Reading

#BadMoonRising Tales From the Annexe – 7 Stories From the Herbert West Series by Audrey Driscoll #horror #occult #shortstories

I’m on Teri Polen’s Bad Moon Rising event for today, holding forth on creepy matters.

Books and Such

Some readers aren’t quite prepared to jump into novel-length horror, but they can handle the torture scares in shorter spurts. Today’s featured book of short stories checks off that box. Read on to find out which chilling book has stuck with this author since the age of twelve. Welcome Audrey Driscoll!

Would you rather sleep in a coffin for one night or spend the night in a haunted house?

A nice new, padded coffin in a coffin showroom would be okay, as long as the lid was left open. If it had to be closed, or if the coffin had been previously occupied, I might just go for the haunted house. On the other hand, spending time in a closed coffin might be a useful experience for writing a horror story.

Has a movie or book scared you so much you couldn’t sleep? Which one?

Yes, terribly! When I was…

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Bad Moon Rising 2020

#BadMoonRising: Diaballein by Cage Dunn #horror #darkfantasy

October is Bad Moon Rising month on Teri Polen’s blog. A different author of something shivery is featured every day. Today it’s Cage Dunn, who writes dark stories with a Down Under perspective.

Books and Such

Today we have an author making a first time appearance at Bad Moon Rising.  I read a wonderful review of Diaballein last week at D. Wallace Peach’s blog HERE  The list of three items to take into a haunted house totally makes sense – well thought out.  Welcome Cage Dunn!

Would you rather sleep in a coffin for one night, or spend a night in a haunted house?

For prickly-skin inspiration, I’d like to walk through a haunted graveyard at midnight on my way to sleep in the abandoned haunted house, but not in a coffin.

What three items would you take to the haunted house?

  1. eReader, of course, ‘cos how else am I going to get weird reflections of the ghosts who think I can’t see anything behind me?
  2. Pump-up mattress, ‘cos even sleeping with ghosts should offer some comfort, and old haunted houses are not conducive…

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Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

Just Released: Tales from the Annexe

Seven stories from Audrey Driscoll’s Herbert West Series…

The Nexus A 101-year-old professor reminisces about about his most memorable—and dangerous—student, Herbert West.

Fox and Glove To win a bet with his friend Alma, librarian Charles Milburn needs information from a dead man. But first he has to convince Herbert West to help him obtain it.

From the Annexe As if a relationship with a part-time necromancer isn’t complicated enough, what if it were more than friendship?

A Visit to Luxor On a climb up a hill near Luxor, Egypt, Francis Dexter and Andre Boudreau encounter bandits and supernatural entities.

One of the Fourteen A chance meeting in a pub brings Dr. Francis Dexter into a perilous realm between life and death.

The Night Journey of Francis Dexter Determined to confess one of Herbert West’s worst crimes to the victim’s son, Francis Dexter is subjected to a terrible revenge.

The Final Deadline of A.G. Halsey Nearing the end of her life, newspaperwoman Alma Halsey struggles to figure out what really happened to her granddaughter in Luxor, Egypt, and to warn her of threats to her heart and soul.

…and seven tales of illusions, delusions, and mysteries on the edges of logic

Welcome to the Witch House As if moving into a dump of a haunted house isn’t bad enough, Frank Elwood discovers conceited math student Walter Gilman is already living there, for his own peculiar reasons.

The Deliverer of Delusions Miranda Castaigne gives up her romantic life with artistic ex-pats in Paris to discover the truth about her eccentric brother’s death in a New York City insane asylum.

The Ice Cream Truck from Hell Friends Will and Doof investigate a mysterious ice cream truck that cruises their town at night.

The Colour of Magic Things get weird when the tenant in Marc’s basement suite insists on painting her bedroom with a very special paint.

A Howling in the Woods When Doug’s son Todd keeps playing a recording he’d made in the woods, of a strange howling sound, Doug orders him out of the truck—and into those woods.

