GHOSTS By Paul Kane............................................................................................................ 2 THE UNWRAPPED SKY By Rjurik Davidson ....................................................................... 2 SEX, PEANUTS, FANGS & FUR: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR INVADING CANADA By Renee Miller ............................................................................................................................. 2 Ramblings of a Tattooed Head By Simon Marshall-Jones ....................................................... 4 IT FOLLOWS ........................................................................................................................... 5 DANGEROUS GAMES By Jonathan Oliver........................................................................... 5 THE DAY THE LEASH GAVE WAY AND OTHER STORIES By Trent Zelazny ................ 7 How To Make A Tickling Killer Clown Movie – Part 1: A Trevor Wright Journal.................. 7 DEAD HARVEST Edited By Mark Parker .............................................................................. 9 THE DRAGONS OF HEAVEN By Alyc Helms...................................................................... 9 AS ABOVE SO BELOW ....................................................................................................... 11 Witchlight: Letting The Darkness Shine Through By J.S.Watts ............................................ 11 THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING ............................................................................ 13 THE BONES OF WILLOW LAKE By Rhiannon Mills........................................................ 15 BITTER SIXTEEN By Stefan Mohamed............................................................................... 15 Edited By Stanley Riiks. Written By Adrian Brady, Simon Marshall-Jones, Stanley Riiks, C.M. Saunders, J.S. Watts, Trevor Wright. Proof-read By Sheri White. © Morpheus Tales July 2015. Morpheus Tales Back Issues and Special Issues are available exclusively through lulu.com: http://stores.lulu.com/morpheustales For more information, free previews and free magazines visit our website: www.morpheustales.com Morpheus Tales Review Supplement, July 2015. COPYRIGHT July 2015 Morpheus Tales Publishing, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Review can be used, in full or in part, for publicity purposes as long as Morpheus Tales Magazine is quoted as the source.
GHOSTS By Paul Kane https://spectralpress.wordpress.com/ Ghosts, published by Spectral Press, is a collection of sixteen short stories, one poem, and a film script all on the topic of ghosts. The review copy I received also states that the “real” book is limited to 125 signed, numbered copies worldwide and contains a bonus DVD of the film Wind Chimes, which is the subject of the film script and begins life as one of the sixteen short stories. As the recipient of a review e-copy, I didn’t get to see the DVD, so can only comment on the stories themselves. The introduction to the collection, penned by Nancy Kilpatrick, states, “Paul Kane’s magnificent collection of short stories manages to capture a wide variety of… manifestations. It’s an eclectic mix that offers plenty for everyone, no matter your spookmeter.” This is a pretty accurate description. Whilst each and every piece in the book deals with a ghost or ghosts, the style, tone, and subject matter are so varied that there is bound to be something to please everyone. Conversely, however, there were several pieces that did absolutely nothing for me and I would have been happy to have had left out of the collection. I guess you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I also found getting into the collection slow going and if I hadn’t been reviewing the book, I might have been tempted to give up. I’m pleased I persevered, however, because the majority of the later tales were more to my taste and I found the collection as a whole worth the read. So, in addition to ghosts and hauntings, what have we got? There is a bittersweet romance about finding your soul mate, albeit after death; a very protective haunted house; two revisitings of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; another Dickens homage, this time a modern-day sequel to ‘The Signal-Man;’ a haunting take on the importance of Remembrance Day; a ghost in the machine; finding the right place, method, and reason to commit suicide; a benignly haunted chair and more, plus the stories which resonated most with me: a creaking house that is hiding terrible secrets from its owner’s past; strange lights processing across Derbyshire’s rolling hills; tragically unheeded communications from the beloved dead; the sins of the past returning to wreak bloody judgement; and fleeting access to the spirit world that grants absolution from historic guilt. Some of the stories are horrific, some are scary, some are moving, and some are light in tone, but they are all about ghosts. First and foremost this is a collection of ghost stories rather than a horror
anthology. If ghosts in all shapes and sizes are your thing, it’s worth checking out this collection. By J.S.Watts THE UNWRAPPED SKY By Rjurik Davidson www.torbooks.co.uk It is not often a fantasy novel comes along that is likely to have a worldwide impact in the world of books. Is this fantasy? SF? Urban fantasy? Well, it is a unique blend of all three, mixing mythology, magic, aliens, and much more to create a world filled with imagination. The story follows three very different characters in the ancient city of Caeli Enas, as they each struggle with their own existences, working toward revolution in their own separate ways… This is a strange and unique book, which is fascinating. The world Davidson has created is brilliantly original, his characters disturbingly real. Intelligent literary fantasy does not get any better than this. By Adrian Brady SEX, PEANUTS, FANGS & FUR: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR INVADING CANADA By Renee Miller http://authorreneemiller.com/ This book, the first in a planned series, is just as crazy and unhinged as the title suggests. America finally invades Canada at the behest of President Johnson, who wants to take over the world, but not through conventional means. It starts in a lab, where test subjects hoping to find cures for their various ailments and allergies are duped into becoming carriers of a virus that goes through three stages – a zombie phase, a werewolf phase, and finally a vampire phase. The unwitting victims are then put to work behind ‘enemy’ lines where they run amok on the local population, but to what end? This is a very clever book. It’s also bloody, sexy, exciting, and in places, strangely poignant. The satire is never far from the surface. One of the author’s many strengths lies in her use of dialogue, which is tight, snappy, and at times, riotously funny. I’ve read quite a lot of Miller’s stuff in the past, and this is quite a departure from her usual style, which generally leans more toward the realms of drama/thriller/erotica. I, for one, welcome her to the dark side and hope she’ll stay here for the foreseeable future. Sex, Peanuts, Fangs & Fur: A Practical Guide for Invading Canada is a hell of a ride. Don’t miss it. By C.M. Saunders
