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

Women in Horror Month – Introducing Writer of Dark Fiction, Nic Parker

Welcome to another day of Women in Horror Month, the best thing about this month, in my opinion. February has us again in her cold embrace, mornings shrouded in mist and rain, nights played out to the soundtrack of hail and storm. Today it’s my pleasure to introduce fellow scribbler of dark tales and blogger, Nic Parker. Always a treat to meet a lover of the short story and sci-fi horror.

1. Tell us a bit about your horror writing journey.

I always created stories in my mind ever since I was a child, it is the genre that is close to my heart. When I was in my late teens I wrote whole books alas everyone kind of discouraged me, telling me a nobody from a small village would never get published. A few years back my writing was fueled again by meeting lots of writers and they encouraged me to start again. I have so many short stories and books cruising in my mind I hope I can get them all out before I die.

2. What women writers of dark fiction have influenced you? Your go to book?

Anne Rice – the true Queen of horror, her Witching Hour is still one of my favourites

Charlaine Harris, she has created wonderful characters

CJ Tudor – she is ace in creating dread and grim stories that stay with you

Shirley Jackson – a true champion of her craft and a trailblazer for women in horror

Chelsea Cain and Mo Hayder – maybe not classical horror but writers of very dark and evil thrillers

3. Share an excerpt of one of your stories /novels

I have various short stories – also the one where I make a wager with the Devil to bring back Freddie Mercury – on my blog

https://devotedtothrills.wordpress.com/

4. What is your favourite horror sub genre?

I’d definitely say sci-fi/horror is a super combo, see Carpenter’s The Thing, Alien, Predator…

Find out more about the author:

Twitter @nicparkerauthor

Instagram @the evilerertwin

Women in Horror Month 2022 – Introducing Writer of Dark Fantasy and Apocalyptic Horror, Sue P Oldham

The horrorfest continues and what better than curling up on the couch beside the fire, on a wet, wintery night, a book of darkest fiction in your grasp. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m slightly obsessed with zombie and dystopian horror. I can’t get enough and that’s why it gives me great pleasure to welcome back Sue P Oldham to Unusual Fiction for Women in Horror Month.

1. Tell us a bit about your horror writing journey.

I have been a writer for many years. I only started self-publishing in 2017, beginning with a collection of short horror and supernatural tales. Although I write short stories in a few genres, I find myself drawn to the darker side of things. I wrote a second collection based on witches, followed by a zombie apocalypse story that was prompted by a vivid dream. That snowballed so to speak, to become a series of three books (Mindless Trilogy.)  Since then, I have written a dark fantasy as well as another zombie apocalypse novel. I regularly produce horror short stories, poetry and limericks in addition to my main writing. I still write in other genres when the mood takes me, but I find there is something especially compelling about dark fiction, lots of scope for the imagination to take hold.

2. What have you got in the pipeline?

I am currently working on a dark fantasy, as well as another zombie apocalypse story with a humorous feel. I am always working on zombie/horror limericks which readers can request on a weekly basis. I try to write them around the individual as much as I can, or I take a broader topic or subject matter and use that as the basis for a limerick. They are called Silly Sunday Zombie Limericks and are meant to be nothing more than a little dark fun.

3. Share an excerpt of one of your stories /novels

The following is an excerpt from Absorption, a short story from Wakeful Children: A Collection of Horror and Supernatural Tales.

Number 11, Oakwood Close.

Nancy was ready for them this time.

She shifted in her seat, dislodging a large tom-cat who stood in protest, threw her a withering look and jumped from her lap to the newspaper-strewn floor. Other cats littered about the room paused in their ablutions to observe goings-on, before losing interest and skulking away to hide behind boxes or mounds of black bin bags.

Some of these bags had been torn open by curious felines. Their entrails spilled upon the dirty floor; rubbish pooled like blood around a wound.

What remained visible of the walls showed a grey, sickly colour. The curtains were matted and filthy, hanging limply from the rails.

