Spiders In the Daffodils by Nelson W. Pyles – Review by Lydia Peever

Doc said “everything here is a nightmare,” and that sure does ring a bell. Readers of Pyles’ fiction, specifically his collected works in “Everything Here is a Nightmare” will recognize these characters from the story “Just Enough Rope”. With cover art by Jeanette Andromedea, ‘Spiders in the Daffodils‘ is an expansion on the western theme was long awaited by followers of the author.

We follow the strange journey of Tom Wall from a young man to esteemed Texas Ranger, one of the fastest guns in his jurisdiction. That jurisdiction, fittingly, is wherever he finds himself to be. From thieves and scum to whores, Tom had seen it all, and among the whores he discovers the feisty Veronique. In a blink, he is drawn into her world and her history, and while the two are separated but a blink in time afterward, they cross paths much later. By then he is young enough to start again but retired from Ranger life and she has wound up the sheriff of a small town herself. Together, they hunt down the supernatural forces that have dogged them for years. Now, there is much more at stake with their daughter Josephine in the mix and the little girl has secrets of her own.

As wonderfully juxtaposed as the title images are, the idea of a supernatural creature at home in the Old West mingles well In Pyles’ latest novel. We have our hero, in the gruff Ranger named Tom Wall. As unmovable as he seems, we have the resourceful and lovely Veronique who clings to his emotional cracks then flourishes, blooming into a hero alongside him. Between them, there is romance and mystery set in a world of gunslingers where the heat bakes the earth and whip cracks sting more than horseflesh.

In episode 402 of The 9th Story podcast, alongside Dan Foytik and Jeanette the artist herself, there is talk of the development of ‘Spiders in the Daffodils’ and Pyles reads a short excerpt. This is a two-part interview and discussion with the author that offers valuable insight into where the book came from and unearths gems of the writing process as they talk. With this, we meet Stephan Trask, a formidable foe, which really rounds the story out and introduces the devastation of the monstrous supernatural forces secreted in the saloon backrooms and blasting out of flimsy jail cells across the west.

As the book begins with a young girl subject to depraved gore and vampiric destruction in Romania at the dawn of the 19th century, we are no stranger to the creatures. By the time we have hints they have persisted one hundred years later, we are eager to meet them again. Or fearful, as we should be since even Veronique and Tom hardly know what they are up against. Nelson has created a very pleasing and terrifying amalgam of creatures known and imagined with the strigoi style of long-lived, seemingly immortal creatures that prey upon humans while living mingled among them for centuries. On one hand, we have their incredible strength and bloodlust, and as with any great supra-human lays a certain enchantment, be it beauty or artful guile.

Coming to ‘Spiders in the Daffodils’ for either the horror and adventure serve the reader well with a well-written dose of genre dabbling they may not have bargained for. A happy accident, if you approached Pyles’ work without knowing his style which is rooted in writing great relationships, really knowable characters, visceral gore when needed, and dark tints to the most brightly lit horizons ahead. The story never needlessly meanders so the goals as they unfold are compelling with the whimsy of new creatures along with natural jargon of the time that works wonderfully in this well-tended garden.

Addendum! I’d entirely left out the most wonderful full disclosure here, as Nelson is not only a fellow author and friend, but as original host and creator of The Wicked Library – he is a hero who I am forever in debt to. Giving a voice to my stories and the stories of hundreds more is something special. Not many readers and authors get to pay it forward so far in advance as Nelson. Cheers, for starting one of the premier short horror story shows, and cheers on this book release. Here is to many more, sir!

 

This was a review written of my own free will, with a graciously supplied copy of the e-book by the author. Thank you, Nelson! Otherwise, I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection. 

Editing a Short Story – Notes from the OIW Workshop

On November 21, Matt Moore and I hosted a short story writing workshop with the Ottawa Independent Writers. It was a wonderful evening and as we ran a little long on time, a few points fell off the end. One of the most important – and fun – notes dealt with editing a short story.

Many techniques can be used in self-editing and some are kind of taxing for novel-length work. Shorts give us a little more room for experimentation. These are some techniques I use and a few I’ve heard mentioned in author interviews.

Reading it aloud

  • This is easier with a short because it won’t take more than a half hour in general.
  • Record yourself reading it. During the recording process you may notice sections to tighten up, or upon listening back you get a little closer to the reader experience.

Pick up editing in the middle

  • Since you can keep the events of a short story in your head, try editing the middle of the story first so you are looking at word choice and description, not plot.
  • Or, start at the end and go paragraph by paragraph, backwards.

