Tears and Crimson Velvet – Short Story winner 2020

Tears and Crimson Velvet has won best Short Story for 2020 on the NN Light Book Heaven reviewer site.


See the comments from the site below

Tears and Crimson Velvet by A.L. Butcher

Someone haunts the Opera House and while Madam Giry tries to keep her distance when the hauntings turn to murder, she knows she must act. Will she finally break her silence about what is going on or will she do what is necessary to protect those she loves?

For fans of Phantom of the Opera, this is a must-read. A.L. Butcher weaves a masterful story filled with emotion, angst, mystery, and murder. I do believe Gaston Leroux would consider this variation on his immortal tale a wonderful addition to his work, The Phantom of the Opera.

In the original story, Madam Giry is a mysterious character and the reader is left wondering whose side she’s on. Christine’s? Erik’s? In this tale, Butcher takes us inside the mind of Madam Giry and what she knows about the hauntings and the Phantom himself.

A brilliant short story that tore my heart out. Highly recommend!

Madame Giry finds herself embroiled in the tragedy unfolding at the Opera house; mystery and murder stalk the corridors and, it is said, a ghost haunts the place. Giry knows the truth, for she recalls the caged man she met so many years ago. This is her story, their story.

When murder and mystery begin at the Opera House one woman knows who is behind it, and what really lies beneath the mask. Secrets, lies and tragedy sing a powerful song in this ‘might have been’ tale.


New Release – The Last Forest – Short Story

I am pleased to announce the release of my latest short story:

The Last Forest

#Darkfantasy #shortstory #nature

When humans come to fell the last forest, they are in for a surprise.
A short dark fantasy tale of the wrath of nature.
Approx 2500 words.

Universal Link

Available as an e-book in all the major e-book stores.

Last forest cover.jpg

Review – Beneath the Knowe – Anthea Sharp – Fantasy/Fairytale


Beneath the Knowe

5 stars

This is a rich and lyrical short story of fairyland, glamour, one woman’s courage and magical music.

Maeve is a resourceful young woman who wants more from life than marriage to a man she barely knows, and the mundane existence of her kin. She has music within, a glorious melodic soul that yearns to be heard, but women cannot be bards.  When the fairies who ‘protect’ the clan take the chieftain’s baby son, Maeve’s nephew, nothing is to be done. Such is the bargain. Eventually, the menfolk challenge the fairies, and are sent home beaten and ashamed, minus the human infant.

It takes a woman, and a magical, musical soul to challenge the great Fairy King on his own turf -Maeve, and her music. Of course, bargaining with fairies has its price.

I loved this tale, with its vibrant imagery, innocent yet determined courage and a glimpse of the power of Anthea Sharp’s writing. Although this tale is short, it is enough of a taster to want more of this author’s work.  I will definitely be venturing into fairyland with Ms Sharp again.

Beneath the Knowe Amazon UK

Beneath the Knowe Amazon US

Beneath the Knowe cover

The Watcher – A Jack the Ripper Story – New Release #Horror #Short Stories

Watcher cover (1).jpg


As some of you may know I have always been rather fascinated by the legend of Jack the Ripper. (Don’t look at my browsing history – I’m a writer so it’s a bit weird!). For anyone unfamiliar with him Jack the Ripper stalked the London streets in the Autumn of 1888 and left at least five women dead and mutilated. These poor women were prostitutes of the lowest class; it was a dangerous profession.  In many ways the killings highlighted the plight of the Victorian poor, particularly for females. Who did not have much choice in how they supported themselves if a husband was not around, or the family was very poor.


There are hundreds of theories about who he (or she) was – ranging from the grandson of the Queen Victoria (Eddie – Duke of Clarence who might have had some rather dubious doings but was several hundred miles away in Scotland at the time of one of the killings), to a mad doctor, to a Jewish slaughterman, to a midwife, to a wealthy Liverpool businessman (who himself was (possibly murdered by his wife Florence Maybrick ).  

