Old Drafts and the New Year

Every time I open WordPress, and start to write, I’m reminded of the amount of times I’ve sat here. On the bed, two pillows behind my back, woolly sweater, fluffy socks and warm leggings (my writing attire, ok, who am I kidding? My actual uniform).

Nineteen drafts… all interesting thoughts, things I wanted to share. Snippets of life as it happened, eagerly scribbled, dissected and then left down for some reason, never finished, the Christmas post, the New Year retrospective post followed by the ‘It’s all over, thank the gods post’. Random thoughts and eureka moments, ramblings about family visits and end of year existential stuff. Musings and meanderings that I wanted to share, to mark, for me, the turning of the season, the celebration of the Pagan wheel coming full term. And it pisses me off that I didn’t finish them.

They mock me for the time spent in their composition, late at night, in early December or early January. When I actually took the time to sit away from distraction, my phone banished to the kitchen, two fluff babies beside me, flexing my writing muscle.

I mock myself. Not that I need a reason.

So, here I sit wrapped against the cold in a large fleece blanket. The wind is howling outside, it’s just stopped snowing. Our first of the year (pity it’s a month too late) and the fire is calling me down to the living room where a hot whiskey has my name on it. But I’ve promised myself that I won’t leave the glacial bedroom for the pleasures of the ground floor until I have posted something for the New Year. I won’t I tell you.

I don’t do resolutions anymore, it always felt too much like punishment, especially coming at the end of the Christmas season. I make lists of places I wish to visit, trips I want to make with my friends, my kids, and courses I want to take. I want more experiences – fun and adventurous things, dreams that become reality at a click of the mouse. I want to learn to play the drums, basket weave, make my own silver jewellery. There are no limits to the creative skills I wish to hone. Knitting a long jumper is in there somewhere, plus a little art. The fun is in the planning.

This year I’m awarding myself the gift of kindness. The capacity to love myself even when the words don’t come, when I don’t feel like exercising, or anything else. I’m giving myself a nice, big fat break. I’ll be directing myself firmly to chill out, and cancelling all that guilt and shame I order every time I disappear down a rabbit hole of online procrastination. Instead I’m going to reward myself for just showing up – by showing up more and more.

Happy 2023. May it bring health, happiness and much joy. And oodles of self-love.

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Adventures in Cornwall, Part One – The Minack Theatre

We drove from Newquay in my friend’s car, her grown up children crammed into the back, all limbs and elbows. As honoured guest and old friend of the driver, I rode shotgun which afforded me perfect views of the Cornish countryside in the dying light of the late August evening. We passed through a scattering of small villages, I noted the neat hedges, the quaint English signs that sent shivers of nostalgia through me and laughed at the strange place names (we passed signs for Ventongimps and Cocks; both villages within a short distance of each other).

When we reached Penzance, we headed for Land’s End. It was nearing twilight when the car turned up the road leading to our destination, the Minack Theatre, along one of the narrowest roads I’ve every travelled, and I live in Ireland. The car wove around wild hedges with briars that reached forward to scratch the windows. The road stopped at the top of a cliff, our car park, an area of grassland where we were directed to a space. We grabbed our blankets and supplies and followed the trickle of other adventurous theatregoers walking the path leading to the Minack.

Amongst the chatter the anticipation was tangible. We shuffled along with our bags and baskets, as tickets were checked and the many stewards directed people down narrow stone paths to their seats or, like us, up higher to the stone gallery.

There was an almost fantastical surrealism in the vista that flooded my sight and senses. I sat on my chair, cut into the almost vertical granite cliffs looking down at the stone platform, the stage lit by strobe and flame, the little wooden ship that would wreck on Prospero’s Island. And beyond, the most magnificent backdrop of white topped waves and the purpling sky. Members of the Hertfordshire Players strolled the floor, climbing amongst the audience, mingling and joking, adding a touch of medieval merrymaking to the already festive air.

I can’t believe I had remained ignorant of this little piece of theatrical heaven, this most wild and breath-taking of venues. A theatre at the end of the world, hanging over the cliffs, Shakespeare performed to the beat of the tide, against the dark, rolling clouds, lit by moonlight and stars.

During the interval, I discovered the story of Rowena Cade and her legacy in the tiny Minack Museum.

Rowena Cade moved to Porthcurno, Cornwall in the early 1920’s and bought the Minack headland for £100.  She had a talent for theatre and costume design and became involved with the local theatre production of the Tempest which prompted her to create her own permanent space for outdoor performances. She built the Minack Theatre with the help of her gardener, Billy Rawlings. The stage took six months to build, and the first production was Shakespeare’s The Tempest which was lit by batteries and the beams from car headlamps. Rowena spent the rest of her life finishing the theatre, adding her own artistic touches by carving details in the stonework (a concrete and local sand mix) with a screwdriver. In 1976 Rowena Cade handed over the Minack to a charitable trust.

