Arkham Horror: Secrets in Scarlet edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells

Secrets in Scarlet Revealed!

With the announcement of Scarlet Keys, two new expansions for Arkham Horror, we delve a little deeper into the direct tie-in book, Secrets in Scarlet to find out what it’s all about.

The anthology introduces the reader to the 6 new Investigators that come in the Investigator Expansion and events that are directly tied to the events of The Scarlet Keys!

Arkham Horror: Secrets in Scarlet edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells

There are 9 new short stories, brought to us by authors Arkham Horror fans will recognise, and some new names as well. We decided to sit down with each of them and get to know them, and their stories, a little better…

In Art, Truth by James Fadeley

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

Well, I’ve been a software engineer for more than a decade, a father for about seven months, and a gamer for life. Writing is a small passion of mine that I’m always looking to do more with.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

James: It’s 1925. Who can art historian Ece Şahin trust in newly founded Turkey? Her allies are power hungry and merciless, while other, sinister agencies reach out from the dark to entice her. As she and her assistant pursue an artifact lost more than 400 years ago, Ece will soon discover just how alone she really is…

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

J: It would be easy to name Ece herself, but I think it was the unnamed villain who stole the show. Nietzsche said something to the effect of, “There are no facts, only interpretations.” Between using that, and knowing his audience’s motivations, I feel this depraved individual was disturbingly compelling.

A: What is your experience with the game?

J: Ohhh, my friends and I have blown many, many an hour on Mansions of Madness, both first and second edition. Boy, those guys are in for a surprise when they see this anthology. Other than that, I’ve been thinking about trying some of the other games in the Arkham Horror franchise to shake it up. Not that I need an excuse, but Halloween is getting close…

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

J: There are too many authors to name as an influence, as I prefer to read at least one work by as many renowned authors as I can. Heck, my eyebrows rose when I saw Lisa Smedman was another contributor to this. I loved her book The Forever Drug in the Shadowrun series. Regarding non-fictional books, The Ottoman Empire by Halil Inalcik and The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan. A detail or two may have come from Forty-four Turkish Fairy Tales by Ignácz Kúnos. A little credit to Rise of Empires: Ottoman on Netflix, less for accuracy and more for getting me interested in the material. Fictional influences? Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Personally, I could see Ece being someone Indy would work with in a heartbeat. And of course, Necronomicon by H.P. Lovecraft.

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

J: I’m a big fan of enriched settings. Historical details, and economic considerations, especially when they’re organically woven into the story.

Honor Among Thieves by Carrie Harris

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am a geek of all trades and proud of it! An experienced author of tie-in fiction, former tabletop game executive, and published game designer.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Carrie: Rosa Varela and her twin sister Milagros are up-and-coming thieves desperate to make a name for themselves in Buenos Aires. When they’re hired to nick a hat and coat from an exhibition of historical clothing, they have no choice but to accept. But when betrayal upends their plans, Rosa discovers the uncomfortable, eldritch truth behind their assignment.

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

C: Rosa is exactly the kind of heroine I love to write. She’s smart and sassy, and I love a good quip in the middle of certain danger. She’s not perfect, but she’s smart, determined, and capable. Exactly the kind of character you want to follow in a pulp adventure, I think! I want my pulp adventurers to rise up to any challenge, and Rosa is definitely that kind of person.

A: What is your experience with the game?

C: I’m a huge Lovecraft fan, and I love board games, so I own a ton of games that combine the two, including Arkham Horror. I love the fact that there’s a solo option. It never fails; I want to play games when no one else is around, so solo games are a huge benefit to me. I can’t wait to add Scarlet Keys to my collection!

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

C: I really enjoy pulp fiction, and I’ll pick up an old pulp magazine any time I can. Most recently, I found a copy of Science Fiction Quarterly from 1955, and I’ve been working my way through that. I also really enjoy the work of Jess Nevins. He’s done a lot of scholarly work on pulp, including the excellent Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes. I think it’s really helpful to understand what makes pulp so great in order to write a good story in the genre. I try to cram my stories with as much pulpy awesomeness as possible!

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

C: I brainstorm best out loud. Since my life is busy and my writing time is limited, I make the most of every minute, which means that I often walk the dog around the neighborhood or drive to pick up the kids while having conversations out loud with myself. But if I don’t do that, it all falls out of my head. Something about saying it out loud helps. Anyway, the invention of the cell phone has been a really good thing for me. People assume I’m talking on the phone instead of to myself. But they’re wrong. Oh so wrong.

City of Waking Dreams by Davide Mana

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I’m Dave, a writer and game designer from Italy. I studied to be a paleontologist and geologist, and for a few years, I was a teacher and researcher in academia, before I moved on to writing full time (that was sort of my “Plan B”). At the moment, I am living in the wine hills of Southern Piedmont with my brother, and a tribe of feral cats, writing stories and articles to pay the bills. It’s not what I planned in my youth, but it seems to be working.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Dave: A lone detective is on the trail of a mysterious, dangerous woman who seems to be haunting 1920s Shanghai.

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

D: Certainly Inspector Lee of the Interpol. It is always challenging to write an intelligent character trying to solve a riddle in an environment they are not completely familiar with. Also, Lee’s “lone wolf” attitude and penchant for secrecy made for some unexpected situations.

A: What is your experience with the game?

D: I am not a regular player anymore – it’s hard to find players hereabouts. But Arkham Horror was a Halloween night staple for me and my friends for many years, and we often had a game going on weekend nights when we were younger.

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

D: I love reading history, and I referenced a lot of books about the history of Shanghai – in particular “Shanghai, 1842-1949: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City” by Stella Dong. In terms of fiction, I saw my story as both a thriller caper and a horror short, so I tried to go more for a Raymond Chandler feel than for the full Lovecraft. Hopefully, it worked out.

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

D: I like storytelling, as in “making things up”, but find the physical act of writing to be a chore. Therefore, I bribe myself with sweets or chocolate … “another 1000 words and you’ll get a treat.” It’s silly, but it works.

The Red and the Black by Josh Reynolds

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am the author of over thirty novels and numerous short stories, including the wildly popular Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000. I grew up in South Carolina, US, and now live in Sheffield, UK.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Josh: “The Red and the Black” finds Trish Scarborough in Venice on an important assignment – one that might find her in the crosshairs of a mysterious group with a predilection for the color red.

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

J: I’m quite fond of Trish, honestly. She’s brassy, intelligent, and quick on her feet. And I’m an easy mark for secret agent stories, so getting to write one was great fun.

A: What is your experience with the game?

J: Sadly limited, of late. I played the previous edition of the board game on a semi-weekly basis, but I don’t have as much free time as I used to. But having read the rules for the card game finally, I’m sorely tempted to get into it.

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

J: A fair few, honestly. I tend to draw from lots of places when I write. In this case, I drew some inspiration from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, and Donna Leon’s ‘Commissario Brunetti’ series, as well as short stories like “Don’t Look Now” by Daphne du Maurier and “The Asmodeus Fellowship” by Ron Weighell.

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

J: I don’t know if it’s interesting per se, but I sometimes talk to myself while I write. Often it’s just whatever dialogue I’m writing at the moment, but sometimes it’s facts about the setting or the characters, plot points I’m juggling in my head – stuff like that. I call it ‘Reynolds Radio’.

The Man in the Bubble by David Annandale

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I’m a lecturer at a Canadian university on subjects ranging from English literature to horror films and video games. I am the author of many novels in the New York Times bestselling Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40,000 universe, and a co-host of the Hugo Award-nominated podcast Skiffy and Fanty (go give us a listen!)

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

David: Commissioner Qiana Taylor of the Foundation faces off against a man who believes himself above all laws, human and eldritch.

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

D: Taylor is easily my favourite. She’s someone who has seen it all twice and wasn’t impressed the first time.

A: What is your experience with the game?

D: Though I own it, and have lots of fun with the maps and cards, I haven’t had the chance to play it yet.

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

D: Taylor’s nemesis in the story was certainly inspired by figures like Howard Hughes (and some much more contemporary ones). I wondered about what would happen if such a person developed a passion for the occult in the world of Arkham Horror.

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

D: I never let any idea go. There are some that have been kicking around in my head for more than 40 years, and that I haven’t given up on yet!

Crossing Stars by MJ Newman

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am a writer and senior game developer with Fantasy Flight Games and the co-designer of Arkham Horror: The Card Game. I am also an enthusiast of horror, fantasy, and romance. My credentials include insomnia, existential dread, and jumping in fear whenever I see a spider.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

MJ: A mysterious woman known only as Amaranth has convinced Luciana Diallo, a historical researcher, to accompany her on a strange journey. Along the way, she tells the story of doomed lovers Haresah Izem and Razin Farhi, would-be conquerors from ancient times in search of a powerful and dangerous artifact

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

MJ: Haresah was definitely my favorite character to write. She has many facets to her—a burning ambition, a deep love for her partner Razin, and intense hatred for any who would get in her way. She’s the kind of person who would sacrifice anything to get what she wants, so getting in her headspace felt really fun and empowering. How often do you get to write a character who could command her pet lion to tear someone to shreds just because she doesn’t like them?

A: What is your experience with the game?

MJ: I am the co-designer and lead developer for Arkham Horror: The Card Game since its inception in 2016. I’ve been writing Arkham stories for years now, but writing a piece of fiction and writing a narrative for a game are two very different beasts. It feels really good having a story in this compilation, especially with how it ties into The Scarlet Keys campaign!

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the novel?

MJ: Haresah’s expedition involves a descent into a terrifying pit filled with cocooned victims. I wanted to give the impression that this place felt alive, in a very unearthly way. For this segment, I was primarily inspired by science fiction, including The Expanse, and of course one of my favorite movies of all time, Aliens.

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

MJ: As a child, I learned a lot of esoteric vocabulary by coming across them in books. Words like cyclopean, stygian, chitinous, ichor, and maelstrom. I like to use these kinds of antiquated words, especially in horror. It’s almost better if the reader doesn’t know what the word means—that alone can give off a sense of mystery and inscrutability. A good writer can convey the meaning of those words without having to define it.

Strange Things Done by Lisa Smedman

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am a writer and game designer, with 23 books published to date, covering a wide range of topics: science fiction and fantasy novels, murder mystery, alternative-history fiction, and non-fiction histories of Vancouver, the city I live in. I was also a journalist for more than 20 years, and currently teach game design at LaSalle College Vancouver.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Lisa: Reporter Rex Murphy boards a steamship bound for Alaska, and notices that people are disappearing and history is being rewritten. Together with a mysterious antiquities dealer, he closes in on a horrific monster that threatens the lives of everyone on board.

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

L: Rex Murphy (the protagonist) was my favorite character. I worked as a journalist myself for 24 years (newspaper reporter, editor) so this was an easy character to get into the head of.

A: What is your experience with the game?

L: I’ve played the Arkham Horror card game (and board game) many times. I’ve also played the Call of Cthulhu RPG, and done design work for it over the years. I love the mix of otherworldly horror plus exploration and investigation.

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

L: The poems of Robert Service, particularly “The Cremation of Sam McGee” was the starting point for this story. The title of my story is from a line in this poem. The poem, published in 1907, has an almost Lovecraftian element to it, with its ending that includes a cremated corpse coming back to life. My story opens with reporter Rex Murphy setting off for the Yukon (by way of Alaska) to do a retrospective story on the poet.

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

L: I often enjoy using constraints on my writing as a way of presenting a structural challenge for myself. I enjoy writing short fiction from randomized writing prompts. My story for Scarlet Keys was NOT done this way, but I’ve written several short stories using constraints generated by “Deal a Plot” a deck of writing-prompt cards that was published in the 1930s. I write a lot of historical fiction and alternate history. (In my career as a reporter, I specialized in local history.) So the mix of randomness plus an obscure plot generator from the 1930s really appeals to me. I’ve written five stories using this device so far, and hope to eventually have enough to publish as a collection of short stories.

