Friday, June 29, 2012

Day of Demons: A Review by Author T. James



A note on impartiality: wearing my reviewer’s hat, I feel it is only fair to state upfront that the editor of Day Of Demons, Colin F. Barnes, is a friend of mine, as is Krista Walsh, author of Serpent’s Kiss. I will leave you, the reader, to decide whether I am guilty of vapid gooey-eyed adulation or whether I maintain an acceptable level of dispassion and therefore credibility in the review below.

This is a collection of nine short stories by male and female authors. The title may give the impression that the stories are very similar—in common they do have a dark tone and, obviously, demons—but the synopsis is accurate and there is a refreshing range of genre, theme and writing style to be found.

THE SYNOPSIS (taken from the Anachron Press Website*)
Day of Demons is a collection of powerful stories featuring the conflict of demons and humans over the course of a day.
Read how one woman’s inner-self awakens to unexpected and frightening consequences, or how a charismatic half-breed thief is forced to strike a deal with a pen-stealing imp. Read about a mother as she struggles to cope with a deadly, satanic bargain, and a sword-wielding anti-hero as he returns out of exile to face his demonic fate.
Nine stories, nine demons, nine authors. From fantasy, to horror, to contemporary fiction, this anthology will fright, delight and grip you with tales of daring-do, danger and of course — demons.”

Deal, by Karen Davies
The anthology starts with a light fantasy action / adventure feel. A thief takes refuge from his pursuer in some ancient ruins, but he finds he isn’t the only being inside—he meets an imp who is a tormentor of scribes and a collector of quills. This short has some good characterisation and snappy dialogue that held my interest. The twist at the end is well executed.
Inheritance, by Phil Hickes
Stark and atmospheric; a son returns to his families’ mouldering estate after reading his deceased grandfather’s letter. Posthumously, his grandfather fills him in on the history of the estate and the onerous duty that comes with it. There is an effective dialogue between the dead man, via the letter, and the grandson as he reads it—the clash of mystical olde-worlde values and self-assured new world cynicism works well. There are two likely endings, but the execution of the last scenes keeps the one the author chose feeling fresh.
Serpent’s Kiss, by Krista Walsh
This is the hottest of the demon stories, with a believable chemistry between the two ‘romantic’ protagonists. It is well written with an economic fluid style, and the sexual tension is built with enough skill that the writing doesn’t need to be explicit to hold the reader’s interest—an effective and enjoyable update of the succubus myth.
Sam & The Spear, by Gary Bonn
This one stands out from the others as its style is very different. A boy, into role-playing, finds himself thrown into a situation where he must play the hero for real. A strange mix of dreamscape coupled with an almost YA style of writing—it is imaginative, but for me, not as well executed as some of the other stories. The simplicity of the writing and the ending lends charm—still an enjoyable read.
Numen, by V. Đ. Griesdoorn
Imaginative, but I found the writing style difficult in places—the piece is sprinkled with, what were for me, awkwardly phrased sentences:
“Stacey switched on the overhead kerosene lamp with a switch near the door.”
The story is stronger—a child grown to adulthood returning to discover a parental legacy—her deceased father had a gift for making things. How she pieces together the mystery is quite intriguing, although some of the physics and the ending are a little woolly. The midsection works well though—there is pace there, and engaging ideas throughout.
City of Light and Stone, by Laura Diamond
One of the most involving protagonists of the anthology can be found here. An anti-hero tortured and in thrall to his master, he must murder to escape his damnation. For a story of this length it is very well characterised and well written. The premise is imaginative, although I was left feeling a little unclear as to how the underlying theology works—but that may be due to the twisted perceptions of the main character. The theme, that we have more to do with our own damnation than any entity, is nicely handled—almost an adult Grimm morality tale. A good read.
Cost of Glory, by Edward Drake
A well-written classic fantasy anti-hero returns home story. If you could distil any modern fantasy epic by taking out the travelling and stir in a little Conan, you would end up with something like Cost of Glory. The ending wasn’t especially surprising, but the characters, setting, pace and action are all well handled.
A Mother’s Love, by James M. Mazzaro
One of the strongest stories of the nine, it packs an impressive number of twists into its short length. It is great to read about a female hero who is intelligent and believable. Willing to pay any price for a child, she decides to play a demon at his own game. Convincing and well put together.
The Devil and Mrs Milton, by Sarah Anne Langton
Possibly the most haunting and memorable, and not just because it is the last. Sarah Anne Langton demonstrates real artistry as a writer—she isn’t afraid to go off the beaten track in terms of story or style. We spend most of the time reminiscing with an old woman, but it is written with enough skill and flair the experience is engaging, not boring. As the story closes, with an unavoidable and unwelcome visitor, there is a genuine sense of tension and concern for the fate of the main character.

This is a disparate collection of short stories, but because of the strong central theme they sit comfortably alongside each other. With anything self-published the question of production quality is often raised—generally I found DoD to be on par with some traditionally published books. There are some typos, but not enough to detract from the reading experience. The quality of the stories varies from fair to excellent, but none are a waste of your time or money. If you love the smell of sulphur in the morning and want something brimming with creativity to put a little fire in your belly, this is probably it.
Recommended: 4 out of 5 stars.

The print edition is now available from Lulu.
The editor assures me, on pain of his own death, that the epub version should be available for download from mid-end July, 2012. Please see the Anachron Press website for updates.