I felt blessed to be able to enjoy this performance from my elevated stone throne. It was especially cool to watch The Tempest, the first play ever performed at the theatre in 1932, in celebration of the 90th Anniversary at this breath-taking venue.

The performance was magical, players appeared from the sides of the cliffs as spirits, fairies, noblemen and fools. Puppetry floated in the air, held by invisible actors and lit by sudden flames, the music ethereal and floating on the breeze. And all the while the waves crashed, the sky darkened and the audience sat enthralled. At times I had to calm myself when I remembered how high I was seated on the cliff face (me and heights have had our issues).

We sat back and disappeared into a tale of spirits and shipwreck, of storm and vengeance and of course, love. There was humour and dramatic incident. I loved every minute, wrapped against the elements, sipping my plastic cup of wine and nibbling my sushi picnic. Sea, sea and more sea. Such delights. One of the highlights of my trip to Cornwall. The whole experience was dreamlike, an absolute feast for the senses and mind.

Happy Anniversary to the Minack Theatre, wishing you many more years of outstanding performances. Much gratitude for the vision and hard work of Rowena Cade.

Martha’s Cottage Gets Her Wings (author goes into existential meltdown)

It’s taken me nine years to write this post (I know I’ve been a bit behind with the old posting of late, but this one’s been waiting in the wings for bloody ever). You’ve guessed from the title probably, ha, and yes, Martha’s Cottage, the first book I ever wrote has been launched into the world. Publication date was the 28th September, and her beautiful cover can be seen on Kindle (paperback and hardback coming soon).

And it’s been weird as hell.

Backspace, I’ve been weird as hell. For me that is, but I’m rather strange, anyways.

This book was my first piece of long fiction, lots of scribbles in two cheap but comforting hardback journals way back in 2013. This is the bit where I wax lyrical about my process and give the low down on how I wrote it.

Not.

The behind the scenes will be a post, because, you know, its material, it’s my life. So, I’ll cut to the chase and give a wee bit of background. Just because. And in my dotage, everything seems like an anecdote. So, humour me. It’s been a tough few years. Seriously. Give a girl a break.

Cut to me at my 25th School Re-Union. I said, humour me.

Myself and my oldest and maddest friend (we’re perfectly matched) doing our thing on the dancefloor. I may not be the most graceful of gazelles; I like to take up a lot of room which can be problematic, what with the skipping and whatnot. Long story short, I ruptured my Achilles Tendon. Dancing to Erasure. I didn’t even take anyone down with me.

Thankfully I was inebriated at the time, which helped with the pain. So, I had to spend rather a lot of time on the couch with my leg in a cast. Apart from the pain it was blissful, I lino-printed my own prints for Christmas cards, taught myself to felt (great fun with a cast, thankfully I had an eight-foot table… ah, the old kitchen *wipes a tear*) and crochet (resulting in a Dr Who length scarf with various multicoloured, crocheted flowers attached), and wrote the rough draft of Martha’s Cottage.

Funny to write a novel about marital breakup (not a spoiler, it’s on the blurb) whilst I was still married (we’ll skip that part) and now that it’s finally published, I’m happily divorced. Bizarre.

This was the dream for me, really, having my novel published. I had a few books published previously, via the Indie route, mostly short and longer fiction in a number of genres ranging from gothic horror to supernatural, contemporary women’s fiction to comedy and dark faerie tales. Martha’s Cottage was the first written and last published. My first actual novel.

But when something means a lot to you … it ups the ante.

As you already know, the last few years have been very strange. They’ve been strange for everyone, obviously the whole Covid craziness, but since I wrote Martha’s Cottage, I got divorced (major accomplishment and life hurdle), sold the house I called home for 18 years and was very nearly homeless, moved twice (once to the house beside the petrol station in the middle of nowhere, see previous posts) started two jobs, became a grandmother twice over, my kids have all flown the nest (to move in and out at regular intervals), started my own business and closed my own business, and fell in love.

Change. I’ve been through a shitload of change after twenty years of stagnation. Crazy, life affirming, cathartic and beautiful change. As has my writing. Martha’s Cottage has been rewritten at least ten times and when it went off to the publishers, the awesome Spellbound Books Ltd., I felt it was properly ready, as was I.

Or so I thought.

The day of publication was a sleep-deprived/caffeinated blur of insanity. I stayed in my Dad’s the night previously. I had made arrangements beforehand and… he’s my Dad, I don’t see him as often as I should and I wasn’t about to change the plans because my book was out the next day. I barely slept I was so filled will excitement and existential dread.

