Guest Article: Tracy Fahey Discusses Contemporary Body Horror in Literature and Her Collection, I Spit Myself Out. #WiHM #HookonWiHM #womeninhorror @TracyFahey

Author and gothic expert Tracy Fahey is a woman in horror who always interests me. I suppose it’s because my first love in horror myself is the gothic sub-genre, but also Tracy always has intelligent and thought-provoking things to say. It’s why, besides wanting to support her, I invited her to write another article for this site during the time frame of her latest release, a collection of female body horror. I knew she’d discuss something that would be make me want to think a bit harder, challenge me. She didn’t disappoint, but extended my thoughts of the pre-conceived boundaries of body horror I had in my mind. And she’s cited one of my favorite stories, and biggest influences, in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman Perkins!

I hope you enjoy it and check out Tracy’s collection too!

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I Spit Myself Out: Contemporary Female Body Horror
by Tracy Fahey, Author of I Spit Myself Out

My new collection, I Spit Myself Out, is yet another addition to the rich tradition of writing the female body in horror. Earlier seminal work includes Charlotte Gilman Perkins’ masterful short story of 1892, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” perhaps the finest portrait of patriarchal repression of post-partum depression ever written. Similarly, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) telegraphed anxieties about female autonomy, while Madge Piercy’s 1976 speculative feminist classic, Woman on the Edge of Time, contrasted the wretched life of protagonist Connie Ramos inside and outside the asylum she is confined to with the utopia of Mattapoisett.

In recent years, there has been a renaissance of work on the theme of female body horror. This can be viewed as a direct response to the increasing anxiety surrounding women’s rights. Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was recently adapted for TV. This powerful series, with its contemporary setting, speaks to real, current fears about female reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, and control. Since 2018, female protestors against the erosion of body rights under the Trump regime have worn the iconic Handmaids’ garb of white bonnets and red robes to signal their visceral fear of a new Gilead made reality. Atwood was spurred on by the march of current events to write a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale thiety years later, The Testaments (2019). In an interview with Laura Lynch, Atwood said of writing this sequel:

I was no, no, no, no, no for a while, but then No. 1: history changed. Instead of going away from Gilead, we turned around and started coming back towards Gilead.

This vision is echoed in Christina Dalcher’s Vox (2016) where women are literally silenced, forbidden to read, and their conversation limited to under a hundred words a day. In Gwendolyn Kiste’s The Rust Maidens (2018) girls begin to transform and to disintegrate, in tandem with the decline of their hometown. Similarly, Georgina Bruce’s magnificent collection, This House Of Wounds (2019), presents a series of visions of the female psyche as riddled with pain, both physical and mental.

In writing I Spit Myself Out, I was conscious of this tradition. There are definite influences that permeate it (there are shades of “The Yellow Wallpaper” in the titular story, and an Atwoodeque fear of the subjugation of the female body in the perimenopausal story ‘Becoming’). However, in this collection, I wanted to find new ways to articulate these concerns. My first influence was Julia Kristeva’s essay ‘The Powers of Horror,’ and in particular by the way she explores the notion of the abject; that which is of us, but which the body casts off.

 “I” do not want to listen, “I” do not assimilate it. “I” expel it. But since the food is not an “other” for “me,” who am only in their desire, I expel myself, I spit myself out, I abject myself with the same motion through which “I” claim to establish myself. That detail, perhaps an insignificant one, but one that they ferret out, emphasize, evaluate, that trifle turns me inside out, guts sprawling; it is thus that they see the “I” am in the process of becoming an other at the expense of my own death.

Justin Park’s wonderful cover design of I Spit Myself Out perfectly captures Kristeva’s idea of the difficulties that arise when we separate ourselves from what we abject. In this collection I wanted to look at these liminal areas of the female body – the skin as membrane, abraded and permeated, eating disorders that purge the body, and, of course, blood rituals that mark the passage of the body from puberty to menopause.

Ancillary to this was my own cultural background of Irish Catholicism and its problematic attitudes to the female body. So this collection is also rife with images of miraculous cures, stigmata, statues, stained glass, and shrines. It also betrays my interest in both forensics (explored in the story ‘The Wrong Ones’) and morbid anatomy (as featured in ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’). The final font of inspiration for this collection was the troubled relationship between the body and the mind. Characters in I Spit Myself Out inhabit an uneasy world where their bodies become theatres of pain, places that play out the tension between the expectations of society, the desire to conform, and the rebellious refusal to do so.

Like Connie Ramos, like Offred, like the unnamed narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the women of I Spit Myself Out face their anxieties about what it is to be female, they find their voices, and, ultimately, they spit their stories out.

I Spit Myself Out, About –

Eighteen unsettling narratives map the female experience from puberty to menopause.

I Spit Myself Out is a collection of female-voiced stories exploring the terror that lurks beneath the surface of the skin. In this collection, an Anatomical Venus opens to display her organs, clients of a mysterious clinic disappear one by one, a police investigation reveals family secrets, revenge is inked in the skin, and bodies pulsate in the throes of illness, childbirth and religious ritual.