The Glamour Fifteen-year-old Ann, convinced she was switched at birth with the daughter of a wealthy family, sneaks into their home on the evening of a celebration.

The Blue Rose Deon the Fabricator’s obsession with creating a blue rose leads him to make a perilous journey to the Blasted Lands. His childhood friend Luna of the City Guard undertakes a search for him and learns hard truths about love and duty.

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

The pre-order price of $0.99 has been extended, but only for a short time!

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New Book: Liars and Thieves by D. Wallace Peach

I’m delighted to announce a new book by the gifted and prolific author D. Wallace Peach: Liars and Thieves (Book One of Unraveling the Veil)

Behind the Veil, the hordes gather, eager to savage the world. But Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, is untroubled by the shimmering wall that holds his beasts at bay. For if he cannot cleanse the land of life, the races will do it for him. All he needs is a spark to light the fire.

Three unlikely allies stand in his way.

A misfit elf plagued by failure—
When Elanalue Windthorn abandons her soldiers to hunt a goblin, she strays into forbidden territory.

A changeling who betrays his home—
Talin Raska is a talented liar, thief, and spy. He makes a fatal mistake—he falls for his mark.

A halfbreed goblin with deadly secrets—
Naj’ar is a loner with a talent he doesn’t understand and cannot control, one that threatens all he holds dear.

When the spark of Chaos ignites, miners go missing. But they won’t be the last to vanish. As the cycles of blame whirl through the Borderland, old animosities flare, accusations break bonds, and war looms.

Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands.

Purchase Liars and Thieves HERE

A question for Diana– What was the biggest challenge for writing this story?

Probably making sure that the magic system was consistent and made sense. In the past, my magic system has been very limited (an amulet, a magic book, a single unique skill). This series was much broader with each race having specific skills that vary in individuals. And the skills grow. It’s tricky to make the magic appear logical as well as limited enough that it doesn’t solve every problem.


D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Connect with Diana:
Website/Blog: http://mythsofthemirror.com
Website/Books: http://dwallacepeachbooks.com
Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Myths-of-the-Mirror/187264861398982
Twitter: @dwallacepeach

Local Author Book Review #16: House of Crows by Edeana Malcolm

Today I’m happy to introduce a historical novel set in the place I call home, Victoria, British Columbia.

Book description:

From a work camp to their shared home with a view of the posh residences along the water’s edge, three generations of women struggle and toil against harsh realities and constant challenges to better their lot in life as they build the future of their family and, along with it, that of a burgeoning city. With two dressed in widow’s weeds and one in a maid’s uniform, their home gains the nickname ‘the House of Crows.’ Edie journeys across oceans, searching for the place where she can build a home. Lucy readies herself for the challenges of a new world, only to suffer loss after loss. Maggie slaves her days away in service to the rich, never losing hope that more awaits her. Interwoven timelines explore the earliest days of Victoria, illuminating the oft-forgotten histories of the women who laid the groundwork for the world we know today.

My review:

With its combination of historical sweep and intimate personal details, this book reminds me of Helen Hooven Santmyer’s novel …And Ladies of the Club. It brings to life the early years of the city of Victoria, British Columbia from the 1850s to the 1890s through the lives of three generations of women. The narrative is carefully structured to present each character’s life in chronological order, but at the same time braids the three together. Transitions from one point of view and time period to another are clearly labelled and not confusing.

The three main characters are distinct and memorable. Scottish immigrant Edie, embittered by a lifetime of toil and disappointment, Lucy the romantic, who finds escape and inspiration in nature, and Maggie, whose hopes for a happy future depend on finding a good husband. Their lives parallel the growth of Victoria from frontier settlement to growing town to capital city. The relations among the social, religious, and ethnic groups are shown as the story unfolds. Judicious use of Scottish pronunciation is incorporated to distinguish Edie’s voice from her daughter’s and granddaughter’s.