Nancy sat, huge and sweating, in the room’s only seat; a ripped and tatty armchair, the foam showing through in patches like spongy bones. Her clothes, the same ones every day, were stained and repulsive. Her pale, sallow skin hung in folds around her chin, her arms, her ankles. Her eyes were dead blue pools; illuminating only at the thought of her precious cats. Cats; all Nancy cared about, all she lived for. Her house stood, rotten and rotting, food and carpets mouldering; stinking and unwashed. Her cats were the exception. In the morass that was her kitchen one space lay clear and, by Nancy’s standards, clean. It was laid with fresh paper daily, for the litter tray, with bowls of food and water. Nancy was careful to keep these clean, regularly emptying the litter tray into an open box which usually stood next to the greasy cooker. It didn’t matter to Nancy; why should anyone else care? She never had visitors anyway.

But she was expecting some today.

‘You have got fourteen days to clean this place up Nancy’ they had said, ‘Fourteen days; that’s your last warning. You have to get rid of some of these cats too, if you want to stay here. You’ve got far too many. If you clean up your act, maybe we’ll let you keep one or two, but the rest have to go,’

Nancy’s vacant features didn’t stir, but inside her, anger welled, huge and all consuming. The cats had to go, they had said; and that was when they had begun to disappear.

She hadn’t laid eyes on Lulu or Rocky for days now. She knew they were dead; knew it in her bones. She knew who had killed them too.

Silas hadn’t come back this morning, either. He was always such a stickler for his routine. She could expect to hear his demanding mewls at around seven thirty each morning, hungry after his night’s adventures.

It was nearly 11.45 now; no sign of him.

Nancy wondered how they were killing her cats; the manner of their deaths. Cars probably, she decided. Nice, new, distant cars; keeping their hands clean.

She grunted, wishing they would hurry up and come. Her hand dropped to the box at the side of the chair, newly placed there just last night. The litter box; brimming with foul smelling cat excrement and urine soaked sand, a faded mug sitting atop it. Perhaps she should move it into its final position now, in readiness.

With much wheezing effort, Nancy pulled herself out of the chair. It had taken a lot of time to move the box this far last night. It would take more effort now, to move it to the front door.

Breathing hard, Nancy pushed and shoved the box with her feet, ruching the scattered newspapers at her feet; spilling some of its contents as it hit the door frame.

One last, great effort was required of her now and then she would be ready. Sweating profusely for her efforts, red-faced, her huge, heaving stomach threatening to split like one of her black bags, Nancy took the mug and filled it, dipping it into the putrid mess inside the box. She waited; it was nearly time.

*

Silas lay stretched along a branch of the oak, his glassy eyes unseeing. Cramped beneath him, a stubborn green bud had been trying to force its way past, toward the light. Unable to do so, it had instead begun to bore a small, insistent hole into Silas, seeing the cat’s lifeless body as nothing more than another organic layer off which to feed.

4. What is your favourite horror sub genre?

It has to be psychological horror. The capacity, depth and potential of the unexplored recesses of the human mind just fascinates me. I am not really a fan of gore. Too much just becomes a turn off. Psychological horror can be very unsettling and at the same time extremely absorbing, without the need for blades and axes.

The possibility that supernatural events may be occurring only inside the main character’s mind is fascinating. We readers, those of us living outside that mind, cannot fathom or predict their behaviour. To us it is irrational, chilling, strange. Of course, this has been mirrored in real life, too, sometimes resulting in great tragedy. They say that fiction often reflects fact.

Then there is the possibility that these events are not imagined at all. They are genuine, even if few people are privy to their actions. Those people are usually dismissed as mad or deluded. But what if they are not?

Part of the beauty of psychological horror is that the reader might be left to answer that question for themselves: are the events the protagonist endures real, in which case they might exist in the wider world, ready to harm us too? Or are they imagined? Summoned from the darkest levels of our psyche, putting us in the way of danger at the hands of the sufferer, who might sacrifice us to appease some demonic figure?

