Author: Amanda Headlee

Trembling With Fear – Halloween 2021 Edition!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

I always envision Andy Williams crooning away when October 1st rolls around. Though I prefer to believe he is singing about Halloween as opposed to Christmas (even if the lyrics don’t match the festivities). The entire month of October is magical: Pumpkin Spice, Corn Mazes, Haunted Houses, Candy, Costumes, Trick or Treat, and the veil between here and the Spirit world shrinking to its thinnest on All Hallow’s Eve. The oppressive summer heat subsides to a cool autumn breeze, stirring the beautifully colored leaves as they wilt and fall from the tree branches. The smell of death, must, and decay is in the air. A horror writer’s dream. Tis the season of when things die.

For our October special, we are bringing to you a plethora of story treats that are sure to trick you into a false sense of comfort. You will be impressed by the masks that the monsters and serial killers wear in this collection to conceal their identities and true agenda. Be prepared to take a journey into a realm of dark fiction and horror that is inspired by the most wonderful time of the year.

Thanks!

Amanda

Amanda Headlee

Editor, Trembling With Fear

What a difference a year makes. Halloween is back baby as more of the world becomes vaccinated and more getting their shots daily.
What does that mean for Horror Tree? Not much! We’re continuing our regularly scheduled Halloween Trembling With Fear as usual!
Once again, this year we’ve got some great stories for you to enjoy and you’ll love reading through what has been sent in this year!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

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The Witch King’s Cocktails of Fiction

The Witch King’s Cocktails of Fiction

By Amanda Headlee

Something intoxicating this way comes in the guise of storytelling and rum liqueur. When Witch Kings Rum was founded in 2020 by Maxi Tin-Bradbury and Brandon Bizzle, they had a dream to meld their vegan, gluten-free rum with fantastical worlds of fiction. 

This year Witch Kings Rum teamed up with author Jamie Ryder, who is celebrating his debut novella At the Dead of Dusk, to concoct ready-to-drink cocktails that are based on characters from Ryder’s Tales of the Frontier universe. 

Hammer of The Witches is inspired by the protagonist of At The Dead Of Dusk, Clay McNab. He’s an infamous witch hunter who is tasked with transporting a young woman across a land of darkness in the novella.

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Epeolatry Book Review: Tortured Willows by Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn, Christina Sng, & Angela Yuriko Smith

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Tortured Willows: Bent, Bowed, Unbroken
Author: Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith, Christina Sng and Geneve Flynn
Genre: Horror Poetry
Publisher: Yuriko Publishing
Release Date: 7th October, 2021

Synopsis: The willow is femininity, desire, death. Rebirth. With its ability to grow from a single broken branch, it is the living embodiment of immortality. It is the yin that wards off malevolent spirits. It is both revered and shunned.

In Tortured Willows, four Southeast Asian women writers of horror expand on the exploration of otherness begun with the Bram Stoker Award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women.

Like the willow, women have bent and bowed under the expectations and duty heaped upon them. Like the willow, they endure and refuse to break.

With exquisite poetry, Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Geneve Flynn invite you to sit beneath the tortured willow’s gravid branches and listen to the uneasy shiver of its leaves.

Before cracking open Tortured Willows: Bent, Bowed, Unbroken, I knew this poetry collection would be honest and raw.  However, I was not prepared for the collection’s level of horror and heartbreak. Throughout this work, it’s evident that the authors opened their veins and bled themselves onto the pages. 

Lee Murray, Geneve Flynn, Christina Sng, and Angela Yukiro Smith weave poetic tales of mental, emotional, and physical abuse against Asian women. The tales end with either the ultimate sacrifice or a rising from the flames. 

News and media talk about prejudices against Asian women. Documentaries delve into the racism and sexism that is sometimes associated with Asian diaspora. Tortured Willows takes us onto a deeper, personal level through poetry regaled to us by Asian women authors who allegorically write about experiences of cruelty from prejudice, tradition, and the patriarchy. Tortured Willows is a haunting outcry that mistreatment of women will no longer be tolerated. The representation of the willow tree symbolizes strength and tenacity. The willow bends against hard blows but never breaks—it continues to bounce back and carry on. 

