Book Review & Author Interview: Optic Nerve by Rebecca Rowland

Every love story is a ghost story…..

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PLOT SUMMARY:

Shawn is a scientist developing the formula for a drug that may cure blindness by stimulating
another area of the brain that controls perception. When he surreptitiously tests the drug on
himself, he accidentally accesses a neural pathway that appears to allow him to communicate
with a complete stranger through telepathy instead. When Shawn finally discovers the
significance of their connection and of the drug’s true effects, it is too late to stop the damage
their intimate friendship has set in motion to unfold.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

A genre-bending sci-fi horror that will have you turning pages into the night. Shawn is a scientist on the quest to cure blindness – he has invented a pill that should offer such a respite – and decides to be the guinea pig for his own invention. Slowly, Shawn begins to hear a voice – is it an auditory hallucination induced by the drug, a ghost, or something else? The mystery behind the voice and how the protagonist soon finds himself smitten by the female he can only hear in his head proves to be an interesting love story, albeit a strange one. The writing is fresh and evocative – with realistic dialogue, and a plot twist that will have you questioning everything you’ve read up to that point. You don’t want to miss this one out – especially if you love your spooky to come with a side of body horror.

Short Q & A with Author

What inspired this novella?

I’m not a fan of science fiction traditionally, but two things pushed me to write Optic Nerve. During the pandemic, I found that a number of my friends—all of them were my age: 40s and early 50s—discovered increased strains on their personal relationships. Some ended up separating from their partners. The isolation and the stress of lockdown acted like steroids in an already anxiety-prone time of their lives, middle age. Most of my characters tend to be in their thirties, or early forties at most; I wanted to write about someone middle-aged for Optic Nerve, to address that anxiety head-on. At the same time, I started to experience a marked decline in my eyesight, and that was, and still is, terrifying to me. I’m an English teacher by day and an editor and writer by night: my eyes are my most utilized tools, so the experience of losing them is a true horror.

You’re a very prolific writer, often appearing in various anthologies. How do you stay motivated as an author?

I used to think I was alone in this approach, but I am the kind of writer who doesn’t sit down and create something unless she hears a line of it in her head, and the line usually comes out of nowhere. The experience is as close to having a muse as I can imagine. When I talked about this in another interview, a few authors reached out to me to say they, too, function that way. I wish I could say that x, y, and z motivate me to write, but the truth is, when a sentence appears in my head, I go with it. Sometimes I go months without writing anything because the lines just don’t appear; other periods, I churn out story after story. Someday, the lines may stop appearing altogether. I hope that isn’t the case, but it’s certainly a possibility.

I think we’ve all had an unconventional crush like Shawn, and usually, these unconventional crushes don’t always result well in the end. Are you a fan of unconventional crushes and love stories?

As a general rule, I’m jaded about romantic storylines. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because I’m a realist at heart and I think Hollywood too often idealizes relationships. Whenever I stumble upon a saccharine movie on television, I have to keep my eyes from rolling out of my head. On the other hand, when authors capture the high we feel when we do make that unique connection with someone, it’s poetry. I think unconventional love stories are often the most realistic. Zora Neale Hurston described falling in love as a “soul crawl[ing] out from its hiding place,” and I think that’s spot on, but I don’t think those moments are as ubiquitous as Hollywood presents them. Those moments are rare and precious, and maybe I’m jaded specifically because of the fiction that dumbs them down.

Tell us about any other projects you’re currently working on right now or will be releasing soon.

My weird horror boogeyman-centered novelette Shagging the Boss just dropped this summer, and I had a great time writing it; it’s still one of my favorite projects. I’m proud to have stories in upcoming anthologies releasing this fall, too, including Sinister Smile Press’ Institutionalized, Omnium Gatherum’s In Trouble (100% of proceeds benefit the National Network of Abortion Funds), and Night Terror Novels’ Nerve-Janglers. In early March, my next edited anthology American Cannibal releases; it’s historical horror fiction and the stories are flat-out phenomenal. It’s like nothing else out there right now, and readers are going to be blown away.

What’s the horror book you always find yourself recommending? 

I find myself returning to Joyce Carol Oates’ The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror over and over. It’s creepy and hypnotic. I’m a fan of unreliable narrators and Oates does them like no one else. (laughs) And there isn’t one sentimental romantic tale in the bunch!

