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They Were Here Before Us

*** I received an ARC in return for an honest review ***

Publisher’s Description

The less you know going in, the better off you’ll be. If you know, you know.

The only thing more brutal than nature is love.


Review

My most recent read was They Were Here Before Us by Bram Stoker Finalist Eric LaRocca.

I have read two of LaRocca’s other novellas Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and You’ve Lost a Lot of Blood and both explored the depths of dark fiction, social prejudices and queer fiction. They Were Here Before Us is series of stories united by the common theme of otherness – seeing humanity through its darkest and most depraved lenses by those who are other, seperate and different.

Final Thoughts

They Were Here Before Us is a complex, visceral and raw exploration of humanity through the lens of otherness. LaRocca’s writing is skilful and a delight to read even as the subject of each story gets darker, the masterful writing holds your attention until the very end and beyond. Accompanied by richly detailed illustrations that complement the novella, the tales will haunt you well after you’ve turned the final pages.

Conclusion

A highly recommended read for fans of LaRocca’s other work, dark fiction, societal issues, queer fiction and horror.

events, Long Fiction, Writing

Bluebells Book Launch

Conflux 16- Speculative Fiction Conventions from October 1 -3 will be hosting my book launch for Bluebells. After several hospital admission interruptions, I’m looking forward to properly launching my debut novella from Black Hare Press.

Tickets for Conflux 16 are essential. Book here.

Bluebells has its belated official launch on October 2nd at 12:30 pm AEST.

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The Twisted Ones

Publisher’s Description:

When Mouse’s dad asks her to clean out her dead grandmother’s house, she says yes. After all, how bad could it be?

Answer: pretty bad. Grandma was a hoarder, and her house is stuffed with useless rubbish. That would be horrific enough, but there’s more—Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to be filled with nonsensical rants…until Mouse encounters some of the terrifying things he described for herself.

Alone in the woods with her dog, Mouse finds herself face to face with a series of impossible terrors—because sometimes the things that go bump in the night are real, and they’re looking for you. And if she doesn’t face them head on, she might not survive to tell the tale.


Review:

I recently read horror novel The Twisted Ones by US author T. Kingfisher.

The Twisted Ones follows the protagonist Mouse who is given the unfavourable task to clean out her holder grandmother’s house after her death. It is no surprise to Mouse that no one liked her grandmother, especially not Mouse. The only person Mouse shared any similarity with was her step-grandfather Cochrane.

While cleaning out the house Mouse finds her grandmother’s hoarding was far beyond anything she had expected. The only room in the entire house that hasn’t been filled with junk is Cochrane’s room. What she does find is Cochrane’s journal which contains the madness of a man falling into dementia and the sane writings of a man who believed in folklore of white people he’d known about in Wales and the standing stones associated with something he calls the twisted ones.

Pretty soon Mouse encounters the terrifying reality of the things Cochrane had been describing. And even sooner, she is drawn into a world that cannot exist and the monsters called the twisted ones. Accompanied by the neighbour from the hippie commune, Mouse and her dog venture into the madness of Cochrane’s world and hope to escape it- knowing that he did not.

Final Thoughts:

The Twisted Ones is skilfully written, enjoyable and terrifying. An intriguing combination of folklore and horror with the right amount of gore, terror and mystery to create just the correct balance to make it fast paced and exciting. Kingfisher writes with a talent that makes it seem easy, the characters are all unique and secrets revealed with perfect timing.

Conclusion:

A fantastic read for anyone who enjoys horror, folk horror, dark fiction and a good character driven story. Highly recommended!

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You’ve Lost A Lot Of Blood

Publisher’s Description

“Each precious thing I show you in this book is a holy relic from the night we both perished-the night when I combed you from my hair and watered the moon with your blood.

You’ve lost a lot of blood . . .”


Review

I recently read Eric LaRocca’s second independently published novella You’ve Lost A Lot of Blood.

You’ve Lost a lot of Blood is a fictionalised presentation of the writings from Martyr Black and recorded conversations with his partner Ambrose Thorne. Martyr Black was accused by authorities of the serial murders of gay men whom he’d lured into relationships before killing them.

The story-within-a story is a novella supposed written by Martyr Black, focuses on Tamsen and her younger brother Presley, when Tamsen takes a job debugging a famous virtual reality game. Inevitably, things go terribly awry and the darker truth behind the mysterious game designer and the game becomes clear.

The final passages of You’ve Lost a lot Blood conclude of the linear storyline of Martyr Black’s infamous life and the plagiarism of various works from his victims throughout the years of his killing spree.

Final Thoughts

I was immersed in the beautiful and striking prose immediately. You’ve Lost A Lot of Blood has been described as being like an art installation and it’s certainly the feeling I had. The snippets of conversations between Martyr and Ambrose, the poems and novella, combine with a memoir-like passages by Black are all presented as a fictionalised volume itself. It’s an intriguing read, brilliantly written and a clever design.