George Chapman, another unpleasant woman-killer of the time was also mentioned, as was the artist Walter Sickert.  Any or none of these could have been the killer.

Who was this person who left London in the grip of terror? This new murderer more wicked than any before him? Who knows? That is part of the enduring legend. Jack the Ripper was never caught and his legacy is such that writers and historians aplenty have fielded proof, disproof, and stories for over a hundred years.

Anyway enough background…. The story is from the point of view of the killer – and recounts his last known murder – that of Mary Jane Kelly.  I am not putting forward names – other than Jack but there is a twist at the end of his identity.

This was previously published as an anthology piece for Tales from Darker Places and Boo Fore! but has been updated and revised for this version.

Welcome to the darkness of Victorian London….

The Watcher – A Jack the Ripper Story

The year is 1888, and the place is Whitechapel, in the very heart of London. But the heart is bleeding. A mysterious killer is stalking women of the streets – his true name is unknown but his legend will go down in history. This is a short tale of Jack the Ripper.

18 rated for scenes of violence.

Universal Link The Watcher – A Jack the Ripper Story

Bundle Rabbit https://bundlerabbit.com/products/detail/the-watcher

Background reading for those interested.




Jack the Ripper – a rundown

Florence Maybrick – Did she kill him? 

The Florence Maybrick case is fascinating in itself, tragic for all concerned and showed the morals of the time well enough.  Mrs Maybrick was tried more for the fact she’d had affairs (including with her husband’s brother) than anything else. Her husband had a mistress, was a hypochondriac who took arsenic as a tonic, and in more than one case had struck his wife.

Walter Sickert – Casebook review

Outside the Walls – Now in Print.

Outside the Walls 

Co-authored with Diana L.Wicker

(Expanded edition)

Coming soon in audio, narrated by Melanie Fraser.

When the tide of war flows many are caught in its wake. Who will gain entry to the city and who will be forced to remain outside the walls? A short fantasy tale of love, loyalty and courage in war.

Less than a coffee and it lasts longer.

Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse – Free on Kindle

Until 19th July Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse is free on all the Kindle sites.

This short tale within a tale is a mythic story of monsters, revenge and unwise bargains.

Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse.











Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse – Fantasy Short Story New Release!

In a dark world where magic is illegal and elves enslaved a half-elf, a troll woman and an on-the-run human attempt to make their fortune searching for treasure among the abandoned ruins or Erana. Erana is a world of secrets, lies and deception and the past was not much different. The three adventurers unleash more than they bargained for, and more than they can understand when a story long in the mists of a time gone by is revealed.  Witches, dark magic, greedy adventurers and tragic heroes all feature in this exciting tale.

Tales of Erana: The Warrior’s Curse is a short tale of fantasy, heroes, greed and magic.

Warriors Curse Final - ebook

Although set in the world of The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles this particular tale doesn’t feature any of the main characters; these are the tales of the past, the tales of simple people, and the tales of heroes and monsters.  These tales are a companion series to the Chronicles but can be read without prior knowledge. One might say they are a peek into a world of magic and myth.



Currently available on Amazon other versions will follow shortly, including, hopefully, an audio edition.

So what else will come in the new year? There will be more Tales to follow, and of course for those who love short tales of myth and magic there is Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends.





Character Interview Twenty-Four Diana – Bellator Fantasy

As part of the Bellator Promotion I am pleased to welcome character Diana to my blog.

Name (s): Diana.  I never give my family’s name to those who don’t know it already.

Age: I am a woman, but I do not know my exact age.  I left my family to train with my master when I was around 18, but the years have blended some since then due to the nature of my training.

Please tell us a little about yourself.   I live in the woods, I love the trees and mountains and the wind.  I love my knife.  It is a part of me.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less.  Tall, my hair matches the tree branches, fair skinned.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it?  If you carry evil in your heart, I will seek you out.  I will make you disappear, before you realise I am there.  That is my ‘moral code.’

Would you kill for those you love? Yes.

