Archive for the ‘horror’ Tag

Best Books of 2019

At the beginning of each new year, I like to look back at the books I read in the previous one and highlight the ones I considered the best.

In 2019 I set a Goodreads challenge to read 70 books. I actually managed 72. Eight of those I gave a five-star rating to, and they are as follows:

The Woman in Black – Susan Hill
The Island of Doctor Moreau – HG Wells
The Trespasser – Tana French
The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher
The Fifth Elephant – Terry Pratchett
Carpe Jugulum – Terry Pratchett
The Secretary – Renee Knight
The Memory – Lucy Dawson

This year’s list is considerably more eclectic than usual, as it features two horror novels, two psychological thrillers, two comic fantasy, one crime novel and one non-fiction book. Further details about each book can be found below.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK
My horror book club had this one as a discussion book. One of those books I thought I’d already read, because the story was familiar, when I sat down to read it I discovered I hadn’t. It’s a classic creepy ghost story, of the sort of calibre that is rare.

THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Another one I read because the book club had it on its list. My only knowledge of this beforehand had been a Hallowe’en episode of ‘The Simpsons’ that parodied it. Part science fiction, part horror, a young man ends up shipwrecked on an island where he discovers the mysterious Dr Moreau is doing genetic experiments on animals to make them more human. Something of an undiscovered classic, for me, but I am glad I read it.

THE TRESPASSER
Book 6 in Tana French’s ‘The Murder Squad’ series had me utterly gripped. I haven’t been following this series chronologically, but I really should because every time I read one of them I really enjoy it.

THE PRINCESS DIARIST
I felt genuine grief when Carrie Fisher died. Although I never knew her, as Princess Leia she’d been a big part of my life. This biographical book deals with the affair she had with Harrison Ford during the filming of the first ‘Star Wars’ film. She was 19, and rather naive and inexperienced – he was 34, married, and really should have known better.

The Carrie Fisher we have come to know and love over the years is a survivor – witty, blunt, and down to earth, but reading this book you are reminded of how she really has been to hell and back, and come out the other side. Her writing is engaging and witty, but reading this also made me sad because it reminded me how much we lost when Carrie Fisher left us.

THE FIFTH ELEPHANT
I have been re-reading all the Discworld books in chronological order and this one, as with the previous one, I gave a five-star rating to. This is one featuring Sam Vimes, and seems to be a social comment on Brexit. Which seems oddly prophetic, as it was written years before Brexit even became a thing.

CARPE JUGULUM
This Discworld book mostly features the Witches, who I love. But it’s also the first to feature vampires. I really enjoyed it.

THE SECRETARY
I was sent this book to review for Shots e-zine, and there is a link to my review above. Maybe it’s because I work as a secretary in the day job, but I found this psychological thriller about a secretary whose misplaced loyalty to her boss causes her to lose her family and her integrity unputdownable.

THE MEMORY
This is a psychological thriller involving two families. Events that happened years ago have far-reaching effects that encroach into present day, and as is the norm with psychological thrillers, nothing is as it seems.

For this year, I’ve decided to play it safe and aim to read 70 books again. Most of my reading is done on my commute to and from work, but for 2020 I am trying to make a point of going to bed early to read a few pages before sleep, as well.

If you’ve set yourself a reading target, do get in touch. And if anyone wants to connect with me on Goodreads, you can find me here.

Happy reading, fellow book-lovers! Whatever you choose to read this year, I hope you discover new worlds and new heroes.

Girl Power

Growing up in the 1970s, I was acutely aware of gender stereotypes. I was a very ‘girly’ girl as a child – fond of dresses and dolls. I didn’t climb trees, I didn’t like getting dirty. Then I moved into the 1980s, and adolescence, and I became more aware of the imbalance between girls and boys. And it seemed unfair. I figured out very early on that I didn’t want to have kids, and I liked doing things that girls weren’t supposed to like doing. I started writing horror stories at age 14. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons at 15. I was the only girl in the group for much of the year, and I have already talked about how all the boys ganged up on me in a previous post.

Fortunately for me, when I want to do something, the fact that other girls don’t do it has never put me off. But this isn’t always the case. A lot of girls are put off pursuing an activity or career they enjoy, because being the only girl can be off-putting, especially if you get picked on, as was the case in my first D&D group.

This is why it’s crucial to have role models, especially for girls. Why are there not more women playing lead guitar, or bass guitar, or driving race cars? Why are there not more women pilots, or women fire fighters? There are, of course, women doing these things, but they are still very much in the minority, and they need to be a lot more visible in order to inspire the next generation of young women to follow in their wake.

