lesley conner

Why Revive the Drive?

If you follow Apex Magazine, you probably know we’re currently running a promotion called Revive the Drive. It’s a mix of subscription drive, fundraiser, and an excuse to have some fun (the Pumpkin vs. Oz cuteness showdown, the live stream of It Follows commentary).

We called it “Revive the Drive” because we cut our annual drive short back in November after the election. It was a time of celebration for Trump supporters. It was a time of sadness for Clinton supporters. Nobody was in the mood to spend money. Bigger things were going on.

Also, being raised a Southern Baptist in the hills, I’ve always had a thing for revivals.

But why do a drive at all?

Fair question.

Apex Magazine makes enough via regular promotions and day-to-day sales to maintain the status quo. But what’s a life if you’re not always trying to improve? We want to increase our author, artist, and editor pay. We also desperately, and I mean DESPERATELY, need to hire a part-time assistant editor. Lesley and I struggle to keep our heads above water at times.

There are also plans to expand how much fiction we publish each month, but that’ll require a bit more than our $10,000 goal.

But really? This is all a grand scheme to make Lesley Conner watch and live tweet It Follows with me.

Book Review: The Weight of Chains

The Weight of Chains by Lesley Conner

The Weight of Chains by Lesley Conner

The Weight of Chains (Sinister Grin Press) is an eye-opening debut novel from Lesley Conner. You might remember Lesley from her “What Say You” post a couple weeks back. She’s a sweet-faced Girl Scout leader who writes horror that makes even *me* cringe.

Set in 15th century France, this historical-horror novel contains two fast-pace plot threads that combine for a satisfying and horrific conclusion. We’re introduced to Jeanetta, a hardworking eleven-year-old girl who has moved to the village of Machecoul with her family. In true peasant fashion, they’re poor and the family is always on the brink of starvation. To ease the burden on her family, Jeanetta is promised to a kindly, widowed smallpox survivor.

Gilles de Rais, the lord of Machecoul, is on a constant search for young boys… preferably fair-haired and no more than eight years old. The guy is a nasty piece of work who’s heinous crimes are documented facts. Unfortunately, de Rais is surrounded by a group of enablers, in particular, his guard, the sadistic Poitou.

As the novel progresses, Gilles de Rais’s appetites become more demanding. He enlists the help of a wizard named Prelati to summon the demon Barron with the hopes of trading blood for gold. Poitou’s search for victims becomes more aggressive as more and more boys are sent off to be a court Page in Paris by their master. It is when Poitou brings Jeanetta and her eight-year-old brother to Gilles de Rais’s castle that our two plots collide and we’re given a page-turning and somewhat unexpected conclusion.

The author has a knack for writing despicable characters: Gilles de Rais, Poitou, and Prelati all felt three dimensional and are memorable. Our young heroine, Jeanetta, comes across as a realistic eleven-year-old in an old soul’s body.

Be warned, there are buckets of gore and plenty of chilling scenes that will set off a whole set of trigger warnings. If you check out the Wikipedia page I linked earlier, you’ll understand why.

Parents with young children might wish to stay away from this one. I have a fair-haired eight-year-old son (Gilles de Rais’s favorite type) and the book made me uncomfortable at times for obvious reasons.

If you’re looking for a great Halloween read, then The Weight of Chains is worthy of your attention.

One last thought: the final chapter is one of the best I’ve read in a horror novel.

The Weight of Chains — Available at Amazon

What Say You: Lesley Conner on Gilles de Rais and The Weight of Chains

Welcome to ‘What Say You’, the first in what I hope is a regular series of guest posts. If you would like to be a featured guest, then query me and let’s make it happen.

Lesley Conner’s The Weight of Chains (Sinister Grin Press, 2015) is a visceral, dark historical fantasy that holds nothing back. She bases much of the novel’s horror on historical fact…and you know how it goes…the truth of our atrocities far exceeds any horror any one of us can imagine.

I will have a review of Lesley’s book next week. In the meantime, Lesley gives us some background regarding the main characters, the acts they performed, and the accuracy of her novel.

Very slight spoilers ahead.