Question for the Author

Do You Believe in Writer’s Block?

This is lovely question because it doesn’t actually ask, “Do you suffer from writer’s block?” It doesn’t even say, “Is there such a thing as writer’s block?” Or, even more importantly, “Where should we put the apostrophe in the phrase writer’s block?”

I certainly believe that some writers hit hurdles in their writing, and they attribute the lack of writing to writer’s block. But I’m not always sure writer’s block is the cause.

Sometimes we stop writing a story because we’ve lost interest in the narrative. It’s not so much a block. It’s more a case of, “What’s the point of continuing with this idea?” Sometimes I’ll not be able to write for a week because other commitments such as work, family or binge-watching Drag Race, get in the way of my putting pen to paper. Again, this isn’t a block: it’s just an unfortunate case of writing getting pushed down the priority list. And, there are times when I don’t write because I’m a lazy sod, too busy playing with the dogs or messing about at the gym. Perhaps this is displacement activity that could be described as a symptom of writer’s block. More likely, I’m too easily distracted to be trusted with the responsibility of writing.

But I do believe there are occasional blocks that some writers suffer and these can only be attributed to that horrible condition: writer’s block. Personally, I’m lucky in that my approach doesn’t lend itself to succumbing to the condition. When I get time to write I know which story I’m working on and the direction it should be taking. I have a methodical outline for stories that I’m working on and, when I’m not working on fiction, I can take the time to work on blogging, article-writing and other outlets.

So, my answer is: I do believe in writer’s block, but I don’t believe it’s a condition that strikes every writer. And I think it’s sometimes used as an excuse for procrastination.

More importantly, I worry that apostrophe is being misplaced in the passage above.  If writer’s block is a condition that only affects a single writer, then the single possessive apostrophe is correct.  However, if writer’s block is a condition that can strike more than one writer, then it should have a plural possessive apostrophe and be called: writers’ block.

True Ghost Stories

The Difference Between Dark Matter, Dark Energy And Ghosts : 13.7: Cosmos  And Culture : NPR

I was recently chatting with a student who shared the following story about an unsettling encounter that could potentially be paranormal.

So, I’m walking down Devonshire Road around 8pm after visiting Lidl. As I pass Farmfoods and head in the direction of Whitegate Drive, I hear shuffling feet behind me. Right behind me. The kind of closeness that catches you off guard.

But it was more than that. I felt someone waking behind me almost to the point of the hairs on the back of my neck standing. It goes on for maybe 10 seconds before I reached the corner. With the same feeling I took the opportunity to turn around.

Nothing. No one anywhere on either side of the road anywhere near where I had walked. No litter in the wind scraping on the floor, no people or dogs or even cats.

The experience has stuck with me so much because I FELT someone close. In a time of social distancing people are more aware, or I’m more aware, of that six feet bubble and I can’t explain what, but something was close to me that night.

First things: the student strikes me as a reliable reporter. There is nothing to be gained from sharing this story, either financially or in the form of prestige. And, because the narrative makes no attempt to suggest a cause for the phenomena, it can’t even be said that a claim is being made other than there being an inexplicable noise and sensation.

8pm on Devonshire Road (B5124), at the time of year discussed, would be relatively dark, although the road is well-served by streetlamps and traffic lights at the junction of Devonshire Road and Whitegate Drive.

So, throwing the questions out to anyone local, or anyone with relevant knowledge: have you experienced something similar on Devonshire Road or in a similar area? Do you have any explanations for what might have caused this experience?

Book Update: Cursed

I’m working on my proofs for Cursed, the third title in my Innsmouth series. I thought today would be appropriate to share this passage from the start of one of the later chapters in the book.

There were shadows at the base of the clocktower. At this time on a winter’s evening, with the first of the ten o’clock chimes ringing out through Innsmouth’s empty town centre, shadows were not unexpected. But, for anyone paying close attention, anyone watching the dark shapes that came and went of their own volition, the shadows would have seemed darker around the base of the clocktower on this occasion.

Derek Brown, lost in his own thoughts as he took Horatio on his evening constitutional, had not noticed the shadows. It was a cold night and, not for the first time, the threat of rain made him wish to Christ his wife’s French Bulldog would hurry up and do its business so he could get back home. Horatio was not the brightest dog he’d ever encountered and this nightly walk was always made tiresomely protracted because Horatio needed to sniff every lamppost, piddle at least three hundred times, and take one shit that was slightly larger than the turds that Derek could produce. On top of that, with Horatio being a chunky little bastard, who waddled more than he walked, the nightly constitutional took forever.

