Book Review: Spooky South

This monthly column, by our own H.L. Rudd, will feature book reviews for books she loves including genres like Southern Gothic, horror, fantasy, and more.


Southerners like horror stories. In the deep south, it often seems like a restless spirit is behind every tap on the window or sharp summer breeze. Maybe it’s because of our rough history or our love of tales, but either way, I grew up surrounded by a devoted, sometimes evangelical love of the supernatural.


I grew out of my belief in the supernatural, but I never stopped loving the stories. Even now, I’m quick to snap up any book about spooky southern folklore. A couple months ago, while visiting my family in Alabama, an opportunity presented itself to me. While visiting a local book chain, I came across Spooky South: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore, by S.E. Schlosser. The title, though genetic, was enough to grab my attention, and the surreal artwork was enough to sell it. I took it home with me right away.


This book contains retellings of 38 different folktales from around the southeast. It contains a map displaying the locations of each story (by number), and the numbered table of contents tells the reader exactly where each story took place. I really like this feature, and I think it adds a lot of flavor to the book, but it’s also a bit wasted on the actual executions of the retellings.


I was already familiar with a handful of these stories. Some, like the tale of the Bell Witch, are familiar to many fans of the supernatural. Others, like the Wampus Cat, are a bit more regional in their distribution. The references section in the back shows good research on the part of the author, and I don’t doubt that she put genuine work into compiling these stories, but the writing itself didn’t draw me in.


Each story is short, often only 2-3 pages, though a few are a little longer. They’re perfect for a little bit of reading before bed, and they each come with a gorgeous illustration by Paul G Hoffman. The stories are narrated in one of a couple ways (with some told in a distant third-person style like a campfire story, and certain ones having first person setups to frame them), and are pretty straight forward. They describe something scary happening to someone, the end.


That’s what holds me back from loving this collection. The stories are neat, and it’s awesome to see such a wide collection of southern folk tales, but I just wanted a little more.

That’s not to say that the book doesn’t work. I just find these retellings to be inconsistent and a little bit flat. While Thirteen Alabama Ghosts deals with similar campfire fare, it adds local history and strong, close narration to really make the story feel like it matters. The stories in Spooky South sound more like something you’d overhear in a crowded bar. And that’s okay, but for me, it wasn’t quite enough. I’d give the book a three, but the effort in research and stellar art lift it to a four. If you want to read something quick to read before bed, this could be the folktale collection for you, but don’t expect to be frightened.

You can enjoy another book review by H.L. Rudd on the second Wednesday of the month.  Read an expanded version of this book review, at her blog, 905.  


Librarian Reading

This monthly column, by our own Sara Marks, will feature new books that librarians and book bloggers are talking about.

I’m a little biased this month.  I have a connection to both books I’m going to share with you, but it’s my column and I do what I want. One of my favorite things about being a writer and librarian is that it allows me to connect with other writers and librarians and writer librarians.

P.S. I Miss You My first pick for March is P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (coming out on March 6).  Jen and I have been friends for years.  This book is for middle grade readers- that means older elementary school, middle school, and lower high school students.  It deals with teenage pregnancy, sexual identities, and communication.  It’s written in letters (epistolary). I love the book and might have used a whole package of tissues as I read the book.  I’m even tearing up now as I write this.

Here’s the blurb:

Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.

As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back.

The Lost DoorMy second pick, The Lost Door (already released on Kindle), is another book I have a connection to.  Long story short, before my first publisher closed a month before publishing my book, I paid a lot of attention to the other authors I thought I was being published with. One was Steen Jones who has just released her second book, a sequel to the one published last year.  The series, which begins with The Door Keeper and continues with The Lost Door, imagines different worlds connected through doors.  Each world has their own Door Keepers who protect it.  It was an exciting read.  I have only just started The Lost Door, so no spoilers!  This is an adult fantasy series, but young adults will enjoy it.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s been over seven years since Eden learned the truth about where she came from and that her mother was a Door Keeper from another world. Eden’s own daughter, Gabby, is about to turn 18 and learn the story herself, and about the predestined future that lay ahead of her. As fate would have it, the worlds intervene before Eden can tell her daughter the truth, throwing the family into complete and utter chaos. Gabby must find the strength to save her Mom while grappling with unbelievable realizations about herself, her family, and what it all means for her future.

