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Asylumfest Horror Convention

May Day Hills Historic Asylum

AsylumFest 2023 will be held October 27 – 29 in Mayday Hills located within Beechworth, Victoria.

Mayday Hills operated from 1867 to 1995 and was one of the largest mental health facilities in the state, with over 1200 patients and 500 staff at its peak. Today, it is a heritage site that hosts various cultural and artistic activities – including ghost and history tours and of course, AsylumFest!

This Halloween weekend, I’ll be appearing at Asylumfest horror convention held at the historicMayDay Hills Psychiatric Hospital in Beechworth, Victoria, Australia. I’ll be participating as an offical representative of the Australasian Horror Writer’s Association and competing in the live reading and judging for the May Day Hills Ghost story competition.

I’ll also be on a panel talking with Australian dark fiction authors Carol Ryles and Aaron Dries about the importance of diversity in New Horror, the emergence of more diverse characters, writer, actors and directors. The continued growth of diversity and representing traditionally marginalised voices is a strong movement that will hopefully continue to flourish. We’ll be talking our own horror works as well as those published in the past for more recently and where we think the world of New Horror is headed.

Hope to see all horror film and writing fans at the Traders Hall and check out the Australasian Horror Writers trade table. Also check out another exciting horror panel on The New Gothic!

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Conflux Convention

I’ll be attending the 17th Conflux Speculative Fiction Convention in Canberra from 29th September – 3rd October, 2023.

I’ll be in the Dealer’s Room – All weekend!!

Book Promo — Cursed Shards edited by Leanbh Pearson with Stephen Herczeg, 29th September, Friday 5.30 pm.

I’ll be on 3 panels:

Entrances to Evil: Doors in Dark Fiction – Leanbh Pearson, Lisa Fuller, Joanne Anderton, Daniel O’Malley. Friday 29th September, 7:30pm.

Ditmar Awards Ceremony, Saturday 30th September, 5pm.

Spirits Abroad – Rebecca Hayward, Leanbh Pearson, Americo Alvarenga, Imogen Cassidy. Sunday 1st October, 12:45pm.

Insatiable – Leanbh Pearson, Zachary Ashford, Aaron Dries (18+), Sunday 1st October, 8pm.

Raganrok : A Witch’s Curse Book Launch – Leanbh Pearson with Zachary Ashford, Monday 2nd October, 1:30pm.

Black Fox and Bitterbind Book Launch – Leanbh Pearson with Louise Peiper, Monday 2nd October, 1:30 pm.

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Appearances: Canberra Geek Markets

I’ll be at the Canberra Geek Markets this Saturday 29 April at EPIC, Canberra.

My stall is located next to the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG) stall

Come along and check out comics, books, media and merchandise for all your inner Geek desires!

I’m selling and signing books and have some cool merchandise all available at sale prices!

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Cabaret of Monsters

Publisher’s Description

Saturnalia in Aufleur is a time of topsy-turvy revels, of the world turned upside down. The city’s theatres produce an annual display of reversals and surprises. Women can transform into wolves. Even the rats are not what they seem.

Evie has travelled to Aufleur to uncover the city’s sinister secrets… but this newspaper reporter has secrets of her own.

As she befriends the dazzling cabaret performers of the mysterious Vittorina Royale theatre, she falls under the spell of their most charismatic celebrities: songbird Livilla and the Stagemaster Poet. Who is Garnet, and why is everyone so afraid of him? What are the secrets of the Creature Court? Evie thought she wanted to learn the truth, but now she just wants to get out of Aufleur alive.

If you enjoy intrigue, devastating plot twists, LGBT characters and sumptuous detail, you’ll adore this gaslamp fantasy novella inspired by Paris theatre, Ancient Rome and the Roaring 20s.


I recently read prequel novella Cabaret of Monsters (Creature Court, #0.5) by Australian author Tansy Raynar Roberts.

The protagonist Evie is also known as the Storyteller and travels to Aufluer as a reporter the cover the fashionable and famous theatrical scene.

Evie is quickly embraced by the theatrical group run by the mysterious Stagemaster Poet at the Vitoria Royale theatre as the troupe prepares for the famous Aufleur Saturnalia plays. Evie has an ulterior motive for being in the Vitoria Royale as she discovers more about the man Garnet, the strange history of returned songbird Livilia. But Evie can’t help but learn to feel for the members of the troupe and her real reason for being in Aufleur causes internal conflict as she learns more about the Creature Court and its hold over the city.

Final Thoughts

A well-written dark Gaslamp novella set in a 1920s-esque era that is dark, mysterious and dangerous. A truly unique plot and well-crafted characters.


Highly recommended for fans of dark fantasy, Gaslamp themes, paranormal and supernatural tales set in an intoxicating 1920s style world.

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The Lantern Men

Publisher’s Description

Everything has changed for Dr Ruth Galloway.

