Witcheskin and Rough Sleepers, both set in the Lunar Shadows verse, are two very different but closely entwined stories set in the lush wilds of rural Wales and the harsh gritty inner city of South West England. Two very different main characters and two very different mysteries to be solved. Both are a blend of horror, urban fantasy and LGBTQ+ romance, with colourful supporting casts and complex villains whose motives are driven by their basic human natures.
They have own-voices trans and queer representation, and both books are standalones, but set in the same universe.
Synopsis for Witcheskin:
Following the disappearance of his father, keen photographer Owen returns to the Welsh village where his parents grew up to live with his mother and her boyfriend. Despite being born in Wales and having been raised in England, Owen feels like an outcast, and the villagers are unfriendly. He soon discovers an epidemic of cattle mutilations that have been spreading through the countryside like a rash and, determined to discover the cause, he takes up his camera and starts snapping pictures.
While pursuing the mystery, he meets Maredudd, an old friend of his parents of whom they had never spoken, and Owen can’t help but feel drawn to him. Maredudd seems to know more about the mutilations than the other villagers are willing to admit, and even more about the supposed death of Owen’s father than his own mother does. Maredudd shows Owen things he never thought possible, and Owen soon finds himself at the centre of the kind of folk tale only his father could dream of.
Huge white clouds rolled in the azure sky above the cool shade of the woods as I stepped over tree-roots, and sent birds escaping from my presence, pausing occasionally to make sure I hadn’t lost sight of the tracks. I was determined to follow to their source… But I hadn’t thought about what I would do when I got there. I had no way of contacting anyone. I didn’t actually think I would find anything. The clouds departed, and the sky began to dim. It was now approaching six o’clock, and the sky was purple, and striped with pale wisps. The wind had died back, and the sun’s heat was cooling to a comfortable warmth. I was splattered with mud, etched with grass stains, and soaked in sweat. The tracks had taken me round in circles, or perhaps I had become confused by the trail, and ended up following it round as it overlapped.
Exhausted, I stopped walking, and fell to lean my weight against the closest tree as I looked either side of myself into the woods. I knew vaguely where I was. That was something, at least. Maredudd’s house wasn’t far from here, I could get there by nightfall. But first, a rest was in order. I sank to the ground, tugging my water bottle from my pocket so that I could take a swig of tepid liquid. It was pointless. I had wasted the day following a path that lead me nowhere. But on the plus side, I had photos of Farmer Thomas’s field, and of the tracks themselves. When I checked my camera, I found I had one shot left. Probably one that would be spent on me taking a goofy self-portrait. I stretched my legs out with a sigh and wiped at my wet forehead.
The woods were strangely quiet. Usually there were birds singing at this time, taking part in the last tweeting match of the day before bedding down for the night. Instead there was only silence, the only movement being that of the occasional leaf that floated to the ground from the boughs above. Maybe the heat had exhausted their tiny bodies, and they were relaxing in the branches already. I rested awhile, thinking of what I would say to Maredudd when I knocked on the door.
That’s when I heard heavy footfalls somewhere close by.
I opened my eyes, my hand immediately falling upon my camera. Something big was coming this way. My breath tightened in my chest, and I drew my legs in slowly in a pointless bid to hide myself, my ears alert to the clumping footsteps of something walking, then the wet puff of it sucking in a deep breath. It was sniffing the air, taking in my scent. It knew I was here.
Oh God, I thought to myself. God help me…
Suddenly, I changed my mind. I didn’t want to find the monster. I wanted to be at Maredudd’s house, none the wiser. But now was my chance to get a photo, when I had failed to do so the last time we had met. I could hear it breathing. It was getting closer, and closer. I estimated its size from sound alone to be as big as a bull, if not bigger. Leaves, and twigs crunched under it as it moved, and not a single thing in the forest moved, everything, including myself, staying still as statues with baited breath. The temptation to look round, to peer round the side of the tree, and catch a glimpse of it was overwhelming.