T. James (I am now referring to myself in the third person which seems incredibly pretentious, but this is apparently how biographical bits are done) is currently a writer of little renown. While he waits on the sidelines hoping the cool kids will invite him to the party, he is currently exploring a range of writing styles and genres. His works in progress are a YA parody and a satirical writer's guide.
His (more serious) published work can be found here:,
and his other misadventures are blogged here:
He wishes I would like to thank Lisa Greer for giving me some space on her Gothicked blog—may her diaphanous dress remain forever white and her tresses lustrous ’neath the lambent moon.

* All quotes and illustrations are the copyright © of Anachron Press, and are used with permission.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Interview with Gothic Writer Barrymore Tebbs

I'm thrilled to have author Barrymore Tebbs on the blog today. It's always a fun and informative day when he drops by the blog to share his knowledge and experience about all things Gothic. After you read the interview, check his new release out--The Haunting at Blackwood Hall. It's a historical gothic romance, and I think you'll all enjoy it.

Where did your love of Gothic and writing Gothic start?

I’ve been into Gothic since I was a kid. I was about ten-years-old when I first saw Dark Shadows. As a teenager I watched a lot of old horror movies on the weekend Creature Feature shows. Horror movies were more atmospheric in the 1930s-1960s. From there I went on to read both Gothic Romances as well as the Gothic Horror classics like Poe and Lovecraft. I always wanted to write Gothic, but it took thirty years for the stories to start coming out.

What is Psychological Gothic?

For the past ten years or so, most of my pleasure reading has been psychological thrillers. I really enjoy the suspense, the plot twists, and the disturbed individuals who people the novels of writers like John Connolly and Jeffrey Deaver. These are the types of books I want to write, and because I have such a love for the atmosphere and motifs in Gothic fiction and film, I tried combining the two, and they seem to work well together. Defining my stories as Psychological Gothic has helped me carve out a unique niche which falls somewhere between Gothic Romance and Gothic Horror.

Where did you come up with the characters and ideas for The Haunting at Blackwood Hall?

The main characters, the Fenn siblings, the psychic Luna Summerhill, and the governess, were holdovers from a NaNoWriMo project I did a few years ago. When Lisa and I met while finishing the first drafts of our first novels (Magnolian and Night of the Pentagram) we spent a lot of time talking about all things Gothic. She has this master list of tropes on her Gothicked blog, and when I decided to try write a Gothic Romance like the ones popular in the 60s and 70s, I pulled out every trope I wanted to explore and used those existing characters to form the basis of what became The Haunting at Blackwood Hall.

Your books are generally set in the Victorian/Edwardian era or the 1960s. Do you have an affinity for those time periods and why?

The love for the Victorian era goes back to my love for old Gothic horror movies and Dark Shadows, but I’ve also had enough interest in that era throughout my life that when it came time to research, I was like a hog in mud. I have some fun books filled with facts about Victorian life.

As far as the 1960s, I was eleven-years-old in 1970, so I was just coming into consciousness as a young adult and the events of the late 60s have had a lasting effect on me. There seems to be a lot of nostalgia for that era, both through Classic Rock and also with the popularity of the TV show Mad Men which takes viewers on a tour of the fashions, politics, and social mores of the time. I have another Edwardian story and another 1960s set story coming out toward the end of this year.

There is a lot of drug use in your books. Why is that?

Don’t they always tell us to write what we know about? All kidding aside, drug abuse has been around since the dawn of time, and people with deep psychological issues are often driven to addictions of various kinds. The LSD and pot smoking was essential for a story like The Yellow Scarf to be true to the characters and the era, but I think the opium use in The Haunting at Blackwood Hall is one element that takes that story to a level which wasn’t possible in the books published fifty some years ago.

The Haunting at Blackwood Hall has a striking cover. How did you create it and some of your other book covers?

The image on the cover is a rendering of a 3D model I built in a modeling program called Bryce. It’s based on a house called Barrington Court in England, which reminded me of that type of old baronial hall that you see in The Hound of the Baskervilles movies. I made the inverted Hollywood star for the cover of Night of the Pentagram while I was writing the book, and had no idea that I would eventually self-publish and use the cover. I took a community college class in Adobe PhotoShop about fourteen years ago, and know quite a few tricks. It comes in handy, and saves money from having to hire a cover artist!

Thanks for letting me stop by, Lisa. We always have fun shooting the breeze about Gothic in its many forms. Through independently published books, there is a noticeable reemergence of Gothic based fiction. It’s a good time to be a Gothic writer!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Quickie Review: Sister Sister

Well, as usual, I'm falling behind on my post a quickie review every week--at least--or something like that goal. Too much to do and too little time. I've been editing like a madwoman on my Montmoors historical gothic romance series, and it's well worth it.

I thought I'd take a little break and watch a movie, Sister Sister, starring Jennifer Jason Leigh among others.

It promised gothic romance at a spooky Louisiana plantation turned bed and breakfast owned by two sisters--Charlotte and Lucy Bonnard--with secrets to protect. Lucy has been deemed "crazy" by the older sister, but all the guys want her from the handyman, Etienne LeViolette, to congressman/guest Matt Rutledge. I liked the atmosphere and the ghost stories around the dining room table, and that kept me watching beyond the first thirty minutes.

Then, about halfway through the movie, the writers gave up the plot and just threw it at my feet. Quite disappointing. As an author, I try not to do that to my readers, and I don't like it when it's done in books and movies. I want to be a bit surprised or at least to be kept wondering. Small twists along the way are good.

In short, I didn't finish the movie once the ending became all too clear. If you don't mind knowing exactly what is going on halfway in, you might try it. For me, the rating is meh as a friend said when I told him I was watching it (Barrymore Tebbs--right again!).

Rating out of 5 stars: 2.5 stars 
--For atmosphere, a mean gator that makes an appearance, and a love story I liked.

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