Do You Like Pina Coladas?

In less than a fortnight I’m releasing a novella under the title Escape: A Dark Tale from Innsmouth.  This is the fifth in the series, action packed and full of fun (and horror), and I’m usually referring to it as ‘Escape’ whenever I mention it to friends, family or pets that have to listen to me ramble.

And Escape is also the title of the song that we all know as ‘The Pina Colada Song’. As a matter of fact, I’d originally known it as the ‘Penis Colada Song’ because my hearing is seldom focused on song lyrics and I figure most people writing songs have minds that are as filthy as mine. I’m not sure what a ‘Penis Colada’ might be, but then again I’ve drunk a pina colada and I’m none the wiser as to what that was.

The Pina Colada Song has always struck me as an oddity because it seems like it’s a celebration of duplicity and infidelity. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Rupert Holmes’ lyrics, a brief precis tells us that the singer of the song is unhappy with his partner. Rather than discuss the issues they have in their relationship in a progressive and adult fashion, he sticks an advert in the 70’s version of a lonely hearts column, asking for someone who likes rain, midnight sex and coconut-flavoured alcoholic beverages.

Actually, for me, one of the other puzzling lyrics in the song comes after the chorus line: “If you like making love at midnight.”  I’d always thought he said, “in the juice of a cake.” Now, I understand this makes very little sense as cakes aren’t particularly juicy and the thought of participating in a lovemaking activity that involves the lubricant from cake juices is incredibly niche,  but keep in mind I was still convinced they were singing about Penis Coladas when the song started, so narrative cohesion was never at the forefront of my thoughts when I was singing along with this one.

Anyway, the singer gets a response to his lonely hearts advert from someone who is clearly thirsty: and not just for penis coladas. They arrange a date, he feels a moment’s guilt for the partner he’s cheating on, and then goes out ready to bang the woman who’d responded to his ad.

To my mind, this is a lack of morals that puts the guy in a position where most people would vote him to be a Prime Minister in the UK. It does not suggest a character worthy of empathy. However, the twist in the song’s story [SPOILER ALERT] comes when he meets his lonely hearts date and discovers it’s his unnamed partner.

The singer accepts this and is pleased to discover that his partner is an advocate of rain, coconut-flavoured alcoholic beverages and midnight sex inside juicy cakes. Whilst this is a happy ending for those involved (she doesn’t give him a happy ending whilst the song is playing. I’m fairly sure of that) it raises the moral ambiguity of what we’ve just listened to.

Singer decides to cheat on partner.

Partner is already scouring the lonely hearts adverts, thirstily looking for some side dick.

Both meet up, unaware that they have shared interests in rain, alcohol and cake-juice-sex and seem to accept the horrific levels of duplicity as part of the normality in their highly dysfunctional relationship.

All of which is my way of saying, Escape: A Dark Tale from Innsmouth, is available for pre-order.

Monday Update

As usual, there are lots of things going on.  The audiobook version of Raven and Skull is now available.  If this is something you’ve fancied listening to, you can get a copy via this link.  I gave away a free copy yesterday, to the lucky winner of my draw, and I’m hoping that listeners have as much fun with it as I had recording it.

On the subject of audiobooks, I expect Kurgan: A Dark Tale from Innsmouth, to be available for download in the next few days.  I’ll share a link as soon as it’s available.

I’m also very excited that Escape: A Dark Tale from Innsmouth is available for pre-order, ready for the August 22nd release date. Escape is the fifth in the series of Dark Tales from Innsmouth and it’s moving us toward the conclusion of the overarching story which will finish with Dagon: A Dark Tale from Innsmouth.  I’ve started working on the outline for Dagon, which I’m hoping to have ready for Halloween.

I‘m also hoping to get a couple of paperback copies of Escape that I can send to readers who like copies of books that they can hold in their hands. Please let me know if you’d be interested in such a giveaway at me@ashleylister.co.uk.

And finally, because I wanted to make this blog post prettier than just text and hyperlinks, here’s a picture of me and my dog.

7 Days of Office Hell: Day 7

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway this week with more details below.

