Series Fiction

Series fiction, or books that feature recurring characters and a continuing narrative, has been a staple of the literary world for centuries. From Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, readers have long been captivated by the ongoing adventures of their favourite characters. This is something I’ve attempted in my dark tales from Innsmouth, a series of stories which begins with Fearless and concludes with Dagon. But what is it about series fiction that makes it so enjoyable? Here are some reasons why people love to read series fiction.

  1. Character Development: One of the main reasons people enjoy series fiction is the chance to see their favourite characters grow and change over time. In a single book, there may not be enough space to fully explore a character’s backstory or personality. But over the course of a series, readers can watch as characters face new challenges, learn from their mistakes, and evolve in meaningful ways.
  2. Emotional Investment: When readers invest their time and emotions in a particular series, they become deeply attached to the characters and their stories. They may feel a sense of loss or sadness when a beloved character dies or a series comes to an end. But they also experience joy and satisfaction as they follow the characters on their journey and see them triumph over adversity.
  3. Escapism: Many people turn to series fiction as a form of escapism from the stresses of everyday life. By immersing themselves in a fictional world, readers can temporarily forget about their own problems and concerns. They can travel to far-off lands, solve mysteries, or battle supernatural forces alongside their favourite characters.
  4. Familiarity: There is something comforting about returning to a familiar world and cast of characters. In a series, readers know what to expect in terms of tone, pacing, and writing style. They also have a sense of familiarity with the characters’ personalities, quirks, and relationships. This can make the reading experience feel like a cosy and reassuring ritual.
  5. Anticipation: When readers become invested in a series, they eagerly anticipate the release of each new instalment. They may pre-order the book, attend book signings or author events, and engage in online discussions and fan communities. The excitement of waiting for a new book to arrive and diving back into the story can be a thrill in itself.
  6. Sense of Community: Reading a popular series can create a sense of community among fans. By sharing their thoughts and opinions about the books, readers can connect with others who share their interests and passions. They can join online forums, attend conventions or book clubs, and participate in fandom activities like cosplay and fan fiction.

In conclusion, series fiction offers readers a unique and rewarding reading experience. It allows them to become deeply invested in the lives and stories of their favourite characters, to escape into a familiar world, and to connect with other fans who share their enthusiasm. Whether it’s a beloved classic or a new bestseller, there’s something magical about returning to a series time and time again. And, if you’re in the mood for reading my attempts at series fiction, you can find a free download of Fearless using this link.

Noose by Brennan LaFaro

Noose, written by Brennan LaFaro, narrated by Rain Corbyn and published by DarkLit Press, is the perfect entertainment.  I’m a huge fan of the horror genre, which is why I went for this title. But I also enjoy stories that lead my into other genres and Brennan LaFaro knows how to write a compelling western.

This is a story of the wild west, train robberies, violence and so much more.

In 1872, 8 year old Rory Daggett is made an orphan by Noose Holcomb. Fifteen years later circumstances mean Daggett is able to start working towards the revenge for which he’s been hoping. But this isn’t an easy revenge because Noose has some dark forces helping him to keep hold of his power.

This was delightfully short and punchy (because all the best horror is short and punchy) but wonderfully rich in western detail. Rain Corbyn’s narration was perfect to give the story the authenticity of a real cowboy story, which made the supernatural aspects all the more haunting.

If you’re in the mood for horror that has the suggestion of something else, I heartily recommend this wonderful fusion of horror and western. It will not disappoint.

Believing in Ghosts

Ghosts have been a part of human folklore and mythology for centuries. From ancient Egyptian beliefs in spirits that could take on physical form to modern-day sightings of apparitions and poltergeists, the idea of the supernatural has captivated and terrified people for generations. While some sceptics may argue that ghosts do not exist, there are many compelling reasons to believe in their existence. There are several compelling arguments that support the existence of ghosts.

Firstly, there is the testimony of countless eyewitnesses who claim to have seen or experienced ghosts. These sightings come from people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds, and cannot be easily dismissed as the product of mass hysteria or delusion. Many of these eyewitnesses have nothing to gain from their claims, and some are even reluctant to share their experiences for fear of being ridiculed or ostracized. These reports often describe ghosts as appearing in a physical form, interacting with their environment, and sometimes even communicating with the living.

Another argument in favour of ghosts is the vast amount of historical evidence that supports their existence. Throughout history, there have been countless stories and legends about ghosts, from ancient Greek tales of restless spirits to modern-day reports of haunted houses and buildings. Many of these stories have been passed down through generations and have become a part of our cultural heritage. They cannot simply be dismissed as myth or legend, as there are too many accounts from too many different sources to ignore.

