Out Today! From the macabre to the deeply disturbing, Lac Du Mort and Other Stories by Joanne Van Leerdam delivers eight chilling tales that will please lovers of horror and dark fiction.
The title means ‘lake of death’, which is also the title of the first story in this collection of original and evocative stories. The stories often draw on typically Australian settings that add an extra layer of originality and interest, and there is actually a town not far from where I live named ‘Mortlake’, which means the same thing. I wonder how many locals have thought about that! However, I don’t want to be held responsible for a decrease in tourism or business in the area, so Lac Du Mort was probably a better choice.
From ‘Garrawi Lake’.
Lou dumped the totes and towels on the grass, then swung the camera bag off her shoulder and placed it on the blanket that Kelly had spread out. “It is! This was a great idea. Staying indoors in the air conditioning was starting to get on my nerves.”
“Hopefully when the sun goes down it will cool off, too.”
“We could stay here all night.”
“Oh, wouldn’t that be nice?” Kelly sighed. “I love this lake. I’m so glad you brought me here. I’d happily never leave.”
Sunlight glinted on the water, sparks of white fire dancing upon deep blue silk. A flock of white birds flashed past and swooped out over the lake, then out of sight again over the far shore.
“Wow! That had to be at least a hundred cockies!” Kelly exclaimed.
“Yeah. They’re always here. The lake is named after them.”
“Yeah. Garrawi is the local Indigenous people’s word for cockatoo.”
“I thought ‘cockatoo’ was an Aboriginal word.”
“It might be. I suppose there might be different words for the same thing in any language.” Lou shrugged and smiled simultaneously. “I want to see if I can get some photos of them. And I want to take some photos of the lake, too.”
“Okay. I might stay in the shade, though. You—” Kelly interrupted her own sentence by placing a soft kiss on Lou’s shoulder. “You may take your beautiful cocoa skin out into the sunshine, and I shall lie here and watch you.”
“I’ll be back soon, Kel.”
“Take your time. I’ll be fine here with this ridiculously beautiful heroine and her equally magnificent vampire lover.”
Lou rolled her eyes dramatically. “One day, I’ll convert you to reading brilliant science fiction.”
Kelly laughed. “That will never happen.”
Lou stood, took the camera out of the bag, and fiddled with the settings before walking down toward the lake. Kelly watched her hold her camera up to take some shots, then walk further toward the shore and change her angle to capture the play of the light on the water in a different way.
In a flurry of feathers and squawks, the cockies flew back over the lake, brilliant white against the azure sky. Kelly shot a rapid fire succession of photos, and then flicked her camera to the video setting so that she could capture the sweeping flight of the flock across the lake, still filming them as they dashed over her head toward the tree under which Kelly was reading.
“Magnificent!” she whispered as the birds chattered and shrieked on their way past, their piercing calls of “talons and beaks, talons and beaks” shattering the stillness of the lake in the broad afternoon sunlight.
A Bite Of... Joanne Van Leerdam
Q1: Have you ever written somebody you dislike into a book, just so you could make them suffer?
Heck yes. I write horror and macabre fiction with a very strong sense of poetic justice, so Curious Things and a number of the stories in Lac Du Mort are full of that. A Poet’s Curse is poetry about evil people who fully deserve what’s coming to them.
Honestly, if anyone is tired of waiting for karma to do its job, I totally identify with that. When they read my work, they’ll know they are not alone.
Q2: How much of your writing is autobiographical?
A great deal of my poetry is autobiographical. I have often said that there is a part of my soul on every page. Some of my poems are about other people and fictional things, but there’s always an underlying element of something I’ve experienced or something I’ve observed in someone else’s life or actions that have prompted me to write.
In all honesty, writing some of those poems has been the best therapy I’ve ever had. I’ve confronted a number of demons, and slain a few of them, too.
Q3: Is it important to include all shades of belief and sexual orientation in a book?
I like to write characters who could be anybody. I believe that people are people, regardless of belief, sexual orientation, or skin colour, so I don’t often mention those things. Another factor is that in writing short fiction, there isn’t always a lot of room for back story or detailed character development, so those things are more implied than overt.
The upshot of that is that someone reading one of my stories can imagine the character to have any colour skin, be of any orientation, or part of any group they wish.
Some might say that is “chickening out”, but I don’t think so. I think it’s giving the reader freedom to interpret my characters any way they like.
Having said that, one of the stories in ‘Lac Du Mort’ features a same-sex couple, one of whom has brown skin. Those things are subtly included because they are not the focus of the story, but they’re there.
Joanne Van Leerdam is a poet, blogger, writer, thinker, puzzler, teacher, traveller, photographer and generally nice person. Despite having lived all her life in Australia, she has, thus, far, avoided being killed or consumed by any of the deadly wildlife, which is probably a good thing.
Other than Australia, Canada is her favourite place in the world.
In addition to writing powerful, thought-provoking poetry and short-but-incredibly meaningful stories, she keeps teens enthralled in her senior high school English, History and Drama/Performance classes. She is an active member and performer in her local theatre company and has directed high school musicals for the past eleven years.
Her poetry is contemporary, sensual, moody and easy to read – and it will get you in the feelings. Her horror fiction is deliciously creepy and macabre, and deeply satisfying.
Lac Du Mort and Other Stories is out today! You can find Joanne Van Leerdam on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads and her Website.