I took myself to the bed with a case of overwhelm (sleep is always the friend of the anxious) and after three hours of blissful oblivion and some actual food, (plus a very hot shower,) I was ready for business. It’s been busy as hell ever since, because I have so many awesome friends and supporters I want, and need to talk to. They’re my sustenance.

But I still felt the fear.

I’ve talked incessantly about getting Martha’s Cottage published. Over and fucking over. Probably because I never expected it to get published (shock, horror!!) and oh dear… be careful what you wish for, ha. I had bumped this thing to great heights. Everest. I couldn’t help it. I’m the queen of oversharing, I get very excitable (unfortunately about a lot of things – you name it, autumn, cats, sharks, anything shiny) and because this was the first time I had actually done something about it, instead of boring my friends to death with my… ‘All I want to do is write…’ bullshit at 3 a.m. when we were drinking tea after wine because we’d ran out of wine, and tea is always a good idea at 3 a. m.

The pressure.

Still, once I started to receive the first few reviews the unease settled. I mentally shook myself and started on the promotional stuff with new hope in my heart. Do or Die, Martha’s Cottage is out there. It is what it is, and it’s back to the scribbling for me.

Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith, your work is never going to be ready/good enough, there’s always going to be something you dislike. As with anything that comes from your core, you really just have to take a deep breath and step off the ledge.

I’m delighted Martha’s Cottage has finally made it into the real world after lingering in the wings for so long (or nestled on a memory stick attached to a t-rex keyring), and I wish her well.

If you have already downloaded, thank you for your support and I really hope you enjoy your read. And for those of you that may be tempted to disappear into the lives of Ben and Sarah Stephens, you guys are the best.

Much appreciated, and thanks for all the support.

x Fiona.

P. S. Thanks Radiohead, Hope Sandoval, Massive Attack, Air, Foos (love you always Taylor), Floyd, Elbow, Chillis, the Manchester Orchestra, Pumpkins and QoTSA

Links below:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Read more: Martha’s Cottage Gets Her Wings (author goes into existential meltdown)

Mirror in the Garden

In my garden there’s a broken mirror. A spider’s web of cracks that show a strangely warped view of the world, splintered and twisted willow twigs stretch from the hedge, a seagull Pterodactyl soars in split screen. Bluebells dance within the cracks.

Black rimmed, perhaps 3 ft tall, it has a slightly gothic air, curved, baroque-ish sides. Almost a minaret peak, almost. I nearly didn’t buy it because of that. Small irritations. I’d been on the hunt for a special mirror for almost a month. Who was I kidding? I was mirror-brained.

I needed something for over the fireplace, something special. It’s a cosy but dark, little hobbit hole of a living room but it’s wonderfully den-like in the evening. And with the candles lit it’s a place of unimaginable bliss. We needed to steal light and put up a large mirror on the back wall window. And through it I can now view the flowering magnolia and the palm tree, the perfect patch of surburban wilderness through the gaps in the geraniums and clematis in the kitchen window.

I believed another mirror above the fireplace would add extra light, complete the room. The mirror matched the cast iron open fire place perfectly. It only needed to be raised a little. But it seemed to open a vortex – sucking the light out of the other large mirror. Whatever way I moved I could see more, out of the corner of my eyes, I watched myself move in sync with my alter ego in the corresponding mirror. I was reminded of the mildy humorous terror of the House of Mirrors in a childhood fairground visiting circus. Echoes of Ray Bradbury.

Irritated, I carried the mirror out to the small hall beneath the stairs, the one and only bathroom to the right (a wet room – a learning curve but love it, love it, gonna stick up fake plastic vines. Poor, Dave, living with a writer must be part amusement and part ‘What new fresh hell is this?‘). It’s a tiny space with a view of the stairs and old battered bookcase on the landing.

But instead of leaning it against the wall, I lifted and placed it on the wall. Perfection, hail light, hail secret portal of light. I left the mirror against the hall wall (with a ridiculous Victorian portrait of a bull with miniscule legs, in grandiose gilt frame that was also waiting for placement, for company).

Less than an hour later there was a crash. Nacho, Purge of all Cats, had once again chirped her way to destruction.

I looked down at the cracked mirror and to be fair she’d done a superb job. Not just one crack but a myriad, the glass still in situ. A mirror changed, re-designed by gravity and feline artistry.

We went out to the garden, the cracked mirror and I. I placed it very gently amongst the bluebells and wild garlic flowers without loss of glass. My lower garden is surrounded on three sides by wall and the mirror seemed to sink into the soil, leaning like a falling tombstone. It had found its proper place, changed, morphed and fit for purpose.

And as I sit on the bench determined to finish a piece of writing, the mirror shines in all its complexities in the bright, clear night.

