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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!

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.

research, Writing

Folklore of the Cursed Aye-Aye

In Madagascar, a highly unusual endangered nocturnal lemur is associated in regional as taboo or fady. The bizarre habits, secretive nature and distinctive appearance of the aye-aye fills some Madagascan peoples with the horror and dread at the sight of it. This has often lead to the slaughter of aye-ayes.

In other regions of Madagascar, it is considered fady to eat certain lemurs, which means that local taboos can actually shield and protect specific species. The aye-aye’s most striking features likely lead to its persecution.

Aye-ayes are medium-sized nocturnal lemurs and are mostly black but have large, highly mobile ears for tracking minute sounds. They’re also the only primate with continuously growing incisors which make them look rodent-like. Most notable of the aye-aye’s unusual physical features is it’s long, thin middle finger which is used to tap rapidly on decayed wood where their sensitive hearing helps detect insect larvae beneath. They then gnaw holes into the wood with those rodent-like teeth and use the long, skeletal-like finger to skewer and scoop out insect larvae.

According to the local views of fady, anyone who has an aye-aye point its long spindly finger at them, will be met with ill-fortune.

But the aye-aye’s eating habits may also contribute to their unpopularity with rural villages. Aye-ayes raid common Madagascan crops like coconuts, lychees, and mangos. This has led to viewing the aye-aye as a crop pest. But aye-ayes also eat seeds from the ramy tree (Canarium spp.) which grow tall and undisturbed near tombs in the Samanioana region where it is considered fady to cut them down. Aye-ayes are found in the peaceful sacred burial sites and surrounding forest, nesting and foraging without much human disturbance. Unsurprisingly, the aye-aye’s preference for the areas surrounding tombs may have inadvertently caused villagers to associate them with death and bad luck.

Other regions only consider the aye-aye fady when it enters a village.  Locals feel uneasy about an animal intentionally displacing itself from its home in the forest to enter a village. Essentially the unnatural act of entering a “human space” from the forest is what creates the bad omen.  They believe the only reason an aye-aye would display such unusual behavior is to foretell illness as the harbinger of death.

The degree of fady varies from village to village and the response to an aye-aye sighting. Regardless, fear is ingrained into this fady. In some northern regions of Madagascar, locals fear any sightings of an aye-aye. If an aye-aye is spotted in the forest, locals believe someone in a nearby village will fall sick and possibly die. If an aye-aye is found in the village itself, sometimes the entire village is abandoned as everyone living there won’t risk sickness and death. Unfortunately, the most common response to seeing an aye-aye is to kill it, hang the carcass or tail from a pole by a crossroads hoping that by moving the aye-aye further from the village, it will protect everyone from sickness or death. There’s also belief that passers-by may unknowingly carry the bad luck away with them when travelling past the carcass.

Aye-ayes are an essential part of Madagascan biodiversity. The challenges of habitat loss, persecution as a crop pest and the damaging effects of fady accelerate their declining numbers. Because aye-ayes are very rare, sightings of one only reinforce the fady through storytelling. One conversationist intended to rewrite that story.

The late primatologist, Dr. Alison Jolly, authored a children’s book titled, “Ny Aiay Ako” (Ako the Aye-Aye) with the book distributed to children’s schools throughout Madagascar to teach and inspire a love of these lemurs. The book’s protagonist, an aye-aye named Ako, transforms fear into fascination and children are inspired to protect this unusual lemur. In fact, the success of the first book led to a six book series, each about a different species of lemur.

Today, the Lemur Conservation Foundation (LCF) continues Dr. Jolly’s work with the Ako Project. A set of 21 Ako Lemur Lesson Plans and accompanying Ako Educator’s Guide were designed to highlight the biodiversity of Madagascar. Educators can use activities featuring characters and themes from the Ako book series to teach about lemurs and their environment. Each teaching kit includes all six of Dr. Jolly’s storybooks and the materials needed to inspire a love of lemurs and encourage conservation action in Madagascar. The Ako Project is now worldwide with all lesson plans and materials available to download free on LCF’s website at http://www.lemurreserve.org/ako-project/. For conservationists, this project is the first step to dispelling the damaging folklore by empowering children with knowledge and empathy for the aye-aye.

References:

Folklore Thursday, Madagascar Superstitions & Taboos: Fighting the Aye-Aye Fady, https://folklorethursday.com/folklife/madagascar-superstitions-taboos-fighting-the-aye-aye-fady/

Duke Lemur Center https://lemur.duke.edu/discover/meet-the-lemurs/aye-aye/

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The Old Dragon’s Head

Publisher’s Description

Constructed of stone and packed earth, the Great Wall of 10,000 li protects China’s northern borders from the threat of Mongol incursion. The wall is also home to a supernatural beast: the Old Dragon. The Old Dragon’s Head is the most easterly point of the wall, where it finally meets the sea.

In every era, a Dragon Master is born. Endowed with the powers of Heaven, only he can summon the Old Dragon so long as he possess the dragon pearl.

It’s the year 1400, and neither the Old Dragon, the dragon pearl, nor the Dragon Master, has been seen for twenty years. Bolin, a young man working on the Old Dragon’s Head, suffers visions of ghosts. Folk believe he has yin-yang eyes and other paranormal gifts.When Bolin’s fief lord, the Prince of Yan, rebels against his nephew, the Jianwen Emperor, a bitter war of succession ensues in which the Mongols hold the balance of power. While the victor might win the battle on earth, China’s Dragon Throne can only be earned with a Mandate from Heaven – and the support of the Old Dragon.

Bolin embarks on a journey of self-discovery, mirroring Old China’s endeavour to come of age. When Bolin accepts his destiny as the Dragon Master, Heaven sends a third coming of age – for humanity itself. But are any of them ready for what is rising in the east?


