Until Death Do Us Part, by Lynda Hilburn, Reviewed.

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Humour with vampires: those who love the genre will really get their teeth into this. (Sorry, unforgivable bloody pun! – And again!)

This is a well-constructed short that manages to pack in the conventions of the vampire world. I love the idea of the psychologist treating vampires for their problems. This story is told from the viewpoint of just such a female practitioner.

There’s a great mix of humour and threat, along with a small dose of titillation and a spot of bloodletting.

The characters are captured well and this short read kept me engaged throughout, even though it isn’t in a genre I’d generally read. And I loved that wicked little twist at the end. Great stuff!

Fantasticon 2016 and Other Treats

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A book launch, where we sold out of the publisher’s stock! A meeting with Royd Tolkien and lots of other authors. A gathering of enthusiastic and generous people at an event celebrating science fiction, fantasy and gaming.

Plus: Visits to relatives and friends in various locations. Visits to Family Research Centres to gather facts for the family tree. Wined and dined in several places.

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The prime reason for the trip was the launch of Blood Red Dust at Fantasticon 2016 in Hull. As usual with this event, arranged by my publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing, a great time was had by all. This time, the venue was really special. The Guildhall is right in the centre of Hull (EU City of Culture in 2017). It’s a wonderful old building with plenty of character and great facilities.

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I arrived early on the Saturday morning and helped out with the bookstall, where Penny Grubb was already busy placing the many books on offer. Blood Red Dust sold well and we exhausted all but 3 of the publisher’s stock. The horror anthology 666 sold out completely over the weekend. And we sold many copies of other books, my fantasy trilogy, A Seared Sky, and scifi novella, The Methuselah Strain, among them.

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The usual and fantastic Cosplay folk were there in force; Storm Troopers, Dr Who, Superheroes and Superheroines of all sorts, a few steampunk characters and some I couldn’t identify! All wearing great costumes.

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There were games; virtual, board and online, aplenty.

Food in the shape of fudge and cake, as well as free biscuits and soft drinks. There was a bar and a café on site, too. One of the four Daleks approached the bar and demanded a drink of the barmaid on pain of extermination: a human hand emerged from within to receive the proffered beer!

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The awards ceremony and raffle prize giving was, as usual, handled with great humour by the inimitable Steph Wyeth.

And there were writers of all sorts, showing off their books, selling and signing copies to a public who know a good thing when they see it. Several of the authors gave readings that had the wandering crowds sitting in rapt attention. And Royd Tolkien entertained and informed with his two talks; one on his adventures with the films of his great grandfather’s books and the other about his late brother’s challenge to fulfil the latter’s bucket list.

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Through it all, Dan Grubb and his lovely wife, Gabi, were on hand, running the event and ensuring all went well; their army of volunteers taking care of the many fascinating attractions.

So, a great time was had by all. A shame my camera decided to play up, so the flash was useless. Still, I got a few pics and here’s a link to a lot more from another photographer (much better quality).

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We always take a trip before Christmas to visit friends and relatives we otherwise see too rarely. So we combined the two. Valerie’s doing research for our family trees and was able to visit Family Research Centres in Hull and Sunderland to hunt for clues to our lineage. We drove 690 miles and slept in 3 different locations on our tour of the north.

Our journey took us to Hull (and a visit to 2 sets of relatives who live close to each other but where we got utterly lost due to a combination of a cloudburst and darkness!), Driffield, Sunderland, Washington (Tyne and Wear, the original, not the pretender in USA), Middleham, and Castle Bromwich.

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Middleham Castle

All in all, a great 8 day trip.

Next year’s Fantasticon will take place under the banner of Hull’s year as European City of Culture. Watch this space for news so you don’t miss what promises to be a truly fantastic event!

666, An Anthology of Horror Shorts, Reviewed.

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A scary collection of thirty-two horror shorts, every one of them exactly 666 words long!

These Fantables were mostly the result of a contest run by the publisher, Fantastic books Publishing, but include some tales by selected invited professional writers. The stories run the whole spectrum of horror writing from the traditional through to the contemporary weird. So, there’s something for all tastes here.

There’s a long tradition of scary stories for Halloween and this book is officially launched on the night of frights. You’ll find mystery, crime, tension, tales with a twist, vampires, black humour and threat in these 131 pages of well-written, frightening short stories.

I enjoyed the whole book, but among my favourites were Headhunted, by John Hoggard, A Prologue, by Rose Thurlbeck, Loft Conversion, by Denise Hayes, The Perfect Family, by Kester Park, Entombed by Ulla and Marko Susimetsa, The Number of the Beast, by Celia Coyne, His Spectre, by John Scotcher, Assisted, by Richard Dixon, The Statue in the Playground, by Darren Grey, Parents’ Evening, by CM Angus, Opening Doors, by Penny Grubb, Music at Full Moon, by Melodie Trudeaux, She Sings Only at Night, by Nathan Robinson, and Number Thirteen, by Linda Acaster.

