­ers need time to breathe and reflect. Pac­ing should be var­ied through­out the book.


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Killer Nashville Recap: M. Williams Phelps

SICCO_dark city revised


Terry Odell has kindly granted Sisters in Crime Columbus Ohio permission to reprint her Killer Nashville 2015 recaps.

By: Terry Odell

Today kicks off my recaps of ses­sions I attended at Killer Nashville. This, and all my recaps are based on my notes and my under­stand­ing of what the speak­ers were pre­sent­ing. Errors are my own.

The first ses­sion I attended was a pre­sen­ta­tion by author M. William Phelps, who spoke about his days in jour­nal­ism and his research into ser­ial killers. Phelps began by telling us of his days spent with for­mer NYPD offi­cer, William Acosta, a man who put on a bullet-proof vest, even to get cof­fee. As Phelps fol­lowed his men­tor and source, he dis­cov­ered that what he thought was going to be a mag­a­zine arti­cle about cor­rup­tion in the NYPD would need to be a book. Phelps learned inves­tiga­tive tech­niques, which included going through garbage. He got used to being fol­lowed by cops.

One story he told was the night he was going to secure his research papers, and got the feel­ing he was being watched. He ducked into an alley, where he ran into flash­ing lights, cop cars, and peo­ple look­ing at him with a “What are you doing here?” atti­tude. Turned out, he’d run into a street shoot for NYPD Blue.

How­ever, before his book could be pub­lished, 9–11 hap­pened, and a book about cor­rupt cops, who were now the good guys, wasn’t approved by his publisher.

Phelps moved into research­ing ser­ial killers. He made it clear that a ‘real’ ser­ial killer is noth­ing like what they por­tray on tv. They don’t lock their vic­tims into base­ments and make lamp­shades out of their skin, but tele­vi­sion is about the drama and entertainment.

He men­tioned one ser­ial killer he researched, a woman who led a nor­mal, every­day life. She was a house­wife, a com­mu­nity vol­un­teer, and a nurse at a Veteran’s hos­pi­tal. She was killing peo­ple for 7 years before she was caught. Phelps pointed out that given his expe­ri­ence with research, a sim­ply data analy­sis of patients dying on one nurse’s shift show­ing a huge dis­par­ity with aver­age deaths should have been a red flag much sooner.

Phelps says the crimes tell you a lot about the killer. In gen­eral, child moles­ters were molested, bur­glars need money to sup­port drug habits. One ser­ial killer who, as Phelps politely put it, left his DNA after killing his vic­tims, had been taken by his father on his Peep­ing Tom calls, where he got off on watch­ing women.

Female ser­ial killers tend to use poi­son; it’s imper­sonal. Males like killings to be hands-on, where they can stare into the eyes of their vic­tims. Male ser­ial killers kill for fan­tasy. Females are plan­ners. They might walk into the store where they’re going to buy their poi­son many times before mak­ing the pur­chase. When they buy it, they’ll put it on a shelf for a while before using it.

Phelps began to get calls to serve as an expert for tele­vi­sion shows. He worked on a show where the premise was to inter­view a ser­ial killer for “advice” in solv­ing cold cases—Dark Minds.

In the sec­ond sea­son, Phelps had a new killer who was will­ing to dis­cuss what he’d done. Accord­ing to Phelps, the man (called Raven) was a psy­chopath, and also accord­ing to Phelps, was miss­ing any empa­thy. They don’t feel bad about any­thing, and they’re born that way. Oth­er­wise, Phelps said, “I could have been friends with Raven if it wasn’t for the whole killing thing.”

Unlike on tele­vi­sion, ser­ial killers don’t play “cat and mouse” with their vic­tims. They don’t want to be caught. They also have their own com­fort zones. They don’t choose strong, pow­er­ful vic­tims, and if you put a killer off his game you can win. Never go with a killer to the sec­ondary location—that’s his turf, and where he’s in con­trol. Fight back beforehand.

Phelps said the cur­rent pro­file of a ser­ial killer is a male African Amer­i­can in his 50s. Phelps left us with his advice for cre­at­ing characters—there’s no need to take them over the top.


