Blog Tour & Book Review: It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan.

Blog Tour & Book Review: It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan.

I am so excited to be a part of the blog tour for It Will Just be Us by Jo Kaplan, a dark, gothic horror book full of ghosts and ghouls. Thank you to Crooked Lane press for inviting me to be a part of the tour and sending me the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Now before we get into what I think about this bad boy, let’s check out that all important blurb to see what it’s all about: They say there’s a door in Wakefield that never opens… Sam Wakefield’s ancestral home, a decaying mansion built on the edge of a swamp, isn’t a place for children. Its labyrinthine halls, built by her mad ancestors, are filled with echoes of the past: ghosts and memories knotted together as one. In the presence of phantoms, it’s all Sam can do to disentangle past from present in her daily life. But when her pregnant sister Elizabeth moves in after a fight with her husband, something in the house shifts. Already navigating her tumultuous relationship with Elizabeth, Sam is even more unsettled by the appearance of a new ghost: a faceless boy who commits disturbing acts–threatening animals, terrorizing other children, and following Sam into the depths of the house wielding a knife. When it becomes clear the boy is connected to a locked, forgotten room, one which is never entered, Sam realizes this ghost is not like the others. This boy brings doom… As Elizabeth’s due date approaches, Sam must unravel the mysteries of Wakefield before her sister brings new life into a house marked by death. But as the faceless boy grows stronger, Sam will learn that some doors should stay closed–and some secrets are safer locked away forever.

Kaplan’s novel in many ways is a classic style Gothic novel and the influence of like Shirley Jackson is evident throughout. We have a haunted house full of ghosts, a family tragedy plagued by secrets and a history of violence and heartache, a mysterious locked door for a room no one can enter and a malevolent presence that threatens all who inhabit the crumbling expanse of Wakefield. On paper it ticks all the standard boxes for a gothic horror in all the right ways. But what I loved most about this book was the way it used these classic tropes and settings to explore the darkest parts of ourselves for the ghosts that haunt Wakefield are not actual spirits or souls trapped there, but are in fact echos, a simple replaying of past events, good or bad.

Through the death of the protagonists father, we explore mental illness and suicide and the effect of that loss on the remaining family members. The mother of the family finds herself not just haunted with the knowledge of her husband’s death, she does not just picture it in her mind as many haunted by such a tragedy would, she is instead able to relive it over and over again, watching her husband’s death replayed on an infinite time loop, unable to stop him or ask why as a memory is just that and nothing more.

This family are literally watching history repeat itself over and over, the good moments and the bad, from every generation of people who have stepped foot inside the mysterious house they inhabit. And this family history is a particularly black and bloody one to boot. Through these visual images of the past, the reader explores the fact that our pasts and even the pasts of those who came before us, can have a very real impact on our present and in turn our future. The protagonist is an archaeologist. She understands better than anyone the importance of these artefacts, these moments long gone. She attempts to catalogue and record them, for if we cannot understand the past in all of its raw horror, then how can we possibly learn from it? How can we grow from it? How can we avoid the mistakes of those who came before us? During a point in time when our history and the visual representations of that history such as statues and memorials, are becoming more important and meaningful to the current generation, it is very much a book which spoke to me.

Through these same ghosts and the darkness which causes them, the book also explores the concept of fate and destiny. If we are told our future, does that event then occur because it was always meant to be so? Or did it occur simply because we were told it would, drawing us towards that inevitability like a moth to a flame? Would that event have occurred if we had never been given that knowledge in the first place. The ideas of fate and causailty are things which have always fascinated me and I particularly enjoyed the way this book explores them. If history is in fact predetermined then fighting it is useless, we will end how we we end. But if it is not yet set in stone, if the face of our future is blurred and not yet fully formed like the faceless boy who haunts and threatens Sam and her family, is there hope then that this can be changed? It’s a fascinating idea and when combined with the classic horror elements like the haunted house and the ghosts, it only serves to amplify the complexity and the very high and real stakes of attempting to change or bend destiny to our will.

I found myself engrossed from the first page and the book remained engaging throughout. The characters are real, believable, relatable and most importantly as flawed and broken as the house they share. The story is interesting and gripping and it’s full of moments and quotes which cause the reader to pause and ponder on topics beyond the scope of the book itself. My only criticisms would be on the last few chapters of the book when Sam makes some truly questionable decisions. Yes, the reader is aware of why she may make such choices, but it felt very much like those moments watching the female victim of a slasher film run up the stairs instead of out the front door. “No,” we hear ourselves cry, “Not that way!” But alas, we are watching these images play out as they will, unable to interfere or effect them just as Sam and her family have watched the echos of the house they live in so many times over their lives. Whilst this did irk me somewhat, it wasn’t a big enough issue to dampen or reduce my enthusiasm and love for the book as a whole and if anything it merely added to the earlier discussed debates about fate and causality.

