Dark Conjurings – Indie Book Spotlight

Hey there, Readers! I’ve got a collection of great short stories for you today.

One extremely interesting thing about writing is that it can function as a kind of time travel. We can still read works penned by people millennia ago. Translated and reprinted, of course, but still. As Stephen King puts it in his fantastic book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft “Writing is telepathy: We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room. Except we are together. We’re close. We’re having a meeting of the minds.”

As I sit here, writing this review, it’s the middle of October. We haven’t hit Halloween yet. But, as you are reading this, it is at least the first Sunday in November, because that’s when these get posted and they’re always written well in advance. Halloween is done and over with whether you still have your decorations up and have finished your candy or not.

I guess all I want to say is, at this time, the time of writing, I’m in the mood to be scared. Unnerved. Put on the spot somewhat. I’ve got that All Hallow’s Eve fever and the only prescription is some spooky stories. So, despite the fact that Halloween is done for you at the moment you’re reading this…. allow yourself to reflect back a couple of weeks and let these stories give you a chill or two.

This month’s read is Dark Conjurings. It’s a collection of six sinister short stories featuring ghosts, vampires, Gothic horror and a trip to the carnival, among other things. Short stories are an interesting literary form and quite challenging; condensing a cohesive narrative into a small space can be a struggle for any author; how to make something engaging and wrap it up in a way that’s satisfying with a forced short word count? It is, though, one of the most accessible forms of work for authors because they can be taken and curated into collections like this. It’s great, because you get an interesting diversity of voices within one book or publication – many are published in magazines and periodicals as well and they will also be grouped together by theme. If you’ve never tried reading a short story collection before, I highly recommend picking one up and seeing what gems you can find. This one? It’s a good place to start.

So, I’d settle in with some leftover fun size twix bars and some warm socks. Maybe light a few candles and let some chill air into the room, just to set the mood right.

Book Stats

    Author: In order of appearance: Jai Lefay, A.R. Reinhardt, Cassy Crownover, Delia Remington,
    Karolyne Cronin, Mimi Schweid and Foreword by Sarah Read.
    Formats: Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover (Hardcover is listed separately on Amazon as Literary Hardcover edition.)
    Price: Kindle – $8.49, Paperback – $15.95, Hardcover – $19.95
    Length: 126 (The file size is large as there is art for the chapter titles.)
    Number of books in the series: This book is published by Eagle Heights Press. They have a lot of other books to chose from, but this book is standalone.

Basic Premise

All That Glitters Must Die by Jai Lefay
We are dropped into the fun and fright of a carnival night. Burlesque dancers, contortionists and one very special lady with The Sight. We’re treated to a tale about the high society in this place and how those of the upper crust deal with the performers set to amuse and amaze them. That can only get more complicated when a serial killer with a fancy for girls on stage is known to be on the loose…. but the show must go on. More gruesome still, the killer fancies himself a vampire, draining the blood of his marks. Our heroine, Lotte De Vries, has a pretty solid suspicion as to who it might be, too. There’s a newcomer in town and he doesn’t quite fit in. She reads the cards for him and is greeted by visions of bloodshed and death, but not for her. Her dear friend Audrey seems to be the killer’s next mark. Can she act in time to save her friend?

A tense tale with a twisted ending that you won’t see coming. Beautifully written, descriptive and unflinching in ramping up the suspense, this is a really fun read.

The Shadows Breathe by A. R. Reinhardt
You always hear stories about those chills that seem to sink into your bones when you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gooseflesh prickling up and down your arms and the back of your neck when you feel like you’re being watched. But you know you’re alone, right?

You sure about that?

That depends entirely on what you’ve done. If you’re a murderer, a sadist who takes joy in taking lives, chances are high that those chills and that feeling of being watched? They aren’t just your imagination. They’re something much worse.

This is a story about a vengeful spirit who remains chained to this mortal realm to do some good. Is this by design? Fate? Penance? You’re going to have to read the story and draw your own conclusions.