Tortured Willows is a perfect accompaniment to the award-winning short story collection Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (edited by Geneve Flynn and Lee Murray) to showcase the need to move beyond antiquated roles of tradition and injustices. 

Lee Murray’s poetry is a quiet, but raw and macabre fury that unrelentingly exposes several hundreds of years of suffering and misery placed upon Asian women. Through this literary form, Murray depicts self-sacrifice as a surrender for expectations, love, and the ideal of acceptance. Her poem “Exquisite” left me in tears.

Pay attention. You think it will not matter, but it will. -Geneve Flynn

Geneve Flynn takes several poetry forms and morphs them into her own. In “Her Gradual Hero”, Flynn uses the sonnet, typically used to express love, to convey gaslighting. “Abridge” is blackout poetry executed in a spectacular fashion, and she exposes us to the pantoum (a Malay poetic form) in “When the Girls Began to Fall”. The creativity breathed into Flynn’s poetry exemplifies her writing strength and talent all the while bringing focus to inequity. Pay special attention to “Mouth, and Feet, and Hands, and Eyes” and “Inheritance”. 

Christina Sng lyrically scripts revenge for mistreatment and murder in her poetry. She is quite gifted with paranormal fiction, and through this collection she shows us that her poetry is as strong as her fiction. Sng’s work is full of sorrow and anger as her female ghosts seek revenge against those who have wronged them through racial and sexist discriminations. 

And finally, Angela Yukiro Smith poetry is a historic and cultural journey through time. Her work shines a light on matriarch celebration and casts shadows over the oppressive patriarchy. Smith’s poetry properly rounds out this full collection to show the unbendable nature of the willow and women. 

Tortured Willows: Bent, Bowed, Unbroken is an eye-opening, soul exposing journey, and a solid continuation of Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Both collections demonstrate that women will not go quietly into the night.

out of 5 ravens.

Available from TBA.

What’s in a name? DocSketch is now SignWell


What’s in a name? DocSketch is now SignWell

By Amanda Headlee 

There is one thing that is always certain about life, and that is change. For authors who have submitted to The Horror Tree and received publishing contracts, you may have noticed that the contracts were sent through a paperless documentation signing product called DocSketch. We at The Horror Tree love this product as it is easy to use and intuitive. 
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WiHM 12: WiHM and Why Allies Are Important By Somer Canon

WiHM and Why Allies Are Important

By Somer Canon

It’s Women in Horror Month again. An interesting time, to be honest. It’s interesting as a fan of the horror genre and it’s interesting as a female horror creator. It’s interesting being introduced to new (to me) women creating in the horror genre, especially if I’m being introduced by their fans. There’s an enthusiasm that comes with those sorts of introductions that are intriguing and make one want to look into further that creator. This is also the best time of year to take stock of just how many people you’ve reached in your career, who remembers you and your works when asked to shine the light on a female creative. It can be nice.

Yet, we still have to have this month to make sure that we don’t creep back into the scenery and end up forgotten by many. Part of it is because there are less of us. This is a male-dominated industry and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it can make being a woman in a man’s playground difficult. We don’t tend to stand out as oddballs in this field. We tend to be overlooked, underestimated, and just plain forgotten. I don’t like it. My male contemporaries don’t like it. So how do we fix this?

I think Women in Horror Month is a great start, by highlighting women and their works and making sure our names are put out there year after year. But it’s a complicated process for many of us. We wish there was no need for a month that reminded people that women are out there creating horror that can stand toe-to-toe with the work of any man, yet we have to acknowledge that need as well. And acknowledging that need can wear on even the most gracious and patient women in our ranks. We don’t want to come off as tired or bitter or defeated, but sometimes that’s just how we feel knowing that come the first day of the month following Women in Horror Month, it’s back to business as usual and names of female creators are sometimes forgotten. 
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Epeolatry Book Review: Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, ed. Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women
Author: Various, ed. Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Omnium Gatherum Media
Release Date: 25th Sept, 2020

Synopsis: Almond-eyed celestial, the filial daughter, the perfect wife. Quiet, submissive, demure. In Black Cranes, Southeast Asian writers of horror both embrace and reject these traditional roles in a unique collection of stories which dissect their experiences of ‘otherness’, be it in the colour of their skin, the angle of their cheekbones, the things they dare to write, or the places they have made for themselves in the world.Black Cranes is a dark and intimate exploration of what it is to be a perpetual outsider.