This anticipated sequel to the portal fantasy, The Door Keeper, introduces interesting new characters, opens two new doors into unique and magical worlds, where our heroines must face the harsh elements and mythical creatures long thought extinct. The Lost Door explores the circle of mother/daughter legacy, the unbreakable bond of family, and the sometimes inescapable repetition of the past.

Want more?  Check out Sara’s blog, Book Club of 1, where she talks about her own experiences as writer and sometimes suggests books to her readers.  Her column will be featured on the first Wednesday of each month.  Want to see more books suggested by librarians, check out Library Reads.

Meet Our Authors: Wil Redd

Wil ReddWil Redd is imaginary. It is a disguise used to distract the reader from the fact that the man behind the mask is a charlatan. Mr. Redd is a professional bad cat behavior enabler, assistant pop-culture t-shirt tester, and former heavy-weight champion of the crushed dreams league. His physical body lives somewhere in Lowell, MA with his beloved Fiancée, a pair of monochromatic cats, and a barky little mutt.
Wil is another long time member and the editors of the Mill Pages magazine.  In volume one you can read his story “What If All There Is To Life Is That Pat Benatar Song On Repeat?” and in volume two you can read “Magdalena Saw a Dragon.”
How did you get started writing?

I can’t remember the first time I started writing, but I can tell you I’ve always been a storyteller. As a little kid, my explanations for things included very convoluted stories that delighted my grandfather, and I’m not sure anyone else. Bottom line, I started early.

What types of stories do you like to write?

I like to write absurd stories. My go-to genres are science fiction, horror, surrealism, fantasy, and short stories.

Who influenced you most as a writer?

I think R.L. Stine influenced me more than I’d like to admit, particularly in the beginning. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Edgar Allan Poe, Aldous Huxley, Ernest Hemingway, and Alice Murno.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

The first book I remember reading was in Spanish “El Gato Con Botas.” [Puss in Boots] by Charles Perrault. The first novel I read was “The Haunted Mask,” from the Goosebumps from R. L. Stine.

What movie, tv-show, YouTube channel, or blog do you think more people should watch (just pick one) and why?

Legion. It’s a masterclass in cinematography, adaptation, and storytelling.

5 Things you want us to know about you:

  1. I would love to write for video games.
  2. I was a full redhead when I was a kid.
  3. In another life, I was a dodo.
  4. I talk to animals like if they were people.
  5. I was born in Puerto Rico.

Don’t for get Mill Pages volume 1, to read “What If All There Is To Life Is That Pat Benatar Song On Repeat? and volume 2 to read Magdalena Saw a Dragon.”

Meet Our Authors: Matthew H. Jones

Matthew H. JonesMatthew H. Jones writes. Obviously, there’s more to him than that, but the fact of his writing, in this context, is the most important thing. He also lives in Lowell, attends classes at UMass Lowell, and has uneven legs. He encourages you to seek out his books, to decide whether he writes well or poorly. He’s been accused of doing both. If you’d like to know about him or his writing, try screaming his name at a south bound bird. If he doesn’t appear, try his social media links: Facebook and Twitter.

As one of our founding members and current leader, Matthew H. Jones has helped shaped the direction of the Mill Pages writing group.  When he isn’t writing with us, he also writes urban fantasy, including No Magic For Luke Peters, the first book in his Luke Peters series.  His work is included in both editions of Mill Pages.  In volume 1, you can read the first chapter in No Magic for Luke Peters and in volume 2 you can read Do You Regret Me?

