Monday, 20 November 2017

Tales From the Lake Vol 4, Crystal Lake Publishing

Tales from the Lake is the latest volume of dark speculative and horror fiction from Crystal Lake Publishing which is going from strength to strength. I received this title as part of a special offer where for just $11 dollars you receive five Crystal Lake Anthologies! More details here

For those who don't know Crystal Lake Publishing produces really high quality horror! Do check them out. This anthology is a real treat for horror fans, with 24 stories you're in for a bumper ride. I almost didn't want to finish reading it as I enjoyed it so much.

Tales From the Lake Volume Four edited by Ben Eads is a bumper issue of 24 short tales. It took me a long time to read this issue as I wanted to savour each tale. There's a real range of stories here, so there's something for everyone. I really liked the range of stories here, you have the really cool monster based horror stories, as well as building dread of pschyological horror as well as really unusual stories and ones with a literary bent.

As there's so many great tales in here I'll quickly mention my stand out tales which were very hard to choose;

Go Warily After Dark by Kealan Patrick Burke. This was a superb tale about a young family trying to survive in wartime, it has a feel of the London Blitz to me and is a perfect example of what great horror is. This dark tale reminds me of the kind of really high calibre stories you would find in Black Static, the premiere UK horror magazine. A dark and foreboding atmosphere is quickly built up and the story does not let you go, even after you have finished reading it.

To the Hills by T.E.Grau - A tale made more sinister from it being told from a child's perspective of being to innocent to see what's really going on.

Everything Hurts, Until it Doesn't by Damien Angelica Walters - This tale really stood out for me. It has some really beautiful writing and is very strange with a high impact and moving ending. It's not your average horror tale and that's what makes this anthology so good. After reading this tale I now want to read everything this author has written!

Whenever You Exhale, I inhale by Max Booth 111 - Max Booth 111 is an author I'm always glad to see when I reading horror. I've really enjoyed all his tales I've come across so far and this one is no exception. It's incredibly dark and haunting but also very moving. I was really rooting for Tom and Michael.

The Withering by Bruce Golden was simply terrifying!

Snowmen by David Dunwoody - This was a great tale, I loved it from beginning to end and is the perfect antidote for those who find Christmas too sweet. I loved the originality of this tale and could easily see this made into a film.

However all these tales were a delight to read and I can't wait to read volume 5! I was really blown away by the quality, as with a lot of horror anthologies you expect there to be a few tales that are stunning and a few that don't quite do it for you but the quality in this was great. One day whilst reading this I completely  lost track of time and was almost late in picking up my son from school! This anthology makes you want to go and hide somewhere where you won't be disturbed for a few hours.
I absolutely love reading short horror fiction and currently there's so many good magazines out there, a few personal faves of mine include Dark Moon Digest, Deadman's Tome, Black Static, Aphotic Realm and  Hindered Souls Press

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Yours to Tell: Dialogues on the Art and Practice of Writing by Steve and Melanie Tem

You may yawn at yet another how-to-write coming out but this one is different. For a start it's written by two authors who really know how to write and have been in the industry for years and years. They have written many short stories and novels. Between them they have two Bram Stoker awards, two World Fantasy Awards, two British Fantasy Awards, one International Horror Guild award amongst others.

The authors I'm talking about are husband and wife, Steve and Melanie Tem. I really felt whilst reading this book is that the reader gets a really intimate and rare insight into how two very prolific and successful authors go about their craft.

Yours to Tell is divided into chapters which cover all aspects of writing, such as plot, characters, setting, point of view, structure as well as chapters that deal with engaging their readers. So, in short it covers a lot of ground and pretty hefty 227 pages long.

The book is written in a conversational tone which is easy to read and informal, they have been teaching pupils to write for years and this book reflects what they taught in those years. What I liked about this book is that you don't have to read the book cover to cover. You can start with whatever chapter you want and read in your own preferred order.

This book is packed full with really simple advice, to importance of following your own path in writing. They've given me lots of new methods to try out with my own writing and is full of practical advice.