This anthology is a rollercoaster of emotions. Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women is an edition of cultural storytelling. Painted with a tinge of horror, it offers insight into the struggles of the Asian culture. Sexism, patriarchy, stereotypes, and traditions are ingrained in the character’s lives. Authored by ten women of Asian descent, it’s edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn, both of whom have contributed stories.

While all the stories have a horror undertone, some of them overlap nicely into Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Folklore. This anthology had my emotions running high; one moment I was laughing at the silly predicaments the protagonists got themselves into, and the next moment I had tears when I realized the harrowing challenge of their quandaries. I marveled at each character’s strengths and my heart broke at that same person’s sadness and insecurities.

The foreword is from Alma Katsu (Taker Trilogy, and The Deep), and she gives us a glimpse into shattered stereotypes. These Asian women’s relationships, narrowed into “Geishas” or fierce “Dragon Ladies”, obscures their individuality. Katsu says, “Depersonalization makes it easier to forget that we are each individual with very specific likes, dislikes, dreams, and wishes”. 

Black Cranes demonstrates what happens to those who break into their individuality, or fall under the weight of expectations. Each tale’s Eastern cultural experience is based upon different eras and geographic locations. As an American with a Western European background, this was an education into multifaceted diversity. As a woman, reading this collection was anguishing; the standards and expectations Asian women are projected to live up to, such as foot-binding, made me ache. Despite their anguish, each individual shined.

It was hard to select a story to highlight in this review. Mainly because I felt they all had equal weight and demonstrated a different topic of diversity. All beautifully written and alluring, they are poetically scripted. The characters are complex,  realistic, and have a defined arc with lessons learned. Murray and Flynn did a remarkable job curating this spectacularcollection.

Considering the global turmoil in this final month of 2020, there is no better time for Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women to be published. I think it’s a must read.

5/5 stars

Available from Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Beautiful, Frightening and Silent by Jennifer Anne Gordon

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Beautiful, Frightening and Silent
Author: Jennifer Anne Gordon
Genre: Paranormal
Publisher: Breaking Rules Publishing
Release Date: 1st August, 2020

Synopsis: Adam, a young alcoholic, slowly descends into madness while dealing with the psychological scars of childhood trauma which are reawakened when his son and wife die in a car accident for which he feels responsible. After a failed suicide attempt, and more group meetings that he can mention, Adam hears a rumor of a Haunted Island off the Coast of Maine, where “if someone wants it bad enough” they could be reunited with a lost loved one.

In his desperate attempt to connect with the ghost of his four-and-a half year old son, he decides to go to Dagger Island, desperate to apologize, or receive condemnation, from his young son. Adam is not sure what he deserves or even which of these he wants more. While staying in the crumbling old boarding house, he becomes involved with a beautiful and manipulative ghost who has spent 60 years tormenting an elderly man who was once her lover, and ultimately her murderer. The three of them create a “Menage-a-Guilt” as they all come to terms with what ties them so emotionally to their memories and their very “existence”. Beautiful, Frightening, and Silent is a poetic fever dream of grief, love, and the terrifying ways that obsession can change who we are.

From the title itself, I expected the Beautiful, Frightening, and Silent to be a ghost story, and that is exactly what Gordon gave me. I was pulled into the story by page one through Gordon’s lyrical writing. 

However, she established a way to set up her chapters to indicate character point of view that I found hard to follow. While I appreciate the structure the author was trying to develop in order to identify their POV in the scene, I felt like I was reading three separate character stories versus one story with three different characters whose POV came together at the end.

