Originally posted on The Nerd Daily.
Forged in partnership by Running Wild Press and The Pixel Project, a volunteer-led global nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise awareness, funds, and volunteer power for the cause to end violence against women, Giving the Devil His Due is a charity SFF anthology that leads readers through worlds where victims find their power, and men who abuse meet their comeuppance.
Pitched as The Twilight Zone meets Promising Young Woman, Giving the Devil His Due features contributions from Angela Yuriko Smith, Christina Henry, Dana Cameron, Errick Nunnally, Hillary Monahan, Jason Sanford, Kaaron Warren, Kelley Armstrong, Kenesha Williams, Leanna Renee Hieber, Lee Murray, Linda D. Addison, Nicholas Kaufmann, Nisi Shawl, Peter Tieryas, and Stephen Graham Jones. Each story is intended to help readers “think about the importance of justice for the victims of gender-based violence, how rare this justice is in our own world, and why we need to end violence against women once and for all”—and each, in its own unique, dark, delicious way, delivers. A few favorites:
“Hell on the Homefront Too” by Stephen Graham Jones paints a gruesome picture of breaking the death grip of violence when a battered wife finally gets rid of her abusive war-hero-turned-zombie husband, whose own vile cruelty rots him from the inside out.
Lee Murray’s “The Moon Goddess’s Granddaughter” is a whimsical exercise in the slow-building terror of entrapment when romance wilts, ensnares, and suffocates—stripping away the veneer of something once lovely to reveal the monster beneath—and how beauty will find a way to break free.
“Just Us League” by Angela Yuriko Smith gives new meaning to the phrase “cleaning up after someone else’s mess” when a female janitor comes across a card for the Just Us League, an unknown yet powerful organization that kindly wipes away a certain type of filth, in a tale of empowerment, atonement, and sisterhood.
Linda D. Addison’s “Finding Water to Catch Fire” delves into the fantastic in a story about breaking the chains of generational trauma and putting an end to the cyclical nature of abuse, as well as finally winning the battle for self-worth and seeing yourself clearly for the first time.
“Violence against women is one of the most brutal, widespread and entrenched human rights violations in the world and yet there remains a wall of silence around it in many cultures and families,” says The Pixel Project Founder and President, Regina Yau. “We believe that stories have the power to change the world by bringing this issue into the light and hope that the sixteen tales in this anthology will not only get people to think about the issue but also galvanize them to take action to stop violence against women and girls in their communities worldwide.”
A limited anthology, Giving the Devil His Due is available through October 31, 2023. A fundraiser at heart, 100% of the net proceeds from the sales of the anthology will go toward supporting The Pixel Project’s anti-violence against women programs, campaigns, and resources.
Sisters of the Moon [Vesuvian Books, September 22, 2020] is the kind of supernatural gothic horror that women readers in the genre have been waiting for.
Sold to pay other’s taxes, three young women—Durra, a dark-skinned Moor; Emily, a slave, and Leida, a farmer’s daughter—are delivered to a mysterious convent on isolated Die Wächter Island. Helmed by Mother Amelia, the convent follows the Order of Saint Gertrude, the matron saint of cats and protector of women.
On their first night on the island, Durra and her companions are told the convent will become their haven, so long as they obey the rules. This is a welcome reprieve from the horrors they have experienced at the hands of men, however the girls are unconvinced they have truly found sanctuary. They are instructed not to leave the convent after dark, and to ignore the baleful howls of the animals calling from outside. The feeling of dread grows when the young women discover it’s not just their cell that is locked by an iron bar at bedtime—such measures have also been taken to barricade the nun’s pious sleeping quarters. When Durra dreams of being chased in the forest by wild dogs who morph into pretty women wearing gray habits, she knows the danger looming outside in the night is very real but is left with a series of clues that do not fit together.
“I have no fear of monsters—I have known many in my life.”
The nuns of St. Gertrude are all young, attractive, and vegetarian, a stark contrast to their convent, which is adorned with art depicting horrific scenes featuring large, snarling dogs embroiled in battle. Durra learns the stories depicted on the convent’s walls do not appear in the Bible, nor does she know the names of any of the saints she finds biographised in the convent’s library. The mystery of the convent darkens further when the girls are received in a chapel for prayer to find the figure of Christ beset with an altar bearing the skull of a wolf. When Durra, who can read, is granted access to the convent’s library, she learns the order of Saint Gertrude was disbanded, its sisters shamed, and the nuns consigned to the eerie “Keeper’s Island” and charged with the mandate to “keep watch over its dark secret.” The nuns, Durra learns, are not what they appear: They are powerful than she ever could have imagined—and, if she can survive what awaits her on the island, she is to become one of the Sisters of the Moon.
While a horror story on its surface, Sisters of the Moon is more than a simple tale of three young women sold to satisfy the debts of others who uncover a dark secret. It’s more than just a fresh take on the werewolf mythos or another banal story about the age-old battle between good and evil. Stunning in its imagery and richly detailed, Weis’s Sisters of the Moon blends history and religion into a tale of sisterhood and empowerment as delightfully slow-burning as it is sinister, smart, and not at all shy about probing the status quo of the treatment of women who challenge patriarchal systems—and who fight to defend what is right.
