Question for the Author

What’s your latest book about?

My latest novella is called Unearthed and this is the blurb.

Five staff members from Innsmouth University break into a church to unearth a secret that should have remained buried. Deep beneath the church’s ancient sepulchre there is a grave, labelled with a warning that promises hell on earth if it is ever opened. And still, because they believe they know better, the graverobbers ignore the warning.

As the more astute readers will have noticed, this is also set in Innsmouth, as was my previous novella, Fearless.  Does this mean you’ll need to read Fearless to understand what’s happening in Unearthed? No. The two titles work as standalones that simply exist in the same fictional universe. Some of the characters do appear in both books but that’s just done for my entertainment.

So, what is it about?

Well, you’ve read the blurb. If you go Amazon you can see how the story beings. And, if you want to read more, this is how I start one part of the story.

Sharon had half-expected Christopher Moriarty to pause at the locked door of the crypt and make some sort of sanctimonious speech. He was a pompous bastard at the best of times, and never failed to take advantage of any excuse to demonstrate his air of snooty superiority. In a spirit of uncharacteristic charity she figured, given the conspiracy of issues that had forced him to break the law this evening, he could have been forgiven for pontificating.

But he said nothing. They were standing on the steps of St Joseph’s parish church, Innsmouth. Christopher simply pressed the stolen key into the lock of the church door, twisted it once, and then pushed the door open for the five of them. The hinges groaned as though they were luxuriating through an orgasm.

The five of them hurried in like a row of poorly trained, out-of-condition ninjas. Each was wearing black. All of them wore bulky backpacks and had their shoulders hunched, as though the burden of breaking the law weighed heavily on them. The only sounds were the wheezing of Dennis’s early onset COPD, the heavy footfalls of Harper’s steel toe capped boots, and the racing of Sharon’s frightened heart.

Anjali went first. She was followed by Dennis, Harper and then Sharon. Christopher took up the fifth place and closed the door behind them as they filed into the narthex. He locked the door after stepping into the church.

“You’re locking us in?” Harper asked. Surprise was evident in his voice even though it was little more than a whisper. The words echoed eerily around the hollow acoustics of St Joseph’s. “Isn’t that a little-”

Christopher didn’t allow him to finish.

“We’re all needed in the crypt,” he explained. “We don’t have the manpower to spare a lookout waiting in the knave. Securing the door means we shouldn’t be disturbed.”

Sharon didn’t like the way he stressed the word shouldn’t. The thought came back to haunt her afterwards. She later wondered if Christopher had known what they were going to face in the crypt, or if he had possibly suspected how events might develop. But, at the time, she simply felt a tickle of unease bristle along her spine as she thought of the way he stressed that word: shouldn’t.

Harper nodded curt agreement with Christopher and stepped back into the church’s shadows. He stood between the bulky silhouette of Dennis and the skeleton-thin frame of Anjali.

There were doors to the north and south of the narthex, each leading to one of the towers that flanked the church’s west-facing main doorway. The southern door, as well as having stairs that went up to the top of its gothic tower, also had stairs that led to the crypt beneath the church. Amongst his collection, Christopher had the key to the southern door and he worked on the lock with hands that only shook a little.

“Do you want me to shine my torch on the lock?” Sharon whispered.

“No,” he grunted. “No lights until we’re in the crypt.”

It was something they had all agreed in the meeting prior to breaking into the church, but Sharon hadn’t realised how dark and unnerving an unlit church was going to be. With the door closed, the narthex was almost impenetrable blackness. Her colleagues – the word friends would have been stretching things beyond the bounds of the truth, she thought honestly – melted into the shadows. It was so dark there seemed to be little difference between having her eyes open or closed and she began to understand why some people had an overwhelming fear of the dark. Given the way her heart was racing, she worried that the fear was going to overtake her and either drive her insane or strike her dead with some sort of coronary episode.

Dennis placed a gloved hand on her shoulder.

