A Plague of Shadows is the latest fiction collection put out by The Written Remains Writers Guild, my hometown writing tribe, in cooperation with Smart Rhino Publications. By design, all of the stories in PoS feature both haunted places and haunted people—basically ghost stories on steroids. My post-apocalyptic “To Heart’s Content” appears in this anthology, alongside local authors and well-known horror wordslingers in an eclectic joyride of subjects and styles.
PoS Editor and Written Remains matriarch J.M. Reinbold asked me to share a few words about the origins and inspiration of “To Heart’s Content”.
Although it appears as a stand-alone, “To Heart’s Content” is the continuation of a story called “Lost & Found”, which was first published in PerVisions (formerly Persistent Visions) in 2016 and reprinted in the Endless Apocalypse anthology by Flame Tree Publishing in 2018. Both stories revolve around Danae, a young woman whose psychic connection to the landscape has helped her survive in a post-apocalyptic United States.
In “Lost & Found” we first meet Danae in the midst of a spiritual crisis: her powers have seemingly left her, and she is merely going through the motions with her survivalist lover, when she stumbles upon a clue to the whereabouts of an old flame. The story ends with Danae knowingly leading her companions into danger in order to appease the longing of her own heart.
“Lost & Found” was a work that was a long time coming, inspired by my love of the post-apocalypse sub-genre as well as by my own recurrent dreams. I realized even as I was writing it that it was actually the beginning of a much larger story—one I plan to finish, one day, but not yet, as I’m far too busy with mundane life for the kind world-building a book like that would require.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I sat down years later to write a ghost story for A Plague of Shadows and found myself returning to those characters. The first thing to come to me was the love scene under the stained glass, and although much about the setting and even the faces were strange, I knew who they were. I recognized the way they feel about each other, and it all came rushing back. It was an absolute pleasure to write.
“To Heart’s Content” still leaves much of Danae’s story open, but I think it covers a lot of territory in a satisfying way. At least I hope so—I hope folks like it. If enough people bug me about it, maybe I’ll finally write the whole damn book. 🙂