The theme of this novel is that office work is a living hell. So, to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Raven and Skull audiobook, simply tell me: what’s your most embarrassing story from working in an office?

Email: me@ashleylister.co.uk and I’ll be selecting a random winner by Sunday 8th August 2021.

This is what it sounds like:

And, if you simply want to treat yourself to a copy, either as an audiobook or in paperback or kindle form, it’s available by going to Amazon and searching for Raven and Skull.

7 Days of Office Hell: Day 6

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway this week with more details below.

Earlier this week I mentioned some of the horrific things that have happened to me, personally, whilst I’d been learning that life in an office is a living hell. Whenever I think back to those days, one of the most worrying memories came from the confrontation between the Accountant and the Sales Manager.

These two gentlemen both went for their lunch with the owner of the business. And, because they were a pair of sycophantic bastards, they frequently argued over which one of them was going to buy the boss’s cup of tea that day.

I was just an office lackey, and no one ever wanted to go for lunch with me, or buy me a cup of tea (OK, I was a miserable bastard and, whenever I’d been invited to go for lunch, I’d always pretended to have sandwiches, or allergies, or dysentery, or some other convenient excuse that me an unwelcome dinner companion).

But Alan from Accounts and Sam from Sales (names changed to protect the innocent) invariably went with the boss to the local café.

One lunchtime they returned in obviously bad moods.

Alan, it transpired, had taken a pound coin belonging to Sam. Sam wanted it back. Alan called him petty. Sam insisted. Alan threw a pound coin at him. Sam insisted they resolve this matter outside.

Up to this point, this probably sounds like typical shenanigans of those who work in an office and are challenged by an abundance of testosterone. Perhaps that was the cause. But both of these gentlemen were in their 70s.

The sight of two septuagenarians trading punches is one that will haunt my nightmares forever. I couldn’t stand either man, although I was rooting for Sam because I despise Accounts Managers on principle. It wasn’t exactly WWF but I watched the pair for a few minutes, making sure Sam was able to get a couple of solid blows in, before I stepped in to intervene and try to make them see sense.

And I mention this in the context of things being horrific in offices because I am horrified that I might one day become a post-retirement old man, in an office, having a stand-up-knock-down fistfight with a man who’s older than Grandpa Simpson.

The theme of this novel is that office work is a living hell. So, to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Raven and Skull audiobook, simply tell me: what’s your most embarrassing story from working in an office?

Email: me@ashleylister.co.uk and I’ll be selecting a random winner by Sunday 8th August 2021.

7 Days of Office Hell: Day 5

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway this week with more details below.

Anyone who’s been following the last five days of blog posts about Raven and Skull, is probably wondering what others have thought about this book. Below, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the reviews that the book has received on Amazon.

2,158 Raven Skull Stock Photos and Images - 123RF

Much as I love horror fiction, it’s rare for a scary novel actually to give me nightmares, so well done Ashley Lister for disturbing my sleep so thoroughly. This book is brilliantly, horribly unsettling. Everyone in it is unpleasant, yet it’s not hard to imagine that you might end up doing the same awful, selfish, stupid and dangerous things that they do; one bad decision or too-good-to-be-true temptation leading you so far, so fast, down a doomed and dreadful path that you barely know how you got there at all. Raven and Skull could almost be read as a vicious satire on the sheer awfulness of the average modern workplace, if you like: there’s a feeling that the pointlessness of their jobs is one of the causes of the characters’ bitter misery and baffled rage. If you like Ramsay Campbell, or enjoyed this year’s other great horror novel, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, you will appreciate this one. But you won’t want to work overtime in the office on your own for a while.

Amazon 5/5*

2,158 Raven Skull Stock Photos and Images - 123RF

I had to wait a while to receive the book – presumably it was in demand when first published – so have only recently had the opportunity to read it. Now I’ve finished it following some late night reading sessions. Guess what? It’s good. “Proper good.”

It didn’t scare me; perhaps that’s just my nature. But I wasn’t looking for that – I read books to be entertained and enjoy a good yarn. This one is.

