Guest Article: Writing Real Historical Figures Into Historical Fantasy with Judith Starkston

Last week I reviewed Judith Starkston’s first book in her new historical fantasy series about Tesha, a priestess and queen from the Bronze Age. I really enjoyed Priestess of Ishana (see my review here if you missed it) and felt it was the great start to a wonderful series. It published last year and now the second book, Sorcery in Alpara, is available today (see info below under the guest article)! Judith kindly has stopped by to talk about how she modeled Tesha off a real life queen. Isn’t that exciting? To history nerds, myself it is!! Take a look at that beautiful cover for book two and then enjoy the article.

Sorcery cover - 500x750px


The Queen Behind the Character
By Judith Starkston, author of Priestess of Ishana

I write historical fantasy based on the Bronze Age Hittites (c. 1275 BCE)—an empire of the ancient Near East nearly buried by the sands of time. In spite of the vivid glimpses of this lost kingdom brought to light by recent archaeology and the decipherment and translation of many thousands of clay tablets, there still remain vast gaps in historians’ knowledge. To be honest about my imaginative filling of those gaps, my storytelling combines fantasy and history.

For instance, I give my historical figures fictional names, though often only minimally different from their real names. I also let the magical religious beliefs of these historical people find full expression in the action. My “quarter turn to the fantastic,” to borrow Guy Gavriel Kay’s phrase, allows me to honor what we actually know while also owning up to my inventive extensions. Allowing room for the fantastical elements suggested by Hittite culture makes for the best storytelling.

What really drew me to this forgotten kingdom—one that stretched across what’s now Turkey into Syria and down into Lebanon—was one remarkable ruler, Queen Puduhepa. She ruled for decades over the most powerful empire of the Late Bronze Age, but because the Hittites were lost to history for so long, very few people know about her.


King Hattusili III and Puduhepa / Wiki Commons

She ruled with her husband Hattusili III as an equal partner—often, in fact, as the more active ruler when her husband’s health limited his work. Queens under Hittite law and custom had high political power and remained rulers even when their husbands died, unlike other Near Eastern queens such as Babylonian and Egyptian. Most of the Hittite queens mentioned in the written Hittite records didn’t exercise this allowed power to such an extent, but Puduhepa had the personality and drive of a highly effective leader.

In my novels the character who represents Puduhepa is named Tesha after the Hittite word for ‘dream’ because the historic woman was famous for her visionary dreams, which she believed came from the goddess Ishtar as divine guidance (a goddess renamed Ishana in my fiction). The character of her husband, Hattusili, goes by the shortened name Hattu.

Puduhepa demonstrated brilliant skills as queen in many areas: administrative, diplomatic, judicial, and familial. Her most famous accomplishment was corralling Pharaoh Rameses II into a peace treaty. Egypt and the Hittites had fought a draining war in 1274 BCE. Neither kingdom was eager for a rematch, but Hattusili and Puduhepa had an even greater need than Egypt for stability. Several of Puduhepa’s letters to Ramses survive. They reveal a subtle diplomat with a tough but gracious core that allows her to stand up to Ramses without giving offense. When the final treaty was put on public display—in the form of a solid silver plaque, which sadly does not survive, although clay versions do—Puduhepa’s own seal was on one side, her husband’s on the other. They did sometimes use a joint seal. I think it’s revealing that on this most impressive accomplishment that depended so much on Puduhepa’s talents, they chose to use equal and independent seals. Thus, Puduhepa’s role is not subsumed under her husband’s.

I could not resist using the life of this exceptional queen as the basis for my main character, Tesha, in a historical fantasy series. The first book of the series, Priestess of Ishana, opens with the moment Tesha and Hattu meet—following the known details of this historical event. There was the ever so tantalizing detail in Hittite records that accusations of sorcery were brought against Hattusili around this same time. A love story and sorcery? Irresistible! The second book in the series, Sorcery in Alpara, carries on their story with a curse that consumes armies, a court full of traitors, a clutch of angry concubines and some fantastical creatures who appear regularly in Hittite art, but may not have actually walked the earth.

Tesha and the real queen behind my character offer an intriguing model of a female leader succeeding in ways that made the world more peaceful and just. So, if you like your fiction to be a mixture of worthwhile ideas, magical fun, and a unique, ancient world, give the Tesha series a read.

Sorcery cover - 500x750px

Sorcery in Alpara, Synopsis –
Tesha series,
Book Two

A curse that consumes armies, a court full of traitors, a clutch of angry concubines and fantastical creatures who offer help but hate mankind.

Tesha’s about to become queen of a kingdom under assault from all sides, but she has powerful allies: her strategist husband, his crafty second-in-command, and her brilliant blind sister.

Then betrayal strips her of them all. To save her marriage and her world, she will have to grapple with the serpentine plot against her and unleash the goddess Ishana’s uncontrollable magic—without destroying herself.

Purchase Link –


Judith Starkston, Biography –

Author Photo (1)Judith Starkston has spent too much time reading about and exploring the remains of the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Hittites. Early on she went so far as to get degrees in Classics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Cornell.

She loves myths and telling stories. This has gotten more and more out of hand. Her solution: to write historical fantasy set in the Bronze Age.

Hand of Fire was a semi-finalist for the M.M. Bennett’s Award for Historical Fiction. Priestess of Ishana won the San Diego State University Conference Choice Award.

Sign up for her newsletter on her website for a free short story, book news and giveaways.

Sign-up for her newsletter!






Stay tuned in November for my review of Sorcery in Alpara!

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Hooked on Covers: Check out New Gothic Cover for The Ruin of Delicate Things by Beverley Lee #coverart #gothic #promotehorror

Beverley Lee is a lovely UK author I met on Twitter. She is such a joy to fellow authors and readers alike. Her books, I hear, are just the right amount of dark horror that leave gothic ripples and I can’t wait to dive into them. I spotted her new cover reveal for her next upcoming novel and I had to share. It’s beautiful!

Meanwhile, I found out the first book in her Gabriel Davenport series is on sale for. 99c this month and so you’ll find that info below too.

What do you think of her new cover? Are you excited for gothic reads in 2020?

The Ruin of Delicate Things, Coming 2020



About –

“Loss leaves a hole large enough for anything to crawl into.”

Barrington Hall is a place of dark and twisted secrets. Something Dan Morgan is all too aware of. But it’s not until a heartbreaking loss brings him back to the cottage where he spent his childhood summers, that he realises the true horror of how far Barrington Hall will go to make him remember.

Scheduled for release early 2020.

Beverley Lee, Biography –

Resized author photoFrom as far back as she can remember, Beverley Lee has always been held captive by the written word. Her earliest memories are of books and how they made her feel. She spent most of her formative years with her nose between the pages, or at the local library, devouring books, and losing herself in the worlds of fantasy and adventure. She was that child who would always try to find Narnia at the back of any available wardrobe. Even now the smell of paper in a bookshop makes her feel like she is eight again.

Her writing journey began at the age of seven, when she created terrible, but enthusiastically written, cliché ridden pony stories, complete with illustrations, for her long suffering teacher. But she can’t remember a time when she didn’t make up stories in her head, even when there was no chance to write them down.

