Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Monthly Round-up: February 2019

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!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Monthly Round-up: January 2019

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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

New Year, New Opportunities

The last quarter of 2018 pretty much sucked. Not all of it, true, but a good portion.

First, the good. Got edits for The Judas Dilemma back from Lea at MuseItUp Publishing. She enjoyed the novel, which made me happy. No release date or cover reveal yet, but I'm glad another publisher rejected it. I think it'll have a better home at Muse.

The bad? The DH fell seriously ill back in the autumn. He's doing much better, but the specter of his illness still remains and must be monitored.

Needless to say, I didn't get much writing done. Instead, I worked on required government and court-related forms, which had deadlines, took over the finances, and took on the role of caretaker, not only for him, but also our adult daughter who has autism. So here's a shout out to you caregivers out there.

But, as the post title indicates, it's a new year and new opportunities. I've been studying self-publishing, marketing, and promoting. The main thing I've learned is about building relationships with potential buyers, such as in the form of a newsletter. I've put off putting out a newsletter for years, but this year, I'm going to do one. The other advice is authors need to be at the forefront of people's minds. If no one remembers who you are as an author, then it's doubtful he/she will buy your books. I've noticed on Facebook, for example, those authors who engage their readers/potential readers. While I tend to be introverted, if they can do it, so can I.

It's time to put what I've learned last year into practice. Fingers are crossed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Best Books of 2018

Once more it's time for me to review the books I read in the previous year and blog about the ones I liked the best. My criteria for this is quite simple. I log all the books I read on Goodreads, and those I give a 5-star rating make my 'best books' list.

In 2018 I set a goal of reading 70 books. I fell a bit short of that, managing to complete 68 books before the year ended. However, there was an unusually high number of books I gave a 5-star rating to last year. Seven have made the list. In the order in which I read them, they are:

Ready Player One: Ernest Kline
Everything is Lies: Helen Callaghan
Y is for Yesterday: Sue Grafton
Cross Her Heart: Sarah Pinborough
The Roanoke Girls: Amy Engle
If She Did It: Jessica Treadway
Tombland: CJ Sansom

This list includes one science fiction book, two crime novels (both sort of historical, but one decidedly so), and four psychological thrillers. Further details on each book can be found below.

Ready Player One
The only science fiction book on my list, this is a novel that was recommended to me and when I went to buy it on Kindle I discovered my husband had already bought the Kindle version - we have linked our accounts, so we can each access books bought by the other. Someone else had recommended it to him, completely independently. We both read the book, loved it, recommended it to our D&D group and then when the film came out a couple of months later we all went to see it together.

Set in a dystopian near-future, where everyone escapes their appalling reality by spending all of their time in an idyllic Virtual Reality universe, part of what makes 'Ready Player One' so enjoyable are all the references to 80s pop culture. Anyone who grew up watching films, playing video games and playing D&D in the 1980s will recognise all the references.

The film is quite different from the book, but equally enjoyable. If you saw and loved the film, do yourself a favour and read the book as well.

Everything is Lies
In my review of 'Everything is Lies' I described it as 'a near-perfect psychological thriller'. Helen Callaghan is a member of my writing group, and it's so lovely to be able to watch an author grow and develop in their craft, and eventually produce something of this calibre.

This the first of several psychological thrillers in my list. It's a genre that is in danger of being overexploited. To be able to do one this well, in such a crowded market, is exceptional.

Y is For Yesterday
I was given this book for Christmas in 2017, and I had no idea then that it would prove to be the last Sue Grafton book ever. She sadly passed away not long after, and her family announced they would not be finishing the series on her behalf.

I've been reading the Kinsey Millhone series for decades, and I've enjoyed every single one of them. Because I had this one in hardback, therefore making it difficult to carry around with me, I read it when I was confined at home recuperating from surgery in February 2018. The fact that it was Kinsey Milhone's last case added extra poignancy, but it was an outstanding story. I have a great deal of admiration for a writer who had 25 books in the same series published, and there was never any drop in quality. Ms Grafton left us too soon, and she is greatly missed.

Cross Her Heart
Sarah Pinborough made my list last year with 'Behind Her Eyes'. This year I read the next psychological thriller she brought out, and while the twist ending is perhaps not as legendary as BHE, this is still an excellently written novel that had me gripped to the end.

The Roanoke Girls
Everyone had been raving about this book, so I thought it was about time I got around to reading it. It's a psychological thriller about a family that produces extraordinarily beautiful young women, but there's a dark secret running through it.

It's not exactly a happy read, but it stayed with me for a long time after I read it, and it's rare for books to do that. You can read my review on Goodreads here.

