Friday, 20 November 2020

A Seed in a Soil of Sorrow by Keith Anthony Baird

 


When the death cult calls ... what are you running from?


The path to the Viridian Chapter is paved with many sorrows. It's a sect which sits on the site of a brutal atrocity, and one which harbours numerous dark secrets. Leader, Hans Lehmann, is a visionary bestowed with remarkable abilities, with followers who are prepared to offer their lives in exchange for his promise of a utopia.

On the cusp of autumn, a lone seeker arrives to discard his former life and embrace his rebirth as a chapter disciple. Stark lessons within a strict regime are the lure for those who have been traumatised by their uncaring past. The promise of a doomsday ascension through the waste of flesh proves at odds with a union between two souls who must flee the confines of the commune, if their love is to stand a chance of being fully realised.

But will the inner circle elite discover this betrayal and exact a terrible retribution, or will they escape the clutches of the sect's unstable originator and lift the lid on the culture of violence within?

Tobias, a young man barely 23, runs form the pain of his old life looking for a way out. He travels across Europe where he meets Han, a father figure like no other who takes him in when he joins his sect, The Viridian Chapter. All he expects in return is complete surrender.

This is a great short story that I found really disturbing and truly horrifying. The horror pure psychological. I just think there's something really creepy about cults where vulnerable people are taken advantage of, their lives and even minds changed forever. 

It's a really gripping tale, I easily read this is one sitting. I've read Keith's work before so I knew it would be dark! He's a master at pulling you into a tale. 


Sunday, 15 November 2020

Interview with Dan Coxon, author of Only the Broken Remain

 



Today I’m chatting with Dan Coxon, an author I greatly admire. He’s been a part of the British horror/strange fiction scene for many years. He’s been at the helm of the legendary Tales From The Shadow Booth anthologies as well as the multi award winning anthology, This Dreaming Isle, and now he has his debut short fiction collection Only The Broken Remain coming out with Black Shuck Books




1)   Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m a writer and editor based on the outskirts of London, probably best known for editing the anthology This Dreaming Isle (shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Awards and the British Fantasy Awards). I’m also editor for Unsung Stories (Best Independent Press, British Fantasy Awards 2018 & 2019), and a freelance editor at Momus Editorial. My short fiction has appeared in Black Static, Nightscript and Not One of Us, and the anthologies Nox Pareidolia and Humanagerie, among many other places. Earlier this year I had a mini-collection, Green Fingers, published by Black Shuck Books, and they’ve just published my first full-length collection, Only The Broken Remain. Oh, and I bake a mean loaf of bread.

 

1)   Tell us about your new story collection, Only The Broken Remain.

Only The Broken Remain is a collection of stories about people who are marginalised or excluded in some way, sometimes through no fault of their own, sometimes as a consequence of their actions. I’m really interested in these types of characters: people who have been worn down by life and cast adrift, but somehow find the strength to carry on regardless. There’s a quiet heroism in not giving in. So you’ll find stories about a disenfranchised immigrant worker who forms a pact with the local foxes, a social misfit who finds his ideal job failing in front of a circus audience, an accountant who has embezzled funds and loses herself – literally – while on the run in Australia… I’m sure you get the idea. Some are previously published, while a handful are new and original to this book.

 


1)   What is it that drew you to British folk horror?

Part of what I do is folk horror, for sure, but I’m generally interested in weird fiction and the uncanny. I suspect the success of This Dreaming Isle will see me tagged as ‘the British folk-horror guy’ for a while, but that was really something that grew out of a specific situation, at a specific time, and I think flogging it for years to come would be a mistake. When I first started work on that anthology, we were in the midst of the Brexit vote, and nobody knew what the future held for Britain, whereas now… well, actually we still haven’t a clue, have we. But there was a sense in which folk horror was examining and reframing the ways in which we view the past, and I really liked that about it. It felt like the perfect antidote to rampant nostalgia – a timely reminder that the past was actually a dark, dangerous place, and not at all the ‘green and pleasant land’ some politicians seemed to be hankering after. That said, folk horror bleeds through into lots of other genres – ghost stories, for example, could be said to be both uncanny and folkloric – so I’m not quite done with it yet. I’m just keen to keep it as one possible tool of many, rather than the entire toolbox.

 


2)   Do you write in other genres?

