Short Fiction, Writing

Reimagining Red Riding Hood


Recently I have been exploring the concepts behind the Red Riding Hood fairytale. There are two main versions I have used as inspiration for writing a new short story. The version by Charles Perrault called “Little Red Riding Hood” and the version by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm called “Little Red Cap”. Both examine a young girl who is travelling through the woods and meets a charming stranger who tries to lead her astray. Both versions also share a dark undertone, the stranger portrayed as menacing despite his charming words.

When writing my short story, I wanted to delve into the concept of the forest as a dangerous place, sinister and treacherous for those uninitiated. In my recent reimagining of the red riding hood tale, I’ve included the concept of an unwary youth and the historical setting of pre-Napoleonic France. I’ve included some more modern interpretations like the werewolf folklore of the French “loup-garou” and explored sensitives around homosexuality, the sheltered son of a Marquis seduced by an eloquent nobleman. Here, the passage between innocence and experience of the adult world is represented by the transference of the werewolf curse. This was a complex story to write, delving some darker elements, both historical and modern sensitivities of seduction, society and acceptance of LGBTQI individuals throughout history and still today.

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Horseman

Publisher’s Description

Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that’s just legend, the village gossips talking.

More than thirty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play “Sleepy Hollow boys,” reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods?


Review

I recently read Horseman by US folklore and horror author Christina Henry.

Horseman is set several generations after Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones and the infamous headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow. The protagonist is Ben, the grandchild of Brom Bones. While playing deep in the woods near Sleepy Hollow, Ben overhears the discovery of a deceased child, head and hands missing. Soon, Ben becomes aware of a malevolent presence in the woods around Sleepy Hollow.

Although determined to uncover the truth behind the murders of children in Sleepy Hollow but all the while, the dark being from the woods is hunting Ben. Tangled deep within the mystery of murdered children, headless horseman and a malevolent force, Ben discovers a terrible family mystery.

Final Thoughts

Horseman is a dark delight of folk horror and literary reimagining. Christina Henry has created a new legend for the tales surrounding Sleepy Hollow and its folklore.

Conclusion

Horseman is a great read for those who enjoy folk horror. An intriguing blend of the Sleepy Hollow story, a family mystery and dark folklore. Highly recommended!

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Empire of the Vampire

Publisher’s Description

“It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León, half man, half monster and last remaining silversaint – a sworn brother of the holy Silver Order dedicated to defending the realm from the creatures of the night – is all that stands between the world and its end.

Now imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:

The Holy Grail.


Review

One of my recent reads was the grimdark novel Empire of the Vampire by Australian author Jay Kristoff.

Empire of the Vampire follows the last SilverSaint, Gabriel de Leon while imprisoned, he recounts how he found and lost the holy grail to a vampire historian. The world that Gabriel lives in has turned darker and more sinister since a shadow blotted out the sun and the vampires roamed freely. Gabriel’s personal story begins with his childhood and unknowingly not being the biological son of his brutal alcoholic father. Soon after one of his sisters is turned into a reanimated corpse by the vampires. He destroys his sister’s blood-thirsty reanimate by burning her with his touch. When he gets a hunger for blood, he then learns the truth about his heritage. He is a ‘pale blood’, children born from a union between a vampire and mortal woman.

The SilverSaints of San Michon soon come for Gabriel and take him into training where pale bloods form a dwindling army of vampire hunters. Gabriel excels among the SilverSaints but only through acts of heroism. Disliked by his trainers for rashness, Gabriel still can’t explain his unusual and rare powers against the ‘high blood’ vampires. In the midst of his training, Gabriel meets the love of his life Astrid Rennier, a nun in the SilverSorority. Despite the threat of being banished from San Michon for life, Gabriel and Astrid begin a secret affair.

In Gabriel’s retelling of his life, darker elements of his story often overwhelm him. It is in this lingering darkness of the final days before he found the holy grail, a prophesied way to destroy the oldest of the vampires.

Final Thoughts

Empire of the Vampire is an expertly structured novel, the writing and characters alive with emotion and complexities. The accompanying illustrations evoke the world beautifully and add an extra layer to the storytelling.

Conclusion

Highly recommended for readers who like grimdark fantasy, horror and vampires. A fresh take on the vampire trope. A must-read!

Writing

Forthcoming: Dark Poetry

I’m pleased to announce my debut venture into dark poetry will feature in Eldritch and Ether Anthology.

My folklore inspired poems include Scottish female vampire folklore in “My Baobhan sith”, while “The Other” explores dark inner duality and mythologies of the Sun and Moon inspired “A Silver Queen”.

More details to be announced soon!