One little gem I will share with you is how to move a story along and stop your readers from getting bored. The tip they shared actually comes from South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. When coming up with new episodes for their South Park series, they plot by theoretically inserting a "therefore" between each scene rather than an "and". This happens therefore that happens. This helps them to ensure the story is constantly moving forwards. To create tension and conflict they also throw in a few "buts."  Which is definitely a method I will be using to check against my own work.

Yous to Tell is a book that I will definitely be reading again. There's also a recommended reading list added at the back including creative writing handbooks and great fiction!

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan

I was sold on reading this book from the first two sentences of the blurb on the back cover;

"England flourishes under the hand of Elizabeth 1, last of the Tudor monarchs. But a great light casts  great shadow. In hidden catacombs beneath London, a second queen holds court: Invidiana, ruler of faerie England, and a dark mirror to the glory above."

This is a tale of two regal courts living side by side in uneasy peace, the court of Elizabeth 1 the last of the infamous Tudor dynasty and Queen of faerie England Invidiana who resides secretly beneath the streets of Elizabethan London in the Onyx Court.

Lady Lune, after falling out of favour with Invidiana after failing to negotiable agreeable terms with the sea people, is sent to Elizabeth's court to spy on Elizabeth 1 spymaster, Walsingham. She disguises herself as a mortal when she ventures above ground and soon catches th eye of Michael Devin an agent of Walsingham.

They become bound to one another in a way neither could envisage but they must stick together if they are both to live and ensure the survival of their peoples.

Midnight Never Come is a really magical book. Straightaway I was completely immersed in the way of life in Elizabethan London and the faerie kingdom, Onyx Court. This was a book I just couldn't put down, it was full of intrigue, suspense and just a really well written book.

What's really cool about this book is that a lot of the figures in this book were real historical figures such as Walsingham Elizabeth 1 right hand man and occult figure Dr John Dee. It's really well researched because of that it feels entirely believable that there could have been a faerie court ruling alongside Elizabeth's 1.

Midnight Never Come is the first book in the Onyx Court series and I'm really looking forward to reading the next installments as Midnight Never Come could almost be a stand alone book so it will be really interesting to see  what direction the series takes. Marie Brennan, author of Midnight Never Come is better known for her bestselling fantasy series, The Memoirs of Lady Trent, a leading Dragon Naturalist. I've yet to read these but after reading this tale I will definitely be reading a lot more by Marie Brennan.

This was a very unusual book, one that was a delight to read.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Unnerving Magazine #issue 4 Extended Halloween Edition

Unnerving Magazine is a relatively new quarterly magazine of horror, dark fantasy and dark sci-fi. It's really dark! So if you love horror and all things creepy then this is the magazine for you. I've read a few issues now and loved everyone of them so far.

I also want to point out that Unnerving have a great deal on right now. You can subscribe to this magazine for a whole year for just $10! For that price you get to read some amazing stories and help support indie horror. When I subscribed I got a free ebook called Alligators in Sewers which looks really cool, I can't wait to get stuck into that.

Issue #4 is a bumper Halloween issue and features a really impressive line up including William Meikle, Max Booth 111, Israel Finn and regular contributors such as Gwendolyn Kiste.

There are 13 dark tales inside, all themed around Halloween, the best time of the year! The collection starts off strong with Luddid House by Madison McSweeney in which a mother and son go trick or treating in their local neighbourhood where they stumble upon the creepy Luddid House. This was a really dark tale with sinister foreboding switched up to the max!

Babysitting for Writers by Kevin David Anderson was a really fun tale about an overworked babysitter who's boss has some unusual extra-curricular hobbies.

Boy Takes After His Mother by Max Booth 111 was one of my faves, it's as sweet as it is dark, because even serial killers have soft sides.

Black Balloon by Christopher Shultz was a really original and dark quirky tale about a black balloon that infects anyone it comes near. Maximum points to Christopher Shultz for darkness!

By the Gun by Thomas Joyce is a great western tale about retribution!

A Day at Sea by Israel Finn follow the story of three friends looking to get away from it all for a day and party on their mate's boat. Things don't go exactly to plan.