The closest thing to magic that she knows is creating characters and new worlds that never existed before. She loves the way the images and voices take form, and the way they take on a life of their own as the words spill out. Beverley is very much drawn to
the darker side of fiction and the shadowy place between light and darkness where nothing is quite as it seems. She loves flawed characters – they have a depth and a tantalising wealth of possibility.

Inspiration comes in many forms – a snippet of conversation, a stranger on the street, a song lyric fleetingly heard. Life is inspiration. The very best story is the one you have to tell.

She is a people watcher, a dreamer, a lover of nature and simple things. She collects feathers, picks up seashells and likes to run her fingers over old stone. There’s history there. Stories just waiting to be discovered.

The best way to grow is to support other people and she is passionate about helping other writers as they begin their journey.

Beverley’s Website

Beverley’s first book in her Gabriel series is on sale now in digital for .99 cents!

FC (1)

The Making of Gabriel Davenport, Synopsis –

Something is waiting for its time to rise.

Beth and Stu Davenport moved to the sleepy English village of Meadowford Bridge to give their young son, Gabriel, an idyllic childhood. But one night a hidden, ancient darkness shatters their dream and changes their lives forever.

Years later, Gabriel searches for answers about his mysterious past. His life unravels as he discovers that the people he loves and trusts harbour sinister secrets. As the line blurs between shadow and light; and he becomes the prize in a deadly nocturnal game, Gabriel must confront the unrelenting evil that destroyed his family all those years ago.

His choice: place his trust in a master vampire, or give himself to the malignant darkness.

Is there a lesser of two evils— and how do you choose?


The e-book is on offer for all of October 2019 at 99c/99p, and is available from Amazon and all other major retailers.

The Making of Gabriel Davenport – Kindle

Book 2 Read Universal Link to Retailers:

In a nutshell, the Gabriel Davenport series is about a boy hunted by darkness, thrown into a world of buried secrets and terrifying new realities. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s about love and loyalty, and the courage to face impossible situations with your head held high. It’s about who you call family, whether that be human or vampire, and what you will sacrifice to save them.

It has vampires and demons, witches and ghosts, mythology and creatures raised from the dead, but it will make you question everything you thought you knew about them.

It’s a banquet of horror and darkest fantasy, all wrapped up in a black ribbon, and waiting on your doorstep 😉


Stay tuned for updates on The Ruin of Delicate Things in the future!

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Review: Historical Fantasy Priestess of Ishana Based on Bronze Age by Judith Starkston #histfic #fantasy #bookreviews

Priestess of Ishana, Review –
Tesha Series, Book One
Judith Starkston
Historical Fantasy

priestess cover 500x750px

Today I’m doing a review of Judith Starkston’s historical fantasy novel Priestess of Ishana, which is book one of her Tesha series. Book two is coming out soon and Judith will be back very soon with a guest article for us, “The Queen Behind the Character.”

We know so little of the Hittite culture, don’t we? I’m enamored by the ancient civilizations and especially drawn to some of them as it’s such a puzzle to figure it all out. These people lived but so far removed from us. What were they like? Like us? Or were there supernatural elements of the gods? Art and fiction point us in all sorts of directions. I’m an overall historical fiction reader as well as fantasy and when they mix, I know it’s probably going to be something I might enjoy. With Judith Starkston, we always get strong female leads torching the way who are modeled after real life classical people of the past.

I first encountered Judith’s work with Hand of Fire, which was about Briseis and the Trojan War, and thoroughly enjoyed it. In her new series, we meet fifteen-year-old independent, strong priestess Tesha during the Bronze Age and Hittolian era, when real life queen Puduhepa reigned. Tesha is modeled after her, bringing real historical elements to the fiction. Learning more about the Hittite culture through this book was exciting, and I’d say… magical… but it WAS a magical time wasn’t it? We can’t know for sure, but I think so. Hittite and Greek culture brings us stories of the gods and Priestess of Ishana was no less filled with the magic, drama, and intrigue of these supernatural legends.

First let me say what I love the most about Judith’s writing is her prowess with historical details as a sturdy foundation for her fiction. That makes her world-building phenomenal in the way that her descriptions make us feel as if we are there (as if she herself traveled there and is interposing details she saw). On that level, it feels as if she entered a portal in time in order to bring back knowledge to us. Her ability to create time and place we can visually see in our heads in such a stunning way is the sign of a wonderful storyteller. She has opened our eyes to history in a way that isn’t documented many other places and has woven it into a story that would propel anyone’s learning, let alone entertain readers.

Second, I am always enamored by Judith’s female leads. My daughter is a young, strong fifteen-year-old and so I loved thinking about her in this role (and think this is a great book as well for that age reader), but also, big shoes to fill! I love that Judith is bringing these lost women of history to the stage from these ancient eras. Her character of Tesha is fiesty, intelligent, and a woman of great strength in a time where military action and intrigue was prominent. Her dialogue, her dimensional work on Tesha, was so good it made you feel as if you might really know her. She centers her tale of Tesha in her teen years as a priestess of Ishana and I’m extremely happy we’ll be able to see her grow in this series.

Even if all that is good enough for me, as I read a lot of historical fiction books based on strong females in history (forgotten or otherwise), the addition of the magic and supernatural with a curse from the dark Underworld weaved in created momentum, action, and excitement. Hattu, who Tesha meets at the temple, is the younger brother of the Great King, and is arrested as an evil sorcerer by her father (high priest and governor). Tesha believes him innocent. She starts on a trek to save him but risks her family’s honor doing so. This is where the mystery and romantic elements come into the story and all was well-written and attention grabbing for me as a reader.

Judith has another win for me with this book and this series. I can’t wait to read more and follow Tesha’s story! Grippint, accurate ancient history mixed with supernatural intrigue and mystery, drama and intrigue, and highly-developed characters with intricate details – Priestess of Ishana has for all the makings of a stellar book for readers of YA to adult. This is another must for any shelf of books featuring women lost to history. I highly recommend this book to historical fiction readers as well as historical fantasy and fantasy readers. You’ll be breezing through it’s pages like you were swept back in time and then not want to return home.

priestess cover 500x750pxPriestess of Ishana, Synopsis –
Tesha Series, Book One

A curse, a conspiracy and the clash of kingdoms. A defiant priestess confronts her foes, armed only with ingenuity and forbidden magic.

An award-winning epic fantasy, Priestess of Ishana draws on the true-life of a remarkable but little-known Hittite queen who ruled over one of history’s most powerful empires.

A malignant curse from the Underworld threatens Tesha’s city with fiery devastation. The young priestess of Ishana, goddess of love and war, must overcome this demonic darkness. Charred remains of an enemy of the Hitolian Empire reveal both treason and evil magic. Into this crisis, King Hattu, the younger brother of the Great King, arrives to make offerings to the goddess Ishana, but he conceals his true mission in the city. As a connection sparks between King Hattu and Tesha, the Grand Votary accuses Hattu of murderous sorcery. Isolated in prison and facing execution, Hattu’s only hope lies in Tesha to uncover the conspiracy against him. Unfortunately, the Grand Votary is Tesha’s father, a rash, unyielding man, and now her worst enemy. To help Hattu, she must risk destroying her own father.

If you like a rich mixture of murder mystery, imperial scheming, sorcery, love story, and lavish world-building, then immerse yourself in this historical fantasy series. See why readers call the Tesha series “fast-paced,” “psychologically riveting,” and “not to be missed.”