Ramblings of a Tattooed Head By Simon Marshall-Jones
should be). But sometimes, when inspiration does hit me squarely upside the head with a perfectly executed uppercut, the opportunity just has to be grabbed and held onto for as long as possible. And that’s exactly what happened late last year, when I was metaphorically deluged by an avalanche of ideas which led to a series of connected short stories flying from my fingertips in short order. The good news is (at least for me, not sure about you lot) is that the collection was picked up by an independent press at the end of 2014 (Tickety Boo Press) and will see publication on June 30th, 2015. The one thing which threw me off-balance on this one was the rush of words which flowed freely. Normally I struggle with hitting the marks I set myself, but not so in this instance. Nothing was planned, apart from a vague outline in my head of what I wanted the story to be about—the rest just happened. I’m not putting this out there by way of boast; this is just how it happened and I was grateful it did. Believe me, there is nothing more frustrating than having a fantastic idea but which refuses to be put down on paper. And people wonder why I have very little hair… What’s your collection about? I hear faint cries from the back. I’m thrilled that you asked. It’s called Biblia Longcrofta (The Longcroft Bible), and contains a series of interconnected urban fantastical/science fictional/magical realist tales set in an imaginary town called, you guessed it, Longcroft. But it isn’t just any town: it has no specific geographical location in this reality, but is very much real and grounded in a separate timestream which hides in a tiny crack in the fabric of the wild landscape of the north of the UK. It’s an alternate reality where gods and goddesses dwell, where miracles are the norm, and where statues come to life, where secrets and sacred relics are hidden away from profane mankind, and a place where the dead demand representation on the town council. It is a collection which is at once philosophical, wondrous, humorous, touching, and startling. Most of it is completely fictional, but there are some elements which are autobiographical and those who know me will know what those bits are. The best bit about it? It has a cover by none other than legendary sci-fi artist and all-round groovy guy Jim Burns. And even better than that is the fact that Mr. Burns has captured the essence of the stories completely and utterly. I had a distinct image of what I wanted, but I found I couldn’t articulate it properly (yes, odd for a man of words, I
It’s all very well being an editor, working with words from some of the best authors, but it’s an entirely different matter when it comes to turning one’s hand to writing. After all, when editing a story all the hard work has already been done: my role is to refine it, look out for inadvertent inconsistencies, continuity errors, etc. Yes, working on successful authors’ stories can be an education in itself—you come to understand rhythms, voice, pacing, plotting, and such. But, like everything else, understanding is one thing, achieving it is another. And the only way to achieve that is to sit down in front of one’s computer monitor and actually get down to it. And judging by the millions of self-published eBooks and paperbacks on Amazon, CreateSpace, LULU, and others, it appears that many have done just that. Some see it as a hobby, or just a chance to get creative. Others look upon it as a means to get rich quick (and yes, I really have heard this from a self-published author). There are those who have, and do, make a good living from the proceeds of their efforts. But, and here’s the kicker, it’s probably on the order of for every person who succeeds there are 10,000 who don’t. Let’s face it—who wouldn’t like to see their name emblazoned on a book cover, and proudly boast about it to their friends and relatives? The motivation is entirely human. Plus, anyone who actually does sit down and write something rather than just talk about an intention to do so, deserves some credit. It’s hard work, and occupies a great deal of time, which is only really worth it if you ultimately get something out of it. That doesn’t necessarily mean monetary reward: it could be as simple as ‘I set out to write a novel and I did it!’ That feeling can be amazing enough on its own. What this rambling preamble is leading up to is that I decided to take my editor’s hat off and replace it with that of the writer’s. Sit on the other side of the desk, so to speak. I’ve written short stories many times or, rather, started many but completed few. I’ve even had some published. Ideas, or rather, good ideas, that appeal to me because of some quirk or an original angle don’t come along often, which means that even if I had the time I could never be a prolific writer. I’d much rather write a few stories which satisfied my aim for originality and quality than just churn them out for the sake of it. That’s just my approach, though: other writers have different philosophies (which is as it 4
know). I needn’t have worried: Jim just sent me the finished image and it was perfect. I’ll admit that I am quite nervous about its reception, in just the same way that I am when it comes to publishing a book under the Spectral Press imprint. On the other hand, I am quietly confident that I have done the best that I can, plus I know that the writing of the stories was immense fun and intensely liberating. A lot of these stories have been around in my head for years, just waiting for the right moment to leap out and attain a certain kind of reality. Perhaps this is why the telling of them was so fluent at the writing stage. I am now working on a novel, set in a completely different and much darker universe, with the working title of The Qualities of Truth. I’ve started writing them before, but have never gotten very far. I am taking a different approach this time, being less freeform and having a framework around which to work. No doubt there will be updates here from time to time. In the meantime, I intend to have a lot of fun with it.