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3 QUEER HORRORS TO CELEBRATE PRIDE MONTH

OUR WIVES UNDER THE SEA BY JULIA ARMFIELD

Leah is changed. A marine biologist, she left for a routine expedition months earlier, only this time her submarine sank to the sea floor. When she finally surfaces and returns home, her wife Miri knows that something is wrong. Barely eating and lost in her thoughts, Leah rotates between rooms in their apartment, running the taps morning and night. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home. As Miri searches for answers, desperate to understand what happened below the water, she must face the possibility that the woman she loves is slipping from her grasp.

THE MONSTER OF ELENDHAVEN BY JENNIFER GIESBRECHT

The city of Elendhaven sulks on the edge of the ocean. Wracked by plague, abandoned by the South, stripped of industry and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats. A monster who cannot die. His frail master sends him out on errands, twisting him with magic, crafting a plan too cruel to name, while the monster’s heart grows fonder and colder and more cunning.

These monsters of Elendhaven will have their revenge on everyone who wronged the city, even if they have to burn the world to do it.

MANHUNT BY GRETCHEN FELKER-MARTIN

Beth and Fran spend their days traveling the ravaged New England coast, hunting feral men and harvesting their organs in a gruesome effort to ensure they’ll never face the same fate.

Robbie lives by his gun and one hard-learned motto: other people aren’t safe.

After a brutal accident entwines the three of them, this found family of survivors must navigate murderous TERFs, a sociopathic billionaire bunker brat, and awkward relationship dynamics—all while outrunning packs of feral men, and their own demons.

HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS? WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE QUEER HORRORS?


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Book Review: The Reyes Incident by Briana Morgan

What really happened in that bunker?

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Publisher: Self-published

Price: $11.99 (paperback)

PLOT SUMMARY:

A local legend gone haywire.

A small-town cop.

An impossible eyewitness testimony.

Which is easier to believe—that killer mermaids exist, or that one person is worth risking everything for?

For fans of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Into the Drowning Deep comes a chilling horror story steeped in urban rumor.

GRADE: B+

REVIEW:

Killer mermaids is one of my favourite tropes, or in general, any story or film that has a mermaid already feels instantly cool so once I found out that this book had killer mermaids I knew I had to read it asap. In film form, I’m usually not a fan of found footage, but I do like the format in book form better (or at least ones I’ve read like World War Z or The Living Dead were awesome).

Having read the play Unboxed, I enjoyed the little Easter egg that the author placed in this book. The premise is pretty simple, a group of friends who have a YouTube channel decide to investigate an old military bunker in Georgia. What the group finds when going into the bunker is killer mermaids – and only one girl (Liv) survives to tell the tale. The police officer whom Liv is telling her story to Andie begins to catch feelings for her and readily believes her story. Although I don’t know if she believes Liv’s story because she’s blinded by her feelings rather than actually believing in the existence of mermaids. I don’t know why, but it seemed kind of unlikely that someone would readily believe such a far-fetched story, let alone someone in law enforcement.

We find out that the mermaids were being experimented on by the military, but I would’ve preferred the journal that they found to reveal a bit more as in a how they acquired the mermaids and how the military knew of their existence in the first place. I would really love a prequel to this novella to know the history of what actually went on in the bunker prior.

The story is very fast-paced and delivers all the slasher/gore needs a horror book should. I did like that the ending is ambiguous, but wasn’t a fan of everyone spilling their feelings for one another while they’re being killed (I can understand one person doing this, but then another does, and then the same person a couple of days later suddenly has feelings for another person, for a book so short, it just feels like they’re catching feelings way too fast). But other than that, the book is a fun, wild read and I recommend it for fans of horror who like gore.

*Thank you so much to Nightworms & the author for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Sundial by Catriona Ward

You can’t escape what’s in your blood….

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Release Date: March 1, 2022

Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive…The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

Unsettling. That’s the best word I can find to describe Ward’s latest novel. It’s told in multiple POV’s in a nonlinear narrative which some readers found hard to follow, but that I personally love because it allows for the story to slowly unfold, the secrets to slowly be revealed for the picture to finally come into view, although the reader’s perspective will continuously change because much like The Last House on Needless Street, the heroes and villains aren’t so easily distinguishable.

Ward takes us deep into the Mojave Desert (a place that I already find creepy due to all the real-life disappearances that occur there every year). Rob and Jack are twins living with their research scientist parents Mia and Falcon. They live a somewhat hippy-ish life, isolated from anyone of their own age. Something terrible occurred in that desert and initially the reader isn’t sure exactly what it is or how it all ties in with Rob’s present – now married to a professor whose equal parts charming and terrifying in his subtle cruelty. But what’s got Rob worried is her older daughter Callie, who displays the typical signs of serial killers and thinks that the only way she can save her daughter is by taking her to the one place she vowed to never return to: Sundial. And so a terrible family saga unfolds.