Conclusion

You’ve Lost a lot of Blood is highly recommended for its literary skill, the unique presentation of writing ‘voices’ to reflect the different fictionalised authors is expertly done. Horror readers won’t be disappointed either with some truly distributing dark fiction aspects. An absolute must read!

Writing

2022 Ditmar Awards

The Ditmar Awards are awarded at the Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy National Convention each year

My eligible works for 2022 Best Short Story:

◦ “A Trail of Corpselights”, Leanbh Pearson [QLD], in New Tales of Old 1, Black Ink Fiction.

◦ “ Serket’s Curse”, Alannah K. Pearson [ACT], in Scorpio: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Zodiac, Deadset Press.

◦ “Talismans”, Leanbh Pearson [QLD], in Revolutions, Deadset Press.

◦ “The Dark Harpist”, Leanbh Pearson [QLD], in New Tales of Old 1, Black Ink Fiction.

◦ “The Dark Horseman”, Leanbh Pearson [QLD], in Legends of Night, Black Ink Fiction.

◦ “The House of the Cat-Si”, Leanbh Pearson [QLD], in 13 Lives of Alice, Black Hare Press.

◦ “The Monster”, Alannah K. Pearson [ACT], in Gluttony, Black Hare Press.

◦ “The Queen of Crows”, Leanbh Pearson [ACT], in Over the Rainbow: An LGBTQ+ Fairytale Charity Anthology, Black Ink Fiction.

◦ “The Yule Trolls”, Leanbh Pearson [QLD], in Eerie Christmas 2, Black Hare Press.

◦ “Them”, Alannah K. Pearson [ACT], in Wrath, Black Hare Press.

◦ “Three Tasks for the Sidhe”, Leanbh Pearson [ACT], in Stories of Survival, Deadset Press.

◦ “The Spreading Rot” in Haunted: An Anthology, Specul8 Publishing, 2021

◦ “Poisoned Fruit, Poisoned Reign” in Reign (Five Hundred Fiction, #7), Black Hare Press, 2021

◦ “The Haunted Ones” in Haunt (Five Hundred Fiction, #6), Black Hare Press, 2021

◦ “The Bones of a Dead God” in Bones (Five Hundred Fiction, #4), Black Hare Press, 2021

◦ “The Eldritch Woods” in Watch (Five Hundred Fiction, #3), Black Hare Press, 2021

◦ “The Hero of Silversmiths” in Avenge (Five Hundred Fiction, #2), Black Hare Press, 2021

My eligible works for 2022 Edited Collection:

Revolutions, Austin P. Sheehan [VIC], Grace Chan [VIC], and Leanbh Pearson [QLD], Deadset Press.

Scorpio: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Zodiac, Austin P. Sheehan [VIC], Neen Cohen [QLD] and Alannah K. Pearson [ACT], Deadset Press.

Vote for your favourite works for the 2022 Ditmar Awards here

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Night of the Mannequins

Publisher’s Description

We thought we’d play a fun prank on her, and now most of us are dead.

One last laugh for the summer as it winds down. One last prank just to scare a friend. Bringing a mannequin into a theater is just some harmless fun, right? Until it wakes up. Until it starts killing.

Luckily, Sawyer has a plan. He’ll be a hero. He’ll save everyone to the best of his ability. He’ll do whatever he needs to so he can save the day. That’s the thing about heroes—sometimes you have to become a monster first.


Review

I recently read horror novella Night of the Mannequins by US author Stephen Graham Jones.

Night of the Mannequins follows a group of school friends in a final summer. In what begins as a ‘coming-of-age’ story quickly turns for a darker and more disturbing route as a mannequin adopted by the group for the summer takes on a life of its own.

Soon, the bodies begin to drop and exactly where reality ends and madness takes over becomes blurred. Equally blurred are the lines between hero and monster.

Final Thoughts

Night of the Mannequins was another brilliantly twisted tale from Stephen Graham Jones- now firmly cemented as my favourite horror writer. Disclaimer: I’m terrified of mannequins. The lure for me was Graham Jones’s skilful writing. This was a delightfully dark novella where nothing is as it seems and becoming a monster was one of them.

Conclusion

Highly recommended! For horror readers of the psychological, thriller, bizarre and supernatural. A great read.

Long Fiction, Writing

Bluebells Release!!

My debut horror novella Bluebells was published on July 9th 2022 by Black Hare Press.


1917, Australia.

In the aftermath of an alternate ending to the First World War, mass frontline casualties and a mysterious pandemic have decimated governments and the environment across much of Europe and the world, Australia included.

Anna Baylon lives with her parents, scraping a meagre living in the drought-ridden, abandoned, and mostly isolated town of Berrima near Sydney, waiting for news of her older brother, Peter, who enlisted years before.

The arrival of a handsome, mysterious stranger, Nicolas de Laon, her brother’s lover, turns her world upside down.

