The Keys: A Gothic Re-Telling of Bluebeard with Zombies

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The Keys: A Gothic Re-Telling of Bluebeard with Zombies



Cover by Raven


I never liked zombie stories. Bodies of decaying flesh that want to eat you for lunch? Eew!

Because I don’t care for the genre,  I was challenged to write a zombie story that would be defy the current conventions. I found a possible approach in the old films White Zombie and I Walked with a Zombie in which the zombies were like glamorous sleepwalkers.  Not only are these old films pushing 100 years old, they seem more authentic.  Whether tasked with turning mill wheels or succumbing to the lusts of the voodoo high priest, these zombies are slaves in an era of slavery.



Ever since reading Angela Carter’s classic, The Bloody Chamber, I’ve wanted to write a Bluebeard story. Carter adds poetry to this tale of secret wife murder to theatrical effect. The young innocent girl, caught up in her own vanity, is rushed, and rushes, into marriage with a head full of romantic ideals. It ends in her worst nightmare: seduction, temptation, the unveiling of a mystery of unspeakable horror, and betrayal.

Adding zombies to Bluebeard and his cabinet of dead wives took me down the creepiest storytelling path I’ve ever followed. My Bluebeard, Armand Guy de Rais, concert pianist and ladies’ man, wants a Stepford wife. Poor Lissette, at sixteen she’s hardly lived. Now she must allow  her soul to die—-for love.

Giles de Rais

The original Bluebeard, invented by Charles Perrault, was inspired by French general, Giles de Rais who fought alongside Joan of Arc during the Hundred Years War. Retiring to his chateau in Brittany, he fell into the practice of Black Magic and child abuse. Convicted of sacrificing hundreds of virgins to Lucifer, he was hanged in 1440.

In the The Keys, my villain, classical pianist Armand Guy de Rais, is a descendant of the infamous Giles.  To avoid the bloodbath of  the French Revolution, Armand flees to an island in the Caribbean, there to enact his terrible deeds.

Stories are like equations, it seems. I had no idea, when starting out, that zombies, plus Bluebeard, plus Giles de Rais, plus the French Revolution would add up to scariest story I’ve ever written.



Memento Mori: Haunted by the Black Death

Memento Mori: Haunted by the Black Death


In 2004, I was living in London in Highgate. I was working on my second novel, a werewolf story called Rosewolf ( due out this year) and was struggling to master the craft of writing. The first novel about a Changeling called Dark Night, Lily Bright, had been written organically, ie:without and outline,  and gotten way out of hand. At about 200,000 words of convoluted plot, I realized I had a lot to learn.


I took a course in how to write YA books. One of he exercises was to go onto Wikipedia and find a subject to inspire a story. The instructor had several and among them was the history of the Eyam Plague. I’d never heard of the Eyam Plague, but ever since I studied the art of the Black Death in a Medieval Art History class in college, I was interested in the powerful expressions that came in its aftermath in Europe. It was in that class that I had learned, so long ago, about the memento mori as form of potraiture, showing the person as they are in life and after death on the same canvas.


Put the two together and voi-la! Art History meets Writing prompt, add my love the old English song, The Lyke Wyke Dirge, and this ghost story about the haunted village of Whynnesmere was born. In 2004 it was mere outline. It took these many years, between so many other writing projects, to find its root: not just the possession of an artist by his ghostly muse, but about the very nature of the souls’ longing for God.


Eyam Plague Village, Derbyshire


Fascinating History


Here is the short description of Memento Mori


“In 1666, the Black Death swept through a tiny English village and killed all of its inhabitants. In 1966, art student Simon Beaumont,is hiking in the mountains. Lured by a mysterious call, he wanders into the haunted village of Whynnesmere. where the beautiful witch, Lara, takes him into the past to unravel the mystery of a ghostly bride,and her strange wedding gift: the Memento Mori”



This history also comes into play in the novella as Simon tries to puzzle out the strange experiences he had in Whynnesmere. Imagery of the plague ravaged streets of London, the fire, the Plague doctors or Beaks feature strongly.

History of the London Plague, the Great Fire of 1666, the infection being carried to Eyam in a bolt of cloth, all wrap around the tragedy of a young girl, Suzanne de Montmorency who journeys from France to Whynnesmere to be married and finds herself being blamed for carrying the plague. When all of her relatives flee the village, she stays on to wait for her betrothed. Three-hundred years later, her ghost is still waiting…


This novella is currently available for all e-readers at no charge  Smashwordshttps: Memento Mori at Smashwords

And, if you want to support me, at Amazon Kindle for $1.99

Kindle: Memento Mori

This story goes very deep and ghostly. I hope you enjoy it and, good or bad, leave a review!



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