Saturday, 1 June 2019

New review for The Dead Room

Nice start to my weekend - an excellent review for The Dead Room from Char's Horror Corner. As I've said roughly eight million times, reviews are essential for writers especially ones like me without an agent and big publishers. So, if you can spare a few honest words for The Dead Room (or any of my books for that matter), it would be a massive help.


Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Another guest post

Meant to link to this other day but I've been getting stuck into the second draft of my new book. Cry your pardon. In any case, here's another guest post from me. This one is courtesy of the excellent writer Laura Mauro (seriously, you need to check out her stuff. Naming The Bones is superb). Follow the link below for some thoughts on horror, violence against women in fiction and a bit about The Dead Room.


Thursday, 2 May 2019

A new guest post

I've got a guest post up over at Kendall Reviews which is jolly. Well, it's all about the end of the world so it's not that jolly. Anyway, you can read it here - rambling thoughts on the apocalypse, The Dead Room and writing in general.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

The Dead Room - opening chapter

To give you an idea of The Dead Room I thought I'd post the opening scene as a freebie on this bleak and cold Sunday morning (it's almost May, so of course it's still bleak and cold). So, here it is.

Hope you like.


icola stabbed a finger on her phone, the impact hard enough to split a nail.
“Work, for Christ’s sake. Work.”
For the third time, Scott’s voicemail answered her.
On the TV, the shot changed from Mishal Husain in the BBC studio to the scenes in Manchester, then to the shaky images from someone’s phone as they panned across the rubble and the wafting threads of smoke. Offscreen, shouts broke out, the words meaningless. Away to the side, a couple held each other, both weeping as blood streamed from jagged cuts on their faces. A non-stop howl of sirens whooped through the smoke, the sound like a terrified child’s screams in Nicola’s head. She pressed on Scott’s name again. The line refused to connect, let alone go to her husband’s voicemail.
“Julia,” Nicola whispered. Her stomach clenched and her saliva became a thick, electric flood. Gagging, she ran to the kitchen and vomited into the sink. Spitting and attempting to breathe normally through the foul taste in her nose and mouth did no good.
“Julia,” she croaked and spat again.
Words from the TV flowed from the living room. She caught one.
Nicola dashed back to the TV, socks skidding over the flooring. On the screen, Mishal checked her papers before gazing at the camera. Her words made no sense. They were simply a noise put over the images of the sobbing people stumbling across rubble, of the overturned cars, of the blown-out windows in shop fronts, of the blood stains on the ground and the smoke staining everything an ugly black.
The paperwork Nicola had been going through until a few minutes before fell beside her discarded laptop as she collapsed to the sofa. Phone gripped tightly between both hands, she struggled to think through the panic and fear.
Her mobile rang.
Through Nicola’s terror, something hard and implacable in her head took over. Mouth bone dry, she answered the phone. “Scott? Can you hear me? Are you there?”
The line cut out for a moment, then cleared and he was there in her ear, in her mouth, in the fearful burning deep in her chest.
“Nicola? I’m here. We’re here. Jesus Christ.”
“Oh, my God, Scott. Julia? Is she—”
“She’s fine. She’s fine.”
Tears exploded. Nicola bent double. She pressed the phone against her ear and had to fight for each boiling breath. Pain all over, pain in her head from the phone pressing into her ear, pain in her other hand as she dug her nails into her palm.
“Nicola? Are you there?”
The rock in Nicola’s head grew, blocking the sting burning in her chest. “I’m here. I’m here. Are you okay? Please tell me you’re okay.”
“We’re fine. We’re all right. Calm down, okay? We’re all fine. We’re still with Nigel and Cate. We were going to drive into Manchester earlier but there was something wrong with the car. It wouldn’t start.” He broke off. The blustery breath of his sigh ran down the line. “Jesus, Nicola. This is unbelievable. They’re saying more than five hundred dead. They’re saying—”
The signal dropped again and Scott’s voice fell in and out.
“. . .Nicola?”
“Scott? Can you hear me?”
The line went dead.
“Shit.” Nicola smacked the phone against her thigh and saw the images on the TV.
York. The city centre.
“Jesus Christ.”
The historic city had become a bombed-out wreck. The camera, again amateur mobile phone footage, tracked over buildings and shops with missing windows and roofs, over blasted out chunks of brickwork, over the car wedged into the side of an overturned bus and the massive pieces of broken glass surrounding both vehicles.
Mishal spoke again, telling the viewers the facts were thin on the ground, that reports suggested the explosion was down to a bomb detonating a few minutes before which put it twenty minutes after the one in Manchester.
Gripping her phone with all of her strength, Nicola tried to speak, tried to find any words she could give herself.
Mishal went on. She told Nicola there could be hundreds of deaths in York and Manchester with countless injured. She told Nicola the authorities were evacuating the centre of the city and the surrounding areas. She told Nicola other cities across the country were on high alert.
Nicola managed a weak moan as the insanity of the scenes hit her. She could have been watching a report on Syria, not York on a Saturday afternoon. This wasn’t York: the old buildings with jagged mounds of exposed metal and masonry poking upwards or pavements buried under tons of brick or wickedly sharp daggers of window glass scattered across the roads. York was people and cars and jobs and old streets and history. Christmas shoppers drenched in blood or staggering out of buildings and crying at each other belonged in images of foreign countries, not in the middle of York, for God’s sake.
The whisper rose from a deep place far below. It contained one basic command: to ensure her daughter was safe.
Nicola tried Scott’s number again. No connection. Breathing fast, she stood and paced around the living room. On the TV, Mishal went through what little facts she had: massive explosions in Manchester and York about twenty minutes apart had killed an unknown number of people out for their Christmas shopping; hundreds of injured filled local hospitals while the police and the authorities were working to rescue those trapped under rubble, and the PM had boarded a plane back from Switzerland and—
The line connected. It rang once and Scott was right beside her.
“Jesus, the line went and I couldn’t get through again.”
“I know. All of our phones have got the same problem. Everyone’s calling everyone else. The landline does nothing. Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. Are you all together?”
“Yeah. Keep thinking I should put the kettle on. Make us all a nice cup of tea. We’re English and that’s what we do, isn’t it?” He laughed much too loudly.
Nicola did the same and her gusting laugh made her shake. She sat. Now that she had him back again, the rock inside sealing away panic seemed to be shrinking. Nicola focused on her breathing for few seconds.
“It’s York, as well,” Scott said. “Just seen it. Unbelievable.”
“Me, too. It’s bombs, isn’t it? Terrorists?”
“I think so. I—” He broke off. “Someone wants to say hello, Nicola. Hold on. Jules is coming.”
Nicola smiled and wiped at her tears, barely aware she’d been crying. On the TV, a burst of rumbling noise blew out of the speakers. There was a second, no longer, of Mishal turning to her side, of what could have been shock on her face.
Then static filled the screen.
Then the line died in Nicola’s ear.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