I’ve written science fiction before (with only moderate success), and had a story in a ‘Year’s Best’ body horror anthology once (I don’t write body horror usually, although I do love early Cronenberg). For many years I was trying to write ‘literary’ short stories, so my earlier work tended to avoid any of the horror genre trappings – it was much more down-to-earth and mundane. Strangeness started to creep back into my fiction about six years ago, though, and I think it’s here to stay. I won’t claim that everything I write will be horror, but it will certainly all be odd and unsettling in some way. In fact, some of the stories in Only The Broken Remain are probably weird fiction rather than horror or folk horror. I prefer to let each story lead me where it will, rather than trying to impose genre ‘rules’ on it.

 

3)   How have you been spending your time during lockdown?

This is going to be a very dull answer, so I’ll keep it short. Looking after my kids, home schooling, learning to bake a really good loaf of bread, fighting the weeds at my allotment (and losing), putting up a shed, painting a shed, utterly failing to organise the chaos inside a shed. I’ve not had much time to read or write – at least, not as much as I’d like – but there’s been some of that too. Plus trying to earn enough of a living to stay afloat. My freelance editorial business is my main source of income, and the cashflow can be erratic at the best of times – lockdown was a challenge. One that I seem to have navigated so far, thank god.

 

4)   What book are you currently reading?

I’m re-reading Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which is just as great as I remembered, and even more weird. She’s wonderful at those adept little touches that just throw you off-guard with a couple of words. That’s true mastery.

 

5)   Who are your favourite authors?

This list tends to change with the seasons, but at the moment I’m very into Robert Aickman, Jeff Vandermeer, Joel Lane, Paul Tremblay, Alison Moore and Robert Holdstock. I’ll always have a soft spot for Iain Banks, too.

6)   How would you describe your work?

Strange fiction, of every flavour.

 

7)   Do you have any advice for new writers?

Read lots, write lots, and try to keep moving forward all the time. There’s a tendency to write something that you’re convinced is great, then sit back and try and place it somewhere. It’s important to send work out for publication, but you should always be working on the next thing – that’s how you improve. Also, don’t listen to too much advice. What worked for someone else might not do it for you.

 

8)   In the future, do you have plans to write a novel ?

I’m actually about 30,000 words into one, but then lockdown got in the way (see earlier notes regarding home schooling, work, etc.) I’ll be going back to it at some point soon, and who knows, I might even finish it. By the time I’ve done the edits, found an agent and sold it to a publisher, you might see it around 2025 sometime. In the meantime, though, I have two new anthologies slated for next year (one fiction, one non-fiction), so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy.

 


Friday, 13 November 2020

Only The Broken Remain by Dan Coxon

 


I could see into the room well enough, but there was nothing there. No furniture, no ornaments. A rusted sink streaked with black and grey. An empty light fitting. Nothing more than a thick layer of dust on tired linoleum, forming a furred carpet that stretched undisturbed into the empty room beyond… There was no neighbour. It occurred to me for the first time that I might be going mad.

A young man joins a circus where the mysterious ringmaster is more interested in watching him fail. An immigrant worker forms an unlikely alliance with his housing estate’s foxes. A fraudulent accountant goes on the run, but loses herself in the dry heat of Australia.

This debut collection from Dan Coxon unearths the no man’s land between dreams and nightmares, a place where the strange is constantly threatening to seep through into our everyday reality. Populated by the lost and the downtrodden, the forgotten and the estranged, these stories follow in the tradition of Thomas Ligotti, Robert Aickman and Joel Lane. Because when the dust has settled and the blood has been washed away, Only the Broken Remain.

“Dan Coxon’s subtle, delightfully dark tales creep up on you from the shadows, then refuse to let you go. I devoured these stories about crises of identity and reality being undermined after glimpsing something inexplicable from the corner of your eye.”
—Tim Major, author of Snakeskins and Hope Island

“Coxon writes stories filled with surreal, precise menace. Only the Broken Remain gripped me throughout.”
—Aliya Whiteley, author of The Beauty and The Loosening Skin


Only The Broken Remain by Dan Coxon features 14 fabulous stories that I guess you could classify as weird horror with a British flavour. However I think Dan Coxon is one of those rare writers that are hard to pin down and define.  The award winning author has been published in many prestigious magazines such as Black Static, Nightscript, Not one of Us, Unsung Stories and many others. He's also the editor of the critically acclaimed Tales From The Shadow Booth anthologies as well as This Dreaming Isle.

