The Seers’ Table May 2020
Kate Maruyama, Member of the Diverse Works Inclusion Community
Kate Maruyama here doing what Linda has affectionately named “The Gathering” for The Seers’ Table this month. We have a bit more time on our hands for reading, and I’m excited to present this month’s recommendations from our group.
We hope you are staying safe and reading and writing tons.
Linda Addison Recommends:
Cindy O’Quinn is an Appalachian writer who grew up in the mountains of West Virginia. Cindy is the author of the novel, Dark Cloud on Naked Creek, and the dark poetry collection, Return to Graveyard Dust. Additional work by her can be found in the HWA Poetry Showcase, Volume V, Nothing’s Sacred Vol. 4 & 5, Rag Queen Periodical, Moonchild Magazine, Sanitarium Magazine, and others.
May 2020, her story, “The Thing I Found Along a Dirt Patch Road,” is in Shotgun Honey Presents Volume 4: Recoil.
Cindy’s short fiction, “Lydia,” is a current HWA Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Short Fiction (from The Twisted Book of Shadows, 2019).
Recommended reading: “Lydia.”
“Did I ever tell you about the time I walked into your room?”
Lydia stared dead ahead and did not acknowledge her sister’s presence in the room, much less the question she had asked.
Rose continued, “I was thirteen, so that would have made you nine, almost ten. I remember, because it was the year after Mom almost killed Dad.
Anyway, I walked into that pitiful little room of yours. Remember, you had the one at the end of the hall? The paint on the walls was horribly cracked, and regardless of repainting, the cracks came back like dark veins, bleeding through under thin skin. I don’t even think it was a bedroom at all, more like a storage closet, but you were so excited to have your own room when we moved into that old house.
I walked in, not all the way, but just inside the door, and there you were on the floor, your stubby little index finger in a wad of your ginger hair, twirling it round and round. It was a nervous habit, one that you held onto for years. And you had these makeshift dolls, fucking hideous monsters would be closer to the truth, and you were talking to them. They were lined up in a row, at least three of them, and you were whispering so soft and sweet to them, like they were precious little angels. Do you want to know what else you did? You leaned over real close and put your ear next to one of the dolls’ mouths. That image haunts me to this day; it’s burned into me, and I’ll not soon forget it. I get chills thinking about that grotesque thing possibly murmuring to you, speaking some angel or demon language that only you, its creator, could understand. Did they speak to you? Did they call out your name when they grew lonesome without you near?”
You can follow Cindy for updates on Facebook @CindyOQuinnWriter, Instagram cindy.oquinn, and Twitter @COQuinnWrites.
Janet Joyce Holden recommends:
Alexis Henderson is a speculative fiction writer with a penchant for dark fantasy, witchcraft, and cosmic horror. She grew up in one of America’s most haunted cities, Savannah, Georgia, which instilled in her a life-long love of ghost stories. Currently, Alexis resides in the sun-soaked marshland of Charleston, South Carolina.
On: The Year of The Witching.
A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.
But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.
You can learn more about Alexis Henderson at https://www.alexishenderson.com/. You can follow her on Twitter @alexhwrites.
Tish Jackson recommends:
Sarah Lotz was born in England but currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a super prolific writer with over 15 titles under various pen names and collaborations. She writes screenplays in her spare time. Her books run the gamut from thriller to horror to erotica, but she definitely considers herself a horror writer above all else. Sarah started reading scary stories as a child and the love never left. Something about reading about the most horrific things while being perfectly safe helped her cope with all the violence happening in her native South Africa at the time. It helped her find courage seeing other characters win against the monster in the book, planting the idea she could do the same if the horror came for her.
I found Sarah Lotz through her book The Three, which tells the story about a couple of plane crashes with some very specific survivors. Themes of The Omen move through the story, except you never really know who needs the exorcism. The best part is that there is a Day Four, a new novel that follows the same premise with characters. I found this story so haunting as it takes place on a cruise ship that breaks down like a car on the side of the road. Except there is no road assistance on the ocean, and these folks have more problems than a wayward hitchhiker.