She took more comfort from the silent gesture than she would have thought possible. In the darkness, she smiled at him and, even though she knew he couldn’t see her face, she felt sure he understood that his offer of comfort had been appreciated.

The lock on the door relented with a brittle click like the sound of an ancient tree-branch breaking. Sharon wouldn’t let herself think that it was probably the same sound her late mother’s hip had made when the woman fell on Boxing Day two years earlier, never to get up again. She hurried past Christopher, into deeper shadows, and listened to the lumbering trudge of everyone’s footfalls as they stepped through the doorway and stood at the base of the tower.

Unearthed

Question for the Author

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

This is a picture of Oswald and Dee.  Oswald is the dark-haired dog. Dee is the pale one with the dark circles under her eyes. 

Oswald is the friendliest dog I’ve ever owned.  He loves people. His tail wags constantly. He carries a couple of extra ounces in weight because he also loves his food. He’s perpetually happy.

Dee, on the other hand, is a little different.  We had Oswald from being a puppy. Dee came to us later and she’d been passed through the hands of several owners.

So, Dee doesn’t trust people. Dee barks at people. And other dogs. And children. And puppies. And some cars. And anything that moves. Dee is nervous and, like all chihuahuas, she trembles as though she’s in the midst of caffeine withdrawal. The dark circles under her eyes make it look like she’s got a permanent hangover. The only things Dee seems to like are Oswald, food and sleep.

Which is why I’d choose Dee as my spirit animal. Not trusting people, trembling with the caffeine DTs and looking forward to sleep seem (to my mind) to be the key attributes to being a writer.

Get Fearless for 99p

Fearless by Ashley Lister

This is how the story begins:

Prologue

The Randolph Carter Memorial Tower stood 200 feet tall overlooking the university quadrangle. Moonlight from a midnight sky illuminated its smooth, bleached stonework. The shape of the tower, combined with the pillared columns of the rotunda at its base, looked vaguely like a huge skeleton’s hand flipping a defiant finger at the night.

“He’s doing it,” Graham muttered.

Robert grinned. “I told you he’d do it.”

“He’s fucking doing it,” Graham insisted. His voice was breathless with incredulity. His eyes were wide with disbelief. He shook his head, stared up at the faraway full-length windows above the memorial tower’s eastern clock-face, and watched intently as a scrawny figure stepped out onto the thin ledge that circumnavigated the tower. “We should stop him,” Graham decided.

Robert placed a hand on his shoulder before Graham could hurry to the compromised door of the rotunda. “We’re not going anywhere. We have a bet.”

Graham shook his head. “He’s going to kill himself.”

“He’s going to walk on the ledge,” Robert corrected. “If he fails to do that, you win the bet. If he achieves that, I win and-”

“Fuck the bet,” Graham broke in. Anger made his tone brittle. “If he dies there’ll be repercussions and I’m not getting expelled from another uni. Not because of some dumbass bet.”

Robert continued to hold onto Graham’s shoulder as they both glanced up at the figure so close to the top of the Memorial Tower. He was wearing Converse, skinny jeans, and a loose T – hardly the most appropriate gear for such daredevil antics. The night was chilly and a sharp breeze tugged at his shirt and toyed playfully with his long hair. Seeming unmindful of the elements, the figure pressed his back against the wall and, with both heels firmly on the ledge, he began to inch around the building.

“That’s insane,” Graham whispered.

Robert nodded silent agreement. He had no idea about the most efficient way to walk on a decorative cornice but, on an instinctive level, he felt sure that back-to-the-wall and facing out-into-the-night was the wrong way to do it. As he watched, the scrawny figure waved down at him and shouted something. The wind made his words meaningless and only allowed his cheery tone to reach them.

“We’ve got to stop him.”

Robert shook his head. “It’s too late.”

“He’s going to fall.”

Robert shrugged. “He might.”

Graham wrested his arm from Robert’s grip and glared at him with sullen fury. “I’m not getting expelled for this shit.”