Slowly, I raised my camera. Closer, closer still. My hands were shaking as I moved the camera to the edge of the tree trunk. My finger was moist with sweat, and was slipping over the shutter button. All it would take was a simple movement of my digit to fire the shutter and capture this animal. Finally, it was so close that I could smell its foul stench. It was the bitter, stinking herbal scent I had smelled before, and it made my nostrils burn so profusely that my eyes began to water. It was now or never. I pressed the shutter.
Synopsis for Rough Sleepers:
Leon, drag performer and club owner, is attacked by a werewolf one night and loses an arm—and more, after massacring his club guests. Now homeless and tormented by nightmares, he runs away from everything he knows.
Eventually, he meets Ceri, who invites Leon to live with him above a shop owned by a woman who lost her husband and son to a werewolf attack. She and Ceri are still hunting the unknown perpetrator, and Leon gladly lends his own assistance, eager to atone for his bloody past in the hopes he might one day be able to have a home and family again…
Excerpt Rough Sleepers:
The pain was swelling inside my torso, spreading out into the rest of my body like poison in my blood stream, reaching even the tips of my fingers and toes. There was pressure in my lower back, pressure in my lower face, pressure in my lower legs. Like those areas were going to explode. Blues guitar shrieked in my ears and I heard and smelled every single person inhabiting the premises. A plaintive moan escaped my painted lips; a trembling hand spasmed and reached out as bones cracked and claws split through flesh.
“Noooooooo!” I howled, collapsing forward onto my knees, my hand thrusting out to stop my face from hitting the ground. “Whaaaaat’s haaaaaaaappening!”
Diana stumbled away from me, screeching as she lost balance on one of her heels and accidentally twisted her ankle, the foot bending inwards and causing her to fall back against the opposite wall. Her eyes were wild with terror. I saw my reflection in them, the reflection of a freak. My face started to change shape, contorting, growing, flesh stretching into the maw of an animal. My clawed hand tore at the corseted dress imprisoning my body, buttons and gemstones scattering across the concrete floor as the fabric ripped open, the string of my ivory brassiere getting caught on a talon and tearing away with it. I bellowed, my consciousness lost in the eye of the storm that filled me within, an animal on the inside trying to get out. Silver fur bursting through my skin, springing out like the first shoots of grass on a parched field, and as my feet shed their heels, enormous paws split open my stockings and stretched outwards, tendons taut as guitar strings. A tail twisted out of my back and the agony, the torture was as though my very spine was being dragged out of my body. On and on, the transformation went, Diana’s diminutive form cowering in my shadow under the fluorescent lighting.
“And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Our very own Murderess, returning to the stage at last! You’ve pined for her beauty, her intelligence and her dazzling wit! The weekends just wouldn’t be the same without her!”
Diana let out a meek whimper followed by a hysterical scream as I rolled her over, grabbing her by the neck and throwing her across the corridor, her body thumping face-first against the wall like a sack of potatoes. She started to crawl, knees crunching crystals and sequins as she headed towards the stage door, blood dripping from her flattened nose, sobs squeaking from her open mouth. A clawed hand snatched her ankle and dragged her back. Her screams echoed down the empty hall and there was a hissing patter of hot liquid as lashings of glistening blood sprayed up the wall, falling in a rain of shimmering droplets that appeared almost black in the dim light.
“Here she is folks! The lady herself, the Murderess herself, Leona Valentine!”
Recognising my name, I lifted my dripping muzzle and roared. The sound was lost in the din of music and cheering. I barrelled forward on my three limbs, leaving behind me a train no longer made of fabric but instead made of gore, red footprints following me towards the light shining through the door. The audience didn’t know what to expect of Leona Valentine’s glorious intro, but whatever it was they had envisioned, it was nothing like this.
About the Author:
Nem Rowan lives in Sweden with his wife and their girlfriend. He loves reading non-fiction and is fascinated by True Crime and unsolved mysteries, especially missing persons cases and serial killers. Nem is also well-read in mythology and folk tales, particularly British and European folklore. He is a huge fan of Horror movies and Retrowave music.
Nem started writing when he was 11 years old and since then, he’s never looked back. Romance has always been his favourite genre after inheriting a box of Mills & Boon novels from his grandma, but being a Horror fan, there is always some way for him to work in a bit of that to make sure things don’t get too mushy.
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