The Dead Room - available now

It was published yesterday but wasn't listed until early this morning (UK time) so I haven't posted it until now. In any case, here's The Dead Room in ebook and paperback. As I've said before, I'm particularly proud of this one. If you enjoy it, you owe my wife some thanks as she was its first reader and convinced me I had something not too bad in my story.

Universal (hopefully) links below.

A week before Christmas, terrorists detonate dozens of dirty bombs throughout Britain and release a man-made contagion, leading Nicola Allen to begin a frantic hunt for her husband and daughter while a nation burns.

Fleeing from a horrendous event she refuses to speak of and desperate to find shelter in a dying country, Nicola's sister-in-law, Cate, takes cover in a partly destroyed hospital. Terrorised by visions of mutilated bodies and the screams of phantom children, Cate joins a group of survivors, all of whom are under attack by ruthless scavengers and looters.

If Nicola is to have any chance of finding her family and if Cate is to escape from the siege, they must reunite and then descend into the belly of the ruined hospital where the horrific truth of what truly connects the two women is waiting for them.

Waiting for them down in the dead room.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Winging it

I've been writing with an eye on submitting stuff to publishers and agents for twenty years. Before that, I just wrote without really thinking about it. Back then, it was mostly shit short stories that didn't go anywhere and were usually a rip-off of whatever I was reading at the time, along with terrible poems. I wrote a few awful books between 1998 and around 2003 and didn't feel like I'd come close to finding my voice until a fantasy novel in 2004. The joke was I hadn't found my voice at all, but at least I had an idea.

And the thing about those early books and short stories...I didn't plan any of them. I just started with a basic idea and rolled with it which is probably why most of my first books are long ass, rambling stories that could be cut in half without problem. In 2005, I started work on another fantasy which stalled around 25k in because I had no clue where the book was going. I put it to one side, outlined the rest of it and set to work. Again, it was much too long as well as being crap, but the outlining helped. I've stuck with it ever since. So that's fifteen years of notes, character descriptions, scene by scene bullet points and research before I write a single word of the actual book.

Now for a problem I didn't realise was an issue until I was halfway through a book I finished a couple of a weeks ago.

It's robbed most of the fun out of writing. Yes, writing is work. Hard work a lot of the time, but it's also fun. When you're either not making any money out of it or close to bugger all, it definitely has to be fun. Otherwise, what's the point? When a publisher doesn't give a shit where your next book is, when there are no agents or editors beating down your door, you write because you've got a story to tell and because it's fun. The Day Of The New Gods was outlined and that was a fun book to write probably because it's all story, it's over the top and I played to my strengths. Having a publisher who specifically wanted it also helped. But writing a first draft hasn't been fun for a while. I've slogged through them because I know first drafts are always crap and the good stuff comes in the rewrites. It's only been in recent weeks that I hit on what he issue was - outlining was taking away the sheer joy of making stuff up. The stories I made up as a kid were just that: made up. And they were fun even if they were crap.

So, over the last couple of days, I've written a 3k short story with only the concept to go on and next to no idea how it would end. It's rough and needs the usual polish, but I enjoyed writing it, winging it, rolling with it and seeing where I ended up when I got there. Obviously, writing a short story is different to writing a book, but even so, I'm edging more and more to just making a book up based on the initial idea for the first time in close to twenty years. I've got other stuff to do first (promo The Dead Room for one, and come up with a better version of my recent book). At some time soonish, though, I'll wing it.

See where I am when I get there kind of thing.

Friday, 19 April 2019

The Dead Room - 26th April

Just a quick one while the sun is shining - The Dead Room will be published a week today. As I've said before, I'm really happy with how this one turned out. I'm pretty sure it's up there with some of my best work. Links to follow next week (along with more posts about it). In the meantime, enjoy the weekend, people.