Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Enter At Your Own Risk: Dark Muses, Spoken Silences, from Firbolg Publishing, is an amazing anthology I am proud to have a story in. I wrote Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat from the perspective of the wife. This was quite a challenge for me as I do not usually write Gothic horror, and the telling of a tale from the . . . well, from the point of view of a woman was interesting to say the least. Bear in mind, also, the times, such as they were, when women were treated as chattel at best.

I believe you are in for quite a treat when you read the great stories contained within this tome.

Blaze McRob

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Book description:

 Some of the most enduring masterpieces of Gothic fiction are as intriguing for the stories they don’t tell as for those they do. The voices hidden in the wall of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat;” the secrets buried beneath the earth of Sleepy Hollow in Washington Irving’s legendary Headless Horseman tale; the dreams of a monster and an ancient book with a life of its own in H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu;” and stories that reveal Polidori’s hypnotic, archetypal Vampyre as far more than what he first appears to be. In Firbolg Publishing’s third volume in the Enter at Your Own Risk series, ten modern storytellers reimagine the mysterious characters lurking within four classics of Gothic literature. As you read the original stories, a sinister whisper drifts in on a cold chill. But there are other voices beneath the whisper. You can hear them crawling out of the growing darkness. Then the whispers become a scream...

With an introduction from acclaimed author Gary Braunbeck, Dark Muses, Spoken Silences invites you into the hidden shadows of four of the most famous dark fiction tales ever told.

Are you brave enough to enter?

"Highly recommended"
Gene O’Neill
Author of Taste of Tenderloin and The Confessions of St. Zach

“Audacious, innovative, shocking – a kaleidoscope (where all the colors are dark).”
Robert Dunbar
Author of The Pines and Willy

"I am blown away by the beauty, terror and imagination of this brilliant book."
Sandy DeLuca
Author of Manhattan Grimoire and Hell’s Door

on January 10, 2014
Given the nature of its theme, this collection was clearly a challenge. The fact that the editor included the original tales which were reimagined by their modern counterparts shows a kind of bravery and confidence in the contributors that is matched only by their ability to rise to the occasion. In a reverent intro from the brilliant Gary A. Braunbeck, he lauds both the extent to which Dr. Alex Scully is versed in academia and the impressive task each writer took in the modern retellings of classic tales. Editor’s notes from Dr. Scully reveal the conception of the theme and prepares us for a collection which answers questions these classics left in their wake...they are “stories within stories; spoken silences in the dark muses of yesteryear.”

Blaze McRob’s “The Wife and the Witch” is a clever reimagining of “The Black Cat”, told with a steady voice which is reminiscent of Poe without parroting it. His apparent ease with which he takes on the form of a female narrator lends itself to the emotional pull of this tale; he is successful in making us empathize fully with the protagonist’s loss of a loving companion: “He was my bastion of strength.”

Then Timothy Hurley’s brave, unexpected, and deft tribute in “Poe’s Black Cats” seems to steal the show with both language and content, with an eerie sense that he may well be channeling Poe with lines like “At my master’s side for seven years, I learned the practice of execution by hanging, and Mr. Malachi commended the alacrity of my acquisition of necessary skills.”

“Satisfaction Brought Her Back” is yet another brilliant take on the classic, though I wish I knew who to thank for such a clever and well-crafted tale.

T. Fox Dunham leads off the re-imaginings of Irving’s “Sleepy Hollow” and reveals an undeniable grasp on the art of prose: “He practiced a barren visage; showing no emotion would serve him best when he soon shared countenance with a demon wind.”...“As the evening fell upon the world and a gray mist flowed off the river, the water decorated with early Autumn decay--of leaves brown orange, and crimson, castoff from ungrateful trees to soak and sink...”

Carole Gill’s “Katrina’s Confession” follows, a thoroughly enjoyable and inventive postscript to the legend, with a darkly humorous ending that affirms the respective perks and price of beauty, youth, and being enchanted by a dark lord.

To choose favorite lines from the haunting “Horseman’s Tale” by Marcus Kohler would be like choosing a favorite child.

What can one say about Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” that hasn’t already been said? Nothing, other than writing fine tributes like Mike Chin and Gregory L. Norris do. These were impressive, like the others--but Lovecraft shines as the most difficult master to tackle, and the re-imaginings are perhaps the most valiant of all. Norris is one of the most prolific writers I have ever encountered, and somehow his unwavering balance of humility and infinite literary genius gives a unique flair to his writing which never fails to leave a deep chill in the bones.

The final challenge: Polidori’s “The Vampyre; A Tale”. The other glaring theme here--besides the obvious one of contemporary explorations of gothic classics--is the particular choices such as this one; the most ancient and pivotal ancestor of the genre. Once again, the modern counterparts meet, and likely exceed, the editor’s lofty expectations.

B.E. Scully doesn’t mess around, and sinks her teeth into the reader with her very first line: “The fangs of ice violating the defenseless windowpanes were a welcome intrusion into the otherwise slow suffocation of another winter season.” Talent obviously runs in the family.

After having Jon Michael Kelley on my “to read” list for some time, I was blown away by his talent--it is no surprise his work appears in other prestigious collections, all of which I intend to read and seek out his contributions. He writes with confidence and grace--“I had not intended to drain her to the extent that I did, and in doing so made an even bigger mess of the floor with my regurgitations. I was voracious, and justified that enthusiasm with the recollections of mornings spent watching her, craving her, coveting her and the elations she aroused in both real and subconscious states.”--and ends this fine anthology on a sublimely intelligent note with both historical and literary relevance.

The concern for repetition among the pieces is outweighed by the broad range of talent and seemingly endless abilities in re-examining these gothic classics. This collection is stellar...both in concept, creation, and delivery.

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