I could go on and on about the elements of this book which I loved, these aforementioned topics being at the forefront alongside the style and setting of the book itself, but I would rather let the reader discover these things on their own. I wholeheartedly recommend it to any fans of classic horror and I am keen to read more from the author. Overall it’s a 4.5 out of 5 for me and an excellent read all around. Thank you again to Crooked Press for giving me the opportunity to read this fantastic book and to Jo Kaplan for writing it.

Interview with Indie Horror Publisher Eerie River Publishing.

Interview with Indie Horror Publisher Eerie River Publishing.

Hello readers, I hope you are keeping well in these strange times. For today’s blog post, I had the pleasure of chatting with the minds behind Eerie River Publishing house, an independent publishing house dedicated to bringing readers the best in horror and dark fantasy. Based out of Ontario, Canada, they offer a range of services such as editing and formatting, as well as publishing works and creating awesome anthologies. It was the latter that introduced me to this gem of a company. When the owner Michelle reached out to offer me a copy of their anthology “It Calls From the Forest”, a collection of works dedicated to the horrors which lurk in the woods, I jumped at the chance and immediately fell in love with the book. So much so, I have actually submitted a piece for the next anthology in the collection, this time centring around terrors from the sky with the third and final instalment focusing on the sea (I may also be writing one for that too, I am determined to end up in one of these anthologies!). As well as providing me with a copy of the book, Michelle also agreed to be interviewed, so get comfy and happy reading.

1) For those out there unfamiliar with Eerie River, what is it? 

Eerie River Publishing is a brand new, independent publishing house located in Southern Ontario, Canada. 

We are devoted to offering indie authors, regardless of experience level, the opportunity to publish their words in a paying market. We are still in our infancy, so our pay scale is not at that professional level yet, but as we continue to grow so will our payments. 

2) Tell us about the main members of the team? 

The team is rather small, but we are committed to a level of excellence in professionalism and openness. 

I, Michelle River, am the owner and project manager for Eerie River Publishing. I am a full-time mom by day, and an entrepreneur by night. For those that see our website, Twitter or Facebook I am the person behind the screen on my phone, the one answering questions and posting GIFs between playtimes and snacks. I also do the book formatting, promotional graphics and videos, all that fun stuff. 

I also have the monumentous pleasure of reading and responding to every single short story that is sent in for consideration 

Next in line is the wonderful Alanna Roberston-Webb. An indie author in her own right, I was lucky enough to secure and contract her to edit all of the anthologies for our “It Calls From” series, as well as our dark fantasy novellette call out. She has worked on a few anthologies for other indie publishing houses as well, and is one of the few people that I know of who is always there to help a fellow writer out: Be it to offer to beta read, talk plot, or grapple with word choice, Alanna will have your back. She also has the pleasure of going through the second round submissions and helping select the final stories for the books, as well as assisting with providing author feedback. 

I am also very lucky to have a sister that loves to read! Elizabeth has volunteered countless hours reading through stories that have made it through to second rounds, or for our monthly contest submissions. She provides valuable feedback, and will also be reading through the dark fantasy novel submissions coming through. Thankfully dark fantasy is her ultimate drug, so she is very excited about this new task. 

These lovely ladies aside, the most important members of our team are those that probably don’t even realize they are on it. We are honoured to have a group of wonderful authors and friends that have rallied behind Eerie River since day one, and they continuously help us by promoting, submitting their stories, cheering us on and offering insight where they can. They are very much appreciated! I know that without their continued support, their wonderful stories and their voices, Eerie River wouldn’t exist. I am forever blown away by the wonderful group that surrounds us, and I don’t know how we got so lucky to find them. 

3) What motivated you to start Eerie River? 

That is weirdly a tricky question. I guess there was a catalyst of things that happened that really pushed me to make the decision but these are the two main reasons. 

The first one happened last year in August. I wanted to put together a series of “alien” stories that coincided with the Area 51 Raid. I got in touch with fellow NoSleep and indie authors and over the next month we ended up making it a book and putting it on Amazon. I really enjoyed the process and weirdly enough the stress of it all. I had a 1.5 year old at the time, so I don’t know what I was thinking. 

However, probably the main reason was quality. As an indie author myself, and after being in a few anthologies, I realized that I wanted to offer authors a more professional platform for submission. I wanted to put something out in the world that authors could be proud enough of to show off to their friends and family, or even places like local libraries and bookstores. I knew that I had the technical skills to format books, and I believed that if we did it right we could put out quality writing that showcased the brilliant works of indie authors. And, if I do say so myself, I think we’ve done it! 

4) What is it about horror that draws you to that particular genre? 

There are so many aspects of horror that make me go back again and again. 

I really enjoy being scared. Not “I am going to actually die scared”, but I love the rush, that euphoric sense of relief after a terrifying scene. It’s addictive. 

I have no doubt that it stems from my childhood. With the exception of my dad, who hates horror, my whole family is obsessed with horror and the supernatural world. We love to be scared. We would sit in our dark basement, TV on max volume, and watch horror movie after horror movie. Someone would always try to scare someone else right before a jump scene, which never failed to make my mom scream and swear. It was great. 