She has a new job, home and partner, and is no longer North Norfolk police’s resident forensic archaeologist. That is, until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make DCI Nelson a deal. Nelson was always sure that March killed more women than he was charged with. Now March confirms this, and offers to show Nelson where the other bodies are buried – but only if Ruth will do the digging.

Curious, but wary, Ruth agrees. March tells Ruth that he killed four more women and that their bodies are buried near a village bordering the fens, said to be haunted by the Lantern Men, mysterious figures holding lights that lure travellers to their deaths.

Is Ivor March himself a lantern man, luring Ruth back to Norfolk? What is his plan, and why is she so crucial to it? And are the killings really over?


I recently read forensic archaeological crime mystery The Lantern Men (Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries, #12) by UK author Elly Griffiths.

The protagonist Dr Ruth Galloway has left the marshes and working at the University of Oxford and living in a townhouse with her new partner. But she is restless and soon requested to work a cold case murders on the marshes of Norfolk. A series of missing women from an artistic retreat and local folklore of lights on the marshes that lead the lost astray are the Lantern Men. But this specific folklore is imbedded the past and present of the retreat – saving the lost on the real and metaphorical marshes and missing women the likely victims of a sinister killer.

Ruth Galloway is the forensic archaeologist that convicted killer Ivor March requests to find two of his victims Detective Nelson is certain he killed. Soon, Ruth is following a trail of history, folklore and tales of the lantern men. But as the psst students and leaders of the retreat become interwoven with legendary and real lantern men, Ruth and Nelson wonder if there’s more than one killer – and more recent missing women on the marshes taken by a very real Lantern Man.

Final Thoughts

I’ve read several Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries by Elly Griffiths and the clever integration of local folklore in The Lantern Men is highly intriguing. The suspense and thriller aspects of a murder mystery were cleverly interwoven with the folklore of the lantern man central to theme and crimes.


A highly recommended mystery – both for it’s history and crime themes. There’s even something for fans folklore and suspense. A great read!

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Black Cranes

*** I received a free copy in return for an honest review ****

Publisher’s Description

Almond-eyed celestial, the filial daughter, the perfect wife.

Quiet, submissive, demure.

In Black Cranes, Southeast Asian writers of horror both embrace and reject these traditional roles in a unique collection of stories which dissect their experiences of ‘otherness,’ be it in the colour of their skin, the angle of their cheekbones, the things they dare to write, or the places they have made for themselves in the world. Black Cranes is a dark and intimate exploration of what it is to be a perpetual outsider.


I was thrilled to read and review Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn.

This is a beautiful and rare collection of speculative fiction tales from women of southeast Asian descent writing about the culture where women are supposed to be quiet, unheard and remain in the shadows. Black Cranes brings these voices, cultures, folklores and legends into the open and shines a light on the powerful women of Southeast Asia.

Final Thoughts

There are so many different and wonderful tales in Black Cranes that I found it difficult to choose my stand-out favourites.

Some of my favourite stories were “The Genetic Alchemist’s;s Daughter” by Elaine Cuyegkeng, , “Kapre: a love Story”, by Ron Cupeco, “Vanilla Rice”, and “Little Worm” by Geneve Flynn.


An absolutely stunning, beautiful and powerful collection of tales about women emerging from the shadows of their cultures. A simply stunning collection!

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The Anden Cóndor Myth

The Condor is a mythic Trickster figure in the legends of the local people of the Andes. There is a myth which accompanies the Condor recounted below from source unknown.

There was once a an old shepherd who lived with his beautiful young daughter in a little village at the top of the Andes. The girl pastured the sheep, llamas and other animals from her father’s farm while his wife tended to household chores.

Un expectantly, a young man visited her in the mountains. He went to see her every day and always so elegantly dressed as if he was attending a great gala in the Andes and a always wore a beautiful white scarf about his throat. The two got on very well and were vary careful to meet when she would attend to the livestock.

They became quick friends and at one of this visits he asked the girl if she would play a game. “If you pick me up, I’ll pick you up”. She trusted the man and lifted her in his turn, just as she and made for a quick leap into the sky, he transformed into turned into a magnificent condor and gently cradled the her in the cage of his talons and took her up to his nest inn the highest peaks of the Andes.

They lived together in his nest for a long time. He brought her food and took care of her and she fell in love with him and gave him and she had a beautiful baby. While the girl loved them both – husband and child- but she missed her father deeply and cried every night thinking about how lonely the poor old man would be.

One day she saw a humming bird passing by and asked him for help. The bird would go to the village and bring back her father to rescue her and her child and in reward the humming bird will have every flower in her father’s plot. The cheerful bird accepted.

The agreement met, trrudb e gone and the Condor had finished eating po youn nv g truth he returned to his nest and instead of his family he found two green frogs in their place. The humming bird was waiting for him there and told him that the girl and their son turn into ojos frogs right in front of his eyes and there was nothing he could do.

On the following day, her father arrived at that there with a dead donkey to distract the Condor while he rescued his daughter and her child.

