Fiction Fragments: Amy Grech

Last week, I chatted with Donna J. W. Munro about her writing process and her debut novel, Revelations: Poppet Cycle 1, which you can purchase on Amazon.

This week, Girl Meets Monster welcomes horror writing veteran Amy Grech.

Amy Grech has sold over 100 stories to various anthologies and magazines including:
A New York State of Fright, Apex Magazine, Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, Dead Harvest, Deadman’s Tome Campfire Tales Book Two, Expiration Date, Flashes of Hope, Fright Mare, Hell’s Heart, Hell’s Highway, Hell’s Mall, Needle Magazine, Scare You To Sleep, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, Tales from The Lake Vol. 3, Thriller Magazine, and many others. New Pulp Press published her book of noir stories, Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City.

She is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers who lives in New York. You can connect with Amy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/amy_grech or visit her website: https://www.crimsonscreams.com.

Three Questions

GMM: Welcome to Girl Meets Monster, Amy. Here we are at the beginning of a new year. Many of us are setting our intentions, making plans, writing down our goals, and getting down to business. What writing goals have you set for yourself this year? Are you currently working on any projects that will be released in 2021? What would your ideal writing year look like?

AG: I’m working on final edits of my noir novella set in New York City and also a dystopian novella set in the not-so-distant future that features: A Golden Ticket. A Gathering. A four-hour eating orgy. Cyanide. “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” meets “The Hunger Games”. One of my main goals is to find suitable publishers for both novellas.

Yes, my poem, “Orange Julius”, will grace the pages of the Hell’s Mall anthology; “Perishables”, a flash piece, has been picked up by Flashes of Hope; and “Cold Comfort”, will be included in The One That Got Away anthology from Kandisha Press. My ideal writing year would have me appearing at several conventions, as well as working on several projects with an eye towards placing them with publishers for publication this year or in 2022.

GMM: Horror can mean a lot of different things to different people. How do you define horror in relation to genre fiction and where do you fall in the spectrum? When did you first think of yourself as a horror writer? What experience confirmed it for you?

AG: For me, writing horror is about telling stories where the characters are at the forefront, experiencing a range of emotions: whether it’s abject dread, or sheer, visceral terror. If I’ve done my job well, my readers will feel every emotion. Quality horror is multi-layered, like an onion,  delivering subtle scares, as well as visceral visions that linger long after the reader turns the final page.

Genre fiction on the other hand, encompasses popular, commercial, or category fiction. It usually follows traditional formulas for plot and character arcs. Genre fiction is more literal with fewer obscure symbols and allegories. It’s more of a quick read, the equivalent of literary fluff—there’s no intellectual value and it can be cloyingly sweet.   

I first thought of myself as a horror writer when I started writing short stories in high school. I attended Ithaca College in Upstate New York, where I majored in English, with a minor in Writing. I was fortunate that one of the electives offered was the Literature of Horror, where I was introduced to the work of Shirley Jackson, Franz Kafka, H.P. Lovecraft, and Mary Shelley.  My first professional sale was to Shade Rupe’s Funeral Party II, way back in 1997, cemented my status as a working horror writer!

GMM: You’ve been writing horror a long time and you’ve got an impressive list of publications. What obstacles if any did you encounter as a new writer? What changes have you witnessed over time that have made it less difficult for female horror writers to get their foot in the door and get paid for their work?

AG: When I first started submitting my stories to small press publications and didn’t know any better, I was content to be compensated in the form of contributor copies, thrilled to see my name in print…The first and only time I fell for this was with a story I had published in a publication called 69 Flavors of Paranoia. I quickly learned that writers should be compensated for their work in the form of cold hard cash.

When I first submitted my stories for publication, I encountered lots of rejection. Uncertain if this was because I was a woman, or due to the fact I was new to the genre, I eschewed self-doubt and quickly progressed from form rejection letters to the inclusion of personal comments, which proved quite useful. As the submission process evolved from via snail mail — don’t forget to include a SASE — to email, and ultimately Submittable, I grew bolder, grateful for Editors’ insightful comments, which enabled me to grow as a writer and submit my work to another market, where it was usually accepted.