In addition, many people claim to have experienced unexplainable events or phenomena that they attribute to the presence of a ghost. These events can range from inexplicable noises and strange odours to the movement of objects and the appearance of physical manifestations. While some of these experiences may be easily explained by natural phenomena or human error, others cannot be easily dismissed and suggest the presence of a supernatural entity.

Moreover, there is scientific evidence that supports the existence of ghosts. While the scientific community may not recognize ghosts as a legitimate field of study, there are many scientists who have dedicated their careers to investigating paranormal phenomena. For example, there have been numerous studies that suggest a link between electromagnetic fields and ghostly apparitions. Additionally, there is evidence that suggests that some people may be more sensitive to paranormal activity than others, possibly due to differences in brain chemistry or physiology.

Finally, the existence of ghosts is supported by the fact that many religions and spiritual traditions believe in the afterlife and the existence of spirits. These beliefs are based on a deep-seated human desire to understand what happens after we die and to make sense of the mysteries of the universe. While these beliefs may not be grounded in scientific fact, they are a part of our cultural and spiritual heritage and cannot be easily dismissed.

In conclusion, while some may dismiss the existence of ghosts as mere superstition, there are many compelling arguments that support their existence. From eyewitness accounts and historical evidence to unexplainable events and scientific research, the evidence for the existence of ghosts is strong. While we may never be able to prove their existence definitively, the idea of the supernatural will continue to fascinate and terrify us for generations to come.

Book Review: Dark Lines

I have long argued that the short story is the perfect format for horror. Whereas a novel typically builds to a climax and conclusion through the various points of narrative structure, a short story isn’t typically confined by such restraints.  This means that tension can be built and eased at the writer’s discretion. This means that the horror can be short and punchy or torturously drawn-out, depending on how the writer wants to tell the story.

Jack Harding’s short stories in Dark Lines illustrate my argument because these horror stories are perfection.

In some ways I was reminded of Stephen King’s earliest collection, Night Shift. The stories are well-paced, evidence elements of character progression, and each one hits its mark beautifully. There’s a delightful sense of confusion in each of these stories that makes them all compelling. Harding is clearly aware that the typical tropes of the horror story are well-trodden and he leads the reader skilfully through a story where, even when we think we know what’s going to happen, there’s enough uncertainty to leave us doubting out knowledge of the genre.

I had the good fortune of listening to the audiobook version of these stories. Thomas Gloom’s enthusiastic and articulate narration lends an American voice to Harding’s British storytelling. This works to create a compelling product that was enjoyable from beginning to end. 

100% recommend.


Why Horror?

Ashley Lister

Horror fiction has been a popular genre for centuries, with its roots traced back to ancient mythology and folklore. From the Gothic novels of the 18th and 19th centuries to modern-day horror movies and TV shows, horror fiction has captivated audiences and continues to do so today. However, some people question the validity of writing and reading horror fiction, claiming that it is a pointless and harmful genre. I would argue that writing and reading horror fiction can have both entertainment and educational value and can serve as a healthy outlet for our fears and anxieties.

First and foremost, horror fiction provides entertainment. People enjoy being scared, and horror fiction delivers that thrill. The genre allows us to experience fear and suspense in a safe and controlled environment. It’s a way to explore our dark side and to indulge in our primal instincts without causing any harm to ourselves or others. Horror fiction can be a form of escapism, allowing readers to step into another world and forget about their everyday problems. This was something I tried to do with my novel PayBack Week, a story set in an abandoned amusement park with a murderous clown looking for revenge. Horror fiction can also be a shared experience, as people can bond over their love of horror fiction and discuss their favourite stories and characters.

But horror fiction can also have educational value. By exploring our fears, horror fiction can help us understand ourselves and the world around us. It can be a way to confront our fears and anxieties and to learn how to cope with them. For example, a horror story that deals with the fear of the unknown can help us understand how we react to uncertainty and can teach us how to prepare for the unexpected. Horror fiction can also be a way to explore social issues and cultural taboos. By using horror as a metaphor, writers can address sensitive topics in a way that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. This was something I attempted in my first horror novel, Raven and Skull, where the traditional horrors of ghosts and other supernatural entities was balanced against the horror of working nine-to-fie in a soul-sucking job.

Furthermore, horror fiction can serve as a healthy outlet for our fears and anxieties. We live in a world that is often scary and unpredictable, and horror fiction allows us to process those feelings in a safe and controlled way. By confronting our fears through horror fiction, we can learn to cope with them in our everyday lives. This can be particularly helpful for people who suffer from anxiety or trauma, as it can help them confront and process their fears in a way that is less overwhelming.