Last September, Bram-Stoker nominated author Monique Snyman beckoned us into the haunting New England town of Shadow Grove in THE NIGHT WEAVER. Several of the town’s children had gone missing, and no one except Rachel Cleary seemed interested in finding them. The truth about their disappearances, however, was darker than Rachel could have foreseen when she met the creature called the Night Weaver, a nightmarish beastie of legend lurking just on the other side of the town’s enchanted border.
This October, terror returns to Shadow Grove in THE BONE CARVER, the second in Snyman’s Harrowsgate series. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Monique and chat about what’s to come in her brand-new book. Spoiler alert: you’re going to read this one with the lights on, folks.
THE NIGHT WEAVER introduced us to Rachel Cleary, the Crenshaws, a certain dreamy Fae, and—of course—the Night Weaver. Can we expect to see all our favorite characters return to the page in THE BONE CARVER? (Basically, will we get more of Orion Nebulius? Asking for a friend.)
All of our favorite characters from The Night Weaver are making a return in The Bone Carver (Orion included), but we’ll also see some new faces this time around. Some of those new faces, however, are quickly going to become your new favorites, I’m positive. *wink*
One of the things I loved most about THE NIGHT WEAVER was how it seamlessly mixed the essence of young adult terror with the stuff of grown-up nightmares. As the story continues, what can readers expect to see in terms of keeping this careful balance alive?
I hope to continue keeping that balance throughout the series, but it should be noted that Rachel is becoming a young woman, too. So, there will be a gradual evolution in how the story is told. Still, the books will be enjoyable, albeit terrifying for young and older readers. I promise!
In THE NIGHT WEAVER, Rachel went from an unsuspecting bystander to finding herself in a pivotal role in a very dark history in Shadow Grove. So, in some ways the first book was very much an, er, coming-of-age tale (I promise I’m not trying to make puns). I expect Rachel’s grown up a bit, and we will continue to see her grow as she takes on her new challenge in THE BONE CARVER. Can you dish on how her first experience with the Night Weaver will affect her next?
Ha! Don’t worry about it. I guess I wrote The Night Weaver to be a subtle coming-of-age tale without it being too obvious. As for Rachel … Well, as you know, she’s not entirely like normal teenage girls her age and she know things not everyone does. Her responsibilities to Shadow Grove and the residents of the small town are also unconventional and somewhat dangerous. That affects a person, regardless of age. In Rachel’s case, it makes her braver to some extent, and in some cases also a bit reckless.
Last we spoke, you tipped me off that in THE BONE CARVER we’d get to see what happens when the nightmares lurking just beyond the boundaries in Shadow Grove fixate on a single target, and the lengths they’ll go to when they feel … rejected. With the book upcoming, is there anything else you’d like to let readers to expect?
Okay, so without giving anything away: Readers can expect a lot of action, more glimpses into the Fae Realm, a dark twist in Rachel’s personal life, and new friendships being made.
Finally, what can we expect next for the Harrowsgate series? Will there be a Book 3?DEFINITELY! Book 3 is still in progress now, but it’s going to be even better than the last two books. The Harrowsgate Series will run over 8 books, so there’s still plenty of adventure and terror to come.
Originally posted on The Nerd Daily.
New to audiobook, Laura Morrison’s Come Back to the Swamp is the spooky, swampy, supernatural solution to your June novella-audiobook needs!
Half space-opera, half ecological manifesto, Morrison weaves fantasy, science fiction, and a chilling atmosphere into a punch-packing novella that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The story follows ecology-grad student Bernice as she discovers a strange old woman orbiting the swamps of Cleary Swamp, a local research site where Bernice is studying invasive species. Convinced the woman is a former civil rights activist named Rebecca who disappeared in the swamp decades earlier, Bernice believes the woman is as in need of salvation as the swamp itself, which has become riddled with things like Asiatic ivy that don’t belong. Bernice takes it upon herself to relocate the woman into safer territory. What she doesn’t realise, however, is that Asiatic ivy isn’t the only invasive species in Cleary Swamp—and the Swamp has had enough.
Suffice it to say, Bernice’s extraction of Rebecca…doesn’t go as planned. After a stint into a spore and pollen drug-induced state during which she enjoys a warp speed odyssey on the set of her favourite operatic sci-fi tv show, Space Mantis, Bernice awakens with a new clarity and understanding of the swamp’s needs. Though certainly jarring for Bernice, it’s hard not to miss Morrison’s deeper message, a fitting allegory to the sort-of “awakening” many environmentally-conscience folks might have: sometimes—despite our best intentions to the contrary--we are the invasive species. When it comes to preserving the order of the natural world, sometimes it’s humans that simply don’t belong.