away a crucial part of the plot. Better to see for yourself. Afterwards, Jay finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, or something, is following her. She too starts seeing people that nobody else can. Faced with being drawn into a waking nightmare, Jay and her friends must find a way to escape the horror that seems to be only a few steps behind. It quickly becomes apparent that in order for her life to return to normal, she has to address the curse, if that’s what it is, and ‘pass it on,’ a realization which throws up some interesting moral dilemmas. It Follows carries on the recent trend of foregoing blood and splatter in favour of good oldfashioned chills, often calling to mind the classic, atmospheric ghost stories of old (MR James, anyone?). There are also elements that echo Hideo Nakata’s Ringu and low-budget hits like All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. The film is especially effective in its early stages, the formulaic jumps and frights getting a little predictable towards the end. But the really interesting thing is the subtext, which goes far beyond the traditional SEX = BAD epithet. This is hinted at in the press release, which says, “It Follows is a contemporary horror exploring teen sex, suburbia, and the stuff of nightmares – a cult classic in the making”. Who knows? They might be right. By C.M. Saunders
IT FOLLOWS Director: David Robert Mitchell It’s always good to see a low-budget film make it big. You could say it’s a strike for the little guy against the monopoly of the major studios. There’s been a buzz building around It Follows ever since it became the “breakout” film of last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Since then it has been generating some overwhelmingly positive reviews, somewhat unusual for a film of this genre. In fact it’s the only film I can remember to have garnered a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while The Telegraph newspaper called it the most exciting film of the festival, going on to say, “With its marvellously suggestive title and thought-provoking exploration of sex, this indie chiller is a contemporary horror fan’s dream come true”. High praise, indeed. So what’s it all about? Well, it starts as a simple boy meets girl story. Or girl meets boy. Nineteen-year-old Jay (played by Maika Monroe) is an ordinary lass who likes swimming, hanging out, and watching TV. Everything seems to be going reasonably well in her slightly awkward budding relationship, except the boy is a bit weird and often claims to see people who aren’t there. Anyway, Jay overlooks this fact and Boy and Girl do it in a car. More-or-less normal teen behaviour, you might think. But then things get really weird, as the boy drugs Jay and holds her captive. I can’t divulge why, or that would give
DANGEROUS GAMES By Jonathan Oliver www.solarisbooks.com Oliver is swiftly establishing himself as an editor of some worth. His previous themed collections for Solaris have been very credible outings and this one is no exception. In fact, this is the best yet. Games is the theme for this collection, and that fairly broad topic garners some incredible fiction from the likes of Chuck Wendig, Lavie Tidhar, Gary McMahon, Pat Cardigan, and many more. McMahon’s entry about a children’s game is spooky and a personal favourite. Tidhar’s “Die” also deserves a mention. This is a great collection, at times horrifying, at others playful and humorous. It will make you look at how you play games completely differently. Oliver delivers another expert touch to a themed anthology, the best yet from Solaris. By Adrian Brady
THE DAY THE LEASH GAVE WAY AND OTHER STORIES By Trent Zelazny www.facebook.com/trentzelazny
teeth and claws. In time the wounds may heal, but they will leave scars you will carry to your grave. Though on the surface of things the plots may sometimes appear a little thin, and more than once you’ll find yourself wondering where it’s all leading, the stories presented here have a way of burrowing under your skin, where they will crawl and fester. The one constant throughout these twenty-four tales is Zelazny’s razor-sharp writing style, often combined with a sinister undertone and some sophisticated wordplay. Most of the subject matter is best described as noir or crime fiction, elsewhere he veers off into subtle suspense, dark humour, and even outright horror. What this collection does to great effect is showcase Zelazny’s considerable talent. To summarize, Zelazny goes places few others are brave enough to go, and he takes you along for the ride. Weird fiction at its best. By C.M. Saunders
