Archive for the ‘Sarah Pinborough’ Tag

Best Books of 2016

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Sometimes people ask me how I deal with the commute to work. I spend a good three hours a day – often four – travelling by public transport, into London and back again along with hundreds of other commuters.

The singular thing that keeps me sane on my commute is that I use the time for reading. Losing myself in a book allows me to find some pleasure in this daily ordeal.

For the last few years, I’ve participated in the Goodreads challenge by setting a goal for myself on how many books to read in the year. For the first time in some years, I did not complete my challenge in 2016 – I set myself a goal to read 70 books and only read 68.

Generally this time of year I list the best of the previous year’s reading, which is guided by which books I gave five-star ratings to. And in 216 there were four, as follows:

Defending Jacob – William Landay
Witches Abroad (Discworld #12) – Terry Pratchett
13 Minutes – Sarah Pinborough
Try Not To Breathe – Holly Seddon

There’s one comic fantasy, one crime thriller and two psychological thrillers. Further details, as well as a link to the Goodreads page for each book, are listed below.

Defending Jacob
I had to read this one for my book group, and it left me utterly gripped. The story is told from the point of view of Andy Barber, district attorney, whose life is rocked when his fourteen-year-old son is accused of the brutal murder of a classmate.It throws up an interesting moral dilemma: what is a father to do when he suspects his own child might be a murderers?

Witches Abroad
I’m still working through my re-reading of the Discworld books, and I have to admit that the books featuring the witches – Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick – are my favourites. In this book the witches have to venture to much-suspect ‘foreign parts’ to stop the happy ending of a well known fairy tale. Because there’s so much more to the story than the one that we’ve heard. I love the witches and their very different but forceful personalities.

13 Minutes
I tend to run into Sarah Pinborough at most of the conventions I attend these days, and know her well enough to say hello to. Not only is she a lovely person, but she’s a phenomenal writer, and one of those people that occupies a spot on the writing career ladder that’s much higher up than me, and I can only look up and hope that one day I can get to the same spot.

Sarah Pinborough writes in many different genres. This novel is pegged as YA, but I really hate that label because when I see it I assume it’s referring to a kids’ book. The main character of this novel happens to be a teenage girl, but the genre is most definitely psychological thriller. The main character is rescued from a freezing river and revived after being technically dead for 13 minutes, and this is where the title comes from. How she got there is the main plot of the story, and it soon becomes evident that all the main characters are hiding secrets. As well as being a gripping story, this also serves as a reminder as to just how bitchy teenage girls can be. I’m so glad I don’t have to go through all that again.

Try Not To Breathe
Another psychological thriller, I had to review this for Shots and I found it utterly compelling. It involves the story of Amy, who was attacked and left in a coma when she was 15. Fifteen years have passed and she is still in the coma, but the story of how she got there is gradually revealed through three viewpoint characters, one of which – disturbingly – is Amy herself, who still has active brain function within her coma although she is tragically unaware of how much time has passed.

For this year, I have set myself a target of reading 68 books – the same number I managed to read last year. However, due to the fact that there are a lot of problems on London transport at the moment and I am spending four hours a day on trains, buses and underground trains I have been getting a lot of reading time in and I am already two books ahead of schedule.

If you’re on Goodreads and want to compare books with me, or even check out some of mine, connect with my profile here.

 

 

 

 

Homage to Women in Horror – Part 2

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Continuing my tribute to Women in Horror Month, today I am following on by mentioning some of the women of horror I have met, and who have inspired me, over the years:

Sally Spedding: I first met Sally at the Winchester Writers’ Conference a few years ago. Part of your delegate ticket when you register is the opportunity for three one-to-ones, two of which can be with agents or editors. I picked Sally for my third non-agent/editor one-to-one because she was another writer who crossed the genres of crime and horror. I sent her the first chapter of DEATH SCENE. When I sat down for my fifteen minutes with her, she told me it was the best thing she’d read all weekend and I’d really made her day by sending it to her. Well, she made my week – nay, my year – by telling me so, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.

Sarah Pinborough: Sarah is a versatile writer who writes in many genres, including YA, sf, horror and crime – or combining all of the above. I can particularly recommend her “Dog-Faced Gods” trilogy. Set in a near-future dystopian London, the main character is a paranormal investigator looking into a series of crimes. It becomes clear that there is something supernatural involved. I feel like I’ve known Sarah for ages, because I run into her at every convention I go to.  But I think we first met at the World Horror Con in Brighton, less than two years ago.

Lisa Tuttle: Many years ago, in my first job as book shop assistant, an anthology of horror stories written by women came into the shop. Published by Women’s Press, it was called THE SKIN OF THE SOUL and Lisa Tuttle gave the introduction, making the argument that horror had been erroneously considered a man’s domain for far too long and it was high time to acknowledge all the fine women horror writers out there. I’ve been a fan of Lisa’s ever since.  I got to tell her how inspiring I found that anthology at World Horror Con in Brighton – and it seems I wasn’t the only woman to do so, as she makes reference to it in a blog post on her livejournal blog.