Robert glanced at him and said, “If you go into that building, you’ll almost certainly get expelled from Innsmouth University. There’s CCTV pointing at the rotunda doors. There’s camera coverage up the staircase and all the way to the top of the tower. Campus Security will see you and, even if they don’t recognise you immediately, they’ll know that someone was with that dumb fucker.” He nodded in the direction of the man creeping around the thin ledge. In a solemn voice he said, “I don’t think either of us wants Campus Security digging into this, do we?”

Graham hesitated and Robert watched the indecision flutter across his features.

“Go in there,” Robert said quietly. “And all three of us will be expelled. He’ll be expelled for his act of dangerous stupidity. We’ll be expelled for being accomplices. Stay out here, away from the cameras, and they won’t expel any of us.”

Graham rolled his eyes and nodded at the figure atop the tower. “Except for him?” he suggested. “They’ll only expel him, right?”

“No,” Robert said coolly. “If he makes it all the way around the tower, the administration here will not want to kick up a fuss about his achievement because they’ll be scared it will start some lemming-like trend of copycat daredevils. They’ll tell him he can keep his place here on the condition he doesn’t tell anyone what he did.”

“And if he falls off and dies?” Graham asked.

Robert’s shrug was a model of indifference. When he spoke, his tone was oily with disdain. “If that happens, the idea of his expulsion becomes somewhat redundant.”

For the briefest moment he thought Graham was going to punch him. The man’s right hand tightened into a fist and his shoulder pulled back a little as though he was going to deliver a fierce blow of retribution.

Robert stood calm, unmoved by the threat of violence.

“If you’re thinking of striking me,” Robert began, “please remember you now owe me five thousand pounds. Right now, I’m prepared to be lenient about the payment terms, but I’m unlikely to be so generous if you lay a single finger on me.”

Graham’s shoulders slumped. The tension in his fist relaxed and he scowled at Robert with deep-set disdain. “How did you do it?” he asked.

Robert raised an eyebrow. “Do what?”

Graham pointed toward the top of the tower. “That cowardly bastard was scared of his own shadow when we made this bet. I’ve seen him shudder at the top of stairs because he was uneasy with the height. I’ve seen him stay in a library all night because he was scared he’d have to walk past the mime artists from creative arts on his way back to his dorm. And yet, once you and I have agreed on a bet, he’s suddenly stepping out of tower windows and trotting along a six-inch ledge two-hundred foot above the quadrangle.”

“I’d hardly call it trotting,” Robert corrected. “It’s more like a slow shuffle.”

“How did you do it?” Graham repeated.

Robert shook his head. “We’re all entitled to our professional secrets, aren’t we?” he began. “I have no desire to know how you intend to raise the five thousand pounds you’ve wagered on this bet. And I see no reason to divulge how I influenced an inveterate physical and emotional coward so that he has the courage to perform death-defying acts at the top of the Randolph Carter Memorial Tower.”

“It can’t be bribery,” Graham muttered. “He looks too confident to be a man who’s been bribed to be up there. Is it drugs?”

Robert raised an eyebrow. “Does he look like he’s on drugs?”

“Well, something’s happened to him.”

Robert glanced upward to watch the figure approaching the corner of the tower. Even at such a distance, with shadows and the night obscuring the clarity of his vision, he could see the broad grin on the figure’s face. The smile looked like an expression of achievement and it was accompanied by a wave.

  It was whilst he was waving that he seemed to lose his footing.

“Shit,” Graham gasped.

“Shit indeed,” agreed Robert.

If the figure made any sound as it fell – fell too quickly down the side of the tower – neither Graham nor Robert heard it. There was no cry for help. No wail of impending death, destruction or doom. All they heard was the crumpled thud of a body connecting with the roof of the rotunda.

Robert resumed his grip on Graham’s shoulder.

“Get off me,” Graham said, trying to pull free. “I’ve got to go to him and see if-”

“He’s dead,” Robert growled. “If you go there now, you might as well be dead too.” Speaking quickly, before Graham could argue or protest, Robert said, “From an outsider’s perspective, you’re not involved in this yet. No one knows you were standing here. No one knows you suggested him as our mark for this wager. You go over there and look at his corpse and they’ll tie you to him and your future will be over.”