Disturbing and provoking in equal turns, I Spit Myself Out reinvents the body as a breeding ground of terrors that resurface inexorably in the present.

You can order it at hyperurl.co/ezgri7, or you can order directly from the Sinister Horror Company

Tracy Fahey, Biography –

Tracy Fahey is an Irish writer of Gothic fiction.  In 2017, her debut collection The Unheimlich Manoeuvre was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. Her short fiction is published in over thirty American, British, Australian and Irish anthologies.

She holds a PhD on the Gothic in visual arts, and her non-fiction writing is published in edited collections and journals. She has been awarded residencies in Ireland and Greece. She has written two collections, New Music For Old Rituals and The Unheimlich Manoeuvre, the mini-collection, Unheimlich Manoeuvres In The Dark, and the novel, The Girl In The Fort.  

Her new collection, I Spit Myself Out is published by the Sinister Horror Company in February 2021.

You can read another article by Tracy, about Doppelgangers, which she wrote for this site last year, HERE.

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I’ll be celebrating #WomeninHorror and #BlackHistoryMonth in both February and March specifically here, but also still promoting #WomeninHistory month which is March as well. But you know me, I promote women and diversity all year long anyway. But feel free to follow along on my page for Women in Horror for this special honorary time.

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“Tentacled Stars and Madness” and “Generational Loss” – My Two Award Eligible Poems from 2020 #SFPA #Poetry

As I’ve mentioned several times this year already, 2020 was a dry desert as far as new writing from me after the four years before that increasingly produced all types of work from short stories to poetry. It was just a hard year for everyone, and our home was no less struck in certain ways. On a positive, I also had a lot of work come in as far as editing as well, but it did limit my writing time as much of my free time went to family situations.

I did write a couple poems in 2020, and two I’m proud of were published on the Spreading the Writer’s Word website, during the monthly Ladies of Horror Fiction writing prompt project. I wanted to share them here with my followers as well as mention that they are two of my poems eligible for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s annual Rhysling Award. I would be happy for any fellow SFPA members and readers to also give them a read for consideration. I’ve been enjoying reading through all the posted eligible works myself in the last few months.

But my hope is for all to enjoy my celestial thoughts and mind. Let me know if you liked them! And keep your eyes peeled because I’m writing more already in 2021, as least poetry wise, and I have plans to publish some of my work from the stacks I wrote in 2019! I hope that my writing freeze is over, but keep the inspiration and motivation coming please!

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Tentacled Stars and Madness

I twisted the handle,
and I floated toward the stars,
toward the particles,
toward the tiny fires,
and I landed with one foot upon
the twinkling glow.

I outstretched my arm to the abyss,
and a tentacle clasped my hand,
and I laughed, being pulled away
into the midnight expanse of iridescent
nothingness

or is it encompassing, life painted as a cerebral hemorrhage,
an image emblazoned on our mind of what God is or the gods are,
of our existence.

I rotate through the soft air, looking upward from my back
as the sky creature pulls me toward oblivion,
as if I don’t even care to know where I go,
but enjoy the spontaneity.

The symbols etched in the stars as I go by – I finger them,
the runes of the galaxy;
my brain on fire, each synapse bursting open,
and yet, I’m unburdened.

In its lair, finally, it wraps its long arms around me and crushes,
bright lights flash before me, around me,
my mind downloading all of humanity’s curses and wishes,

and then,

I’m gone, floating in some communal stomach cavity, disintegrating to smaller pieces,
but becoming part of a bigger cosmos we could only dream of understanding…

…from our tiny window below.

–Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi / Nov 2020

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If interested, I also had another prose poem on Spreading the Writer’s Word that would be eligible as well. I was able to write it to my good friend and exceptional poet Christina Sng’s beautiful artwork.

General Loss

The night was chilly. Foggy. I pulled my wrap tighter around my shoulders as I rocked in my chair and watched my daughters from the porch.

They traveled, little feet and big minds, down the valley and through the woods, then up the mountain. We lived in this place where anything could be imagined, except health.

They were in search of miracles in the twinkling, night sky. Even the cat, who had tagged along behind them knew to look above to the skies and ask the right questions, fib the right lies.

Summoning gods or demons or angels or creatures, they had no preference. Brave souls with hearts like a fortress and energy like a magnet. The clouds swirled above and the fog dissipated below, and the sounds of far off waves suddenly became war drums.

My young ladies, my hope, my solace, plead in our tongue to the blackened sky that was illuminated by an unnatural light. Asked for their life-giver to be spared the disease of this Earth, to endeavor together to another vastly realm where resolute ladies (and their cats, their protectors) reigned immortal.

Where no tears were cried for death or cough, no graves buried or mourning of loss. Where people worked and lived with passion and grace, mercy and empathy, a true human race.

–Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi / 2020

If you’re interested in the SFPA, click to get details, or HERE, to learn about Rhysling and other awards.

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Clever Girl by Stephanie Marie Thornton Cover Revealed! #HistFic

This seems THE year for female spy novels in the historical fiction genre! And I, for one, am loving it. In that vein, it’s cover reveal day for CLEVER GIRL by Stephanie Thornton. Stephanie had been one of my favorite authors for many years. You’ll find it here below; isn’t it amazing!?