Next, a shout-out to some Women of Horror I’ve connected with online, but haven’t met in person:

Rita Vetere:  Rita’s WHISPERING BONES is a thrillingly scary horror tale.

Diane Dooley: Diane is also honouring Women of Horror on her blog this month, so go check it out.

Fiona Dodwell: Fiona is another Writer of Damn Scary Books.

Sealey Andrews: Sealey is also honouring Women in Horror Month on her ‘Girl in the Soapdish’ blog.

Jenna M Pitman: Jenna’s horror fiction can be found everywhere, it seems, going by her list of publishing credits.

Last but by no means least, I want to give a shout-out to the lovely ladies who are my co-bloggers on the WriteClub blog. They are all fabulous writers, and you should go read their books:

Sonya Clark
Nerine Dorman
Pamela Turner

Seeing as how February has an extra day this year, next Wednesday will be the third and final part of my homage to women of horror, so be sure to come back next week.

FantasyCon 2011 Round-up

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This past weekend was the hottest October weekend in the UK since records began, and as such it was a great time to be heading to the seaside town of Brighton, back to the same hotel where World Horror Con was held about 18 months ago.

FantasyCon is a Con both Hubby and I like to attend, and we arrived in Brighton around 2pm. My reading was at 3:30pm, so I figured this was plenty of time to prepare. Unfortunately the hotel wouldn’t let us check in until 3, so we left our bags with the concierge and went to find the bar. We ran into a few T Party people on the way.

I wasn’t so nervous about doing the reading. I was more worried about not having an audience. There were two reading rooms, with readings scheduled against each other, and I think I lost out to the competition in the end. Plus, Friday afternoon was a quiet time, as not everyone had arrrived. Still, Mark West of Stumar Press – the publisher of my forthcoming collection – made it to the reading, a couple of T Party people and one or two others so I wasn’t playing to an empty house. I read two stories from the forthcoming SOUL SCREAMS. When I rehearsed them at home, I timed them together at over 20 minutes. For the reading, though, I was done in 15. I guess I was reading a bit fast.

Once the reading was done, I felt I could indulge in some alcohol (I didn’t want to be incoherent for my reading) but I really wanted to attend the panel on crossing genres, so I didn’t get to spend much time in the bar. Panel moderator was Sarah Pinborough, and the wonderful Mike Carey was on the panel, along with other writers whose work I haven’t read: Gary McMahon, Steve Mosby and Suzanne McLeod. I think I shall have to remedy this soon. They all write some variation of crime/supernatural crossover, and that’s just my cup of tea.

During the panel, Hubby had succeeded in getting us checked into our room (the queue had been far too long at 3pm). We attended the FantasyCon welcome party, catching up with a few more people in the bar. I encountered Simon Clark, whom I remember having long conversations with nearly 20 years ago, when a group of mainly BFS members used to have monthly pub meets in the Wellington pub in Waterloo. The monthly pub meets still happen, but the venue has changed several times since then, as has regular attendees. I don’t think he remembered talking to me nearly as well as I remembered him, but he was gracious enough to pretend he did.

Friday night ended with the infamous FantasyCon raffle. There are usually a lot of donated prizes, so it goes on for a while. Happily, I did win a prize – a book called WAKE UP AND DREAM by Ian R Macleod. Not an author I know, but the book looks quite interesting, and I’m never one to turn down free books, so it, too, has been added to the towering TBR pile.

Saturday Hubby and I decided to sample panels representing all genre fiction, so we went to the Trends in Fantasy Fiction panel, and the Where Next in SF? panel. Hubby then snuck off to his favourite Brighton guitar shop, while I wandered around investigating various launches, and a couple of readings.

In the hotel lobby I caught up with Gavin Williams and Tim Lebbon. As I mentioned in my lowdown of Horror Con, these two chaps and I used to be in the same writing folio – a sort of postal writing group – many, many years ago. They’ve both subsequently become very successful writers. Tim Lebbon especially is now a Famous British Horror Writer (and yes, that’s Famous with a Capital F). Quite nice that they both still remember me, though. We had a good chat.

Hubby returned with his loot from the guitar shop in time for the interview of veteran sf writer Brian Alldis, by Christopher Priest. Mr Alldis has led a fascinating life. After the interview he was signing books, and Hubby went off to buy one. He came back very happy, having engaged Mr Alldis in conversation for about 15 minutes, mostly about Singapore, where the writer was stationed during the war, and where Hubby ends up travelling to for work fairly regularly.