Although the story is about three women, the determining factor in all three lives is their husbands. The men’s strengths and weaknesses, their presence and absence, are the challenges to which the women must respond in order to survive and grow. None of these women is a rebel against the social dominance of men, but within the social restrictions of the day, each of them manages to carve her own niche.

Readers familiar or at least acquainted with Victoria and its history will greatly enjoy this book, because of frequent references to real geographical features, streets, structures, people, and events. All readers will find it easy to relate to the women’s struggles, hopes, sorrows and joys.


House of Crows is available in paperback through Amazon stores and from the publisher, Three Ocean Press.

Edeana Malcolm’s blog is called My Writing Eden.

Images for Tales from the Annexe

Pictures for Several Thousand Words, Part 2

Pictures for Several Thousand Words, Part 1, with images for stories from the Herbert West Series, may be found here.

The first two speculative fiction stories in Tales from the Annexe predate my acquaintance with Canva, so I did not have images for them when I began putting this post together. I decided to do something about that, and I am pleased with the results.

Image #2 for Welcome to the Witch House story
As if moving into a dump of a haunted house isn’t bad enough, Frank Elwood discovers conceited math student Walter Gilman is already living there, for his own peculiar reasons.
Image for The Deliverer of Delusions story
Miranda Castaigne gives up her romantic life with artistic ex-pats in Paris to discover the truth about her eccentric brother’s death in a New York City lunatic asylum.
Friends Will and Doof investigate a mysterious ice cream truck that cruises their town at night.
Image for The Colour of Magic story
Things get weird when the tenant in Marc’s basement suite insists on painting her bedroom with a very special paint.
Image for A Howling in the Woods story
When Doug’s son Todd keeps playing a recording he’d made in the woods, of a strange howling sound, Doug orders him out of the truck–and into those woods.
Image for The Glamour story
Fifteen-year-old Ann, convinced she was switched at birth with the daughter of a wealthy family, sneaks into their home on the evening of a party.
Image for The Blue Rose story
Deon the Fabricator’s obsession with creating a blue rose leads him to make a perilous journey to the Blasted Lands. His childhood friend, Luna of the City Guard, undertakes a search for him and learns hard truths about love and duty.

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets
US UK CA AU DE

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

New Book: Tales from the Annexe

Tales from the Annexe, a collection of fourteen stories, is now available for pre-order.

Seven stories from the world of Audrey Driscoll’s Herbert West Series, followed by seven other tales of illusions, delusions, and mysteries from the edges of logic.

Discover Herbert West’s connections to Egypt, and how a dead man can help solve a mystery.
Share Charles Milburn’s ruminations as he explores another dimension of his friendship with Herbert.
Experience the horror of a long-anticipated revenge.
Sample the treats on offer from the ice cream truck from Hell.
Ride along with a dad who abandons his ten-year-old son in the woods where something howls.
Find out why a woman paints her bedroom a very special colour.
Accompany fifteen-year-old Ann as she tries to prove she belongs to the glamorous family on the other side of town.

These and other curious encounters may be found in this annexe to the ordinary.

Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets
US UK CA AU DE

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

Last Chance for Free

The four stories I’ve called Supplements to the Herbert West Series are free on Smashwords for one more week, until July 31st.

After that date, they will vanish. I will be unpublishing them as separate titles. Re-edited and reformatted, they will reappear later this year as part of a collection called Tales from the Annexe.

In addition to the four Supplements, the collection will include three newly-written spin-off stories from the HW Series and seven other tales. More about that later.

But wait — there’s more! All four ebooks of the Herbert West Series and its sequel, She Who Comes Forth, are at half price for the duration of Smashwords’ Summer/Winter Sale.

My copy of Islands of the Gulf Volume 1, The Journey and my glasses

Rule-Quibbling and the Science of Reading

Any writer who follows blogs has seen advice that certain words “stop” your reader: adverbs, “weak” words, “filter words.” Dialogue tags other than “said.” The word “that.” The word “was.” Writers carry out search and delete missions in their documents, hunting down these toxic words. No one wants to take a chance of alienating a reader.