I read this book in a matter of days, because I was so invested with wanting to know what exactly happened at Sundial, because from the very first page the prose is steeped in blood and dread and you know that the journey you’re about to embark on will be a dark one. It’s difficult to use the word “enjoyed” in terms of reading this book because of the unsettling things that occur that leave you cringing or feeling sick, but I did want to know more so it kept me flipping the pages well into the night.

There’s a story within a story, and I wish I understood the symbolism behind it because I’m quite unsure exactly what it revealed (if it revealed anything at all).

Overall I loved the darkness of this novel but if you’re a reader who detests any forms of animal cruelty in literature, then steer clear of this read – you’ve been warned.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Hide by Kiersten White

Come out, come out, wherever you are….

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Release Date: May 24, 2022

Publisher: Del Rey

Price: $27 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

The challenge: Spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park and don’t get caught.

The prize: enough money to change everything.

Even though everyone is desperate to win—to seize a dream future or escape a haunting past—Mack is sure she can beat her competitors. All she has to do is hide, and she’s an expert at that.

It’s the reason she’s alive and her family isn’t.

But as the people around her begin disappearing one by one, Mack realizes that this competition is even more sinister than she imagined, and that together might be the only way to survive.

Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide but nowhere to run.

GRADE: C

REVIEW:

I want to premise this with the fact that I have a certain fascination for abandoned amusement parks. I think there’s something really creepy about a place that used to bring so much joy, and now evokes only dread (at least I think it does). This is what made me hit request super fast. Then when I began reading it I realized that I’ve read this author before, she has written The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and although I loved the premise of that novel, I ultimately didn’t enjoy the journey.

The same can be said of this novel. I LOVE the premise of this novel: 14 contestants play hide and seek for a week in an abandoned amusement park and the winner gets $50,000 (now I don’t know why the characters in the novel thought you could change your life with that amount because for some that was the amount of money they owed in student debt, I personally would’ve liked to have seen higher prize money in order to understand why many people stuck it out as long as they did, even after things started to get weird).

What I didn’t love about this novel was how the omniscient POV was handled. I love multiple POVs but not when the POV changes within the same paragraph! It was very jarring at times and I had to go back and try to figure out which POV I was in.

Another downside was that the protagonist Mack had an interesting background, but other than that she wasn’t that interesting as a person, nor did I care much about her surviving or not. I cared more about some of the side characters than Mack. I’ll grant that the big reveal was cool, but up to that point, it was somewhat slow and it somehow got even slower towards the end. I also feel like the end is set up for a possible sequel, however, I don’t know if I’d be interested to read it.

Overall, fun premise, sadly it lacks in the execution, and although it’s been promoted as an adult horror, it read more like a YA (not necessarily a bad thing but most adults could be turned off).

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Del Rey for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review & Author Interview: What One Wouldn’t Do Anthology edited by Scott J. Moses

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Release Date: September 27, 2021

Price: $13.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

What One Wouldn’t Do for…what?

Power? Safety? Love? Revenge?

Here’s to the lengths one might go to for everything.

With dark fiction from J.A.W. McCarthy, Avra Margariti, Marisca Pichette, Stephanie Ellis, Christina Wilder, Donna Lynch, Katie Young, Scott J. Moses, Angela Sylvaine, tom reed, Cheri Kamei, Shane Douglas Keene, J.V. Gachs, Tim McGregor, Emma E. Murray, Nick Younker, Jennifer Crow, Joanna Koch, Lex Vranick, Laurel Hightower, Eric Raglin, Eric LaRocca, Daniel Barnett, Bob Johnson, Simone le Roux, Hailey Piper, Bryson Richard, Jena Brown, and Christi Nogle.

Grade: A

Review:

This anthology has some really excellent stories that explore the theme of what are the lengths you’d go to for something you really want? Of course with horror, the lengths are very extreme and sometimes very gory. Here are some of my fave stories from this collection (in no particular order):

“Mos Teutonis” by Bryson Richard: A beautiful tale of lust and lunacy, so dark and seductive.

“The Thread That Dreams Are Made Of: by Hailey Piper: I’m a total whore for fairtytales and fairytale retellings so I’m so here for a Rumpelstiltskin and Sleeping Beauty mashup.

