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.
Originally posted on The Nerd Daily.
Inspired in part by true events, Bram Stoker Award®-winning author Tom Deady’s new novel, The Clearing [Vesuvian Books, August 10, 2021] blends horrors of the past with today’s terrors—and a supernatural twist that will keep readers’ skin crawling cover to cover.
There’s good reason for those itchy sensations prickling along your skin, too—the buzzing terror of The Green Mile meets the unsettling atmosphere of The Skeleton Key in The Clearing. Deady is a master of ambiance; readers will find themselves ensnared in a web of despair from the moment they first enter The Clearing’s bleak, stifling, sodden New England summer. Even in the sunshine, the atmosphere is soggy, humid and heartbreak weighing down the air as Hannah Green spends her summer break suffering the two worst teenage terrors: a broken family—her mother seeming to have not just abandoned home but disappeared into thin air—and debilitating boredom. That is, until her dog comes out of the woods carrying a sneaker that contains a partially decomposed foot.
Finally having something to lull them out of their summer stasis, Hannah and her best friend, Ashley, soon find themselves in the middle of a decades-old mystery. The girls make a shocking discovery about what has been happening in the woods behind Hannah’s house—and it’s gruesome at best. As they get closer to the truth, things take a dangerous turn, and the secrets they discover make the foot unearthed from an ominous forest clearing look almost benign compared to the nightmare they will soon experience.
But who does the shoe—and the foot—belong to? This is where Deadly looks to the past to inject a frightful dose of true crime terror by revisiting the 1972 murder of sixteen-year-old Jeannette DePalma, whose death was rumoured to have been at the hand of a local coven of witches in a ritual occult sacrifice. Herein is another of Deady’s special skills: blending ambiance and nostalgia so that the story pulses off the page like a spider’s egg sac, ready to bust. Beyond DePalma’s death, The Clearing spins in threads of the “Satanic Panic” of the eighties, ye olde summers of nineties-past, and a few carefully laced in pop culture references through the decades, ultimately weaving a timeline sticky enough to capture the attention of three generations of readers.
Even with its multi-generational appeal baked in, The Clearing is firmly rooted in YA. Deady’s characters not only ring true as authentic, realistic, and compelling present-day teenagers, but Hannah and Ashley’s friendship—replete with what they term a mental mind meld—is true #squadgoals. The girls are unique enough to contribute two perspectives, while strong enough as a duo to make their heroics not just believable, but a ray of light in an otherwise very dark story.
Readers biting their nails in anticipation of a final plot twist may find the ending teetering on the edge of flat, but don’t worry—Deady’s not done at THE END, and it’s not time for a happy ending yet. Wise readers would do well to stay out of the woods…and not skip the Epilogue.
Truly, is there anything better than a story of love so strong it never dies - of obsession, possession. Of being haunted by the ghost of a former love - of being consumed by it, unable (and unwilling) to break free? All of this and more is coming in HOLD MY PLACE (Black Spot Books, January 2022) from award-winning poet and novelist Cassondra Windwalker, and I'm pleased to share the cover reveal.
Obsession never dies.
When librarian Sigrun falls head-over-heels for the sophisticated and very married Edgar Leyward, she never expects to find herself in his bed—or his heart. Nevertheless, when his enigmatic wife Octavia dies from a sudden illness, Sigrun finds herself caught up in a whirlwind romance worthy of the most lurid novels on her bookshelves. Sigrun soon discovers Octavia wasn’t Edgar’s first lost love, or even his second. Three women Edgar has loved met early deaths. As she delves into her beloved’s past through a trove of discovered letters, the edges of Sigrun identity begin to disappear, fading into the women of the past.
Sigrun tells herself it’s impossible for any dark magic to be at play—that the dead can’t possibly inhabit the bodies of the living—but something shadowy stalks the halls of the Leyward house and the lines between the love of the present and the obsessions of the past become increasingly blurred—and bloody.
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With the revamp of my website and a host of other to-dos taking up my time of late, my poor blog has fallen by the wayside (and all my old posts - poof!). But, with so many exciting projects upcoming, and so much cool stuff going on in publishing, I'm excited to the blog back up and running - and what better way than to re-launch with a cover reveal for DARK COUNTRY (Vesuvian Books, October 12, 2021), an upcoming horror project from Bram Stoker Award® nominated author of THE BONE CARVER, Monique Snyman.
Too often people mistake monsters for gods.
When a ravaged corpse is discovered in Pretoria, South Africa, Esmé Snyder—an occult-crime expert—is called in to investigate. But she doesn’t know the scope of what she’s up against. Esmé is the target of a cat-and-mouse game with a serial killer who uses the paranormal to do his bidding, with the intent of becoming a god on Earth.
With assistance from her team—a brusque detective, eccentric millionaire, stoic priest, hawkeyed secretary, and handsome British forensic criminologist—Esmé hopes to find the killer before he strikes again.