My inspiration for playing bass guitar was Suzie Quatro, who I remember seeing on ‘Top of the Pops’ in the 1970s and I thought she was a cool rocking chick. My inspiration for writing horror was Stephen King, who of course is male but he writes sympathetic female characters – something some male writers aren’t able to do – and it never occurred to me, as a teenager, that writing horror was something women weren’t supposed to do. Over the years there have been a number of people who have said to me something along the lines of ‘what’s a nice girl like you doing writing horror stories?’ but it does happen less frequently these days, and I hope people are more enlightened. After all, in the view of many people the first modern horror novel was FRANKENSTEIN – written not only by a woman, but one that was only seventeen years old at the time.

Mary Shelly. Image (c) National Portrait Gallery

I’ve considered myself a feminist since the 1980s. Although we have made some inroads since then, it seems we’ve still got a long way to go. I was touched recently by a news article about four-year-old Esme, who told her mother she needed to be a boy because she wanted to be a fire fighter, and she’d only ever seen male fire fighters in books and she ‘didn’t want to be the only girl.’ This prompted fire crews all over the UK to post tweets and videos from their female fire fighters, to prove to Esme that you can be a fire fighter if you are a girl. The story is encouraging, but also highlights how important it is for female role models to get more coverage.

We also seem to be making some inroads in sports. The women’s football league got national TV coverage on terrestrial TV for the first time this year, and had the best viewing figures ever. And the England team did quite well, I note – getting to the semi-final. I am not a follower of football, but this made even me happy.

I am also happy that there is a series of races for women drivers, again on terrestrial TV, for the first time this year. I have been a fan of Formula 1 for over 25 years, and I’ve been banging on for just as long that there aren’t enough opportunities for women racing drivers. This year we have the Formula W. OK there are only six races, of only half an hour each, which is nowhere near equivalent to Formula 1, but they don’t have anywhere near the investment, and it is a start. If people watch the Formula W races, and support them, they might get more investment and most importantly these young women (and they are all young, but so are the male drivers), will pave the way for little girls who dream of becoming racing drivers to understand that this is a dream within reach.

We need these trailblazers. We need women of courage, battling against the preconception that women can’t do these things to prove that they can, and the fact that they are doing these things needs to be publicised so that young girls can see that they can do these things and they won’t be ‘the only girl’.

The final Formula W race takes place at Brands Hatch in the UK next weekend, and I have tickets. I will be there in the stands, cheering on these trailblazing women.

In a small way I hope I am also encouraging a new generation of women bass players. When I have my bass guitar lesson, there is a young girl – maybe about 12 – who watches me through the door for the last few minutes while she waits for her own lesson to start. She seems to genuinely enjoy watching me play, and always gives me a ‘thumbs up’ at the end of my lesson.

I feel that at last we are taking steps towards gender equality. They are very small steps, but at least they are being taken. Which is why it’s so important to support trailblazing women when they come along, forging a path for others to follow in their wake. And it’s why I am so excited about going to Brands Hatch next weekend for the final race in the Formula W series. It doesn’t really matter who wins the championship. In my opinion, all of these women are winners.

I’m finishing this post with a video of the trailblazing woman I still see as an inspiration: Suzie Quatro, performing ‘Devil Gate Drive’ in 1974.

Monthly Round-up: February 2019

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

February is, of course, Women in Horror month. A chance for we women horror writers to blow our own horns and remind people that we are out here, jostling for space amongst the men. I went to a social gathering of fellow horror writers a couple of weeks ago, in London. It was a very pleasant evening, and good to chat to fellow horror hounds. Chatting to another woman, I explained to her how many times over the years I’d had people say to me some variation of, “what’s a nice girl like you doing writing such horrible stories,” and she nodded in agreement. Meanwhile another writer (male) involved in the conversation looked at us somewhat incredulously and said, “I keep wondering if we still need a Women in Horror month, since women in horror are so well established now. But I guess we do.”

As we still need Pride parades because there are still bigots out there who refuse to accept that LGBT+ people have the right to exist, we need Women in Horror month because there is still a preconception that women don’t do horror. Things are changing, slowly, but there is still work to do (in both of the aforementioned groups).

Hence, I have been busy pimping myself this month, and I have things to report.

OUT NOW

I am pleased to announce that the 43rd edition of the e-zine ‘The Siren’s Call’ – an all-female edition for Women In Horror month – is now out. It contains my story ‘Cigarette Burns’ as well as lots of other stories and poems by fabulous women horror writers. The issue is available to download free of charge from The Siren’s Call site now.

PUBLICITY

I had a guest blog post on Colleen Anderson’s site this month, about why I write horror. You can have a read here.

WORK IN PROGRESS

More good news to report here – the sequel to OUTPOST H311 is officially underway. I haven’t written too many words yet, but I have made a start on the first chapter, and I’ve made progress in plotting and character sketches. I feel like I am gently, but firmly, coaxing my muse out from the rock it’s been hiding under, and it’s starting to wake up.