Gordon’s poetic writing style brilliantly painted the book’s setting. Anthony’s house was easily imagined. A foreboding sense of doom hung on the periphery of all the different settings neatly tucked into the story. I felt Fiona’s haunting permeate throughout Dagger Island. I always knew she was there lurking and waiting.

Anthony and Adam’s backstory was well woven into the story, leading me to understand what made these men who they are—they experienced at one time or another a level of dark trauma. While there was clear distinction in how both Anthony and Adam reacted to their trauma, both seemed to spiral out of control in the same manner.

As a character, Fiona was a bit of a struggle to read; she seemed like two completely different “people”. Fiona’s ghost form was forlorn and didn’t know what her future held. But the Fiona who Adam encountered was manipulative and driven towards some goal that wasn’t defined in the book. This character-split pulled me from the story, and I found it hard to accept that the two representations of Fiona were one in the same. I do like how Gordon provided the reader with hints throughout the book that there was more to be seen from Fiona than just her invisible specter. For example, prior to Adam’s discovery of her, there were physical clues—red hair, wet footprints, and disembodied sounds.

Overall, the book captured the true essence of a ghost story and was quite a page turner. Gordon’s writing style was enchanting, and several sentences read like poetry. Yet, the POV made this book a complicated read since I had to stop to think and at times re-read prior scenes in order for it to make sense.

3/5 stars

Available from amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: American Cryptic by Jim Towns

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: American Cryptic
Author: Jim Towns
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Anubis Press
Release Date: 18th April, 2020

Synopsis: AMERICAN CRYPTIC is an open-minded cynic’s take on the uncanny and sometimes frightening things which border our accepted reality. Through thirteen stories and essays, author and filmmaker Jim Towns examines several legends native to his own roots in Western Pennsylvania, and recalls some of his own unexplainable experiences as well. From legends of Native American giants buried under great earth mounds, to a haunted asylum, to a phantom trolley passenger, this work seeks not only to present the reader with new and fascinating supernatural tales, but also to deconstruct why our culture is so fascinated by their telling and re-telling.

AMERICAN CRYPTIC is an open-minded cynic’s take on the uncanny and sometimes frightening things that border our accepted reality. Through thirteen stories and essays, author and filmmaker Jim Towns examines several legends native to his own roots in Western Pennsylvania. He recalls unexplainable experiences as well. From folk tales of Native American giants buried under great earth mounds, to a haunted asylum, to a phantom trolley passenger, this work seeks not only to present the reader with new and fascinating supernatural tales, but also to deconstruct why our culture is so fascinated by their telling and re-telling.

With a focus on lore and the paranormal, Towns draws upon local legends or haunts occurring in various areas across the US where he has lived; the majority from Western Pennsylvania—an area steeped with the supernatural. He also portrays a secondhand account of weird tales he has been told.

The book is split into three sections—Ghost Stories, Boogymen, Uncanny Places—which works to categorize the stories. Most of the stories or essays are broken down into backstory and experience. The backstory provides context, history, and grounding for the personal encounter. Yet, I found that a few stories left me wanting more. For example, in the tale of ‘Indian Peter’, I would have liked there to be actual “boogyman” stories added after the history of ‘Indian Peter’ is explained in order to provide the terrifying context about this local legend. There are only a few sentences in the final paragraph that provide insight to the “boogyman” aspect. 

Towns put a lot of time into researching the lore and legends within this book. Two essays where the research effort is heavily evident are the ‘Six-toes Man’ and ‘The Giants Under the Mound’.  The author’s voice weaves suspense into the research and the personal experience. There is a solid flow between the two that exhibit the strength of Towns’ storytelling. ‘The Deer God Corpse’ is one story that showcases vivid details from Towns’ perspective along with the thoughts and feelings he had observed regarding what unfolded before him. There is a level of skepticism behind his thoughts, which is a nice balance to show that Towns scientifically assesses a situation before chalking it up to the paranormal. That attitude makes these types of stories more believable. 

Overall, this book was a quick read. Although a few stories left me wanting more, Towns displayed his storytelling aptitude and brought to life the lesser known legends of the Western Pennsylvania area. 

4/5 stars.

Available from Amazon.