Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror


Southern gothic horror is uniquely (under-appreciated!) American literature, and too often written by white men. Imagine my surprise when stumbling across Eden Royce’s self-published anthology collection on GoodReads. A  black horror author with roots in Hoodoo/Conjure. Yasssss. I downloaded her book without hesitation and read it while listening to my old delta blues records. The proper way to enjoy a southern gothic is on a porch swing while the sweet, idle songs from grasshoppers rise up from the brush. Unfortunately, congested, downtown Chicago makes that impossible. So listening to Skip James was the next best thang, y’all. I’m also a little homesick and I miss my Gulf side of Texas. Reading “Spook Lights” was the perfect escapism for this reluctant city gal.

Connect with the author on

@edenroyce on Twitter  or her website, edenroyce.com, or blog

Or better, just buy her book on Amazon  or Lulu

There are 12 short stories in all, but my three favorites were “Doc Buzzard’s Coffin,” “Hag Ride,” and “The Choking Kind.” Royce’s melodic writing is full of texture, atmosphere, and characters that invoke the South. I felt the swelter and stale, human sweat rise through each word. Descriptive language meets Black folklore to create a leisurely atmosphere. Think ghost stories told around the campfire. Think of the fairytales your grandmother read to you when you were a child. Reading Spook Lights is more of an experience best enjoyed when not rushed. The horror element is subtle, often ironic, and I found myself able to predict most of the stories’ conclusions, however, the author’s charm and folksy delivery kept me squirming in my seat until the end of them. Most of the short stories are cautionary tales, where the main character often does something stupid, only to be punished or chastised by a vengeful spirit or magical spell later. There’s Hoodoo, Voodoo, murders driven by passion, and quests for revenge.

There’s also strong thread of female (often motherly) wisdom and jilted love in this collection. I appreciated the strong female protagonists of color. The women were often victims of their own making, but learned along the way how to find themselves. You don’t have to be from the south, Black, or a woman to understand the overall concept of this book, which I love. The author does a lovely job blending mythology for contemporary tastes. This is a book to kick back with and savor, bit by bit. It’s down-to-earth, like crackling bacon grease in a hot pan or like cold, tap water from the kitchen sink. Let the stories do the heavy lifting for you–Royce’s subtlety is masterful.

I enjoyed Spook Lights for its storytelling, not necessarily for innovation, horror, or plots. That said, I’m giving this anthology collection a solid 5/5. I heartily recommend Spook Lights to those looking for an enjoyable read rich with Southern atmosphere and non-traditional folktales told from Native American, Black, and a Caribbean perspective. Eden Royce’s ability to entertain is a dream. I will be reading more of her work.



60 Black Women in Horror Writing


Sixty Black Women in Horror Writing compiled by Sumiko Saulson

February is my favorite month to discover new authors. It is both Black History Month and Women In Horror Month (WiHM). Woohoo, double win! Sumiko Saulson’s unique compilation, 60 Black Women In Horror Writing is celebrates both holidays in grand style.

Some of the women profiled in this book are literary geniuses you’ve read before (Octavia E. Butler, Zora Neale Hurston, and Toni Morrison) but Saulson also introduces us to talented women we’ve never never heard of, too. This book is comprised of interviews, essays, and short stories from the author, herself, and Crystal Connor and Eden Royce. Of the short stories I liked Crystal Connor’s “Amber’s New Friend” the best. I’m a sucker for southern gothic ghost stories, however all of the stories presented are worth a read.

Who Fears Death written by Nnedi Okorafor


All 60 women profiled at the beginning of the book are intriguing but I enjoyed Saulson’s seven author interviews most. I’m looking forward to reading Nnedi Okorafor’s “Who Fears Death.” No doubt influenced by two Nigerian (Igbo) parents, Okorafor’s novel combines magical realism and traditional African storytelling with a speculative, post apocalyptic edge. The main character is a shaman, Onyesonwu, whose name means “who fears death” in English. I adore speculative fiction of all stripes, but I especially go weak for marginalized narratives set outside of the West. Women of color are a rare sight in horror and by god we need to see more of them on the shelves! I say that as a woman of color who writes horror and as an unabashed lover of the genre. Neil Gaiman and Stephen King are great but there are other incredible horror sf/f authors out there, too. Let’s uplift them.