Nacho, oh, you strange, little, uninvited creature, thank you for crafting me such a wonderful piece, a mirror for capturing the moonlight. My own personal moon mirror.

Women in Horror 2022 – Welcoming back to Unusual Fiction, multi-genre author of horror, romance and fantasy fiction, Lily Lamb

We’re hurtling towards March with speed with a mere handful of days remaining of Women in Horrors so let’s power onwards. Today I’m happy to welcome back the lovely Lily Lamb, writer of darkest fiction with a side order of romance and mystery.

Lily Lamb is a Turkish multi-genre indie author. She loves to write tales swirling with elements of romance, passion, mystery, horror, and fantasy where falling in love with a different kind of hero is the only possibility.

Dowling House– https://amzn.to/3epWLPR  

Imagine how thrilled George and Melissa were when they purchased an unoccupied house. They hoped to renovate it and then sell it for a tidy profit. Their dream of a new lucrative business encounters a few issues. What does the future hold for this hard-working couple?

Awakening– https://amzn.to/3tsDoKf  

A near-death experience ignites young Phil’s sixth sense, and as a consequence, he encounters a wayward entity in his house. The more he tries to solve the disturbing mystery involving the ghost, his faith in himself and his abilities are pushed to the limits.

Entombed– https://amzn.to/3h66gFJ

Wilson innocently attempts to engage with his deceased grandfather using an Ouija board. He traverses the supernatural world before he finds himself out of his youthful depth. His only hope might be through Phil Spiers, a well-respected psychic with extensive experience in complex cases. Phil’s faith in himself and his abilities will be tested to the limits. But will it be too late? 

Retribution–  https://amzn.to/2QTBEwy

Even in death, his restless spirit sought retribution, and consequentially he was trapped in between realms. As if it wasn’t enough, a meddling zombie tried to save a dying man, complicating all of his plans…

Krampus– https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07LDHQJ54/

It was in the depth of winter and Christmas was just around the corner. Ordinarily a time of joy…but not necessarily for everyone. As the familiar song says, “You better watch out, You better not cry, You better not pout”….because you never know who is coming to town…

Amazon Link- https://www.amazon.com/Lily-Lamb/e/B00VCQC47I/

Amazon Link- https://www.amazon.com/Lily-Lamb/e/B00VCQC47I/

Women in Horror Month – Introducing Horror and Crime Author, Jane Badrock

I write what I like to read, with horror it’s gothic, contemporary, dark faerie, supernatural. And I appreciate a little humour, a twist. Our next guest author ticks all those boxes, writing in a multitude of genres from horror to crime fiction, and in many forms from drabbles to poetry. It gives me great pleasure to welcome, Jane Badrock

Jane Badrock writes novels, short stories and poems, usually with a good dose of humour in them. She’s probably owes it all to her late grandmother who, she’s just found out, also wrote short stories and poems. She tends to get an idea and then run with it whether it be a 100 word short story or an 80 thousand word novel. It all depends on the voices in her head at the time. She has published a book of short horror stories – The Shockalot Box, a madcap black comedy novel – Sinister Sisterhood and Comatose – the first in a series of four DS Karen Thorpe novels. She has also written a few scripts and countless silly poems.

She likes to experiment with genres and is blessed with having a collection of voices in her head which tend dictate not only the style, but often the story she begins to write.

.Jane has been working through the career alphabet from Accountant, to Artist… but she’s now stuck on Author and might never get to Bee-keeping, (although having recently been attacked by a swarm of wasps, that was probably already off the list.)

My horror story journey began when I saw a TV adaptation of Dracula. I must have been about eleven. I was hooked! I was even writing cross-genre horror comedy when I was twelve.
I became obsessed and lived on the Pan Book of Horror series and every Dennis Wheatley ever wrote! As a teenager, I saw every horror film I could. Then adulthood struck and I had to turn to a different sort of horror.. making a living.
It wasn’t until I was working part-time in 2017, that I heard about the Twisted 50 Publishing venture. It was to submit short horror stories for a compendium. That rang a massive bell in my head, and suddenly I was writing horror!
I wrote loads of submissions. Six were shortlisted but only one from each author was allowed. What was I going to do with the others? 
That’s when I self-published The Shockalot Box.

In the pipeline, I have a reasonably well-formed idea for a full length horror story, but I haven’t started it yet. I tend to start with an idea then follow it through, trying to surprise myself and therefore the reader too!

It will try to put a modern twist on old, well established ideas. There will be a strange commune, a journalist and quite a few missing people. That’s all I’ll say for now!

My latest work is a ghost story with more than a hint of horror. It’s about a young woman whose whole life is turned around after her newly found cousin kills herself soon after announcing her engagement to be married. The protagonist inherits her late grandfather’s haunted  house and has to research her family tree, and the history of the house to find out why her cousin did what she did. Because it involves a fair degree of genealogy it also involved building quite a complex spreadsheet to make sure that dates and available facts were as correct as possible! I would like to think that this will be published next year.  