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The Eternal Machine

Publisher’s Description

A woman with the strength to rebel. A shapeshifter who wears the souls of the dead. Together, they face a lethal enemy… Em helped create it. Now she must craft its defeat. In a city owned by industrialists, Em sells her magic to make ends meet. The extraction procedure is brutal and potentially deadly.

Desperate for change,she joins an underground resistance movement to weaponise her magic and stop the abuse of workers. Meanwhile, a mysterious voice wakes Ruk from a decades long slumber and compels him to become human. He wants to break free but is torn between his shapeshifter instincts and the needs of the soul that sustains him.

On streets haunted by outcasts and predatory automatons, a new danger emerges – an ever-growing corruption of magic and science. Em and Ruk must put aside their differences and pursue it – each for their own reasons. Their discovery will forever change their lives… Or end them.


*** I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review ***

Review

I read The Eternal Machine by Australian author Carol Ryles, a debut novel combining steampunk, gaslamp fantasy and alternate history.

The Eternal Machine follows the protagonist Emma as she ekes out an existence in the lower classes of society, selling her magic alongside many others for the money to support themselves. Their magic is used to as energy for the powerhouses that support the industrialisation movement in this steampunk version of Victorian society. But as Emma begins to realise the extent of her true magical strength when left undrained by the powerhouses, she rivals the mages who run the powerhouses and society. Together with her partner Lucien, she begins to investigate the Groundists, a movement of radicalised lower classes determined to topple the powerhouses and the mages who rule them.

But Emma’s magic awakens an ancient shape-shifter, Ruk, who begins searching for her. The shape-shifters are few but powerful beings and Ruk kills Lucien, assuming his form and identity. But as Emma and Ruk enter the Groundist movement, Emma begins to learn more about her past as demons awaken and like the shape-shifters, are drawn to her power. In a company of other powerful Groundists, Ruk and his fellow shape-shifters, Emma and others battle the mages and the demons until the truth of Emma’s birth right is known and her entire world changes forever.

Final Thoughts

The Eternal Machine is a fascinating alternate history exploring the industrialisation era and social class suppression. I particularly enjoyed the combination of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy, the use of magic and technology in an alternative history setting was very well done. Perhaps the only downside to the book was it felt unnecessarily long, and some character development was rushed when introducing motivations which the extra length of the book could have focused on better. Overall, the world-building was supreme and the concept unique and refreshing.

Conclusion

A new steampunk read from a debut author in the genre. Highly sophisticated world-building with combination of alternate history, steampunk and gaslamp fantasy makes this suitable for audiences of all three genres. A well-recommended read!

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Melmoth


Publisher’s Description

Oh friend, take my hand – I’ve been so lonely!

One winter night in Prague, Helen Franklin encounters her friend Karel, half-mad with fear.

He has come into possession of a mysterious old manuscript, filled with testimonies that speak to Helen from 17th-century England, wartime Czechoslovakia, the sweat-soaked streets of Manila and 1920’s Turkey. All of them tell of being followed by a tall, silent woman in black, bearing a terrible message.

Helen reads its contents with intrigue, but everything in her life is about to change.


Review

I recently read the supernatural dark fiction Melmoth by UK author Sarah Perry.

Melmoth introduces Helen, the protagonist, a translator working in Prague. Helen has a dark past, inflicting harsh self-punishment upon herself. It is the uncharacteristic behaviour of her friend Karel that begins Helen’s dark journey with the haunting spectre, Melmoth the Witness.

Helen’s closest companions in Prague are Thea and Karel, but Karel becomes obsessed with a document given to him about Melmoth. Karel spirals into madness, determined that Melmoth is following him and Helen takes the documents Karel has accumulated. The sudden disappearance of Karel coincides with Helen’s increased preoccupation with Melmoth. As Helen reads more of the history of Melmoth, a woman in black, unadmitted to heaven walks the earth alone with bloody feet finding those who would join her wandering. As Helen questions her sanity, Melmoth invades her life and Melmoth reaches a dark resolution.

Final Thoughts

Melmoth is a fascinating exploration of identity, redemption and guilt. While discovers more about the history of Melmoth, threads of self-doubt are woven throughout to the extent where Helen’s sanity is as questionable as Karel and others who have come into contact with Melmoth. The real and unreal become intricately tied, strengthening the dark psychological horror of Melmoth.

Conclusion

Melmoth is for readers who enjoy atmospheric dark fiction, supernatural and psychological horror. Strong folklore and traditions are well integrated into this dark, suspenseful tale. A highly recommended read!

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The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners

Publisher’s Description

Welcome to The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories.

Slatter’s work has been described by the legendary Ramsey Campbell as “enviably original, and told in prose as stylish as it’s precise. Not just disturbing but often touching, her work enriches and revives the tale of terror.”