Would you die for those you love? Of course.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?  My strengths involve the ability to kill when necessary.  I’m fast, and a rather good huntress.  My weakness….*looks down at the ground* is that I cannot bear to be around people, even those I love for a particularly long time.  I depend upon solitude and secrecy.  The best way I can show love to those I care for is to destroy any evil that threatens them.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Why? One of my brothers…*heavy silence*….and my sister.  We are connected by blood, and they always showed me love, accepted me for what I am.  Not everyone is so lucky with their blood relations.  Sometimes those ties turn out to mean little.

Do you like animals? Do you have any pets/animal companions?  I do like innocent animals, I respect all creatures.  I rely on animals in the wild for some of my nourishment.  I do not have any animal companions.
Do you have a family? Tell us about them. *silent but visible sigh* Yes.  I mentioned before.  I have parents.  My father is an honorable man.  My mother is a good woman who, did the best she could for all of us.  I have a beautiful, loving little sister and a very honorable, strong brother – only one year apart from me in age.  I…have another sibling.  But for many reasons, I do not wish to discuss him now.  *jaw clenches, eyes glaze and she strokes the hilt of her knife*

Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? How do you think it influences you?  Many things.  But I suppose my siblings inspired in me the desire to protect.  My father and brother let me hunt with them. Because of my speed, and sense of smell, I was allowed to go ahead.  I made sure there were never any large predators that would threaten them.  They are both big, capable males but I will look out for them where they cannot look out for themselves.   And my loving sister with her warm spirit, *eyes fill up as she looks away to regain composure* how could I not desire a life entirely devoted to ensuring her safety?

Do you have any phobias?  No.  There are things I find unpleasant, and I do not wish for pain.  But I will let nothing stand in my way of doing what I must.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.  *Barely there smirk* If I sensed you had invited unholy ones to reside within you?  I would destroy your very soul with my bare hands.

Tell Us About Your World

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live.   My world is…beautiful.  I know of small villages like the one I grew up in, where we live by farming and  some hunting.  The villages are in the flat land between the mountains and the forest. There have always been warriors, for protection, though…until lately there hasn’t been quite as great of a need for their services. I love the woods of course, that is where I live – for protection.  But I do love standing alone in the vast open tall grass field that exists between the mountain, forest, and the village.  It makes me feel free and connected to all things.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? If so do you follow one of them? Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour.   I suppose you could say we believe in good and evil, and quite simply – we embrace one or the other. There is a higher, benevolent Power, but that gigantic entity does not step in and sort every little problem.  There is a Netherworld King and he has many servants.  I suppose, for me…ultimately passion is power.  How passionate you are determines how far you would go to be good…or evil.

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where?  Of course, I travel mainly in the woods and the outskirts that lead to other villages.  I scour the moutain sides.  I will go to any little nooks and crannies where evil thinks it can hide.

Name and describe a food from your world.  *smiles* I do love my mother’s chicken roasted with butter.  *then smile fades*. But where I am, I find wild birds suitable for roasting.  The meat is juicy and pleasant enough.

Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world?  It does have magic.  My world is…or was…very innocent.  Most know that magic exists, but to see those who can wield aspects of it…it does not always make for a contented community.  *puts her head down again* it is part of the reason I had to leave.  Not all people can do what I can, and I did not wish to call any unnecessary attention to my family.

What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.)  Politics?  I suppose this ‘Meritocracy’ is the closest to what we have.  In the villages, those who are best at leading, at dealing with people, those who possess intelligence, and sometimes retired great warriors, like my father, those are the ones who have a stronger voice in the communities.   At the moment…’goodness’ is valued….

Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another?  Races?  Different family histories you mean?  Different shades of flesh?  Yes, there are.  But I don’t see why that would make people not get on…*pauses for a longer period of time*.  What makes us, ‘not get on’ in our world involves those who are willing to conjure entities in order to gain power.  *clenches jaw and fists again*…someone who holds the same blood that runs through your veins can ‘not get on’…*swallows and looks up* yet I suppose a stranger could share warmth from their own heart.

Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people.  When I was a child, my father, he told me about a group of ‘warrior witches’ who lived in the forest.  They never stayed together, never in the same place.  But they were aware of all forms of existence within their world.  They knew darkness so well, what it tasted like, smelled like and so forth that they recognised it and could overpower even the strongest of entities.   Because, they had been so close to evil…there was no way for it to hide from them.  They didn’t fear it.   My master…Master Aaron.  Frederick, he is my brother *sublte but proud smile*.  He told me how Master Aaron lost part of his arm, and came to walk with a limp by taking his sword against the Netherworld King without fear.  No one knows how old Master Aaron is,  but Frederick says that he fears nothing, he desires no power or glory despite constant temptation to rule all. He lived in seclusion…until he came to train me.  It was an honour to be chosen by him.

What is the technology level for your world/place of residence? What item would you not be able to live without? Technology?  *confused look*  We have…tools and make good use of water.  My mother’s stove was wonderful at cooking chicken.   But for me, I could not be without my knife.

Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Please tell us about some.   *stills completely* We have demons, different levels of mischevious entities.  I’ve mentioned the Netherworld King.

Within your civilisation what do you think is the most important discovery/invention?
 At the moment, the most important ‘discovery’ is that someone is conjuring spirits, seeking the one from below to enter the souls and hearts of others. There is a sorcerer who desires great power.  I am hunting everywhere for evidence of him.  

Name three persons of influence/renown within your society and tell why they are influential (Could be someone like Christ/Mandela/Queen Elizabeth or a renowned figure from a non-human/fantasy world.) 
Master Aaron.  He is very special because even though it is known he has, ‘abilities’ he is allowed to live in peace.  He was a great, fearless warrior who would stand up against the most loathesome of enemies simply to protect the goodness in our world.  Few warriors can lay claim to his level of bravery and skill.

My father:  He is a humble man, but a great one and he was a great warrior in his time.  He is very large, rather like a bear.  He is terrifying, but full of warmth and love. *smiling again* I’m not sure who Frederick will be more like – Master Aaron or my father.  But my father is respected for his quiet wisdom in our village.  But he is devoted to my mother, to his children.  He has fit into whatever roles necessary to benefit his family, to be a good part of his community.  I’ve never seen any decent person look at him with anything but respect.  I will always honor him by protecting what he loves in the best way I can.

The warrior witches:  I do not know their names, but I know they are there.   They are the unknown,silent force that the evil ones fear.   To me, they are influential and renowned.  Though I never see them, it is the closest thing to constant companionship I know.  Because I know…I know I am one of them.


Author notes:

Book(s) in which this character appears plus links.  Diana appears in a short story entitled ‘With Our Own Blood’ in the Bellator anthology.

Author name Jessica Nicholls

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.


facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jessica-Nicholls/1414557452090470

twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaNicholl1


nicholls quote art bellator anthology - wounded warriors

Character Interview Number Twenty-Three Kilig the Sword

Welcome to Kilig

Name (s) Kilig the Sword (birth name: Karuna)

Age: 30ish

Please tell us a little about yourself. I was fifth of ten children, exploited by my own father until Acharya Saif saved me from my life in the slums. Hence Karuna the Sorrowful became Kilig the Sword.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less. A dark-haired brooding beau.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it? I’m an assassin, and we do have a moral code: never hurt women or children. And we don’t use poisons. We’re honorable men (and a few women).

Would you kill for those you love? I kill for a living, but mostly the undeserving – abusive husbands, unjust men of power…

Would you die for those you love? Absolutely. My life is worthless without them.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses? I’m strong and determined and a pro – a senior member of the Assassins’ Guild of Godwalkar – my only weakness is my heart. When I fall in love, I fall really hard.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Why The first was with Acharya Saif, who trained me and helped me to become an assassin. I thought we’d live happily ever after, but after only two years he dumped me to raise a son he never knew he had. And when he died, fifteen years later, he bestowed his son on me. So now Hakeem stole my heart, like his father did, and I’m in trouble again.