“Is this what my life’s come to?” he wondered, glaring down at the dog.

Horatio had paused to take his last shit of the day and it was never a pleasant experience to watch. With his bulging eyes, which always seemed to bulge further when he was straining to squeeze one out, Horatio reminded Derek of his wife. The idea that a pet could look like its owner was never truer than when Horatio was standing on a street corner with his fat arse trembling, his eyes bulging like chapel hat pegs and an expression of stupid surprise on his tubby face as though he didn’t know what was happening. Derek had often thought it was like having his wife with him on the walk, except with less inane chatter and slightly more outdoor defecating. He repeatedly told himself he’d take a picture of this moment when it occurred so that he could post it on FaceBook, alongside a picture of her, and ask his friends to spot the difference.

Cursed is due to be released on March 1st, although you can pre-order a copy using this link: Cursed.

And, if you like the sound of Cursed, you’ll want to visit Innsmouth in the two previous incarnations with Fearless and Unearthed.

I Want to Kill Again

Last year, in Unearthed, I killed three readers. This year, in Cursed, I want to kill again.

Would you like to see your name in print on the pages of Ashley Lister’s next book?

Are you ready to be killed off in style as one of Ashley Lister’s unfortunate victims?

Ashley Lister is giving one lucky reader the chance to be named in his upcoming novella, Cursed.

He’s writing it right now – and wants to kill off one reader in a gory and bloody murder.

If you want to pre-order a copy of Cursed, you can find it on Amazon here.

All you need to do, to be in with a chance, is contact Ashley ( and share (on any or all social media) the images and links he sends by return.

The winner, picked at random, will lend their name to one of Ashley’s new characters, who will be killed off in a gruesome and unpleasant fashion. The closing date is February 14th 2021 so, please get in touch as soon as possible.

We’ll announce the winner(s) on the publication day of Cursed (March 1st 2021). Good luck!

Terms and Conditions

  1. This Competition is organised by Ashley Lister (“Promoter”). The Promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the Competition or these Terms without notice at any time, including, without limitation, in the event of an act of God or any other event outside the Promoter’s reasonable control. The Promoter shall notify all entrants of any such cancellation or amendment. 
  2. Only one entry per person is permitted. Each entrant must be aged 16 or over. Promoter also reserves the right to remove any entries from the competition it determines, at its sole discretion, to be in violation of these Terms and Conditions.
  3. To enter, entrants must contact the Promoter at expressing their interest to be a victim in the story. The Promoter will then send the entrant images and links for them to share information of this competition and the forthcoming title on social media.
  4. By submitting your entry form, you: 
    1. consent to the Promoter using your personal data details for the purpose of fulfilling this competition. All information will be held in accordance with the Promoter’s Privacy Policy;
    1. consent to the Promoter publishing and/or disclosing your name if you win a prize;
    1. hereby grant to Promoter a worldwide, irrevocable, royalty free, perpetual licence to feature any or all of the content submitted to the Promoter in any media for publicity and marketing purposes, along with your image, likeness, voice or name. 
  5. The closing date for receipt of entries is 14.02.2021 (“Closing Date”).
  6. The winner will be the first correct answer chosen at random by 15.02.2021 by Promoter under the supervision of an independent observer. The Promoter’s selection is final and no correspondence shall be entered into. 
  7. The winner shall be notified via email by 21.02.2021 and must respond accepting the prize via email within seven (7) calendar days of receipt of the foregoing notification email from Promoter. To accept the prize, the winner shall be required to provide to Promoter a release of the use of the winner’s name and consent to the use of the winner’s name in the publication, advertising and/or promotion of Ashley Lister’s next novel, in any editions or revisions thereof, in any languages and formats and in any medium throughout the world. If a selected winner does not accept the prize via email within seven (7) calendar days of receipt of the notification email from the Promoter, the Promoter may select another winner.  Any winner that is not qualified to enter the competition shall be disqualified.  The Promoter is not liable for any inability to contact with any entrant due to errors, omissions or inaccuracies in the contract details provided by an entrant on an entry form or due to technical problems preventing the Promoter from obtaining accurate contact details, including, without limitation, any acts or omissions by any third party service provider. 
  8. The prize is the use of the winner’s first name as the name of a character in Ashley Lister’s next novel. The Promoter and the author reserve the right to change or modify the winner’s first name (including, without limitation, the spelling of the name) for purposes of inclusion in the author’s next novel at their sole discretion.
  9. The prize is non-transferable, no money alternative is available, and no part of the prize may be substituted for other benefits, items or additions. The prize not valid with other offers.
  10. The Promotor shall have no liability for any losses or damages which may be suffered by an entrant (or any person claiming under or through the entrant), whether the same are suffered directly or indirectly or are immediate or consequential, and whether the same arise in contract, tort (including negligence) or otherwise howsoever, but Promotor does not exclude liability for:
    1. death or personal injury caused by the negligence of Promotor
    1. fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation; or
    1. any other liability which cannot be excluded by law.
  11. No forbearance or delay by either party in enforcing its rights shall prejudice or restrict the rights of that party, and no waiver of any such rights or of any breach of any contractual terms shall be deemed to be a waiver of any other right or of any later breach. If any provision of these Terms and Conditions is judged to be illegal or unenforceable, the continuation in full force and effect of the remainder of the provisions will not be prejudiced. None of these Terms is intended to confer a benefit on, or to be enforceable by, any person other than the entrant or Promotor.
  12. These Terms and any non-contractual obligations arising out of or in connection with these Terms will be governed by English law. The courts of England shall have exclusive jurisdiction to determine any dispute arising out of or in connection with these Terms.
  13. Any questions, comments or complaints about this competition, or to obtain the name of the winner, please send an email to with “Unearthed Competition” in the subject heading.
  14. By entering into this competition, you agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions (and by any other requirements or limitations set forth in promotional materials relating to this competition) which may be amended or varied at any time by the Promoter.