Praise for Priestess of Ishana

This time the throne is bronze. – Tinney Heath, Author

What George R.R. Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ did for the War of the Roses, Starkston has done for the forgotten Bronze Age Hittite civilization. Mystery, romance, political intrigue, & magic… – Amalia Carosella, Author

Purchase Link 


Start this series with book one now, as book two is available soon.

Sorcery cover - 500x750pxSorcery in Alpara, Synopsis –
Tesha series,
Book Two

A curse that consumes armies, a court full of traitors, a clutch of angry concubines and fantastical creatures who offer help but hate mankind.

Tesha’s about to become queen of a kingdom under assault from all sides, but she has powerful allies: her strategist husband, his crafty second-in-command, and her brilliant blind sister.

Then betrayal strips her of them all. To save her marriage and her world, she will have to grapple with the serpentine plot against her and unleash the goddess Ishana’s uncontrollable magic—without destroying herself.

Purchase Link –


Judith Starkston, Biography –

Author Photo (1)Judith Starkston has spent too much time reading about and exploring the remains of the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Hittites. Early on she went so far as to get degrees in Classics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Cornell.

She loves myths and telling stories. This has gotten more and more out of hand. Her solution: to write historical fantasy set in the Bronze Age.

Hand of Fire was a semi-finalist for the M.M. Bennett’s Award for Historical Fiction. Priestess of Ishana won the San Diego State University Conference Choice Award.

Sign up for her newsletter on her website for a free short story, book news and giveaways.

Sign-up for her newsletter!





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All Kinds of October Update on Life, Writing, and What I’m Reading! #October #Halloween #AmWriting #AmReading

Happy October 1! Today, I’ve got a quick forward update!

Snoopy witch

October Life Update and Editing

This is one, if not THE, favorite month of the year for me. I love pumpkins, spooky stories, colorful trees, apple picking, and cool evenings. As many of you know, it’s also TWO of my three children’s birthdays (will be 20 and 16 this year – WHAT? I know!). It seemed like I was just writing posts about us picking apples when they were small and making lists for readers for Autumn-themed children’s books.

My daughters both ran cross country this year, are still I should say, and that will come to a close in mid-to-late of this month. My middle daughter’s selective “a cappella” choir will have their first concert and host it as a fund-rasier for the music program. As well, my oldest is now in Washington D.C. at George Washington University as a college sophomore, so it looks like we will be adding a trip in there at the end of the month to visit him. I just can’t let his birthday month go by without seeing him. I am excited to hug him, but also, to see the fall foliage through Virginia and Maryland on the way there and back. At the very end of the month, my youngest is still looking forward to Trick-or-Treating and dressing up with friends. I am looking forward to eating plenty of candy. haha!

It’s a busy month, but I’m scheduling NOW for editing work in November and December because… well, I have active kids that cost money and I because of my illnesses and circumstances, I have to work from home for myself.

My Writing

October is also fond to me as it’s the anniversary of my debut dark poetry and short story collection Breathe. Breathe.! It’s the two year anniversary – can you believe it? I’ve had a lot more poetry and short stories published elsewhere as well. One of those short stories I’m excited about is the anthology 7 Deadly Sins of the Apocalypse, with an official launch date of October 4, 2019; however, it went live early and hit Amazon #1 Best-Selling List in Horror Anthologies. I’ll have more to share on that but it’s on sale now for .99 cents. I’ll also be sharing things about my other pieces as well as hopefully provide you with an original poem like I did last year (those were about mummies)! You’ll probably also find some guest articles by me appearing on other sites and me in an interview or two.

I’ll have a short story, “Mia,” in the upcoming print magazine Outpost 28 by Dean Kuhta. I will have a story in this with my friend, the amazing Christa Carmen, so I’m super excited about that. Also, it’s getting an illustration from a artist I really like, so stay tuned for more on that. I absolutely think it’s one of the best stories I’ve written and I am thankful to Duncan Ralston for his assistance with edits.

Update: I just found out I’ll have two poems in the Halloween issue of The Siren’s Call e-zine as well. A new one called “The Halloween Feast” and one of the Mummy poems I shared with you last year here called “Dancing with Mummies.”

Reviews, Interviews, and Features Here or Other Sites

I have a packed schedule with publicity and editing work, writing, and kids, but I’ve also made promises and packed my schedule with reading of horror, historical, and fantasy books for review as well as a few interviews. Look for an uptick of reviews on this site , starting with an historical fantasy Priestess of Ishana by Judith Starkston (and a guest article by her) and Ribbons of Scarlet short story collection about women of the French Revolution by a myriad of authors I admire. I’m going to attempt to get caught up on a few back reviews for several genres but I’m also pushing dark fiction, dark fantasy, and horror (and the like) to the front since it’s that time of year! I’ll be reviewing a few new  titles in that genre as well such as the short story collection Little Paranoias by Sonora Taylor. I’ll also have a review up this month on the film review site Machine Mean talking about the movie “The Endless,” which left me mind blown.

My October Reading

I’m doing the #31spookystories challenge on Instagram (and cross-posting to Twitter), because I love to read short stories. You can read 31 short stories or 13. I’m trying to do one per day. Follow me on Instagram stories and Twitter to catch my reads (and follow the hashtag as a whole to get some good short story recommendations) and/or join in. I’ll try to do weekly re-caps of the stories here.

And I’m going to read Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party because it just sounds so good. I recently found a beat up copy of it at a thrift store and I can’t wait to dive in. If you want to read with me, let me know!

Christie, Agatha - Hallowe'en Party

I’ve got lots of things going on, building and coming down the pipe line so stay tuned. I am trying to organize myself enough to keep this spot updated!

I’d love to hear from you. What are your October plans? Do you like spooky, scary, or supernatural books > What will you be reading? Scary movies or shows? > What will you be watching?

Happy Harvest! Happy Halloween!



Filed under Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Book News: Medicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot – Dark tale of Marguerite de Valois and 16th Century French Court #histfic

Medicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot Reveals New Cover and Availability for first time in paperback and e-book! Have a look at that amazing cover…!!

Medicis Daughter graphic 1

Long before my good friend Sophie Perinot was writing about 18th century French royalty caught in a Revolution, she was plumbing the dark, intrigue-filled depths of the 16th century Valois court on the eve of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

MÉDICIS DAUGHTER, her dark tale of Marguerite de Valois, daughter of Catherine de Médicis, sister to three kings, is NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK AND E-BOOK with a dramatic new cover! Let me tell you, I am in LOVE with this cover. I reviewed this title to high praise a few years ago when it came out in hardback from Macmillan/Thomas Dunne. I really love this book and I highly recommend it to historical fiction readers who love intelligent and elegant prose. I also did an interview with Sophie that really delves into this story and her writing.

