Saturday, 3 August 2019

Real life

You know those days or weeks where things go wrong? As in, stuff out of your hands all fucking up at the same time?


I'm not going into great detail here (it's not the time or place) - enough to say a lot of issues over which I have next to no control have all gone down the bog in recent weeks. And in all honesty, I'm not out of the woods yet. There'll be some changes in my personal life to come which might mean less time for writing. I hope that isn't the case but I really don't know. In any case, I've finished the second draft of my current book (two working titles are fighting to be the winner), so I'm letting that rest while I take care of real life business. Also, I'm writing a non-fiction piece for a horror publisher who are putting together a collection of essays about the genre. Outside of that, I don't think there'll be any new stuff on the horizon for a little while. I'll still be writing but perhaps at a reduced rate. Once I know more, I can come up with a plan to balance the work and the rest of my life.

In the meantime, it would really help me out if you'd spread the word about my books or even buy one and post an honest review. Thankee sai.

Long days and pleasant nights.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

The Mouth At The Edge Of The World now available

Remember ages back I mentioned my short story The Mouth At The Edge Of The World? Well, I'm pleased to say the collection featuring it has now been published. You can get Weirdbook 41 over here:


It's got some great authors (as well as me, obviously) so I hope you enjoy. And it's just dawned on me I don't have any other short stories on the horizon. Hmm. Suppose I better do something about that once I finish my current book.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Memory is a funny thing

I've got a pretty decent memory - not for anything that might be useful, but more for seemingly inconsequential stuff, so it was a shock the other day when a friend posted a few old photos on Facebook because I'm in a couple and I have no recollection of them being taken. Admittedly, they're pushing twenty-five years old and I'm not as young as I used to be, but part of me still thought I should have remembered them. I suppose being nearly 42 isn't 17 and the frozen seconds in those photos is a long time ago. The good thing is I'm still friends with some of the people in the shots. Others, we've lost touch since the mid 90s which is just life.

A few minutes after seeing the shot below, I thought of a scene in my book Hometown that could have been inspired by the photo. As I don't remember the photo, it wasn't. But yeah, I think maybe it was. Because something in me remembered.

She pulled the album free and let it fall open to a double page spread of pictures. At once, grief filled her just as joy did.
‘Geri,’ she whispered and traced her fingertip over Geri’s smile and her face. The shot was from a night in a pub, probably around the time she and Andy had left for university. In the photo, Geri was smiling and lifting a drink to her mouth, Mick beside her with two fingers held up to the camera and his tongue sticking out. In the photo beside it, Mick had lowered his hand, Geri’s drink was at her mouth and not quite obscuring her smile as Mick kissed her cheek.
Karen’s tears pattered on the picture and she let them fall, smiling as she studied the other photos. They didn’t appear to be in any order. Shots of their late teen years sat with older shots of Geri and her family when she’d been twelve or so, then shots from university life. Karen turned the page to photos of childhood pets: a large black and white cat, one ear tucked under his head and a paw reaching towards the camera; a border collie pup chasing a ball in the garden. She turned the page again and her gaze immediately fell on a photo in the top right.
It was all of them. She sat beside Geri on a school table. Stu was on Geri’s other side, Mick beside him, and Will in front of Geri, her hand on his shoulder with Andy squeezing into frame beside Will.
Others had crammed into the shot and while she could name all of them, she knew they weren’t part of the photo in the same way she, Geri and the boys were. Maybe they knew it, too. A few were smiling, but most were looking out of shot or at each other. She touched Geri’s hand on Will’s shoulder and there was no jealousy. Seeing them together in such a perfect moment was exactly as it should be.

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.