This collection, which I immensely enjoyed, features a motley crue of down and outs, people who once lived like us but had something about them irreparably broken. Yet they are still unwilling to give up, choosing instead to forge a survival when and where they can find it. 

Most of these stories start off sounding normal and mundane but when you look closer you realise there is something not quite right. All these stories united by a thread of cold anxious dread seeping in through the pages. Darkness is always underfoot and there's no telling how it will strike. It's a quiet sort of horror that creeps in slowly from the edges of normalcy but once it has you it is final. 

These stories exert a powerful realness, that they could happen to anyone, they warn that any one of us could slip through the cracks of society and find themselves lost and alone.

I loved the attention to details in these stories, Dan Coxon paints a really vivid picture full of atmosphere but keeps the pace moving quickly. 

I really enjoyed all these tales but my stand out favourites were;

Stannislav in Foxtown

Previously published in one of my all time favourite magazines; Black Static. This tale features a disenchanted immigrant, Stannislav moving to the UK for want of a better life but ends up working in a chicken shop.  Mistreated each day by his boss Mr Sharples, starving and abused he forms an unlikely friendship, and in numbers there is strength. 

Only The Broken Remain

Possibly the darkest tale in this anthology. This was creepy from the first word. Allison the young woman of the tale had been to hell and back and would be on the road to recovery if it weren't for the fact she can't any sleep. Her new neighbours are the source of some strange night-time activities and when she battles with her agoraphobia to go and knock on their door, she realises there is no next door. But where are the noises coming from? 

Baddavine 

Set in an isolated small community somewhere by the sea, this is British folk horror at its best. One day a father and daughter hear a strange whisper when they spend the day at the coast. At first the father thinks it is just childlike imagination but then he starts to hear it too, so does the rest of his small village. Baddavine, the voice rasps over and over again. It drives them mad and one night they all go together to challenge the intruder.

Rut 

Down and out Cedric works at a pub, terrorised by Gary Chiltern and his gang. Each day gets a little harder but he needs this job. Gradually he is pushed away from society and starts to find refuge in the local woods that have a rich history with his family. It's the perfect haven until Chiltern spots him going there alone one night...

All the Letters in His Van

A couple embark on a walking holiday with the intent to relax and get a break from their crumbling attempt to start a family of their own. They end up up getting lost but thankfully find a quaint little village to rest in. 


Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Double Barrel Horror Vol. 3 edited by Matthew Weber

Brace yourself for another two-barrel blast of unrelenting horror and suspense. Volume 3 of the 'Double Barrel Horror' anthology series delivers two chilling tales from each of six talented authors for a 12-story onslaught that will blow you out of your sneakers. This time around, your fate lies in the hands of Christine Morgan, Mark Matthews, Theresa Braun, Calvin Demmer, Glenn Rolfe, and Robert Essig.

This is quite a unique horror anthology, it features six super talented authors who each contribute two tales of darkness rather than one. I really liked this concept as I felt you got to see more of the author. This technique could have failed badly if they could only produce one great tale and one not so great but each tale was fantastic. There wasn't one story that I didn't like which is rare for me. 

The first author featured is Christine Morgan with her two tales; Eye See You and Sharp Obsidian. Eye See You is a thrilling tale that descends into madness. A young girl develops an unusual phobia after a trip to Disney Land with her grandparents. What I really liked about this tale was that after a while you too will share in her phobia! A great start to an epic collection.

Sharp Obsidian Christine Morgan's second tale is wildly different. It is a dark fantasy tale inspired by Lovecraft of two siblings being hunted in a dark land full of horrors. Very otherworldly, very cool!

Next up is Robert Essig I really loved his two tales. The first was From Unclean Spells, the tale is about a man trying to get into the record books with the loudest burp ever recorded. From this point I was hooked I've never read anything quite like it. This tale was gory gross and just all out WTF Dude combined into an amazing ride. I get the feeling that this tale was just as fun to write as it was to read.  His second tale Fuel for the King of Death went down a really creepy route. A man heartbroken form his disastrous relationship decides to visit a museum he loved as a youngster. Of course being a horror tale, it is no ordinary museum and now he is to play a vital part in its upkeep. 

Wicked Smart Carnie by Mark Matthews was a really neat tale with extra grit. A man had something taken from him when he visited a fun fair in his youth. Now he has come back to take back what is his. Whilst I really liked Wicked Smart Carnie I absolutely loved Goodwin my god this was so dark and powerful. I don't want to say too much about it and ruin its impact when you read it but it was absolutely amazing. 