I’m not a fan of slasher stories or movies. I don’t like gore and I write it sparingly. In my youth, I tended to buy the books behind the films I watched, rather than books in themselves. Recently I have especially enjoyed Get Out and Us. Historically, I love anything supernatural and have included some spooky stuff in one of my thrillers (The Ice Maiden) and one of my Crime series (Three Little Girls.) I love a good vampire story – but they have to be sexy and inescapably evil. None of this lovey-dovey stuff for me!

I write across a broad range, including Drabbles – which if you don’t know, is a one hundred word story. So I’ve included one of those and an excerpt from another Shockalot story.

The Appointment

“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting,” the consultant said looking at his watch. “But it’s too late. There’s nothing we can do.”

“But I’m private,” She wailed.

“Death is a leveller in that respect,” he shrugged.

“How long have I got?” She asked.

“About ten minutes.”

“Is there nothing I can do?” she screamed.

“Just this. Can you sign this payment approval form for my fees?” He said, handing her a form and a pen.

“I could,” she said, “or I could do this instead,” she smiled.  “After you!” She stabbed him straight through the eye with his pen.

Extract from The Power of the Moon

For a moment I drift back in my memory to my first experience.  Not such a pretty lad was it then but an old and corrupt man who imbued me with his lust. When the pull of the moon first dragged me from my slumber and I climbed out of my bedroom window to avoid my parents’ suspicion, it was to the woods I went.  I was but a child of fourteen then, incapable of comprehension or even anticipation of what I needed to sustain me.

   I already knew that my heart was always to be held by a woman, but back then it was this older man who promised me that which I most desired; nay needed.

   He was brutal with me and in my ecstasy, there was also agony. I returned home bruised and bleeding undertaking my ablutions in secret silence until I could crawl back to my bed; wounded but satisfied. The craving for blood had not yet tainted my soul; I was a mere object to be used and it was my metamorphosing intellect which gradually clarified my needs.

   Outside,  the sound of barking jars me back to the present and reminds me I must act. As always in the anticipation of a successful night, the dogs have not been fed for four days. It pleases me that they will be justly rewarded today. 

   I pull the body by the feet and towards the back door. No one ever comes here; my practised and mildly-repellent manner ensures my customers only visit me at my premises and I live too far from the footpaths track to be visited by tradesmen and bible pedlars. Today, the howling of hunger is an effective deterrent from intruders but still, I look around to be sure I am unwatched.

   I love my pets but I don’t trust them when they are hungry; especially now I am older and frail. A little nip, the taste of blood and I fear they might set on me. I drag the body to the iron bars and strip off the clothes. Then rolling it just inside, I lock the gate and release the inner door.

   There was a time in my younger days when I kept my playthings alive and I would even let the dogs join me although they were as wary of me then as I am of them now.

   Age and practicalities have caught up with me and instead, I leave them to their essential chore and walk find out more about to the incinerator to burn the clothes.

Find out more about Jane Badrock’s work :

https://amzn.to/3HqfF4i

Women in Horror Month 2022 – Welcome back Writer of Suspense and Horror, Sue Rovens

We’re in our last week of Women in Horror 2022, February has nearly flown the nest and brighter days beckon. Still, we’ve a few days left of delicious darkness, and even darker fiction and I shall be introducing my last few awesome guests to Unusual Fiction. It gives me great pleasure to welcome back to Women in Horror, author of suspense and horror fiction, Sue Rovens.


Sue Rovens is an indie suspense/horror author who hails from Normal, Illinois. She has written four suspense novels and two books of short horror stories. After completing NanoWriMo last November, she has a first draft of what will eventually be her fifth suspense/horror novel (which is untitled at this point).

Track 9, her second novel, snagged a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly (May 2018), her short story, “Coming Over”, from her book, In a Corner, Darkly (Volume 1) was turned into a screenplay and short student indie film by the theater department of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and another short story, “When the Earth Bled”, won 2nd place in the Support Indie Authors short story contest in 2021. Her two most recent books (Buried and Rage) are under Plump Toad Press.

My horror writing journey officially started in 2009 when I wrote my first short story, Impossible. It’s since gone through many iterations and now lives in my short story collection, In a Corner Darkly, Volume 2. It took me three years to complete my first horror collection (In a Corner Darkly, Volume 1) and since then, I’ve published four novels which fall somewhere between horror, suspense, and thriller. My fifth novel, yet to be named, will fit neatly into that genre set as well.

