We are delighted to be able to feature this indie author in our upcoming anthology "It Calls From the Forest: Volume Two". O. Sander is a force of creativity. Learn about her writing journey and get a sneak peek at her dark story "Moths to a Flame" below.
O. Sander is a writer, artist, composer, photographer, crafter, and family caregiver. She is originally from California but has bounced from place to place for most of her life. She finally landed in “25 square miles surrounded by reality” in Michigan, where she spends her time inventing worlds and exploring them through her drawings as well as writing their stories and music. She claims to be a combination of Morticia Addams and Glinda the Good Witch and tends to embarrass her long-suffering spouse into trying to pretend he doesn’t know her.
Have you always written, or was there a catalyst that prompted you to begin this journey?
I started writing my first book when I was about ten years old. I wrote by hand in a blank book my mom gave me. It was going to be a haunted house tale, but I stalled out after a few handwritten pages and never went back to it. The blank book completely vanished, and I didn’t see it again for decades after I quit writing in it. I got more involved with artwork and planned on a career in art, but suffered an injury to my right hand in college that ended those plans. I went through various other creative outlets in search of something that was as fulfilling. In 1990 I took up writing again, with an amazing group that were writing cooperative historical fiction set in ancient Greece. They later expended into writing cooperative science fiction stories and I went along for that ride too. However, I always felt like I was the weakest link in the group and didn’t pursue it further when the group broke apart. Then in October 2019, my friend Daniel Dickinson was writing a short story – his first – to submit to an open call from Kyanite Press. I wrote one too, mostly because it seemed to keep him motivated and I wanted to see him achieve his dream of getting published. As it turned out, we were both accepted and our first stories were published volume 2, issue 2 of the Kyanite Press Journal of Speculative Fiction in February of 2020. We have both been writing and submitting our stories since, but that novelette “Gate of Bone” is my constant surprise for what it has led me to. I never would have thought I’d wind up here if you’d have asked me even a year ago.
The blank book where it all started in the 1970s just recently turned back up, by the way. I have moved all over the United States and outside of it as well, and never saw it in all that time. Suddenly I spotted it a few months ago on a bookshelf that mostly contains my husband’s things. It was about three days before I got my acceptance on my first story. I’m still not sure how that blank book got here, forty years later.
What is your favourite genre to read?
I read voraciously, and my favorite genre has changed several times over the years. Recently I have been favoring a tales of Americana, particularly those set in the midwest or the south, such as the books of Fannie Flagg or the Ya-Ya series by Rebecca Wells. I have also loved horror, sci-fi, fantasy of many flavors, YA, historical fiction, biography, alternate history, fairy tales, mysteries, thrillers, local history, and studies of myth and folklore, especially by Joseph Campbell.
Do you remember the first piece of writing shared publicly? What were people’s reactions, but more importantly how did you react getting it out there?
The first piece I chose to share was on the now-defunct Ancient Sites, where I got involved with some historical role players who were building a communal, cooperative story based around the Delian League for ancient Greek military roleplayed stories, and the deme of Marathon, where the characters we developed made their homes when not at war. I have a large dose of Imposter Syndrome, particularly when it comes to writing, and I was nervous and shy about the first few posts. I almost didn’t post them. But the people there welcomed me with open arms and encouraged me. I eventually found a home within the group, among people who were deeply into developing a narrative and the study of ancient Greek customs to infuse these cooperative stories with authenticity. I don’t think I would have any confidence at all in my writing, if not for those friends back then. Their encouragement, honest critique, and support kept me writing and gave me confidence in my own writing. I never had that before them.
What is your workspace like? What kind of atmosphere do you need to write?
My workspace for writing is cluttered because I also draw, paint, and craft at the same desk where I write. I hope to make a space for some of this elsewhere, but for now my computer desk is multi-purpose and so full of projects I’m in the middle of that sometimes it threatens an avalanche of crafts (a craftalanche?) when I sit down. The clutter doesn’t stop me from writing, but I otherwise have pretty definite needs to write. The biggest one is that I need quiet. I can’t work on much that requires any concentration unless it’s quiet. I mostly can’t write when my husband is home from work, because even the clicking of his mouse will keep me from being able to focus. It’s the result of a sensory data processing disorder I have, and I don’t blame him in the least. I just find ways to work around it so that I can have my quiet time.
Horror occasionally veers into the paranormal or supernatural, that's what makes it fun in my opinion. Do you believe in the supernatural?
My opinion about the supernatural sways back and forth. I am mostly a believer. I have lived in places I’m sure were haunted, and many others have had similar experiences to mine in those places. I’ve had a couple past life experiences that happened just out of the blue. But I also go through periodic fits of disbelief, where I decide that it all had natural explanations that I just wasn’t aware of. I’m somewhere in the midst of an “I don’t know, maybe?” phase in my beliefs. A supernatural agnosticism, I suppose you could say.
