The highly acclaimed series Exotic Gothic, edited by Danel Olson, has reached its fifth and final volume. It's a bumper collection, 26 stories split into two volumes. They're available now for pre-order from PS Publishing, either separately or as a double slipcased edition.
front cover art: Apolinar Chuca
My story "Xibalba" features in volume 2. It's set in the Mayan ghost town of Tulum, where a group of students are spending their gap year. The ancient temple carvings seem to hint at dark secrets and a trek into the jungle leads them into the heart of an ancient and terrible mystery.
"A diver investigates an unusual wreck, and discovers that a curtain between our world and another reality has been lifted. It's one of the most atmospheric stories I have read in a long time. Thana handles the diving scenes in such a way that the reader experiences the same sense of weightlessness, claustrophobia and isolation of the diver in this pitch perfect modern take on an Elder God story."
I finished "The Curtain" after diving the Thistlegorm in the Red Sea. The story was mainly inspired by the ghostly whispers I heard there. I put it first in my collection because it's possibly my favourite of all my stories. Here's a taste:
A soft munching reached his ears, but he couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from. It was never entirely silent in the deep. The sea had its own voices. As he swam towards more debris his beam illuminated a school of blue pinstriped surgeonfish, nibbling on bits of wreckage, investigating every nook and cranny. They swam languidly aside as he passed among them, as though he were one of them. Another shoal of silver fish hung suspended before him. Unless the same one had followed him. The small fish dispersed and rejoined like liquid metal, reforming into a curtain. Mesmerising. He swam towards them, expecting them either to scatter in fright or flow around him as the surgeonfish had done. But these fish didn’t move.
Martin floated in the water, staring as they held their position. He waved his hands at them as though shooing away flies. Their tails flickered, but the fish remained in place. Unnerved, he tried to swim around them but the shoal moved to block his path. He’d never known fish to behave so strangely, storm or no storm. He had the distinct feeling that he was not wanted here. But that was ridiculous. Their illusion of choreography was merely the work of a hive mind; there was no conscious decision, no sentience. After watching them steadily for a few moments he charged straight at them, arms out in front of him, Superman-style. Their slick bodies brushed against his bare arms as he penetrated the blockade and once he was through they scattered in all directions. A boat had come to rest here, all right. Smashed bits of the hull littered the seabed, its jagged points like bayonets at the ready. His torch unveiled a mangled instrument panel, a circuit board, part of a propeller. Dark shapes slid past the wreck, just out of range of the light. Probably just some of the larger fish that lived in the bay – barracuda, jacks or tuna. None of them were aggressive. But what if they didn’t want him here either?
I'm not neglecting this blog because I have no news. Really, there's quite a LOT of news but unfortunately, nothing I'm allowed to talk about yet!
So in the meantime, why not head on over to The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog where several of us writer-types talk about the music we write to. What inspires us, what doesn't, what we listened to when we were younger and what we listen to now. Some of it might surprise you!
I'm a terrible blogger. Blame Facebook, where I get out most of my urge to cyber-socialise. But I've just had my third super-fantastic review of From Hell to Eternity so I wanted to share the love.
First up is Pete Tennant's review in the Case Notes of Black Static magazine. My favourite bit? "If Gray Friar is 'the true home of British horror', then by publishing work of this quality they have shown that the genre's future is in safe hands." But that's not all! My other favourite bit is what he says about my story "Antlers": "A young woman looking for accommodation takes a detour right off the map and into a situation that is as shocking as it is grotesque, the story shot through with all the unease of a waking nightmare, like a surreal and British minimalist reinvention of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
This morning Jim McLeod posted his review on Ginger Nuts of Horror. I couldn't be more excited. Jim's a man who really knows his horror so his praise means a lot to me. (I'm extra chuffed that my book was a birthday present from his mother.) He says: "This is not a light read, her stories are layered, dark, melancholic and in a number of cases exceptionally chilling and disturbing." Hooray!
And a couple of weeks ago Adam Millard posted his review on This Is Horror. I couldn't have hoped for a better recommendation than this: "There is something here for everyone, providing you’re a fan of bloody good writing and thought-provoking prose. Niveau is one to keep an eye on. With From Hell To Eternity, it’s clear that she means business."
Yes, I do mean business and yes, you should keep your eye on me because I've got a taste for it now and I'm not stopping. There's plenty of Lovecraftian doom on the way from me, along with some J-horror weirdness, dead babies, body horror and uncomfortable juxtapositions of sex and death. And giallos. Oh yes, there will be giallos...
It's that time of year again. Time to count down the days until it's safe to brave the roads and shops again. (Honestly - when will the rest of the world catch up and learn to do their Christmas shopping online???) Well, until they do you can settle in each night and read about terrible things happening to undeserving people. Or maybe not so undeserving...
Yes, it's the Vault of Evil's advent calendar of short and unashamedly horrible stories! I should have posted this 2 weeks ago but that just means you don't have to worry about feeling guilty for cheating and peeking to see what's behind the next door. You can gorge yourself on the evil already on display.
Today it's my turn. I'm Number 13 and you can read my unpublished story "That Sound" right here. As a bonus, you get to see John Llewellyn Probert menace me with a chainsaw in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre house.
THE NEXT BIG THING is a chain of book and author recommendations. You know how it goes: one author tags five others, who then each tag five others until the Elder Gods are satisfied that we are all hard at work telling their stories and you're all hard at work reading them. Adam Nevill tagged me on his blog and now it's my turn.
1) What is the working title of your next book?
It's gone through so many already I daren't presume this will be the last one but currently I'm vacillating between The Needing and The House of the Unwanted.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Like everything I write, it's a combination of my personal fears and obsessions.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
That's always a tricky question. I like quirky actors and my main characters are a young couple, so can I have Sara Paxton and Jake Gyllenhaal?
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Nick and Elisabeth are happily married and don't want children - but the house they've just moved into does.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I'll let you know when it's finished!
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
See no. 6.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
As it's a haunted house story, comparisons with classic haunted house stories are inevitable: Hill House, Hell House, etc. But throw in a touch of Rosemary's Baby and perhaps a bit of Lovecraft.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The initial inspiration came from the flat my partner (now husband!) John and I bought. It's part of an imposing Victorian gothic building and it has some striking and unusual features. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be haunted. So I've made it so in my story. Quite horribly too.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
If you like haunted house stories, ghost stories or supernatural horror in general, I think you'll like this one. At least I hope so.
And now for the tagging... You can read their answers to the same questions next Wednesday.