Do you have a family? Tell us about them. Of those ten children, only two survived besides me. And my brother reminds me too much of my father – we haven’t talked in years. I see my sister when I can, my cousins even less. My new family is the Assassins’ Guild, I guess…

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live. I was born in the slums of Godwalkar, former capital of the Kingdom of Gajendra, five years after the last king was killed. It’s a very mixed town since the underground people, who call themselves the Genn, joined us as regular citizens. It’s a big city, built at the crossing of two rivers and surrounded by hills, and then forest and mountains to the north, a plain to the south-east and up to the coast. It is now a city-state with a town council run by the Genn.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? If so do you follow one of them? Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour. Each country or city-state has its own religion, but most of the Humans are polytheists. I heard up north someone is preaching a single god, but personally I don’t believe in any. None of them helped me during my childhood, so I stopped believing.

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where? I go on assignments for my Guild, and I’ve been as far as Jevina, another former capital of a kingdom that is no more. I’ve never been to the place that gave birth to the Assassins’ Guild some centuries ago, though. Agharek is too far south, and has its own version of the guild – our founder came from there, but he changed the rules a little.

Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world? Humans are pretty hopeless, but if they mate with members of the Magical Races, they can be very powerful. I don’t know the source of their magic, and in spite of having a half-blood friend, I have no idea of how it works – and neither has she, I’m afraid!

Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another? The Humans have different colors of skin or eyes or hair, but they differ only in their culture, that sometimes clashes even if they’re – for example – all blond and blue-eyed (I’ve heard in the north the Varians and the Blackmores are tearing each other apart in an endless war, and they have the same origin. In the south we’ve been at peace for a long time, in spite of the fall of all our kings).

Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Please tell us about some. We have the Magical Races. So far only the Genn seem to be able to live with us – and through them we can sight Sila from time to time. I once helped kill a half-Fajrulo, but they’re shape shifters, so who knows if and how many are among us. I’ve never seen a Waiora. The Genn are Ether’s people, the Sila are Air’s, the Waiora Water’s and the Fajrulo Fire’s (Humans are Earth’s in case you were wondering). They believe our world is under the supervision of five Immortals, the aforementioned elements. Being a non-believer myself, I’ll let you be the judge on who’s right. They claim it’s fact, not religion, but who knows…

Author notes:

Book(s) in which this character appears plus links

Saif’s Legacy (also included in the anthology Male Lovers of Silvery Earth – Kilig and Hakeem are on the cover there as well)

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/385653

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Saifs-Legacy-Barbara-G-Tarn-ebook/dp/B00H5RVNYS

Amazon.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Saifs-Legacy-Barbara-G-Tarn-ebook/dp/B00H5RVNYS

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en/ebook/saif-s-legacy

Apple US: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id776870421

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/saifs-legacy-barbara-gtarn/1117635574?ean=2940148864189

Kilig will be featured in Guisarme, submitted to Wyrd Worlds II, out sometime in September. In the fall the rest of his story will be published, first a prequel, Saif&Kilig, then Kilig’s Heart. The print version will be available when the story is complete.
Author name

Barbara G.Tarn
Website/Blog/Author pages etc.

blog: http://creativebarbwire.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Barb-aka-Barbara-GTarn/175559797281

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4717133.Barbara_G_Tarn

Author Central http://www.amazon.com/Barbara-G.Tarn/e/B0050P0R2G

Where to find everything (although the i-bookstore link seems to be broken):


Review – Sub Rosa – Fairytale retelling

Sub Rosa by Mia Darien

4 Stars



Short and sweet:) This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast – with a twist. I fell it could have done with being a wee bit longer but it was fun for a short read and quite cleverly executed. The main characters were interesting, and pretty different – one modern and one trapped in the past. The twist really worked, and made the outcome more poignant. Only a couple of things niggled – it felt a little rushed and was a bit choppy and some of the other characters could have been fleshed out more. That said it WAS a short story.

Overall well done and I’ll be looking out for more from this author.