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Prepping for NaNo








By Kandy Williams

Meeting Recap: October 2015
Don’t know NaNo? No problem. Thanks to our guest, Anne Delekta, local liaison for National Novel Writing Month, you don’t have to stay in the NaNo-unknown. Anne shared with us how NaNo began, as a writing challenge between friends in San Francisco. That endeavor–to write 50, 000 words in 30 days (originally July)–gained a fan base and momentum, and now attracts writers from around the world. Each year during the month of November (because no one was writing much during that first July), people sign up through NaNo’s web site and by so doing commit to hashing out a rough draft of a never-before-written-novel in one month. In order to cross that 50k mark, NaNo encourages participants to write approximately 1, 667 words a day. Daily emails are sent to cheer and prod writers along the way, and various in-person events (such as write-ins) are held throughout the month.
Chris Baty, NaNo’s founder, also utilized the format of NaNo to write No Plot? No Problem. [From Amazon] “Chris Baty, founder of the wildly successful literary marathon known as National Novel Writing Month, has completely revised and expanded his definitive handbook for extreme noveling. Chris pulls from over 15 years of results-oriented writing experience to pack this compendium with new tips and tricks, ranging from week-by-week quick reference guides to encouraging advice from authors, and much more. His motivating mix of fearless optimism and practical solutions to common excuses gives both first-time novelists and results-oriented writers the kick-start they need to embark on an exhilarating creative adventure.”  For more info on the book / kit, visit here.
His primary advice? “Hush your inner editor and get it out.” Basically, give yourself permission to do nothing but WRITE for 30 days. Let it be as awful as possible, especially if that means you’ll have a (crappy) draft to work with later on.
Anne, our speaker and 12 year NaNo-participant, realizes (both from personal experience and from talking to other writers) that following that advice is challenging. Many people start off strong and often peter out 2 weeks in. But here are a few methods and pieces of helpful advice she’s picked up over the years:
*It’s best to start with a brand new concept. Your LOVE for the new characters and story can be powerful and help propel that word count, especially early on. This can even give you a little padding with that daily word count requirement. Meaning, if you have several days of strong writing and find yourself ahead, then you’re better able to handle stressful days, writer’s block, and so forth, because you’ll have a chance to regroup.
*Leave notes for yourself each day on what you’re going to write. Having an idea about the next chapter or scene keeps those creative juices flowing and might make you eager to get your butt in the chair.
*Stop writing mid-scene or even mid-sentence. Forget leaving the reader hanging; leave the author hanging. Of course you won’t be able to leave it like that, and in fact, you may zoom to your desk each day in anticipation what typing what you’ve got planned next.
*Try Beat Sheets. These are used by screenwriters. Since screenwriting is a bare-bone type of writing, this might be just the prompt you need to keep your story moving without getting bogged down into details.
*Try the Snowflake Method. Crafted by Randy Ingermanson, his book, How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, outlines “ten battle-tested steps that jump-start your creativity and help you quickly map out your story.” [Amazon] Having read and applied this myself, I also give it a thumbs-ups!
*Mindmapping. Like Post-It notes and seeing bullet points of each of your scenes laid out? This could be a method that works for you, keeps you on track, and motivated.
*Group brainstorming. Gather together your writing buddies and discuss plot points where you’re stuck. Fresh ideas are their own muse.
These are only a sample of the techniques and methods anyone can try to keep them focused and writing for the month of NaNo. Here at SiCCO, we’re discussing ideas for helping you make the most of your writing time, whether it’s November or anytime of year.
Learn more about NaNo by visiting their site:
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Book Review: Writing a Novel With Scrivener by David Hewson

SICCO_light-dark-bed-lamp revised








Review by David Ploskonka

Writing a novel is a daunting prospect, and writing mystery novels pose their own unique challenges: clues, motivations, timelines, red herrings, suspects, and keeping all of that straight. Thankfully, there is a piece of software to help. It is called Scrivener.

Depending on what you want to do, you can dive right in to Scrivener just as easily as you would a standard word processor. But its real power resides in its more advanced features. Scrivener includes tools for every step of the writing process: brainstorming, outlining, and researching, and tracking key story elements during the writing and revising process. When you’re finished, you can export your novel into Microsoft Word or formats compatible with Kindle and other e-publishing services. (Yes, it works for short stories as well, and even has versions for Windows and Macs.)

However, as great as Scrivener is, it is not without a learning curve. It takes a little practice before it becomes more of a benefit than a burden. But, trust me, once you mess with it a bit, you’ll wonder how you survived without it.

Scrivener provides tutorials on YouTube, but my favorite resource is David Hewson’s Writing a Novel With Scrivener (

Hewson’s guide is practical and concrete. It covers all of the basics for the software and then digs deeper into each feature and its use. Each key feature is covered in its own section, enabling you to refer back to it as you’re writing. Even better, the book is chock-full of screenshots to help you understand exactly what part of the software is being discussed. Hewson is a writer himself and has lived and died by Scrivener for years. Because of this, Writing is more than technical book. Writing is as much a helpful primer on writing itself as it is on the technical aspects of Scrivener.

If you’re struggling to start writing, or want to better organize a work-in-progress, give Scrivener and this book a shot. Scrivener retails for $45, but they offer a special for NaNoWriMo each year.

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Hey, welcome! After a lot of hard work involving prodigious amounts of typing, coding, meeting, crying, screaming, breaking things, sleeping, procrastinating, forgetting about, remembering again, and making virginal sacrifices to the writing gods (you work your way, we’ll work our way), the new website for the Columbus Ohio chapter of Sisters In Crime (a.k.a., SICCO) is now finally underway. So welcome to the first of many blog posts dedicated to the craft of writing. A site that occasionally uses big fancy words in support of the erudition (there’s one!) of fiction, and by way of common fellowship with other literary congregants (there’s another!) we hope to encourage you in your quest to finish that mystery, thriller, cozy, police procedural, or pretty much damn near whatever else you might be working on. Because our mandate is simple: we want to make your writing gooder better.

So come to this site frequently. To be included in the near future will be book reviews, literary advice, information about upcoming meetings and events, stuff about publishing (agents and going solo), trends in fiction, and whatever else floats our boat at the moment. As things progress we’ll probably start to refine topics to match the tastes of our readers, so don’t be afraid to comment. Typical rules apply; just keep it cool and writerly. And the great thing is . . . it’s absolutely free! No dinero! If you’re checking us out and are not ready for a commitment, not a problem. Already have a full dance card? Fuggedaboutit. Or if you’re just plain shy, that’s abso-freaking-lutely fine. But if sometime in the future you’d like to check out one of our monthly meetings, please stop on by (see the ‘Events’ section of the site for details). And if, by some strange quirk you decide to become a member, head on over to the ‘Membership’ section of the site for more info. But otherwise, please peruse this site at your leisure, and if you like it bookmark it, include it in a ‘favorites’ folder or set our icon right on your monitor screen for easy access. And if you do this, we promise to make every effort to be ebullient and perspicuous (two more big fancy words!).

So again, welcome aboard and hope this helps in your writing endeavors. We’re a wide variety of people, ranging from former NYT bestselling authors to folks still hammering out their first manuscripts. But since writing is often a monastic pursuit, sometimes it helps just to have other people of like minds around to share the pain. So kick back, chill and visit for awhile. Stay tuned.


By: Patrick Stuart; 2015 SICCO President




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