Book Jacket


rank 214
word count 14113
date submitted 25.12.2009
date updated 20.06.2010
genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Fantasy,...
classification: moderate

The Poison of a Smile

Steven Jensen

'She will take her pleasure in your destruction...and it will be everything you always desired.'


The Beautiful One cometh...

Alatiel, Mistress of Death, an illusion made flesh.
She is not a ghost. She is not a vampire. She is you...


When Patrick Morvell and David Leigh are lured to the haunted town of Carliton in search of their beloved Helena, they find only mystery and malice. And Cristian Salazar, the connoisseur of torments, master of the creature that Helena has become, awaits their company...

'An evil reminiscent of the biblical Plague of the Firstborn.'

'Beautiful...and ghastly.'

'A mystical entrancement.'

'Baroque, rich and strange.'

The Poison of a Smile: New Trailer:

Full-size book cover:

Acknowledgements: To B. Lloyd, Dana Lorelle, Gev Sweeney, Kes, Leah Petersen, Bob Gracie, Lisa Plowman, Shoshanna Einfeld, Maria Boosey, Valora Gray, Violet Wells: thank you.

NOTE: Chapter Ten includes an interview with Steve Jensen conducted by Alexandra Riley, author of the wonderful 'Victoria Sponge' and 'The Emerald Tablet'.

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Dadoo wrote 1433 days ago


This is enthralling work. Your prose is rich in imagery, almost poetic in parts, without ever being "flowery."

And yet, to me, it reads like a mystery novel. Even as some questions are answered, more spring up. Back story is revealed slowly, and as I read I find my mind working furiously to connect the dots. Brilliant!

I had the chill feeling of impending doom from the first paragraphs. As the story unfolded, I became increasingly horrified, and yet you refrained from using graphic gore to bludgeon me. Instead, you craft the tension, skillfully applying character, atmosphere, and plot as colors in your dark palette.

The sudden shift in the narrators perspective is nothing short of astounding. I have never seen that before. One of the things I love about this site is that authors like yourself are not afraid to experiment with something new. What happens to Helena, affects the narrative in a completely unexpected way.

I delight in the unexpected.

Steve, This is by far the most interesting thing I have read on Authonomy, and the first horror story that I can truthfully say that I have enjoyed.


I. Alexandra wrote 1439 days ago

First of all, incredible job with the book cover and trailer - both had me running to take a look at the book (and part of me wanting to run in the other direction)! Secondly, and I say this with sincerity, this is quite possibly the most incredible piece of literature I have had the pleasure to read on authonomy. It is a work of genius, I am simultaneously flabbergasted and inspired. Richly atmospheric, it crawled under my skin straight away and removed me quite abruptly from my comfort zone. You put us all to shame! It's haunting, compelling.... I want to read on though I'm afraid to. I don't feel I can add any more as you must surely know by now that you have created something truly unique - a classic in its own right. Brilliant! Instantly backed!

SueAnn Jackson Land wrote 1439 days ago

I remember when I read Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story," I was afraid of the story but there was no resisting it. I knew it was fiction, black and white words in a book I could shelve at will. Still, “M” haunted my dreams. Your Alatiel is a character like that. She is an apparition without life in her... a ghast so without presence of self that she becomes a glass mirror. Your pen is tipped in cruelty capturing the muse. It scrawls the word terror, which is not implied here, it is venerated.

(Backed, and if she shows up in my dreams tonight, it was my own damn fault.)
SueAnn Jackson Land
The Truth About Whales

Nartana wrote 160 days ago

Really enjoying this so far, well done.

Seringapatam wrote 396 days ago

Steven The problem I normally have with this type of book is that i read one page and put it down or leave it. The reason for that is because the story is normally too complicated for my small brain and I lose interest. This I am glad to say isnt like that at all. It has a really good voice to it that helps me stay in touch with your story and a pace and flow that makes me want to stay there. I was most impressed with this. I read some of the comments below and cant agree or disagree. I just read it and if its good for me then its good for me. Loved it. Well done. Good score and good luck.
Sean Connolly. British Army on the Rampage. (B.A.O.R) Please consider me for a read or watch list wont you?? Many thanks. Sean

Andrea Taylor wrote 484 days ago

Incredibly well written and mind-bogglingly intriguing. Quite brilliant. This deserves to be published!
The de Amerley Affair

Kenny Park wrote 582 days ago

Great book so far. I will read more and maybe comment on at a later date. I am putting your book on my shelf now and highly rating. Good luck.