“Silver Dollar Eye” by Laurel Hightower: This story pretty much sums up all the reasons why I’ve never meddled with the afterlife, some things are best left unknown.

“Ella Minnow” by Nick Younker: This story is the brutal tale of the lengths a father will go to in order to find out what happened to his missing daughter. The ending blew me away.

“Blood is Thicker,” by Angela Sylvaine: I’ve had the pleasure of having this author in two of my own anthologies, so I was excited to read a new story from her. I loved this tale of two twin sisters who will go to extreme lengths to succeed as painters.

“The Witch of Flora Pass,” by Scott J. Moses: This was one very creepy and dark story that now left me wary of rivers.

“With Animals,” by J.A.W. McCarthy: This story truly explored the extreme lengths someone would go to for a friend. Very gut-wrenching.

“Moira and Ellie,” by Marisca Pichette: In this story, almost every child has an imaginary friend for a limited amount of time and when you find out how and why these imaginary friends exist, it’s very chilling.

There are many more stories in this anthology that I thoroughly enjoyed, and those above are only a couple that stuck with me long after reading them. It’s a very well put together anthology and I truly recommend it for anyone whose a fan of horror and especially of indie horror.

*Thank you so much to the author for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Short Q & A with Author

What made you select the particular theme you chose for the anthology?

I remember finishing Laurel Hightower’s CROSSROADS, and thinking, “How has no one done an anthology around this topic before?” When I got serious about the idea a couple months later, I already knew I wanted Laurel to introduce What One Wouldn’t Do.

A lot of the short stories selected deal with grief – same as your personal short story collection Hunger Pangs – why do you lean towards grief horror more than other subgenres?

You know, that’s a good question. Why do any of us write what we do? I think it’s just in us and that’s that. That said, I’ve always graduated toward the sadder things in life, and think that they, along with bittersweet endings, can shed the most light and hope on the things we’re afraid of or have yet to face.

Which horror authors have got you really excited about their work right now? Any cool books you’ve read this year that you may want to recommend?

Such a tough question, but here goes. A few authors I think deserve more readership are Eric Raglin, J.A.W McCarthy, Joanna Koch, and Daniel Barnett. They’re all astounding to me, and I highly recommend Raglin’s Nightmare Yearnings, McCarthy’s Sometimes We’re Cruel, Koch’s The Wingspan of Severed Hands, and Barnett’s Nightmareland Chronicles.

What are the pros and cons of being an editor for an anthology?

Pros: Reading tons of great submissions, discovering so many writers I really dig, having complete control of the project, and sending acceptances. And honestly, you learn so much about the submission process when you curate an anthology. Great stories are rejected all the time because they just don’t fit with the flow which forms as you read through the slush, or for example, say two stories have similar themes, monsters, and tone. To have both would be redundant, so one has to go, even if it’s amazing. It taught me a lot about rejections with my own work and that there are far more reasons a story gets rejected than it’s quality. Cons: Sending rejections is the worst. Period. Also, wading through the subs that didn’t bother to follow the guidelines. Quick tip: from my experience on this and the 423 submissions I got for WOWD, those who followed the guidelines we’re already ahead of the 30% that did not. That’s a pretty huge percentage when you think about it, yeah? Another con was that in me self-funding this project in its entirety, I didn’t have the resources to buy all the stories I would’ve liked. The spirit was willing, but the wallet was weak.

Are you currently working on any new projects?

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from writing these last months, but have stories publishing this year in various venues and more on submission. I’m thinking I’ll either keep adding to my sophomore collection or toss around this idea for a novella I’ve been sitting on. Thanks for having me, Azzurra. As per usual, you rule.

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Throwback Thursday: The First Evil by R.L. Stine

Between the ages of 11-14 I readily devoured all things R.L. Stine at a speed that would make anyone’s head spin like Regan’s in The Exorcist. I was also very lucky to have a dad that didn’t mind shelling out hundreds of dollars a year to sustain my R.L. Stine book addiction. And although many people loved Goosebumps, I was always a Fear Street stan and out of all the stories within that series my absolute favorite was what I dubbed as the “Fear Street Cheerleaders.” meaning “The First Evil,” “The Second Evil,” and “The Third Evil.”

Maybe it was nostalgia sparked by the recent viewing of Netflix’s Fear Street films, but I found myself compelled to reread the first book of a series that I so dearly loved and whose creepiness has followed throughout the years.