Available September 2021, this is, according to Stephanie, “Elizabeth Bentley’s wild ride of a spy-turned-informer story.”

Now available for preorder:

Penguin Random House: http://bit.ly/3rjPbde
Amazon: https://amzn.to/3cHn9El
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/3aD2hvd
Books-a-Million: http://bit.ly/3cOq8uZ
Bookshop.org: http://bit.ly/3jjGBZ3
Hudson: http://bit.ly/3pSwInE
Indiebound: http://bit.ly/3jjwoMk

From the cover:

A thrilling tale of love, loyalty, and espionage, based on the incredible true story of Elizabeth Bentley, a Cold War double agent spying for the Russians and the United States, from USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Marie Thornton.

1963: Reeling from the death of her mother and President Kennedy’s assassination, Catherine Gray shows up on Elizabeth Bentley’s doorstep demanding answers to the shocking mystery just uncovered about her family. What she doesn’t expect is for Bentley to ensnare her in her own story of becoming a controversial World War II spy and Cold War informer…

Recruited by the American Communist Party to spy on fascists at the outbreak of World War II, a young Bentley–code name Clever Girl–finds she has an unexpected gift for espionage. But after falling desperately in love with her handler, Elizabeth makes another unexpected discovery when she learns her lover is actually a Russian spy. Together, they will build the largest Soviet spy network in America and Elizabeth will become its uncrowned Red Spy Queen. However, once the war ends and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. become embroiled in the Cold War, it is Elizabeth who will dangerously clash with the NKVD, the brutal Soviet espionage agency.

As Catherine listens to Elizabeth’s harrowing tale, she empathizes with her, that is, until she uncovers startling revelations that link the two women’s lives in shocking ways. Faced with the idea that her entire existence is based on a lie, Catherine realizes there can be many sides to the truth. And only Elizabeth Bentley can tell her what that truth really is.

Talk soon!

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Guest Article: Indie Horror Fundraiser and Scholarship for Women in Horror by Andrew Fowlow, The Book Dad #HookonWiHM #WiHM

I have some exciting news and a really cool announcement for my fellow women in horror! There is an exciting project, headed by horror reviewer and freelance writer Andrew Fowlow, in which you can buy some super cool women in horror merchandise all for a great cause, in order to offer a scholarship and in-kind editing and marketing gifts to help a woman in horror pursue her writing and publication efforts, and beyond that, to help spread the word about the mighty power that is indie horror!

Andrew is here at Hook of a Book to introduce himself to us and explain the fundraiser and scholarship. Those of you who know me know that after my ten years in the genre as an editor, author, PR professional, and more in the horror genre that I wouldn’t be partnering with Andrew if I didn’t believe in his energy, enthusiasm, and heart for the community as well as his skills, drive, and desire to help others. As well, of course, I believe in his professional skills he’s honing not only as a freelance writer, but someone who is learning and excelling in the ropes of marketing. Andrew writes for various publications such as Lit Reactor and HorrorDNA, among others. The horror newsletter he’s recently started for the genre is amazing and sign-up MUST for anyone (you’ll find that link below).

And finally, I am really happy to see in the last few years the amount of men who are stepping up in horror to support women in horror. When we all support and respect one another, the community flourishes.

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Now that I’ve introduced Andrew, I’ll let him have the floor…..

Indie Horror Fundraiser and Scholarship for Women in Horror
by Andrew Fowlow, The Book Dad

If you don’t know me, my name is Andrew, otherwise known as ‘The Book Dad,’ and I am a reviewer of horror fiction. It is my intent to support those in the #HorrorCommunity anyway I can while on my literary journey to reading all things terrifying and suspenseful!

As you know, it’s #WiHM (Women in Horror Month) and I wanted to do something special for our ladies of the macabre! I created a RedBubble store with a few designs for folks to show off their love for HORROR FICTION! There are stickers, to be read (tbr) cart magnets, mugs, t-shirts, you name it.

Find it all at:

thebookdad.redbubble.com

Cool, right?

So, where does the money go?

Scholarship for a Woman in Horror!!

ALL MONEY EARNED IN FEBRUARY AND MARCH WILL GO TOWARDS A FEMALE HORROR WRITER TO HELP FUND THEIR NEXT PROJECT!!

I want to help a woman in horror get their book in readers’ hands. That could mean splurging on a fancy cover, getting a Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) membership, funding an audiobook, WHATEVER THEY WANT!

In addition, FREE EDITING PACKAGE:

The lovely Erin Al-Mehairi from Hook of a Book Media has graciously offered a free developmental and copy editing of a book 100k words or less (over is negotiable) for the chosen writer (with minor guidelines such as when the editing is negotiated for would be based on her current client schedule). This is a huge savings and you will receive an edit from a known and established editor in the genre.

In addition, also, FREE MARKETING PACKAGE:

I, The Book Dad, will also offer up my time to assist with the following:

✅ Marketing Strategies

✅ Full Media Kit

✅ Press Releases

✅ Newsletter

✅ Website/Landing Page

✅ Social Media Campaigns

I invite any female horror writer to email me: Andrewfowlow@gmail.com with their details and a brief pitch telling me what they are working on. Please, don’t be shy. I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Throughout the next two months, I will run a social media campaign to decide on a winner so keep watch. This will be a fun opportunity and I’m excited to connect with you all!