Medicis Daughter graphic 2


“Amid the glamorous intrigues of the 16th-century French court, Marguerite de Valois, the youngest Medici daughter, deftly balances secret escapades and public duties… Perinot matches the rhythm of Margot’s life to the political storms: as the battles escalate, so do the perils of love and lust. A riveting page-turner skillfully blending illicit liaisons and political chicanery.”―Kirkus Reviews

“This is Renaissance France meets Game of Thrones: dark, sumptuous historical fiction that coils religious strife, court intrigue, passionate love, family hatred, and betrayed innocence like a nest of poisonous snakes.” ―Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Huntress

“Absorbing… an engrossing read.”―Publishers Weekly

“An enthralling page-turner which lovers of royalty fiction and strong female leads should enjoy thoroughly.”―HNR Magazine

medicis daughter graphic 3

⚜ ⚜ ⚜ BUY LINKS ⚜ ⚜ ⚜




iBooks [Coming Soon]


If you’re a fan of intrigue, drama, and historical fiction with a dark slant, pick this one up NOW. You won’t be sorry. ❤

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Review: A Torch in His Heart by Anna Belfrage – Time Travel Romance/Suspense

Hi all, I have been way backed up on reviews and interviews due to work and life with kids and my own writing, but here is the first of many more upcoming reviews and posts I have promised to squeeze in voluntarily for authors. I can’t wait to share.

A Torch in His Heart, Review –
*could be minor spoilers*

A Torch In His Heart Cover

A Torch in His Heart (book one of her new Wanderers series) by Anna Belfrage is somewhat out of my usual reading comfort zone and carrousel of reading. However, I got on the ride because there was some sort of time slip or movement element, there was an ancient element, and of course, it’s Anna. I believe I’ve read about twelve of Anna’s past books – she has a superb historical time traveling series that rivals Outlander and another great historical fiction series. You’ll find all of them reviewed on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I love Anna’s writing, even if I am not generally a romance reader. I will read various genres that feature some romance, though. Those things said, I was ready to give it a whirl. I hoped it would be a summer read, but with kids and work and my own writing, time got a bit away from me so here we are in September – and no worries, it’s a great book for any season.

Why is A Torch in His Heart such a great book? To put it succinctly, in usual Anna prose, there are memorable characters, clear hero and villain tracks, a strong female main character, rousing prose, and witty dialogue. The additive this time that readers should know (of Anna and my own followers here) is the steamy sections. I hadn’t read the Amazon or other site warnings myself, so they caught me by surprise. Anna amped up her romance game by including many explicit sex scenes between the main characters. So fair warning, but also, the good thing is that they appear in proper spots and aren’t corny, but are naturally occurring. I’m blushing to tell you that Anna’s scenes lit the page on fire this series! Some of you will like it, some won’t mind it, and some won’t like it, but as I always say, you can skip those paragraphs if it bothers you and still enjoy the story! They are definitely a small part of the story and there for entertainment, not the meat or foundation of it.

Now that we have that part out of the way, the things I liked the most about the book was quickly learning that Sam, Jason, and Helle all had many lives in the past. A conflicted past with conflicted relationships. The flashbacks were shown in italics, and it’s a preference of my own, but I much preferred the story in the flashback portions more than the modern story because I love ancient history. However, I liked how Anna intertwined the two together and how she pitted good vs. evil and the love triangle.

When Helle gets a new job for Mr. Woolf (Sam) she is almost immediately scared of him and his piercing black eyes and controlling demeanor. He reminded me A LOT of Loki from the Thor/Asgard mythology!! Later, when Jason sees Helle on the street, he is instantly excited, until he realizes Sam must also be around. For the rest of the book, we are flipping pages as Sam tries to put Helle in precarious work scenarios to control her, while she, instantly feeling she knows Jason, but doesn’t know how, throws caution to the wind because she feels an instant connection with him (maybe too instant, but we’ll go with it). He becomes her hero and she calls on him time and again in dealing with Sam. I’m obviously not supposed to like the controlling character of Sam, and I don’t, nor am I intimidated by him or enamored by his aggressive nature, but he was well-written in his role and quite complex and calculating.

Mostly I didn’t like Alison. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. As Helle’s roommate, I feel she should have supported her and not been a vessel for Sam’s whips and chains lifestyle, but I see within the narrative why it was used and how it showed how men can have mind control over some women. I hope this was to show Sam’s evil character and not just for erotic content. I didn’t really like the dynamic between Alison and Helle though. It was uncomfortable to me. Maybe it was supposed to be. It made for good reading drama. I might have liked for another strong female ally or friend to be included, but I also know in the set-up of many of these stories, there often isn’t. I might be thinking outside the box here.

The last half or last twenty-five percent of the book was outstanding. I loved the drama, the action, the love, and most of all, more of the flashbacks. I came to understand more of their ancient past and struggles. I’m an ancient historical fiction type of reader and writer so these parts caught me best. I’d have probably liked the whole book to have been written from this perspective, if it was my birthday and I was given a choice, but of course then there wouldn’t have been the time movement element, which I did like of course. Anna did an excellent job capturing the modern time period though. She had the business world and descriptions down well. The ending of the ancient parts just killed me inside – so sad – though it’s a love story told before, as many take a nod from Shakespeare, it was touching and still hit the heart strings. I enjoyed the ending in the modern era too and I’m looking forward to reading book two and seeing where this cliffhanger goes…

It’s the long-time editor in me and the fact the romance genre is a bit out of my element as a reader that’s made me pick at some areas, but I write to be helpful and with honest thoughts.

For romance readers and fans of time travel or reincarnation-type romances, I have a feeling you’ll love this book. It’s got all the steamy scenes, drama, action, conflict, and enduring connections that will make you both groan at the bad and swoon with the good. Anna has the making of another great series under her established belt and carries a flaming torch herself as she forays into romance.

Note: I was supplied a complimentary copy of this book for review.


A Torch in His Heart, Synopsis –

In the long lost ancient past, two men fought over the girl with eyes like the Bosporus under a summer sky. It ended badly. She died. They died.
Since then, they have all tumbled through time, reborn over and over again. Now they are all here, in the same place, the same time and what began so long ago must finally come to an end.

Ask Helle Madsen what she thinks about reincarnation and she’ll laugh in your face. Besides, Helle has other stuff to handle, what with her new, exciting job in London and her drop-dead but seriously sinister boss, Sam Woolf. And then one day Jason Morris walks into her life and despite never having clapped eyes on him before, she recognises him immediately. Very weird. Even more weird is the fact that Sam and Jason clearly hate each other’s guts. Helle’s life is about to become extremely complicated and far too exciting.

ADULT CONTENT: This book contains explicit sex scenes

Purchase/Add A Torch in His Heart

Available Kindle/Print (395 p); Aug 2018



Anna Belfrage, Biography

Anna BelfrageHad Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours. Plus she always finds the time to try out new recipes, chase down obscure rose bushes and initiate a home renovation scheme or two.

Her most recent releases, A Torch in His Heart (Wanderers 1) and Smoke in her Eyes (Wanderers 2), are a step out of her comfort zone. Having previously published historical fiction & historical romance, with this first book about Jason and Helle Anna offers a dark and titillating contemporary romance, complete with a time-slip angle and hot & steamy scenes.

Her first series, The Graham Saga, is set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland. It tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of time-travel, romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters. There are nine books in the series so far, but Anna is considering adding one or two more…

Her second series is set in the 1320s and features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Fortune never stops rolling.

If you want to know more about Anna, visit her website!