Mud by Somer Canon is another of my favourites. This was a great tale about all things that go squelch! The ending was so cool!

Bishop by William Cooper is a really creepy tale of a young boy, Puke, who finds a strange knife and becomes a stranger in his sister's eyes.

Me Too by Meg Hafdahl is a tale of two young girls who want to be free of their childhoods and go out into the adult world. But they're just not ready for it yet!

Trick by Andrew Cull is a tale of quiet but devastating horror. The events made worse by the lack of the narrator's understanding of just what it is he's done. Really cool!

Why I Don't Let My Kids Go Trick or Treating by Elliotte Rusty Harold is another favourite of mine from this collection. It tales the tale of a dad recalling the time he used to go trick or treating with his brother when they were young and why he absolutely forbids his children from doing the same.

Staying Alive Among the Beasts by William Meikle is a really dark apocalytic tale of one man, Fred Atkins fighting not just for his survival after an awful event but also for the survival of his beloved animals.

Sylvia Spool by George Edwards Murray is a really cool tale that fuses with folklore and horror. It tales the tale of two young girls who wander up to a cave from their village and stumble upon an ancient goddess, Sylvia.

Under the Influence by Renee Miller is a really dark tale of a a man and a woman forever changed by an awful tragedy.

There's also some really cool articles by Gwendolyn Kiste who offers up some great Halloween fancy dress ideas from the vaults of horror. Dustin La Valley advises us on how to survive a zombie attack without weapons, and there's an interview from horror legend Stephen Graham Jones.

You can get your copy here Unnerving also have a great range of dark novellas, limited edition chapbooks and a whole lot more.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

I am Witch

I'm super chuffed to have had one of my stories accepted for the second issue of Aphotic Realm Magazine.  Fot those who don't know, this is a new publication of strange and sinister fiction. Their first issue, Apparitions immediately garnered great reviews and they are well on their way to establishing themselves as a premier dark fiction magazine.

My story, I am Witch, will be featured in issue two which comes out October/November 2017. Like with Apparitions, issue two will be themed around banishment.

This is such a great magazine, a lot of love and dedication is put into this. I implore you to invest in the paperback version which is printed in full cover and features amazing artwork.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Pretty Marys All in a Row by Gwendolyn Kiste

Its been a long time since I've been really excited to read a book. This one in particular. For those unfamiliar, Gwendolyn Kiste is a rapidly rising star on the indie horror scene. Over the last few years she has published many, many stories in all the top horror and speculative fiction magazines such as Black Static, Interzone, Nightmare Magazine, Lamplight, Shimmer and Sanitarium Magazine.

Recently she published her first collection of short stories with JournalStone, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe which contained previously published stories as well as a few originals. Upon release it instantly garnered high praise from many reviewers and readers all over the world. Since then she has written her first novel The Rust Maidens which will be coming out 2018 with Trepidatio Publishing. There is also a novelette in the works which she has co-written with Emily Cataneo who also has a great collection out with JournalStone, Speaking to Skull Kings and Other Stories.

And her is her first novella, All Pretty Marys in a Row from Broken Eye Books

(Now I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover... But this one is just so beautiful and deserves a mention. Credit and lashings of praise is due to Gawki, seriously go check out their site!)

Pretty Marys All in a Row focuses on the famous Marys found in our modern urban legends and ancient folklore. Are they really as harmless as they seem? Made immortal in childish nursery rhymes and creepy campfire tales they are brought back to life in this tale.

So let's meet the Marys...

"We don't know how we got here, and we don't know how to leave."

First we have Resurrection Mary, a young girl who haunts the highways at night hitchhiking her way with fear. There's Bloody Mary who will appear in a mirror if you say her name three times, next we have Mistress Mary Quite Contrary, Mary Mack who endlessly builds her own coffin and finally Mari Lwyd.

Each evening they gather to feast, not on food but on fear which they hunt for. Apart from that they are mostly solitary creatures carving out an existence not knowing who they are,  forgetting what they were and how they came to be here. They adhere unquestioning to strict rules and regimented routines from which they never deviate.

