Friday, September 25, 2015

Sisters of Slaughter: The Literary Rise of Garza & Lason

Something very rare is taking place in the horror genre... something that I haven't witnessed for quite some time. Twin sisters who write the nastiest, most horrifying and effective prose in the form of a single literary entity. Yes, take it from me, it's damn rare. It's enough of a feat for one person to write gruesome and macabre fiction with fluidity and a vision that grabs you by the throat and says "You're mine until the last freaking sentence is over and done with!". But for two writers to do it and do it seamlessly -- almost as though the combined might of two intellects and imaginations had merged into a single flesh-and-blood wordsmith... well, like I said, it's rare. More than that, to us in the genre (both those who read the stuff and write it) it's both exciting and encouraging.

The last time I came across a horror-writing sister duo was in 1991 at the first World Horror Convention. Like myself, this twin-team wrote for Zebra Books and under a single nomenclature. Regretfully, I do not recall their individual names (it has been nearly 25 years), but I remember that they were an odd pair; one was an extroverted party girl, while the other was quiet, reserved, and a devout Christian. But they wrote effective horror novels... not very many, but they consistently accomplished a cohesive story that melded well and did not reveal the fact that two people had collaborated on the project, rather than simply one. I have no idea what happened to them. Like many on the Zebra roster of authors, they faded from the scene after the unfortunate implosion of the horror genre in the mid-1990s and the abrupt shutdown of Zebra's horror line (ask me about it some time and I'll tell you a genuine tale of writer's angst and woe.)

Now we have two more on the horror scene, but with much more potential and originality (and downright freshness) than most collaborative teams I've come across in the past two decades or more. They call themselves the Sisters of Slaughter and when you read what they have to offer you can't help but say "Yeah, that moniker fits just right!". Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason hail from Mesa, Arizona, where they raise their families (they are both loving mommies and wives) and write grisly and gruesome tales of terror that make your skin crawl so much that it's a wonder that it doesn't slither right off your bones and cower beneath the bed, dimpled with goosebumps and shuddering in fright. Like most sibling teams, their personalities vary. Michelle is the outgoing, kick-ass sister unafraid to take risks, while Melissa is the quieter, more reserved , and calculating of the pair. Together, the mixture of their individual talents meld almost psychically, resulting in a horror reader's delight... and a horror writer's respect (and perhaps even a little bitty touch of envy).

So far, they have only published a handful of short stories, but what they have published has proven strong enough and effective enough to make the reading public sit up on the morgue slab and take notice. I've had the pleasure of getting to know these two ladies through the magic of social media (namely Facebook) and, in turn, have read both their published and unpublished work, and even edited for them on occasion. My opinion of their literary efforts thus far is extremely positive, not because I am particularly fond of them (I call them 'cuz" and that's the way it feels... we're kin both in terms of professionalism and friendship), but because they are so damn good at what they do. And like all genuinely talented and versatile writers, they can write almost anything, from present day horror to antiquated gothic tales of the macabre that would give Poe and Lovecraft a run for their money.

If you haven't sampled the fiction of the Sisters of Slaughter, then you're missing out, big-time, and you need to correct that unfortunate situation immediately. You can start your indoctrination with their chilling story "A Church in the Middle of Nowhere" in the James Newman benefit anthology, Widowmakers. (Truthfully, I've suggested to M & M that they should seriously consider expanding this story and its incredible characters -- particularly the antagonists -- into a novel-length offering). After you've recovered from that tale of terror, you can move on to even more savage and sinister doings in "Hydrophobie" in Sinister Grin's latest anthology, Fresh Meat 2015.

For someone like myself, who has been in and out of the horror genre for nearly 35 years now, it is exciting, refreshing, and encouraging to come upon a pair of writers as good and imaginative (as well as humble and down-to-earth) as Michelle and Melissa. When you read what they have to offer so far, you will be as hungry as a werewolf beneath the brilliant and transforming influence of a full moon... hungry for, well, fresh meat. Sometimes I can't help but wonder "Where will these two be in five or ten years?" But it doesn't take much imagination on my part to figure that out. They will be at a signing table at some major horror convention with a line of fans winding its way around the walls and out the door, or mounting the podium to graciously receive one of those spooky little haunted houses reserved for excellence and achievement in our particular field of expertise. And after it's all over and done with, they'll be back at home, wiping snotty noses and writing even more tales of sisterly-inspired horror for all of us to enjoy and carry with us for a day or two (or more). Tales that will lay dormant in daylight and then, in the dead of night, return to haunt and horrify, bringing the frantic feeling that something unseen lurks in the dark corners of the room or beneath the bed, ready to reach out of the blackness and lay it's cold, clawed fingers upon your throat, squeezing tight the scream that yearns to break free.