Category: Horror


In 2013, I was deeply honoured to be the first author signed up by Telos Moonrise, a new fiction imprint of Telos Publishing, a much respected and award winning publisher. In autumn, they launched my collection of Victorian and steampunk spooky short stories, Absinthe and Arsenic.

To the inevitable sneery cynics, this had nothing to do with my friendship with two of the people involved with Telos….they are a long established and highly professional company that will only publish work of the highest quality, friendship alone would not guarantee me a place on their team of authors.

I have always thought of myself as a novelist and not having the special skills to write short stories but I found myself writing nothing but short horror and steampunk stories throughout the year for commissions and discovered I love writing them. Oddly, the title, Absinthe and Arsenic came first before I had written a word of the collection.
I know this sounds a bit up myself and apologies for that, but I am truly proud of this collection and hope readers will enjoy the book as much as I did writing it.

Here is a review by author Neil Baker on the splendid website, Hellnotes

absinthe and arsenic cover

UK-based Raven Dane has had many short stories and poems published in horror and fantasy anthologies and is the author of several novels, including the critically acclaimed Legacy of the Dark Kind series and her award-winning series of steampunk/occult novels featuring Cyrus Darian, the third of which she is currently writing.

Absinthe & Arsenic is a collection of (mostly) ghost stories chosen or specially written for the anthology by Raven Dane. She has selected works ranging from one of the earliest in her writing career (The Attic Nursery) through to very recent short stories, including an excerpt from her award-winning novel Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron.

All of the stories in Dane’s outstanding collection are rooted in the late 19th century, and it is evident that she is an enthusiastic student of the era. The terminology and speech patterns she utilizes, along with descriptive passages that swirl like fog from the pages, create wholly believable settings dripping with atmosphere into which she threads effectively chilling ghost stories.

The collection begins with a terrifically bleak pseudo-zombie uprising in The 10.15 to Lealholm and then settles down into traditional Victorian ghost stories that could have been ripped from the spines of the penny dreadfuls of the time, such is their authenticity and Dane’s skillful prose. There are no weak entries in this collection, but my personal favorites were In Insomnium Veritas, Worse Things Happen at Sea, A Taste of Almonds, Ghostlight and Heart of Brass – each of the tales being unique despite their shared timeframe.

Although ghost stories are usually things of an intimate, whispered nature, I found the two tales that book-ended the collection, The 10.15 to Lealholm and Heart of Brass, to read like film synopses, the former feeling like a 60’s Hammer period piece and the latter like an early Del Toro film by way of Poe, which made the reading of them even more enjoyable.

This accomplished collection of short stories from Raven Dane would be an excellent introduction to readers who have yet to discover her work.

New friend Ralph Carr with a copy of one of my books, author and publisher David J Howe all about to be assimilated by the Borg

New friend Ralph Carr with a copy of one of my books, author and publisher David J Howe all about to be assimilated by the Borg

The nearest I will ever get to Jon Snow from Game of Thrones !

The nearest I will ever get to Jon Snow from Game of Thrones !

Wales Comic Con 2013, Wrexham

My second visit to Wales Comic Con  as a guest author  was even better than the year before, I didn’t think that was possible as 2012 was amazing enough. At the rate this event is growing, we could have a contender to rival the USA’s awesome Dragon Con ! In fact I keep accidently typing World Comic Con instead of Wales….perhaps a premonition?

Jaime Milner, organizer extraordinaire and his hard working, happy and friendly team created a near perfect Con for all fans of SF movies, TV, comics and books .  The team had urged people to buy tickets in advance but the huge number of people arriving without tickets and preparing to queue for as much as three hours seemed perfectly happy to do so and waited cheerfully for entrance to a one day event now grown into two large buildings at Wrexham University.