In conclusion, writing and reading horror fiction can have both entertainment and educational value. The genre provides a safe and controlled way to explore our fears and anxieties, and can serve as a healthy outlet for those feelings. By confronting our fears through horror fiction, we can better understand ourselves and the world around us. Whether you enjoy the thrill of being scared or the intellectual challenge of exploring complex themes, horror fiction has something to offer everyone. So the next time someone questions the validity of the genre, remind them that horror fiction can be both entertaining and educational, and that it has been a valuable part of human culture for centuries.

5 X 5 Writing Tips: Plotting

  1. Contemporary wisdom tells us that there are two approaches to writing fiction: the plotter and the pantster. The plotter makes meticulous notes before beginning a story. The pantster (flying by the seat of their pants) makes it up as they go along. This divisive categorisation is little more than horseshit and I know writers who use both approaches for different types of work. I also know writers who use a blend with some plotter-esque note-making to begin, and then a lot of pantster making-it-up-as-they-go-along stuff before the conclusion. Don’t pigeonhole yourself as plotter or pantster: just do whatever works for that project.
  2. When you are plotting, start off with broad brush strokes. What’s the genre? What’s the story for the hero? How does the main character get from start to finish? Deal with these ‘big’ areas first and finesse your way to the more detailed and nuanced areas.
  3. Don’t lose sight of reader needs: If you’re writing a horror story, your readers want to be horrified. If you’re writing erotic fiction, your readers want to be aroused. Whether it’s a thriller or a romance, your readers will want to be thrilled or romanced, respectively. Plot for these elements to occur and incorporate them as part of your story’s structure.
  4. Don’t overplot – this can sometimes lead to a feeling of ‘why bother?’ amongst writers when they realise they know how a story will conclude. What’s the point of working your way to the end when you know how it’s going to finish? Leave a little mystery so you’ve got your own interest in the project.
  5. Don’t rely too much on pantsing.  Pantsing works fine for many authors but it can also lead others down a blind alley where the story is jest reacting to its own content and not telling the story you’d originally wanted to convey. 

It’s a fine line between point 4 and point 5, but it’s worth keeping it in mind if you want your longer-form project to be a success from its inception to its completion.

Horror Convention

This week, I spent all Saturday at the Comic Con World Horror convention in Blackpool. 

I was sharing a table with the superb writer, artist and all round genius: Colin Davies. We had a wonderful day chatting with each other and some of the hundreds of horror aficionados who visited the convention. I have to say, by the end of the day, my wrist was aching from all the books I’d signed and I’m genuinely humbled by all the people who took time to spend their hard-earned money on my little books.  I genuinely hope they give you all the pleasure you deserve. 

Given the current passion for all things ‘serial killer’, it came as no surprise that I sold my entire stock of Conversations with Dead Serial Killers. Also, given the fact that it’s a story about a killer clown patrolling a theme park, (and Blackpool is famous for its theme park and not averse to clowns, as can be seen from the photograph below) I was not surprised to see Payback Week come second in my day’s book sales.

5 x 5 Writing Tips: Description

Description is the key factor that lets your reader understand the world you’re building for them. Consequently it needs to be sufficiently detailed without being laboriously overwritten.  Consequently, the first tip here is:

  1. Find the balance between too much description and too little.  Read other titles in similar genres to yours. Use the writing of others to gauge as to whether or not you’ve got it right. Also rely on your gut. If you’re getting bored with the description, your reader is going to feel the same.
  2. Be aware that a lot of the description is going to come at the front of the story. If you tell me on page 300 that the main character is wearing glasses, I’m going to have to reimagine quite a lot of the scenes I’ve already read, whilst restructuring the protagonist as a bespectacled character. It’s not a great inconvenience – but it’s like going to drag me out of the fictional world you’ve created.
  3. Where possible, use all of the traditional FIVE senses to describe a scene. As writers we tend to rely on sight and sound and everything else gets overlooked in the passionate heat of creating a good story. Try to include taste, smell and touch and your reader will be thrilled by the unexpected sensory bonus.
  4. Remember – aside from describing to illustrate, you can also describe to influence.  For example, a big, burly bear of a man is likely to seem more friendly than a huge, hulking giant. If you want to subtly influence your readers’ opinions, description is the place to do it.
  5. Readers appreciate specificity. If your character is walking down a road lined with yellow flowers, tell us what those flowers are so we can picture it more accurately. Are they daffodils, buttercups, roses or ragwort? The addition of a specific label make it substantially easier for your reader to picture the image you want to share.