“Do you think I care about that?” Graham asked.

“You cared about it two minutes ago when that consideration stopped you from running up the tower to talk him down whilst he was still alive.”

Graham paused for an instant.

Then he slammed the punch into Robert’s face.

The blow was neither hard, nor powerful but it was sufficiently unexpected to make Robert lose his hold on Graham’s shoulder. He staggered back a couple of paces and blinked his eyes in surprise.

“You’re a piece of shit,” Graham told him.

“That is probably a correct assessment,” Robert admitted, rubbing his nose and making sure nothing was broken. “But please remember I’m the piece of shit to whom you now owe five thousand pounds.”

Graham scowled.

“I was prepared to give you a month to get the money to me,” Robert informed him. “But now I’m not feeling so generous. I’ll expect full payment within a week.”

“And if I refuse to pay you?” Graham demanded. His hands were still balled into fists and he looked ready to attack. His jaw was thrust up with defiance. “What are you going to do about it if I say I’m not paying?”

Robert’s expression was cool with indifference. “In the past you’ve watched me organise illicit fights in the heart of the campus. You’ve seen me bending staff and students to my way of thinking. And I’m sure you’ve heard rumours about me being responsible for a handful of missing persons.”

“They’re just rumours,” Graham said. He was trying to sound confident but his tone wavered with uncertainty.

Robert continued as though Graham hadn’t spoken.

“Tonight, you’ve watched me transform a cowardly nerd into someone willing to walk around the outside of the Memorial Tower. Admittedly, he wasn’t very good at it. But that’s immaterial. I made him do it. Renege on our agreement and you’ll discover that, when I’m angered, I have the resources and ability to make the repercussions very unpleasant.”

To find out what happens next, order your copy today: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fearless-dark-tale-Innsmouth-Tales-ebook/dp/B08JVKJKCZ/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=RHDQSGSWP537F9GTYRQM

Book Update: The Explorer’s Club

Some people make the mistake of confusing qualifications with intelligence. I’ll put myself forward as an example, to illustrate my point.

I’ve got a PhD in creative writing. I lecture in creative writing. I’ve written creative writing books that teach people how to creative write. You would think, given those qualifications, I’d know a little about creative writing.

No description available.

So, last month, after I hit the 11K mark on my latest novella during NaNoWriMo, I simply stopped producing words. I told myself it was because I was busy with other things. I’ve been promoting a price promo on Fearless. Unearthed is due out on 21st December. I’d also been going through Blackstone Towers and tidying up a handful of loose ends in that story. On top of that I’ve got lots of marking to do at work and Christmas is just around the corner.

All of this shows, whilst I’ve not been productive in my writing, I’ve certainly been imaginative with my excuses.

And I’m calling these reasons for not being productive ‘excuses’ because the lack of writing had a cause: it was a lack of planning. The Explorer’s Club (and that is a working title) is a complicated story about storytelling and storytellers. I know how it starts and how it finishes but I needed to wrestle the ideas into shape before I could produce the content I needed for this one.

I’m aware that some writers describe themselves as plotters, plotting meticulously before they put one word to the page; and other writers identify as pantsers, making the story up as they go along and writing ‘by the seat of their pants’. I’m also aware that most writers fall into both of these groups at some point, enjoying the thrilling of pantsing for one story, and needing the structure of plotting for another.

Yet, whilst I’m aware of these diverse approaches, and I mention them repeatedly in How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published, it’s taken me a month to sit down and plot what’s going to happen in The Explorer’s Club. The structure now looks like the idea I’d originally envisioned, but with a little more finesse. And I stand by the idea that, whilst I’ve got qualifications, I sometimes lack the intellect to remember to use the education and knowledge that got me those qualifications.

