Saturday, April 19, 2014


Sydney Leigh is my Woman In Horror today! Not only is Sydney Leigh a great author, but she is not shy when it comes to spreading the word about her fellow authors. She has a particular liking for Gothic Horror, and not only do I have the honor of gracing the pages with her in the upcoming anthology Enter At Your Own Risk: The End Is The Beginning, published by Firbolg Publishing, but she has given a number of people some great shout outs, including me, in her review of Enter At Your Own Risk:Dark Muses, Spoken Silences, also published by Firbolg.
5.0 out of 5 stars "Stories within stories; spoken silences in the dark muses of yesteryear...", January 10, 2014
This review is from: Enter At Your Own Risk: Dark Muses, Spoken Silences (Kindle Edition)
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."
As you can see, she took a lot of time with this review, and I would suggest you read her other reviews as well, because we can learn a lot from reviewers we admire. Needless to say, I am overjoyed that she is now writing Gothic Horror, and I hope she does more in the future.
She is doing a lot of work for Villipede Publications team right now, and I wish her the best of everything there.  This is Sydney's Goodreads bio:  

About this author

Shawna L. Bernard is a freelance writer, photographer, artist, former English teacher, editor, and native of the North Shore. Her poetry, prose, and photography has appeared in Merrimack Valley Magazine and various publications.
Shawna's darkest fiction and horror is written under the guise of her literary double, Sydney Leigh. Sydney's poetry and short fiction have appeared in numerous anthologies. She recently won First Place in Inner Sins' Cross Words contest with "Crossroads", which is featured in Issue 13 of the magazine, and had her first drabble published on Hellnotes' Horror in a Hundred. Her poem “The Undertaker’s Melancholy” is scheduled to appear later this year in Villipede Publications’ "Darkness Ad Infinitum", and she is proudly slated for inclusion in Firbolg Publishing's 2014 "Enter at Your Own Risk: The End is the Beginning".
Her best friend is a Border Collie, and despite holding degrees in English, Psychology, and Graphic Design, she spends most of her free time doing her teenage son’s laundry. She also trains dogs, rehabilitates wildlife, and always keeps a bag packed for spontaneous road trips with her imaginary roommate, Ted.

Amazon Bio:

Sydney Leigh is the evil literary double of a mostly sane freelance writer, photographer, graphic artist, former English teacher, editor, and native of the North Shore.
Her fiction and poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, and she is a regular contributor to the Demonic Visions book series. In 2013, she won first place in the Inner Sinners Webzine Cross Words contest and had her first drabble published on Hellnotes. A proud new addition to the Villipede Publications team, her poem "The Undertaker's Melancholy" will appear in their upcoming "Darkness Ad Infinitum" anthology, and her dark fairy tale "Rabenschwarz" is slated for publication in Firbolg Publishing's "Enter at Your Own Risk: The End is the Beginning", which will debut at the 2014 World Horror Convention.
Find her on Facebook at, as Shawna L. Bernard on Amazon, and at her new home at Villipede here: and here:

So, my friends, keep an eye peeled for Rabenschwartz, her tale in Enter At Your Own Risk: The End Is The Beginning, and be on the lookout as well with all Sydney is doing with Villipede and elsewhere. Sydney Leigh is a Woman In Horror!

Blaze McRob


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