This isn’t actually a new release, but a re-release. The original came out in 2009, this new version coming with added content. As with most collections, it is a bit of an uneven affair. At its worst, one or two of the stories read like extracts from other works, as if the ideas are not yet fully formed. At its best, Zelazny sucks you in to the most uncomfortable, uncompromising situations you can imagine. One of the stand-out stories is the one to which the collection lends its name, about a man who goes to inform a competition winner of his good fortune only to find a little boy eating the leg of a dead dog, and the man of the house keeping a rotting corpse for company in the living room. What the absolute fuck? I hear you say. Don’t worry, it gets weirder after that. Something that is often said is that when Zelazny writes, he bares his soul. You get that impression several times in the course of this collection, not least in “Mourning Road”, a compassionate little yarn about a driver who seeks out roadkill as a way to pacify his guilt and inner demons. Another stand-out is “Harold Asher and His Vomiting Dogs”, a story which might make you giggle, then ask yourself what the heck is so wrong with your psyche that you find something so surreal and fundamentally disturbing funny. Even now, when I think about that story I still don’t know if it was supposed to be funny or if I’m just a bit fucked in the head. If that’s the case, then at least I can console myself with the fact that I’m not as fucked in the head as the man who wrote it. Probably my favourite story here is “Opportunity Knocks”, about a man who takes over a family enterprise following a tragedy. But of course, it doesn’t go to plan. There is an edgy, underlying creepiness detectable between the lines long before the shocking truth comes to light by way of supernatural intervention. If you can sense a loose theme emerging, you’d be right. Dogs. This ties in with the title, which I thought a strange choice at first. But thinking about it, what happens when the leash gives way? You get bitten, that’s what. Leashes are for keeping dangerous dogs under control. If they “give way”, you’re in trouble. That’s exactly what happens in many of the stories here. The leash gives way, big time. You could argue this is a metaphor not just of the subject matter, but also for Zelazny’s approach to storytelling. It can be playful and goofy, but also unpredictable and dangerous. It has sharp
How To Make A Tickling Killer Clown Movie – Part 1: A Trevor Wright Journal Feb. 13 Never thought I’d be doing this again. Never wanted to be doing this again. At least that’s what I’m used to telling myself. But today, I got the call. Actually, it was an email. An email from an old producer I used to work for back when I was writing movies. He wanted to run an idea by me about some new movie he’s making. I wasn’t going to respond. No offense to him. But screenwriting – any writing for that matter – is not something I ever, ever want to do again. It’s too much work for too little reward. Yeah, I know, that sounds like I’m only in it for the money. And you know what? Maybe I am. Why else would I slave, day in and day out, in a hot factory making ends meet, just to come home and slave away night in and night out, writing a movie for little to no pay for people I will likely never meet? No. My days of writing are done. My selfimposed “retirement” is – what’s the word I’m looking for – exhilarating! No deadlines to meet. No rewrites to sulk over. No people to please. Just sleeping and more sleeping followed by copious amounts of TV watching and more TV watching and more TV 7
watching… I decided to email him back.
And yes, they were. Later that day I had the first scene done. It was a remarkably brilliant (not to toot my own horn) prologue that set the tone for the pages to come. I’m back.
Feb. 14 Get this! No really, get this! I email the producer back. We go back and forth for a bit. I give him my best “I don’t care about writing” speech for good measure. He tells me to call him. I delay. Finally, we get on the phone. He pitches me the idea. It goes a little something like this: There’s this guy. A normal enough guy. Shy. He’s the silent type. There’s just one small problem: he changes into a killer clown at the sight of the crescent moon. Crickets on my end. But wait! That’s not all! He finds young victims – preferably male – ties them up and tickles them to death. I reach for the end call button. What do you think? Are you in? How many ways can I say no to this? There is no way in hell I will ever be able to write something half way decent for an idea so ridiculous – so preposterous – sooooo… “I’m in.” I tell him.
Feb. 28 As it turns out, I’ve made it a point to never get too happy or carefree. Some malevolent force out there will always find a way to have me spiraling back down to Earth. Case in point: writing was going great. I set forth a list of “demands” so as to protect myself from having any more creative meltdowns. The producer agreed to all of my “demands” and was set to start filming the first scene in a couple of weeks. Then I get the call. My dad, who in the last year, went from fairly healthy to finding out he has cancer to now being treated with chemo, had taken a turn for the worse. Chemo had failed. He was now heading to a hospice. If you don’t know, a hospice is where they send you when nothing else can be done. Its sole purpose is to make you comfortable in your final days. I was told he had 2-4 weeks. My wife and I immediately headed to see him. It was a 13-hour car ride but we made it in 11 and a half. When we got there he was upbeat but looked like a shell of his former self. Hard to believe this was the same man who would visit every Christmas. Unfortunately, at this point it had been over two years since I had seen him last. Not his fault. It was mine. Turns out I didn’t just fall out of writing but I had fallen out of life. And now this stark reminder of time lost was staring me right in the face.