Legend says that now the Condor watches over the Andes trying to find a new girl to bring to his nest and just once in a while when he sees someone as beautiful as the shepherd’s daughter he becomes an elegant young man and visits them trying to trick them into playing a game with him.

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Foxglove Summer

Publisher’s Description

When two young girls go missing in rural Herefordshire, police constable and wizard-in-training Peter Grant is sent out of London to check that nothing supernatural is involved.

It’s purely routine—Nightingale, Peter’s superior, thinks he’ll be done in less than a day. But Peter’s never been one to walk away from someone in trouble, so when nothing overtly magical turns up he volunteers his services to the local police, who need all the help they can get.

But because the universe likes a joke as much as the next sadistic megalomaniac, Peter soon comes to realize that dark secrets underlie the picturesque fields and villages of the countryside and there might just be work for Britain’s most junior wizard after all.

Soon Peter’s in a vicious race against time, in a world where the boundaries between reality and fairy have never been less clear….


I’ve been reading this series for years now and I absolutely love it. Foxglove Summer (Rivers of London, #5) by UK author Ben Arronavitch was as classy, funny, scary, and at times, as gory the others in the series.

Foxglove Summer follows London special branch (spooky stuff) constable Peter Grant when he’s sent out of his comfort zone and into the herodfordshire countryside. He’s there to help determine if there is any magical or unnatural forces behind the sudden disappearance of two pre-teen girls. What he finds is the country is potentially more dangerous than London and semi-visible unicorns with malicious intent are rampaging about the forests at night. Into such danger Peter Grant wades and questions begin to rise over the sudden reappearance of the girls, their odd behaviour and which one might be a fairy changeling? Or both?

Final Thoughts

Foxglove Summer was an unusual departure for Arronovitch and the Peter Grant books which has been squarely set in London. I enjoyed the new secondary characters and the involvement of the Fae in the storyline. A refreshing novel in the Rivers of London series.


Highly recommended for fans of urban fantasy, mystery, paranormal, alternate history, crime and dark fantasy. As always delivered with Aaronovitch’s superb craftsmanship. A great, fun read!

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Bluebells Book Launch

A very late posting of the offical launch of Bluebells on October 2nd, 2022 at Conflux 16 Convention in Canberra. The book launch which had been delayed due to my health issues and extended hospital stays. So this was time to celebrate!

@Cat Sparks

We kicked off the launch with Zachary Ashford giving a great introduction to my writing career and focus so far: I’m an LGBTQI and disability author of numerous short stories in the horror and dark fantasy genres. Bluebells was my debut novella.

Zachary had a couple of questions on what inspired me to write Bluebells. The answers ranged from climate change, an interest in WWI, vampires and the Black Death and ‘Spanish fever’. Alternate history had always fascinated me and the question in my mind became what if the world had fallen into a post-apocalyptic state during WWI? What if the future we know, never happened?

@Cat Sparks

Zachary invited me to do a quick reading from Bluebells. I chose a passage near the end where the vampire Nicolas confronts and debates his humanity alongside his vampirism.

@Cat Sparks

A book signing and purchase option for copies of Bluebells followed and I had a lovely time meeting new and old friends while I signed copies.

@Cat Sparks
@Cat Sparks
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Publisher’s Description

Decades after escaping the tower, Zel makes her living as a healer and wise-woman, travelling the lands with her family and the sentient, serpentine braid that still carries a touch of the witch’s magic. Short-haired and happy, Zel prepares for the birth of her first great-grandchild, only to find herself shaken by unexpected news: Mother Gothel is dead.

Memories of the woman who raised her, isolated and imprisoned, unlock within Zel an equal measure of anger and grief, forcing her at last to reckon with the tragic events of that long-ago summer when her own children came of age … a season where implacable death stalked her family across the wild, grassy plains and the world Zel knew split open and soured.

For there are graver threats in Zel’s world than witches, greater sorrows to be borne than the loss of true love, and some dangers from which even the oldest, strongest magic may not be enough to protect her.


Braid was highly anticipated for me after reading one of the other novellas in the Never Afters series by Australian author Kirstyn McDermott.

Braid follows the protagonist Rapunzel, known as Zel, through her flashback memories of life immediately after the Tower and the rise of anti witchcraft sentiments in the common folk. This lands Zel into trouble that her fierce twin sister ends up paying the costs while they mourn the earlier death of Zel’s younger brother and the other twin.

Despite what should have been a joyous and life-changing arrival of Zel freed from the witch’s tower. But even here, Zel has a complicated friendship and dislike for the witch Gothel s who had raised her from a child to a tormentor.


Braid is a well-written and highly original novella from the Never Afters series. McDermott uses a complex technique of several timelines, which could occasionally be difficult to follow at times. Well-worth reading the imagined life of Rapunzel after fleeing the tower with her prince.


A wonderful read for fans of fairytales and fantasy, literature and history, There’s a bit of everything for the reader and makes you think what prisons we build for ourselves. A great real!!