Jaime has the awesome ability to get great media guests, the biggest draw to the event. He had the entire Red Dwarf crew including both Hollys, cast members from Buffy, Star Trek, Twilight, Game of Thrones, Primeval, Dr Who and The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings among many other great shows and films. Biggest queues were for Robert Picardo from Star Trek, Billy Boyd from Lord of the Rings, Nicholas Brendon from Buffy and Warwick Davis with his delightful family, all helping out. I am always astounded by the stamina and friendliness of these media guests, even after many, long hours of non-stop meet and greet and signing autographs, they remained cheerful and welcoming to their fans. I was very impressed by them all.

An enduring highlight of this event is always the wonderful attendees, so many resplendent in wonderful attire showing great skill and imagination. Among my many personal favourites were a fabulous, perfect Borg who must have parked the Cube outside in the car park and the nearest I will ever get to Jon Snow from Game of Thrones !

 Among the crowds thronging the well laid out aisles looking at interesting things to buy like big knitted Dr Whos and film-inspired jewellery, I spotted some extraordinary cosplay outfits  and professional look alikes including a jaw-droppingly accurate Jean Luc Picard.  The atmosphere of the event was exhilarating all day. I lost count of the number of lovely people I spoke to during the full on but thoroughly enjoyable day which sped past on warp factor ten. I even sold loads of books which is extra icing on the cake!

Big thanks to Sam and David for their ever-generous hospitality , to Fraser Hines for being such great company and to my lovely publishers  Andrew and Michele from Endaxi Press for being there to support me and my books.  You guys all rock! 

             And of course to Jaime and his team….have a well-earned rest then roll on Wales Comic Con 2014 !

The wonderful. high quality and stylish publisher Telos is starting a new fiction imprint called Telos Moonrise and the first book they will bring out is my Absinthe and Arsenic!
A collection of dark, creepy Victorian and steampunk short stories of which I am very proud.  I am over the moon that Telos has so much faith in my writing to take it on.  Absinthe and Arsenic will be in both ebook and paperbook form…publication dates to be announced soon.

Delighted and deeply honoured to be part of the Telos team.

My existing published books will continue to be with Endaxi Press who produce beautiful books with total dedication and professionalism. With a short story in an exciting collection by Spectral Press, The 13 Ghosts of Christmas, this has been the start of a busy and rewarding year.

I will also be working on the third in the Cyrus Darian steampunk series and writing a novella starring the submariner Tia Dakkar who appeared in Cyrus Darian and the Ghastly Horde.

Below is the official announcement from the Telos website;

TELOS MOONRISE

After much consideration and planning, we are
delighted to announce the launch of Telos Moonrise, a new
digital and POD imprint for Telos, which we hope will expand to cover a wider
variety of fiction than we are currently able to undertake in the more
traditional publishing lines. Titles are planned to be made available in ebook
formats for Kindle, Kobo and Nook, and for those who still love books, all the
titles will also be available as print on demand paperbacks via
Amazon.

Consultant and editor for the imprint is Sam Stone, herself an
acclaimed and award-winning author, and she will be commissioning and looking
for titles in all four of the initial lines which are planned:

o
‘Steampunk Visions’: Explore alternate worlds, past, present and future in our
exciting new Steampunk range. There will be action, adventure and, of course,
superb gadgets.

o ‘Criminal Pursuits’: Look into the darkest depths of
the criminal mind and explore the darker side of humanity with our Crime and
Thriller titles.

o ‘Dark Endeavours’: Delve into the supernatural, urban
and dark fantasy, or the darkest horror imaginable. Or simply explore fantasy
realms and alternate worlds where anything can happen from myth and magic to
sword-wielding warriors.

o ‘Sinful Pleasures’: Brings sexual fantasies,
love or simply unbridled lust, with good strong stories, believable characters
and a large helping of erotica in all its forms.

Telos
Moonrise
launches with a ‘Dark Endeavours’ title: Absinthe
and Arsenic
, a collection of dark, mysterious and comedic tales by
award winning dark fantasy and steampunk author Raven Dane.