Again, if you don’t know me, that’s ok, you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Goodreads or sign-up for my horror fiction newsletter for more content from those in the #HorrorCommunity.

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Thank you so much to Andrew for running with this idea to help a woman a horror. I’m happy to be a part of it and good luck! Get those pitches in to Andrew for consideration and watch social media for more about the giveaway.

Remember to showcase those women in horror you love each and every day!

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Filed under Book Services, Editing, Feature Articles, Guest Posts, HookonWiHM, women in horror

A Prose Poem: Beneath the Surface of Us All by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

As you’ve probably seen, read, or assumed, I’m going to start using my site more often again, offering you content I hope you enjoy. It’s been ten years with this Oh, for the Hook of a Book! site, and to those subscribers who’ve been with me a number of years, to those who’ve followed my writing journey or book talk, I’m so grateful. Thank you!

With that in mind, I’m also going to start sharing some more of my own work again. I’d really love to hear from you on my writing, or any posts really, in the comments. And feel free to let me know what’s new with you too and point me in the direction of one of your posts to read as well. I’d like to limit my social media use and create and reconnect lasting and living connections through other means.

Photo Credit: Unspash

February brings about Women in Horror Month, and I’ll have some content on my site in celebration of that, but you all know I promote women in any genre and any form all year long. It’s evident on this site for one. One of the groups I like to be involved with is a ladies in horror writing group. Each month we are given photo prompts and we write poetry or flash fiction inspired by it. The support of these ladies is amazing. And it really keeps me writing some months! You’ll find a wealth of women in horror to read or discover on this site.

So….. here is my prose poem for January at Spreading the Writer’s Word.

Beneath the Surface of Us All
by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

She has no cares for earthly exploration whether land or water. Mired with no focus, her mind races with anxiety and pain and chaos enough to fire several universes. She floats through life peering through blinking eyelashes and wondering about the tangible dirt most people grab and can feel running through their fingers. She’s been freed from topography constraints and has submerged into a realm saved for a chosen few in which maps aren’t needed, time doesn’t exist, and movements are fluid.

But she’s cold. Cold of heart, stoic of mind, narrow in her observations. It’s a dichotomy but it’s also a trauma effect. She needs my warmth, my clarity. When I reach out my hand to her, she touches only my fingers briefly and I shiver as electrons shoot up inside me. In her own quest for feeling, she opens the darkest places within me, pulls and widens and prods, but I’m not fearful, as instead I crave it.

I start to question my own world, my life, my surrounding stimuli. I sink into her. And then, she opens her maw, and she eats me whole.

End / Erin Al-Mehairi, Copyright January 2021

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You can read many other free poetry and flash fiction by amazing women twice daily most days, at Spreading the Writer’s Word! Thank you to Erin Lydia Prime, Nina d’Archangela, and all the sisterly writing support found at the Facebook group of Ladies of Horror.

Stay tuned for interviews, reviews, and guest articles from women in horror in February for the 12th Annual Women in Horror Month as well as people of color for black history and appreciation month. If you’d like to be considered for inclusion, please let me know!

If you’d like to see what I’ve done in the past, head to my Women in Horror page.

Have a good weekend!

Erin

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Guest Article: Mark Matthews Talks About His Choice of Title for His Book The Hobgoblin of Little Minds @matthews_mark

I have the distinct pleasure of hosting a guest article from Mark Matthews on the occasion of the release of his new novel, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, a psychological horror novel. Mark is always and often advocating for mental health awareness, whether in working in the field, talking about it in articles or social media, or intricately so, in his writing of books and stories or editing of anthologies. I admire Mark for his dedication and thoughts to the human condition and believe he’s a fabulous writer who has important things to say through his words. Pick up a copy of his work, or an anthology with one of his stories, and you’ll see what I mean. Or to get first glimpse, read the article below and pick up a copy of his newest book.

“I Was Told There Would Be Hobgoblins”
by Mark Matthews, author of The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Yesterday, January 28, 2021, was the first full moon of the year! With that, I’m very excited for the release of my new psychological horror novel, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, to coincide with this lunar activity.

The novel has received some great reviews from early readers, but I do fear some elements might disappoint. For example, I imagine eavesdropping on readers and hearing things like:

“I was told there would be Hobgoblins. Where are the Hobgoblins?”

Sorry, there are no Hobgoblins inside.

 “No Hobgoblins!? But there are at least Werewolves, right?”

Well, sort of. But you’ll not find the word ‘Werewolf’ inside, not even once.

No Hobgoblins. Never mentions Werewolves, What the hell?

Let me explain:

The title of the book comes from the phrase “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” For those who’ve read the transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, the phrase strikes a chord immediately.

The concept is a theme throughout the book. This idea that repeating things as they’ve always been done out of mindless repetition stops creativity and ingenuity. The quote is heralded, and ultimately twisted, by a psychiatrist, Doctor Zita. Zita is the villain in the story, to a degree, but certainly a sympathetic character.