Book Update

When people ask, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I’m usually not very helpful with my responses. My typical answers are “I dunno,” and “I had this vague idea,” neither of which is a reaction that lends itself to a clear understanding of how a writer’s mind works.

However, with the current WiP (Work in Progress), I can give you one of the sources of inspiration in picture format.

No description available.

This house is one of those I often pass when walking the dogs. Oswald, my faithful Chorkie, has an irritating habit of walking slowly for most of our peregrination. This meandering gait allows me the opportunity to admire the scenery and contemplate story ideas. And, whilst I was looking at this careworn property, I had an idea to use a similar location as the basis for an important part of a title I’ll release in 2021. This story is currently labouring under the working title of ‘The Explorers Club’ and, once Unearthed has been published, I’m going to share more details about it here.

The Tattoo Thief: guest post by Alison Belsham

How my writing became suffused with the blackest of inks

I’d always wanted a tattoo. I’d always been a writer. But when these two passions became inexorably entwined, I suddenly found myself with a hit thriller on my hands!

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How did it happen?

In 2015, I went to Berlin to get a tattoo. Eleven hours of tattooing over two days – let’s say it was an experience! But I was thrilled. So thrilled that on the first night, after a six-hour session, I couldn’t sleep for the excitement of it. I lay tossing and turning, staining the crisp white hotel sheets with fresh black tattoo ink, my mind buzzing. Now I’ve got my tattoo, I thought to myself. No one can take it away. But then my writer brain decided to get involved in the conversation. But what if they did?

And – bang! – I knew I had a premise. What if someone stole people’s tattoos and collected them like art? That someone became the Tattoo Thief, a dastardly serial killer who cuts the tattoos off his victims’ bodies. Of course, it’s a hell of a job to turn one sentence into a complete novel, but I started working on a plot that pitted my sick killer up against a young and idealistic DI who spent more time in church than staring at the bottom of a whisky bottle. Over the next few months, I fleshed out the storyline to novel proportions.

Did the idea have legs?

This was the big question, so in search of answers, I entered Bloody Scotland’s Pitch Perfect competition. It involved flying up to the crime-writing festival in Stirling and giving a three-minute pitch in front of a panel of editors and agents, who would then give me feedback. So this was my cunning plan: I had an idea, I would pitch it for feedback which would then tell me whether it was going to be worth my while to actually write the book. What I hadn’t bargained on was winning the competition.

‘How much of the book have you written?’ asked one of the panel, hopefully.

Dear reader, I lied. It had become apparent in the green room before the event that all of the other seven entrants had complete manuscripts, ready to send out as soon as requested. I hadn’t written a word. Of course, I lied!

‘I’ve written a thousand words,’ I proclaimed, confident that I could bang out the first thousand words overnight if anyone demanded proof.

‘Could it be the first of a series?’ said another of the panellists.

By now I was on a roll. ‘It’s the first of a trilogy,’ I said. Note to self – that’s three books that need writing now.

Fast forward four years, an agent, a book deal and a publisher. Last month, The Embalmer was published. It’s the third book in The Tattoo Thief trilogy – with Her Last Breath the second one. All three are set in Brighton, in the tattooing world, all three feature DI Francis Sullivan pitting his wits against a gruesome serial killer, and all three include Marni Mullins, a feisty but damaged tattoo artist who helps Francis solve the first murder.

In the first book, the killer steals tattoos, so I needed to come up with something different for book two – a killer who tattoos his victims using poison ink. And in the third? Yes, there are still tattoos, but my third serial killer goes a step further and also mummifies his victims in the manner of the ancient Egyptians.