As some of you know, I am a self-declared rule quibbler. Not that I’m a fan of bad writing, but when I read these sermons from the blog, I wonder what evidence supports their declarations. Has anyone carried out a scientific study of reading and how readers actually process written fiction?

Book sales may be taken as an indicator of effective writing, but as most of us know, buying a book does not necessarily equal reading it or enjoying it. Maybe sales are more an indicator of effective marketing than of brilliant writing.

There are peer-reviewed academic journals on the subject: Reading Research Quarterly, for example, and the Journal of Research in Reading. From my admittedly cursory look at the sorts of articles that appear in them, the main focus of the research they publish is how people learn to read and comprehend written language, and not so much what constitutes compelling fiction.

Is there a way to quantify good writing? Do certain words bore or otherwise alienate readers? How might such a study look?

My copy of Islands of the Gulf Volume 1, The Journey and my glasses

Here’s my idea and thought process: test subjects are given two different texts of a piece of writing long enough to require a reader’s attention for more than a few minutes. A couple of thousand words, perhaps Chapter 1 of a novel. One version follows all the rules about words not to use. The other breaks them. Both texts have the same storyline, but different vocabularies.

After reading, test subjects would be asked which version of each piece would incline them to read further. But wait — would a single test subject see both samples or only one? By the time they read the second, they will have an idea of the plot, so there would be a spoiler effect. So maybe we have two stories, i.e., four different texts. Each subject gets a text from each story, one that follows the rules and one that does not. Because the stories are different, the “I’ve seen this already” effect is avoided.

But surely it would be necessary to minimize differences in reader preference? The test subjects would have to be matched with their preferred types of fiction. If a subject reacts unfavourably to the genre of the text rather than the words used, the test wouldn’t be valid. Okay, the researcher would have to interview potential subjects so the members of the subject pool would be similar to one another, in how much time they devote to reading, types of fiction preferred, etc.

Carefully devised follow-up questions would be needed to elicit and quantify the effect of specific words on individual reading experiences. Formulating questions for studies is a field of study in itself.

My conclusion: devising, carrying out, and writing up credible experiments is not a simple matter.

The closest I got to an actual study of the kind I’ve envisioned is a paper published in 1988, entitled The Psychology of Reading for Pleasure: Needs and Gratifications. It describes five different studies on different aspects of the reading experience. The two that seemed most relevant to my question examined reading speed and readers’ rankings of texts for preference, merit and difficulty. There was even a study of readers’ physiological reactions to reading different texts. Even a cursory look at this paper shows how complex and elaborate a scientific study of reading can be.

The works from which texts were obtained for testing are varied, including fiction and nonfiction, literary fiction, classics, and genre fiction. Authors include Jane Austen, Saul Bellow, Louis L’Amour, Ayn Rand, Graham Greene, Hunter S. Thompson, James Michener, Ian Fleming, Essie Summers, Arthur Hailey, Joseph Conrad, Agatha Christie, and W. Somerset Maugham. The most recent publication date is 1975.

One thing I found interesting was that some of the books are labelled “trash” by the study’s author. The test subjects showed a preference for this “trash” as pleasure reading material, but at the same time they assigned higher ranks for merit to “elite” works that were harder to read. The final page of the paper shows extracts from three of the works, along with the ratings they were assigned.

Despite labelling certain books as “trash,” the study does not analyze the writing, only the test subjects’ responses to it. While the studies documented in this paper don’t answer my question, they are examples of the kind of effort needed to obtain solid data on reading, and by extension, on writing.

The paper does contain some great academic terms. One that jumped out at me is ludic reading, which means “reading for pleasure.” Books can be called “ludic vehicles.” So, fellow writers, that’s what we’re trying to do: turn our books into ludic vehicles to transport readers into realms of the imagination.

My final thought (for now): Read this blog post, which contains a short piece of fiction that deliberately breaks all kinds of writing rules. I couldn’t stop reading, which suggests the words an author uses aren’t as important as the way she or he arranges them (and a few other factors too, of course).