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The Night Crawls In Collection and Info on Ladies of Horror Fiction (LOHF) Writers Grant Inspriation + Free Poetry and a Drabble

Hey all! I’m a little late here as summer was winding down I had a ton on top of the ton I usually have going on because of my kiddos back to school, travels, and then catching up on work – oh and my birthday! I’m behind on blogging but I hope to have some great stuff for you soon again as Fall and Winter approaches us. Today, I still wanted to get this information to all the female writers out there about this grant in partnership with Ladies of Horror Fiction and author Steve Stred. Please check it out and consider applying by September 1 (edit: the recipient has been chosen but keep in mind for next year) and order a copy of Steve’s dark poetry book because the proceeds are what is funding the grant now and in the future! Steve is a wonderfully supportive author to others and especially the women writers out there who need amplification. The LOHF group is doing an astronomical job of helping out women writers in horror too. I also appreciate his shout out to me below. THANKS!

Now let’s get to it…

The Night Crawls In Poetry Collection and the Ladies of Horror Fiction (LOHF) Writer’s Grant Information and Inspriation (+ Free Poetry and a Drabble)

By Steve Stred, author of Dim the Sun

It’s getting close!

September 1, 2019 will see the arrival of my collection The Night Crawls In. Featuring thirty-three drabbles and seventeen poems, the collection was created specifically to help fund the First Annual Ladies of Horror Fiction Writer’s Grant.

The grant is open for applications until September 1, with the winner announced September 15. ((Edit: The recipient has been chosen.)) For full details, click HERE!


Now that the official stuff is over – let’s chat about the why and the how.


Good question. This guest post is kindly being hosted by my friend Erin. There really are two people responsible for this collection happening. Erin and Miranda. As I mentioned in the blog post over on Miranda’s great site, while me and her were chatting, she convinced me that releasing a collection for charity each year was a great thing to do. I spoke with my sister a bit about what charity I should focus on, and through chatting with Jodi, I decided to scrap the charity idea. Instead, I wanted to make sure that the funds raised were directly going to someone rather than an organization. And what better way than to help support fellow authors and creative types?

Erin is probably the biggest reason any of this came about. Last year I read her brilliant collection Breathe. Breathe. Not only were the short stories amazing, but her phenomenal poetry kicked my butt into motion and got me writing poetry again. Without her amazing collection and her constant support and reassurance, I’d never have made the leap to writing poetry again. So thank you Erin and Miranda!


The how was actually super easy on my part. I took a look at the writing community and the horror community and everything led me to want to support a great and fantastic group of writers who frequently deal with the short end of the stick. Truthfully, I don’t think I’m smart enough to accurately describe the frequent marginalization that women horror writers have to deal with. Heck, I might even be using that word incorrectly within my own statement. To be pointed – they have to work way harder than most to have their books read, reviewed, and taken seriously. Shameful.

So I reached out to Toni and the wonderful Ladies of Horror Fiction group and after some secret back room, dark alley Twitter conversations, we got the ball rolling!

So, click the link above and check out how to apply! Good luck!

As I’ve been doing on the other wonderful guest posts sharing/promoting The Night Crawls In, I’ve been giving previews of some drabbles and poems!

The Night Crawls In

Please enjoy these two poems and a drabble from The Night Crawls In:

Summers. (A Poem)

Remember how grass used to feel between your toes?

Long summer nights under the moon’s tender glow.

Evening thunder storms down the valley ahead,

The rattling boom after the lightning had led.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band leading the way

Taking us to a special place at the end of the day.

We’d hold hands sitting under the stars,

Talking ‘bout love that wouldn’t leave us with scars.

Ours bodies snuggled up, keeping the other warm

A tender touch that would help us transform.

The memories of how life used to be

The days we now chase, while we wish to be free.



Worms. (A Poem)

They live just below our feet.

Crawling, slithering, trying to latch on.

We go about our normal days,

Oblivious to the horror three feet below.

Our feet create vibrations,

Bringing them ever closer.

The worms, oh the worms

Ascend from below.

In waves they come, they slurp and they gulp,

And in the end

We should have known.



The Safe. (A Drabble)

 It should’ve been simple. Straight forward.

Walk in, tell everyone to get down, demand they put all the money in the bag, then get them to open the safe.

We got our matching president masks, we stole a car and junked the plates, putting fakes ones on in place.

We parked out front, car running, getaway driver waiting patiently for us to return.

Everything went according to plan, until they opened the safe and me and Davey rushed in.

The lights snapped off as we entered and the tentacled monster that lived there, began to feast.

We didn’t last long.



So a bit of background on each piece!

“Summers” just might be the single best piece of anything I’ve ever written. In my opinion at least. Each line and each image transports me back to the summer’s growing up in Burton and now, how, I chase the ghosts of how life used to be.

“Worms” is based on my son’s reaction to seeing worms, haha! He’s inspired so many of my stories, just form his innocent reactions or from playing with him and seeing how he processes stuff. As of typing this, he turns three on Monday and I’m hoping he says “ewwwww, worms!” for the rest of his life.

“The Safe” is a cosmic monster story about some bank robbers trying to rob the wrong bank. I’ve always been utterly fascinated by the massive banks of federal reserves, the ones that are locked down to everyone. So I had a thought, what if they secretly are also storing some of the world’s secrets?

Thanks to Erin for hosting this!


Pre-order links are now up – every pre-order goes towards funding the grant. Every sale after September 1 goes towards funding future grants!

Amazon USA

Amazon CAN

Amazon UK

Amazon AUS

Steve Stred, Author Biography –

Steve StredSteve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.

Steve is the author of the novels Invisible & The Stranger, the novellas The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick, and the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.

On September 1, 2019 his second collection of dark poetry and drabbles called The Night Crawls In will arrive. This release was specifically created to help fund the First Annual LOHF Writers Grant.

Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.

Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.

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Loren Rhoads Talks About California Wildfires and the Charity Horror Anthology to Raise Money for Relief: Tales for the Campfire

Hello, long time no see. Today Loren Rhoads is here with us to talk about California wildfires and the new anthology put together in order raise funds for relief efforts, Tales for the Campfire. Loren is a fellow writer and editor in the horror genre. You may have seen her here on Hook of a Book before talking about cemeteries and their hauntings. She’s a Bram Stoker nominated editor and is best known as an author, I think, for her 199 Cemeteries to Visit Before You Die. Recently, she compiled/edited an anthology for charity called Tales for the Campfire in hopes of helping those in need from the wildfires in California.

One day, her local California Horror Writers Association chapter asked what they could do to ease the suffering of people who lost everything to the fire: pets, livestock, vehicles, homes, friends, family members, businesses, livelihoods, their entire community. HWA member Ben Monroe suggested that they put together an anthology of stories to raise money for the relief effort.

The rest of how it came together, you’ll read about near the bottom of the article, but first you’ll learn about how devastating wildfires are to those in places like California and just from a small little spark or campfire or dry season. I hope you’ll find the article as interesting as I did! And scary!

If you’re touched to help, you’ll find the links to purchase the anthology below too. Please spread the word for a good cause. Thanks for stopping by!


Tales from the Campfire

Fire Seasons

by Loren Rhoads, author and editor of Tales for the Campfire

One summer while I lived in Ann Arbor, I found my friend Jeff glued to the 24-hour news channel. His parents’ house, atop a hill in Los Altos Hills, California, had been on TV. I’d spent spring break there one year. It was a lovely house, full of art his parents had collected on their trips around the world: a gracious, welcoming place, with views all around it.