I know what cool books I’ll be adding to my To-Be-Read list this year. 60 Black Women in Horror is a welcome addition to any to-be-read list, don’t you think? Tell your friends, share, and please support these horror authors.

Women in horror unite!


The Inheritance (2011)


“What black family holds a family reunion in the middle of winter? Do they ski?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Will they barbecue?”


From that point on, I was sold. And shortly after that the white characters died. Written and directed by Robert O’Hara, this ancestral haunting stars Golden Brooks (Girlfriends, remember?), Rochelle Aytes, Keith David, Shawn Michael Howard, and Darrin Dewitt Henson. It’s a typical black  family reunion movie…until, of course, the ghost of Chakabazz rises from the slave fields to slay the next generation.

I liked this movie. Think “Cabin in the Woods” but with black people. The elder family members lure their cousins into a remote house. Some of the cousins are there to beg them for money. Others are genuinely there to pay their respects. The stoned and hapless cousins find a drum and a cursed book in the living room. They chant what the book says,  unwittingly unleashing the spirit of their slave-ancestor, Chakabazz into the house. However the elders are in on the haunting from the beginning, and actively help the spirit to murder their nieces and nephews. They believe that by sacrificing one generation, they will grant everlasting prosperity to the next. What starts as an innocent family gathering quickly turns into an amusing gore-fest. I don’t usually like slasher films, but this one was unique and reminded me very much of “The Skeleton Key.” The forest scenes are unsettling. Scariest highlights: when the elders write “the flesh is the strength!” on the windows in blood and dismember a person.

All in all I recommend this movie. It’s watchable and has an unconventional premise. I’d give it a B. Great to watch with family! Har har har…

African American Tarot



I have several tarot decks but I haven’t reviewed any of them. Today I’m pulling out my newest  set, African American Tarot by Lo Scarabeo. Lord knows, I searched low and high for a tarot deck that didn’t have the generic white, European characters on them! I saw a few decks that depicted “ethnic” characters/themes, but the artwork was hideous and I don’t accept that having brown characters means I have to compromise on quality. No, honey, not this one. White folks have been whitewashing the trade since…well…colonialism. But that’s another rant for another post. Just walk into your local occult shop or hoodoo shop (haha, don’t get me started!) and count how many people of color you see. Chances are, not many.

So I searched for a beautiful tarot deck with lush, detailed pictures like the Euro-centric ones in my collection. It wasn’t easy. There were a few that caught my eye, but I’ll only review  the deck my boyfriend surprised me with. I like obscure and or rare tarot decks, and I was not disappointed by African American Tarot. Illustrations are by Thomas Davis and Jamal R. is the writer.

The African American Tarot has nothing to do with “African Americans,” like advertised.  It’s more like generic tribal with afro-centric imagery. Lots of zebras, elephants, lions, and muscle-y men in loincloths and elaborate headdresses. I don’t mind all this, but there’s nothing “American” about what I just described, either. I was hoping for a more…um…”modern” approach, but whatevs. At least I have a deck with characters that (sorta) look like me! Historical black figures grace the foreground on some of the cards. 2 of Chalices has Jean Baptiste Du Sable and 5 of Pentacles features Sojourner Truth.

The minor and major arcana are based on traditional Rider-Waite themes. Like most tarot decks, there’s a booklet included with notes from the author. He infuses African-based folklore and deities into the descriptions and does not limit his scope to just one African religion/region. But I appreciate his broad approach. I don’t know what Sojourner Truth has to do with the 5 of Pentacles, but I’m happy she’s there, haha. Disjointed? Yes. But I’m willing to forget all that because the artwork is so well-done! The images are interpretive and I feel a visceral connection to them. Some of the images are odd, like the 2 of Wands, which depict a ghostlike man screaming in agony while a man rides on a bull above a baby in a crib. Um…yeah.

My favorite card (in any deck) is the Queen of Swords and so I always look to her first before making up my mind about the rest of the deck. In the African American Tarot, she is personified by Yemaja, who also just  happens to be my favorite Goddess. All in all, I like this deck. It’s not my favorite of all time, but I do look forward to using it when I am in the mood for an intuitive and less structured experience.