After a foray outside for some dinner and a walk along Brighton’s sea front – well, it seemed a shame to waste such a lovely day inside all the time – we returned to the bar for some more drinking and socialising. The evening’s entertainment included a Burlesque show. However, after the first half I dragged myself away from the girls with nipple tassels to attend another panel, on How to Scare Your Readers, which was populated by some of the best contemporary British horror writers. And one might be forgiven for thinking that contemporary British horror is dominated by bald blokes, as there were three of them sitting in a row – namely, Adam Nevill, Tim Lebbon and Simon Clark. The other two panellists were also blokes, though not bald – Ramsey Campbell and Tom Fletcher. Personally I think this panel should have had at least one woman – we women of horror are woefully under-represented.

In any case, the panel was very interesting, and Adam Nevill’s book THE RITUAL has gone on my TBR list, after Tim Lebbon – who himself writes some damn scary books – cited it as being the scariest story he’d ever read.

This panel was followed by Ramsey Campbell’s midnight reading, where the iconic horror writer read out one of his characteristically whimsical and disturbing short stories.

After that, I ventured back to the bar to find the first FantasyCon disco in full swing. Since the delegates at FantasyCon are mostly, like me, 40-plus geeks, the music played was entirely to my liking. The disco was Sarah Pinborough’s idea and I hope it becomes a FantasyCon tradition, because it was jolly good fun, even though bopping around in such sweltering heat meant none of us smelled too fragrant by the end of the evening.

Sadly, the evening had to end, and we retired to bed. Although there were activities scheduled for Sunday until mid afternoon, we were anxious to make an early start home, as engineering works meant our journey was going to be somewhat arduous. We said our goodbyes and left.

The post-Con comedown is always a struggle. After a weekend in such excellent company, getting back to real life can be a wrench. Sadly, I was obliged to return to the day job on Monday morning, but I have many wonderful memories from this year’s FantasyCon. I feel doubly sad about this Con ending as it’s the last one I’m attending this year. Already I’ve got post-Con withdrawal symptoms, and I don’t, as yet, have any Cons for 2012 booked up to have more to look forward to. I need to address this soon, methinks.

World Horror Con 2010 – Overview

“Brighton Shock” was the title of World Horror Con 2010 – the first World Horror Con to be held outside North America, in its 20-year history.

Although a regular Con-goer this was the first time I had attended WHC. I usually go to Cons alone, but my husband decided to come along as well, partly because he does occasionally read horror, but mostly because he thought, correctly, Brighton would be a nice place for a weekend away.

Two things struck me fairly quickly about this Con compared to others. The first was the amount of Free Stuff we got. Upon checking in at the registration desk and picking up our name badges (issued in a very useful neck pouch that had a number of pockets in – so one could carry cash, business cards, anything else one might need all in one place), we were both handed a large heavy WHC shoulder bag containing vast quantities of freebies – mostly books. Initially we thought we’d been given a set each of the same books. On further inspection, each bag contained a selection of different books. I am impressed. I now have enough books to last me for the next six months.

The other difference with World Con was the amount of free booze on offer. Most Cons offer free alcohol of some kind, be it a launch or a reception or some such, at some point over the weekend. Horror Con had all manner of launches, and each one supplied free drinks. It was entirely possible, if one felt so inclined, to spend the whole weekend tipsy without having to pay for any alcohol.

We arrived early Friday evening, and we decided to go to the party on Brighton Pier hosted by American novelist Heather Graham. I haven’t read any of Heather’s books yet, but I got two of them free at the Con, so I shall be remedying that situation soon.

Upon ordering my small glass of wine at the bar, the bartender said – “It’s a free bar – why don’t you have a large one?” Sadly that proved to be my undoing. However, it was a very good party and it is true that the best place to talk to people at a Con is at the bar – especially a free bar. Everyone was wandering around in name badges, so you could identify who you wanted to talk to. I caught up with Gavin Williams and Tim Lebbon, who I used to know many, many years ago before either of them were published writers. They are both doing quite well for themselves writing-wise, it was good to hear.

Then Michael Marshall Smith stopped to chat to us for a while. I have met him before on a couple of occasions, and he came to speak to the T Party a couple of years ago. He’s one of the few writers my husband and I both read – Chris likes his sci fi books; I like his crime thrillers.

I also spent some time talking to Lisa Tuttle, who I hadn’t met before, but when I saw her standing on her own I decided it was a good opportunity to meet her. And we exchanged cards. Eventually. That was another lesson I learned about Cons. Although I took some of my specially-printed cards with the link to buy STC along, we went out for dinner after dumping the luggage and I found myself in the bar without any of them, which necessitated my chasing the people I’d talked to on Friday down later in the weekend, to pass on the cards (note to self: never go anywhere – especially anywhere serving alcohol – without a stash of STC business cards on my person).