Retyping

Some novelists do this but with a short it is a fairly quick procedure. If you’ve printed out a draft and want to slow down your reading, retyping it can reveal all kinds of flow errors or just give you room to make new decisions on sentence structure.

Beta readers

Nothing new here, but it may be easier to garner readers for a short over a novel. You can also get feedback fairly quickly from…

  • Workshops and writer’s groups
  • Goodreads groups
  • Absolute Write and Amazon Kindle forums
  • Association forums if you have joined any
  • Facebook and Twitter – useful to call out to readers you may not expect
  • Your newsletter subscribers if you use one

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Adverbs sayeth Stephen King

Yes, in short fiction you don’t have the space to spare, but eliminating every adverb, passive tense, cliche or alliteration may cost you style.

All of these steps should weed out the worst offenders so no need to rev up the chainsaw when a scalpel will do!

 

 

typicalreview – Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess by Nancy Kilpatrick

In my previous article for Postscripts to Darkness where I review Revenge of the Vampire King, I detail a little of the horror and vampire fiction lineage of Nancy Kilpatrick. Suffice that to say we are in good hands with the second installment of the Thrones of Blood series, “Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess”.

This is envisioned as an epic to total a half dozen books. To say the story started with a bang diminishes the impact of the first book; though oddly, a reader can enter this one to start. Now, the first book should be read, and upon finishing ‘Sacrifice’ one would be beyond intrigued and compelled to see where this all began. Somehow the story of the first one is hinted at just enough that if by chance someone picked this up first, they would not be lost and at the same time the story is not repetitive.

“Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess” stands as the second of the series, released by Crossroad Press in ebook format on September 5, 2017, with the paperback to be out in November. Like the first book, this immediately thrusts the reader into a story of betrothal and betrayal, with dazzling refinement and so much blood.

Taking place eighteen years in the future, we are introduced to Serene. As a princess she is mightily entitled; and as “fifty percent vampir, fifty percent Sapiens, one hundred percent brat,” even more so. Where the series began in ‘Revenge’ with some hard sex, we start here on a much lighter note. This girl is quickly engaged to the King’s second, Wolfsbane, and hastened to take her first feeding. Being privy to the ceremony that is a vampire wedding, Kilpatrick style, is a treat as it is not under threat of death or misery quite so much this time around. We also have an abundance of carnal exploration the couple embarks on beforehand so the union is much sweeter than tasting of blood alone.

This is not without a certain amount of beguilement to sway a bride that was more than reluctant to start, and it also pushes her psyche to teetering on the edge of chaos. The kingdom is under threat as ever. This time around, it is the desire to infiltrate forbidden lands with a plan spearheaded by Serene’s mother Valada – the former hybrid captor who is now Queen and her husband, the Vampir King Moarte.

Gardeners and folklorists will enjoy the naming of various vampires we come to know, as many are named after plants and herbs common in fairytales and mythology. Other names maintain a sinister edge for the most part and never wrest attention from their character. This book feels a little more grounded and relatable than the last since it flirts less with high fantasy and finds itself more in line with gothic horror and regency romance. The naming and cultured speech of our cast keeps us in the same universe easily though.

There was a time, in my opinion, where people turned to horror fiction for raucous taboo sex scenes long before horror erotica was a subsection of the bookstore. There are chapters here that recapture this daring alongside a fast-paced adventure and plenty of gore. The edgy sex is as natural to these creatures as taking blood is, so it never feels so heavily cross-genre with romance or erotica that fans would start to fall off one side or the other. That was where my biggest fear lay in reading the first book, that it would play too gory for those looking for lust and too brutal sexually for those who can handle eviscerations but not exploitations.

This tantalizing mix is something Kilpatrick is quite at home with as she remains the Canadian Queen of horror erotica for that reason. I had described the first book as a “brave piece of fiction for readers seeking a deep plunge into sex, swords and sanguine sensuality,’ and I would reiterate this for the series as it stands.

Without that first paddle to the backside the deep dive into the heart of this princess brat would not be as satisfying as it is. Knowing what we do as a reader about the Queen as mother and her past instills a delicious sense of omniscience for the reader. This is what a reader needs and sticks around for in a series at the core of it all, and Kilpatrick’s second Thrones of Blood book, “Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess,” gives us that quickly.

Read more at nancykilpatrick.com and pick up the book or start into the series proper at Amazon. These chilling and exciting adventures in Vampir and Sapiens lore are available for e-readers, in paperback and on audible.

 

This was a review written of my own free will, with a graciously supplied copy of the e-book by the author. Thank you, Nancy! Otherwise, I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection.