I’ve got a lot on my plate and have been taking whatever free time I have on my hand to both chill the fuck out and also get some shit done. Both these things are nearly impossible when I’m on my day off and trying to find me time in a house full of screaming kids, but here we are. It’s another month. I’ve got another story called “In His Hands” to tell you about and it comes out in the new “witches & cauldrons” issue of The Crow’s Quill on September 1st. So let me tell you all about “In His Hands” in this new moodboard, because this story is uh…it’s something else.
“In His Hands” Premise
In a 17th century village, hangman Giles spends his days hanging witches. At night, he moonlights as a vicious serial killer, only to find his behavioural patterns disrupted when he is unable to kill his latest victim, a young woman named Dorcas.
Some 17th Century Movies
Like many, I found myself watching the 3-part Fear Street movie series earlier this summer. I did review the first film but failed to keep up with the rest because IT HAS BEEN THE WORST SUMMER OF MY LIFE in BC, and I just…I had to cut myself some slack. Anyway, I did also enjoy Part 2, but Part 3 was even more fun for me because I always live for some good old-timey village aesthetic.
My only qualm with the 1666 setting was some of the historical inaccuracies. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was never gonna be like Mad Men-levels of purity to the time period. I just like being bitchy about this kind of stuff.
But you know what 17th century film IS known for being historically accurate that I still hadn’t watched up until that point? The VVitch. So, one faithful night I gave myself a night off writing and I finally got up the courage to watch it. I went in knowing it didn’t have a lot of the standard scares expected of most horror films but my gosh I loved everything about The VVitch. The isolation? The restrictive binds of the family’s faith? The ultimate impending dread of how everything unwinds? That line, “Wouldn’st thou like to live deliciously?” It all inspired the crap out of me.
And so I set to write my own 17th century witch hunt story.
My New Obsession with Puritanical Salem Village
After my son was born I got way into witch hunt documentaries. There aren’t many available online, but they proved a fascinating watch, particularly this one, which is old and cheesy but I thought they managed to blend the dramatizations and the factual interludes into a pretty engaging watch.
There’s a lot of lore and stereotypes behind the Salem Witch Trials but what I love most is diving into just how royally messed up the Puritans could be, and just how many of those condemning values still hold strong significance in modern American culture.
One of my favourite subjects about dissenting what caused the hysteria behind the witch hunt was the original girls who started breaking out into spasms. Many theorize that the kids simply couldn’t handle both the expectations of them, as well as the pretty terrifying goings-on around them.
Another thing I like about this documentary, in particular, is the illustrated effect they create of the village itself. I friggin’ love colonial houses. They’re so cute and just evoke the witchy aesthetic so well. “In His Hands” doesn’t really focus a lot on architecture, but I did submerge myself in a lot of old Salem images for the sake of keeping the time period cemented in my head.
Yet Another “Kidnapping” Story…
You all know that I have with weird love of kidnapping stories. Or stories with devious dudes in them. I do like stories that follow serial killers (except for some reason I have no desire to watch You, because when I read the book synopsis back in the day, it just… it felt too blunt with its whole “dude obsessed with a woman” concept).
Giles in this case, is both a killer at work and a killer at home. He was inspired a bit by Patrick Bateman, but you know, a 17th century Patrick Bateman. I did try to do a little research on the actual dude (or dudes) who did the hanging during the actual Salem witch trials but that’s something even the experts have no idea about.
…About A “Vile” Man
At its core, the story is yet another story about an insecure man who feels faceless in his own community. He tries his damndest to be seen and heard and to receive accolades for his evil deeds. By the end of the story, he realizes that he’s not really much of a Ted Bundy after all.
A Touch of Humour
One thing that I like to add to most of my “beta male” stories, as I often refer to my fiction about men, is a bit of humour. They often come off tongue-in-cheek and transgressive, as my minimalist origins would have me tell these tales.
This time around, well, I was writing in the gothic genre. Honestly, embracing this genre has done a lot for me. Many agents who rejected my novel often said it had some gothic feel. I haven’t touched the thing since that last rejection. Since then, I’ve written 6 stories for Quill & Crow Publishing House. With every one, I feel like I take one of my story themes, toss it into a time period, and am forced to make it goth. (“Woman of the White Cottage” was about female sexuality. “The Fruits of Wartime” was about the thrill of a dangerous relationship. “Little Black Death” was essentially a breakup story. (They keep asking me for stuff and it’s been the most thrilling challenge to write these stories. They’ve been nothing but amazing and supportive to me, too!)
“In His Hands” is, well, both a kidnapping story and a cuckold story, but uh… you’ll just have to read it to find out what I’m talking about. I had all these elements to cram together and didn’t think I’d manage to compact it all into a 2000 word-limit. But I managed. I feel good about it.
Maybe soon I can get back to giving The View From the Basement its proper goth rewrite.
The “In His Hands” Playlist
I was really inspired by the soundtrack for The VVitch and wanted to keep that authentic sound to my playlist, but of course, I couldn’t entirely keep my music choices within that aesthetic. I did discover a lovely indie artist, Agnes Obel, while searching for songs, as well as, Marika Hackman, who’s song “Skin” just fit this story SO PERFECTLY.
I loved putting this playlist together. It’s sad but moody and also really vindictive. It was quite easily one of my fave WIP playlists to write to, quite honestly.
Want to read “In His Hands”?
Keep your eyes peeled to The Crow’s Quill. The September issues drops, of course, on September 1st and has a “Witches & Cauldrons” theme. I’m a regular contributor now, so if you missed my story, “Little Black Death” in the August issue, you can still go back enjoy my first embarking to writing gothic fiction in a restrictive short format.