Next up is Theresa Braun a writer with great talent! Her first tale Stillborn is about a young nurse trying to make headway in her career. She is given a considerable advantage when the highly respected Dr Reynolds picks her out to be his protege. However there is something weird going on in her hospital her suspicions fully ignited by a strange woman claiming her babies had been stolen. This was a great mystery tale that has a really terrific ending.

Homecoming her second tale blends Scottish Horror with romance. What I really liked about Theresa's tale were that they were quirky and dark.  A young man is in heaven when he meets the lovely of his life, Melanie. She's so perfect that he decides he will propose during their idyllic holiday in Scotland will he get the outcome he wants?  

Highway Hunger by Calvin Demmer was a really fast paced action tale with a splattering of horror. Dudley starts a new job, removing road kill from a long stretch of highway. It's a fairly easy going job yet it comes with rules that cannot be broken under any circumstances. I really loved this tale from beginning to end.

Motel Madness really blew me away. This is a horror tale that never lets you go. This one genuinely scared me! It's a classic nightmare situation of waking up somewhere you did not expect to find yourself and also having no idea how the mishap unfolded. A brilliant tale of human corruption and the will to survive no matter the odds. Epic!

Glenn Rolfe is the last author to be featured with his two tales The Guide and The House on Mayflower Street both of which I really enjoyed. The Guide managing to be both poignant as well as creepy and after reading Motel Madness I needed it! However his second tale The House on Mayflower Street had no tender moments and was pure horror. I really loved this tale. I just can't resist a haunted house!

The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories

52303606. sx318 sy475



I finally got round to reading this one and I'm so glad I did, this is a superb collection of 18 diverse horror tales. I liked every one of these and there were a few that I thought were really outstanding.

What I liked about this collection were that the stories all stood out, each one's an individual. There's a huge range of horror from straight up splatter punk to folk horror and deep psychological all united by a dark thread. There's something in here for everyone. I really enjoyed this collection and actually felt a bit sad when I realised I had gotten to the end!


Can't wait for the next instalment!


Suds and Monsters by Christopher Stanley 

Beware the wrath of an evil step-mother. This tale will leave you terrified of everything, including the kitchen sink. A great story to start off this amazing collection of horror tales.


The Debt  by John Haas

When Gary Jones wakes up he doesn't know where he is. He has no recollection of the night before. He fears his weakness for alcohol has lead him to a dark place. Gary has a debt and now its time to pay it back.

I don't want to say too much about this tale and spoil it but I will say this was one of my favourites of the collection. A really powerful tale, it deals with some really dark grim subject matter but yet the ending is satisfying.

Old Gods by Sue Bentley 

This tales reminds me of Indiana Jones except the expedition has gone very wrong. Two treasure hunters decide to loot the bounty of ancient gods whom have been long forgotten. Problem is, they have little understanding of the ancient tribe's customs and rites.

Curious if Anything by C.C.Adams 

One day a ghost turns up in a man's bathtub, he's not scared just curios if anything. He spends the next few days trying to figure out who the ghost was and what it wants with him. I loved this tale from beginning to end. Creepy and unsettling the ending is as brutal as an executioner's axe.

Cancer the Crab by Lewis Williams

Nature fights back when a fisherman takes too much, doesn't he know the sea can be a very cruel mistress when vexed?

Worse Things by Molly Thymes

A series of gruesome murders displaying the infamous grisly techniques of the bloodthirsty Vikings all centre around one man. A dark tale of what people will do to accumulate power.

Believe and Be Justified by Felix Flynn

A worshipper is about to meet his god blinded by religious fervour. It is the pilgrimage of a lifetime. He will do anything it takes to prove himself before the eyes of the almighty.

The Haunting of April Heights

I really liked this one, I'm a sucker for haunted house tales. This one is set in 1980's Britain. A young woman after a bad break up moves into April Heights a run down tower block on a council estate plagued with high crime and deprivation, but it offers a great view of the city and her best mate Sooz lives just next down. Even after warnings about the previous occupants she's eager to move in. She loves her new flat but her dog isn't so keen. 

Angel by Jo Gilmour

Daddy and daughter are united in their fight against the curse of sinners wreaking havoc upon Earth. Daddy calls her his "Little Angel" and she will fight for him until the very end. A really powerful tale.


Murder-abilia by Adam Meyer 

Another one of my favourites. A collector becomes enthralled with a set of grisly murders in his local area, before he knows it he's in too deep after a lucrative opportunity from a local detective. 