5) Out of editing, writing, publishing and creating anthologies, which process is harder and why? 

Right now I find writing harder than it should be, but that is just because I have no time. I get an idea, but with everything else going on, in the world, and in my publishing life, I just can’t devote time to sit down and write. 

However, the most time consuming and difficult part of publishing is not getting the book together, that is easy when you have so many great stories to choose from, but telling people 

that you have a book. Marketing is hard. There were over one million books published on Amazon alone last year, meaning that the market is flooded with new voices. This is wonderful, but how do you get your voice heard among such a flood of books? To do that you need a social media presence. You need people to talk about you, you need to keep ads running, promotions going on and so much more. That by far is the most difficult part, especially in the economic climate we are in right now. 

6) Where do you come up with the anthology theme ideas? 

This last set was really me just getting excited about anthologies, and bouncing ideas off of people like Alanna. I had a few ideas I was working through, but I knew I wanted them to be connected some how. I am not sure how I got “It Calls From”, but I am glad I did. It is perfect for the first collection. 

7) What horror books and authors (apart from your own) would you recommend for those wanting to look into horror? 

That is a hard one because there are so many great horror books out there. If someone is just delving into the genre I would probably suggest an oldie, but a goodie: It’s the collection of short story horror by Clive Barker called “Books of Blood”. They are just long enough to peak your interest, but because they are short stories you can pick it up and put it down whenever you feel the urge. 

8) If people want to submit to yourselves, how do they do so and what are you looking for? 

Depending on the call out we are typically looking for horror or dark fantasy. 

You can view all of our open and upcoming anthology open calls on our website at https://www.eerieriverpublishing.com/open-submission 

We have also just opened up a window for authors looking to query their novel or novella series in the dark fantasy genre. This window is open from June 15 – July 31, so if you have something ready to go that fits what we are looking for then feel free to follow the link and send it in. https://www.eerieriverpublishing.com/publishing 

But that isn’t all! We also have a monthly contest for members of our Facebook Author group, which runs from the 1 – 15 of the month and the theme changes every single month. Details are found on the same submission page, under ‘Monthly Themed contest’. You can join the facebook group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/2420571304929806/ 

We want original stories with characters who are relatable and interesting. If the open call is themed, which it normally is, we are looking for stories that adhere to that specific theme but your interpretation and voice. For horror we want to be scared. We want horror that grips, 

shocks, and terrifies you. For dark fantasy we want all of those wonderful fantasy elements that we love, but with a darker underlying theme. 

We know that every indie author may not have the budget for editors, but please have someone beta read and review your work before you submit. We are not looking for professionally edited pieces, but we are looking for polished manuscripts. Give us the best you can, because the competition is fierce. 

I do want to point out our hard passes. We do not want to read or publish rape, detaileld sexual abuse of children or adults, sexual torture, or bestiality of any kind. I understand that these all have a place in horror, but it is not here with us. Kill the cat, kill the dog, murder a whole town and make us watch it. We do not shy away from gore, but those are my hard no’s, especially for our story collections. 

9) Do you have any advice for horror writers out there? Asking for myself as much as anyone else! 

For horror specifically, I think the best stories are ones that are based on the writers fears. So write what scares you. Scared of ghosts or people hiding in your closet? Write it. Let us feel your terror while we delve within the pages of your nightmares. 

The indie author world is an amazing group to be a part of. There are so many people out there ready to cheer you on and lift you up, who will jump in with both feet and give as much as they take. I suggest reading other people’s stories and offer feedback when asked. Don’t be shy to get feedback from other authors on where to improve your own writing as well. Get involved, and make friends! These people are your allies, and while you may not be able to buy everyone books (because, honestly, who can afford that?), you can still share people’s successes and grow with them. 

Don’t stop writing, and don’t get discouraged by rejections – learn from them. If you get personalized feedback read it, then see if you agree. Make the changes that you are comfortable with, then submit it elsewhere. 

As always, happy writing and stay safe out there.

Mother Horror: A Short Story & Collaboration with artist Stefani Rabideaux.

Mother Horror: A Short Story & Collaboration with artist Stefani Rabideaux.

Happy Friday my fellow readers. Whatever your plans are for this weekend, I hope you have fun. To get your weekend started right, today’s blog post is another collaboration, this time with the incredibly talented artist Stefani Rabideaux. Stefani primarily works in gouache and graphite creating stunning pieces which hark back to another era. Her Gothic Girls evoke a sense of magic and intrigue, and every one has its own personality, it’s own history and it’s own story to tell. That’s what immediately drew me to her beautiful work, the fact that each image seemed to take me somewhere else, to transport me to another place in time or another world entirely. As you can imagine, when she agreed to collaborate I was over the moon. For this story, I was truly inspired by those girls, by the darkness and light present in each piece, the hint at something behind their smiles, something knowing, perhaps something dangerous? That is how Mother Horror was born (shout out to the incredible Sadie Hartmann aka Mother Horror on Instagram for inspiring the name. You are the true Mother Horror). If you would like to check out more of Stefani’s work, and why wouldn’t you, you can purchase from her Etsy shop or head to her Instagram for daily inspiration.