So, one small thought in the middle of the night in a Berlin hotel room, has taken me on a five-year journey that has quite literally changed my life, in the best possible way. Am I still writing about tattoos? No, not at the moment. I’ve just started working on a new series, and the clue’s in the title – the first book will be called The Burn. Have I had anymore tattoos, since that fateful night? So far, it’s just the one – but never say never…

To find out more about Alison, and to see her incredibly cool ink, visit her website: http://www.alisonbelsham.com/

Question for the Author

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

One of the things that I love doing with a story is forging a link to other stories I’ve written. For example, my novel Raven and Skull follows events in the offices of Raven and Skull, a sinister business run by a diabolical team. In the novel Doll House, although none of the characters are related to any of those in Raven and Skull, one of the characters does pass the Raven and Skull offices. Similarly, one of the characters in Blackstone Towers has worked at Raven and Skull, although he doesn’t go to work during the story. I was exceptionally delighted when my friend and fellow writer Colin Davies included a reference to one of his characters using the services of Raven and Skull in his exceptional anthology of short horror fiction, Blood Ink.

I’ve always loved stories that develop these connections.

I’m doing something similar with my Innsmouth novellas: Fearless and Unearthed so far, with The Explorers’ Club (working title) to come out at the start of next year. Again, this is not the same characters appearing in different books – this is simply an overlap that (to my mind) makes the narrative richer.

Done properly, I think, this sort of device allows each work to stand on its own whilst being part of something larger. A new reader is going to enjoy the story for what it is. A reader familiar with the universe I’ve been creating is going to enjoy the story and also benefit from the thrill of recognising a connection to another story of mine that they’ve read.

PS – I’ve got the ebook version of Fearless reduced to 99p through the month of December, so you can enjoy your introduction to Innsmouth at a reasonable price. Why not check it out today and let me know what you think?

Unearthed: cover reveal

There’s less than a month to go before this title is released. I thought it would be appropriate to share a full cover reveal so that we all know what this title is going to look like.

Unearthed by Ashley Lister

Just as a reminder, this is the title where I’ve invited readers to submit their name if they’d like to be one of the victims in the novella. At some point on December 1st I’m going to be notifying my (un)lucky victims about their fate.

Copies of Unearthed can be pre-ordered from Amazon and, I’ll warn you now, this is not a story for the faint-hearted.

Fearless Price Promotion

Before the end of this year I’ll be releasing Unearthed, the second of my stories from Innsmouth. In readiness for that event, I thought it would be appropriate to reduce the price of Fearless, the first story from Innsmouth. For the month of December you can get Fearless (the ebook) for a mere 99p.

Fearless

This is from the second chapter of the book, where we’re getting to meet our antagonists:

“Watch,” Robert said firmly.

He paused, about to press play and show the recording to his modest audience, when the wail of sirens cut through the air. They were in a lecture theatre on the uppermost floor of Legrasse, with blackout blinds across the window, shutting out the impenetrable darkness of night over the campus. The sound of sirens, whooping and baying like a stampede of animals that had escaped from a dystopian future, grew slowly louder as the vehicles approached.

For one insane moment Graham wondered if someone had heard about the experiments. His pulse rate quickened and his cheeks turned the brazen hue of a guilty blush. He could see a similar blush colouring Robert’s cheeks and was thankful that the lights in this laboratory had been dimmed so such embarrassment could be disguised whilst they staged this demonstration.

Graham took a moment to glance out of the window. “There’s shit going off outside,” he muttered. “It looks like police cars and an ambulance.”

“We’re not looking out of the window,” Robert reminded him. His voice was sharp with forced patience. It was the didactic tone he used to control unruly first years and to get his own way at board meetings. “We’re watching this recording.”

Graham scowled, his expression momentarily mutinous. Nevertheless, he remained silent.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Robert began, his tone theatrical and commanding. “Thank you for indulging me in this late-night demonstration. I hope, once I’ve finished, you understand how potentially rewarding this could be for all of us.”

There was a murmur of noncommittal agreement from the four figures sitting on the front row of the lecture theatre. From left to right they were Colonel Abraham Smith, a friend of Robert’s from the local army base; Moira Holmes, the Assistant Dean; and Karen White, a business entrepreneur responsible for most of the local sweatshops.