 Perhaps it is a little of both. How awful, and how tantalising!

S P Oldham

About the Author – Sue P Oldham

I write horror, dark fiction and dark fantasy as well as the occasional horror poem and horror/zombie limericks just for some dark fun. I have written a zombie trilogy and a standalone (currently) zombie novel, as well as two short story collections and a dark fantasy novel.

I am an avid dog lover and have also published a book based on life with my beautiful, now deceased, Golden Retriever named Roman. I have lots of free reads on my website so if you want to get to know my writing, that’s a great way to start. Feel free to drop me a message if you call in.

You can find me on the following platforms:

On my website, https://www.spoldhamauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/solostinwords

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01N2LSUMX

Welcome to Women in Horror Month

A sharp blast blew open the shutter. The candle flickered, brightened and died, a sigh against the darkness. He awoke from the armchair violently, bewildered and shivering, the blanket having slipped from his knees. The fire was long gone, the embers fallen to ash. Outside the wind raged, cursing and calling. His fingers searched his trouser pocket, grasped the box and fumbled in the blackness for a match. A low growl behind him sent the box across the room.

Welcome, welcome. We’re here, we made it through the greyness of January, we’ve kind of forgotten Christmas ever happened. We crave distraction having lived in the darkness too long, in many senses of the word. So, it’s with great pleasure that I welcome you to another month of delicious horror, and I can’t wait to introduce some more awesome creators of darkest fiction, from ghost story to gore, gothic to the supernatural, humor to grimdark. Let’s hear it for Women in Horror Month 2022, I raise a glass to all the excellent women writers of horror, the screenwriters, podcasters, artists and graphic artists. You guys rock.

I’m chuffed to be starting the horror ball rolling with an excerpt of one of my own pieces, The Mandrake Root.

She walked through to the living room. It was as tidy as the kitchen, a pile of blankets folded on the couch with a pillow on top. A walking aid was placed against the wall, a pair of worn tartan slippers lined up ready for use. This was where the old woman slept – her notes stated she was unable to climb the stairs, and as the poor thing was in the end stages of cancer, she spent most of her time in the living room. Paula was struck by the lack of photographs, memorabilia – A dull brass screen covered the fireplace and a grimy pastoral print hung over the mantel. The single book case held worn paperbacks and a bible. The only item dust free and shining was a relatively new flat screen television, the control for which was on the couch beside the blankets. Katherine Smyth was clearly not downstairs.

That left the upstairs. If she wasn’t there then there was nothing more she could do except leave a note and alert the centre. It wasn’t her fault. She’d turned up and obviously the old woman had gone out. Perhaps she had a visitor and they brought her away for the weekend. Yes, that was probably it, although it was rather rude not to let anyone know she was gone away. Could have saved her the drive out. Honestly, some people. Still, she had better check the whole house to be on the safe side.

Paula crossed back into the kitchen and noticed a movement out of the corner of her eye. A large crow sat on the window sill looking in at her. She gave a start and clapped her hands. It stared for a moment before taking off. It wasn’t a crow, she thought, it was bigger, one of those large birds, what did they call them? Ravens. Fancy that, a raven, she hadn’t seen one of those in a while. Didn’t they hang around graveyards? She moved into the hall. As she headed towards the stairs she passed a mirror hanging over a small half-moon table. It was ornate, baroque in style with silver leaves twisting in and around the oval concave glass, the surface was silver spotted and dull. It seemed peculiar hanging there – a piece more in keeping with a Victorian drawing room rather than the shabby hall of an aging spinster. Paula put out a hand to wipe away the dust from its surface, she regarded herself, noticing how the foundation she had applied hours earlier had all but disappeared in the heat, her face looked sickly, her eyes staring. She leaned forward and then recoiled as another face stared out at her, dark eyes peering into hers, a head of wild hair, white, white skin and the mouth agape, stuck in a scream. Paula let out a shriek and fell back, her hands in front of her face. She lay on the carpet, her breath coming in quick ragged inhalations.