The Case of the Cursed Angel Tears

Image may contain: text that says "THE BooK Sherlock OF EXTRAORDINARY NEW Holmes Storiesc The Best New Original the Genre Stories of Jakubowski Maxim"

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve got a short story in this anthology. The book arrived during the first week of January and I’ve already had a dip into a couple of the stories which have proved thoroughly enjoyable. I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and it’s fair to say that Maxim Jakubowski, the anthologist behind this collection, has picked writers capable of reproducing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s distinctive narrative style.

My own story in this collection, ‘The Case of the Cursed Angel Tears’ begins like this:

Sherlock Holmes asked me not to write about the Case of the Cursed Angel Tears. His detractors, and there had always been many, insisted this reluctance was because it was one of those rare cases that he filed under the heading of ‘unresolved.’ They argued his ego was too great to tolerate any written account that showed him to be fallible or suggested that his logical approach to a case could prove flawed. However, my own feelings were that Holmes had personal reasons for wanting to keep the details of this case off the public record. Consequently, I am writing this account for my own satisfaction and not as one of the narratives intended for publication in The Strand, which Holmes always insisted were sensationalised accounts of his investigations.

“This is a most remarkable series of events,” he told me one morning over breakfast. He was examining a lengthy letter that Mrs Hudson had placed on the tray. He idly pointed at the contents with his butter knife whilst finishing off a slice of crisp golden toast.

In an effort to emulate his deductive reasoning I had already glanced at the letter and seen it was handwritten in a small, neat print on a scallop-edged page that resembled watermarked vellum. Other than thinking the author was a fussy individual because of the preciseness of the writing, and exceedingly verbose because the letter looked to consist of four or five pages of closely scripted text, I was able to deduce nothing that I considered of value.

“Most remarkable,” Holmes mused thoughtfully.

“Is it a case?” I asked.

“Possibly,” he laughed. “Although, if Countess Pleasington is accurate in her supposition, it’s a case that will involve our exploring worlds we’ve never previously needed to examine.”

To find out more, order your own copy of The Book of Extraordinary New Sherlock Holmes Stories.

Cover Reveal: Cursed

This is the title I’ve been working on recently. This is the third book in my series where events take place in the fictional town of Innsmouth. And below, with enormous thanks to graphic designer Colin Davies, I can now share the cover of this forthcoming title.

Cursed will be available on March 1st 2021

Question for the Author

What’s the one thing that no one tells you about writing?

There are some things that people pretend they don’t talk about with regards to writing, but they do. It’s commonly known that writers make little money. It’s generally understood that we can spend an hour or more trying to decide about the placement of a comma. And I think it’s generally accepted that most of us are frequent victims of research potholes. To illustrate this final point, I should mention that last week I was trying to find out a little about demi-hunter pocket watches, and an hour later found myself on YouTube looking at videos of haunted furniture.