We eventually flagged and went to bed – earlier than most, it seemed. I felt decidedly worse for wear Saturday morning, but managed to get to the first panel on time. The panel was called “Look at Me” and was about how to promote oneself. Most of the panel members seemed to be in a similar state to me, to be honest. It seemed the party went on until the wee hours of the morning. The panel members’ advice on how to make a good impression as a writer included: remember to shower. And use deodorant. And change your clothes. And brush your teeth. Especially if you’ve been out drinking till 3am the previous night, and never managed to get to bed. It seemed all the panel members enjoyed the party as well.

After that, I went to the panel about the history of Pan Horror books. I’m sure I used to have some of those Pan Horror collections as a teenager. What I didn’t know is that they stopped being produced in 1989, and those that are still around could be quite valuable (another note to self: check all those old paperbacks up in the attic).

After that, I was a bit torn as to where to go next. The next item on the agenda was an interview with James Herbert, which I really wanted to see. However, at the same time was a panel on women In horror – more relevant for my writing career, I felt. In the end, I went to the “Women In Horror” panel, and glad I did, as it was very interesting.

It was, by that point, lunch time, so we left the hotel in search of a bite to eat. We spent a pleasant hour or so in the Piano & Pitcher by the sea front. I had a ham and cheese baguette, with chips, and a large bottle of water, which was theoretically to share but I drank most of it myself, still feeling decidedly dehydrated from the night before. Food and water really helped, and I went back to the Con feeling much refreshed.

Chris decided to take the air in Brighton while I went to the panel on crossover genres in horror (actually he snuck off to the guitar shop, which is probably another reason why he decided to come to Brighton in the first place).

Meanwhile, the panel I attended was largely to do with how modern horror usually crosses genres, such as crime and horror, historical horror, romance and horror, and so on. And that publishers are always far more keen to emphasise the genre that’s not horror, in an attempt to avoid putting off their potential readership. I asked the question why that should be – after all, if I pick up a book expecting it to be horror and it’s full of romance, I get pretty miffed, and no one’s worried about offending me.

One of the answers that was put forth is that in the 70s when horror was in its heyday, there was so much ‘bad’ horror published, in an attempt to jump on the bandwagon, that it gave the genre something of a bad reputation. This has happened in other genres too, of course. But somehow ‘bad’ horror is always much more of an embarrassment than, say, bad sci fi or a bad bodice ripper.

I had an hour to kill after that before the next panel I wanted to go to was on, so I decided to explore the rest of the convention. There was a James Herbert signing session going on. In the end I decided not to join it – the queue was extremely long, and I hadn’t actually brought any Herbert books along with me, whereas most people in the line were clutching half a dozen. So sadly I didn’t get to meet James Herbert. But I don’t think I would have got to talk to him anyway. After all, he’s a giant amongst horror writers, and I am a lowly mollusc.

I did, however, get chatting to Sarah Pinborough, who had been on the Women In Horror panel, and as she’s a writer of both crime and horror, like me, I was keen to get her view on writing in both genres. Her opinion is that the two genres have a lot in common and plenty of writers do it. I worry about my dual-genre writing sometimes, as many industry opinions suggest that publishers like you to stick to one, to build up a fan base.

The final panel of the day I attended was entitled “State of the Art” and was meant to be reflecting on where horror will be in the future. Unfortunately I think perhaps the steady stream of free alcohol was starting to take its toll, as the panel on the whole didn’t really answer the question. Though there was quite a lot of discussion about one panellist’s former career as editor of a certain ‘gentlemen’s magazine’.

Saturday evening was the Bram Stoker Awards Banquet. We didn’t attend, choosing instead to hook up with the two other Con-going T Party members, Gary and Denni, and go out to find a pizza place.

By the time we returned, the chronic lack of sleep the night before was catching up with us, and we ended up going to bed rather early.

Sunday I had my spot at the Reading Cafe, where I made the reading debut of SUFFER THE CHILDREN. However, Sunday at 12:30pm was probably not the best spot to have – everyone was either having lunch, or had left, or if they were still at the Con they were in the panel about how to make a living writing. So my audience consisted of four people – Chris; Gary; Denni; and the WHC staff member who was co-ordinating the Reading Cafe. Still, it was good practice, and at least I had a friendly, if small audience (and a woeful reminder that outside my own circle of family and friends, no one knows or cares who I am at this point in my writing career).

We departed Brighton soon after that, having to take taxis to and from the station to manage our enormous stash of free books. It was an exhausting weekend, but I had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Bookings are already being taken for World Horror Con 2011, which is to take place in Austin, Texas, from 28 April to 1 May next year. I would very much like to go, but I think it will depend on annual leave and finances. And, possibly, on how well SUFFER THE CHILDREN sells.