My latest work is a suspense/horror novel (the one that’s yet to be named). I completed/won/finished NaNoWriMo in November ’21, and will be using that first draft as a starting off point. Very generally speaking, it’s about a recently retired married man who quickly discovers that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After his wife suggests that he get his real estate license (for something to keep him occupied), he finds his first clients and sets off to do the best job he can. The house, however, may be haunted…

An excerpt from Buried (2019):

            ‘In a distant field, a massive form of a man hunched over a grave, scooping soil to one side. Dim light from a rusty lantern cast an eerie and cadaverous glow on the silhouette, creating a freakish impression to the passing eye. With elongated arms and hammer-like fists, he coiled his meaty fingers around the body and neck of a shovel, strangling the very essence out of the antiquated tool.             Upon closer inspection, his efforts were now audible. Guttural grunts accompanied every dirt-filled heave, every strain and struggle.     

            Nearer still, the funk of formaldehyde and decay danced with his salty sweat. A nauseating and pungent bouquet hung in the air like a ghastly portrait of something grisly and repulsive.

             When the dull edges of the steel finally made contact with the mahogany, the man stopped and tossed the implement to the ground. He gripped his aching back and wrenched his body toward the black pitch of the sky.

             It was hard to dig up the dead.

My favourite horror sub genre? Hmm. Kind of tough, but psychological horror is great, if it’s done right. Some great examples: Burnt Offerings, No Exit, Harvest Home, The Other, The Sentinal, and ‘Salem’s Lot.

Sue owns a blog (suerovens.com) which includes interviews with authors, musicians, podcasters, and artists. She is also an Executive Producer for an indie (short) horror film which is currently in production called “Let’s Do Things that Make Us Happy”, and is a current member of both The Chicago Writers Association and the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi).

Blog: https://suerovens.com

Email: srovens@yahoo.com

Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Sue-Rovens/e/B009PCPQUS

Women in Horror Month – Welcome back to Pippa Pilgrim, scribbler of dark fiction, podcaster and all round horror fanatic

It’s always great to host so many outstanding writers and creatives on my blog for Women in Horror but it’s especially fun to welcome back my friends from within the horror community. So, I’m chuffed to bits to have back the awesome, Pippa Pilgrim, horror podcast extraordinaire, writer of wicked horror with her husband Myk Pilgrim. Together they own Pugnacious Press Publishing. She also produces the horror channel, Deadflicks.

What have you got in the pipeline?


A few of you may know me from previous interviews from Fi, isn’t she fabulous? My
name is Pippa Pilgrim, although I still write under my maiden-name. I co-own the
publishing company Pugnacious Press Publishing with my writing partner and
husband, Myk Pilgrim. You can find my stories in 13 Wicked Tales: a Wicked Library
Anthology,
featured on the Wicked Library podcast, Frisson Comics, Sirens Call
Magazine, & Holiday-themed horror collections Poisoned Candy: Bite-sized Horror
for Halloween, Bloody Stockings: Bite-sized Horror for Christmas, Rancid Eggs: Bite-
sized Horror for Easter,
& Devil’s Night: Bite-sized Horror for Halloween.
Over the last few years, I’ve been collating my numerous short stories into a
collection due for release summer 2023. This will be the culmination of 10 years of
work, and I’m pretty damn excited about it.


In March 2022 I will have an audio produced story called And Just Like the Movies
(written in January 2021), released through The Wicked Library Podcast. In And Just
Like the Movies,
Noelle and her far more scientifically gifted friend Zuri, love to get
drunk on Fridays and watch their favourite movies. But when Zuri creates a device
that allows them to experience film in a WHOLE new way, Friday Movie Night takes
an unexpected turn. Their favourite film The Madness Beyond will never be the same
again and neither will they. There’s horror, death, bad accents, and a giant snake.


In July 2022 my story Achromatica will appear in Chromophobia: A Strangehouse
Anthology by Women in Horror,
edited by the brilliant Bram Stoker award-winning
Sara Tantlinger and published by Rooster Republic Press. I’m incredibly excited for
this release and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. The special edition hard
copies are already available for pre-order through Rooster Republic Press’s website.
Achromatica is about the lack of colour. Answering the question of what would
happen if the world was white? I am a big believer in the world as a spectrum, we
need colour, we need individuality, after all, variety is the spice of life.

Discuss your latest work


My latest work actually is taking a leap away from the written page and onto video,
with the relaunch of our Pugnacious Press Patreon and Deadflicks Patreon and
video channels. Deadflicks is our premier horror video and podcast dedicated to
dissecting horror. We have a few drinks, invite on some fantastic guests and get to
the nitty gritty of what makes a fantastic horror story, and how it is brought to life in
film. This also goes for delving into some of the terrible schlock we’ve come across.
Regarding promoting women in the industry, and being as inclusive as possible, I
have my own solo video channel and Podcast due to launch in March, under the
Deadflicks umbrella, called That Time of The Month, where I will be focusing
specifically on horror by women and LGBTQIA+ people, with a brilliant line up of
guests joining me (no I can’t reveal any names yet), to cut our teeth on feminist and
queer horror.