Doctor Zita grew up witness to her mom struggling with mental illness. After one of her mom’s many suicide attempts, her dad abandons the family, saying “you fix her” as he leaves out the door. This becomes her driving principle and obsession— to ‘fix’ bipolar disorder, and not repeat the foolish mistakes of ineffective mental health treatment of the past.

“She was going to find a way to fix bipolar disorder. To siphon out the worst parts, and make the best parts boil to the top. She had to try something new, because ‘foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’ The same efforts bring same results.”

According to the Doctor, the symptoms of bipolar do not need to be blunted and minimized the way psychiatry has tried for years, but rather, magnified and harnessed. The boundless energy of mania, the primal passions, acute senses, and savage strength are resilient traits that have helped humans persist.

This is not a belief that I subscribe to, but through the viewpoint of Doctor Zita, I do hope to show empathy for family members who rely on mental health treatment, and have so often been let down by a science that is far from perfect, and at times causes more harm than it does cure. This book shines the light on some dark challenges of mental illness, and portrays it with humanity.

The werewolves inside are definitely beasts, but they are not monsters. They love. They have hopes and dreams. They speak as much as howl. They visit their churches and their childhood homes, mimicking much of their human behavior. They do not grow hair, but they do grow stronger as a predator when the moon is full, and have explosive and vengeful rage, often with the best of intentions but worst of results. They are propelled by boundless energy and amazing powers of perception. All of this is what happens, in a sense, in bipolar mania.

As noted, the word werewolf is never mentioned in the novel, much in the way the word zombie is never mentioned in The Walking Dead. In a sense I did this because there is no such thing as werewolves, right? And I want this story to ring true. It even occurs in a true setting, the abandoned Northville Psychiatric Hospital.  

So, no, there are no Hobgoblins inside, nor any little minds being eaten, but I do think you’ll find that there is so much more.

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, About –

Kori Persephone Driscoe suffered through her dad’s mental illness. All she wanted was for him to get better, but instead he disappeared. Kori trespasses into the abandoned Northville Psychiatric Hospital, the last place her dad was treated, seeking solace and traces of his memory. What she finds instead is something no longer human living deep in the underground tunnels.

During the last days of the hospital, a rogue psychiatrist had been manipulating the mood swings of the mentally ill, transforming patients into savage, manic creatures who seek justice by the light of the full moon. When the creatures hunt for prey, only an escaped patient and her beloved child can help Kori survive. But they better act fast, because the creatures want blood, Kori wants to save her dad, and the whole hospital is about to be blown to pieces and bury Kori alive. 

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds is available at:

Kindle for Amazon – Cover above is Kindle Cover!

Amazon paperback – full wrap cover above!

Or…

Barnes and Noble

Indiebound

Powell’s

Mark Matthews, Biography –

Mark Matthews is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a licensed professional counselor who has worked in behavioral health for over 20 years. He is the author of On the Lips of Children, All Smoke Rises, and Milk-Blood, as well as the editor of the anthology Lullabies for Suffering and Garden of Fiends. His newest work, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, is available as of January, 2021. Reach him at WickedRunPress@gmail.com.

Follow Mark Matthews on Twitter.

Author’s Webpage

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Review: Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase

Review: Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase
Eve Mallow Mystery Series
Bookouture (December 4, 2020)

Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase is a cozy mystery pleasure read! I bought it for myself for over the holidays when I decided to take a few days break from publishing work and responsibilities and just immerse myself in something fun! This is book four, and I hadn’t read any of her other books, but when I saw the cover come through my twitter feed with the picture of the old mill on it, it piqued my interest! I love old mills, especially in overseas landscapes. And I love british mysteries. On a personal note as well, I found after buying, that though I live in America now, this takes place in “a sleepy Suffolk village” in England, and this is the area in which I was born and lived as a child. I rarely see books set here and it was so nice to be taken to this landscape of the healths and rivers and coasts.

The book starts at a holiday party, which I also found perfect for a holiday read, but yet not overly “christmas” or “holiday seasonal.” I was ready for a mystery and I thought it’d be the perfect palate cleanser from some of the other things I’d been reading. I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Though I didn’t have much time to read in the end to finish it as quickly as I’d have liked (this would have otherwise been a two day read), I enjoyed looking forward to it when I could and finally finished it in mid-January.

I’ve been talking about series fiction some lately in my work. So it dawns on me to address that this book is a series and I started mid-series. I didn’t really notice it was book four at all – the mystery is stand alone – though I realized while reading mid-way through that some of the characters’ back stories would be enhanced if I went back and read former books – which I definitely will now! It made me curious about the life of the protagonist prior, but it didn’t hinder the story plot any for me. Honestly, I’d probably move on to book five first though, which I think also comes out this year, to continue on from this one to see the progression.

I didn’t even guess who the murderer was at all, and often I do; I didn’t know until the reveal in the final pages! She had so many good twists and turns in thought. It was well-written, and it flowed like the smoothest pot of tea. It didn’t lull or get bogged down in details or character ramblings or rabbit holes. It used the art of deflection without really taking us out of the story. It kept a quick pace and moved along well.

