The Beautiful Ones: A Review

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest release The Beautiful Ones is a lush tale of betrayal, innocence lost, romantic obsession, and telekinesis. A departure from her prior release, Certain Dark Things, which I reviewed on Graveyard Shift Sisters. Moreno-Garcia’s strength and confidence in moving from the alternate history of struggling vampires in Mexico to the luxurious ballrooms of historic France is enviable.

Synopsis: 

In a world of etiquette and polite masks, no one is who they seem to be.

Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society. Under the tutelage of the beautiful but cold Valérie Beaulieu, she hopes to find a suitable husband. However, the haphazard manifestations of Nina’s telekinetic powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.

Yet dazzling telekinetic performer and outsider Hector Auvray sees Nina’s powers as a gift, and he teaches her how to hone and control them. As they spend more and more time together, Nina falls in love and believes she’s found the great romance that she’s always dreamed of, but Hector’s courtship of Nina is deceptive.

The Beautiful Ones is a sweeping fantasy of manners set in a world inspired by the Belle Époque.

 

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This novel is reminiscent of a sinister Jane Austen work, set several decades later in La Belle Époque, or The Beautiful Era. This brief period of France’s history, from 1871 to 1914, is said to be the last hurrah of the societal elite.

After this time, technology and industry began to advance at speed. The lower classes began to question the status quo of upper class rule. The playing field began to level out, and the influence of the elites began to dwindle. Trapped in their traditions, they ignored the changes in society, instead choosing to bury themselves in elaborate restrictions to differentiate themselves from lower classes.

The Beautiful Ones is set during this last hurrah and the rigors of the society are keenly drawn. Antonina is an ingénue, and not familiar with the rules of the Loisail’s Grand Season. She quickly discovers proper ladies do not have powers, or go to great lengths to hide them. When she meets Hector and sees his firm control of his powers, she asks to be tutored, soon falling in love with the magician.

But even Hector’s newly found wealth doesn’t exempt him from scorn. He is “new money” and looked down upon by Nina’s family and society at large. And he has secrets of his own, that will destroy Nina’s innocence and hope for a future with him.

Nina is a sympathetic character and thankfully, doesn’t fall into the simpering victim category. Society itself is a character, with all the strength of a well-crafted villain. Character progression (or regression in on particular case) pulls the reader along, deeper into the mystique of this world, showing that even with manners, dirty deeds can be accomplished with ease. Deception is hidden behind smiles and promises, as it seems everyone has a say in what Nina’s life should be.

Except Nina.

Moreno-Garcia brings deceit, and first love with a touch of magic power to create a historical romance with power and redemption.

The Beautiful Ones will be released this month. Check Moreno-Garcia’s blog for updates.

 

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Day 8: Nuzo Onoh

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Nuzo Onoh is a British author from Enugu in the Eastern part of Nigeria, in what was formerly known as the Republic of Biafra. Their civil war with Nigeria, which she experienced firsthand, had an enormous impact on her writing style. In her books The Reluctant Dead and Unhallowed Graves, you get a deep draught of local Nigerian culture and her writing reflects the oral storytelling traditions of the Igbo tribe. Onoh doesn’t shy away from the gritty details when creating trauma to put her characters through.

She states that her goal is to establish African Horror as bona-fide horror subgenre, rather than the general perception of the term as a negative condition of the continent portrayed by the popular media. It is Nuzo’s hope that soon, African Horror will be recognized and enjoyed as other regional horror— Japanese, Korean, and Scandinavian.

 Her latest release, The Sleepless is her first novel. Buy it here. (Beware, if you are put off by injury to animals, skip the first few pages.) Her other works, The Reluctant Dead and Unhallowed Graves, are short story collections steeped in actual practices and chronicle the divergent lifestyles–all dread-inducing–of characters in Nigeria.

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Onoh publishes her work on June 28th so her readers will always know when to expect more from her. For more information about Nuzo, please visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

Day 4: Linda D. Addison

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Linda D. Addison is a poet and writer of horror, science fiction, and fantasy currently living in Arizona. In 2001, she became the first African-American to win the HWA Bram Stoker award® for superior achievement in poetry for Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes. She has since won the award three additional times, including one for her poetry and short story collection How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend (2011).