Is anyone aware of any scientific studies on the effectiveness of specific words on recreational reading? Is there any objective science to back up the “rules” for writers? Or is it just a matter of, “Well, everyone knows…”?

Plants along front walk: orange California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) in bloom; blue Ceanothus blooming in background

In My Garden

I recently rediscovered a book I have no memory of buying. As you can see from the price stickers in the photo, it was a bargain. Especially considering what a fun read it’s been.

My copy of In My Garden by Christopher Lloyd

Christopher Lloyd was an eminent British gardener (“horticulturist, ” as he called himself) and writer on gardening. This book is a collection of his essays first published in Country Life between 1964 and 1993. They are arranged by month, a practice that makes sense considering that gardening is an activity governed by the seasons.

Reading the thoughts of this longtime expert gardener who was also a good writer was an informative delight. I must have read this book whenever it was I bought it, but I somehow forgot doing so. That made this re-reading a fresh experience.

Gardening was both passion and profession for Lloyd. He was opinionated, but spoke from knowledge and experience. His garden at Great Dixter was open to the public, which led to opinions about the habits of garden visitors. And on the habits of plants, from trees to tiny alpines. Dogs in the garden. Thefts of plants and cuttings, including confessions of long-ago heists perpetrated by Mr. Lloyd and his mother and fellow gardeners. His thoughts on the sound of certain words — “cultivar” (ugly) or “inflorescence” (delightful). The virtues of rough grass, which made me think I’m on to something with my Boulevard Project. The death of a plant as an opportunity for something new to be added. The essays cover a dizzying variety of garden-related topics, from plant propagation to cooking.

Great Dixter Garden is now managed by a charitable trust as a biodiversity and educational centre and is open to visitors. Its official website may be found here.

As well as enjoying Mr. Lloyd’s thoughts on gardening, I’ve been bustling about in my own patch, so thought it was okay to borrow his book’s title for this post. Deadheading continues, as well as staking, snipping, weeding, lugging watering cans, and fretting about when to activate the soaker hoses and sprinklers.

I can’t really complain about the weather so far this season. We haven’t had unseasonable cold or heat, and there was adequate rainfall from April through June. Today (June 27th), as I write this, however, we have dull clouds and a blustery wind, but without rain. My least favourite kind of weather, since the wind batters plants and tugs on them and dries out the soil. And it’s unpleasant to be in the garden with flying debris whizzing by as branches clash and clank overhead. (Okay, I’m complaining after all, but whining about the weather is a gardener’s prerogative.)

Update: today (June 28th) has been a complete contrast — sunny and clear with a little breeze. And we had a few millimetres of rain overnight; not enough to make much difference, but it was nice to hear its patter on the leaves. Summer rain here is a blessing.

Since this is a Garden post, a few photos are obligatory. About the middle of June I ran around trying to get decent close-ups of flowers. Being a lazy photographer, I didn’t work too hard at it, and my camera isn’t intended for macro work. These are the best of a dubious lot.

Ladybug on rue flower
Ladybug beetle on rue flower
Single flower of Geranium "Ann Folkard" with grey foliage in background
Flower of Geranium “Ann Folkard” with grey foliage of Rose Campion (Silene coronaria, formerly Lychnis coronaria) in the background.
Single flower of orange California poppy Eschscholzia californica
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), one of the best North American native plants for dry, sunny gardens. This is its normal colour.
Pink and cream California poppies Eschscholzia californica
Cream and pink California poppies, results of a packet of seeds of a type called “Thai Silks” I scattered around years ago.
Close-up of white mullein (Verbascum chaixii 'Album' with Hosta "Stained Glass" in background
Close-up of a white form of mullein (Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’). Hosta “Stained Glass” in the fuzzy background.

My patch of garden is not comparable to the size, sophistication, and magnificence of the one at Great Dixter, but all gardens and gardeners have something in common.