And yet, with the swiftness of the plot, the characters were so fully developed I felt as if I knew all of them! I look forward to getting to know some of them more, too. I really like the protagonist Eve, and the author’s method into making her an accidental “investigator” is priceless! An obituary writer who interviews friends and family is quite unlike something I’ve read, but a great segway into a classic “sleuth.” Definitely for fans who like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple but want a more modern mystery read with a slightly younger (middle-aged) protagonist.

As well, her descriptions are lush and vivid, but not overdrawn. We can visualize easily, simply, but with depth. That takes the skill of a very talented and seasoned writer. I enjoyed the imagery immensely.

The verdict is: loved it! 

Editorial notes: As a working editor, I usually have a lot of developmental notes, mental or otherwise, on books I read. I really have nothing faulty to say about this book from an editing perspective, whether developmental or otherwise. It’s about as good as they come.

Where received: I purchased this book for myself as a pleasure read. I kinda want the whole set in paperback.

I am falling in love with Bookoutre books!

Mystery at the Old Mill, About –

When the calm of Saxford St Peter is disrupted by a deadly fire at the Old Mill, amateur sleuth Eve Mallow finds herself investigating a most surprising mystery!

Everyone in Saxford St Peter is desperate to know more about Harry Tennant, the newcomer who owns the Old Mill. He usually keeps himself to himself, but he’s finally invited the villagers round for drinks, and Eve Mallow isn’t the only one looking forward to having some questions answered.

But two days before the party, a terrible fire sweeps through the mill, and Harry is found dead. When Eve passes the burned remains of his beautiful house, she can’t resist the call to investigate. Especially when it turns out quiet, charming Harry was living a double life as the famous advice writer Pippa Longford. Eve has to wonder what revelations were contained in the letters he received… and whether one of them was worth killing for.

Accompanied by her reliable dachshund sidekick Gus, Eve starts digging. She soon realises Harry was at the centre of a web of lives – and lies. There’s an uncle desperate to inherit, two women who thought they were his one and only, not to mention everyone who shared their darkest secrets with him. Was one of those strangers much closer to home than Harry knew? And can Eve untangle the truth before she finds herself face to face with a killer?

A completely charming page-turner, perfect for fans of Faith Martin, Agatha Christie and Betty Rowlands.

Clare Chase, Biography –

Clare Chase writes classic mysteries. Her aim is to take readers away from it all via some armchair sleuthing in atmospheric locations.

Her debut novel was shortlisted for Novelicious’s Undiscovered Award, as well as an EPIC award post-publication, and was chosen as a Debut of the Month by LoveReading. Murder on the Marshes (Tara Thorpe 1) was shortlisted for an International Thriller Writers award.

Like her heroines, Clare is fascinated by people and what makes them tick. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked in settings as diverse as Littlehey Prison and the University of Cambridge, in her home city. She’s lived everywhere from the house of a lord to a slug-infested flat and finds the mid-terrace she currently occupies a good happy medium.

As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books.

You can find Clare’s website and blog at http://www.clarechase.com

Purchase –

Eve Mallow Series on Amazon

Or request at your favorite local indie store in the UK or US. At the time of this post, I could find any of this series on bookshop.org, a great place to order books with proceeds going to indie bookstores.

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Final Day of Breathe. Breathe. In This Format: Its Journey and My Thoughts

Happy Halloween! I hope you’re enjoying your weekend. We are pumpkin carving, eating candy and fun foods, and going to a drive thru pumpkin glow tonight!

I’ve been writing since I was in junior high, maybe before, and pretty seriously since high school/college. That’s over 25 years! It was such a dream come true to have my debut collection of dark fiction and poetry called Breathe. Breathe. come to life with Unnerving publishers three years ago – but they flew by!

I’ve written so much more since then, much published already in various places, but a good bulk of it you’ll see starting next year. Having this published really gave me the catalyst to go further and stop putting my writing last. I will forever be grateful to the words on these pages for helping to heal me and allow me to grow as a person and a writer. Don’t be fooled by this cover for inside it’s dark, sometimes dreary, sprinkled with light and life, but also loss and darkness. The cover art is an ode to my story within “Dandelion Yellow,” which as I’m told, broke many a heart.

Photo Credit: Erin Al-Mehairi
Bookmark: A Stranger Thing
Art direction & plant: Emma Al-Mehairi

Until the end of the day Saturday (Oct 31) it’s marked down to .99c in e-book and just $6 paperback, and after that, this debut version will be gone from purchase. I’m not sure when I’ll bring it back! If you order a paperback and want it signed let me know and I’ll send you a signed insert.

I want to thank everyone who has supported my writing and this book, and those who keep doing it. Trust me you’re going to see BIG things from me in 2021! Publishing has given me some punches lately, but don’t think I was knocked down. Nothing is better for what life is in 2020 than some of the words on these pages – dark, deep, but with hope. And also, I’m proud it’s closing this chapter of its journey during domestic violence awareness month, since this book holds that issue close to it. I’d be honored if you’d breathe with me and buy a copy or share the word!