Feb. 15 Why did I ever say I would write this movie? Life was so much easier when all I had to do was absolutely nothing. Now here I was. Staring at another blank page. Hoping, praying for an idea – any idea – to hit me. Soon, it does. Soon, my fingers are flying over the keyboard. Oh, wait, let me back up for a second. Before my fingers could fly as I was staring at that blank page praying for an idea of inspiration to hit me, I had to actually go out and buy a computer along with a new screenwriting program. You see, I was so adamant that I would never write again that I actually went crazy one day and threw out my computer along with all of my writing materials. That included my $250 screenwriting program, my printer, my previous scripts and any and all supplemental materials to accompany said scripts. I am literally starting from scratch. So, back to my fingers flying.
March 17 My birthday. My dad is still hanging in there. So far he’s beating the doctor’s predictions. Maybe he has a chance after all. Oh yeah, and the script is almost done! March 28 The script is DONE!! All of my whining and doubting about writing again has paid off. I managed to take a crazy idea and turn it into an even crazier script. I feel refreshed. I feel 8
renewed. Writing is in my blood. This is what I was meant to be doing all along. Why the hell did I ever stop?
that right. “Villainwood” by Benjamin Kane Ethridge also deserves credit for the way it weaves a metaphor-laden tale around a cast of damaged main characters and tugs at your heartstrings. Mark Patrick Lynch, who contributes a story called “A Knowing Noah”, has a great turn of phrase, while “Learned Children” by Ronald Malfi will strike a chord with anyone who has tried their hand at teaching, and “Bad Salvage” by Wayland Smith offers up a seductive mixture of Welsh history and vampire lore. All in all, if anything there is just too much good stuff in Dead Harvest. I’ve been dipping in and out for the past six months and barely scraped the 40% mark. I guess I have a few more surprises in store. By C.M. Saunders
April 22 Today my dad passed away. I can’t cry. I feel nothing really. Am I a bad person? Driving up tomorrow to make the funeral arrangements. April 25 Haven’t had much time to think. Too much going on. I emailed the producer. I just need a distraction right now. Unfortunately, that was the wrong kind of distraction. Our lead actress is having doubts about her character. All of the other actors have not yet responded upon reading the script. This is a bad sign. My return to writing is not going the way I had hoped. Why the hell did I come back?
THE DRAGONS OF HEAVEN By Alyc Helms www.angryrobotbooks.com Hmmm… What starts off as a pulp superhero adventure rapidly descends into a mythological urban fantasy. There are two story lines here. The first takes place in the present, where several Chinatowns and the whole of China become annexed from the rest of the world by a strange protective wall. Mr Mystic, one of the world’s most mysterious superheroes, is asked by Argent, the biggest superhero corporation, to help investigate and bring down the wall. In the not-too-distant past, Mr Mystic, Missy Masters’s grandfather, has recently retired, leaving her to take up the family mantle. But Missy is in desperate need of training, and heads to the mountains of China to train with her grandfather’s mentor, a dragon. Within those two stories is love, family, and the complex politics and honour of Chinese guardianship, and dragons. This is an easily enjoyed book; Missy is feisty and interesting, but the Taoist training, and dragon family politics take up far too much time. There’s less action than expected. The story becomes more about family and love than catching the bad guys. The open-ended finale left me unsatisfied, but not exactly eager to repeat the process and read the second book in the series. This novel shows great potential, but it may take another couple of books before Helms writes the story we all want her to. Good, but not quite good enough. By Stanley Riiks
To Be Continued… DEAD HARVEST Edited By Mark Parker http://scarletgalleonpubl.wix.com/scarletgalleon Edited by Mark Parker, a dark fiction writer himself and owner of Scarlett Galleon Publications, this is a very big book, in every sense of the word. Fifty stories and a thumping great 700 pages, it really is something to get your teeth into. As the title suggests, the theme here is autumn. Why? Well, the promotional material eloquently explains that, “Each year, as summer quickly fades to memory, and the sky begins to grow dark, and the leaves change colour and fall, the faint, fetid smell of death – of slowly rotting things – begins to drift in, hanging on the chill air like a ghostly pall”. That statement sets the mood nicely for what is a very strong collection featuring fiction by some of the great names in modern horror, including Tim Lebbon, Richard Thomas, Amy Grech, and Richard Chizmar, alongside a whole host of others. Things get off to a splendid start with E.G. Smith’s “Autumn Lamb”, the poignant yet genuinely horrific tale of an aging farmer who thinks he has discovered the key to immortality. Obviously, however, it comes at a price. I’m ashamed to say I’d never read anything by this author before, but I plan on putting 9
AS ABOVE SO BELOW Director: John Erick Dowdle