No Magic for Luke PetersHow did you get started writing?

I honestly don’t know. Since I was very little, I would make up stories. Ask for writing seriously – writing to be published -, that’s a moving goal post. I wrote an 114,000-word manuscript, and I thought I was serious then. The manuscript was completely unedited and had plot holes big enough to drive trucks through. I also queried agents at random with a multiple-paged query letter. Looking back, I wasn’t serious.  

What types of stories do you like to write?

I’m goofy for violence. It’s come to the plot that I’m proud of myself when people in my stories argue instead of kick and punch. I want to be funny and sometimes, I succeed. However, my stories hang in dark corners.

Who influenced you most as a writer?

I read Stephen King a lot, and I will readily take his advice.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

The Henry and Mudge series: I’m not exactly sure why I read so many of these ready-to-read books. I remember my school’s librarian knew I read this series exclusively and I lost one of her books. Until I returned it, I couldn’t take out another book. I ended up paying the library for the book but the book was never replaced.

What movie, TV-show, YouTube channel, or blog do you think more people should watch (just pick one) and why?

In modern life, there is too much culture. It’s way more acceptable to “miss out” on certain things. When there were ten channels to choose from and they all went off by midnight, required reading made more sense. If I can retool the question to say “What shows do I wish people got behind so I could still watch it,” then I’d say Alphas. The show cost next to nothing and the writing kicked ass. If Supernatural could have twelve seasons, why did Alphas only get two? Granted, the two leads on Supernatural are beautiful in a way that even heterosexual men have to admit. But, Alphas had a pretty boy; half as many, so they should have gotten half as many seasons, at least.    

5 Things you want us to know about you:

  1. I’m a liar and insincere as hell. Half of my personality hangs off of guiltily hiding the fact that I forgot someone’s name and how I know them.
  2. I understand that I’m likable because people seem to like me. However, if I knew someone like me, I don’t think I’d hang out with him.
  3. In conversation, I will sometimes stop paying attention because something you said gave me an idea for a story. I was with friends last night, talking about drinking games. ”You don’t even have to watch the movie; I’ll just tell you when to drink.” That made me think of a cute, Jewish woman being the personification of Alcoholism, following you around, randomly commanding you to get drunk.
  4. Many writers place great importance of the names of their characters. In most cases, I place no importance at all. I think it was wrong-headed to name Remus Lupin that. When his parents were figuring out a name for him, did his father say: “I bet he’ll be the kind of guy who gets attacked by werewolves. Instead of protecting him from that fate, let’s give everyone else a hint at how clever we are”? Han Solo isn’t cool because George Lucas named him that.
  5. I like beer. I drink it, too.

Buy your copy of  No Magic For Luke Peters, the first book in his Luke Peters series.  Don’t for get Mill Pages volume 1, to read the first chapter in No Magic for Luke Peters and volume 2 to read Do You Regret Me?

Book Review: 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey


This monthly column, by our own H.L. Rudd, will feature book reviews for books she loves including genres like Southern Gothic, horror, fantasy, and more.


As a child, I adored our school library.

And every elementary school library in rural Alabama had a copy of 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, by Kathryn Tucker Windham. Huddling around the librarian and listening to this charming collection of local ghost stories was a right of passage during my youth.

Thirteen Alabama Ghosts is treasured as a part of southern folklore. According to legend, the author was inspired to write it after buying a haunted house and encountering its ghost, Jeffrey. After her own haunting, Windham decided to compile a series of ghost stories from across the state of Alabama.

That’s something that made the book special to us as children. It wasn’t just a collection of ghost stories. They were (supposedly) true, and they happened in our own backyard. We could get out a map of the state and point to the spot where the hauntings supposedly happened.