She forced herself up, she had to get up, had to get away. Away from the terrible person in the mirror. God, that face. Without looking at the mirror she pulled herself using the edge of the table. Her eyes betrayed her, and she found herself staring back at the ornate mirror on the wall. And at her own frightened reflection.

There was nothing there but her own flushed cheeks, her own shaking hand touching the pale forehead. No one else. No mad woman. Just a trick of the light. She laughed shakily. She was losing it. An old house and a missing client, a hot day and a long time since she’d had a drink. She was dehydrated, that was it, seeing things in the heat. Best not tell John when she got back, he’d have a field day. She patted her hair and took a deep breath. Feeling calmer she headed for the stairs. She would check the upstairs and then make a call using Katherine Smyth’s own phone to cover herself. Then a note for the old woman, she’d leave it on the kitchen table. Suddenly the thought of going outside, heat notwithstanding, seemed very attractive.

She took each step carefully, she knew all about these old stairs, narrow with a tendency to buckle in the heat, she was also wary of her own limbs, after poor Josie’s accident – Josie was five years her junior, and she walked a lot. Paula huffed and puffed up the steep stairs. There was no way she was going to find the old woman in any of the rooms above. If she, Paula, found it a struggle then how could a very ill pensioner manage the twenty or more steps?

The bathroom, containing a bath set in ‘70s avocado, was devoid of human life. As was the spare bedroom with a bare mattress on an iron bedstead and a pile of boxes in the corner. As with the hall, the lightbulb hung without a shade in the centre of the room. That just left the second bedroom and only room left unchartered. The door was shut. Paula knocked once.

‘Katherine, are you in there, pet? It’s only me, Paula from the Home Help.’

She waited for a moment and when there was no reply turned the handle. As the door opened there was a blur of grey and a cat shot out causing her to grab the banister to prevent falling back and down the stairs. It stood between Paula and the door, fur bristling, back arched. An ugly, grey tom, the size of a medium-sized dog, with one ragged ear. From its mouth came a horrible yowling before it hissed once and disappeared down the stairs.

‘JESUS CHRIST.’

Paula took a breath and pushed at the bedroom door. Glancing quickly around the room she took in the bed against the wall, perfectly made up. Although she knew little about the value of furniture, she could tell the bed was antique, the heavy dark wood, the carvings. There was also a double wardrobe and matching set of drawers with standing mirror but they were standard pine. This must have been the old woman’s bedroom before she became too ill to make it up the stairs. But she was nowhere to be seen. The house was empty, and it was time to go. Glancing at her watch she was shocked to see forty minutes had passed since she left her car, how could that be? Had she fainted in the hall from the heat? It would explain it. She ran a hand across her head, felt the clammy skin. Thank God for the breeze floating through the open window. Open window.

The curtains whipped back and forth with the sudden breeze. Paula pulled them wide. The window was divided into two separate panes that opened out in the centre.  Both panes were pushed as wide as they could be. Had Josie opened them on her last visit to the old woman? How silly. And now, when that thunderstorm hit, the rain would get in and ruin that lovely, antique bed. Paula stretched out to grab the handle to pull one of the windows.  A yowling caused her to look down and when she did she nearly fell out over the sill.

On the path below lay a pile of rags. A jumble of red and grey sitting in a pool of something dark that had dried on the concrete. Sitting atop the pile of rags was the ugly cat, it stared up at the woman and proceeded to lick a grey paw. A raven landed and began to peck at the pile of rags, another joined it, and all the while the cat continued its toilette. Paula stared in fascination at the spectacle beneath her, it seemed as if the cloth pile moved as the ravens pulled and pecked but it wasn’t until she noticed the stockinged foot that she started to scream.