Addison has also published over 300 poems, stories, and articles for such publications as Essence Magazine and Asimov’s Science Fiction. Ms. Addison is a founding member of the writer’s group, Circles in the Hair (1990) and is the poetry editor for Space & Time Magazine.

She is also one of the editors for Sycorax’s Daughters, an anthology of horror fiction and poetry written by black women.

In her collection How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend, her poetry is moody and melodic; the meter weaves a dimly lit path and you feel compelled to follow. The verse itself is seductive, almost playful—the picture of elegant disturbia. The prose included in the book is a combination of sub-genres, and you get a taste of homespun magic along with science fiction-laced Gothic horror. Buy it here.

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For more information about Linda, such as her full bibliography and schedule of events, please visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

 

Day 2: Jemiah Jefferson

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Jemiah Jefferson was born in Denver, Colorado. Now living in southeast Portland, Oregon, she works in the editorial department at Dark Horse Comics, Inc. and is a regular contributor to Popshifter.com.

Jefferson started writing fiction at the age of twelve, always with the goal of writing the material she wants to see but that doesn’t yet exist. According to her website, the first draft of the novel that would become Voice of the Blood was written in 24 hours in 1990 in a fit of inspiration.

After another six years (and several more novels and short stories) she took her experiences of living in San Francisco and of her contacts with the young, amoral, and beautiful that she had there and applied them to situations and characters already in existence in her imagination, fueling the creation of an extended vampire “family.” This led her to four novels–Voice (originally titled Vox Sanguinus), Wounds, Fiend, and A Drop of Scarlet.

In addition to detailing the fascinations and desires of this “family,” Jefferson’s novels move from 19th Century Europe to modern-day US to reflect the paranoia and possibility surrounding 9/11 and the concept of “art crime.” The books have been compiled into an omnibus edition.

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Jefferson has announced on her Facebook page that her novel, Mixtape for the Apocalypse will be pulled from publication shortly. If you can, grab a copy before then. If you already have one, hold on to it.

You can find Jemiah on Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.

 

28 Days of Black Women in Horror History

This February—which is both Black History Month and more recently, Women in Horror Month—I wanted to do something special to celebrate both.

Luckily, Ashlee Blackwell of Graveyard Shift Sisters asked if I’d be interested in collaborating with her on a project. I said, “Yes! Would love to.” Only later did I ask, “What is it?”

Well, here’s the reveal: 28 Days of Black Women in Horror History.

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Each day in February, both Ashlee and I will post a brief bio, photo, and links to these horror sisters. Ashlee will focus on television and film on the Graveyard Shift Sisters site, while I focus on novels, short stories, and poetry here on my blog The Dark Geisha. We’ll throw in any other fun tidbits we find into each post too.

We’ll use the hashtags #Blackwomeninhorror and #WiHM8 in each post. Make sure you do too when you comment and share the posts because there are prizes!

Prizes, you ask? Oooh!

There’s a contest for readers/supporters who actively use the hashtags listed above across social media highlighting their favorite Black women in horror history. Share pictures and/or links of their work with the hashtags. Remember, this is to celebrate us across all media platforms, so include authors, actors, visual artists, directors, and publishers.

Ashlee’s prize: Two of the most actively engaged will receive GSS swag along with the exclusive tote, and a copy of Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight on DVD.

My Prize: One of the most actively engaged will receive a tote bag from Colors in Darkness, the online spot for speculative fiction authors of color, along with a copy of Jewel Parker Rhodes’ Voodoo Dreams. Another actively engaged participant will receive a copy each of Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Jewel Parker Rhodes’ Voodoo Dreams.

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Come on in…the water’s fine.

Tune into my blog and Graveyard Shift Sisters site beginning February 1st for 28 Days of Black Women in Horror History and celebrate with us.

2016: Wrap Up and What I Wrote

2016 is almost over and I’m sorry to say I haven’t had a lot of my work published this year. I was concerned about this and I wondered where the days had gone and what I’d actually done with my time over the past 12 months.

Turns out, I did more than I’d thought.