What’s the value to us now? Upon reading it again, I find entirely new merit to the book: it’s attention to detail and historical accuracy. I’m not going to claim that the stories are all true or that the historical accounts are flawless, because this is folklore. These are tales told by grandmothers to grandchildren, or gossiped about at the corner store. But Windham put great attention into preserving them, and she accompanies each location with a rich description of the location itself, as well as its place in time. She even includes photographs of the historical buildings where many of the stories take place.

The stories are bold, too. They don’t read like a dynamic, crafted narrative. They read like campfire stories. Therefore, many of them are on the predictable side. There aren’t many frightening twists, but that’s now what it’s about. They’re bold because they don’t shy away from the true history of the south.

Most of the stories reach back to the Civil War and the days of slavery, and the book doesn’t hide that. It’s something that little southern children needed to read – an honest piece of southern history. Something that doesn’t lie, but still speaks with conversational affection. This book isn’t here to confront the south’s dark history, but it acknowledges and embraces it.

If you want a book filled with chilling, shocking, elegantly written horror tales, this isn’t the book for you. But if you love campfire stories and want to delve into some regional history and well-crafted folklore, I highly recommend Thirteen Alabama Ghosts. It probably won’t scare you, but it’s got a dark charm that you don’t have to be from Alabama to enjoy.

You can enjoy another book review by H.L. Rudd on the second Wednesday of the month.  Read an expanded version of this book review, at her blog, 905.  

Librarian Reading

This monthly column, by our own Sara Marks, will feature new books that librarians and book bloggers are talking about.

Let me start with an introduction.  I’m not just a writer, but also a librarian.  I’m specifically an academic librarian.  That means I don’t get to suggest pleasurable reading to people.  Academic librarians help you write research papers and find evidence to support points you’re making in said papers.  I read SO many books.  I am sent SO many books from publishers.  I want you to read ALL the books.  Welcome to the column where I get to fill this hole in my heart by suggesting books to you.

Each month I will share two books that librarians and book bloggers are talking about.  They will always be new releases, but I may not have read them.  Yes, I sometimes get previews of books, but I also have a TBR bookshelf full of books to be read.  I’ll be giving you the blurb, some genre details, and why it caught my attention.

I got both these books this summer as previews to be able to suggest to readers.  One I haven’t gotten a chance to read yet.  The other I read as soon as it arrive in my mail box.

An American MarriageAn American Marriage by Tayari Jones (coming out on February 6th) is a book I was going to gift to someone until I read the blurb on the back for a second time.  Here it is:

“Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.”

This is contemporary fiction about the New South, racism, and life after prison.  It is something to consider taking to your book club this year!

Mister Tender's GirlMister Tender’s Girl by Carter Wilson (coming out on February 13th) is one I loved.  I love horror books, especially ones about the horrors we do to each other.  It has already been optioned to be a TV series!    Here’s the blurb:

“How far are you willing to go for Mister Tender?

At fourteen, Alice Hill was viciously attacked by two of her classmates and left to die. The teens claim she was a sacrifice for a man called Mister Tender, but that could never be true: Mister Tender doesn’t exist. His sinister character is pop-culture fiction, created by Alice’s own father in a series of popular graphic novels.

Over a decade later, Alice has changed her name and is trying to heal. But someone is watching her. They know more about Alice than any stranger could: her scars, her fears, and the secrets she keeps locked away. She can try to escape her past, but Mister Tender is never far behind. He will come with a smile that seduces, and a dark whisper in her ear…

Inspired by a true story, this gripping thriller plunges you into a world of haunting memories and unseen threats, leaving you guessing until the harrowing end.”

Unlike other upcoming Slender Man inspired stories, this one focuses on what would happen to a victim who survived such a terrible attack.  Then it adds in the suspense and horror of what happens to her as an adult.  It was powerful and bananas!  This is one that might keep people up late at night either to read more of it or… well, with nightmares!

Those are my two picks for the month.  Come back and tell me, in the comments, what you thought of these picks!  Feel free to suggest others books for me to read too!