and a large, but unrecorded, number of deaths that precede its narrative arc. There is potentially powerful Old Magic and a growing realisation on the part of Holly, my lead character, that, in a word fuelled by magic, appearances and indeed reality itself can be deceptive. There is also humour and a little romance. Whilst I’m planning to allow the darkness to shine through in this article, I’m not going to let it suffocate the other aspects of the book. This juxtaposition of light and dark got me thinking again (I’ve been doing a lot of thinking prior to writing this article – I promise to give my brain a rest once I’ve finished it) and led me to compare the relatively upbeat Witchlight with my first, decidedly dark-fiction 2012 novel, A Darker Moon. It would appear that one novel is, in many ways, the photographic negative of the other. I do so like the contrast of light and dark. Both novels are cross-genre. A Darker Moon combines dark fantasy and literary fiction (and has even been called horror), whereas Witchlight, as already noted, is paranormal and women’s fiction. Because I enjoy mixing genres, however, I confess I always struggle a little with genre labels. I did not think of genres as I was writing the novels and ultimately both books are what they are. A Darker Moon’s protagonist and narrator is Abe, a damaged anti-hero who is obsessed with uncovering the truth about the birth-mother who abandoned him as a baby. Holly, the heroine of Witchlight, was also abandoned as a baby, but she has come to terms with the fact she will never know the identity of her birth-mother, until, that is, it becomes clear she has inherited unexpected witchpower from her biological mother (and no, I was not abandoned as a baby myself. It’s not a personal obsession, just a theme running through these two stories). Whilst Holly struggles with the external reality and day-to-day deceptions of a world suddenly revealed as magic fueled, Abe’s search for the truth is more often an internal struggle, taking place amidst a confused web of lies, secrets, memories, and nightmares. From the opening sentence of the novel and Abe’s description of his earliest and most persistent memory, “huge, yellow eyes like two full harvest moons,” we see the world and experience the confusion of life via Abe’s vision. Both novels share a contemporary UK setting and are based in or partially in London (I am a Londoner by birth), but in contrast to Witchlight’s
Written by Quarantine and Devil director John Erick Dowdle and his brother Drew, As Above So Below follows Scarlette Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) as she continues her dead father’s work in searching for a fabled alchemical object said to be able to turn base metals such as lead into gold and provide the key to eternal life. The trail leads Scarlette and her team to the catacombs beneath Paris, where they come across a mysterious cult, a man who had been missing for two years, a ringing phone, an uncorrupted corpse, some treasure, oh, and what might be the gates to hell. As the film thunders toward its frantic, claustrophobic conclusion, the members of the team start seeing ghosts and begin to get picked off oneby-one, which is just what you don’t need when you are a thousand feet down surrounded by piles of human bones. A bit like a cross between The Da Vinci Code and Blair Witch, As Above So Below (the title coming from the philosophy that simply believing in something devoutly enough can make it come true) provides more than enough thrills and spills to keep things unpredictable and entertaining. By C.M. Saunders Witchlight: Letting The Darkness Shine Through By J.S.Watts I became rather excited when Adam, Morpheus Tales’ very own publisher, invited me to write a piece for Morpheus Tales about my latest novel, Witchlight, which was published by Vagabondage Press in paperback and e-book formats in May. Then I thought about it further and became unusually nervous. I mean, it’s a paranormal story about witchcraft and mysterious Old Magic, which should make it suitable material for Morpheus Tales, but, at the same time, it’s a relatively light, fast-paced, cross-genre novel. Morpheus Tales favours the dark side, so what are its readers going to make of a paranormal and women’s fiction hybrid? Then I thought about it even more and realised that Witchlight is a work that is both light and dark. The brightness serves to accentuate the shadow and it therefore falls to me to write an article that acknowledges the brightness, whilst allowing the darkness to shine through. So, for example, I should tell you this is a book where death comes knocking. During the course of the novel there are eleven deaths (some more gruesome than others) 11
breezy touch, A Darker Moon is unashamedly bathed in shadows. As a mythic, psychological fantasy, its tag line is, “A mythical tale of light and shadow and the unlit places where it is best not to shine even the dimmest light.” So it looks like I was riffing on the light/dark combination even back then. As already pointed out, there are eleven deaths during the course of Witchlight. The death toll in A Darker Moon is somewhat more ambiguous, (the whole story is one of dark and potentially disturbing ambiguity), but is between zero and three probably. Interesting that the ostensibly lighter book has more deaths within it. Despite its psychological and tonal gloom, A Darker Moon has threads of humour running through it. Black humour, of course, but humour nevertheless. Despite its overt humour, Witchlight has seams of night underpinning its narrative. I guess the question is, “Why?” To be honest, the photographically negative effect in relation to the two novels was entirely unintentional (or subconscious, depending on how you view these things). The juxtaposition of humour and seriousness, however, is absolutely intentional. It is, I admit, how I view life. Perhaps it comes of having parents who lived