Continue reading “Mother Horror: A Short Story & Collaboration with artist Stefani Rabideaux.”

Self Isolation & Quarantine Book List: A List of Cheap & Free Kindle books.

Self Isolation & Quarantine Book List: A List of Cheap & Free Kindle books.

Hello Readers! The world is a pretty scary right now. The World Health Organisation has declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic and as the infection spreads, countries are grinding to a stand still I’m an effort to slow it down and protect those most vulnerable and more and more people everywhere are being forced into quarantine or self isolation to protect themselves and their loved ones. The news is full of nothing else and I know my anxiety is growing daily. With everything that’s going on, I felt so helpless to do anything to alleviate the fear or anxiety even in the smallest way. I’m not a Doctor, or a health care worker, I’m just a blogger…what could I possibly do? Not a lot to be honest, but what I can do is give all of those stuck in quarantine and self isolation some reading material.

Reading is the perfect temporary distraction. It offers escapism at a time when we feel most trapped and it’s a way to maintain some form of normalcy in a crazy situation. I am also conscious that budgets now more than ever will be stretched and that these times will not just be trying psychologically, emotionally and physically but also economically, particularly for those who are self employed. With that in mind I have done two things to try to help in even the tiniest way, the only way I know how.

First of all, I have made my novel Broken Mirrors FREE on Kindle from Wednesday the 18th to Sunday the 21st of March. You can download a copy here: https://amzn.to/35K0H6W

I have also scoured the horror section of the Kindle store, searching for horror books that sound badass and are available for either free or less than £3 (the price of a coffee). I then created a video on my YouTube channel with these books, alongside my own, telling you all about them so you can get a massive reading list in a quick, cheap and easy way. The links for all of the books mentioned is in the video description. I hope you enjoy it and wherever you are, whatever is happening in your life, stay safe!!

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCj6gAjgPxaZ5AGUlj4ALwzw

Interview with the Minds behind The Dark Corner Zine.

Interview with the Minds behind The Dark Corner Zine.

As a lover of all things weird and creepy, I am always excited to find new publications catering for my particular proclivities, so when I discovered Dark Corner Zine I was immediately intrigued. This US based magazine specialises in art and short fiction from the horror and science fiction genres and, well anything weird. With three issues so far and a fourth on the way (more on that later) this zine is still in its infancy but is filled with so much potential. Each edition is an original collection of strange tales and odd art designed to promote the artists and writers, as well as the genre at large. What’s not to like?

When I first found them, I saw they were accepting submissions for Issue 4 so i thought, why the hell not? And through my hat into the ring. When my short story The Monster on the Moor, my take on traditional gothic horror with a twist, was accepted for the issue, I was elated!! As a writer, there is no better feeling than having the validation of your work being accepted for publication and the knowledge that you will be able to reach a new audience.

Cover design by Yogi Howse

So now, this magazine is not only me new obsession but it’s also something I now hold in a special place in my heart and I knew I had to help get the word of this awesome publication out there for all my fellow horror lovers and weirdos to discover. I immediately asked the wonderful people behind the zine if they would allow me to interview them and lucky for us, they said yes!

What exactly is Dark Corner Zine?

The Dark Corner Zine is an independently published magazine located in the Southeast United States, though our audience is spread around the world! We publish exclusively independent artists and writers that create works in the genres of Horror, Science Fiction, and Weird Fiction! Simply put, we exist because there is an incredible community of talented writers and artists in these genres that we believe should have their works published and shared with those that love works in these various genres! The zine’s name is sort of an homage to the Twilight Zone and a reference to a local region called the “Dark Corner”. It’s a mountainous region known for, besides moonshiners, old folklore and legends of the supernatural kind. 

What inspired you to create it?

Cover design by Justin Valliere

Honestly it was out of frustration because many of the publishing firms, especially local ones in our area were only interested in publishing historical fiction or material of a nonfiction variety. There was an opportunity for us to put our own creative talents to use on a project that could be an outlet for those skills while gathering and publishing other talent! As writers and creators, ourselves, we understand the importance of having avenues and outlets to present our creative works in!

Who are some of your favourite horror authors which inspired your love of horror?

Oh! That’s such a difficult question to answer.  The first “horror” book I ever read was a collection of old folktales and urban legends called Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark by Alvin Schwartz! Sort of a common work amongst horror aficionados but a required one I’d say. In terms of horror authors that have impacted me as both a creator and writer, I’d have to say William Hjortsberg, Jon Padgett, Fred Chappell, and Thomas Ligotti. Hjortsberg wrote one of the best occult themed detective novels titled Falling Angel. It was made into a 1987 film entitled Angel Heart, but the book has a charm to it along with an ending that is terrifying! Jon Padgett is a rather interesting writer out of New Orleans that writes some of the most foreboding and surreal tales I’ve ever read. Many of his works lean more towards weird fiction, but a few works such as Origami Dreams and The Secret of Ventriloquism linger like a bad dream long after you finish reading them! Fred Chappell’s 1968 release Dagon is a Lovecraft infused Southern Gothic novel that is quite haunting. I can’t go into much detail without ruining it, but I highly recommend it. Ligotti is sort a contemporary master of horror that many of your readers are probably aware of. Any of his collections is worth reading!