A super fun little read; I always enjoy stories that end with… well. I won’t give too much away. But I’d love to hear more from this spirit.

Night of the Beast by Cassy Crownover
It’s the Civil War and things are even worse than you’d expect. America’s darkest time is made no more bearable by the things that lurk in the woods waiting for fatigued soldiers to let their guard down. When night falls and all you want to do is take your boots off and close your eyes for a while, maybe get a little food in before shut eye, the last thing you want to hear is some creature making noise in the forest.

Enemy soldiers are enough to deal with without adding beasts to the mix.

Besides, our main character has a lady love at home that he needs to get back to. That makes everything that much more high stakes and important.

The Civil War is a really interesting choice of backdrop. It adds a layer of grit to the proceedings. A level of grime and exhaustion for our protagonist to slog through even before things get spooky.

The Doctor and the Lady by Delia Remington
The narrative of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus is explored in greater detail in this short story.

In this tale we eschew the supernatural and focus more on the risk involved in writing. There’s that old adage “Write what you know.” and it’s only meant as a general guide. At least in that only a grave robber and defiler of the dead will know what those acts really entail, how they’d make you feel, the revulsion and loathing that comes from doing something so wholly unnatural. Writers must by their very nature write outside of their own experience, but when the need for research rears its head? What then? In this tale Mary Shelley plays the role of Igor in her search for legitimate experiences with which to craft her book.

If you’re a fan of the classics, this tale adds a little intrigue to the actual story of Frankenstein’s creation.

The Lady in White by Karolyne Cronin

This story, much like my review today, starts with a Stephen King quote. I think he’s literally one of the most quotable modern authors of all time. Tis the Season for Stephen.

As a long time fan of shows like Ghost Adventures and Paranormal State, you do start to notice themes in the stories presented by true believers. You know the ones. From abandoned prisons and asylums always being haunted from basement floor to asbestos ceiling to old mine shafts having at least one unfortunate spirit trapped inside them, you get a lot of urban legends that echo one another. One such legend of this sort is the Lady in White.

This is a legend so pervasive as to have sprung up independently all over the world. From Brazil to the Czech republic, but most prominently in America. We have tons of them over here. Frankly, you’d have enough of them to host their own convention or conference, if you could get them all into the same room.

This story notes that most of them are a Mary or a Margaret or something similar. And we follow our main character, Karyna Thorpe down the rabbit hole of one particular Pale Mary. Karyna’s approached by a dapper chap named Donald Ninian who loans her a book of peculiar origin to get her started.

This is just a great ghost story that would find itself at home around any camp fire.

Mystick Tea by Mimi Schweid
This one errs a little more on the side of the fantastical. It’s a modern setting; cafes, text messages, apartment buildings, but the characters are witches and fae creatures and the like.

Our heroine this time is an apartment dwelling witch by the name of Veronica. She lives with her Nutella loving, dancer girlfriend Krysten in New York. They have Faerie neighbors upstairs, which seems to be a cause for concern for Veronica, who loads the ceiling up with wards and charms, as well as sneaking guardian items into Krysten’s belongings. When questioned about this by Krysten, Veronica admits that there’s a reason for her Faeophobia. Her sister was stolen by Nixies when they were kids, vacationing near a lake.

Fast forward a few weeks and Veronica realizes she’s being followed. By whom? A very tall lady, dressed all in black. She has the key to Veronica’s reunion with her stolen sister… but there’s a caveat.

This felt like the beginning to a larger narrative, like it could have gone on somewhat beyond where it ended! It’s a cool take for anyone who digs the idea of fantasy races living amongst us normies. Think Bright or The Wolf Among Us.

My take

Six great tales by six great up and coming horror/fantasy authors. I think the foreword by Sarah Read sums it up best in that fresh talent isn’t bogged down by convention. (I’m paraphrasing and she put it far more eloquently than I could.) There’s a wonderful level of enthusiasm to each of these stories, but don’t take that to mean there’s any deficiency in terms of craft. There isn’t.

All in all, I will be looking forward to seeing more work from any of these authors.

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.