But the one thing that no one tells you is the importance of friends and colleagues.

I wrote a short story last week that made reference to a football team. I know so little about football it’s embarrassing. And yet, I was able to send the story off to a publisher because I had it read through by a good friend who knows all about football.

Earlier this year a good friend proofread a couple of my novels giving me advice and feedback and making me realise what I was trying to do with my writing. Another good friend who has incredible graphic design skills has been responsible for the covers on my latest titles. A friend and colleague reads through all of my academic writing (just in case I happen to drop an inappropriate joke in the middle of a solemn monograph). And my wonderful wife remains my harshest critic and most trusted editor.

I say all of this because the one thing that no one tells you about writing is the importance of friends. Friends who offer advice, support, proofreading, beta-reading, reviews or the occasional boost to the ego are essential for writers. And I thank my lucky stars that I’ve been blessed with incredibly good friends.

Work In Progress: some good news

Just before Christmas I was writing about the current work in progress which had been labouring under the title ‘The Explorers Club’.

book question mark - Go Wirksworth

Good News: I’ve decided that ‘The Explorer’s Club’ is a rubbish title and I’ve gone with something far more appropriate for the horror genre.

Good News: I’ve completed the first draft and now, if I give myself a couple of months to refine what I’ve written, it should be ready for publication, maybe around the first of March.

Good News: By this time next week, I’m hoping to have a cover reveal.

Reviewers Wanted

Please let me know if you’re able to help. I’m always keen to hear from book reviewers, whether you write for a blog, print media, or simply publish reviews on Goodreads or on Amazon.

Unearthed has already received a couple of glowing reviews (although Amazon removed one because… Amazon). However, I’m always eager to let more people know that my writing has been enjoyed as this convinces other readers to try my writing.

If you’re able to help, please let me know:

Thanks in advance x


Happy New Year

There hasn’t been a year like it. From global pandemics through to political divisiveness, it’s been a calamity, wrapped up in a catastrophe making most of us think a zombie apocalypse might have been less challenging.

To all those who’ve lost loved ones to the horrible illness that’s plagued the planet, I’d like to offer my sincere condolences. To those who’ve been struggling with mental, physical or spiritual health due to the constraints of quarantine, lockdown or the impact it’s had on earnings, I’d like to give you my congratulations on having made it to this point and wish you every success for the future.  And to those of you who, like me, have simply stumbled through this year, narrowly avoiding each dodgeball that 2020 has thrown, I’m going to raise a glass and congratulate us all on our dimwitted perseverance.

When lockdown first began, I started looking at self-publishing. As many of you know, I have several novels placed with a broad range of publishing houses, along with articles, poems and short stories.  However, rights had reverted to me on a handful of titles and I thought it might be interesting to pursue self-publishing. I lecture in creative writing and students often ask me about the process of self-publishing, so I figured it would be interesting to learn through firsthand experience.

I’ll be blogging more about this over the coming months. Please subscribe to my mailing list if you want to learn more or read about what I’ve done and what I’ve tried to avoid doing.

This year, I’ve published my collection of poetry: Old People Sex (and other offensive poems). I was speaking with someone recently who said she’s bought a copy for her father as a Christmas present, and he now keeps telephoning friends and reading poems to them. Personally, I call this a truly successful outcome to the publishing adventure.

I also republished my horror novels Death By Fiction, Payback Week, Raven & Skull and Doll House as the rights on all four titles had reverted back to me. A former student told me earlier this week that he and his partner had been reading Doll House before bed and had genuine trouble sleeping. Again, this is why I write horror: to give people sleepless nights.

These republications have been followed by the publication of the new, original title: Blackstone Towers, which has been enjoying some very favourable reviews. I’ve followed this up with two novellas, Fearless and Unearthed, which are set in the same fictional location of Innsmouth – a location that owes a nod of acknowledgement to HP Lovecraft. I’m currently working on a third title in this series which is labouring under the working title of ‘The Explorers Club’.

And the year has finished on a high point where I received an honourable mention in Publishers Weekly for a short story I had included in Maxim Jakubowski’s excellent anthology of short stories: The Book of Extraordinary New Sherlock Holmes Stories.

I’m hoping to write more in 2021. I’m hoping, if you’re reading this, you’ll enjoy what I produce and you’ll tell friends and family members about my stories. And I’m hoping, 2021 brings you all of those things that we’ve all missed so dearly during 2020.

Happy New Year.