Australian author Cage Dunn is one of the writers whose stories are featured in the soon-to-be-published anthology The Haunted Train: Creepy Tales from the Railways.  Here she answers our questions about train journeys and writing.  

What’s the creepiest experience you’ve ever had in a train?  

This is something I’m reluctant to share. I will tell you – but I warn you, this is going to creep you out.  

Visiting Western Australia, I decided to book a return trip by train back to Adelaide to visit more relatives. It was December, and the train was almost fully booked. There was one two-seat chair that had to be booked as a single fare. It was cheap. I took it. The trip across the flat plains of the Nullarbor was a dream trip. I love watching the passing shrubbery, the colour changes of the sands over the changes of time, seeing the eagles soar across the sparse landscape.  

And then I found out who occupied the rest of the carriage. Yes, the whole carriage. Not people. Okay, one keeper. A guy with hair dreaded on one side and sheared in jagged lines on the other. He took great pleasure in showing the only other occupant of the carriage his charges. 

Spiders. In glass tanks. And big airholes. I’ve seen how spiders squeeze through tiny spaces. I saw the size of some of these spiders. I know a bit about venomous spiders. Of the hundreds of occupants in these fragile encasements, most were not the sort of companion that enabled sleep.  

I stayed awake. It’s a long journey. They wouldn’t let me walk the halls of the Indian-Pacific that travels from Perth to Sydney, stopping at major towns and cities along the way. They wouldn’t let me get off at Kalgoorlie.  

Three days and two nights awake and jumping at every tickle of the air conditioning. 

Is that a trip you’d be willing to take, even if it were offered free, if you knew who’d be travelling with you? I know better now, but that constant state of fear and the physical reactions to the imaginings is what I remember. 

And how relieved I was that the count when I exited was the same as when I entered (some of those critters have a high value on the black market, apparently). 

For your story in The Haunted Train, where did you get the inspiration?   

Although I’m not going to say the name of the town where I lived as a child, anyone who knows the area will most likely recognise it, or maybe the mention of the mine will give an idea. 

The story is appropriate for horror, for more reasons that the pub tales of the old engineer/driver. 

The town had a few interesting elements to build on: Slaughter Street siding (on Slaughter Street, of course), a local doctor by the name of Dr Butcher, and the visiting dentist (it was a tiny country town) everyone called Drac, but whose name was Vlad (he didn’t appreciate the humour). 

The train was an open-carriage talc train that traversed the western boundary of the town, followed by the bleed of white dust clouds that painted shapes against the arid landscape. The vision that floated up looked like ghosts released from pain as the screaming train moved on.  

It’s amazing what a kid’s mind can do with white clouds that billow behind a belching beast (I was a kid with a vivid imagination, but combine the town stories with the clouds and you have Monsters). 

But the mine trains were also part of the fabric of the town. People set their watches by the morning train (0500), and the pub patrons repeated the tales of weird things experienced on the train and down the track. 

My story incorporates one of those town myths about the train that travelled too fast into the stopblock on a terminus (the end point of a short line) and flew into the salt lake, to disappear into the sticky black mud for all time.  

I’ve incorporated one of the engineers who told tales of one particular train, and the story grew from my childish fears of the monster he created. 

That’s where the main character fears come from, the train engineer who told everyone about the evil soul of this train. The story engineer experiences the evil first-hand, and knows it’s the end of the line for one of them. At least. 

What’s the scariest story you’ve written?   

Diaballein. It’s a story that comes from the tales told when I was young, told around campfires (or was it a barbecue? Children have their own memories of how such things were) by the oldies and friends. A monster trapped within a stone, forever seeking a path into this world. And the innocents who must stop the invading horde by ensuring the continuation of the story through tales and myths to train the new guardians without scaring them to death. 

http://mybook.to/Diaballein 

How do you go about research for the fiction you write?  

Research equals: Living and Reading. More living than reading. Life experiences and dreams of things we want to experience. Write what you’d love to become, rather than what you know. I want to know everything, but my passions are for the highly emotive memories of a life experience. Or the imagination that makes it appear to be an experience. 

All my stories have an element of my life, and there’ve been some scary moments, but nothing will ever be as scary as my mother, who thought that locking kids in the laundry cupboard, in the dark, and then talking of what the devil does to naughty children … that’s top of my list of scary moments, and I wanted to know if other people had similar experiences and how it affected them. Life. It’s full of those experiences. 

These are my first-point research places, the parts of my life that remain as bright as living in neon in my memories, and then I find the facts and evidence and locations that support, confirm or empower the memory/experience. 

What are you currently working on?  

The current project is two collections of short Aussie pub yarns – Country and City – with all the thrills of things that go bump in the shadows, that glimmering light on gloomy lakes – that isn’t the moon, stories that enthral and thrill the visitors to new places, new towns, but always at the local rubbity-dub pub. 

The country collection is about outback yarns told all along the Australian highways, byways, and back-of-the-black-stump goat-tracks; told in pubs and clubs and caravan parks, and anywhere a soul may wander. Tales to warn travellers and locals alike to be wary of where they go, what they do, cos there’s always something out there, waiting, and closer than they think. 