through the near-death experiences of the Second World War, or of having a father who was an undertaker, but I find that many of life’s blackest moments can give way to humour, gallows-humour admittedly, but it’s still humour. Conversely, the pessimist in me knows that even life’s happiest moments have a lurking potential for tragedy. Dark and light. Light and dark. For me the two are inseparable: two sides of the coin of life. Witchligh t begins on a positive, upbeat note with Holly unexpectedly discovering, at rather a late age, that she has magic and witchlight in her veins, as her fairy godfather arrives to tell her she’s a witch. Pencils spin and burst into flames and canaries accidentally shit on Holly’s kitchen floor, but it soon becomes apparent that, despite this, magic is not like it is in the books and films. Holly comes to doubt whether her fairy godfather is the fey, avuncular charmer he appears and learns that when appearances are magically deceptive, she cannot afford to trust those closest to her, including herself. Accidents start to happen, people die, Old Magic is on the hunt, but in the ageold game of cat and mouse, who is the feline and who is the rodent? The cat and mouse metaphor is particularly relevant and not just because most witches within 12
the world of Witchlight have an animal familiar. I am a believer in Tennyson’s poetic statement that nature is “red in tooth and claw.” It is inevitable, therefore, that any story which has anything to do with human nature, or casts a passing glance towards reality as well as fantasy, will be stained, however lightly, with nature’s spreading crimson. Witchlight is no exception. The magic that Holly first encounters may be the type that entertainingly spins pencils and has bowls of goldfish floating widdershins round a light fitting, but it has been neutered by bland bureaucracy and the stifling practices of the Grand Coven. Yet underneath the surface illumination there is shadowy, feral magic, or Old Magic, as it is known. This can draw down far greater power, but as another saying goes, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Before the end of the novel, Holly is going to have to confront the horrifying extent of the corruption accompanying her newfound power. There is definitely darkness shining through the light and, for me, the contrast between the two serves to illuminate both that much more sharply. So yes, the tone of Witchlight is unashamedly light and fast paced, but beneath the initial brightness of Holly’s newly discovered witchlight, the darker, bloody glints of Old Magic are waiting to shine through. It’s all about both the light and the dark.
Australia, and the States, including Morpheus Tales. Her poetry collection, Cats and Other Myths, and subsequent multi-award nominated poetry pamphlet, “Songs of Steelyard Sue,” are published by Lapwing Publications. Her dark fiction novel, A Darker Moon, and her latest novel, Witchlight, are both published in the UK and the US by Vagabondage Press. You can find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/J.S.Watts.page or on her website www.jswatts.co.uk THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING Director: David Jung What do you do when your wife and mother of your child tragically dies shortly after receiving some flawed advice from a so-called psychic? That’s right, you develop a huge chip on your shoulder and set out to disprove the existence of the paranormal in all its forms, documenting the entire event as you go. One of the ways you hope to achive your goal is by using rituals and satanic rites to open yourself up to demonic possession, and as the title of this movie suggests, sometimes you get what you want. From there you are drawn into a downward spiral of terror as you first lose your grip on reality, then resort to increasingly drastic measures to try and restore some normality to your shattered existence. The lead character, convincingly played by Shane Johnson, was allegedly inspired by that of Jack Torrance in The Shining, with debutant writer/director David Jung hoping to examine the phenomena of demonic possession through the eyes of the victim. Word is, both Johnson and Jung carried out a degree of firsthand research into demonology as part of their preparation. Although upon release last year the film garnered what can best be described as a luke-warm reception from the rather stuffy high-brow film reviewers, since then it has become something of a cult hit. And deservedly so, I say. While not breaking much new ground, it does what you would expect and delivers some genuine scares, a few unforeseen twists, and the occasional unsettling moment along the way. While the found footage vehicle may be a slowly stagnating genre, The Possession of Michael King offers a new slant and breathes new life into it, if only temporarily. The premise of a grief-stricken man unable to comprehend loss is striking, and the underlying message crystal clear: seek evil and you shall find it. By C.M. Saunders