The First Circle by Sue Eaton 

I loved this strange little story. I could really relate to the ever growing problem of what to buy your other half for their birthday. The longer you're together the harder it gets, you have to think more creatively which is exactly what happens in this tale. This wife makes a bad decision when she buys a very strange object for her husband.

The Barber by P. Sessler

This tale starts out innocent when a barber takes on an apprentice for his expanding business but descends into gore and macabre desire for the ultimate customer satisfaction. 

Luna Too by Jess Doyle 

A brilliant folk horror tale. Luna goes on holiday with her parents to a remote cottage named Ty Dewlin. The caretaker explains in means Warlock House named after the War Lock who once built and lived in the cottage hundreds of years ago. It is a cottage with some strange superstitions.

Roxy by Victoria Faust

A farm girl forms an attachment to one of her animals but all too soon it is time to say goodbye. Let me tell you this, it's no ordinary farm! A deeply unsettling tale. I loved it!

A Little Death by Ryan Harville

A man's life is thrown into chaos by the untimely death of his beloved wife. He cannot cope without her and soon becomes lost in his own world. Can anyone save him? 

Gamer by Richard A.Shury 

A dark tale of obsession and murder, what really goes on in your kid's bedroom? Remember computer games aren't always just games, sometimes they're gateways.

Cecily by Colette Bennett

Forgotten by his mother during childhood a man grows so lonely he will turn to anyone for love and affection. His virtual assistant Cecily is there for him in ways he can't imagine.

Lily's Kids by Florence Ann Marlowe

This was my absolute favourite from this amazing collection. Jimmy and his younger sister Katie go off exploring in their local neighbourhood when they come across an abandoned barn perfect for a secret den. When they get closer they realise it's not as empty as they first thought. Inside are three strange children that make the twins from The Shinning look cuddly and cute. 

Scythe by Jeremy Megargee

A slow building tale of terror made all the more terrifying when you realise what the shadow is! 





Green Fingers by Dan Coxon




"A series of micro-collections featuring a selection of peculiar tales from the best in horror and speculative fiction.

From Black Shuck Books and Dan Coxon comes Green Fingers, the nineteenth in the Black Shuck SHADOWS series."


This short story collection immediately intrigued me by the cover! I love it! Also the name of the publishers- Black Shuck Books. For many years I have been drawn to British folklore and when you twin it with horror you have a winning combination such as Green Fingers by Dan Coxon.

Dan Coxon is also the editor of Enter The ShadowBooth, many of the tales included in here made their way into Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year volume 11. So far there have been four volumes and if you like creepy horror you must check them out. He is also the editor of This Dreaming Isle and has had many of his own stories published in magazines such as Black Static, Unsung Stories, Hinnom and Neon Literary Magazine to name but a few.

Since reading Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See by Kev Harrison, The Forest is Hungry by Christopher Stanley, and The Reddening by Adam Nevill, I was desperate for more stellar folk horror. Luckily for me Green Gingers was at hand.

There are seven short stories in this collection which all work really well together. I really liked all these stories but Green Fingers and The Pale Men were my favourites.

This is the sort of horror that draws you in playing you with a false sense of security until suddenly it strikes. Deeply atmospheric these tales are events that feel like they could happen to anyone, no one is safe within these pages. This collection is superbly written because it feels so real, Dan Coxon takes the strange and makes it seem probable.


Invasive Species

A married couple caught in the doldrums of marriage move to The Peninsula home of many wonderful exotic plants such as Swamp Lantern, Stink Currant and Monkey Flower to name a few. Whilst her husband is at work the wife beast back her loneliness by getting acquainted with her new garden. 

Out of the blue a plant is sent to her as a gift. There is no card, no way of telling who sent it and what the plant is but in no time at all the wife carefully finds it a permanent home in her garden.


By Black Snow She Wept 

In 1822 something happened up in those mountains, something that has haunted Mary Hopkiss for almost 20 years and now it is time for her to tell her side of the story...

Silas and Mary have recently emigrated arriving in the USA, travelling across treacherous landscape, they dream of finding their fortunes to build a new life together. Conditions are hard but they have each other on their arduous journey, except they are not entirely alone.

The Pale Men

Leonard's son returns home after a long absence to bury his recently deceased father. They've had a troubled and often fraught relationship. Coming back after all these years reminds him of all the dark days of his childhood he was forced to endure and what drove him to flee.

