Creatures of Will & Temper

Creatures of Will & Temper CoverIt was an absolute pleasure to re-discover the joy of book binging with Creatures of Will & Temper. My excitement levels were high when I discussed starting this novel in my post about coping with the world’s current COVID-19 situation. I am happy to report that my enthusiasm for the story carried through its entirety. I read it in only four sittings, and I finished the last 150 pages in a mad dash, the sure sign of a page-turner.

As an English Major, I was immediately captured by the Victorian setting and the elements derived from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. As a genre reader, I loved the short excerpts from the grimoire, On the Summoning of Demons, which start almost every chapter. As a writer, I was extremely impressed by Molly Tanzer’s pacing. She spends much of the tale’s first half developing the characters and adding layers to her world instead of rushing forward with heavy doses of plot, but the book’s momentum is never hindered. In fact, I think getting to know these characters and their world might have been my favorite part of the reading experience.

Minor Spoilers Below

There is young Dorina Grey, who is enamored with art and wooing attractive ladies. There is her older and more conservative sister, Evadne, who’s only true passion is fencing. And then there is the fantastic Lady Henry, the head of a demonic art appreciation society. She’s the David Bowie of this novel, and every story is vastly improved by a character who reminds me a little of Bowie. The villain reminded me quite a lot of Professor Rathe from Young Sherlock Holmes. In fact, I found that I was picturing him as the character before he was revealed as the tale’s primary antagonist. And since I love Young Sherlock Holmes, that only added to my enjoyment of this book.

One of the challenges of discussing a novel you really like is not rambling on forever, so I will try to keep my final thoughts brief. I loved Tanzer’s attention to detail. Minor things, like the fact that one character really likes ginger, becomes important later. I should add that the focus on ginger also made me crack open a bottle of Ginger Ale that I’d had in the fridge since February. It was delightful. About halfway through reading this, I started thinking about how fun a role-playing game set in the world of Creatures of Will & Temper would be. You could hunt down other demon worshipers or use your demonic powers for heroics. Finally, the story’s ending includes a thrilling bit of swordplay, but what I really loved about it was the profound cost of triumph for one of the heroes. It should go without saying, but a good ending needs to have characters suffer consequences and change. The Dorina and Evadne who begin their journey in Creatures of Will & Temper, aren’t the same ones who end it.

Lastly, Molly Tanzer just put out the third entry in The Diabolist Library Series, which started with Creatures of Will & Temper. While I usually wouldn’t urge someone to begin with the third tale in a series, you could actually do that with this series. The books are set in the same world but don’t follow the same characters. Think of the Diabolist’s Library series as the Castle Rock or Fargo of novels. So why not pick up the newest installment, Creatures of Charm & Hunger, and support a book baby during this continuing COVID-19 catastrophe? Based on Creatures of Will & Temper, I can assure you of an excellently structured, detail-rich, and fun read.

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Surviving

Jeremiah and his wife, Mariah.

Early in Shaun of the Dead, Shaun bumps into his friend Yvonne, who asks him how he’s doing. He replies with, “surviving.” Later in the movie, when the zombie apocalypse is underway, Shaun and Yvonne cross paths again, only for Yvonne to ask the same question and get the same reply. Except this time, “surviving” takes on a darkly humorous connotation. Recently, I asked a friend how he was doing in the current crisis. I got the same comic response that Shaun got, and I mention all that to underline the fact that we’re living through a genuinely trippy time where Shaun of the Dead feels prophetic.

Mariah Cook's painting

First, let me say, I hope everyone reading this is doing well. I hope you’re avoiding the plague, and I hope you’re keeping yourself busy with creative endeavors. My wife has been painting and embroidering since her job closed, and she’s making some wild art. That’s her work pictured to the right. I managed to write three flash fictions and submit them to the NoSleep Podcast last week, but I’ve had a tough time writing because I’m working from home. Doing my day job at my writing desk, I’m finding it physically challenging to sit in the same space after my mandatory eight hours. I feel like my corporate gig has infected and morphed my place of passion like John Carpenter’s The Thing changed the unfortunate souls at Outpost 31. That said, I am incredibly grateful for my continuing paychecks.