What I love about this writer is that she dabbles in all my favorite genres and is fantastic at all of them. A big collaborator, Sarah also writes zombie fiction with her daughter, Savannah Lotz, under pen name Lily Herne. Their young adult zombie series is Deadlands. As S.L. Grey, she works with Louis Greenberg and creates urban horror. My fave is their Downside stories, where a mall turns into the tenth circle of hell with a cannibalistic bent.
In her new book out this year, Missing Person, a man discovers his long-lost brother may have been murdered by a serial killer. He joins with some amateur sleuths in order to find out what really happened, and mayhem ensues from there. I love the way she writes, drawing you in as she describes the scenes then hammering you over the head with blunt force action. This book will have you guessing until the end, but hoping you never find out the answer because it is so good you don’t want the story to end.
While we are stuck with all this downtime, take this opportunity to fall into Sarah’s world. Find vampires, zombies, and serial killers wrapped in really good writing. You’ve got at least nineteen titles to choose from! Let Sarah take you into the world of safe fear and read about other people who have way bigger problems than we do.
Excerpt from Missing Person, published in 2020 by Mulholland Books.
If he doesn’t approach me, I’ll leave him alone.
Pete had been watching the boy for an hour now. The kid was blond, slight, couldn’t be more than twenty, couldn’t be more out of place in this bar, with its leather-skinned career drinkers bundled up in work shirts and steel-capped boots. The boy had blown in out of the cold a while back—blue-lipped, shivering, hands cupped beneath his armpits, his jeans and pink denim jacket scant protection against the blizzard raging outside. But it hadn’t taken long for the boy to regain his mojo. Shaking off the chill, he’d made for the bar, slid onto a stool like he owned the place. Unselfconscious, unconcerned at the glances—not all friendly—that were shot his way. Pete’s neighbour, a racist asshole who’d been knocking back boilermakers, started droning on about the Million Man March. Pete nodded along, but his eye kept being drawn to the boy, a magnetic pull that he’d given up fighting. Something had woken up inside him. Something had uncoiled, flickered to life. If he doesn’t approach me, I’ll leave him alone. Every so often the boy slid off his bar stool and weaved over to one of the tables, where he tried to engage the patrons in conversation. All he’d gotten so far, apart from a cigarette and a good-natured grope from a female barfly, were shaken heads and rude gestures. It was unclear what he was saying to the folks he approached—the bartender was into Kenny Rogers and was blasting that shit out loud—but he couldn’t be soliciting sex. This part of town would be the last place you’d come for that, unless you were blind or stupid. Could be that he was asking for a ride; could be he was asking for a handout.
“Fuckin’ queer,” a guy pinballing his way to the men’s room mouthed as he passed the kid, but it was a half-hearted jibe. It was late and everyone had reached the maudlin stage of the evening. There was no sense of suppressed violence here, and the boy had picked up on this. This time when the fellow he’d been hassling waved him away, the boy flipped him the bird, then sauntered back to the bar.
The tables nearest the door emptied one by one, and the bartender started upending chairs, nodding along to “Just Dropped In.” Time was running out. The boy made for the payphone. He dug out a clutch of coins, dropped them in, dialled. He was gripping the handset too tightly.
He hung up, rested his forehead against the wall, shrugged, and then returned to his seat. The kid may be in trouble, but he still had that thing, that inner self-assurance that no amount of hardship could fully extinguish. That thing she’d had. It was in every fluid movement. Pete’s neighbour belched, slapped a dirty dollar onto the counter, then stumbled out. The boy looked over, downed his drink. Caught Pete’s eye. Smirked. Hesitated. If he doesn’t approach me, I’ll leave him alone.
The boy approached.
Missing Person, Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.
Gina Wohlsdorf is a horror thriller author who has provided two great escapes: Security and Bloody Highway.