If she Did It
Yet another psychological thriller, this is a story told from the point of view of Hanna, mother of two daughters. Three years on from a brutal attack that killed her husband and left her disfigured, Hanna is still trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Her youngest daughter's boyfriend was arrested and found guilty of the attack. Hanna can't remember exactly what happened the night of the attack, but is fixated with finding out. Because she finds herself entertaining the unthinkable suspicion that her daughter was somehow involved.

Again, this is a somewhat disturbing read, but it had me gripped. Find my full review here.

Tombland
The latest book in the Matthew Shardlake series is the most epic yet - spanning 850 pages and dealing with the peasants' revolt in Norwich in 1549.

I really hope that this isn't the last Shardlake book, but I understand that CJ Sansom has cancer. This illness has taken far too many fine writers from us in recent years.

This concludes my list of recommended reads for 2018 - those books that I thought stood out above all the rest I read throughout the year. This year, I've once again set the bar at reading 70 books. I have high hopes that I will make my target this year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Year in Review: 2018

This year hasn't been a particularly good year for me, for various reasons. At the beginning of February I had to have surgery for a vaginal prolapse, and although this is a fairly minor operation, the recovery time took far longer than I was anticipating. It was two months, really, before I felt fully recovered and I had underestimated how much the recovery process would take out of me.

Then, in June, I was hit by a bombshell when I found out I was to lose my job. Having been with the same organisation for nearly 13 years, the prospect of having to go back out into the job market was daunting, to say the least.

The worst part of it all is that since that day in June, when I was faced with this news I haven't written a single word. Not one.

Initially, all my energy was going into getting my CV up to date and applying for jobs, a process I hadn't had to do for so long I had forgotten how time consuming it can be. Fortunately I found another job fairly quickly, but after having been so long in one organisation, having to be the 'new girl' again and learn everything from the ground up was quite exhausting. And then by the time I'd settled into the new job and felt comfortable in it, I had just been too long away from the writing routine to get back into it.

Hence, my resolution from last year of completing another novel by the end of 2018 remains depressingly unfulfilled.

So all in all, I will be glad to see the back of 2018. 2019 is a New Year, and I am in a new job, but it's an uncertain time in British politics and I am also acutely aware of the fact that nobody's job is guaranteed in this day and age.

The wider picture is too overwhelming, so I am starting the new year with a few personal goals to focus on.
  1. Get back into a healthy diet and exercise routine. I always say this every year, but I am currently facing the depressing fact that I can't fit into half my wardrobe these days. I have already made a start on the exercise routine, because I've just commenced sessions with a personal trainer. But I need to stick with it, and I need to be more disciplined with the eating regime. More fruit and veg, less chocolate. Realistically this is not going to start until all the Christmas chocolate is gone.
  2. Make more time for friends. Social media makes it easier to stay in touch with people we don't see very often, but it doesn't match face to face contact with friends. There are people in my life I consider good friends, and I haven't seen nearly enough of them this year (in some cases, not at all). That has to change next year.
  3. And finally, and most importantly, I need to get back into the writing routine. Back to the early-morning writing sessions in a coffee shop before work. Back to regularly scheduled writing time. I am not going to set a goal of finishing a particular manuscript this year, because at the moment that seems too overwhelming. I just need to get back to writing.
So these are the resolutions I am making as we head into 2019.

Happy New Year to all. What are your goals for the forthcoming year?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What I'm Doing At FantasyCon 2018

This year, FantasyCon is heading up North to Chester, a town I remember visiting as a child - mostly because there was a nice zoo there. That was over 40 years ago, and no doubt it's changed a lot since then.

However, this weekend I go back there again for my annual fix of all things horror, SF and fantasy. It seems I've got a rather busy programme this year, and all the cool kids are posting their FantasyCon activities, so here are mine.

Friday:

9:30pm - 'Occult and Supernatural Adventures' panel in the Edward Room. Pete Sutton moderating. My fellow panelists are Mike Chinn, Sue Tingey and Georgina Bruce.

Saturday:

2:00pm - I am doing a reading in the Disraeli room, with Ray Cluley and Rosanne Rabinowitz.

3:30pm - 'Writers and Roleplaying Games' panel in the Edward Room. Alasdair Stuart moderating. Fellow panellists are Danie Ware, Allen Stroud and Gavin Smith.

I will also have copies of both 'The Whispering Death' and 'Outpost H311' for sale on the BFS table in the dealer room, and will likely be hanging around in the bar for at least part of the time. And I might make an appearance at the karaoke on the Saturday night. I never could resist a good sing.

So, looking forwarding to catching up with friends old and new in Chester this weekend. Don't be afraid to come say hello if you see me. Don't listen to the gossip - I am quite harmless really , and I'll be wearing a prominently displayed name badge so you can identify me.

Now all I have to do is figure out what I'm going to be reading. And get past the customary dilemma of what to pack for a Con...