I have also thought of a title for said sequel. I want to call it ‘OUTPOST: ARMAGEDDON’. I’d like to know what people think of this.

And that’s it to report for this month. See you at the end of March!

Monthly Round-up: January 2019

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s been a while since I posted a monthly update. Mostly because I haven’t had much to report.

COMING SOON

I am pleased to announce that my short story ‘Cigarette Burns’ will be appearing in the 10th Women In Horror issue of THE SIREN’S CALL‘ e-Zine (issue #43). This is the second year I have appeared in the special WIHM issue of this e-zine.

PUBLICITY

I’ve really not been pimping myself of late, so nothing to report.

WORK IN PROGRESS

This is where it gets difficult. I’m still trying to get my writing mojo back. I have several works on the go, but struggling with all of them.

The fourth Shara Summers book I have recently done a bit of work on, but since I still don’t know what’s happening with the third Shara Summers book, and the first two really aren’t selling, I am not sure if there is any point in my carrying on with this series.

The collaboration I have been working on with Hubby – a rather sweeping crime thriller set in the 1960s – I have put to one side because I think there are so many problems with it I don’t know how to fix it.

And finally, there is the sequel to OUTPOST H311. Which I do want to write. The first book seems to be doing reasonably well, sales-wise. The problem is I haven’t finished plotting the sequel yet, and that stage of staring at a blank page wondering where to start is even more overwhelming than usual.

Hopefully by the end of next month I will have something more positive to report. In the meantime, if you’ve read any of my books I would really appreciate it if you could consider leaving a review. Knowing I have a few readers out there provides more encouragement to a writer than you could ever imagine.

Monthly Round-up: August 2018

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

The last round-up was three months ago, and quite a lot has been going on in my life since then. I got made redundant from the day job in July, but fortunately managed to find a new job after just a few weeks of intense job-hunting. But now I am in the position of being the new girl, which feels strange after nearly 13 years in the same organisation, and it is quite intensive.

Hence, with all this real-life stuff to deal with, not a lot of writing has been happening.

OUT NOW:

I may as well take the opportunity to promote OUTPOST H311, which is doing reasonably well sales-wise at the moment. If you like Nazi zombies, this is a book for you. Tell your friends. There aren’t enough Nazi zombie books in the world, and this one attempts to address that.

PUBLICITY

Three online interviews with me have gone up since last time, and links are included below

21 June – Cedar Hollow

20 August – Ginger Nuts of HorrorGinger Nuts of Horror

23 August – Kendall Reviews

WORK IN PROGRESS

As already mentioned, not much writing going on. There will be a sequel to OUTPOST H311. That’s all I can really say at this stage.

And that’s about it for news this time. I hope to see you again next month.

Monthly Round-up: May 2018

It’s been a while since I did a round-up but this month there is news!

OUT NOW

The most important news is that the new horror novel, OUTPOST H311, is now out! It is available in paperback and Kindle format from Amazon UK, Amazon US and I’m even including the links to Amazon Canada for my Canadian friends.

I’m quite excited about this book. It seemed to be quite difficult to write, for various reasons, and it was a long road to get it to this point. But now, at last, here it is.

PUBLICITY

I’m still working on this. As ever the best promotion for a writer is a good review, so please do consider doing a review if you read the book, even if it’s just a few words. It all helps.

I’m also interested in guest slots on other people’s blogs, so if you run this feature, please get in touch. I can offer reciprocal slots on the ‘Monday’s Friends’ feature.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I’ve been manically busy in the day job, not to mention prep for the release of OUTPOST H311, so not a lot writing is being done at present.

And that’s about it for now. See you next month!

 

Friday Fears: Two-sentence horror #13

I’m a day late with this Friday Fears post. I had a submission, which I promised to put up on 25 May, but I had a manic day at the day job yesterday.

Apologies to Hari Navarro, who sent me the submission below, for being late in posting his two-sentence horror story

Doctor Jurin sighed wearily as he ran his scalpel through the puffy wax of the girl’s bloated abdomen. The eel that oozed out of the opening and contracted into her gathering necrotic fluid cost him the end of his tongue.

By Hari Navarro

And here’s one from me:

The imposter continues to live my life: looking like me, sounding like me, acting like me. But he’s not me, because I am here, and no one can see or hear me so they have no idea that this stranger isn’t me.

Happy weekend, Horror Hounds, and don’t have nightmares!

 

Monthly Round-up: February 2018

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

On 1 February, I went in for surgery.