But the clock isn’t all that’s working against them. The media catches wind of the threat against the citizens of Pretoria, and their reported speculations promise a post-Apartheid Satanic Panic.
As the body count grows, Esmé must figure out who is behind the heinous crimes before she ends up the final sacrifice.
Dark Country highlights the multicultural mythologies, magic, histories, beauty, and horror of living in pseudo-modern South Africa.
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Writer/director Ryan Spindell’s feature-debut The Mortuary Collection puts new twists on familiar horror tropes, spinning together four phantasmagorical tales into a web of grim, twisted, and sometimes downright demented horror shorts.
The Mortuary Collection, starring Clancy Brown and Caitlin Custer, pulls the audience in through its eerie, cinematic opening sequence that harkens back to childhood spooks as a boy cycles around town to deliver local papers bearing headlines warning of gruesome murders. His last delivery is to Raven’s End Mortuary, currently hosting funeral services for another young boy.
The four stories included in the anthology are delivered within the context of a storytelling showcase delivered by mortician Montgomery Dark (Brown) as he tests out a would-be new assistant, Sam (Custer). These stories, which share a narrative thread of gruesome morality and indeed sometimes also symbols and characters, escalate as Dark leads Sam deeper into his mortuary.
Classic horror tropes undergo symbolic new imaginings in each of the anthology’s four instalments. First, vintage monster horror gets its due when a pocket-picking party thief tucks herself away in a bathroom to examine her spoils only to unearth an unexpected, tentacled terror in a locked medicine cabinet. Next up, putting a twist on college frat house slaughter films and including more than a little social commentary on contemporary sex and gender politics, a student seeking to seduce impressionable female freshman into becoming marks on his bedpost attracts the attention of a very special lady ultimately, er, delivering unintended—and rather gnarly—consequences. Things move from bizarre to grisly in the third story when a long-suffering husband turns to murder under the guise of compassion when he poisons his terminally-ill wife. (It does not end well.)
As Dark ends his third tale, Sam—who has remained impressively nonplussed and even glib during Dark’s yarn—ups the stakes with a tale of her own. Sam’s contribution spins the familiar babysitter slasher storyline on its head, providing the much-needed lynchpin to the collection and turning the anthology toward its climax. Without giving away the ending, it’s fair to say the sins Sam’s past transgressions will, quite literally, eat her alive.
While there is an undeniable feeling of comfortable horror-film nostalgia in the four stories of the collection, The Mortuary Collection as a whole does suffer a bit from overdone and sometimes indulgent explorations in the needlessly morbid. What does shine in the anthology, however, is its absolutely stunning visual aesthetic, unapologetic storylines, and delightfully macabre portrayals that should please most horror fans.
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.
From books to film and TV, nostalgic horror has been all the rage of late, and Until Summer Comes Around [Flame Tree Press, May 2020] by Glenn Rolfe is comfortably at home in the genre. In fact, if Lost Boys, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the Kristy Swanson flick), and Stranger Things had a fangy baby and put on paper, it might be this book—and that’s some high praise.
Set in the summer of 1986 in the Maine beach town of Old Orchard Beach during its annual tourist wave, Until Summer Comes Around is a tale as old as time: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy discovers girl is a vampire and her bloodthirsty and slightly batshit (vampire pun!) older brother is sucking the town’s population dry. Unbeknownst to anyone, a refreshingly dysfunctional family of vampires have come to OOB alongside the flock of faceless summer tourists, and one of them is just a little, er, hungrier than the others. He’s also very not cool to see his younger sister getting cozy on the beach with a boy.
Okay, so maybe it’s not actually a tale as old as time, but there are enough classic summer-love elements—and on-point references to an 80s timeline—in Rolfe’s Until Summer Comes Around to give the novel the sort of swoony, surreal realism that makes a well-written flashback setting so immersive. The voices of the characters ring true, as do their emotions when what should be fun summer days devolve into a real-time nightmare sequence of disappearances, murders, and a whole lot of heartache for everyone involved. And, though the main protagonists in Summer are fifteen-year-old teenagers, Rolfe pulls no punches with the gore, balancing out all that sappy summertime passion with enough blood spatter, decaying corpses, and maggots—yes, maggots!—to successfully swerve right out of the possibility of Summer being anything less than a true horror story.
While Rolfe’s ability to convincingly pen a teenage summer romance of a decade bygone is sufficient enough to drape that familiar old feeling of shoulder-padded nostalgia atop your shoulders, it’s his take on classic vampire tropes that sets Summer apart. Despite the romantic element of the story, there’s no sun-sparkling teenage angst or smooth, Transylvanian seduction here (though there is the much more accurate, slightly bumbling approach to first love, because we’ve all been there). Likewise, there’s no garlic-fearing, crucifix-welding dependency on tried-and-tried vampire tropes, and the only references to coffins, black wardrobes, and poetic monologuing range from tongue-in-cheek to outright sardonic and are never to be taken seriously. Rolfe’s vampires are much more human, and much more…relatable…which only serves to up the ante in his coming-of-age-vampire-horror.