Details of
publication dates and other details will be available as soon as they are
confirmed. We will make submission guidelines available on the Telos site as
soon as they have been finalised, and when the range is opened for unsolicited
submissions. Please keep an eye on the Telos news page, and the Telos Facebook
page for details.

 

 

The reaction to the second Cyrus Darian book has been amazing…my bad lad is still weaving his spell over readers!  I found this one on Amazon today, from the lovely Eve Weaver, maker of beautiful jewellery and fellow steampunk. She is also the dashing Emilia Etherheart, my captain on sky pirate adventures at the Asylum…

 

First: a confession. Yes, I am a friend of Raven’s – occasionally I babysit for
her table when we’re at events together. All that means is that I write reviews
for people I like, whose writing I like. If I don’t like something, I’m not
going to review it.

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH CYRUS DARIAN AND THE
TECHNOMICRON AND CYRUS DARIAN AND THE GHASTLY HORDE

This book picks up
immediately after Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron, showing the events that
occur in London after Cyrus goes off for his holiday with the Lady. It explores
the political ramifications of the first book – Cyrus, never popular with the
Establishment as both a sorcerer and a foreigner – returns to find he’s fallen
completely out of favour and is now a target for assassination. And his house is
besieged by ghosts raised by his use of the Technomicron – hostile ghosts he
cannot control, even though they proclaim him to be their master.

Events
at the start of the book have rendered Cyrus largely powerless, a situation he
rages against in vain. The Lady, for reasons of her own, has relieved him of a
couple of important talismans whilst they were together. Even the protection of
Belial, a prince of Hell, may not be enough to save him. Fortunately one of his
rare shows of altruism returns to help him out – if Cyrus can obtain an object
called the Bane of Souls, he can build a device to rid him of the ghosts.
However, no good deed goes unpunished and his ex-ally Cambrian, revealed to be a
traitor at the end of the previous book, is once again after his life.

On
the run again, can Cyrus escape his past long enough to save his
future?

I enjoyed this so much I also have the Kindle version, though I
haven’t read that version yet.

I was delighted and honoured to have a short story accepted for the first ever Spectral Press Christmas Ghost story annual. Here is a review and an interview with me from the prestigious Ginger Nuts of Horror blog….

A Taste of Almonds by Raven Dane

After the first two rather dark and oppressive stories, the tone is further lightened with Raven Dane’s tale of a put upon husband, and his attempts to poison his vindictive wife, and escape to the warm embrace of another woman. This is another well written story, that manages to pull of the difficult task of creating a horror story that is both unsettling and funny at the same time. Both of these feelings come from the descriptions of Bleakley’s wife’s poison induced transformation from cold hearted woman to well, you’ll just have to read it find out.

This is a skill that a lot of authors don’t have, and the story never strays into silly parody territory, which helps to maintain the chill factor.

Today it’s the turn of Raven Dane. Her first steampunk novel won the Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron, award. The first of a new series, it was voted Steampunk Novel of the Year by the international steampunk community. It is available in paperback and on Kindle from Prosochi.

An Interview With Raven Dane

Can you tell us little bit about yourself?

I’m the odd one that slipped through the net for this book. I am a dark fantasy and steampunk writer and horror is the genre I read avidly but do not write. A true child of the Celtic Twilight with an Irish mother and Welsh father, I live in an ugly but cosy housing association semi surrounded by stunning views of the Chiltern Hills in Bucks. I have always written, mainly failed and utter pants attempts at SF sagas during a disorganised and chequered career bouncing from journalism, shop work and training horses for film work. Everything changed when I switched genres to dark fantasy and was published in 2006 with the first of the Legacy of the Dark Kind series, Blood Tears. Blood Lament and Blood Alliance followed as did a scurrilous spoof of all things High Fantasy called The Unwise Woman of Fuggis Mire. I fell totally under the spell of steampunk in 2008 and after years lurking in the community’s shadow, launched Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron, my first novel in the genre in 2011. For me there is no greater honour than to have the book endorsed and enjoyed by the international steampunk community so you can imagine my delight when it was voted Novel of the Year in September 2012 at the inaugural Victorian Steampunk Society Awards.