Swamps and spooks aside, what makes Come Back to the Swamp such an engaging and resonant story is Morrison’s interpretation of main protagonist. A bit of an idealist, Bernice is snarky, headstrong, and courageous, and her inner monologue is so on point it’s hard not to feel instantly connected. Although we only get a few pages of Bernice, she’s an easy character to champion, empathise with, and—eventually—commiserate for. Likewise, narrator Chelsea Stephens is the perfect voice to bring Morrison’s words to life. She is just as able to capture Bernice’s snark and the Swamp’s ominous warnings as she is to convincingly voice the inner musings of the bobcats Bernice worries might roam the swamplands. Together, this audiobook is three hours of pure listening pleasure, and a story readers will want to return to time and time again.
Gripping, evocative, and as ripe with messaging on the consequences of ecological devastation as it is loaded with sci-fi references, subtle calls to environmental activism, and enough chilly moments to have you looking over your shoulder on your next hike out into the woods, Come Back to the Swamp will have readers (and listeners!) looking over their shoulders the next time they go walking alone out into the wild.
Monique Snyman is a Bram Stoker Award-Nominated Author from South Africa. After I had the pleasure of reading The Night Weaver, I had the chance to sit down and ask her a little about her writing process and, of course, what’s next for the Harrowsgate Series.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
You don’t need to be the next J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, or J.R.R. Tolkein, so stop measuring yourself by their standards when you’re contemplating your future and career. Be the first Monique Snyman. Be you, no matter what, and also, don’t be so impatient with yourself.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Oh, I’ve always known that language had power. Growing up, I had to force myself to speak a certain way in order to “blend” in better. If I didn’t, I was bullied by my peers. Even today, when I go to my childhood home, I change my dialect and the words I pick are wholly different to when I’m not there. So, language has a lot of power, especially if you need to survive adolescence.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Lies Like Love by Louisa Reid. I read that book quite a few years ago, but it was such an impactful tale and beautifully crafted book that I still find myself thinking about it.
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
I’m a Libra, so balance, in general, comes naturally to me. I do, however, take into account what readers enjoy/despise, and allow their preferences to sometimes guide me on my journey.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
I wouldn’t call it spiritual per se; it’s rather cathartic for me to write. I have all these characters living inside my head, an unlimited amount of stories that need to come out, and everything battles for my attention when I’m not writing. So, although I have my writing rituals, and for some it could even feel spiritual in a way, but it’s more of a therapy session for me.
And of course, what’s next for Rachel and clan?
Well, in The Night Weaver, readers got a taste of the horrible things Shadow Grove often attracts, but in The Bone Carver, we get to see what happens to those nasties hone in on a single target and the lengths they’ll go to when they feel… rejected. There are also some new characters being added into the story, but the old ones make an appearance, too. The sequel is a different kind of scary, but scary nonetheless.
Originally posted on The Nerd Daily.
In the new Audible audio academy production Heads Will Roll, Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters) lends her voice as Queen Mortuana, a “psychopathic tyrant with a kingdom on her shoulders” who, along with her delightfully ditzy minion—a former princess named JoJo (voiced by Emily Lynne) who was cursed to become a raven on her sixteenth birthday—must try to preserve her kingdom, and her rule, from the threat of a peasant uprising.
It starts in much the way that many fairytales do: with the issuance of a deliciously mundane and vague prophecy that promises Mortuana’s eventual overthrow. Peasants are planning a revolt, and the evil queen must find the mystical “Shard of Acquiescence” that will subvert their plans so she can get back to things like enjoying her —er— boyfriends and lopping off anyone’s head who offends her (“No, and fuck you for asking. Off with your head….and put her heart in a box as well”). Of course, its not a fairytale without a quest. Mortuana and JoJo must not only find the shard, but must do so navigating bad romances, weird fetishes, sexual tension with unlikely gods, strange creatures, calls from mothers, and even managing fake news and a political uprising led by Bernabus Fanders (ahem), a “120-year-old tub of whitefish salad.” Fanders has, unlikely as it seems, risen up to lead a rebellion against Queen Mortuana on a platform of equality and basic human rights (“Like he’s ever seen the business end of a bathtub—strop trying to convince us that you’ve bathed”)—an outrageous and yet shockingly accurate look through the magic looking glass at today’s often-zany political climate. Naturally, Bernabus (and any resemblance of reason) is quickly dispatched as the ongoing rebellion descends into the kind of shenanigans and celebrity endorsements we’ve come to expect in media coverage today.
A fairytale for adults that is ripe with both quintessential storybook elements but with enough tongue-in-cheek social critique and witty punning (There are medieval infomercials! Bards! Probably virgins! Support groups for the recently cursed!) to make it distinctly modern, Heads Will Roll is an auditory masterpiece fit for (an evil) queen. But be warned: this isn’t a fairytale you want your kids to hear. Featuring a sketch comedy-vibe and an ensemble cast that includes the voice talents of Meryl Streep, Tim Gunn, Peter Dinklage, and Carol Kane, Heads Will Roll is an adult comedy. Not only is the subject matter itself mature, but the humour is also rather crude, running the gamut from what might be chuckle-worthy after a glass of wine to what will have you struggling to draw breath between guffaws around the bottom of the rum barrel. Still, above all else, this is a tale about sisterhood, about power and powerlessness, and about friendship—and, of course, with something of a happy ending.
Lindy Miller Ryan is an author, editor, and spooky things enthusiast who occasionally makes crafty things and bakes.