That is until their way of life is threatened. They are no longer alone, there is a voice in the darkness. Rhee aka Resurrection Mary fights back and soon begins to question her entire existence. Who has imposed these rules on them and are they more powerful than the Marys?  Soon they realise they are stronger together than apart but is their power enough?

Pretty Marys All in a Row is a ghost story mingled with folklore and urban legends. It really delves into the life of a ghost and what it means to be alive and free. Again, like with all her stories the writing is wonderful, dark with a literary edge. She adds beauty to dark stories. Her masterful command of prose is deeply evocative you really feel like you are there with Rhee standing on the highway.

I love the thinking behind the story, its really out there offering a really fresh perspective on tales we all take for granted.  Pretty Marys All in Row is deeply moving. It is a story of survival after tragedy, of never giving up and finding the strength within you.

It is also a very haunting tale, of not knowing what is out there beyond our mortal world. This is a tale you will want to read again and again. After reading this, I simply can't wait for more tales from Gwendolyn Kiste!

Pretty Marys All in a Row will be released in Auntumn/Winter 2017 by Broken Eye Books

About the Author

Gwendolyn Kiste is a speculative fiction author based in Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Shimmer, Interzone, Lamplight, Flash Fiction Online and Three Lobed Burning Eye as well as Flame Tree's Publishing's Chilling Horror Short Stories anthology, among others. 

Her debut collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, was released JounralStone in April 2017. Her debut novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row is out in Auntumn 2017 and her debut novel The Rust Maidens is due out in 2018

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Outsiders Edited by Joe Mynhardt

The Outsiders is a really cleverly written horror anthology featuring some pretty fine horror talent from critically authors such as Stephen Bacon, James Everington, Gary Fry, V.H.Leslie, Rosanne Rabinowitz and Kevin Lucia contributing the introduction.I loved how these stories were written by different authors but the stories work really well together creating a really quirky horror anthology.

What's really clever about this is that the five stories all are centred around a mysterious cult like gated community known as Priory. In this very small and secular society they worship a strange eldritch sea creature who communicates via colours offering them wisdom and enlightenment in return.

The cult is headed up by a nefarious Charles Erich who is worshipped, adored and feared by his fellow residents all hand picked by him to come an live inside Priory an exclusive neighbourhood that everyone wants to live in. At first glance it seems the perfect neighbourhood, no crime, everyone looks after each other and lives in perfect harmony.

Yet underneath the surface, literally, lives the sea creature older than humanity that they worship. Caring for this beast comes at a price it must be fed, with souls.

In the first tale, The Subprime by Gary Fry we meet a young 19 year old boy Lee Mann who has always lived his life as an outsider growing up in a broken family, always having to fend for himself. He's determined to make the best of himself which he starts to do after accepting a dream job selling mortgages for Mr Phillips a resident of Priory. However soon he starts to have seconds thoughts regarding the ethics of his new boss and soon tries to find a way out.

Impossible colours by James Everington sees a police community support officer investigate the apparent suicide of a local man, Marty Young. Everyone has written him off as a mad man but as she investigates his death further she finds some disturbing information regarding the exclusive gated community in Exham town. She also learns that her and Marty are not so different after all.

Stolen From the Sea, by Stephen Bacon, follows the story of a grieving father who yearns to leave Priory after falling in love with another woman following the death of his daughter. He yearns to be free again and together with his new love, they hatch a plan to run away.

Precious Things by V.H.Leslie, witnesses the demise of a long and stable marriage. Petra soon yearns for more than what her increasingly distant husband Bernard can offer. As she tries to rebuild the bridge between them she soon realises he is keeping secrets from her.

In the final tale, Meat Motion and Light by Rosanne Rabinowitz we find the tale of Claudia who managed to escape the repressive Priory. Now she's free to do whatever she wants, be the person she was always meant to be. But her mother, still living at Priory calls her back to return to Priory. It's a call she can't ignore despite the many warning from those closest to her.