Aside from the desk issues, I’m enjoying all the extra time with my good lady wife and cat. I keep reminding her that in any other circumstance, we’d be overjoyed to be staying home, guilt-free. We are still getting out for exercise by going for walks around the neighborhood and to our local park (yes, we’re staying a safe distance away from everyone else). When we’re not doing that, we’re playing one of our many games. We recently completed The Path to Carcosa campaign of Arkham Horror: The Card Game, and we played a bunch of Mansions of Madness yesterday. I love Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror Files games because they allow me to imbibe the sweet narratives of Weird Fiction while including my wife.

Of course, games aren’t the only narratives we’re enjoying. We finished the third season of FX’s Legion, which was quite strange. The primary antagonists were pulled straight from The Beatles Yellow Submarine cartoon, they’re the Blue Meanies. I think the series is worth your time if you like a good dose of psychedelia with your superhero tales. We’ve also been re-watching a ton of Community. How has that show been off the air for five years now? It’s a classic, and I especially love the fascinatingly strange season six, which initially aired on Yahoo. On top of those, we’ve been enamored with Devs, Lego Masters, and Better Call Saul, which are all currently ongoing. And last night, I found a gem on Netflix called The Autopsy of Jane Doe, which I loved.

I’m not just watching television, though. I recently finished Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. I loved seeing how much influence the novel had on Stephen King’s It and season two of Sabrina. Bradbury’s command of language is superb, but I would’ve liked a little more information on the villains of the story, their origins, and how their powers worked. After finishing Something Wicked This Way Comes, I started Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer, and I am loving it. I briefly met Tanzer at Necronomi-Con in August, during the Tor Nightfire event. She was super friendly and kind, so it was only a matter of time before I checked out her work. There’s a lesson for all my fellow writers, if you’re kind to people, they’ll probably buy your stuff. Well, at least I will.

Okay, it’s about time I wrapped up this overindulgent self-reflection. Keep washing those hands and staying inside. Don’t forget to reach out to your friends and loved ones to check in on them, play lots of games, and enjoy some art.

Stay Froggy,

Jeremiah

The Rust Maidens

The Rust Maidens CoverBack in October, which feels like a million years ago, I did a short review of Gwendolyn Kiste’s And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. I loved it, and I couldn’t wait to find some time to read Kiste’s novel, The Rust Maidens. This past February, which also feels like a million years ago now that Spring is arriving, I finally got to devour it.

In summary, I adored many of the same things in Kiste’s novel that I did in her short fiction. There is a lyrical quality to her prose, and her narrative is filled with metaphors and subtexts for readers to digest. While I haven’t read a vast amount of Shirley Jackson, I have read enough to see parallels to Kiste’s work. So, if you are someone who enjoys Jackson, I think you’ll find The Rust Maidens to your taste.

Reading novels now that I have a graduate degree in writing, I often find myself looking at the structure of books. In The Rust Maidens, the story is told from a single protagonist, Phoebe, but Kiste foregoes a simple linear narrative in favor of one split over two different years, 2008 and 1980. The novel opens with a world-weary Phoebe returning to her hometown of Cleveland in 2008. Since the older Phoebe has already experienced the climax of the story, Kiste can build mysteries to intrigue the reader by teasing revelations to come with the inner monologue of the protagonist. At the end of the first chapter, Kiste leaves readers pondering the two primary questions at the heart of the novel. Who are the Rust Maidens, and what happened to them? These are the questions that will propel readers through the book, but in case that’s not enough to keep you reading, there is a healthy dose of juicy cliffhangers. These are effective in novels because you can always choose to flip to the next page, whereas in television, especially classic network fair, you’re stuck waiting for a period you have no control over.

While I won’t get into deep spoilers, as I feel the secrets of books are for readers to discover and not for reviewers to impart, I do have a few additional thoughts on this novel. I loved the fact that the older Phoebe’s story takes place in 2008, the year of the great recession, which perfectly parallels the economically challenged Cleveland presented in 1980. Kiste’s descriptions of both the settings and the Rust Maidens themselves leave you feeling like you’re covered in grime, in the best kind of way. While the community in which Phoebe grew up in 1980 has significant issues, I loved a moment near the novel’s climax where the reader gets to see that not everyone within that community is as heartless as they seem for a large portion of the tale. There is a tremendous grey quality to the morality of the characters at the heart of this story, and I live for that kind of complexity.