Forty Grain Weight of Nephrite by Steven Philip Jones

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I have written over sixty novels, graphic novels, radio scripts, and non-fiction books for adults and young adults. My best-known credits include the graphic novel series H. P. Lovecraft Worlds, the horror-adventure comics series Nightlinger, and the review text The Clive Cussler Adventures: A Critical Review.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Steven: Kymani Jones is a world class security expert and an even better thief, but they are going to need help from a dangerous rival to recover an ancient Chinese artifact (and powerful Key) from a Red Coterie cult in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

S: Kymani Jones. I love bent heroes, both fictional like Captain Renault in Casablanca and historical like Doc Holliday.  It is so much fun writing a character who refuses to always play by the rules and frequently makes up their own.  Kymani’s goal, though, is noble: return an artifact or objet d’art to its original owner. Kymani is very smart, very audacious, and very good when it comes to not always doing the right thing.

A: What is your experience with the game?

S: Only peripheral. I am a Lovecraft fan who has adapted Lovecraft stories and films into comics and written or edited Lovecraftian anthologies. I have heard about Arkham Horror over the years but never played it, so it was fascinating to read the investigator guide and references and familiarise myself with this world.

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

S: H.P. Lovecraft, certainly, but also Clive Cussler since this is not just a horror story, it is also an adventure story involving a lost historical artifact. The biggest influence, however, was Dashiell Hammett. With Secrets in Scarlet set in the 1920s and my being able to set Kymani’s story in San Francisco, there was no way I could not resist the influence of Hammett and his Continental Op story “Dead Yellow Women.”

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

That at least one impossible thing has to happen in every story I write. I live in reality.  Why should I write about nothing but reality, too?

Brother Bound by Jason Fischer

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I’m a writer who has won the Colin Thiele Literature Scholarship, an Aurealis Award, and the Writers of the Future Contest. In my jack-of-all-trades writing career, I have written comics, apps, television, short stories, novellas, and novels. I play A LOT of Dungeons and Dragons, I love godawful puns, and am known to sing karaoke until the small hours.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Jason: When a 19-year-old Desiderio Delgado Alvarez discovers that his beloved older brother is a criminal, his snooping only invites further trouble. He is the sole witness to Alejandro’s murder by the Tampa Mafia, who are muscling in on the lucrative rum-running trade. Catching a bullet and barely escaping with his own life, he swears vengeance on the outsiders, only to discover a dark secret world  – and his new role within it.

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

I loved playing with the Claret Knight, an enigmatic figure in this setting, but of course adored writing the younger version of Desiderio Delgado Alvarez, a story that seems equal parts ascent and descent. He comes into manhood, yes, but this bookish lad falls into a world of esoteric violence and seizes it with gusto.

A: What is your experience with the game?

I am such a fan of mythos fiction in general, both as a writer and a reader, but was originally drawn into the Arkham Horror setting via the Elder Signs game (both app and boardgame) which I obsessively played, and then moved into playing the Arkham Horror LCG. The Investigators are so much fun to play and so varied, and it has such a great vibe. Slide into the 1920s, grab your tommy gun and whisky bottle and get down to defending the edges of reality!

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

I was definitely drawn to the Cuban setting of Desiderio’s world, and have worked in it before in my own zombie series The Tamsyn Webb Chronicles. Everything I researched while writing that book bled through to writing Brother Bound, including the Motorcycle Diaries, the Buena Vista Social Club, and everything Cuban-related. I then had to go way back in time with my research and put in the research on pre-Revolution Cuba, the sugar plantations that are so important to the tale, all of it.

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

As a writer who has autism, I am obsessive when it comes to researching each piece I write, as you can see in my previous answer! All of my details have to be exact and completely accurate, so I go for historical accuracy, technical details, measuring distances on maps, all of it. I sometimes completely disappear down that rabbit hole for not much benefit, but I get twitchy if I don’t do it. A writing teacher once said to me that if you write a story and get something wrong, there will be a reader on a remote island somewhere with a postage stamp who will write in and complain!

Arkham Horror: Secrets in Scarlet edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells

Speak Your Mind

SHARE THIS POST

Join our mailing list to learn everything there is about Aconyte, our partners, and our incredible upcoming novels.

Join our
mailing list

Find out everything first!

Form inexplicably not working? Try this one instead.

Hi There!