But then being in his Dad's old haunts his late father's mysterious begin to draw him in holding him close.

Out of the collection this was my favourite! Fans of the British horror magazine Black Static will love it too.

We Live in Dirt

Once a proud and successful man, Miles couldn't help but eventually succomb to old age. He wants to live out his final years in peace  but a strange memento mori from his past resurfaces and threatens to ruin him and his legacy. Despite being in his sunset years he can't afford for the events of 25 years ago to resurface. He can't let the truth escape.

Green Fingers 

Another of my faves! A mysterious tale centred around an impossibly old tree. I've always been fascinated by these gentle giants who silently stand among us century after century. Who knows what they have witnessed in their long lives, what they have overheard, what they know and just how they stay alive so long?

We follow the tale of a young freelancer mostly working from, following a lifestyle of social distancing before Coronavirus. She only really ventures out in the local forest to walk her beloved dog, Oscar, who one fateful day discovers a remote part of the woods best left undisturbed. This was a super fun read! 

Among Pines

Although he's been told over and over again not to worry about the screaming outside their log cabin he can't escape from its urgency. 

Four friends escape New York City for a couple of days to recharge after their hectic lives have worn them out. They travel out into the wilderness to stay in Janie's Uncle's log cabin. He doesn't stay there anymore, not after the incident...


Monday, 21 September 2020

Unbecoming Me, & Other Interruptions by Christopher Stanley

 


A chilling new short story collection from the author of The Forest is Hungry and The Lamppost Huggers and Other Wretched Tales.

In 'Devil's Reach', a frantic father boards a ferry, hoping to save his daughter and escape his wife. But nothing is as it seems as the ferry sails into darkness, and there are forces at work he won’t begin to understand until it’s too late.

In 'Hell's Teeth', a young girl enlists the help of supernatural forces to exact revenge on the school bully, only to find she can’t live with guilt.

And in the final story, 'Unbecoming Me', a young man’s desperate search for love takes an unexpected turn after he’s rejected by the woman of his dreams.

Dark, sinister and unforgiving – Unbecoming Me & Other Interruptions will make you want to sleep with the lights on.

Demain Publishing is back and I couldn't be happier! I've just finished reading Curfew by Kev Harrison and now Unbecoming Me, & Other Interruptions by another greatly talented author, Christopher Stanley. Recently I read The Lamppost Huggers, his debut flash collection and absolutely loved it.




His first offering with Demain Publishing was a novelette, The Forest Is Hungry, which I loved, British horror at it's best. So I had really high expectations for this mini collection of three short stories - Devil's Reach, Hell's Teeth and Unbecoming Me. 



The first tale, and also my favourite is Devil's Reach. This is a mad creepy tale of a husband trying to escape from his controlling wife with their nine month old baby. He's made it to the ferry but can he start a fresh once he lands on the other side? I loved this tale, it was fantastic from beginning to end. It's a really gripping story that hooks you in.

Hell's Teeth is the darkest story I've read in a long time. I really loved Daisy, this poor little girl who has a miserable time at school. She's an easy target for the school bully but finds a way to get this monster off her back. But of course there's no happy ending  for anyone involved here.

Unbecoming me, tells the story of two twins navigating their way through life, except one died at birth. I really liked the strangeness of this tale when one twin has a life changing moment of falling in love with the wrong person.

All in all, a great collection. I can't wait to read more in the series!




Curfew by Kev Harrison

 



When Jamie takes his girlfriend for a summer anniversary getaway by the sea, he thinks only the great British weather can ruin his plans. But he hasn’t accounted for Mrs Heinz, the bizarre proprietor of The Sailor’s Rest, and her obsessive fixation on midnight and curfew...


I'm so excited that Demain Publishing is back with another onslaught of horror! Seriously this series is really addictive! 

Over the years I've read a lot of Kev Harrison's work. They're all great fun and of course very dark. I loved his previous tale in the series - Cinders of a Bind Man Who Could See. This was an excellent serving of folk horror set in a small community in Northern England.



The last tale I read by Kev was his folk horror novella,  The Balance, which I absolutely loved. It's a great reinterpretation of the legendary Baba Yaga folk tale with a modern twist. It's gone on to receive great praise and now's he's back with Curfew.


Curfew is about a fun romantic weekend going very wrong! Jamie takes his girlfriend down to Bournemouth for a fun weekend by the sea. They've been dating for two years and he wants to show her how much she means to him.