If you’re hesitant to jump into a novel by Kiste because you haven’t read her work yet, I’d advise you to check out her short story, The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary). It’s a fun addition to the mythology of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it’s got a lot of thought-provoking subtexts, and it’s nominated for a Stoker Award. If you’re already familiar with the works of Gwendolyn Kiste, there’s a world of other great horror writers to explore, a few of which I discuss in my Women in Horror Month article.

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Women in Horror Month

Ripley and Newt

I’ve wanted to write a post for Women in Horror Month since February 1st, but I couldn’t find the time until now due to a hectic few weeks. With my birthday in the rearview, I finally have some free time to jot down my thoughts. Without further ado, here is a list of my favorite women creating horror.

Gwendolyn Kiste

I had the pleasure of getting to meet Gwendolyn when she wandered past my table at Pulp Fest in search of other writers. She was kind enough to pick up a copy of the magazine I was selling, and I learned she was attending NecronomiCon the next weekend, where I got to listen to her on the Outer Dark’s State of the Weird Podcast. Since Pulp Fest, I’ve devoured many of her short stories, and her novel, The Rust Maidens, which I am planning to write a full review of soon, like I said, February was busy. You don’t even need to take my word for how excellent her writing is because she’s been nominated for two Stoker awards this year. That last line felt like a great one to end this blurb on, but I also must add that if you’re a writer looking for a social media role model, Kiste is an insanely supportive and nice member of the online horror community. She even does monthly submission roundups on her website, which I’ve used to find places to submit more than once.

You can learn more about Gwendolyn Kiste by visiting her website: http://www.gwendolynkiste.com/

E.V. Knight

Few things bond you with someone like going through Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program together. I had the good fortune of getting to attend six semesters with E.V. Knight. It was obvious from the earliest days that she was a serious writer who’d hit the ground running after graduation. Now, her first novel, The Fourth Whore, which I’ve heard a little of, is on the horizon, and she is co-hosting the excellent Brain Squalls, a podcast where she and her husband, and sometimes guests, use prompts to create new stories in every episode. It’s incredibly humbling to have gone to school with such a talented and smart writer.

You can learn more about E.V. Knight by visiting her website: https://evknightauthor.com/social

Lucy A. Snyder

While attending Seton Hill University, I was incredibly lucky to get the chance to attend a class on writing and selling short stories taught by Lucy A. Snyder. This class was filled with pragmatic lessons I started applying, and am still applying, to my various short story publication attempts. In fact, I just got good news on that front, and I don’t think I ever would’ve come this far without Lucy A. Snyder’s class. My only regret is that I didn’t get to work more with Lucy A. Snyder while I was attending Seton Hill. The one drawback of that program is that it’s overflowing with talented people to learn from, and you can’t absorb all the lessons in the short time you’re there. Suffice it to say, Lucy A. Snyder is an incredible writer, and you should find her work wherever you can.

You can learn more about Lucy A. Snyder by visiting her website: https://www.lucysnyder.com/

Jennifer Loring

When I was preparing to present my academic paper at NecronomiCon this past year, I was shocked to discover a fellow Seton Hill alumnus presenting alongside me. I am terrified of presenting, as I think many people are, and I was immensely calmed by knowing Jennifer would be by my side because, since we’d both come from the Hill, I knew I could count on her support as a fellow Griffin. The Seton Hill bond is strong, and if you, dear reader, like creative writing, you should go to Seton Hill too. After the convention, I got to read Jennifer’s story, A Violent Beating of Wings, in the NecronomiCon Memento Book, and I loved every word.

You can learn more about Jennifer Loring by visiting her website: https://jennifertloring.com/

Gemma Amor

Time for a break from writers I’ve met or know personally, next is a woman whose stories I’ve loved for years on the NoSleep Podcast. While all of her works on that podcast are excellent, a personal favorite of mine was the tragic tale of weird plants, Foliage. Gemma has also been nominated for a Stoker Award for her first novel, Dear Laura.