All my existing novels are with Endaxi, a wonderful, small but dedicated and highly professional press. I am still available for weddings, bar mitzvahs etc…

Why did you decide to submit a story to this anthology?

Desperation to have something published by Spectral Press. I remember giving Simon Marshall Jones a lift to a convention a few years ago and he mentioned he was thinking of starting a small press, even had the name ready. Within a few short years he has created an amazing company with such high standards and many excellent and desirable publications. Who wouldn’t want to have work published by such a cool team and with the inaugural annual ghost story collection!

Can you tell us what to expect from your story?

An evocation of the underbelly of respectable Victorian life where dalliance in the forbidden can have unexpected consequences….That sounds pretentious…it’s just a creepy story set in the days of gas lamps and hansom cabs.

What was the best and the worst Christmas present you ever received?

I remember the worst so well. I always looked forward to the present from my father, as I was a mercenary little cow. It was always something unusual, extravagant and expensive. Until the year he clearly lost the plot. One was a paperback book about the Who, not a band I have ever followed and a thing which while still wrapped up looked like a wooden dildo complete with balls. It was embarrassing to open in front of the family to say the least….it turned out to be a back massager…er…thanks Dad. The best? Probably the first present bought by my son with his own money…a two foot high, talking Captain Jack Sparrow model….always in pride of place by my PC.

Who or what would you least like to be haunted by at Christmas?

This is easy…the horrific spider babies from The Ash-tree by M R James. It was adapted in 1975 as a drama called The Ash Tree and was part the BBC’s brilliant ‘A Ghost Story For Christmas’ series. I watched it at a friend’s home and was so terrified, I had to be walked home by one of her brothers. Who I ended up going out with, so not all bad. That play freaked me out badly for weeks and being a big wuss, still cannot watch that episode after all these years.

Can you tell us about any future projects?

I am desperate to get on with the third in the Cyrus Darian steampunk series, in fact he is driving me crazy to get it started. But I also want to finish a collection of eerie and macabre short stories called Absinthe and Arsenic, all with a Victorian or steampunk theme. I have a finished alternative history/supernatural novel provisionally called Prince of Ravens which is set in 1066. Pagan magic versus steam-driven Normans where William the Bastard gets pecked to death by vengeful corvids. I am also working on a book set in 1950s Britain, very much in the vein of the wonderful black and white horror movies of the period such as the Quatermas films. Did I say I didn’t write horror?

Still on an all time high from Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron winning the inaugural Steampunk Novel of the Year award at this year’s Weekend at the Asylum, I was sent this fantastic review from The British Fantasy Society.

Cyrus Darian And The Technomicon/Cyrus Darian And The Ghastly Horde by Raven Dane. Book review

CYRUS DARIAN AND THE TECHNOMICON/CYRUS DARIAN AND THE GHASTLY HORDE by Raven Dane, Prosochi, p/b, £11.99/kindle, £3.08, http://www.endaxipress.com/

Reviewed by David Brzeski

Steampunk is huge right now, and these books have the added advantage of being Steampunk/Urban Fantasy crossovers. While they are set in a steampunk Victorian England, Cyrus Darian is an occult practitioner and his companion is a demon lord.

In the first book, various factions are looking for the Technomicon, a magical/technological tome of huge power, power too great for any man to hold. Several of these factions think Darian has it. Others want Darian to get it for them. Darian actually knows nothing about it, but soon decides it would be safer in his hands than anywhere else.

What follows is an amazingly complex story, in which these assorted groups of ne’er do wells try to put one over the others, or indeed kill them, in their race to own the dreaded book.

Raven Dane has an unrivalled talent for weaving multiple groups with individual agendas into a coherent plot.

Darian himself holds no delusions of altruism regarding his own character. He’s out for number one. Thankfully, what turns out to be best for Cyrus Darian is also best for the World.