From the fierce changeling children of ‘Finnegan’s Field’ to shades of old gods in ‘Egyptian Revival’, from the Lovecraftian echoes of ‘Lavinia’s Wood’ to a new kind of Victorian sleuth in ‘Ripper’, and from the re-imagined fairy tale of ‘The Little Mermaid, in Passing’ to the tender terror of ‘Neither Time nor Tears’, the stories in this collection spring from dragons’ teeth scattered on the field of story.


Review

One of my favourite reads was The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories by Australian author Angela Slatter.

The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories is a fantastic and disturbing collection with a few favourites that I really enjoyed. The novella ‘Ripper’ is a Victorian crime viewed through a gothic and supernatural lens. ‘Finnegan’s Field’ is a chilling tale about changelings.

Final Thoughts

The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories is a varied collection that is well-written, perfectly executed in the distrusting nature of psychological horror, supernatural horror and dark fiction.

Conclusion

Highly recommended for those readers who enjoy a literary style of dark fiction, the chilling nature of supernatural horror and the disturbing dread from psychological horror. A must-read!

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Certain Dark Things

Publisher’s Description

Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.

Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.

Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?


Review

I recently read the much anticipated release of Certain Dark Things by Mexican-born Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

Certain Dark Things is an alternate history where the existence of vampires has become well-known and governments taken measures to control, destroy or contain the threat they pose. Mexico is run by drug cartels and violent gangs, the warring vampire clans at the apex but only Mexico City is a vampire free zone. Or so the police force, much of the population and government think. When Atl escapes the destruction of her own vampire clan, an ancient Aztec vampire race who were warrior priestesses and flees south to Mexico City, she brings another clan of vampires on her trail wanting vengeance in the form of her death. Unable to survive any other way in a city where she is prey instead of the predator, Atl recruits Domingo, a roughened street kid about her own age, honest and dependable to be her ‘Renfield’. But soon Atl and Domingo rely more heavily on each other than a vampire and servant should. Only together can they hope to survive Mexico City, the violent street gangs, the police force and the vampires seeking Atl.

Final Thoughts

Certain Dark Things is an alternate history set in Mexico City, a fresh take on vampire lore, with substantial world-building and exploration of global vampire lore. The plot maintained a quick pace, a thrilling atmosphere of Mexican crime and vampire lore. Unfortunately, the ending felt flat, a little sudden and under-developed. Despite this, Certain Dark Things was a great read.

Conclusion

A highly anticipated novel promising crime elements, horror and vampires. Certain Dark Things was a refreshing exploration little known vampire lore. A great read for anyone who enjoys vampire stories, horror and dark fiction. A recommended read!

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No Good Deed

Publisher’s Description :

Isobel assumed her wedding would be the grandest day of her life, but when she wakes in a ghost-filled tomb still wearing her bridal veil, it’s clear events have taken an unexpected turn.

With the assistance of a vengeful spirit Isobel escapes her imprisonment, but her new husband Adolphus will not be pleased to discover his wife is alive. As Isobel comes to understand her husband’s darkest secret, the newlyweds begin a deadly dance that only one will survive.


My Review:

I read Dark fantasy novelette No Good Deed: A Sourdough Tale by Australian author Angela Slatter.

No Good Deed is set in the Sourdough universe following protagonist Isobel, a former student of St Dymphna where she learned many skills from blade-work to poisoning, and not a lady easily pushed around. After a marriage proposal from the son of a old family (unknowingly long since fallen on hard times but keeping up appearances), Isobel thinks her marriage well made. Until she wakes in her wedding dress locked within a crypt with the remains of Adolphus’s previous wives. Alive and determined to get her revenge, Isobel finds support from another vengeful wife, this one incoproreal, but more than pleased to get revenge on Adolphus with Isobel’s help.

So begins the cat-and-mouse game between the newlyweds where Isobel must kill Adolphus if she wishes to survive her marriage.

Final Thoughts:

No Good Deed is truly a tale of revenge and laced with dark humour. The gothic theme is lavishly applied but joined with a strong female protagonist to make No Good Deed very enjoyable and unique.

My Conclusion:

Highly recommended read for lovers of gothic fiction, horror, dark fantasy and grimdark. Beautifully written, darkly humorous and enjoyable to the end. A must-read!

Short Fiction, stories

Haunt Release


Delighted that Haunt (Five Hundred Fiction, #6) was released on 24th August, 2021. This supernatural anthology is published by Black Hare Press and features my flash fiction “The Haunted Ones”.

You can find out more about Haunt (Five Hundred Fiction, #6) and where to purchase ebook and paperback copies here.