Want more?  Check out Sara’s blog, Book Club of 1, where she talks about her own experiences as writer and sometimes suggests books to her readers.  Her column will be featured on the first Wednesday of each month.  Want to see more books suggested by librarians, check out Library Reads.

Meet Our Authors: H.L. Rudd

H.L. RuddH.L.Rudd was born and raised in the rural reaches of northeastern Alabama. Her parents were a pair of lovable hippies, and her stepfather was an ex-catholic Italian from Boston. Needless to say, Alabama didn’t work out. In the land of hunting, hiking, and high school football, she preferred reading collections of spooky southern folk tales and surfing the southeast’s unforgivably slow internet. In Alabama’s defense, it was the 90s.

Today, she lives in Massachusetts, where she still loves her creepy stories, but can’t quite get over the shortage of all-night diners. Even so, she loves Massachusetts, and has been part of the Mill Pages writing group ever since discovering it. This is her first real Massachusetts home, and she’s honored to be a part of it.

Hannah’s short story, “Unicorn”, is included in our anthology volume 2.  You can follow her blog, 905, where she shares more about her life and more of her stories!  You will be able to read more from her here at the Mill Pages blog when she posts book reviews.

How did you get started writing?

A couple different things lead up to it, but there is one moment in particular. Like any other kid, I used to play pretend and make up little adventures for my toys and things like that, but it didn’t really think about writing fiction until the 7th grade. I started off by writing little snippets for assignments in English class. That’s not exactly voluntary, though, so I don’t count it.
My English teacher was incredibly supportive, so I moved from doing little assignments for class to writing little pieces of my own. But it became important to my when I posted my first story online.
I posted it on a dingy, long-forgotten forum on the early 2000s internet. I didn’t expect much to come of it, but when I checked the next day, a single anonymous comment was waiting for me.

“You’re good at this,” it said. “You should do more.”

That was the encouragement I needed. Parents and teachers, I felt, always had some measure of obligation. The anonymous internet doesn’t owe anything to anybody.

What types of stories do you like to write?

I’ve been swingings swords and slaying dragons since I could pick up a stick, and it’s hard to find a brand of fantasy that I haven’t dipped my toes into, either as a reader or a writer. I lean towards politically-oriented period fantasy; it gives me a great chance to inject some of my love of history into my work, though I don’t write any true historical fiction.

I’m also enjoy writing horror. My first novel-length project is a psychological horror piece, which I hope to finish in the near future. Horror themes speak to me – my sense of humor, my taste in ambience, it all leans a little dark.

Who influenced you most as a writer?

There are a lot, but I ought to be diplomatic and choose one, right? There were plenty of important fantasy and sci fi series in my youth, but there’s a stand out winner: Anne McCaffrey, author of Dragonriders of Pern. It’s not the first series I loved, but it’s the first series that I allowed to swallow me. I’d never loved anything so deeply, and I can see its influence in my work now. Thank you, Dragonlady.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

Not counting actual children’s books, it’s probably either The Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate, or The Hobbit by Tolkien. I can’t recall which was first.

What movie, tv-show, YouTube channel, or blog do you think more people should watch (just pick one) and why?

Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. It’s a science and philosophy channel with excellent information and wonderful presentation. I believe it’s important for people to be scientifically literate and to think more deeply about their world. This channel is one of the most fascinating I’ve found.

5 Things you want us to know about you:

  1. I grew up in rural Alabama. I’ve relocated to Massachusetts and I absolutely love it here, but the connection to the south will always be a part of me.
  2. I hold a graduate degree in history, and I love incorporating history into my writing.
  3. I used to own a comic book and game store. I sold it to pursue a career as a teacher.
  4. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
  5. I’m absolutely terrified of aliens! I’m talking about the traditional Grays, with the big, almond-shaped eyes. I used to have nightmares about them as a child, and ever since then, they scare the life out of me!