About Witchlight: (ISBN 978-0692406908, published May 2015, Publisher - Vagabondage Press) Holly has been mortal all her life. Now at thirty-eight, her fairy godfather arrives to tell her she’s a witch, and suddenly she’s having to come to terms with the uncertainties of an alarmingly magicfueled world. Magic is not like it is in the books and films, and Holly starts to doubt whether her fairy godfather, Partridge Mayflower, is the fey, avuncular charmer he appears. When appearances are magically deceptive, Holly cannot afford to trust those closest to her, including herself. Accidents start to happen, people die, Old Magic is on the hunt, but in the age-old game of cat and mouse, just who is the feline and who is the rodent? About The Author: J.S.Watts is a British writer who lives and writes in the flatlands of East Anglia. Her poetry, short stories, and reviews appear in a diversity of publications in Britain, Canada, 13
THE BONES OF WILLOW LAKE By Rhiannon Mills
I enjoyed the book, and the detective elements of it had me turning the page to learn more, so I don’t want to seem too picky, but I found some plot developments more plausible than others (which may seem a bit rich given that we are discussing a supernatural tale). On a number of occasions I felt there were gaps where I wanted more story, or story progression and/or leaps of belief that stretched the internal logic of the tale as I saw it. I’m not a great reader of romances and it may be some of what I was less comfortable with is the accepted norm in romantic tales. I don’t know. Other readers will have to answer that question. Nevertheless, the main narrative drive of the novel was strong and kept me hooked until the end. If you enjoy unusual cross-genre reads, or if you like your romance dramatic, supernatural, and more than a little bloody, I recommend The Bones of Willow Lake to you. By J.S.Watts
The Bones of Willow Lake (published by NightWatch Press) is an intriguing and, to my mind, slightly quirky novel; a hybrid of romance, horror, and detective mystery. Like many cross-genre novels (and I ought to know, I write them), it is likely to appeal to those looking for something different, but may not be what the die-hard genre fan is looking for. If I was forced to identify where its heart lies, I’d say that first and foremost it is a supernatural romance: for those old enough to remember it - a bloodier and grimmer version of the television series The Ghost and Mrs Muir. Set in modern-day rural America, the novel is narrated by Celia, a journalist, who, in an attempt to leave behind the death and mental illness that have darkened her past, moves into an isolated old property on the shore of a small lake, only to find that death and insanity lurk in her new home in the form of at least two trapped spirits: one potentially homicidal and the other seemingly in need of help to resolve pre-death issues. It is the ghost of a dead artist, Paul Gray, that Celia is inexplicably drawn to and, in order to give his restless soul peace, she has to explore the circumstances that led to his premature death in the 1940s and find what is left of his mortal remains. In the process, the relationship between the dead painter and the living journalist deepens, but the divide between the living and the dead is a significant and potentially insurmountable barrier to an enduring relationship of whatever sort. In her struggle to resolve the affairs of the dead, Celia is increasingly involved in the life and impending death of her nearest neighbour and, through her, the intrigues of her family. When past events in Celia’s own family resurrect themselves in the present, it seems that death is never that far away from Celia. Whilst The Bones of Willow Lake contains a number of elements likely to appeal to horror fans— mutilated corpses, spirits with excruciating physical abnormalities (in this case, a face to which pieces of cloth have been stitched, making an irremovable flesh-tied mask), and copious quantities of blood, the romantically inclined nature of the book, for me at least, served to muffle and down-play the horror, making the story softer and less visceral than is customary in modern horror. It may have something to do with the first-person narrative, as Celia’s evolving emotions shield both her and us from the true horror of her situation.
BITTER SIXTEEN By Stefan Mohamed www.saltpublishing.com Being sixteen and growing up in Wales is hard enough for Stanly Bird, but on his sixteenth birthday he receives a present that really is a surprise. How would you react if you were given superpowers? Stanly heads to London with his talking dog Daryl, and may have bitten off more than he can chew as the big city offers danger and excitement in equal measure… This is YA urban fantasy as its very best. Mohamed has created in Stanly a brilliantly realised post-modern teenage superhero, with all the angst and issues that you would expect, but with a humour and delicacy that makes him all the more endearing. The talking sidekick dog offers more humour and attitude, and the fast-paced story keeps you on the edge of your seat. This is great fun, very exciting, and the first in a trilogy. A superhero teenager from Wales, who would have thought it could be this good! By Adrian Brady
22 pages of genre non-fiction: Simon Marshall-Jones offers his Ramblings of a Tattooed Head column, Trevor Wright tells us "How To Make A Ti...
Published on Jul 19, 2015
22 pages of genre non-fiction: Simon Marshall-Jones offers his Ramblings of a Tattooed Head column, Trevor Wright tells us "How To Make A Ti...