If you were creating a reading list for someone new to the genre, what books would you include to whet their appetite (apart from Dark Corner Zine of course)?

Image by Sarah Ann Sweeney

I sort of answered this in the previous question (got ahead of myself), but certainly other books I haven’t mentioned already include Let’s Go Play at the Adams by Mendal Johnson, A Nest of Nightmares by Lisa Tuttle, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (Id argue with anyone that this is as much of a horror novel as it is a “western”), Cipher by Kathe Koja, The Fisherman by John Langan, and finally The Town That Forgot How to Breathe by Kenneth J. Harvey

What are some of your highlights from the Dark Corner issues so far?

Image by Mitch Rogers

Ah! That’s such a tough question. I think each of our team members have their personal favorites. For example, my favorites from issue 2 is between Come See the Twin Bridges Train by A.P. Sessler and The Drift by Cody James. Issue 3 is between The Mirror by Bastian Faulk, and Who You Gonna Call by Jack Darvis. I think every issue has something for everyone though! 

How can people submit to you guys?

We typically do submission periods 3 times a day. Period timeframes vary, but typically its 60-90 days. We’ll launch our next submission period May, 2020! We can be reached by email at thedarkcornerzine@gmail.com

Thanks for checking us out and we hope you enjoy our publication! You can grab your copy of issue four here.

Artist Collaboration and Short Story: Hunting the Veil.

Artist Collaboration and Short Story: Hunting the Veil.

For this artist collaboration, I had the honour of working with the incredible Laurie.A.Conley. Laurie creates the most fabulous pen and ink drawings which contain so much fun and humour that it is is impossible to look at one and not smile. I was instantly drawn to that dark humour, her illustrated Death, scythe in hand being a personal favourite of mine, and I was so pleased when she said she would like to collaborate. For those of you unfamiliar with my collaborations, it works like this: I write a story which is inspired by the artist’s style, their body of work and in turn, they create a piece inspired by that story. It is all about inspiration- inspiring others and being inspired in turn. I wanted to take that dark, sly humour present in her illustrations and create a story which combined my dark, horror filled style of story telling with her more playful style of drawing and Hunting The Veil is the result. You can check out more of Laurie’s amazing work on her Instagram and purchase pieces from her Etsy store. If you are an artist, photographer, makeup artists, basically anything creative and you would like to collaborate, get in touch. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with all my latest posts and for now, happy reading!

Hunting The Veil

Monsters are real. The shadow under your bed, the scratching at the window, things that go bump in the night. They all exist, just outside of our line of vision, just beyond the veil. They only show themselves in order to hunt. In other words, if you see one, it’s too late. I am a scholar of sorts. I study and catalogue them, their names, their habits, their weaknesses. Most people dismiss my work as the insane ramblings of a man suffering from delusions. Others believe my stories to be just that, stories, designed to entertain and enthral. These demons have worked very hard to snuff out any evidence of their existence, to create a fiction surrounding their lives. Because why would people defend themselves against something which doesn’t exist? Easy pickings. But my friend, I am neither crazy nor creative. I am a lone soldier in the battle against darkness, and the details I now provide to you, are my attempt to impart my knowledge. So, listen carefully, it may just save your life.

hunting veil

There is a creature known as the Gorgonaut. I cannot tell you what it looks like, for it has many forms. It has the ability to reach inside your mind and take the shape of your deepest, darkest fears. Your nightmares incarnate. I encountered a child once, seven years old, Mathew was his name. He saw it as a monster in the closet, for that’s what it was. His drawings depicted huge reaching claws, and hollow eyes. I tried to save Mathew, but his family, believing me to be feeding his delusions, prevented my interventions. One day Mathew went into his closet, and he never came back out.

One of the more common demons, is one whose entire life cycle is dedicated to the possession and slow absorption of the elderly. I never asked its name, I just called it The Leech. It was a disgusting little parasite that could only be removed by scrubbing the host in holy water while simultaneously singing the Lord’s prayer in a high pitched, off key tone. Drove the thing to distraction, I can tell you! An hour of that nonsense and it was practically committing suicide, ha!

Another, known only as Razuul, lives in forests or wooded areas. It lures its victims by presenting itself as a wounded animal, a deer or a racoon. Something cute and fluffy you might see featured in a children’s film. It preys on the pity of strangers. Only its eyes give it away. Its red eyes, which almost glow like fire. But, if you are close enough to see those eyes, then I’m afraid it’s too late for you. You’re dessert.