The city collection is about the dirty boulevards, the people who congregate in the dark alleys, the sounds and tastes of the city that resides below the glitz and glamour. The real world under the veneer of civility has its own style of story. There are bush poets come to town, country kids come to find the big lights, and people on the run from nowhere to anywhere.  

What do you personally, as a reader, like about anthologies? 

Shorter stories give me time to read a complete world in a moment. Life gets so busy, people have no time to do things, and there are always important issues to deal with, so grabbing a few minutes out of the turmoil is special. Short stories make an impact in a fast-paced world. They are the breath of air needed to turn things off for a while. And it can be a mood or tone that changes the outlook for the day. A lovely, dramatic moment in a life not my own allows me to ‘feel’ the reality of that moment, to step away from it at the end having imbibed to my heart’s content. There – short stories are like specialised wines – a glass of wine to suit the taste of the moment. 

ABOUT CAGE DUNN 

Cage Dunn is a storyteller, a fibber, fabricator, and teller-of-tall-tales, though not all her tales are outright lies. She was born in the drylands of Western Australia, way, way, way out on the outer edges of the black stump that was exiled from the middle of nowhere (only a slight exaggeration). Currently residing in Adelaide, South Australia, after having lived in every state, every city, most regional towns, and working at any job that came along (from sewage trucks to taxi driving, from bartender to tutor, from copywriter to migration law, from legal library assistant to programmer, and so on until etc.) and occasionally staying somewhere long enough to end up with a BA Comm (Professional Writing) and Grad Dip Computing. A wanderer’s soul, still wandering through stories of wonder. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE HAUNTED TRAIN: CREEPY TALES FROM THE RAILWAYS 

Come on board for a Gothic journey in a funicular railway in Victorian England, a freight train in the Carpathian mountains, a high tech sky train in Bangkok, an underground railway in Tokyo. Visit stations which lure with the promise of safe shelter but harbour unexpected dangers. Meet the people who work on the tracks – stationmasters, porters, signal-men – and those who travel – commuters, tourists, dead bodies, murderers and ghosts. 
 
In this volume, editor Rayne Hall has collected twenty of the finest– and creepiest – railway tales. The book features the works of established writers, classic authors and fresh voices. Some stories are spooky, some downright scary, while others pose a puzzling mystery. 
 
Are you prepared to come on board this train? Already, the steam engine is huffing in impatience. Listen to the chuff-chuff-chuff from the locomotive and tarattata-tarattata of the giant wheels. Press your face against the dust-streaked window, inhale the smells of coal smoke and old textiles, watch the landscape whoosh past as you leave the familiar behind and journey into the unknown. 
 
But be careful: you can’t know the train’s real destination, nor your fellow travellers’ intentions. Once you’ve closed that door behind you and the wheels start rolling, you may not be able to get out. 

The ebook is available for pre-order from Amazon at the special offer price of 99 cents until 31 January 2023. (After that date, the price will go up.) https://mybook.to/Train  . 

The paperback edition will be available soon. 


My middle daughter Alia has recently completed the first semester of a Creative Arts degree. For her Media assignment, she had to adapt a short story into a radio play and record it. The professor suggested students use a story in the public domain to avoid issues of copyright. Fortunately for Alia, she happened to have a published short story writer lying about the house who could give her permission to use her work.

The story Alia chose to adapt is “Fridge Wars”, a science fiction tale about a bickering couple whose relationship is disintegrating, while unbeknown to them, a fight of a different kind is taking place inside their fridge. The story is included in my first short story collection “Ghosts Can Bleed“, was first published online in 2010, and has absolutely nothing to with the 2020 reality TV series of the same name. “Fridge Wars” is a particularly good choice for audio adaptation because of its unconventional structure; the written story unfolds as sections of dialogue only, alternating with nature-show-like narration of the in-fridge action.

So here it is. Fridge Wars: The Radio Play. Just under ten minutes of audio for your listening enjoyment.

(Content warning: some strong language.)


Today’s post comes courtesy of Steven L. Shrewsbury as part of his blog tour promoting the release of his latest novel Killer of Giants.

About Killer of Giants: In an antediluvian world, Keltos warrior Rogan emerges as the lone survivor of a battle. Slaying a Nephilim giant from Shynar, Rogan takes back the mammoth his folk gifted the kings. 

Soon, warriors are sent to recapture the mammoth and bring it to the Lord of the world, Zazaeil, a demon in human flesh, and the Nephilim giant Marduk, in the fabled city of Irem. 

After learning that his sister is to be a sacrificial bride to Marduk, Rogan journeys to Irem in the company of Elisa, a warrior herself, whose mother is a wizardess. With a horde of warriors in pursuit, they encounter many evils, monsters, and challenges to their selves and souls. 

Will the song of Rogan’s blood make him strong enough to be the Killer of Giants?