You can learn more about Gemma Amor by visiting her website: https://gemmaamorauthor.com/

Olivia White

Another veteran of the NoSleep Podcast, Olivia doubles as both a Content Manager and a writer. That’s something I am in awe of considering I have a tough time managing only six people on New Pulp Tales. I can’t imagine handling an endeavor as huge and successful as the NoSleep Podcast. She recently ran the NoSleep Podcast’s New Decayed mini-season, and it was an eclectic mix of humor, sex, and existential dread. So, in summation, it was a fantastic listen. I’ve been lucky enough to chat with her about Resident Evil games and Lovecraftian board games on Twitter on a few occasions. She’s also got a short story collection called Bright Lights & Glass Houses: Therapy Edition for sale.

You can learn more about Olivia White by visiting: https://www.thenosleeppodcast.com/about/contributors/olivia-white

Sara Tantlinger

In my very first semester attending Seton Hill, I got to watch Sara Tantlinger recite a poem at the annual Speculative Fiction Writer’s dinner. I was incredibly impressed and a little intimidated by her talent and confidence in delivering her work to a room filled with other writers. That night, I made it one of my goals to be able to read at the Speculative Fiction Writer’s dinner before I graduated, like Sara. Side Note: all the writers in the program are incredibly supportive of each other, but you can’t help feeling like every writer in the room is going to tell you how bad your work is when you read it aloud. Fast forward to this past year, and I got to do a reading with Sara at Pulp Fest. While I’d graduated from Seton Hill in the time since I’d last met her, she’d gone on to become a Bram Stoker Award-Winning Poet. She’s also nominated for another Stoker Award this year.

You can learn more about Sara Tantlinger by visiting her website: https://saratantlinger.com/

Serena Jayne

Like Gwendolyn Kiste, Serena Jayne is another pillar of the writing community who always seems to be there to lend support when other writers need it. She’s also the only woman on this list whom I’ve had the honor of publishing in New Pulp Tales Magazine Issue 1. While she writes in many genres, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to sing her praises.

You can learn more about Serena Jayne by visiting her website: http://serenajayne.com/

Kourtnea Hogan

This woman in horror has the distinction of owning the coolest freaking tattoo of John Carpenter’s The Thing I have ever seen. But that’s not all. She’s got an Indiegogo campaign running right now to turn her short film, Mantis, into a feature. Why not support an indie horror endeavor with your cash? She’s also been a guest on the awesome Ink to Film Podcast, where she discussed Raw Head Rex and its film adaptation.

You can learn more about Kourtnea Hogan by reading her work at https://morbidlybeautiful.com/interview-andrea-subissati/

These are just a few of the amazing women working in modern horror, the ones most familiar to me. There are a ton of other exceptional creators who deserve a spotlight shined on them. So, make sure you get out there and support all the fantastic women found in horror. And when you find ones you can’t stop reading or watching, be sure to shout about how good they are on whatever platform you have, even if it’s just a small one, like mine.

Stay Froggy,

Jeremiah

Color Out of Space Review

I got the chance to see Richard Stanley’s 2019 adaptation of The Colour Out of Space (Yes, Lovecraft intentionally spelled color that way for his story) on Wednesday (January 22nd). It was a ton of fun seeing the film with fellow Lovecraft fans, and afterward, my friends and I even did a little movie discussion at an H.P. Lovecraft inspired bar near us, J.B. Lovedrafts. We even saw a special version of the film that included a Q &A with some of the cast and the director.

Since more people seem to watch videos over reading reviews these days, I thought this was a good opportunity to try my hand at a YouTube review. The experience was fun, but I have a lot to learn about presenting a spoken review in front of a camera. I forgot to mention two cool observations, and I didn’t feel I was always as coherent as possible, but I think I still got most of my points across. I also forgot to ask for people who saw the film that hadn’t read the original story to let me know how they felt the film was because I am interested in a non-Lovecraft fan’s perspective.

SPOILER WARNING FOR EVERYTHING BELOW!

If you’re interested, here are the two points I didn’t touch on in the spoiler section that I wanted to. I really liked how the color seemed to affect the members of the family differently. Cage’s character is haunted by a horrible smell, and I loved that particularly because I thought it was probably a reference to the Dunwich Horror, where there’s a line that goes, “as a foulness, ye shall know them,” referring to identifying evil, ancient entities. Also, as my friend Tom pointed out, Lavenia’s character spends most of the film trying to leave the Gardner farm, and at the end of the movie, the color may have granted her wish and teleported her to another world.