You cannot begin to fathom what lurks out there, in your schools and Dentist offices, at the bottom of your garden or in the ground beneath your feet. I have stared into the face of evil itself and I have survived. I have fought and conquered so many over the years, that I struggle to recount them. But even after all my victories and despite my vast experience, there is still one creature which fills me with so much dread, I tremble even now. Forgive me if I seem dramatic, I am almost finished, I promise.

The worst creature I have ever encountered is known only as The Cuckoo. A benign name for something so ungodly. It is so evil, so vile, that even the other creatures and demons fear it. It chooses a family, one like any other, one like yours, and it possesses one of its members, before assuming their place. It could become your father, your sister, your child. The changes within that person are unnoticed at first. Perhaps they wear a shirt they said they hated, or they suddenly dislike their favourite meal. Over time, it becomes gradually clearer that something isn’t right, for the person begins to twist and tear at the family, piece by piece. It abuses them and tortures them mentally, for it feeds and strengthens as they suffer and cry. As it grows stronger, the abuse becomes worse, until each and every family member is broken, their will and happiness destroyed. That is when he feasts. That is when he gorges himself on their tear-soaked flesh. The cuckoo is a cunning and sly creature. It is the only one I have never been able to find and kill. It is the most dangerous thing within the veil, and I fear it more than any.

You may be asking yourself, why am I telling you this? Why did I choose to sit beside you at this bar? Why did I buy you a beer and tell you this fantastical tale? Well, in order to truly understand, you must first answer one simple question. Have you noticed anything off about your wife lately?

My Horror TBR: The Books Topping my Reading List in the Spring.

My Horror TBR: The Books Topping my Reading List in the Spring.

Hello my fellow book nerds and a very Happy Valentine’s day to you all! I’m not really much of a romantic to be honest, so Valentine’s Day doesn’t make me want to read any soppy, heartfelt chick lit filled with grand romantic gestures and kissing. Instead, my dark soul craves all the horror! Instead of a heart shaped pink card covered in glitter, I want a bloodied human heart torn straight from the chest of my enemies…too much? Well you get the idea! Check out my latest booktube video where I give my upcoming TBR (that’s to be read to all the newbies out there) featuring all the books I’m excited to dive into this Spring. It includes the February and March read for my #gothichorrorreadalong where each month I read a piece of classic gothic horror starting with Dracula by Bram Stoker this month. Won’t you join me? I’ll include a link to my video explaining it below too, along with the list of books for the year.

Happy Viewing, happy reading, Happy Valentine’s Day!!

You can buy all the books I mentioned in the links below:

Dracula by Bram Stoker
https://amzn.to/2uA3Ppb
Miscreations by various
https://amzn.to/2Hk7FoO
The Boatman’s Daughter by Andy Davidson
https://amzn.to/2OTtOyu
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
https://amzn.to/31RZf1o
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
https://amzn.to/31Z5voo
The Deep by Alma Katsu
https://amzn.to/2vu1r39

My special edition Frankenstein came from Ethereal Visions Publishing
https://www.evpub.info/

For information on my #gothichorrorreadalong, check out the video below or to keep up to date with all the current information including the dates of our movie adaptation watchalongs starting with Bram Stoker’s Dracula on February 28th, follow my Instagram @bookishmarie. Everyone reading a long is using the hashtag so it’s a great way to link in with other gothic horror fans and book nerds!

You can buy all the books on the list at the links below:

February: Dracula by Bram Stoker
https://amzn.to/2S0ZzGB
March: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
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April: We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson
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May: A tell tale heart & other stories by Edgar Allan Poe
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June:  The portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
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July: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
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August: Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier
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September: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
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October: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
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November: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
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December: Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fenu
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Midnight: An Original Short Story & Artist Collaboration.

Midnight: An Original Short Story & Artist Collaboration.

Hello readers! I am so excited to be sharing another artist collaboration with you guys.  If you are unfamiliar with my collaborations, it goes like this: I write a short story inspired by an artist’s style and body of work and then they in turn create a piece inspired by the story, bringing it to life. It is about inspiring and being inspired in turn, working with incredible talents, making new connections and friends and it is one of my projects to do. For this post, I had the honour of collaborating with the incredible Ben Gaboury aka Scrimshaw Pottery. Based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the US, Ben creates stunning clay pieces inspired by everything from the sea to Greek Mythology. With a dark aesthetic and lots of skulls and nautical imagery, I was immediately drawn to his work. You can check out more of Ben’s work, including restocks on his Instagram. I hope you like it, let me know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe!

Midnight

skull1It came at midnight.

The winged thing. The black skinless creature with twisted horns and eyes which glow like embers from the cavernous holes in its skull. It came and it took my mother. I heard the glass breaking just as the clock had begun to chime. I heard her scream and then, I heard nothing. The silence was so much worse. I dared not leave my room. I cried in the darkness, waiting for the familiar sound of my father’s four by four on our gravel drive. He screamed too, but it was a different scream than my mother’s. Hers was high and panicked, filled with terror. His was guttural and doused in loss.