The house stood near an open space preserve, where Jeff had once seen a bobcat. Deer often wandered his parents’ neighborhood. Red-tailed hawks circled overhead.

Jeff had seen his parents’ house on TV because a wildfire was racing across the open grassland. Only one road led into his parents’ neighborhood — and it was blocked by firetrucks that could not drive into the narrow hiking paths of the nature preserve.

Jeff’s dad had left for work early that day. Jeff’s mom was trapped at home, watching the smoke boiling up over her house. She planned to jump into the pool if the fire came. While she waited, she was spraying the citrus trees and rosebushes with a garden hose, trying to wet everything down so it wouldn’t catch a spark. Luckily, in the end, the fire was extinguished before it reached the houses.

That was my first experience with fire season in California. I didn’t even live in California yet.


Loren RhoadsOne morning while we were in Paris to celebrate my birthday, my husband picked up an International Herald Tribune. A paragraph-long report said that wildfire raged through Oakland, California, the city across the bay from our new home in San Francisco.

We scoured the city to find a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle. The photos showed smoke towering miles high over the Oakland Hills. The hillside houses looked like matchboxes in comparison.

When we returned from our trip, friends who lived in Oakland told us about the fire. One friend in the Rockridge neighborhood had evacuated. Mike lived not far from Mountain View Cemetery, which lay between his home and the fire. He hoped the graveyard would provide a firebreak. For days he lived on a friend’s sofa, calling his own home phone over and over. As long as the answering machine picked up, he knew his house remained standing.


In October 2017, I woke in the night and smelled smoke. There was only a tickle in the air, but something, somewhere, was burning. I looked out all the windows, but didn’t see an orange glow in the sky. Wind rampaged around the house. I slept fitfully on the sofa for the rest of the night.

In the morning, the news reported a fire far away in Lake County. It expanded as it spread into Napa County. Another fire started in neighboring Sonoma County. The fires were more than 70 miles away. I didn’t know smoke could travel that far.

In her home in Santa Rosa, California, my friend Kim packed the most important things in her life and prepared to evacuate. She spent days sheltering in a local high school gym. The power had gone off at her home, so she didn’t even have the reassurance of calling the answering machine.

At first, no one could really believe that a city could burn down. Unlike Los Altos Hills, there was no massive grassy park nearby. Unlike the Oakland Hills, Kim didn’t live in an overgrown neighborhood with winding roads too narrow for firetrucks. She lived in a suburban neighborhood, in a grid of streets.

In the end, Kim’s home escaped the fire. Neighborhoods surrounding hers weren’t so lucky. She drove through the devastation to find her house still standing. Although she’d closed the windows before she fled, everything inside her home was covered with fine grit — the ashes of trees and homes and wildlife and 22 people. More than 5600 structures were destroyed by the Tubbs Fire.


In November 2018, a failing powerline in Butte County, California sparked the Camp Fire. Driven by 60 to 70-mile-an-hour winds, the fire spread so fast — devouring 10 miles of forest in 10 minutes — that people were trapped in their cars as they tried to escape. Some people panicked and abandoned their vehicles to try to outrun the flames on foot.

The fire burned for 17 days. The smoke it generated was visible from space. That smoke flowed through the Altamont Pass, 150 miles away, into the San Francisco Bay Area. Because of a weather pattern called an inversion, the smoke, trapped by the hills surrounding the bay, settled to ground level.

For a week, San Francisco had the worst air quality in the world: worse than Beijing or Mexico City. Worse even than in the fire country itself. The air became visible. It glowed a malevolent yellow as sunlight reflected from nearly invisible particles in the air.

Many places gave away painter’s masks to prevent people from breathing in the ashes and grit in the air. Then we were told that painter’s masks didn’t actually screen out the smallest particles, which could lodge in your lungs and could not be removed. People were warned to stay in their houses. Theaters closed. Schools closed. Businesses closed.

The empty streets of the city looked like the apocalypse had come — and we were 200 miles away from where the fire was burning.

In the end, 89 people were killed by the Camp Fire. Six months later, more continue to be missing. The entire town of Paradise, California was scoured from the map. Twenty thousand people were left homeless.

My local Horror Writers Association chapter asked what we could do to ease the suffering of people who lost everything to the fire: pets, livestock, vehicles, homes, friends, family members, businesses, livelihoods, their entire community. HWA member Ben Monroe suggested that we put together an anthology of stories to raise money for the relief effort.


I volunteered to assemble and edit the book. E.M. Markoff volunteered Tomes & Coffee Press as publisher. Ben contacted Petersen Games, who donated an amazing piece of artwork for the cover. He found a cover designer who would work pro bono. He also spoke to the estate of Clark Ashton Smith, who donated one of the master’s short stories.

In all, 24 Northern California horror writers donated stories to the anthology, including Bram Stoker Award winners Nancy Etchemendy and Gene O’Neill and World Fantasy Award nominated L.S. Johnson.

Tales for the Camp Fire: A Charity Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief ranges from fairy tale to science fiction, from psychological terror to magical realism, from splatterpunk to black humor, all rounded out by a post-apocalyptic cookbook entry. Through these pages roam werewolves, serial killers, a handful of ghosts, plenty of zombies, Cthulhu cultists, mad scientists, and a pair of conjoined twins.

Jonathan Maberry, the New York Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Glimpse, gave us a lovely endorsement: “Tales for the Camp Fire is a brilliant collection of truly creepy tales by horror’s hottest voices! Dark, funny, heartbreaking, and bizarre. Highly recommended!”

As I write this in early June, Tales for the Camp Fire has been out a month. The profit from every copy we sell goes to the North Valley Community Foundation, a clearinghouse that distributes funds to the communities shattered by the fire.

Tales for the Campfire, Info  –

Tales from the CampfireScary Stories for a Good Cause. From Bram Stoker Award-nominated editor of the cult magazine Morbid Curiosity comes Tales for the Camp Fire, a new charity anthology of short stories to help support wildfire relief efforts.

Through these pages roam werewolves, serial killers, a handful of ghosts, plenty of zombies, Cthulhu cultists, mad scientists, and a pair of conjoined twins.

In November 2018, fire broke out on Camp Creek Road and raced through Butte County, California. By the time the fire was extinguished, the town of Paradise had been scoured from the map. Nearly 100 people died. Damage ran to an estimated $16 billion. The disaster has been named the Camp Fire, in memory of its place of origin. The horror writers of Northern California rallied to raise money for the survivors.

Tales for the Camp Fire ranges from fairytale to science fiction, from psychological terror to magical realism, from splatterpunk to black humor, all rounded out by a messed-up post-apocalyptic cookbook. All profits from the sale of this anthology will be donated to Camp Fire relief and recovery efforts.

Contributors include: Clark Ashton Smith, Loren Rhoads, Erika Mailman, Ross E. Lockhart, Roh Morgon, Clifford Brooks, Chad Schimke, Sumiko Saulson, Dana Fredsti, Crystal M. Romero, G. O. Clark, Anthony DeRouen, Eric Esser, Nancy Etchemendy, Gerry Griffiths, Sean Patrick Hazlett, Ken Hueler, L.S. Johnson, Ben Monroe, Gene O’Neill, Jeff Seeman, John Claude Smith, John McCallum Swain, and E.M. Markoff. Published by Tomes & Coffee Press.