*** I received an ARC in exchange for a voluntary review ***

Review

I recently read The Old Dragon’s Head by UK author Justin Newland.

The Old Dragon’s Head follows protagonist Bolin, a worker on mending the Old Dragon’s Head, a part of the Great Wall associated with the head of Old Dragon who embodies the wall. But Bolin has an ability to see ghosts and prophecies, including the loss of his fiefdom’s Prince of Yan in battle.

To restore the balance of power in China, the Emperor’s Dragon Throne can only be earned with the aid of the true Old Dragon, Laolong. Eventually Bolin accepts the reality and responsibility of his supernatural gifts and becomes Dragon Master to help protect China’s Empire from the coming war.

Final Thoughts

The Old Dragon’s Head explores a fascinating era of Chinese history and the use of historical fantasy elements works well – the supernatural invading reality and threatening to drive Bolin into madness. Unfortunately, the writing style lacked immediacy and engagement, characters feeling two-dimensional. The world-building and historical knowledge was exceptionally well detailed though.

Conclusion

A recommended read for those who enjoy historical fiction, historical fantasy, alternate history and strong paranormal elements. A detailed historical read.

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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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The Girl in the Corn

Publisher’s Description

“Beware of what lurks in the corn.
Fairies don’t exist. At least that’s what Thomas Cavanaugh’s parents say. But the events of that one night, when he follows a fairy into the cornfield on his parents’ farm, prove them wrong. What seems like a destructive explosion was, Thomas knows, an encounter with Dauðr, a force that threatens to destroy the fairy’s world and his sanity.
Years later, after a troubled childhood and a series of dead-end jobs, he is still haunted by what he saw that night. One day he crosses paths with a beautiful young woman and a troubled young man, soon realizing that he first met them as a kid while under psychiatric care after his encounters in the cornfield. Has fate brought them together? Are they meant to join forces to save the fairy’s world and their own?
Or is one of them not who they claim to be?”


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

Review

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and dark fiction novel by US author Jason Offutt.

The protagonist is Thomas, a young boy when first introduced to the to reader who meets what he assumes is a fairy between the garden and the corn field. Thomas soon discovers there’s something frightening about the fairy girl who taunts and teases him. As Thomas grows older, his acquaintance with the fairy becomes more dangerous until he learns that Dauðr,, all-encompassing Death and destroyer of all life has Thomas’s world within its sights. At age eleven, Thomas tries to destroy Dauðr, with the fairy’s help but nearly dies in the effort. The mortal world is saved, but Thomas has no memory of that night which still wakes him screaming from his sleep. In the bleak confines of a mental institution, Thomas finds connections with his first love and a dangerous boy he half-recalls.

Years pass and Thomas reunites with Jillian from their shared days in group therapy. But something about Jillian is familiar to Thomas and it’s not until later he discovers she’s the fairy from his childhood. One of the Alfar, the elves. In desperation to flee Dauðr,, Jillian takes Thomas to Alfarheim, the world of the elves that’s been made desolate by Dauðr,. Resolute to save his world from similar destruction, Thomas and Jillian must combat Dauðr, for the final, desperate time.

Final Thoughts

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and dark fantasy novel that uniquely combines the typical American corn fields and Missouri farming communities with the Scandinavian folklore of the alfar, the elves and the destructive force of Dauðr,. Although more explanation of the dimensional existence of Alfarheim is needed and more detail on the folklore of the alfar, The Girl in the Corn was a interesting read.

Conclusion

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and folklore-inspired dark fiction. Recommended for readers who enjoy gothic-style American horror, and horror infused with some Scandinavian folklore. An unusual combination and a recommended read.

Short Fiction, stories

Year Three Release

Year Three, an anthology of dark drabbles was published on January 29th by Black Hare Press. Three of my dark folklore drabbles are featured!

If you’re interested in purchasing an ebook, paperback copy of Year Three, more details are available here

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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!

research, Short Fiction, Writing

Reimagining Alice in Wonderland


I was invited to write a story for a dark speculative fiction anthology inspired by Alice in Wonderland and reimagined for an adult audience. One of the most influential characters for me was the Cheshire Cat and his luring of Alice through Wonderland, and not necessarily for the better. In writing a dark version of my own Alice story, I wanted to incorporate a Cheshire Cat-like character while delving into the social inequalities and injustices many women faced in Victorian times.

In reimagining a darker atmosphere for the Cheshire Cat, I became fascinated by Celtic folklore of the Cat Si, a fairy cat capable of shapeshifting between cat and human form. As a cat, they are described as being a back wild mountain cats with a white star-like pattern marked on the chest.

A gaslamp fantasy, where the Victorian era exists alongside magic, seemed the suitable to incorporate fey shapeshifting cats and Victorian social issues. The dark undercurrents of the story developed through the restrictions of freedoms for women where I focused on the ability to choose whether to marry and whom. In keeping with the nature of Alice’s curiosity in the original Alice in Wonderland, this took a dark path into a romantic relationship based on inequality and injustice. Here, it is the Cat Si who leads adult Alice astray through a darker wonderland than she could have imagined.

Short Fiction, stories

13 Lives of Alice Release


I’m thrilled to announce that 13 Lives of Alice, a dark anthology of Alice in Wonderland inspired tales for adults, was published by Black Hare Press on 7th December 2021.

13 Lives of Alice features my dark gaslamp fantasy “The House of the Cat Si” inspired by the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, folklore of the Cat Si, shapeshifting cat fey, and the historical inequalities and special expectations affecting women in Victorian society. “The House of the Cat Si” may contain themes and elements which may make some readers uncomfortable. If you’re interested in the research behind “The House of the Cat Si”, you can read more here.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy in ebook, paperback or hardback of 13 Lives of Alice, you can find more details here.