Since then I’ve been at home recovering, so February is pretty much a write-off. However, it’s been very cold while I’ve been off, so it’s not been a bad time to be stuck indoors. And by the time I go back to work, which I hope will be next week (pending doctor approval) it will be daylight when I leave the house.

That said, there are a few things to report this month.

OUT NOW/COMING SOON

I’m pleased to announce that my story ‘Morgan’s Father’ is included in the Women in Horror edition of the SIREN’S CALL e-zine. This issue is completely free to download as a PDF and is chock full of horror stories by women, so download your copy now.

In other news, we don’t yet have a release date for OUTPOST H311, but the onus is on me at the moment since I’ve had the edits back and I’m working through them. And it’s taking rather longer than I was expecting. Partly that’s due to being on sick leave. For the first two weeks following surgery I couldn’t really do much except lie about reading or watching TV. No concentration for anything else. However, this week I’ve been making progress with the edits, so hopefully there’ll be more news on this next month.

PUBLICITY

I contributed to Mark West’s Stephen King mixtape, which appeared on his blog on 26 February. This was a post including a long list of writers talking briefly about their favourite King story. I chose ‘The Breathing Method’.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I haven’t worked on any WIPs for a while, what with surgery getting in the way and all. So the current status is unchanged. There are two current works in progress:

A WHITER SHADE OF PAIN: a crime thriller set in 1967 which is a collaboration with my husband. We plotted the book together, then I wrote Draft 1 and he started on Draft 2. The latter isn’t finished yet, but I’ve taken it back to make further changes to the amended chapters. So I suppose it’s currently on Draft 2.5.

DEADLY SUMMER is the fourth Shara Summers novel, which takes my intrepid sleuth to New York City when she gets a job in a US soap opera. I am about a third of the way through the first draft. I halted work on this when I started writing OUTPOST H311, and I haven’t got back to it yet.

That’s all to report this month. I anticipate that by the end of next month, spring will have sprung. But you can never tell, with British weather.

 

Monthly Round-Up: January 2018

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I really hate January. It has no redeeming features. It’s dark, cold and wet, everyone is broke after Christmas, there is nothing to look forward to and as I never see daylight during the working week it’s the month my SAD seems to hit the hardest so I spend most of it feeling depressed.

Hence, I am always glad to see the back of it. Happily, we are now out of January and there are a few things to look forward to in the coming months as there is news to report.

COMING SOON:

I am pleased to announce that my previously-published story “Morgan’s Father” (most recently available in the collection SOUL SCREAMS) is to be published in the forthcoming ‘Women in Horror’ edition of the ezine SIREN’S CALL.

My new horror novel OUTPOST H311 is currently with the editor, and will be released later this year from KGHH publishing. I will let you know when I have more news regarding release date.

PUBLICITY:

I’ve been a bit quiet on this front of late, and there’s nothing to report at the moment, but there are a couple of things I’ve been working on and I hope to have something to report soon.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

With the horror novel finished I’ve been trying to figure out what to work on next. I’m back at work on the collaboration with Hubby, which has been a somewhat long-running project. It’s a crime thriller set in 1967, about a young woman with a dream to play bass in a band, who gets caught up in the heady world of London gangs and the rising music scene when she searches for a friend who’s disappeared.

The fourth Shara Summers novel is about a third of the way through draft 1, but I have not done any work on it for 12 months. I am still in two minds as to whether to carry on with this series. I enjoy writing it, but it’s not selling, and is there any point in carrying on with a series people don’t want to read?

As we move into February and the days start to get lighter, things start to look brighter. Join me again at the end of this month to see what it had in store!

Year in Review: 2017

(Cross-published on the WriteClub blog)

Well here we are at the start of 2018. This is a time to make resolutions to change things in the forthcoming year, and review how things went in the last one.

This time last year, I resolved to have two finished WIPs by the end of 2017. Well, I got halfway there. I finished the latest horror novel in mid-December. The novel is called OUTPOST H311 and it will be published by KGHH Publishing some time this year. Stay tuned for more info on this.

The other WIP – the fourth Shara Summers novel – remains unfinished. I am at present trying to make up my mind whether to continue with this series. The third novel is still without a publication date. Although it was accepted by MuseItUp Publishing some 18 months ago, health and personal issues affecting both my editor and my publisher there have delayed publishing schedules.

I enjoy writing the Shara series, and the few reviews that I’ve received for the first two books in the series have been positive, but they really aren’t selling, and I’m finding this very discouraging. What’s the point of writing books that no one seems interested in reading?

Since I finished OUTPOST H311 I’ve taken a bit of break from writing while I think about what to work on next. I have got a couple of vague ideas, but nothing concrete yet.

This year, I resolve to have at least one WIP finished by the end of the year. I just haven’t made up my mind which one yet.

Happy New Year one and all, and hope 2018 brings success and happiness.