If you’d like to help, please buy a copy of the book from Amazon:


Also you can go to the publisher site, Tomes and Coffee, and learn more about the people made it happen, contributors, stories, and more!

See you next time!


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First Look! Read Poetry for Mental Health Month with Bram Stoker Nominated Donna Lynch

ink pen 1

Poetry Feature –

On this last day of May, and to round out mental health awareness month, I have another great poet and poem to share with you all. Donna Lynch is a dark fiction writer and the co-founder—along with her husband, artist and musician Steven Archer—of the dark electro-rock band Ego Likeness (Metropolis Records). She has written numerous poetry collections, including Witches, which was Bram Stoker Nominated this year.

A word from Donna on writing about mental health topics:

“There’s nothing creative or interesting about mental illness. It’s a disease that doesn’t just consume you, but takes with it everyone who gets too close. People sometimes say, “But maybe it’s your experiences that make you see the world the way you do and give you that creativity,” and I point out to them that I write about people being haunted. I write about loss and violation and madness. I write about nightmares and the way your body can turn on you. I would give anything to not have the experiences that make me see the world that way, but since medicine and therapy can only do so much, I figure I may as well try to capitalize on it a little. But the bottom line is that disease doesn’t want to see you succeed or thrive, so I write in spite of my pain, not because of it.”

Mental Health Awareness

Donna is a really cool person and a talented creative. I’ve had the pleasure of reading poetry with her at a virtual reading and I can tell you, her work can make you shiver. This seven-part poem will be featured in Donna’s next collection, Choking Back the Devil, coming from Raw Dog Screaming Press on July 17, 2019!

I’m thrilled to offer you a first look!


Borderlines: A Horror Story in 7 Small Parts
by Donna Lynch, Bram Stoker Nominated Poet of Witches


Spend a lifetime inventing broken characters

and don’t ask why or how

when they end up in you like a thousand shards of glass and splinters.

You miss the joke.


Spend a lifetime hiding from monsters and you blind
yourself to the ones inside of you.




you are hollowed out.

But maybe not.

I’m already remembering it wrong.

Maybe, before that,

you’re just worn out,

chased through the woods by a man, or something
resembling a man,

wielding a rusted tool from the shed that you know will not
be quick nor painless.

Something that will hurt in a way you can’t prepare for.

So you run and run and run,

on the ankle you just sprained in a divot.

If you hear that snap, it will be over faster.

The running, that is. Everything else will have just begun.

You listen and wait. The snapping is sticks, not bones.

Not yet.

But you run and run and run,

with the cramping in your side,

and lungs that feel like you’ve inhaled winter razors.

It feels like stabbing, you think but

You’d be so wrong.

You’re about to find out.

You run and run and run,

with no sense of direction

other than


But unlike the man with the rusted tool, you have not
trained for this.

As a child, you never thought,

one day…

When I was a child, I never thought I’d need to run.

I only knew I needed to hide,

so I became a ghost.

But I was not trained to run,

never ridden, never raced.

Breeds like me are broken in, but not in the fields,

not on the trails.

So if you’re a breed like me,

you can only run so far before you have to stop.

And it’s upon you now, which brings us back to the hollowing.



The hollowing out of a person,

in this context,

is not the desired end result.

It’s the kitchen counter full of pink fluids and glistening bits on Thanksgiving.

It’s filling and stringing up a pinata.

It’s turning a canyon into a landfill.

It’s the act of creating a void—which was inevitable when you think about it—

and re-filling the cavity with even worse decay.

You are your own Pandora’s Box.

Every ugly thing needs a home, and the space inside your
head works nicely.

The space inside your chest…

even better.

A little further south, and disembowelment offers spatial
options that seem to defy physics.

All that loss,

and pain,

and malice…

you can fold it,

layer it,

coil it inside,

until you can barely tell it isn’t the entrails you started with.



So there you are,

strung up in the shed.

You can see the things that used to be inside you in a tub in
the corner.

Someone or some thing will eat them and they will be gone.

You mourn the loss of these things, because you don’t
realize there is something else in you now,



You think you are empty,

and this is how you will justify everything to come.

It was the loss.

It was grief.

It was someone you loved,

and because you loved them,

when it was time,

you made the decision.

And you wanted to run and run and run then,

but you were not trained for it.

So you stayed.

Because where will you go?

Loss finds everyone.

Even the ghosts,

and the really excellent hiders.

It is real when the light goes out in someone you love.

You feel it,

like an electric charge in the air,

in a storm.

There is a flash of terror in your head,

for yourself, and for them…



You carry what’s left of them home in a plastic bag with a
hard handle.

Their clothing,



A necklace, maybe.

How can you even tell?

It all just looks like pieces of them.

Because it’s just a container of entrails, of insides,

to be consumed, in time.

All of it will end up in a container. A coffin, an urn, that
empty space in your chest.

And you wait and wait

to feel something again.



Take in all the empathy,

all the sympathy while you can.

The well-wishes, the visitors, having your erratic behaviors
excused and tolerated take it all.

Even though you know it’s just going to seep into the void and dissipate

the way enzymes break down,

you take it,

because before long,

there will be no more.



Here’s where the story changes.

No more tool sheds, no faceless men hunting you.

Now we are in the realm of demons.

Possession by an entity of no discernible origin.

No name.

It all looks normal, a normal setting, on any given normal day.

The storm has passed, and that means it’s all right, right?

If you don’t look anyone in the eye, no one will know.

At least for a while.

If you let it in and let it out as it pleases, and don’t fight, it
will come and go with little fanfare.

It is, of course, filling you with poison, consuming the
poison, regurgitating
the poison, on and on forever, until you are nothing but a
toxic canyon.

You keep the outside pretty, for desperate, selfish tourists.

They’ve come to see the sights.

Tequila sunrises and tear-stained sunsets.

Lies for miles and black-out skies you’ll never remember,
because your damaged brain never filmed it.

The thing swimming in your empty shell tells you to be glad.

Be glad you’ll never know.

It’s one of the two kind things it will ever do for you.

(The second kind thing comes later)

Like when the person who just violated you, gives you a
tissue to dry your tears.

Thanks, you said.




You’re a different sort of ghost now.


you were quiet and harmless.

Just a shadow,

a memory,

a whisper,

A hider.

A spectral woman who weeps quietly in a child’s bedroom,

or the child, itself,

taken too young.

It doesn’t even know it should be angry.

But now you are different.

You know.

The thing that possessed you isn’t slipping in and out so
easily now.

It’s tearing holes where there were none.

It’s chewing through what’s left of you.

It’s biting at your feet and legs when you walk by the bed.

It’s digging at you with a blunt, broken nail, rolling up strips
of skin like wood shavings.

It’s slamming into you, full force, the second you close your eyes.

It slams out the same way,

a perpetual car crash.

You come home battered. You wake up bruised.

But there’s no assailant.

All anyone can see is you.

You are a different sort of ghost,

haunting yourself until you cross the borderline and die a
second death.



One step.

You only have to take this one step.

Maybe it’s off a bridge, or maybe it’s out the door.

It doesn’t really matter—the outcome is going to be the same.

But you still believe there are greener pastures on the other side.

On the other side, you’ll feel better.

The poison will drain.

The canyon will become a lake, filled with water,

cold and clear from some (in)eternal spring.