Share an excerpt from one of your stories/novels


As it is such a short little piece, I thought I would share the entirety of my
story Death Rattle with you.


Grandmother tucked my feet under the soft cotton blanket on my mother’s old bed,
and bunched it around my ankles, “Never hang your feet out of the covers or a Naga
will eat you.”
Of course, mother told her to stop telling me scary stories, but I didn’t mind.
I loved sleeping at Grandmother’s house, each room a maze of dust and
oddities, soaked in a haze of rich crimson incense. I’d admire new additions to her
curious collection every visit. From mounted, bloodstained katar daggers, which
Grandma told me never to touch, to strange paintings of gods I couldn’t name, bug-
eyed masks, and a huge golden clock that sang on the hour.
My favourite oddity wasn’t all that odd. A coiled necklace of hollow opal
beads, which rattled as grandma lifted me into her arms. I’d roll the rough beads
around my fingers and listen to the thudding inside. She told me long ago they were
a gift from Grandfather. He’d been dead for so long, it seemed like the only thing she
had left from her life with him.
Each night I’d kick the covers off, so she’d have to tuck me in again, it was a
game we’d play. That night she perched herself on the edge of my bed and fluffed
the pillows, “My darling Biju, tonight I will tell you what happened to Grandfather.”

*

I nestled your newborn mother in my arms when it came to me that night.
The bedroom door creaked open, spilling moonlight across the floor, and
waking me. Something heavy and gleaming snaked into the room, its body scraping
against the crooked floorboards.

Tshh-t— Tshh-t.
Terrified, I lay still beneath the covers beside Grandfather, quieted my
breath, and shrank within myself. I slipped one hand beneath my pillow and gripped
the handle of Grandfather’s katar. He’d insisted we keep it in the bedroom, despite
my protests.
Tshh-t— Tshh-t.
The room swam with nutmeg and cinnamon, honey thick and saccharine.
It tasted the humid air beneath, us searching for warm flesh with its sallow
forked tongue, piercing between two plump human lips. Its rippling, golden scaled
body, coiled the bedstead and slithered from my side to Grandfather’s, its opal
beaded tail rattling.
I grasped your mother’s tiny body tighter and watched Grandfather’s chest
heave with his deep breaths. I didn’t have the strength to protect both of them, so I
made my choice.
Tshh-t— Tshh-t.
Grandfather’s bare foot listed above the cove
rs; toes curled.

At the edge of the mattress, a bald topped, golden fleshed head, which bled
into rows of scales at the neck, watched him sleep. It slipped onto the bed, its
opalescent eyes betraying no emotion. It swept forwards, top jawed needle teeth,
protruding from those rosebud lips, and sunk its simitar fangs into the soft meat of
Grandfather’s foot.

Grandfather yelped, and twisted, then fell silent once more, paralyzed.
The Naga unhinged its jaw, stretching beyond the physics of its human face.
Lips split towards its opal eyes, in a taut sneer, before flaring its cavernous, crimson-
stained mouth.
Tshh-t— Tshh-t.

Tears soaked my pillow and acid burned my throat.
The Naga drew Grandfather’s
naked body free from the twisted sheets, and
with constricted swallows, forced him down its twisted gullet.

Your mother stirred in my arms. I looked down at her peaceful face, and I
knew I’d made the right choice.
Tshh-t— Tshh-t.
The Naga swollen from its feast slithered up the bed, its body changing.
Golden scales melted into shrinking bronze flesh, its tail split and became two long

muscular legs. Arms sprouted from along the creature’s torso, growing fingers,
knuckles, and tufts of black hair.
It wrapped an arm around me in a passionate embrace, and twisted its
naked, icy frame against mine. Strings of opal beads rattling on its ankles.
Tshh-t— Tshh-t.

Its hand reached further, fingers resting against your mother’s miniscule
body. “So warm,” it whispered; forked tongue caressing my ear lobe.
I tried to stay calm, my heart screaming in my chest. I leant down and placed
your mother into her bassinet on the floor and prayed. I turned over to face the Naga.
Its handsome face, not unlike that of your grandfather. I stared into its eyes, those
unchanging frozen pearls. Black twists of long beard played against my goose-
bumped chest. It licked its lips and pressed them to my neck.
I pushed myself upwards and drew the katar from under my pillow. Raising it
above my head, I thrust it into the Naga’s chest, tearing through its stolen skin.
The Naga mewled and clawed at its chest. The torn human skin revealed
rows of scales beneath, which fragmented like shredded cloth, revealing more
human skin. Layers peeled back like reems of burning paper, pages curling and
twisting over themselves. It hissed and tore at the katar, which dropped free from the
widening hole.