The fourth figure, a wan-faced man in a dark suit, hadn’t given a name. He clearly knew Robert, but he didn’t bother to introduce himself and no one in the room pressed him for the information. Of all their guests, Graham thought this man was the most sinister. He was the one who looked like he had attended other midnight demonstrations of covert technological advances, and Graham had the idea that he was used to being in control during such demonstrations and their subsequent negotiations.

Robert hit play and the first short video clip was projected onto the lecture theatre wall behind him.

The screen showed a man with a shock of ginger hair sitting, bare-chested, in a sterile laboratory. His physique was not quite scrawny, but he lacked any true muscle definition. His complexion was the whiteness of sour cream, broken only by a rash of orange freckles. There were wires attached to his chest and skull and the readings from these wires were displayed in a bar down the right side of the screen.

“This is Patient A,” Robert explained. “He suffers from ailurophobia, or felinophobia, as it’s sometimes called.”

“He’s scared of cats,” Graham explained from the back.

Robert stiffened and Graham could see his colleague was forcing himself not to frown. His grin was broad and brittle and his eyes were glassy. “Yes,” Robert agreed. “Patient A is scared of cats.”

Seemingly to prove his point, on the screen, Robert was walking towards Patient A holding a wicker basket. The wicker basket contained a kitten.

Down the side of the screen the readings all lurched. The heart rate accelerated from a steady 68bpm to a frightened 102bpm.

“As you can see,” Robert began. “Patient A’s response is typical for someone who has a phobic reaction to cats. You’ll notice that his heart rate is accelerating. You’ll notice that his cortisol levels have increased because of the adrenaline he’s releasing.” He pointed at the reading which showed that a figure of 5 mcg/dL had leapt to 10 mcg/dL.

“It’s all hairy,” Patient A moaned. He was struggling to remain seated. His arms and legs moved vainly as though he was trying to distance himself from the creature. “You never said it would be all hairy and full of claws. Take the fucker away.”

The kitten meowed. The sound was weak and pitiful.

“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” spat Patient A. His eyes were wide. Beads of sweat glistened on his forehead. His upper lip had curled back in a sneer of distaste. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” he repeated.

“As you’ll notice,” Robert said. “The patient is using more expletives.”

“It’s an interesting phenomenon,” Graham said from the back of the room. “There’s been a lot of work done into the analgesic qualities of swearing but no one seems to have said anything about the way some subjects can self-medicate with a virtual overdose of taboo language.”

One of the four figures, the Assistant Dean, Graham realised, turned to glance at him. The others kept their backs to him, studying the screen and ignoring his contribution.

If you want to buy your very reasonably priced copy of Fearless, simply follow this link. And if you want to pre-order a copy of Unearthed, just click here.

Question for the Author

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes. I love to read reviews. It takes a lot of hard work to write a novel and it’s always informative to learn what someone thought of it.

Book review #poster #review #library Design Template - #142650

If someone didn’t enjoy a story, I like to know why. Some times it’s because the story wasn’t appropriate for them. We’ve all picked up books and discovered, whilst the genre, blurb and promo materials all suggest it’s exactly what we’re looking for, it’s not quite what right for our palate.

And there are times when a critic will be correct and make a valid point that I hadn’t previously considered. I admit, it’s difficult to accept this but it’s vital that I do so, as a writer, I can grow.

Admittedly there are some reviews that I’ve chosen to ignore. The one that started with the words, “You can tell this book was written by a woman…” clearly came from someone who is not just an idiot: they’re also a sexist idiot. I also chose to ignore the two star review that had been given to one of my titles, because the book had never been published. The cover art had been uploaded by the publisher but, prior to publication, the publishing house had gone into liquidation. Consequently my title was never released by them but still, someone decided this book they’d never read was only worth two stars. We’re told to understand that criticism is never personal but, in that case, the criticism could not be anything but personal.

However, I have no intention of dwelling on the negative criticism, regardless of whether it’s just on unjust. I read all reviews and, when someone says nice things, I am genuinely flattered, happy and delighted.

And if anyone reading this has ever left me a review (positive or otherwise), I’d just like to thank you for taking the time. It’s much appreciated.