Then the demon, the entity that possessed and poisoned
you does the second kind thing—

It tells you what a stupid cunt you are for believing there
was ever a spring,

or a pasture,

or anything other than the pain you’ve been hiding from
your entire life.

And that’s when houses start shaking, and walls start
bleeding, and screams start emanating from the cellars,
and you have to grab what’s left of your family and the
pets and run and run and run like hell.

You start praying to a god you don’t even believe in
anymore, all the while knowing that the scene unfolding
before you, threatening to destroy everything you ever
loved, was created by you.

Your creation.

You approached the Event Horizon.

You crossed the borderline.

And the real punch in the gut is

All that running you did—

When you never had to take more than one step.


Donna Lynch, Biography –

28340996_10213276704289733_1777809173_oDonna Lynch is a dark fiction writer and the co-founder—along with her husband, artist and musician Steven Archer—of the dark electro-rock band Ego Likeness (Metropolis Records). Her written works include Isabel Burning, Red Horses, Driving Through the Desert, Ladies & Other Vicious Creatures, Daughters of Lilith, and In My Mouth. Lynch’s poetry collection Witches was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. She and her husband live in Maryland.

Donna’s GoodReads page
Donna on Twitter

Choking Back the Devil, Info –

Pre-order HERE Choking Back the Devil from Raw Dog Screaming Press!

“Demons come in many forms
Some with teeth and some with horns
But none so vicious as the hordes
That came to be when you were born”

Choking Back the Devil is horror author and musician Donna Lynch’s seventh poetry collection and the follow up to her Bram Stoker nominated collection Witches (2018). This new collection explores the horror of losing control of mind, body, and autonomy through death, hauntings, violation, mental illness, violence, and the demons in our brains that terrorize and tempt us all.

Watch for cover reveal coming soon!

Thanks for joining us. 🙂 Also, if you want to keep reading, you can read more poetry from April and May over on my Poetry page.

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New Poetry and Writing on Mental Health Themes from Publisher/Author/Poet John Edward Lawson!


In April for National Poetry Month, I featured ten poets plus their work and authors writing about poetry collections! It was a lot of fun and so much talent was showcased, both from veteran, award-winning authors to newly-formed writers. You can look back on that later at this link, but first I have new poetry!

I decided to try to keep the poetry posts flowing through out the year, and with this month being May and Mental Health Awareness Month, I invited author, poet, editor, and co-owner of Raw Dog Screaming Press, John Edward Lawson, to join us.

Mental Health Awareness

John Edward Lawson’s poetry has often dealt with themes of mental illness. From his first chapbook, The Scars are Complimentary, to his forthcoming collection Bibliophobia (a collection of poems about phobias), Lawson explores the way ideas can take root in the fertile fields of the mind and grow wild with irrational fear. His third collection of poetry, SuiPsalms, was heavily influenced by the poetry of Sylvia Plath and explored themes of suicide.


John is someone I consider a friend and a mentor – he makes me think, makes me laugh, makes me consider. He’s an activist and joy to engage with online. He’s a wealth of knowledge and vocabulary. And he’s a talented writer, editor, and publisher. I enjoy my time working in the PR/Publicity/Marketing realm at Raw Dog Screaming Press because of all of this and more. I truly admire him. He has a lot of mental energy!

He’s an advocate for mental health awareness and so I am thrilled to share poetry by John with you within this theme. He’s also been a finalist for the Stoker Award (2006, Superior Achievement in Poetry), the Wonderland Award for Bizarro Fiction (2007, collected fiction), has been nominated twice for Dwarf Stars Award, and received nominations for the Pushcart Prize, two for the Rhysling Award, and honorable mention for the 2015 Wonderland Award.

The first two poems below are previously published in SuiPsalms and the third one is first look at one of the poems within his brand new collection Bibliophobia, which will come out later this year!



Concrete Operational Thinking
(from SuiPsalms)

To be boring is a kind

of raucous self-murder

slowly stalking one childhood

dream after another, binding

teenage aspirations to the

steel table in Freud’s basement

Tracing a ruby Y along the svelte

torso of adulthood’s jubilant

release, from the authority

of parents and instructors

with the scalpel of truth:

That we cannot relinquish our

grasp on concrete limitations

no matter how cold or deep

the flow of life gets


Seventh (Healing) Circle
(from SuiPsalms)

Spring’s breath aches through the nettles far removed

from prying eyes and mouths that can meddle

Those who went before remain unsettled

and scattered, their chalky frames ground to dust

If there is peace it is found in all rest…

be the bed consecrated or unblessed


from Bibliophobia (coming in October 2019)

The police in the station

are blank-faced, cold

like the sickly green-cast light

and another suspect’s distant wailing

Sitting across from interrogators makes

you feel somehow old

Even in silence you reach

for this conversation’s brakes

Staring at the photo your chest is tight

You were captured by traffic

cameras, lens after lens creeped

after you as the driver, but…

“Who’s the boy?” you ask, concealing panic

and you learn that he’s gone

missing, leaving behind all his belongings and some blood

You’ve never seen him so the photos are wrong

They have to be, you’ve been alone all along

His visage is sullen, resigned

as if he has already died

But perhaps that explains the cold spot on your right

and the exonerating idea blossoming in your mind:

for them to review the patrol car footage

and discover an unseen passenger coming along for the ride

in the back seat next to you, and later

staring into the interview room camera

on footage that will be “lost in the evidence room”…after all

how can you be expected

to control who hitches a ride with you

after their demise?

Amaxophobia: excessive fear of being in, meeting in, driving in, or riding in certain kinds of vehicles; or of vehicles in general.


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John Edward Lawson, Biography – 


John Edward Lawson is the author of 16 books of fiction and poetry, and numerous chapbooks. Over 500 of his poems, stories, and articles have been published in magazines, anthologies, literary journals, and newspapers worldwide. He has been called “The forgotten black man of horror,” but he also regularly publishes science fiction, bizarro, mystery/thrillers, and literary fiction.

John was a winner of the 2001 Fiction International Emerging Writers Competition; in addition to being a finalist for the Stoker Award (2006, Superior Achievement in Poetry) and the Wonderland Award for Bizarro Fiction (2007, collected fiction), other award nominations include two for the Dwarf Stars Award, the Pushcart Prize, two for the Rhysling Award, and honorable mention for the 2015 Wonderland Award.

John is also a founding editor of Raw Dog Screaming Press, recognized by the Horror Writers Association in 2019 with their Specialty Press Award. He spent four years as editor-in-chief of The Dream People online literary journal of bizarro fiction and poetry. Other editorial projects include three print anthologies, four e-anthologies, and freelance work for such companies as National Lampoon and Double Dragon Publishing.

His hobbies include travel, games of strategy, and collecting Hong Kong comic books. He has an intense interest in films. During the 1990s he kicked around in the DC industrial-electro-goth scene in the band Dead Letter Office and owned Rack and Ruin Studio. He has been involved in the production of numerous short films, including award winners Party Girland Uberman: An Experiment in Consciousness. Director Jayson Densman has collaborated with John for years spawning a trilogy of PoVids derived from his poetry.

John currently serves as vice president of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction. Please follow him at his BookBub page for updates about his new releases and discount deals. Visit John’s Amazon author page or find him on social media at the links below:

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