Their bed and breakfast is perfect, it's delightfully quaint and old fashioned, clean and well kept. The prefect setting for a romantic weekend except for the proprietor - Mrs Heinz. She expects all her paying guests to be in their rooms by midnight - no exceptions!

Once midnight hits there's a change in the guesthouse located out of town. Jamie grows curious he doesn't like being dictated to by a sour old woman sitting by the fire waiting for something.

This is a quick read, perfect for when you're between books. The tale starts quickly and is great fun throughout. The characters do feel like a real couple who only want to have fun before their daily grind resumes on Monday.

I loved the ending too, but obviously can't say much about that without giving out spoilers!




Thursday, 20 August 2020

Boneset and Feathers by Gwendolyn Kiste





You don't know their fire is coming until it's too late. That's exactly the way the witchfinders like it. As an isolated enchantress, Odette knows this too well--she lost nearly her whole family to the last round of executions, barely escaping with her own life. All the magic she could conjure wasn't enough to protect her mother and sister, a burden that leaves a despondent Odette practically wishing she'd burned with the rest.

Now it's five years later, and as the last witch left from her village, Odette has exiled herself to the nearby woods where she's sworn off all magic, hoping instead for quiet and for safety. But no witch has ever been permitted a peaceful life.

It starts with crows tumbling out of the clouds and spectral voices on the wind that won't leave her alone. Then there are those midnight visits to the graveyard that she can't quite remember in the morning and the strange children following her everywhere she goes. Odette wants to forget magic, but her magic doesn't want to forget her. Meanwhile, the former friends she left behind in the village are cowering together, hiding from the ghostly birds they believe she's sent to torment them for abandoning her. But that's only the beginning of their problems, as Odette soon discovers their worst nightmare is about to come true--the witchfinders are returning. And this time, the decree is clear: to burn the witch that got away.

With the men drawing nearer to the village, Odette must face the whispers from the dead and confront her fear of her own growing power if she wants any chance of stopping the army of witchfinders determined to rid the countryside of magic once and for all.






This is the second novel from Gwendolyn Kiste and I'm beyond excited to have been given the opportunity to read it before it's officially released on 3rd November 2020. Such an honour!

For most of you, Gwendolyn Kiste doesn't need an introduction. She is a Bram Stoker Award winning author of dark fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Nightmare, Black Static, Shimmer, Lamplight, and Three Lobed Magazine plus many others. Her first novella Pretty Marys All in a Row received critical acclaim upon release in 2017. As did her first novel, The Rust Maidens from Trepidatio Publishing in 2018.




And now we have Boneset and Feathers to devour which will be released in November 2020 from Broken Eye Books. A gorgeous book featuring magic, witches, ghosts and revenge turned sour.

I don't want to give out spoilers but it's spectacular! Gwendolyn Kiste takes the magical and makes it real, makes beautiful the macabre. I really loved this book, I've read it twice already!

I think one of the many reasons why Gwendolyn's stories resonate so deeply with her readers are that her characters are almost always outsiders, forgotten and bereft. Everyone's felt like that at some point in their lives.Rejected from the world, forced through their circumstances to forge a survival locked in a world of loneliness and despair. 

In her tales these outsiders learn to adapt embarking on a monumental transformation, sometimes they rise up to claim back their lives becoming stronger than their foe or falling into deeper depths of despair that have no escape.

What I also love about her writing is that it always so emotionally raw. As a reader you feel so connected to her characters like they have been your friend and confidante since childhood. In Boneset and Feathers I immediately felt a connection to our heroine Odette.

Boneset and Feathers is the tale of a young woman who against all odds and logic outwitted the witchfinders when they came to her village and set it ablaze. She pays a heavy price for her survival, everyone she once loved are dead and sometimes she wishes she could join them in the grave.

Five years on and she's living alone in the woods, she should be surrounded by love and laughter, friends and family. Instead she's an outcast from the only village she's stepped foot in, and now she's forced to live in a haunted woods where travellers and locals fear to tread. Why? Because she is a witch living in a world that barely tolerates women.

Trouble starts once again when birds, which have been absent for the last five years, begin drop dead out of the sky. Along with everything else she fears she will be blamed for this. Such an unnatural event is going to bring attention once more from the city ruled by men to this small village.