If you’re looking to go back in time to fall in love with a monster…Until Summer Comes Around is your next read.
Originally posted on The Nerd Daily.
In The Boy in the Box [Flame Tree Press, April 2020] a group of childhood friends with a dark secret set out to make amends for the sins of their past only to discover that some dark deeds don’t stay buried.
Ten years ago, lifelong friends Jonathan, Gene, and the Braddick brothers—Michael and Conner—took a hunting trip deep in the Adirondack Mountains to a remote piece of land known as Coombs’ Gulch. What was meant as a weekend getaway to celebrate the last days of singledom for soon-to-be-wed Jonathan culminated in a night of drunken machismo wherein Gene accidentally shot and killed a young boy. Despite the men’s questions—What was the boy doing wandering alone in the woods at night? How did he get so deep into the forest? Did they all see the same thing?—they buried the boy’s body in a makeshift tomb and swore to take their secret to the grave.
In the end, that termination point is exactly where the four men in the woods that night will find themselves—but not until the strange force that inhabits Coombs’ Gulch is ready to bring them home. After Gene’s untimely suicide, the Braddick brothers and Jonathan decide to return to the woods and relocate the boy’s body, otherwise they risk their secret being brought to light in upcoming construction. The three remaining members of the ordeal are already haunted men; they don’t want their darkness exposed to the people they love most—their families.
Once back out in the woods, the sleeping terror of that long-ago night stirs again, but the accident that seemed so straightforward before doesn’t seem to make sense now and the guilt-ridden trio finds themselves ensnared in a supernatural trap that transcends time and place. Like all ancient gods, the being in Coombs’ Gulch requires a sacrifice, and Jonathan and his friends are just the beginning.
Reminiscent of Neville’s The Ritual (2011), Fitch’s journey into the dark unknowns of ancient forests builds at a measured pace, pushing you forward in slow-building horror that exhibits all the stamina of a hike out into the woods. For all its narrative pontifications and redundancies, Boy in the Box is nevertheless still surprisingly creepy—one of those books that might not be too intimidating in the daytime but will have you leaving a light on at night, just in case.
“Let me tell you something…there is nothing nice about Southern ladies.”
Pitched as “Steel Magnolias” meets Dracula, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is everything a reader like me—who grew up simultaneously reading The Babysitter’s Club and Goosebumps—has been waiting for. Thank you, Grady Hendrix, thank you.
Set in the 1990s, former-nurse-turned-disaffected-housewife Patricia Campbell is bored. Life as a stay-at-home mother to two children and a husband that works too much is unfulfilling, to say the least. If it weren’t for her book club and her troupe of mismatched girlfriends, Patricia might simply fade into the wallpaper of her well-cared-for home. Luckily—or, more aptly, unluckily—things are about to get a lot more interesting (and bloody) in Charleston’s quaint, and usually very safe, Old Village District.
Even though Patricia and the other ladies of her book club—wacky Kitty, uptight Grace, religious Slick, and somewhat ambiguous Maryellen—can’t get enough of the very-murdery true crime they read about, none are prepared when a handsome young stranger moves in with an elderly neighbour. Nor are they ready for the series of spiralling, odd events that begin when the seemingly mad old woman attacks Patricia—chomping off one of her earlobes in the process.
After an ominous warning about “the man in the ice cream suit” from her mother-in-law, Miss Mary, who suffers from dementia, and a series of odd occurrences that start to slip from strange to surreal, Patricia (slowly) begins to realise that her new neighbour isn’t at all what he seems. And, there’s danger afoot: children are missing, being preyed upon by some Big Bad that inhabits the woods outside Six Mile. Unfortunately, not only is no one listening to Patricia’s warnings as she begins to connect the pieces to something not only sinister but otherworldly; they think she’s caught up in her gory book club reads and maybe a bit loose in the head to boot, making the horror of this story not just atmospheric but personal. Which is worse: the monster Patricia sees in James Harris or the suspicions that lurk in her own head, eating her away from within? The only trouble, Patricia’s already invited the darkness in, and there’s no getting it out—not without a fuss and a good bit of scrubbing, anyway.
From cryptic warnings to the lurid romanticism associated with blood drinkers, plus ghosts, rats (dear gods, the rats!), and the special kind of nightmarish terror that waits for mothers in the dark when their children and families are threatened, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires does not disappoint, offering an entirely unique approach to established vampire lore in a tale as warm as it is chilling. A master of nostalgia, Hendrix slays in his latest—and so does a very unlikely group of heroines.
Lindy Miller Ryan is an author, editor, and spooky things enthusiast who occasionally makes crafty things and bakes.