“The First Evil,” is about the Corcoran sisters, Corky and Bobbi are newly transplants from Missouri to Shadyside and live on the unfortunate street called Fear Street. The two sisters were cheerleading sensations at their former high school and hope to recreate their past success at their new school, only the cheerleaders at Shadyside aren’t so easily won over by the charming Corcoran sisters, especially Kimmy (second in line to becoming Cheerleader captain). Thankfully, they manage to win over the coach’s and Cheerleading Captain Jennifer’s hearts and secure themselves a spot on the team.

Things take an ugly turn when Jennifer becomes paralyzed after a bus accident and Bobbi takes over as the Cheerleading Captain which enrages Kimmy even more. Soon, sinister things begin to happen and the reader isn’t sure if it’s teenage bullying or an evil entity (cause ya know, teenage girls can be as cruel as a demon).

YA has come a long way since R.L. Stine was penning his chilling stories, so I quickly realized how very “dumbed down” the writing was in regards to today’s YA selections (I also believe that nowadays, YA is simply a genre that has a teen protagonist but many times the writing level in the novel is on par with that of adult fiction). Despite the simple writing and one dimensional characters, Stine excels when it comes to painting a sinister picture, and he’s the master of the innovative causes of death (and the reason why all of my phobias have originated from his books).

The Fear Street Cheerleaders is a series that has heavily influenced my writing especially my most recent completed manuscript, “Girl that You Fear,” where Spencer Torres (also a cheerleader) becomes possessed by an ancient demon (and in honor of Corky and Bobbi, beautiful girls with seemingly masculine names, is why Spencer was my only choice when it came to naming my protagonist).

I only read “The First Evil,” one time when I was 12, but re-reading it now almost twenty years later, I recalled many of the events that occurred (especially a particular death in a locker room shower). Overall, “The First Evil,” continued to be a thrilling ride and I noticed that two more books have been added to the series since the last time I read it, so I’m eager to find out what else lies in store for Cory Corcoran and her hapless group of cheerleaders.

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Book Review: My Heart Is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

“Some girls just don’t know how to die….”

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Release Date: August 31, 2021

Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press

Price: $17.29 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

Grade: A+

Review:

The book opens with a very dark and creepy prologue – but I’ll admit that I wasn’t crazy about the two foreign tourists and was happy to meet the actual protagonist, Jade Daniels. Now Jade is everything a horror lover as myself loves, in fact had we been in high school together we would’ve had slasher sleepover parties. Jade is cool in the way that girls that love gore are – meaning her styling choices are questionable, her social skills nonexistent except when she’s spouting slasher speak and slasher trivia – and honestly I ADORE HER FOR IT.

We follow Jade – a recent high school graduate as she slowly begins to believe that a slasher film is unfolding in her very town. This convinces her to see beautiful rich girl Letha Mondragon as a potential final girl – and ultimate savior. For a slasher fan as myself I reveled in the slasher speak and pop culture references. I know many have mentioned this in other reviews, but the only fault this novel has is that it’s a slow burn.

Honestly, if Jade weren’t such a compelling character I don’t know if I would’ve enjoyed the journey so much but Jade is a total badass and I know that Jones’ delivers when it comes to horror and gore – so I patiently waited for the bloodbath. To say that Jones’ doesn’t disappoint is an understatement – if this were a movie, Jones’ budget would’ve blown just on the fake blood expense because there is SO MUCH OF IT & I AM HERE FOR IT. I mean, I directed a short where we used almost ten gallons of corn syrup, because I literally wanted to be drenched in it. And by the time you’re finished reading the gory, batshit crazy final pages you’re going to feel like you just waded in ten gallons of blood too.

Don’t walk but RUN to buy this book if you’re a fan of all 70’s & 80’s slasher flicks, cause you will LOVE this. Also, have I mentioned how awesomely badass Jade is? Go on, you know you want to get to know her! This book is fucking brutal and a wild ride.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Gallery/Saga Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Coming Soon: “Fields of Blood”

If you listen carefully, sometimes at half past midnight, you can hear her voice. Florence Wakefield. The ghost of Gold Petal Fields. Her blood is in these fields. It’s why the trees are sick, their roots gnarled. Some say if you cut through the wood, you can see it—her blood in the lumber. They never should’ve used this land for anything, but the modern man rejects folklore, says that it’s mere superstitions, that there’s nothing to be found in these fields but your own shallow breath.

I know you may think that I’m crazy, but if you’re going to heed any lesson from my testimony, it’s this: Don’t tread on Florence’s land, or you’ll be sorry. I saw her ten years ago, it’s why I look like this, so I beg you, don’t go. Don’t go to Gold Petal Fields. That land is cursed.