Abby Vandiver wrote 585 days ago

This is hard to grasp. I suppose that the language is meant to be poetic, which it does have a nice flow, but because of that it seems likes pieces of the story are missing. When did Giselle get back? I thought she had "departed." What happened to the baby? Whose tongue is in the blankets? I think this good story would be a great story if it just told it straight out without all the puff.

I must admit the writing style takes and does show talent but it takes away from the really good story.


happyscribbler wrote 722 days ago

Wow, loved the pitch which drew me in instantly. Your writing has a very ,rich element to it. Loved it. Added to my watchlist and rated.
Sarah x

ShebaDiva2 wrote 800 days ago

A beautifully written and complex book. Very well drawn characters in Daniele and Alatiel. The prose has such poetic qualities. Very enjoyable and interestinng.

mvw888 wrote 1213 days ago

Happy to revisit this enthralling, masterfully written work. Intriguing characters, stunning pace and story.

The Qualities of Wood

Kaimaparamban wrote 1224 days ago

Your work is deserving appreciation. You fairly and genuinely used the power of imagination for the materialization of this work. Congratulations…

Joy J. Kaimaparamban
The Wildfire

ElspethWrites wrote 1230 days ago

Beautiful book! I'm actually reading the *actual* thing now. (in paperback) Came in the mail today, can you believe it? More anon!

Jack Hughes wrote 1239 days ago

Magnificent book, I remember reading some of it a while ago; captivating and sublime.

Backed again as soon as I can find a space.


Elizabeth.NYC wrote 1250 days ago

I have just completed the haunting and tragic tale of Daniele and Alatiel. This is written with such dark beauty I barely know how to respond. There's the sense of deep myth here - the artist who is recreated and transformed by this elegant creature - the fascination turning to obesession until his work is about her and her alone - as she possesses him, she robs him of all things. She is the sweet, seductive demon who offers bliss -- gives bliss -- and then destroys. I see it as metaphor, Steven, and I'm deeply impressed. Alatiel can be representative of so much, and yet it is stunning fiction, so the reader is able to make this story whatever he or she wishes it to be. Your style is brilliant.

(Out of Sync)

Old Rocker wrote 1256 days ago

Chilling first chapter. Story is brought to the reader slowly and then it really grabs ya. Great stuff.

Wezzle wrote 1266 days ago

I like this it's well written, leads me into a ghostly and eerie story, which makes the hairs on the back of my neck rise. Definitely one I would buy if it were on the shelves in *real* book shops. Well done :)

SubtleKnife wrote 1267 days ago

I've re-read your chapters. Memorable, and on my shelf, of course. Cheers! -Liz (Meggie Blackthorn)

M.A. Anderson wrote 1268 days ago

Fascinating pitch. Interesting cover. I've added your book to my watchlist and plan to read soon. Good luck.

Farrold Saxon wrote 1280 days ago

Thoroughly and engrossingly gruesome, a study in perversity that feels horribly real. You manage the elements of prose with mastery.

Farrold Saxon

Cariad wrote 1282 days ago

Anyone that starts with a quote from 'The Hollow Men' is ok by me.

This read reminded me of 'older fashioned' works - and I mean that in a good way. It's gravity and vocabulary is reminiscent of Wilkie Collins and Conan Doyle. You create an atmosphere in the writing, that is often missing in other pieces. The words do not just tell a tale, but weave a blanket of unease and prescience. I have read three chapters and was going to sample the last one, but I think I won't. I'll wait until I come to it.

This is a very accomplished and polished read has clearly been edited and worked on. Impressed.

klouholmes wrote 1293 days ago

Hi Steven, I was entranced, dipping in again at Chapters 4 and 5. The description of Callum tempted me onward and the section about the past lives in the painting and of the narrator was excellently carried off. I did wish for more scene with Callum. Liked that with Catherine after. The style succeeds in mood and the mystery of these haunted people. Shelved again - Katherine (The Swan Bonnet)

Gefordson wrote 1309 days ago

Hi, I’d be more than happy to back your book if you’ll take the time to check out my work.

Nothing You can do.

John Warren-Anderson wrote 1341 days ago

Very well written. Great voice and Helena really comes alive (I'd never been struck by its heartlessness until that day). I will read the rest of it, but reading on line is such a pain.
Good luck with it, it deserves a spot on the desk.

J.S.Watts wrote 1344 days ago

Elegantly gothic and classicly mysterious.


odeb wrote 1345 days ago

Definitely gripping. Very well done.