Before reading it, I was sort of aware it was a collection of tales from a group of work colleagues. I didn’t expect the tales to be interwoven – bringing more depth and cohesion to the stories. Clever.

The characters? Realistic. Often unpleasant, but you still want to find out their fates. The author has a twisted sense of humour which is echoed in some of the descriptive passages.

I thought the ending was slightly abrupt, but perhaps that is because I wanted to read more. I wasn’t sure what to expect – I’ve never really been attracted towards horror books (the last one I read was “Carrie” in the early 80s – that wasn’t bad and I think the author did quite well…) so I’m now asking myself, “Is Ashley’s book typical of the genre?”

I don’t know. I do know that if you haven’t bought it and read it, you should. I look forward to the next one.

Amazon 5/5*

2,158 Raven Skull Stock Photos and Images - 123RF

Thoroughly enjoyable tale populated by some really nasty people (who entertained me from start to finish). Also fun to read a book that, on the surface, seems to be a bunch of short stories but is a lot more. Definitely recommended.

Amazon 5/5*

The theme of this novel is that office work is a living hell. So, to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Raven and Skull audiobook, simply tell me: what’s your most embarrassing story from working in an office?

Email: me@ashleylister.co.uk and I’ll be selecting a random winner by Sunday 8th August 2021.

7 Days of Office Hell: Day 4

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway this week with more details below.

This week’s competition is the chance to win a copy of the audiobook for Raven and Skull. This is a story written by me and read by me. To give you an idea of how it sounds, here’s a little bit from the opening.

To order your copy now, simply go to Amazon and find Raven and Skull.

The theme of this novel is that office work is a living hell. So, to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Raven and Skull audiobook, simply tell me: what’s your most embarrassing story from working in an office?

Email: me@ashleylister.co.uk and I’ll be selecting a random winner by Sunday 8th August 2021.

7 Days of Office Hell: Day 3

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway this week with more details below.

As I mentioned yesterday, after being unforgivably rude to someone whilst working in an office, I vowed that my stupid mouth would never be the cause of such embarrassment ever again.

Fast forward a few years and I’m standing in front of a class of creative writing students. The classroom is now my office and I’m confident I’ve learnt my lesson about not saying things that are stupid or embarrassing or offensive.

An elderly female student has just finished reading a short story she’d created about a Frenchman falling in love with a young woman who was wearing a short skirt. The female student smiled wistfully and said, “I think he only fell in love with her because of the short skirt.”

“Of course,” I agreed. “Frenchmen only like two fabrics: short skirts and white flags.”

Someone tittered.

The author of the story fixed me with a patient smile that I didn’t read correctly. I thought I’d just seen a green light for every Frenchmen joke I’d ever heard.

“Do you know why Jesus wasn’t born in France? Because they couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin. What do you call a Frenchman in the final of an international sport? The referee. Where’s the safest place to hide your money? Under a Frenchman’s soap. What do French recruits learn in basic training? How to say, “I surrender” in 17 different languages.”

I paused for breath.

Some of the class were smiling. The author of the story was still fixing me with her patient smile.

“Did you hear about the French army rifle that was for sale on eBay? It was advertised as ‘never fired’ but dropped once.”

That one made me smile, so I paused for a self-indulgent chuckle.

The author of the story said, “The story was about how I met my husband.”

I suddenly felt like a piece of human excrement.

She said, “Well, I say my husband. I mean my late husband.”

And I vowed, from that day forth, I’d never say anything embarrassing, hurtful or stupid ever again.

The theme of this novel is that office work is a living hell. So, to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Raven and Skull audiobook, simply tell me: what’s your most embarrassing story from working in an office?

Email: me@ashleylister.co.uk and I’ll be selecting a random winner by Sunday 8th August 2021.

7 Days of Office Hell: Day 2

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway this week with more details below.

The reason why I wrote Raven and Skull is because I have worked in an office and I know that working in an office can be hell. I’ll even be honest enough to admit that there have been times I have been the source of that hellishness.

For example, there was the time I worked in an office with a dodgy reputation for paying bills on time. The owner of the business believed this was sensible practice: take as long as possible to pay a bill and the interest accrued on those unpaid monies went to him rather than to those who helped him. Admittedly this meant he gained pennies whilst the companies he worked with lost hundreds of pounds – but he thought it was acceptable business.