Anna’s strength is tested when she follows Nicolas—a vampire—from the safety of her home, determined to learn Peter’s fate.

But Nicolas’s darkness isn’t confined to his vampiric hereditary. And when Anna learns the darker truth, can she forgive him?

A steamy dystopian thriller from Leanbh Pearson.

More details on how you can purchase ebook, paperback and hardcover copies of Bluebells here.

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The Dark Matter of Natasha

Publisher’s Description

Natasha stalks the quiet streets of dead-end Lunar Bay like doom in a denim jacket. She’s a grim reminder that some teenagers can never escape the ever-tightening noose of their lives. Burned out and benumbed by a traumatic past, dogged by scurrilous small-town gossip, she finds solace in drugs, sex and Slayer.

When a naïve transplant crosses her path, he’s drawn into shadow and doubt. With his girlfriend ghosting him, Natasha’s fresh introduction to her half-lit world is darkly appealing. Now faced with confusing quandaries—connection or convenience, relationship or exploitation—can he help any of the women in his life? Or is he just helping himself?

The untold tragedies of Natasha’s lonely life may be more than he can handle. And in a town whose history is littered with dead girls, there may be no happy ending for anyone.

A tar-black coming of age story, this gritty psychological thriller from Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author Matthew R. Davis, eloquently chronicles the crushing gravity of small-town hopelessness, the double-edged catharsis of sex, drugs, and heavy metal, and the brutal weight of youth’s first lessons in accountability.

What horrors have Natasha’s flat eyes witnessed? And how far will she go in pursuit of the one tiny spark of hope that still flickers in her haunted heart?


*** I received a free ebook in exchange for an honest review ***

Review

I recently read The Dark Matter of Natasha by Matthew R. Davis, an Australian horror and dark fiction author.

The Dark Matter of Natasha follows a teenage protagonist as he navigates poverty and the isolation of a small town, always wanting something more in a place that can’t offer much. After a confusing sexual incident and subsequent rejection by his girlfriend Caitlin, there’s a real sense of abandonment and that the life he’d hoped for is slipping away from him. Then he meets Natasha and everything changes.

Natasha is alluring in many ways. She’s someone he doesn’t understand, someone who seems to accept him regardless of his naivety, insecurities and how different he is from her. But Natasha is a greatly flawed. She’s someone who’s seen the worst of the world and it’s betrayals. She’s hardened and jaded by life and expects nothing but more of the same from it. There’s a sense of hopelessness to her and a waiting out the clock despite her young age.

It’s hard to discuss how our protagonist changes over the course of the story without giving away major plot developments as spoilers. But after a series of catastrophic events occur, he’s changed in ways he can’t ever recover from. Although he and Caitlin remain together, their marriage is a cold one and bound by shared experience rather than any love remaining between them.

Final Thoughts

The Dark Matter of Natasha is a complex novella that is both a coming-of-age story and one of desire and trauma. In an exploration of the bleakest natures of human experience and how repeated trauma reduces human capacity to a shell of itself, a hardened and emotionally distant one fuelled only by memory. Despite the dark undertones to the story, there are such clearly defined characters.

Davis makes us witnesses to how despite her indifference to life, Natasha changes lives forever. But the trauma that seemed to only belong to Natasha at the beginning of the story is a creeping thing, almost a character in itself, to where by the end our protagonist and Caitlin exist but no longer seem to truly live in the world. Davis shows us the spreading tide of trauma and hopelessness from a small community that has indelible effects on those who survive it.

Conclusion

A powerfully written and intense dark fiction novella. Trigger warnings are necessary for psychological and sexual abuse and suicide themes. A recommended read.

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A Dead Djinn in Cairo

Publisher’s Description

Egypt, 1912. In Cairo, the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine.
What starts off as an odd suicide case for Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi leads her through the city’s underbelly as she encounters rampaging ghouls, saucy assassins, clockwork angels, and a plot that could unravel time itself.


Review

I recently read A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèlí Clark after many recommendations for this alternate history series.

Fatma el-Sha’arawi is a Special Investigator for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. A flashy-dresser in male attire, she is unrepentant in a very male-dominated world.

Once she begins investigating the strange suicide of an ancient djinn – an unlikely case of death for djinn- she’s soon led to the City of the Dead in the slums of Cairo after reports of increased ghoul attacks.

In the City of the Dead, Fatma discovers another horrible death of an angel and clues to a cult active in Cairo. Soon, aided by a sultry assassin, Fatma el-Sha’arawi is in a race against the dawn to save the world from a cataclysmic event.

Final Thoughts

A Dead Djinn in Cairo is an amazing novella set in an alternate Cairo during 1912. The world building is fantastic with airships, clockwork angels, automaton servants and the magnificent but terrifying djinn.

Conclusion

A perfect short read for fans of alternate history, steampunk, dark fiction, horror, queer fiction and a fantastical blend of all genres. Highly recommended!