Odette just wants a quiet life living in her cottage handed down by generations of witches. Unlike so many of her kind she just wants to die alone in peace, without flames and torment, but trouble seeks her out. Magic is calling out to her, begging for Odette to take charge and finish the spell that was started five years ago.

Unlike the other witches reduced to ash, their names forgotten, Odette has garnered fame and loathing. Even those who were once her friends think her a monster. She is the only witch that would not burn. 

I ended up racing through this book as once the pace picks up it keeps going in an exhilarating journey with lots of twists and turns. 

Odette may have been left physically weak, starved of food and warmth but inside she possesses a spirit stronger than she realises until she is pushed to her breaking point.

P.S.

If you love witchy stories you'll also love Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter and the marvellous anthology Hex Life edited by Christopher Golden and Rachel Autumn Deering




Friday, 31 July 2020

Snake Charmer Blues by Keith Anthony Baird







I'm not your average, everyday American. By the time you've finished listening to what I have to say you're going to get that. Sure, I do average, everyday things, but only to go unnoticed while I'm planning and doing the things that aren't. Y'see, I've killed people - for good reasons though. I mean, it'd be plain wrong to just murder someone who didn't deserve it - I'm not a psychopath y'know.

In fact, I fit right in really. If you looked at me, you wouldn't think for a minute I'd bashed in the head of a frail old lady, watched people die in the house fire I lit, or made sure a jumped-up motorhead got crushed to death in the tin can on wheels I 'fixed'.

There are others too, but you'll have buy this little look inside my head to find out the rest of it. Don't want to? Really? Let me just make a note of that ...



Our unnamed character's life changes forever when a carnival comes to their town, bringing the magical and mysterious snake charmers. Upon seeing these magicians up close they become ignited with purpose; to charm the snakes of the world and make it a better place.

Turns out our character doesn't need to look hard to find snakes. Soon they're popping up everywhere and there's no one better to "charm" them than our protagonist who exudes both charm and evil!

This tale soon descend into utter darkness as we follow our crusader on their journey to make the world a better place. Once they have started their quest the know they can never finish.

I had great fun reading this tale, I had no idea of where it was going to lead the plot is as agile as snake on the prowl, it takes you on a action packed fast paced adventure right up to the terrifying conclusion!


Sunday, 19 July 2020

Lyrics and Curses by Candace Robinson




Stranger Things meets Pretty in Pink:

Lark Espinoza could get lost in her music—and she’s not so sure anyone in her family would even care to find her. Her trendy, party-loving twin sister and her mother-come-lately Beth, who’s suddenly sworn off men and onto homemaking, don’t understand her love of cassette tapes, her loathing of the pop scene, or her standoffish personality. For outcast Lark, nothing feels as much like a real home as working at Bubble’s Oddities store and trying to attract the attention of the cute guy who works at the Vinyl shop next door—the same one she traded lyrical notes with in class.

Auden Ellis silences the incessant questions in his own head with a steady stream of beats. Despite the unconditional love of his aunt-turned-mother, he can’t quit thinking about the loss of his parents—or the possibility he might end up afflicted with his father’s issues. Despite his connection with lyric-loving Lark, Auden keeps her at arm’s length because letting her in might mean giving her a peek into something dangerous.

When two strangers arrive in town, one carrying a mysterious, dark object and the other playing an eerie flute tune, Lark and Auden find that their painful pasts have enmeshed them in a cursed future. Now, they must come to terms with their budding attraction while helping each other challenge the reflection they see in the mirror. If they fail, they’ll be trapped for eternity in a place beyond reality.

Wow! I had great fun reading this paranormal romance set in 1980's America! It's classed as Young Adult fiction but great fun for all ages!

I loved the two characters of Lark and Auden to misfits who fit together perfectly united by the love of music and lyrics. Their relationship is so uncannily accurate for two very socially awkward 17 year olds in love with each other. As well as navigating their love lives they also have to deal with being cursed and ending up trapped in the Mirror Realm.

I loved the edgy feel of this book. Romance isn't really my thing but I loved this tale and the story gets really dark in places. Candace Robinson has a great imagination and so the plots moves in some really unexpected ways. I'd say this was a slow burner to start with but the two main characters are just so endearing that I really enjoyed getting to know them in the relative calm before the storm.

Diabolica Britannica




It's a great honour to announce that my latest short story is appearing in this. I'm wildly excited by this one, as you can see there's some amazing horror writers featured in here!

Diabolica Britannica is out now via Amazon and all profits will be going to the wonderful NHS!