Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Best Books of 2016

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 murderer?

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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Five Favorite Reads of 2016

Last year, I managed to reach my goal of reading 50 books, which I kept track of via the Savvy Reader 50 Book Pledge. (Actually, it was more than 50, but I didn't list books I helped judge for a contest.)

While I enjoyed many of the books, I decided to focus on five in particular. In alphabetical order, they are:

The Cover-Up (Dana Griffin) is a well-crafted aviation thriller involving an airline crash and the ensuing investigation. The author, a commercial pilot, reveals his expertise in aviation while writing a story that's accessible to readers not familiar with the industry.

The Flower Master (Sujata Massey) involves a young woman from California, now living in Japan, who becomes embroiled in the murder of an ikebana teacher. The crime, along with her struggles to fit in culturally, keep the reader engaged in a satisfying mystery.

Incident at Badamya (Dorothy Gilman) is set in Burma in the 1950s and involves a 16 year old orphan who finds herself captured, along with six others, by members of the Red Flag Army. But there is more to one of the prisoners than she realizes, and her magical Burmese puppet may be the key to her kan (destiny).

Lucifer Rising (Gavin Baddeley) is an examination of how the Devil has been depicted throughout history, including the "satanic panic" of the 1980s, in heavy metal, even in films. This book is written with a balanced point of view that cuts through the hype.

The Princes in the Tower (Alison Weir) explores the mysterious deaths of Prince Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, nephews of King Richard III, long thought to have been responsible for their deaths. One wanting to learn more couldn't go wrong with this book as a reference.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Monthly Round-up: December 2016

Well the blog has been somewhat neglected over the last couple of months. I resolve to pay it more attention next year.

We find ourselves at the end of 2016, so this post will be a reflection of my writing year, and not just activities of the past month.

My two horror books were re-released this year. MuseItUp published SUFFER THE CHILDREN (Kindle versions available on Amazon UK and US sites).

Meanwhile, KGHH Publishing (formerly known as Kensington Gore) re-released THE WHISPERING DEATH with a wonderful new hand-drawn cover. It's available in paperback, and on Kindle UK and US formats.

I pledged to have at least one guest appearance a month this year. I mostly succeeded to October, but the last couple of months of the year dropped off for various personal reasons. A full list of all my online appearances can be found on my website.

I've made some progress with the first draft of the fourth Shara Summers book, which is entitled DEADLY SUMMER. The third book will be released next year, and I hope to have the fourth book in a state to be submitted by this time next year.

I'm also contracted to submit another horror novel to KGHH in 2017. The one I was working on at the beginning of this year I have since abandoned since it really wasn't working. I now have the plot of a new book formulated, so I need to get motoring on that one.

I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a difficult year for many,  so I'm sending strength and positive thoughts out there into the ether, to fortify us all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Monthly Round-Up: October 2016

I'm a week late with the latest round-up, since it's now November.


Nothing new out this month, but another plug for my two horror novels. SUFFER THE CHILDREN is available in all e-book formats from MuseItUp Publishing, and THE WHISPERING DEATH, with its fab new cover, is available in paperback and in Kindle format from Amazon (US and UK).


On the last day of October I had a guest spot on the fabulous Joan C Curtis's blog talking about the discipline required for writing.

And I did my final convention of the year in October as well - Bristol HorrorCon. This one-day Con celebrating all things horror has now been going for two years, and is great fun. I did a panel on Horrible Crime, where we discussed the crossover between crime and horror (and digressed a bit as well), and I did a reading as well.


Work continues on the fourth Shara Summers book, DEADLY SUMMER. Which was initially a working title but I think it works so I'm inclined to keep it. Still on the first draft though, so early days yet.

See you next time!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Imaginarium's First Screenplay Award

Those who've read this blog probably know that I'm a screenplay writer. Unproduced, mind you, and unoptioned, but hopefully that will change under my new agent.

Like many aspiring screenplay writers, I enter contests to get my name out there. Some I do well in. Others? Not so much.

This year was the first year Imaginarium offered a screenplay contest. Three of my four submissions finaled, including my short screenplay "Cemetery." It would later go on to win Best Short Screenplay at Imaginarium.

Currently, I don't have "Cemetery" entered in any other contests. There are a couple I'll probably enter it in before the end of 2016.

It's rather strange to be the first screenwriter, along with the feature-length winner, to win the first Imadjinn for a screenplay. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't an awesome feeling, too. To know that judges looked at our works and considered them worthy enough to not only final but to go on and win is something special. Now, that doesn't mean the screenplay will win all the time. Final Curtain finaled in another screenplay contest, but didn't win or even come in second. Sucks, but that's the way it is.

If you ask me why I write screenplays (or just write in general), I'll probably tell you it's because it's all I really know how to do, or that I need to do it. How do I decide what's going to be a novel and what's going to be a screenplay? Usually, I know right away. And it's not like I haven't adapted my books into screenplays and vice versa. Why not make them do double duty?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Monthly Round-Up: September 2016

Well it's been a busy old month since the last update. End of September? How did that happen? Before you know it, it'll be time to think about the dreaded Festive Season...

But for now, on with the news.

the-whispering-death-new-master-website-2OUT NOW

I am pleased to announce that THE WHISPERING DEATH has been re-released with a new cover, hand drawn by the uber-talented Erin Kelso. I include it to the right. Nice and spooky, yes?

The story itself is unchanged, and remains available in print and Kindle version from Amazon.

And of course SUFFER THE CHILDREN is available in all e-book formats.


I've had a few guest appearances online in the past month.

On 5 September I did a blog swap with Chuck Bowie, with a post about the importance of rewriting appearing on his blog. Then on 16 September I appeared on Diane Dooley's blog, with a post about being a woman of horror.

My interview for the British Fantasy Society's journal appeared in issue #16, which was released this month. The British Fantasy Society exists to supports British writers and publishers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and the journal is free to members. If you're not a member but want to be, check out membership options on their website.

And, speaking of the BFS, I attended FantasyCon, the SF/F/H convention run by the BFS which this year was in the Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough. It was a great weekend, catching up with old friends and making new ones, and I had a panel and a reading as well. I read from SUFFER THE CHILDREN. Reading slots were organised this year with two authors sharing a half-hour slot. A very good idea, to my mind - it meant the audience was bigger. And my reading partner, Priya Sharma, is a fantastic short story writer and a lovely person.


I am making good progress with the fourth Shara Summers novel, which is currently titled DEADLY SUMMER. Still first draft, though, so a long way to go yet.

That's it to report for now. See you next month!