Thank you for being on this writing and reading journey with me!

To purchase on sale today only (Edit: looks like a few of the print only still available though e-book is gone), head to AMAZON and get it print.

You’ll also find a copy at several Barnes and Noble locations in Ohio and Florida (can be shipped from there or picked up if local) and Macs Backs on Coventry (independent bookstore near Cleveland, Ohio) if you’d like a print copy but can’t buy it today. Ask me for more info when interested.

Erin

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RDSP and Artist Steven Archer to Publish Illustrated “The Masque of the Red Death” #Poe #Art

A few days ago we celebrated national dark poetry day, which is also the anniversary of the day of Edgar Allan Poe’s death. I posted about Poe and my trip to Baltimore to see his home and grave. He’s been such an inspiration to me as a writer. But he’s been an inspiration to so many hasn’t he? Writers, authors, screenwriters for film and tv, artists… they all are inspired by his storytelling.

One of his most famous works, “The Masque of the Red Death,” is a short story about a kingdom and the plague, and how the rich folly during times of great distress and the poverty caused. It sounds parallel in some ways to today and the world, and leaders, we are living with as the Coronovirus rages on.

Because of that, and this announcement I’m about to tell you about coinciding with it, I’m writing this post to inform all book and art fans and collectors of something very exciting!

Raw Dog Screaming Press announced yesterday that they will be releasing an e-book and print version of an illustrated “The Masque of the Red Death” created by Steven Archer.

Artist Steven Archer, who studied art at the Cochran School of Art in Washington D.C., has his own sense of style when it comes to his work. His work is becoming so iconic, I can usually look at a piece and suggest it might be his. It’s hauntingly fluid and rich in color.

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From their announcement:

“Edgar Allan Poe wrote “The Masque of the Red Death” nearly 180 years ago, yet its narrative and characters continue to mystify and captivate. The short story is driven by Prince Prospero’s attempt to evade the “Red Death” a fatal plague infecting his kingdom, by hiding in his abbey, where he indulges in pleasures and delights with other nobles. He soon finds out that no one can escape their end.

Steven Archer has recast the characters of The Masque and illuminated the narrative in a novel and perhaps more visceral light, that remains true to the raw darkness and decadence of the tale. His modern take on the classic story brings it into our new infected world. Perhaps it was prescience that drove him to create the illustrations in 2018 only to have them see the plague-filled light of day in 2020. Even now in our enlightened and modern world, “Darkness and Decay and the Red Death holds illimitable dominion over all.”

With a foreword by John Langan (The Wide Carnivorous Sky), this is an immersive visual feast that breathes new life into this classic memento mori tale of disease, decadence, and inevitable mortality.”

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RDSP bring such unique publications to the horror, fantasy, and sci-fi genres, and are always looking for the inspired and unique. They breathe life into the ideas of artists and authors alike. Huge kudos for Jennifer Barnes, the editor and co-owner of RDSP, for working with Archer to bring his beautiful representation of Poe’s work to light.

Order Info –

ebook coming December 9 • paperback January 13

Pre-order price includes a $2 discount, all copies shipped in the US will come SIGNED! Pre-order HERE direct from RDSP.

Illustration Sample from Steven Archer’s artwork in “The Masque of the Red Death”

Praise –

Steven Archer is an aspiring artist of great talent and skill.”—Neil Gaiman, New York Times Best Selling Author of American Gods

“Ravishing illustrations, seductive and scarlet; a hideous bit of morbidity: exactly what I look for every time I look. Archer is on fire here. A classic reborn.”Josh Malerman, New York Times Best Selling Author of Bird Box and Malorie

“Beautiful horrors! Archer’s expressionist ironies breath new life into Poe’s schoolbook tale. It’s like experiencing a plague for the very first time!”Nick Mamatas, author of Move Under Ground and Sabbath

“I can think of no better combination than Poe and Archer. A vibrant, temporal, visceral re-imagining. To die for.” —Lee Murray, author of Grotesque: Monster Stories

“This is The Masque of the Red Death for our times. Faithful to Poe’s vision, Archer’s artwork expands and enriches the text with surreal elements of lust and debauchery only hinted at in the original. Thanks to Archer, ‘Darkness and Decay and the Red Death will continue to hold illimitable dominion over all.’”— Chris Semtner, Curator Edgar Allan Poe Museum

“Steven Archer’s style has the perfect sense of dreamlike chaos for The Masque of the Red Death. A refreshing take on a tale that in many ways is very relevant for the world today.”Abigail Larson, Artist, DC/ Dark Horse

About Artist Steven Archer –

Steven Archer is an artist and musician living in Baltimore, MD. When not recording, DJing, or producing art, he and his wife, author Donna Lynch, tour with their dark electronic rock band Ego Likeness. He has a BFA from the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC and has shown his work at galleries and other venues throughout the east coast.  His work has also been shown internationally in the form of album art and magazine illustrations. Luna Maris is his first book. He has also collaborated as illustrator on two books of poems by Donna Lynch; Witches and Daughters of Lilith.

