“Fresh Blood” is a new annual chapbook series published by Burning Effigy Press. Designed to highlight new and emerging genre writers, (hence the moniker “Fresh Blood), this first edition features stories from three names whose stock has been rising as of late, and for good reason. Each carefully crafted story uses unique narrative voices to tell very different tales, which helps the chapbook live up to its name.
“Growth Spurts” by Dave Alexander, the managing editor of Rue Morgue magazine, twists the classic “coming of age tale”, and it's a wonderfully strange, beautifully weird story that puts new meaning into the oft used phrase: “Your body is changing”. This story is unique and fresh, successfully avoiding the over-utilized tropes of vampirism and lycanthropy, (werewolves), which have been used as vehicles for the onset of puberty far too many times. The ending is certainly unexpected, and the story is rooted in the universal fear of growing up and facing the alien world of adulthood.
“Left Dead”, by Kelli Dunlap, (whose first novel is forthcoming from Morning Star Press), is a hard-bitten tale of a mother seeking revenge for her daughter's abuse. In an uncompromising, terse narrative, Dunlap characterizes well the maternal rage of a mother striking back at the man who destroyed her daughter's innocence. In many ways, the hook at the end is expected – but that doesn't diminish the story, by any means. In fact, it's a twist that readers will suspect but dread all the same, giving the story that much more punch.
“Mourn Not the Sleepless Children” is yet another very different tale. In this, occult detective and author Bob Freeman examines the myth of the banshee in Scotland's Highlands, and he utilizes the legendary figure of “Aleister Crowley” - a renowned occultist writer and investigator – as his main protagonist. Freeman aptly delivers an atmospheric tale of dark fantasy, and he also introduces an epic character that readers will certainly want to encounter again in larger works.
Best of all, in a market that features many highly priced “signed, collector editions”, this chapbook is a quality product that's reasonably priced. Make sure to buy a copy soon, before supplies run out.