When I first started out, I felt a bit intimidated by all of the male horror authors gathered together. I had male horror authors come up to me and ask, “Who are you here with? Where’s your boyfriend? I would muster up some courage and say, “I’m here promoting my work. Come check out my reading at 3:00 p.m.” And some of those guys would show up and admit afterward that I’d managed to scare them.

I received an invitation to attend I-CON a convention that was held at SUNY Stony Brook in 1998, an actual letter in the mail — this was before social media’s heyday, though, I did have a website back then — as an author guest and returned several times, it was here that I met the incomparable Linda Addison, one of the rare female horror authors there, and we became fast friends, appearing on several panels together! This was also where I garnered my first handful of loyal fans, who purchased my books and inquired on what I was working on. Such an exhilarating feeling, to be sought after!

After several of my stories found homes in various magazines, I challenged myself to send stories to anthologies and have been published in several. Such an honor when Editor Billie Sue Mosiman invited me to submit a story to Fright Mare, an all-female author anthology published in 2016, that featured stories by: Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Elizabeth Massie, Kathryn Ptacek, Loren Rhoads, Lucy Taylor, just to name a few. Twenty authors in all. It’s a fantastic compilation that demonstrates that women can write frightfully-good fiction!

In the 2000s, I noticed more and more publishers were more amenable to publishing work by female horror authors, and the genre once a boy’s club began to welcome women into the fold based on the merits of their poignant prose. Gradually warming up to female horror authors’ contributions.   

“Midnight Munchies” by Amy Grech

Tyler: I’ve got the Midnight Munchies.

Josh: So eat something…

Tyler: I already ate all of the perishables.

Josh: Perishables??

Tyler: Milk, ice cream, cold cuts, cheese, fruit, and vegetables.

Josh: You must be hangry.

Tyler: You have no idea.

Tyler: I had to choke down uncooked baked beans.

Josh: Nasty!

Tyler: Jasmine’s gone.

Josh: Where did she go?

Tyler: She fell on her way down to the basement.

Josh: Is she OK?

Tyler: Not really.

Tyler: The heel of her shoe got caught when she ran downstairs.

Tyler: When Jasmine tumbled to the bottom of the stairs,

Tyler: she broke her neck.

Josh: Tough break.

Josh: What was her rush?

Tyler: We were scrambling to take cover before the incident.

Josh: What incident?

Tyler: You know — the Cubans dropped an atomic bomb 72 hours ago.

Josh: Right.

3 minutes later

Josh: Is there anything you can do for her?

Tyler: Jasmine’s dead.

Josh: Yikes!

Tyler: She’s been laid to rest.

Josh: May she rest in pieces.

Tyler: Not cool, Bro.

Josh: My bad.

Tyler: We were together for 2 years.

Tyler: Almost an eternity…

Josh: No doubt.

Josh: Where??

Tyler: The walk-in freezer is her final resting place.

Tyler: She’ll keep nicely.

Josh: Why is there a walk-in freezer in the basement?

Tyler: My Dad is a Chef.

Josh: Nice!

Josh: The power is out.

Tyler: There’s a propane-powered backup generator.

Josh: Yeah. I could sure use one of those right about now.

Josh: I’m the basement now.

Tyler: Good.

Tyler: Where are your parents?

Josh: They’re out of town for the weekend.

Tyler: Where did they go?

Josh: California.

Tyler: Sorry, bro. They probably got incinerated in the blast.

Josh: I know. Where are your parents?

Tyler: They didn’t make it down basement in time.

Tyler: They got caught in the moment.

Josh: That’s rough.

Tyler: Ironic. My Dad the Chef burned to a crisp.

Tyler: My Mom, too.

Momentary silence.

Josh: Do you have everything you need?

Tyler: I think so: Several gallon jugs of water.

Josh: Check.

Tyler: A kerosene lantern from the mall.

Tyler: What have you got to eat?

Josh: Turkey Jerky and some Kind Bars.

Tyler: What Kind are they?

Josh: The Kind Bars?

Tyler: Yup.

Josh: Does it matter?

Tyler: I guess not.

Tyler: Do you have light?

Josh: I’ve got a bunch of flash lights.

Tyler: I have a set of my Dad’s Chef’s Knives.