For more information about Ego Likeness, please visit www.egolikeness.com. Stevens solo electronic project can be found at www.hopefulmachines.net

To learn more about this title or other RDSP titles, visit their website. Often, ordering direct from RDSP will ensure you get the books much faster. As always please consider also shopping through your local indie bookstores, ask them to carry, and also don’t forget to tell your librarians about it too!

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Dark Poet’s Day, Trip Down Poe Lane in Baltimore, and Writer’s Inspiration

On October 7, 1849 Edgar Allan Poe died in Baltimore, Maryland at the hospital. Poe is one of the most well-known American writers to have lived: writer, poet, editor, critic. And yet, though he was financially unstable, he is still said to have given birth to the detective novel with his cultivation of mystery and horror storytelling. We all know his two most famous poems, but his poetry is certainly underrated.

Portrait of Poe by William Abbot Pratt from September 1849, a month before his death / Credit Wiki Commons

A few years ago, the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) declared October 7 as Dark Poetry Day in memory of his death and to honor all dark poets (thank you!) like myself.

Poe started my general interest in the macabre at a young age. I wasn’t allowed to read much horror, but Poe’s short stories were on the list since many times they were a school requirement. I devoured stories like “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the poem “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” The Black Cat,” and many more. I don’t think I ever stopped thinking about them, even to this day, as they helped me learn and decipher a dark side of humantity and loss and gave me the bug for suspense and thrills.

In fact, Poe (along with few others) gave me the inspiration to write poetry; he, of course, the main inspiration for the dark ones later in life. I still tended to write lighter poetry in my early years overall, but his art with cadence and flow was still in my mind, as well as his emotional presence with words and imagery. His true catalyst in my writing was his short stories and I love them to this day. He was my first foray into the art of the short story and for which I’ll forever be grateful. Often times you’ll see some of my short stories and poetry still show shards of him today.

I know that writers these day tell fellow writers and readers to quit talking about the classics and old, dead writers. I won’t. I talk up new and diverse groups of writers every day. If I want to talk about Poe and how he influenced me, well… it’s my truth, so I’ll keep telling it. I’m a history fanatic and somehow liking these forebearers keeps their candle lit to me. From reading him, I forged a love for more classic, gothic lit. Furthermore, to appreciate writing and reading horror at all.

You can see why I was estatic when my son surprised me with a trip to one of Poe’s homes. We were taking my son back to school in January 2020 (I had to double check that because seems like two million years ago since Covid hit!) and took a diffent route so we could visit Baltimore, then head the hour into D.C. and George Washington University.

Photo credit: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi / Jan 2020

We went to visit the small home where Poe lived with his young wife and her mother for a time, which was turned into an even smaller museum. It was cool to see where his bedroom was – though it was such a tiny space, and the stairs so tight, I barely made it back down. We saw his telescope and writing desk and learned about his time there. We went to the library in Baltimore too, hoping to see their Poe Room, but it seems no one knew what we were talking about or that it had a tuft of his hair locked inside it! We found it upstairs and I peered in the window while the conference attendees glared back. They probably thought I wanted their donuts.

Photo Credit: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi / Jan 2020

We headed down to visit his gravesite, which was a really neat experience. He’s buried at Westminster Hall and Burial Ground, as is his wife and mother-in-law with him (well… now they are) and his grandfather before him. No one is still sure what he died of even to this day, just that he was found delirious and taken to the hospital. He died at age 40. It felt so surreal to me to walk around his grave and I had a chuckle that even in death for him or his wife, there was drama!

Photo Credit Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi / Jan 2020

We also visited a really cool statue of Poe outside of a law school, but it sure does need some care. I feel sad that so much memorializing Poe is damaged or decaying in Baltimore. However, it was still really fun to make this trip (and maybe I’ll share more about it in the future) and I hope to go to museums and statues in Philadelphia, Richmond, and places in NYC and Boston too. Plus next time I have to go to the tavern!

Photo Credit Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi / Jan 2020

Not all, but some of the work in my debut dark poetry and short story collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., is inspired by him. One of those is my story “The Madness of the Woodpecker” which is its own ode to a portion of “A Tell-Tale Heart.” Some of my poetry is reminiscent of his style as well.

This collection, published three years ago by Unnerving Press, is going out of print for a bit at the end of October 2020. It’s a sad day, especially as I feel I was just announcing its publication! But that’s sometimes how it works in publishing; the revolving door. I will endeavor to have it re-published in 2021 with a new cover as well as several more publications as well. Stay tuned to more poetry and short story work from me.

If you’d like to get Breathe. Breathe. in digital or print format in this edition, I’d grab it now. It’s on sale for .99 c for Kindle and $8 for print. I would like to thank everyone over the years who has supported all my poetry and writing, as well as this particular collection, in which I bear my soul and surround it with fantastical as well as real.

Also something that’s a must-have for Poe collectors, is an illustrated “The Mask of the Red Death” by the stellar artist Steven Archer! You can pre-order now from Raw Dog Screaming Press (e-book comes in December and print in January)!

Share with me in the comments your favorite Poe anything or some of your favorite dark poets, classic or current. Let’s spread poetry!

Happy Dark Poet’s Day and RIP Edgar Allan Poe!

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