Without giving too much away, tell us about the short story you have featured in “It calls to the Forest: Volume Two”. What inspired you?
“Moths to a Flame” is, more than anything, a tale about the horror of just not knowing when a loved one vanishes without a trace. And that sometimes, finding out what really happened might be even worse. It was inspired by a comment my mother once made to me, that sometimes being the person who is the object of someone’s deepest attraction and love can be a burden. The focus is usually on the moth burning itself to death when it flies too close to the candle. But sometimes the candle can be smothered in the process.
And now for your reading pleasure,a snippet from“Moths to a Flame” by O. Sander
I thought I saw her last night. Kate stood in the shadows of the trees that edge up to our property, barely picked out by the moonlight. She was hard to make out, almost not there, but I thought she was. It's funny how the mind can play tricks. She's been missing for two months, but this is the first time I thought I saw her, so maybe something deep inside me still hopes.
Who could blame me? I was caught from the moment I first saw Kate perform. She spun fire poi and danced in a costume of shining metal scales. The costume moved with her, describing her body in shimmering flame-light. She became fire herself in it, as she spun the balls of flame on their chains, otherworldly and unforgettable. She burned in my memory after that performance.
The Kate I saw dancing is hard to reconcile with the one from last night. That was a creature of fire, movement, and a joy that was almost palpable as she swayed and spun her poi. This Kate under the trees was all sad motionlessness, silent moon-silver, and shadow; a wraith, a specter, only barely there. Rationally I know it has to be a trick of the dark, just a shadow under the trees where my yard ends and the edge of the forest begins. It has to be. Then that traitor, the thing we call hope, whispers that it was my Kate I saw, no mistake. Real, alive, not a ghostly vision or figment of my imagination. If that were true, why wouldn't she just come home?
I wash my coffee cup and stare out the kitchen window, across the yard to the tree line where Kate seemed to be standing last night. Now it's just trees; no sign of her now, if there ever even was. I sigh, turning on the morning news in the hope that it'll chase this false vision away. It doesn't help. It fades into indistinguishable background noise, and I turn again to thoughts of my vanished girl. It's like a missing tooth that my tongue goes back to probe again and again, as if something might have miraculously changed in the last two minutes.
I remember when I finally did meet her. I discovered that fire was her personality too: passionate, quick, warm, and a temper that could burn you to ash if she was provoked. I wasn't the only moth drawn to Kate's flame, and she made it clear from the start that she was a woman of many loves. I didn't care. Well, I did, but I wanted to bask in her heat more than I cared whether I was the only one. We went out on our first date two days later. It lasted a week, and I was hooked.
When Kate went missing I tried to file a missing persons report. The deputy who was supposed to take the report dismissed Kate, me, and my concerns for her. His look was cold and full of distaste, and he suggested she'd just gotten tired and moved on to one of her many other lovers.
"You people…" he'd started, and I knew in my bones from his look and tone that by people he meant any LGBTQIA freaks in general, and this freak and her missing lover in particular. "You people, well, you're not exactly the most stable or committed, are you? She's probably fine, just hooked up with some other…female."
I imagined all the epithets he was thinking during that pause. Bigots are so predictable, and so divorced from fact. I was angry, but I ignored his looks and his significant pauses, just pushing ahead until he finally took my report. I doubt they bothered much about it. I tried, for a while at least. I called the station to check in, and I posted fliers. I drove around looking, as if she would suddenly appear by the side of the road and apologize for losing track of time. I know I should have kept following up, kept pushing, but I finally sank into this hopeless depression and barely had the energy to get out of bed most days.
"…believed to be the man responsible for the disappearances of several women in Selma and surrounding communities." The voice of the anchor on the morning news breaks through the grey wall of depression and my thoughts about Kate. I never listen to the news, and didn't know this had been going on. The anchor continues in a practiced, neutral tone. There is just the slightest hint of concern around their eyes, the way reporters are trained to show.
"Police say the investigation is ongoing, but he allegedly abducted at least four local women that we know of so far. One source inside the department says they believe he kept them alive for about three months…" I switch the TV off, scrambling for the phone. I didn't catch the man's name in the broadcast, but I'm sure that he's the one. He's the reason my Kate disappeared, the reason why she's been gone two months.
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Follow O. Sander on all of her direction social media links Twitter https://twitter.com/threadwings
Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/osanderwrites
Personal Instagram https://www.instagram.com/countess.christophine/
Crafting, photography, and arts Instagram https://www.instagram.com/threadwings/
PREORDER AVAILABLE NOW! They warned us not to enter, but we didn't listen. The call too strong to ignore. And now there is no one left to save us. Beware, these things within the forest will rip out your heart and devour your soul. You will tremble as they revel in your madness, taking everything from you and leaving you with nothing. Delve inside this anthology of what truly lurks within the shadows of the trees. Eerie River Publishing brings you another round of exceptional horror by award-winning authors from around the globe.