They wouldn’t let me see the room, my father and the Police officers who occasionally skull2patted my head or tried to comfort my sister Ellie and I with chocolate and softly spoken words. I snuck a look when I went to the bathroom. All I can remember is how red it was. Red on the floor, red on the white walls, red on the bedspread. But no mum. Just a tangled mess of hair caught on shattered glass fluttering in the breeze. My sister’s too small to understand. She smiles and giggles as the Police lady tickles her. I don’t cry at first, even though I’m old enough to know what the Red means. But when Ellie begins to cry for mama with no answer to come, I feel tears force their way out. I tried to stop but the more I do, the worse it gets. I close my eyes as tight as I can, the way I do when we play hide and seek. I want mum to be hiding. I want to fall asleep and wake up from this bad dream. But this isn’t a dream.

skull3It came at midnight.

The hooded demon with needle-sharp teeth. It came and it took my dad. He had started to sleep with his shotgun in one hand and an empty bottle in the other. The red is gone now, covered up or thrown away. The window is boarded, casting the room in perpetual shadow. We were going to move he said, but I knew he couldn’t leave the house that mum made our home. I think a part of him thought she might come back.  I knew different. I heard the clopping of footsteps echoing in the hall and my dad yelling a curse word before the bang of the gun. Then, that terrible silence again. There was no red this time, just scratch marks on the window frame, the wood panel dislodged, swinging precariously by a single screw. I called the Police the way mum told me but they scolded me for telling fibs. Grown-ups never believe children, not until it’s too late. I tried to call my aunt Sarah but the phone cut off after the second ring and now there’s no dial tone. My sister cries and I can barely get her out of the crib. I feed her from jars in the cupboard the way mum did but she’s so fussy. She knows something’s wrong and she keeps asking for mama. I don’t have the heart to tell her mama’s gone. I pack a bag with some food and clothes for Ellie, nappies and wipes and our toothbrushes. I don’t take much for me, just some pants and my teddy. I take the picture from the fridge, the one taken in the hospital when Ellie was just born. Mum looks tired but happy and my dad and I look proud. That was the day I became a big brother. I promised to look after Ellie, always. I put Ellie in the pram and the bag on the bottom. It’s hard to push, I’m just tall enough to reach the handles, but I have to get her somewhere safe before it starts to get dark. We live in the country but I know from our many car journeys, the way towards town. I’ve never walked that far before.

It will come at midnight, the thing that took my parents. The thing that smells like rotting and death.

It will come at midnight and tonight, it comes for us.

 

 

Top 10 Horror Books to Read in the Dead of Winter.

Top 10 Horror Books to Read in the Dead of Winter.

In my latest YouTube video, I count down ten of the best spooky books to read in the dead of winter. Books that will make you shiver just as much as the cold! If you like the sound of any of the books mentioned in the video, you can grab copies below!! Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.

The Shining by Stephen King
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Dead of Winter by Kealan Patrick Burke
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Misery by Stephen King
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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
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Bone White by Ronald Malfi
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Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
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The Hunger by Alma Katsu
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The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
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Stranded by Bracken MacLeod
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The Terror by Dan Simmons
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The Cards: Original Short Story & Artist collaborations.

The Cards: Original Short Story & Artist collaborations.

Another day, another blog post and for today’s post I have another original artist collaboration. If you are unfamiliar with my blog series, I create a piece of original writing inspired y an artist’s style and body of work and they in turn create an image inspired by my story. For this artist collaboration, I have joined forces with the incredibly talented Ben Toms aka Galleon Art. This London based artist has an eye for the macabre and I was immediately drawn to his dark style. Ben has been drawing for as long as he can remember and his style has evolved over time, finally settling into the gloriously gothic style. To check out more of Ben’s work and perhaps purchase a piece of your own, head to his website here: shop.ben-toms.com.

If you are an artist and would be interested in collaborating, let me know and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!

The Cards

The cards don’t decide your fate, they simply reveal it. I don’t know how many times I have had to repeat those words over the years, or how many people I have had beg me to change their message, as if swapping out one card for another would make a shred of difference. The cards are as the cards are and no amount of begging or threatening or bribery will change what they say. It can of course be hard to deliver bad news, but that’s the deal when you have the sight; you see what you see, good or bad and your job is to pass on that message. Sometimes I find myself weeping right along with them when their sad future is there before them. A man whose cancer treatment won’t stop its spread, a woman who will never have a child, the couple with so much hope in their eyes finding out they have a short road to divorce on their horizon. It pains me, each and every time. But not him, not the bone man.

the cards collabHe comes when the news is worst, when it concerns death and decay. He stands behind them, indifferent, impartial, and the second I spot those hollow eyes, I know I don’t need the deck to work out this poor schmuck’s fate. Death doesn’t take sides. He doesn’t care one way or the other. He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, fat or thin, a supermodel or ugly as sin, everyone has to go some time. That’s the way of things and after all, what meaning has life without death? But like I said, it doesn’t make telling folks any easier.

