I’m Rebecca Jones-Howe, an emerging author of neo-noir horror. I’ve published two collections of short fiction, Vile Men and Ending in Ashes. I’m currently at work on a black comedy novella trilogy.

Ending in Ashes

An ode to retro gothic paperbacks, Ending in Ashes is a collection of 11 short stories that recycle the best pulpy gothic suspense tropes with a voice of feminist transgression.

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“Before you pick up Ending in Ashes, be aware that it isn’t a collection of short stories; it’s a study in heartbreak, longing, and rage.”

— Caitlin Marceau, author of This is Where We Talk THings OUt



Click on the tabs to read a sample form each story in Ending in Ashes.

Annie’s phone rang in the middle of the night.

“Please come home,” Chris pleaded, voice sloppy. “I hate sleeping without you.”

“I can’t,” Annie said. “I’m done, Chris.”

“No, you’re not.”

She hung up, but the phone rang a second time. Then a third. She blocked his number, replacing his desperation with the sound of walking footsteps above.

— excerpt from “The Red House”

The bell announced him. He ordered a coffee and found a booth beside the window. He took no cream or sugar to mute the harshness of the brew. The bright now contrasted his metal-rimmed glasses and his unkempt hair. Hunched over the table, he clasped at the hot ceramic of his mug, cling like he needed the extra warmth. Clinging just like her.

It didn’t take him long to notice Erin watching. His lips pursed. He did a double take an seized.

He remembered her.

— excerpt from “Hostages”

Veronica didn’t cry after Finn’s death. She went to the morgue to identify her husband’s face, which wasn’t much of one after the accident.

His hear was swollen, eyes bulbous, the flesh of his lips turn away to reveal the toothy grimace of the demon that had been hiding beneath.

Veronica kept his motorcycle jacket. The black leather was stained with his blood, but she put it on after his funeral, threw her suitcase in the car, and drove aimlessly.

She ended up at the asylum, or rather, what used to be the asylum.

Now, it was a luxury hotel.

— excerpt from “A Patient, A Guest”

I found her on a bench before the bluffs, her hair like a yellow flame and a star tattoo beside her left eye. She held a bottle of vodka in one hand and a knife in the other. The handle was intricately carved, but it was the dried blood on the blade that drew my attention.

She grinned. “You’ve got strong-looking arms. I bet you’re good a moving things.”

The ocean roared, but I couldn’t pull my gaze from the red caked beneath her nails. “Is that your blood?” I asked.

“Some of it is.” The swell broke against the rocks behind her, casting a mist over her mangy locks. She beamed. Her eyes glistened. “I’ll show you where the rest of it came from, if you want.”

— from “The Lantern”

I sliced the first piece carefully, trimming around the little roses so as not to sever them. The pie tasted just as it looked. Sweet. Spicy. I bit into its dark streaks, which held the strong taste of cider. The crust was tender, the crisp gentle beneath my bite. I served myself a second slice, followed by a third, and then my indulgence reigned, and I consumed the entire dish. I licked my lips, licked at my fingers, licked at the remains on the aluminum plate until I tasted blood.

— from “A Lesson in Sophistication”

The moon was full on your honeymoon. It’s still full now, its white light pressing through the trees surrounding your little villa. The room’s mirrored ceiling reflects the woman you always aspired to be, sprawled on the heart-shaped bed in your blue peignoir set, nipples erect against sheer nylon. Your long copper curls coil between the pillows. Your legs are parted, and your arms are splayed above you, eyes swollen and crusted with tears.

— from “Honeymoon”

“My mom says you’re a hero.” The boy nodded at the tags that had slipped from beneath Frederick’s collar.

Frederick crumpled the dandelion in his palm and stood. “Being a hero isn’t what they say it is.”

“I bet your wife thinks you’re a hero,” the boy said. “Your wife always goes for walks at night. It’s so funny. Once, she knocked on our door and she wasn’t wearing anything!”

Frederick tucked the tags back where they belonged. He wiped his forehead, smearing the yellow guts of the dandelion on his face. “She’s a sleepwalker,” he said. “If you see her, you shouldn’t wake her.”

— from “The Walking Hours”

Matthew’s old room faced the overgrown rear garden. Jacqueline pushed the burgundy curtains open, and the room seemed to moan beneath the light, the deep reds and mauves swelling like an open wound.

She turned back to the suitcase on the bed.

It was was servants did, was pry.

But then the piano started. The melody worked through the empty mansion like birdsong. It hypnotized Jacqueline for a moment as she fingered the latches.

— from “The Fruits of Wartime”

The man made good work of the tree. His ax slipped into the trunk, severing limbs and revealing the wood’s rotted insides. He exerted so much effort while making his task seem easy.

Mary found herself fixated. She stood at her door, flesh prickling hot with the rash that kept her isolated in her cottage, often for days on end. Normally the rash affected her hands, but now the burn shifted to her chest, making her heart beat sparks inside her. With that prinking came a desire. A need.

— from “Woman of the White Cottage”

The newspapers wrote of the girls. Victoria bit like a snake. Daniela was shrill as a banshee. The articles described my fury, my tempter. Columns detailed the fine silk and brocade of my gowns and the hours of labor that went into constructing them.

William had the papers brought to us at dinner. He read every article aloud. “She is said to be of fiery temper, snapping at even the slightest of inconsistencies. She is vapid. She is vile. She is vain.”

He sipped our finest wine and continued until my face heated and my tears flowed hot. Then he set his glass down and rose form the table. He shook my shoulder in his cold grasp and smiled. “You, my dear, are just as rapacious as I.”

— from “Little Black Death”

“Are you going to kill me?” she asked.

He wanted to. Her neck fit so perfectly in his grasp. Giles tightened his hold until her pulse raced against his fingers, beating in time with his. “You are naught like the other,” he said.

The candle flickered, making her lips look like a smile. Women never smiled for him, so he wiped her lips to see if her smile was real.

— from “In His Hands”