***

“What do you make of that mumbo jumbo?” I say to Dave as I dip another chip into the bowl of salsa sitting between us.

“I don’t know. We can’t discredit her story as false, something happened to her in those fields to look the way she does.”

I nod, although I’m skeptical of the paranormal. Just because I’ve ventured on this podcast adventure with Dave doesn’t mean that I necessarily believe all the crazy stories we get sent to investigate. Especially since we’ve been able to debunk all of the ghost sightings we’ve investigated so far. Dave and I began our podcast “Agents of Spook” together three years ago, and ever since, our weekly listeners have increased exponentially. Our winning card is having video footage of our ghost hunting to go along with our podcast on our YouTube channel.

“I believe that she had a freak accident,” I concede. “But do I think that a two-hundred-sixty-five year-old ghost is to blame for her blindness? No, I don’t.”

Dave moves the cursor back on the video, rewinding it to the last few minutes and replays it.

“It’s why I look like this, so I beg you don’t go.”

He freezes the frame.

“You see that, Blythe?” He’s pointing to the computer screen, where Amanda Manthis stares blankly, or at least just sits there—I’m not sure how you can describe someone whose eyes are missing.

“What does that prove? Besides, she sent us this video, but then warns us not to go. It’s almost like she’s begging for us to go.” I dunk another chip in the salsa, scooping up a hefty amount before putting it in my mouth

“Maybe she only wants to know if what she thinks she saw was real or if something else happened to her entirely.”

I grab the packets of paper Dave printed earlier. Anything he was able to find about Florence Wakefield are in these papers. Legend has it that Florence Wakefield, the only child of the widowed oil tycoon Beau Wakefield, was brutally murdered by a group of villagers when rumors of witchcraft surfaced. Florence allegedly gave a poisoned concoction to a young teenage girl, Lydia Carson who had sought her herbal services. Modern medicine notes that perhaps the girl, unbeknownst to her, was deathly allergic to “eye of newt” or nowadays known in less Gothic terms as mustard seeds. These seeds were found to be part of the herbal tea that the young Lydia ingested. But Lydia’s father was distraught by his favored daughter’s death and vowed to seek revenge. When Beau Wakefield left town for a business venture to San Francisco, Mr. Carson, along with eleven other men, marched to the Wakefield estate. If Florence were a typical girl of her upbringing, they wouldn’t have been able to do what they did to her. But Florence wasn’t safe at home when they came looking for her. No. She was out in the fields. According to the historical documents and newspaper clippings, the men beat her and then tied her up to a stake where the crows pecked at her eyes. By the time the servants found her, it was too late. Florence was dead.

I set the papers back down on the desk, shaking my head.

“This is so disturbing.”

“Oh, but you haven’t heard it all . Exactly one month after her death, people began to see her ghost in the fields at night. Or as they said, a young woman wearing a pale pink dress. According to legend, it’s believed that if you try to communicate with the ghost, she lets you taste a dose of what she went through.”

“And that brings us back to why Amanda Manthis’ eyes look the way they do.”

“Yes,” Dave says. “That’s exactly it.”

“All of this is very fascinating, but you know that I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“I know you don’t. But that’s why we need to investigate and capture any weird phenomena with our trusty Canons.”

I look back up at Amanda’s freeze-framed face. She doesn’t look much older than thirty. Her brown hair is tied back as freckles adorn her button nose. But her eyes, or at least where her eyes used to be, are hollowed out. Heavy scar tissue now covers what used to be bleeding wounds. A chill runs down my spine, but I ignore it.

“Let’s do this,” I say.

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Coming Soon! & Cover Reveal: Vicious Traditions – Tales of Terror and the Grotesque

After focusing my attention on multi-author anthologies for the past few years, I’ve decided to take a break from that and release a collection of my own short stories.

Most of the stories are new, although there may be a couple that have been previously published in other anthologies.

The stories you’ll find in this collection range from various degrees of dark, twisted, and speculative horror.

If you love vampire, witches, ghosts, and werewolves with a new fresh twist on old tropes, then you might enjoy the stories in Vicious Traditions.

VICIOUS TRADITIONS is due February 1, 2022.

DID YOU ENJOY WHAT YOU JUST READ? IF YES, THEN SUBSCRIBE TO THE BLOG, GIVE THE POST A LIKE, OR LEAVE A COMMENT! NEW POSTS ARE UP EVERY TUESDAY & THURSDAY!