Twice I pulled his card this week, a skeleton in a black robe, scythe in hand. It’s funny, but he seems so much more alive than the cards suggest, as if invisible skin clutches to the bones. Sometimes, I swear I can almost make out a face, features, a smile. He’s never had a scythe, but he does have the robes, a black leather belt tightening it around his fleshless waist. He never interacts, never speaks or moves, he merely appears, watches me conclude the read and then he disappears as the customers leave, weeping, howling, screaming why. Why? Because, just because.

But tonight, he meets me alone within my bed chambers. I don’t spot him at first as I busy myself getting ready for bed, but then I feel a chill snake its way up my spine and I smell that scent that always follows him around, dirt, rotting leaves, decay. I spot him then beside my bed, watching as he always does, except now he stares at me, not my client. Now, he watches only me. I freeze, surprised to find myself afraid. I knew this day would come, I knew I too would succumb to the fragility of my body. As I have aged, my hair greying, my life etched clearly on my skin, I thought I had come to accept, perhaps even welcome my own visit. But now, stood here with that hollow, expressionless face staring back, I feel scared. I’m not ready, despite everything I’m not ready.

“Are you here for me?”

He says nothing and I expected nothing else, after all these years despite his many visits to my home, not once have I seen him move or interact with the living. As if sensing my thoughts, my trepidation, the slight quiver in my voice, he raises his hand, his wide black sleeve falling to reveal his card, the Death card. I suppose it’s my card now.

Despite myself, I feel tears rising in my eyes. I think of all my mistakes, all the wrong choices and regrets, all the things left undone, put off until tomorrow. I find myself growing angry that despite my intimacy with death, with the brevity of life, I still failed to accomplish all that I planned. I feel foolish.

I can’t stop myself from weeping, tears coming easier now than ever before. This is it for me, this is the end of the road. I feel a hand on mine, that despite its stark white appearance of bone, feels warm and comforting against mine. I look up to find those eyes, except this time, I feel warmth there, like the kind embrace of an old friend. I suppose, after all this time, we are in a way. Slowly he removes his hood, his skull turning side to side, nodding no. Confusion mixes with my fear, dulling its sting slightly, allowing curiosity to bubble to the surface as he places the card in my hand, a hand that starts to change from flesh to bone. I gasp, dropping it, my flesh returning once more. I squeeze it, rub it as if to be sure it is definitely still there, that I am still there.

He picks the card up once more and offers it to me, this time he nods yes to me, his bony hand reaching out, card extended, asking me to take it from him.

“I don’t understand.”

I stare bewildered, as the leather belt is loosened, the black cloak removed. He stands there naked now, exposed. I can see through every rib, the holes in his pelvis. He seems so small, so weak now without his uniform, a shadow of his former self. Realisation dawns as he gently places the garments in my arms. I am not being shepherded to the world beyond this one, I am being asked to become the shepherd.

“You want me to…?”

I trail off. The words seem impossible, unreal even in the strangeness of this night. He nods again, affirming that I am being ushered into death but into an eternal existence, an offer for a job I never applied for.

“But why? Why me?”

He holds the card again and I suddenly understand. I have acted as shepherd in my own the cards collabway all these years, a guide to those lost and seeking answers. I have already shown people their deaths as I dealt their cards and I have helped them prepare, to come to terms with the inevitable. I suppose, I am more qualified than most in the matters of death.

“What about you?”

A bony finger points towards the blackness of the shadows which now surround us, engulfing what used to be my home, what used to be the land of the living. I hadn’t notice them creeping up, surrounding us, but my fear has left me now. I understand and I feel peace. He points into that black void and I see he is ready to move on like the countless souls who he shepherded to the next life. After an untold amount of time, he has grown tired and yearns for rest and he has chosen me as his successor.

I feel a mixture of emotions. It is quite a burden to take on, to delay my own rest for God knows how long to aid the rest of others, but I already know in my heart that I will accept his offer. I dedicated my life to helping lost souls find direction and understanding, it seems only fitting to dedicate my death to it as well.

I reach my hand out to the bones still clutching the card and I hold it a moment, an unspoken understanding crossing between us. I take the card and slowly as my flesh dissolves, my bones becoming exposed and stark white in the surrounding black, I see the man before me being remade, reborn. As I fade to black and white, he regains colour, flesh, softness and expression. I can see he was a young man, much younger than I, with long jet black hair and hazel eyes, a slight smile upon his brown skin, a smile which conveys more gratitude than words ever could and then, he was gone.

I stare down at what used to be my plump, sagging arms, my bloated legs mapped with the purple lines of varicose veins. There is nothing but bone now, so clean and new. I wonder at how it did not hurt, how all the pain which had inflicted my ageing body had evaporated along with my flesh. There is no more arthritis, no aches or pains, just peace and calm. Even the questions and confusion of mortal life have gone leaving understanding and peace in their wake. I see time, from the souls who have long since passed to the babes yet to be born and I understand my purpose.  I am death now, I am the Grim Reaper and I will be the one to show you the way.