* * *

When I decide to write a novel, I won’t classify it apart as fine as frog’s hair. I don’t say, “Well, golly, gonna write me up a new Sword & Sorcery novel.” Nor do I say, “Well, this sucker is gonna be a high fantasy, but not too long, so it can’t be an epic fantasy, but, I better make it more diverse so folks don’t think it’s a heroic fantasy or…” 

Ugh. It’s a story. The terms folks use for such things can be a pain and I think I oft blur such distinctions. A reader once told me he didn’t like how horrific my books are and was turned off at such violence in a supposed fantasy book. Ok. Well, read more stuff, I told him. I hope he never finds George R. R. Martin. I’m just telling a story, not trying to compete with someone for a gross out thing, or surprise the reader with a huge reveal of weirdness. I’m just telling a tale, if any of those odd things happen in the book, it is a piece of the yarn. At no time did I consult a TSR manual nor play a video game to figure details out. The yarn all comes from reading and at times listening to music. S’true. Dark metal & bluegrass ballads inspired the creation of Gorias La Gaul and Rogan the Kelt. There’s a lot more Tony Iommi, Johnny Cash and Ralph Stanley in my characters & tales than Gary Gygax dreams.    

I once wrote an article about the differences between fantasy, and the classifications. I was kind of sorry I learned what the difference was, really. I don’t sit down to make it in any special category. If a story is really long and covers so much territory, have I veered into epic fantasy? Does that mean I have to write ten more books over a thousand pages one can use for doorstops? I don’t think I could live long enough to do that, anyway.  

Sit back, pick up a book, because I’m going to tell you a tale, spin you a yarn and not bore the crap out of you for a thousand pages. Someone once said they read a famous series and in a 700 page volume, um, nothing happened. How is that possible? I usually have bodies hitting the floor immediately, but one doesn’t have to slay a dragon or slaughter the army right away. It’s a story. Make it interesting and tell a tale where a reader is drawn in to it. 

Do I write sword & sorcery? Is KILLER OF GIANTS a S&S book? What’s the definition of that? 

The ol’ Wikipedia says “Sword and sorcery is a subgenre of fantasy characterized by sword-wielding heroes engaged in exciting and violent adventures. Elements of romance, magic, and the supernatural are also often present.”  

Well isn’t that special. Guilty of S&S by accident.  

Why should you, a fan of Sword & sorcery and forms of fantasy, want to read my new novel KILLER OF GIANTS? It has all of the above elements, though light on romance. However, it has something to offer. Rogan, the raw hero of the BASTARD series I co-wrote with Brian Keene is seen here at twenty four years old, a mercenary and last survivor of a battle between kings. Not so jaded as in his older years, Rogan goes forth to find his father and sister in fabled Irem. The book indeed has wizards, warriors (male and female) and a cool mammoth in it. There are Nephilim giants, demons in human flesh, Chimeras, Gorgons and has more balls than the World Series. Be seated and listen while I spin you a yarn about how Rogan fought, matured, and met the KILLER OF GIANTS.  

* * *

About the author:  Award-winning author STEVEN L. SHREWSBURY lives and works in Central Illinois. He writes hardcore sword & sorcery, fantasy and horror novels. Twenty of his novels have been published, including KILLER OF GIANTS, BEYOND NIGHT, BORN OF SWORDS, WITHIN, OVERKILL, PHILISTINE, HELL BILLY, THRALL, BLOOD & STEEL, STRONGER THAN DEATH, HAWG, TORMENTOR and GODFORSAKEN. His horror/western series includes BAD MAGICK, LAST MAN SCREAMING, MOJO HAND and ALONG COME EVENING. He has collaborated with Brian Keene on the works KING OF THE BASTARDS, THRONE OF THE BASTARDS & CURSE OF THE BASTARDS and Peter Welmerink on the Viking saga BEDLAM UNLEASHED. A big fan of books, history, the occult, religion and sports, he tries to seek out brightness in the world, wherever it may hide. 

Author Links:  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shrewsreh 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorstevenshrewsbury 

Ready to buy? Here are some options –

Purchase links for Killer of Giants: 

eBook Links 

Kindle Version: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09SGV5141 

Nook Link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/killer-of-giants-steven-l-shrewsbury/1141004710?ean=2940160798370 

Print Links:  

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Killer-Giants-Steven-L-Shrewsbury/dp/1736812556/ 

Barnes and Noble Link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/killer-of-giants-steven-l-shrewsbury/1141044545?ean=9781736812556 

Want to find out more? You can follow the tour here –

Tour Schedule and Activities 

4/18 Jazzy Book Reviews https://jazzybookreviews.com/ Author Interview 

4/19 Horror Tree https://www.horrortree.com Guest Post 

4/20 Exquisite Corpse https://traciemcbridewriter.wordpress.com/ Guest Post 

4/20 BOOKS TO CURL UP WITH https://bookstocurlupwiith.blogspot.com Review 

4/21 The Write Start https://www.thewritestart.net Guest Post 

4/21 BookWitch https://bookwitchblog549755749.wordpress.com/ Review 

4/22 Sapphyria’s Books https://saphsbooks.blogspot.com/ Guest Post 

4/23 BookWitch https://bookwitchblog549755749.wordpress.com/ Interview 

4/24 Literary Underworld https://www.Literaryunderworld.com Guest Post 

4/25 Sheila’s Guests and Reviews http://sheiladeeth.blogspot.com/ Guest Post