I toppled backwards onto the floor; the Naga rose above me on its shriveled
legs.
Tshh-t— Tshh-t.
More folds of skin an
d scales ruptured and peeled away from its center,
turning the creature inside out. It shrunk beneath crumpled layers of shed snakeskin,
head compressing like a crushed eggshell. Its eyes wept pearlescent tears, like
white molasses, pooling on the mattress; and deflated in their diminutive sockets.
The Naga crumbled, into an ashen pile of scales, needle teeth, and rows of
opal rattle beads.

Grandma patted her necklace and nodded to me, “Your Grandfather might
still be here, if he’d stayed under the covers.

What is your favourite horror sub-genre?


I have always been very drawn to supernatural horror. I love stories of creatures
from the beyond, portals to other worlds, and monsters that crawl out from under
your bed. I love speculative fiction, bending our reality just slightly, enough to make
you say, “Maybe, just maybe, that could happen.”. I am attracted to the same genre
when it comes to my writing. I tend to lean away from slashers, murder mysteries
and the like, as I see enough real horror when it comes to my day job. Truth really is
stranger than fiction. I like to work on the premise of “what if?” when looking at story
ideas.
A good example of my inspiration for my favourite horror sub-genre would be the
things I encounter on my daily commute to work. I don’t drive (mostly due to never
having got my arse in gear to learn), so, I travel by bus, from where we live in the
Highlands of Scotland, to Stirling City for work. The journey takes an hour and a half
winding through ancient woodland, over craggy waterfalls, and past fields and fields
of everything from, sheep, to Christmas trees, to the lovable “heiland coos”, as
pronounced correctly. Sometimes as the bus winds round corners of forest, where
the ground is entirely moss, and fairy rings. You’d swear you saw a gigantic hand
gripping a tree trunk, but you’re moving so quickly, before you can blink, you’ve
moved on.
The weather is also very odd, you enter an area where the mist hovers low in the
valley, like a snaking blanket, as the sun hits with a pink glow as you dive below its
cover, and find yourself trudging through something like Silent Hill, before finding a
patch of snow that lasts between two exact rode signs and no further. You rush past
a field of sheep where this one large, grey sheep, seems to tower over the others, its
legs seem almost human. Wait what was that? And then you’re gone. Plus, once you
hit the city, we have the Wallace Monument, which looks like it should contain the
eye of Sauron and be scouring the city for hobbits.
I find myself staring out of the window and wondering “what if?” to a lot of the more
peculiar things I pass. What if that upturned tree holds a passage beneath its roots to
a dark and hidden world like Clive Barker’s Midian? What if that was a wolf in
sheep’s clothing?
Throw a little science fiction into the supernatural horror sub-genre, with the odd
portal and strange potion, and I’m hooked.


Pippa Bailey (she/her)
Pippa Bailey is a foul-mouthed queer horror author, voice actor, reviewer & all-round
good person.
She lives in a tiny cottage in the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Myk Pilgrim.
When Pippa isn’t writing she spends her time collecting tasteless memes, drinking
too much tea, making terrible puns, and generally bothering the local wildlife.
You can sneak up on her if you are very very quiet, but it is not advisable.

Pippa’s work has appeared alongside Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Jack
Ketchum, Joe R Lansdale, and the marvellous Myk Pilgrim in Dark Faces Evil Place
2.
Also in 13 Wicked Tales: a Wicked Library Anthology, featured on the Wicked Library
podcast, Frisson Comics, Sirens Call Magazine, & Holiday-themed horror collections
Poisoned Candy: Bite-sized Horror for Halloween, Bloody Stockings: Bite-sized
Horror for Christmas, Rancid Eggs: Bite-sized Horror for Easter, & Devil’s Night: Bite-
sized Horror for Halloween.
Her story Achromatica will appear in Chromophobia: A Strangehouse Anthology by
Women in Horror, edited by the brilliant Bram Stoker award-winning Sara Tantlinger
and published by Rooster Republic Press. Due out in Summer of 2022.

Links
website http://www.puganaciouspress.com
Website http://www.deadflicks.co.uk
Webpage http://www.pippabaileyauthor.com
Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Pippa-Bailey/e/B071W8DLDH
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/PippaBaileyauthor
Twitter https://twitter.com/thepippabailey
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/Pippabaileyauthor/
Patreon https://www.patreon.com/deadflicks
Watch along deadflicks “The Black Imp”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T32TuIT0KoI
That time of the month intro: https://youtu.be/cOjpcGFTgfU
Deadflicks new intro: https://youtu.be/daeVZ6tmGP4