Which meant that, instead of doing our work in the office, we spent most of the time answering calls to irate suppliers who wondered where their money was. And it was a form of hell. It wasn’t my fault that the bills hadn’t been paid: the owner refused to sign cheques until he’d seen a court order. It wasn’t the fault of the credit control people chasing their payment: they were employed to demand outstanding monies.

But it meant I did one of the most horrific things I’ve ever done in my life. I answered the phone in a snarky mood. I found myself talking to an irate credit control lady who was demanding to know why her company hadn’t been paid and what I was going to do about it.

She said, “I’m not trying to cast assnertions against your company-“

I cut her off by saying, “No. You wouldn’t be trying to cast assnertions, because there are no such things as assnertions. I think the word you’re hunting for, and failing to correctly grasp, is aspersions.”

As soon as I’d said the words I realised I was a despicable human being. We’re all entitled to make mistakes with pronunciation. We’re all capable of getting words wrong. And here I was, snarkily mocking someone for making a simple mistake.

“Aspersions,” the woman repeated. She sounded small and I felt as though I’d just punched a puppy.

I promised her I’d look into the outstanding monies and get the oversight rectified as soon as possible. And I vowed, from that day forth, I’d never say anything embarrassing, hurtful or stupid ever again.

Come back here tomorrow and you can see how well that worked out for me.

The theme of this novel is that office work is a living hell. So, to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Raven and Skull audiobook, simply tell me: what’s your most embarrassing story from working in an office?

Email: me@ashleylister.co.uk and I’ll be selecting a random winner by Sunday 8th August 2021.

7 Days of Office Hell: Day 1

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway this week with more details below.

“Mr Wade,” Moira began.

She had the sort of raspy voice that suggested a lifetime of smoking and lungs the colour of a tramp’s underpants. Tony could hear every syllable struggling to make its way through layers of yellowing phlegm and tar-blackened bronchioles as Moira gasped his name in her gravel-strewn death rattle.

“I’m glad I found you here alone, Mr Wade. I’ve been wanting to talk to someone from management.”

Tony pointed to a seat and waited for Moira to sit down. His heart pounded from the surprise of discovering he wasn’t alone in the building. He didn’t particularly want to talk with Moira – ideally he would have been happier finishing his work and going home – but there was no polite way to dismiss her from the office without causing offence. Telling himself that a break from the workload might not be such a bad idea, he stretched his neck until it cracked and then he settled back in his chair.

“What’s the problem, Moira?”

Silence.

He could hear the sounds of the office around him as the building breathed. The heavy sigh of an expectant printer, the constant whisper of fluorescents above, and the tinny faraway crackle of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre building to its distant conclusion from his iPod speakers. He studied her eyes – the whites turned rheumy yellow and the pupils a black that was unnervingly deep – and waited for a response. Although Moira had been with the office since he began working there, it was the first time he had sat in the same room with the woman and studied her at such close proximity. Her hair was a tangle of grey barbs. Her face was a relief map of porous flesh and ravine-deep wrinkles. There was a wart on her jawline, a gnarled lump of discoloured flesh sprouting a dozen short black hairs. Tony thought the hairs looked like insect legs wriggling from beneath her skin. Previously, he had thought Moira was another of the forgotten office drones; a dinosaur from accounts plodding towards extinction. But staring into her eyes, he got the impression that she might be far more than he had ever imagined. The thought trailed an icy finger down his spine.

“What’s the problem, Moira? What did you want to talk about?”

“I think I might have killed them.”

The theme of this novel is that office work is a living hell. So, to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Raven and Skull audiobook, simply tell me: what’s your most embarrassing story from working in an office?

Email: me@ashleylister.co.uk and I’ll be selecting a random winner by Sunday 8th August 2021.

Raven and Skull: Giveaway

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway. Please check back here tomorrow for full details.

Starting on Saturday, and for the duration of all next week, I’ll be running a week-long competition to win a copy of the audiobook version of Raven and Skull.