Eunice Attwood wrote 1348 days ago

Exciting and interesting. A great read. Backed with pleasure. I hope you check out The Temple Dancer. Eunice

jerickson10 wrote 1351 days ago

Hello, I'm new to Authonomy! Please check out my book, Not Alone, and let me know what you think. If it's worth publishing please back it. Thanks for your support!

GK Stritch wrote 1353 days ago

The Poison of a Smile,

Perfection, Steven Jensen, everything including the title, cover, author's image, and, of course, your very chilling prose.

Backed and best.

GK Stritch
CBGB Was My High School

noirangel wrote 1369 days ago

Well, this is just incredible. I have not read too many things to the third chapter yet but I could not stop reading this. You paint a picture of such growing menace it really chills the reader. I cannot wait to read the rest.
Thank you for such a great book. You write so beautifully it is like painting only with words.

chasecarrig wrote 1369 days ago

A chilling idea with a clever first chapter. You write in a smooth, effortless manner. Backed.


SammySutton wrote 1371 days ago


You have alot of characters and you handle them well. Applause, that is difficult.
The characterization I can't say enough about as they are well thought and distictive. Emotion invoking description is perfect. Daniele's character really has me intrigued, through the child birth and the candle fire I am perplexed by the character.
Great Job!
Good Luck!
Sammy Sutton
King Solomon's '13'

Bonar Law wrote 1375 days ago

I wanted to convey my admiration for the masterly use of cold detachment you bring to this written canvas.
First your title drew me in, then the clever anecdotes and remembrances from novels we tried to read, but that all too often left the likes of me behind, all except maybe Orlando, which I love.
You write with authority, you lock the reader in a paneled room filled with brocades and period armoires, lending them an inclination to soak up the lavishness. Then you unleash your darkly intriguing characters who beguile and unsettle at the same time.
You succeed in seeing through a glass darkly.

CG Fewston wrote 1376 days ago

Your title aroused my attention. Your plot, style, and flow pulled me in. I will keep a close eye on this work. Very moving and contains vast potential. Hopefully you will make it to the editor's desk soon. Best wishes. CG

Owen Quinn wrote 1380 days ago

The pitch alone promises so much and is GENUINELY chilling and it takes a lot to unnerve me. This is supernatural at its best with classic elements that have been expanded on, like the haunted house becomes a haunted town, mysterious figure that awaits ordinary humans like a spider for a fly and a creature beyond our darkest nightmares whose greatest weapon against us is our own memories and emotions. Very visual, throughout the story you are waiting for something to happen, like something out of the corner of your eye that you wonder if you've imagined.or not. Like this a lot and can see why this has done so well.

MyffyB wrote 1385 days ago

Are the main characters inspired by the Romantics? I felt that, and then you mentioned Ophelia and from that moment I could picture the setting. I really like the unfolding horror and the murkiness - it's almost like trying to decipher an image through fog until gradually, and horrifically, it is revealed. nice work. Myffy

ccb1 wrote 1385 days ago

All the components of a great book in our opinion ...haunted town, evil reminiscent, and mystical entrancement. What really caught our attention in your pitch was...not a ghost, not a vampire...Well what the heck is she? We decide to place The Poison of a Smile on our watchlist so we could read to clear up the mystery. You might be interested in our paranormal thriller, Dark Side. It is about vampires. We welcome constructive criticism.
CC Brown

Diane60 wrote 1385 days ago

have read all 9.
The Poison of a Smile -
i found it intriguing and teasing. Style wise i think i is spot on very victorian fiction and fin de siecle. Gross and absorbing at the same time. Very rich in description and period.
your second offering in Chap 9 am not sure what to make of did you just add it to make up the word count?
it seemed rushed that was why I am asking

Raymond Crane wrote 1397 days ago

I liked your pitch and I think your book will appeal to all horror fans therefor I backed your book - perhaps you could have a look at my books - than you and good luck !

Vanessa Darnleigh wrote 1398 days ago

The style and voice are reminiscent of the nineteenth century! There is a darkness lurking in the background which makes this quite compelling...looking forward to reading further
Good luck

E. C. Flaig wrote 1409 days ago

I try to read like a publisher: a book has to grab me from the first page to keep me going. This does the trick.

Kami K wrote 1411 days ago

Hi Steve

Okay, have read chapter 2 and your writing, as always, is twistedly stunning.

I still love the way you describe how he paints her, especially 'laid her to rest in a Capulet tomb'.

'She only considered him as prey.' This would have better impact if the following line started a new para.

Their lovemaking was creepy beyond belief!

When he finds Alatiel in 'apparent agony', I might lose 'apparent'.

The rest is fantastic in its sheer horror. I love Alatiel's amber eyes, but you do have them in 2 consecutive paras, so maybe change one.

