The Solstice Horror

The Solstice HorrorMassachusetts in the Year of the Lord 1695: Apprentice witchfinder Matthew Goodson, and condemned witch Grace Pankhurst have been on the run from Matthew’s former masters for months now.

Shortly before Christmas, Matthew and Grace find shelter with the Whitelaw family in the town of Cold Hollow. But the witchfinders are on their trail, so Matthew and Grace have to flee again on the day of the winter solstice.

Many dangers lurk in the dense woods of Massachusetts Bay Colony. But which is the greater threat, the witchfinders or the thing from beyond that dwells in the woods and hunts on the darkest nights of the year?

This is a historical holiday horror novelette of 11100 words or approximately 40 print pages by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert.

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More information:

  • The Solstice Horror is a historical horror novelette of 11100 words or approx. 20 print pages. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
  • I try to write a holiday story every year, but in 2021 I just didn’t feel the holiday spirit and didn’t feel in the mood for a fluffy Christmas romance. Instead, I felt like writing horror.
  • Furthermore, I had just published The Witchfinder’s Apprentice, so Matthew and Grace were still very much on my mind. Readers had been asking for a sequel and so I thought, “Why not write a holiday horror story that’s a sequel to The Witchfinder’s Apprentice?”
  • This plan quickly ran into a problem, because it turned out that the Puritans, notorious killjoys that they are, did not celebrate Christmas and that Christmas was actually banned in Massachusetts for several years.
  • However, there were not just Puritans (and witches) living in Massachusetts, so I could have a Christmas celebration after all and also give Matthew reason to question the prejudices installed by his Puritan upbringing.
  • The witchfinder trio of Gideon Jacobs, Caine Hopkins and Fear-God Moody also reappears and come very close to capturing Matthew and Grace. We also learn more about Fear-God Moody – who, even though he is the executioner and torturer, is the most sympathetic of the three witchfinders – and how he came to join the witchfinders.
  • So far, the only supernatural element in the Witchfinder stories was that Grace’s magic is real. The Solstice Horror, however, introduces another supernatural element in the form of Lovecraftian monsters living in the woods. For where would you find them, if not in New England?
  • I have described The Witchfinder’s Apprentice as “Criminal Minds, but with Puritan witch hunters”. The Solstice Horror, on the other hand, is also strongly influenced by Robert E. Howard’s Puritan avenger Solomon Kane, whose adventures I was rereading when I wrote the story.
  • The cover is stock art of Melkor 3D.
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