I put together Spook Lights 2, a follow-up to my Southern Gothic horror short story collection, Spook Lights, which is featured as a recommended read on Graveyard Shift Sister’s Black Women’s Horror Studies course. At this moment, it’s a fictional course, but I’d love to see it come to fruition one day. I plan to release Spook Lights 2 in February 2017.

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I was asked to submit stories to two separate anthologies, both of which were accepted, both of which have publication dates that are TBD—to be determined. *Wails*

I had a story accepted into Sycorax’s Daughters, an anthology of horror fiction and poetry written by African-American women and edited by Kinitra Brooks, PhD, Linda D. Addison & Susana Morris, PhD. I’m honored to be included among the amazing writers here and the book will be out in February 2017.

I polished up my NaNoWriMo novel from 2015, a YA southern Gothic/magical realism story about the niece and nephew of a Carolina witchdoctor who begin learning the trade. I also managed to finish another NaNo project for 2016, which I did alongside FIYAH Lit Mag‘s November writing challenge, an adult Southern Gothic mystery with a splash of romance.

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Dirge Magazine published two interviews I did with two amazing musicians and I think they’re both some of the best writing I’ve done. The first was with M. Lamar—you may recognize him from his appearance on Orange is the New Black, where he played the part of his twin sister, Laverne Cox, pre-transition. His music is soul-searing and for me it’s the soundtrack of Southern Gothic. I came away from that interview more inspired than I ever have been.

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The second was with Azizaa Mystic, songwriter, singer, vodoushie, witch. Speaking with her was like chatting with someone I’ve known for years and it solidified the bond between the vodou of Ghana and the hoodoo/root magic of the Carolinas, where much of the inspiration for my writing comes from.

 

Speaking of hoodoo and root, I write an article for Horror Addicts “Misconceptions About Southern Conjure” that has been shared on Tumblr and has over 207 notes as of my last count, many of the shares by hoodoo practitioners.

Finally, something I wrote that you can read is a piece of flash fiction, “Parcel Post.” This short tale is about a woman who has to deliver a package in an area that has…shall we say, a sinister reputation. It’s published in Spider Road Press’ Approaching Footsteps, a collection of four suspenseful novellas written by women. The flash fiction part of the collection is comprised of stories by the winners of Spider Road’s flash fiction contest and by the two judges—the wonderful Kathryn Kulpa and myself. Spider Road Press is fantastic to work with and donates 5% of their proceeds from all titles to charities, which address the issues of sexual assault, supporting American veterans, empowering youth and fighting hunger at home and abroad.

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This year I went to a lecture on the Oxford University campus in May, where I got to meet one of my favorite writers, Jewell Parker Rhodes. She was sharp, funny, and sweet and more than willing to sign my copy of her novel, Voodoo Dreams. They say to never meet your heroes, but I’ll always remember meeting Jewell, and how she told us about of the best and worst times in her life and shared how they shaped her work.

While in Oxford, I also got to meet Nuzo Onoh, whose work in African horror I’ve been reading for a few years now. Nuzo, a British-African writer uses her personal experiences living in war-torn Nigeria, formerly the Republic of Biafra to create vivid, visceral tales of horror.

Graveyard Shift Sisters has also published several of my interviews with women of color in horror and fantasy, like Abiola Bello, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and filmmaker Moesha Bean. The most amazing thing that happened in my writing career happened this year. I was awarded the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Diverse Worlds grant, intended for work that best presents a diverse world. Winners were chosen by a jury of SLF staff members. Grants are made possible by contributions from Ellen Wright (Senior Publicist, Hachette Book Group) and Faye Bi (Publicist at Simon & Schuster). I’m so thrilled to have received this honor and I hope to use it to catapult my work forward in 2017, where I hope to have more work available on this year-end list.

Here’s wishing all of you a Happy and Productive New Year!

Graveyard Shift Sister: Abiola Bello

I’m catching up, I promise. November was intense, but come January I should be on track.

Anyway, I interviewed the phenomenal Abiola Bello. She’s a writer, entrepreneur, and mentor. This year, she even started her own press. Rarely do I have books for young people on this blog, but I was so inspired by what she’s able to accomplish, I’ve decided to feature her work.

Check out my interview with her–I’ve left her responses in British English, so don’t think I’ve gone mad with my spelling–on the Graveyard Shift Sisters website.

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