Gina was born in North Dakota, but has been a bit of everywhere, which probably had a great effect on her writing. Her most recently published novel, Bloody Highway, literally crosses the country, like this author herself has done. She attended school at Tulane University, enjoying the famous city of New Orleans and its Mardi Gras lifestyle before heading to UVA to study for her MFA. Adding Florida, Minnesota, and even France to her belt, this author really has been everywhere. However, at last contact, she calls Denver, Colorado home.
She actually fell into horror after a fairly horrific traffic accident broke her arm. Knowing she’d suffered an injury that should be extremely painful but wasn’t, Gina got interested in the world of horror. How did one exist in a world of unimaginable pain and fear reading the scary stuff while being perfectly safe in real life? In addition, Gina’s father was an English teacher (who was a Stephen King fan) and encouraged her to read the books in his high school classes, which she did. Unbeknownst to him, Gina was feverishly crafting stories as a result, trying to recreate similar stories in her teenage prose. She credits her literary inspirations as Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson, styles of which you may find traces of in her work.
Her first published novel, Security, came out to rave reviews and was awarded Amazon’s Best Book of 2016. It profiles a twisted love story set in a resort preparing for its grand opening when a series of murders occur. The point-of-view and narration of the novel is different from most, as the most mundane acts become profane when the identity of the narrator is shown. This serial killing story grabs the reader with heavy foreshadowing, gets you invested in each character, then kills them off with razor precision. No pun intended.
Gina’s latest novel is Bloody Highway, and, although it was published second, it was actually the first novel she wrote. She wrote it when she was only 22 years old, and rewrote it a dozen times before finally finding the voice she wanted. It tells the story of a teenager, not unlike the author herself, who ends up on a cross-country trip full of murderous mishaps. As usual, the twist is not to be missed and is satisfying to devour.
The first two novels by this highly intriguing writer are superb in my opinion. Grab both during this forced downtime so you’ll be ready to jump right in on Gina’s next offering!
Excerpt from Security published in 2017 by Algonquin Books.
The maze is twenty-five hundred yards square. Destin Management Group planted hedges before they even began construction on the hotel, since plants can’t be paid to hurry like contractors can. The hedges are twelve feet tall, lush, rounded smooth as sanded wood, and currently a dark black green. This is because the hotel is straight and monolithic, a stark white block on a flat stretch of Santa Barbara beach, the kind of building that inspires arguments about whether its simplistic appearance is a great leap forward in design, or whether a child with a crayon and a napkin could have drawn it while waiting for a five-dollar grilled cheese. It’s visible from the Pacific Coast Highway but only just. The driveway is quite long so as to accommodate the hedge maze, which is the size of half a football field, and it is darkening, now, in the hotel’s shadow.
In the maze’s center, the dark red roses are immaculate, thanks to four hours of grooming and possibly because Sid, a freckled and obese landscape technician, is singing “O Danny Boy” in his surprisingly gentle tenor. He told the landscape architect that romantic serenades are the secret to growing flawless red roses; fragile flowers need to know they’re loved. He also told the landscape architect he hated the hotel and would take the contract on the condition he never had to go inside. “It looks like a goddamn tooth. Like a tooth somebody yanked out and stuck on the beach.” He pointed at the hotel and spat in its direction, unaware anyone was listening. “Like it’d bite you when you weren’t watching close.”
Manderley Resort does look somewhat like a tooth. Kinder metaphors like “jewel” and “main sail” are more prominent in the marketing materials. Ads in every medium have ensured that Manderley is the talk of its demographic. Every third billboard in Los Angeles splashes a quote from Travel magazine about how tasteful, how opulent, and how special Manderley will be once it opens in August. It is now mid-July. More tasteful and more opulent invitations arrived at the households of LA’s elite yesterday. It’s going to be the Party of the Year. It says so on the invitation. Charles Destin—owner of Destin Management Group, owner of Manderley Resort—does not know how to throw a party that is anything but the Party of the Year.
Look for her work on Amazon; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ginawohlsdorf/.