In ‘Cyrus Darian and the Ghastly Horde’, Darian returns home to discover that the destruction of the Technomicon was achieved just a bit too late and he has a few thousand restless spirits bound to him in eternal servitude. The spell wasn’t completed, so he has no clue how to control them, or even make them go away. The British Government are not best impressed and soon decide that the simplest solution would be the permanent removal of the focus of these spirits’ attention, ie: Darian. Again, there are numerous factions at work, including a government agent who sees the military potential of the restless spirits.

It gets complicated….

Darian and his friends flee to France, where they team up with the daughter of a well-known sub-mariner on a mission to Russia to retrieve a vital piece of magical equpiment.

I’ll write no more on the plot. Read them for yourselves.

Cyrus Darian is a fascinating character. In the first book, he’s very much the reluctant anti-hero, thrust into situations where he, through no fault of his own, finds himself working for the greater good of mankind. We like him. He’s cool and he has a Lord of Hell who dotes on him and a friend with the coolest airship and a dragoncat!… I want a dragoncat!

At some point during the second book in the series, I found myself going off him a bit. I liked some of the supporting cast much more than I liked Cyrus Darian. I realised that Raven Dane had written him so well that I was feeling the same misgivings about Darian as his friends.

The only thing stopping Cyrus Darian from being a true hero is himself. The idea that he might possibly be a good person and a trustworthy friend, who cares about anyone other than himself terrifies him. It’s so obvious in the effort he makes to sabotage his relationships with his companions. When one finds oneself attempting to psychoanalise a fictional character in a book in this way, the author must be doing something right.

There is a lot more to be discovered about Cyrus Darian and his motivations. I can’t wait!

Once an avid reader, devouring several books a week, I now find my reading time restricted by bad eyesight and work on my own books.  My strict motto now is quality over quantity.

This year I have enjoyed several books by favourite authors and discovered two exciting new published ones. I won’t bore you with all of them and apologise to those I have missed out. Some of the best work I’ve read are books I found on Harper Collins’ authonomy site such as Jeff Sinclair’s No Heaven and Jared Conway’s Mummy’s Boy.

Among those already out there in the book stores, among stand out reads so far has been Company of Liars and The  Owl Killers by Karen Maitland…these novels are impossible  to categorise.  At first superficial glance these books are historical set in bleak plague and famine-ridden 13th century England. But they are so much more. Beautiful, dark , authentic and vivid with supernatural undertones, extraordinary characterisation and plot twists, turns and astonishing surprises, these haunting books are in a category all of their own.

I also discovered the delights of new young horror writer, Joe Hill starting with Heart Shaped Box, then Horns with Twentieth Century Ghosts next in line on my bedside table.  A wonderful new voice with a delightfully twisted imagination combined with highly skilful craftsmanship. And so different in style and  tone to his father, Stephen King.

Sam Stone’s Vampire Gene series never fails to deliver. Sam’s work is intelligent, sensual and vastly superior to the the glut of vampire literature clogging up the bookshop shelves.  Reading her latest, Demon Dance is like curling up on the sofa under a furry throw,  with an open log fire  and a fine red wine and a box of luxury chocolates.  A delicious treat for all the senses.

I have been a fan of Phil Rickman for many years, loving his early work such as Crybbe and becoming addicted to his Merrily Watkins series. This year, he moved away from contemporary Hereford to Elizabethan England with The Bones of Avalon,  a mystery starring a real life person…the mysterious Dr John Dee..astrologer to the Queen. Combining real life people and events with  his own plot set in post dissolution Glastonbury, I  couldn’t put this book down…at the expense of my own work!

Only disappointment so far was Stephen King’s The Dome…I had such high hopes of this huge tome but it didn’t excite me in the same way his other work such as The Stand or It did.

Now back to my own work in progress…the sequel to Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron. No title yet but plenty of wild, occult adventures and steam-powered gadgets!