The 'study traced in ashes', is an eerie ending to a great chapter.

This would be such a great stage play. Woman in Black eat your heart out.

Neville wrote 1411 days ago

Hi Steve, a fantastic book and very well written.Excellent descriptive scenes which you've put together well.
I back your book. SHELVED.


Neville (The Secrets Of The Forest)

Zero-serenity wrote 1419 days ago

Your descriptions are awe inspiring. This book kept me glued, very well written.
~Zero, No Title Needed

Winney wrote 1419 days ago

This first chapter is told from three different perspectives, all strong voices. And yet, the original perspective remains, that of an unknown intruder, reading a journal. That was cleverly crafted. There is a lot of mystery here. Who are any of these people? Who is the one that found her body, who is the first writer of the journal, and if she is so weak as to be completely taken over, why did the second writer let her have her say.... all of these hints are fascinating. Thanks for the read and good luck!

Gauis wrote 1420 days ago

V atmospheric - really draws you in

name falied moderation wrote 1422 days ago

Reminds me of Jane Austen, is a beautifully written novel. Poetic in its delivery, and skillfully put together. Dont tell me this is your first novel? no cannot be? I am enjoying the read. I am finding the flow easy and even though my comments are rarely anything to do with grammar, it is skillful. Would I buy the book off the shelf, YES. i would, up to chapter 3. and by all means BACKED. if you get the chance I would welcome an honest read of some of my work, non-fiction, as I do need some honest comments. thank you Steven and the BEST of luck

jdub wrote 1422 days ago

Steven, this is a fine piece of writing that deserves to make it , backed all the best john Warren, lasting Images, Please review, jdub

Kaychristina wrote 1423 days ago

Steve, I'm finding this an awe-inspiring work. An obsession of too many men, painted into being just as, perhaps, the monster is given life and destroys its master. But what an extraordinary monster we have here - never seen before in the written word. Obsession with a painting, yes, but this? You also have envisaged the times, the *salon* set regarded and indulged as all bohemian artists, writers and musicians were the lifeblood of society, and worshipped in awe by the masses. Their morals knew no bounds... as you have so lyrically portrayed them.

I have found one nit to pick... and I'm reluctant to even mention it, but I must before this is [inevitably] pubished, and I could well be wrong. So -

In ch.1... 2nd para: I took it that it was the faces in the portrait following him? So I wondered if you might need another *object* after the ticking clock, with an 'and' for the portrait... (Apart from that, a blood-chilling opening if ever there was one.)

The contrast from that spine-tingler to the group meeting Alatiel is pretty wonderful. The characters vividly drawn and in such a short space of time we see and feel for each one, as each one disintegrates before our eyes. We could say 'serves them right' for using girls this way, as it's a shocking thing to behold, what men such as these did as a matter of course. But we don't, as you've drawn them in a sympathetic way, because it was such a matter of course. And then we have poor Helena, the only one who feels for such creatures, the waifs and strays drawn into this world. Perhaps she will not leave us forever...

One other thing - In ch.3, there is a stand-out sentence: "For one moment, an insane thought reared, spectrelike and uncanny, before my mind: had Christian Salazar somehow painted Alatiel into existence? She was unfinished, incomplete". I feel this needs its own separate paragraph!! (i.e., it's a bit buried where it is...)

And another thing... while I'm at it... the Pitch is brilliant, absolutely brilliant, but I truly feel you could incorporate the above line. Perhaps, too, something about this bohemian society - a bit of theatrical glamour to entice.

You have the gift of an artist, Steve.

From Kay xx ("Annacara")

Jayne Lind wrote 1425 days ago

Very, very good writing. The pacing is brilliant and the mix of dialogue and narrative is right on. This is the work of a very talented writer. Best of luck. Jayne

Enchanting wrote 1426 days ago

Steve, your short introduction is captivating in itself. will take her pleasure in your destruction...and it will be everything you always desired.' I don't usually read the back of books purely as feel each book has a new story to tell. I happened to read your books though and it set the scene well. It really is very well written. I effortlessly flowed from one chapter to the next and look forward to reading more. The gore and detail in the opening paragraph is alone to get the reader hooked. Backed with pleasure

R.L. Meredith wrote 1426 days ago

Well written, Steven. It's on my shelf.
R.L. Meredith--A Ten Cent Movie

S.C. Thompson wrote 1426 days ago

Instantly transports us to a gothic, bohemian reality, dripping with dread. Like a modern Poe, or Bram Stoker. A good read for a dark and stormy night . . .
(Viene La Tormenta)