Josh: What for?

Tyler: There’s no telling what survived.

Tyler: Do you know what radiation may have done

Tyler: To the neighborhood dogs and cats?

Josh: I have no idea.

Tyler: The ones that survived are probably rabid and famished.

Tyler: If I have to, I’ll use the knives to defend myself.

Josh: Did you block the windows?

Tyler: I covered them with plywood.

Josh: Smart.

Tyler: I’m resourceful.

Tyler. My Dad taught me that.

Josh: Respect.

5 minutes later.

Tyler: I’ve been consumed by Jasmine’s passion.

Josh: All the feels.

Tyler: Jasmine has been consumed by my hunger.

Josh: OMG!

Tyler: She wanted it that way.

Tyler: Trust me.

Josh: Classy.

Tyler licks his lips.

Tyler: It brings us together, body and soul…

Josh: Wut??

Tyler: With a heavy heart, I slice pale pink meat

Tyler: into translucent strips with a Chef’s Knife.

Josh: Seriously?

Tyler: My tears run down Jasmine’s cheeks

Tyler: as I gently place them down on a dish of

Tyler: delicate, fine Bone China with pale, pink roses. 

Josh: Bro, no words.

Tyler: I chew every morsel slowly, relishing the poignant

flavor of my last meal, fresh off the bone.

Josh: Who says it’s your last meal?

Tyler: I’m tapped out — there’s nothing left.

Tyler wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

Josh: Whoa! That’s dark.

Tyler: Just being honest.

Tyler: Jasmine’s thighs are a bounty of the sweetest meet I’ve ever tasted.

Josh: I can’t believe you ate Jasmine!

Tyler: I’m not finished with her, yet.

Josh: Bro?!

Tyler: I’ve already devoured the succulent meat on her rump, arms,

Tyler: breasts, lower legs, toes, and fingers.

Tyler: I have a newfound respect for finger food.

Josh: Did you put a ring on it?

Tyler: I did. Wanted to tell you, before

Tyler: all of this happened.

Tyler: I kept the diamond engagement ring as a memento.

Josh: Word.

Tyler: A girlfriend is a terrible thing to waste.

Josh: Just deserts.

[separator] 10 minutes later

Josh: I miss the comforts of home.

Tyler: You’re such a Mama’s Boy.

Josh: Bro, that’s cold.

Tyler: Just Joshing.

Tyler: [smile emoji]

Josh: [eye roll emoji]

Tyler: I miss the sun.

Josh: [sunglasses emoji]

Tyler: I miss Netflix.

Josh: [popcorn emoji]

Josh: I miss my parents.

Tyler: Ditto.

[separator]

Josh: I can hear some critters outside, near the basement.

Tyler: Uh-oh.

Josh: They’re yowling and growling.

Josh: It sounds really bad.

Tyler: Did you cover the windows.

Josh: Just with duct tape — I hope it keeps them outside.

Tyler: [fingers crossed emoji]

5 minutes later.

Tyler: Something just chewed through the plywood!

Tyler: It’s in the basement!

Josh: That’s not good, bro.

Josh: Is it a cat or a dog??

Tyler: Hard to tell.

Tyler: It’s growling.

Tyler: and it’s headed straight for me!

Tyler snaps a picture with his smartphone.

He takes a quick look.

Tyler: No, that’s my cat, Smoky.

Josh: How can you be sure?

He sends Josh a picture of his cat.

Tyler: You can see the name tag on his red collar.

Josh: Yeah.

Tyler: Smokey doesn’t look the same.

Josh: Poor little guy. His fur is caked with blood.

Tyler: And he’s drooling.

Josh: He looks very hungry…

Tyler is trembling.

Josh: Grab a knife!

Tyler: Already on it.

Tyler lunges for a Chef’s Knife on the butcher block.   

It slips from his fingers and clatters on the cold concrete.

Tyler: I dropped the knife. I— Josh: Tyler??

Do you have a fiction fragment? How about your friends? Would you like to recommend someone to me aside from yourself? Drop me a line at chellane@gmail.com. See you next week!

Guidelines: Submit 500-1000 words of fiction, up to 5 poems, a short bio, and a recent author photo to the e-mail above.

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