A missed title is no reflection on the quality of the tale or author, merely a reflection of my personal tastes, since all the stories are worthy of inclusion in this great collection.

I should confess, for the sake of honesty, that the collection also includes my own story, Ouija.

As the anthology includes my own story, I can’t review on Amazon. However, I can place the review here and on Goodreads. If you’d like a copy of the book in either paperback or digital form, please click on the links. And, make sure you don’t read it before bed, or when alone!

And, should you wish to chat with the authors, or simple join in the live launch tonight at 19:06 (66 minutes past 6 o’clock, GMT), please follow this link.

Added after Fantasticon: The paperbacks were so popular they ran out at the convention, but there’ll be more stock added as new orders come in.

The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter, Reviewed.

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I ‘won’ a copy of this book in a giveaway entered online. When the paperback arrived, I was delighted, as I was about to go on holiday and expected it to make good poolside reading.

This is an anthology of singularly dark, complex and richly written tales. Most are based on the elements of fairy tales. But these are not retellings, more original imaginings using the basic ingredients of the stories. Dense with detail, almost always containing some erotic component, skipping freely between past and present tense, they are not an easy read. But they are deeply compelling: once started it is difficult to put a story down until it’s finished.

Angela Carter has a reputation as a gifted and unusual writer; it is richly deserved, if this collection is a guide. She uses description to seduce the reader, mingles the everyday banal with the fantastical ornate and produces stories full of sensuality, fascination and surprise.

Not the book to read at bedtime, unless the reader invites nightmares, it was definitely better experienced under the comforting heat and light of a Mediterranean sun! Not every lover of horror will find this accessible, but those who do will undoubtedly enjoy these dark, adult fairy tales.

July: eBook Bargain Month on Smashwords

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A quick reminder that you can save money on eBooks during July.

Smashwords, for those who aren’t aware, is a publishing platform for all formats of eBooks. I have several books with them. July is their promotional month, when those who wish to participate offer discounts on our books. This gives readers the chance to buy books at reduced prices. So, if you’ve been wondering whether to sample some of my work, now’s a good time for those who use eReaders. Below is a list of the books on offer, the discount applicable, and the code you’ll need to use to gain that reduction, along with a one-click link to each book (just click on the title). See how easy I make it?

Enjoy the read!

Ten Love Tales – PD92R                       Free

But, Baby, It’s Cold Outside                 Free – no code needed, as this is my free short story for all readers.

Breaking Faith – QK22J                         25% off

Heir to Death’s Folly – AC59Y             25% off

M.E and me – QU29L                            25% off

Sensuous Touches – WD68Z                 25% off

Ten Tales for Tomorrow – MZ27N      25% off

To get to all my books, simply click on this link.

To peruse the general catalogue, showing all Smashwords books on offer, click on this link. (But only after you’ve looked at my books, of course!)

Searching for the Right Words? Tip #29

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Pic via pixabay.com

This series aims to help writers use the right words to express their meaning and emotional content. All thoughts and comments are welcome.

As a writer, you want to inspire readers with joy, stoke their terrors, romance them with love, overwhelm them with horror. This set of posts examines ways of influencing mood by selecting the ‘right’ words for the job.

Example:

“They went down the steps slowly because the candlelight didn’t go very far. At the bottom, they saw the chest. It made them continue, in spite of the funny smell.”

This gives the reader information. But does it show the reader what the characters are experiencing, does it engage the reader, is it interesting to read?

Shall we try again?

“They descended slowly, the candle flame flickering with each step taken and the pool of light slowly dropping with them, until they could make out the curved barrel top of a large metal-shod wooden chest in what appeared to be the dead centre of the floor. The sight quickened their hearts as much as their steps. They continued down, the cool damp air and sinister smell of less concern than their hunger for whatever treasure the chest must hold.”

This passage is from Heir to Death’s Folly, a short gothic horror story. The scene provides details that allow the reader to empathise with the characters and their experience.

If nothing else, I hope this series will enhance our writing with words that more precisely reflect what we’re trying to convey to readers.

I prefer Roget’s Thesaurus when editing; the 1987 edition, which I started with. It still lives within reach on my reference shelf. Other books of word choices, which I consult when the apposite word continues to evade me, reside with it. But first I try to gather that ‘right’ word from the tumultuous void within my skull: it’s good mental exercise.

Any thesaurus will provide alternatives for the idea of the word you seek, but not all those suggestions are true synonyms, so always consider context.

Searching for the Right Words? Tip #20

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Picture via Pixabay.com

This series aims at helping writers find the right words to express their meaning. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Do you want to inspire readers with joy, stoke their terrors, romance them with love, overwhelm them with horror? This set of posts looks at ways of influencing mood by selecting the ‘right’ words for the job.

Example:

“The old woman watched the pair climb up until they reached the door. She gripped the key in her pocket. Since Julie had accused her, she’d had time to think about what she’d said and her face showed her intentions.”

Yes, this statement tells the reader the facts, but there’s no emotional content to plunge the reader into the real situation.

Let’s try again.

“The pair climbed into darkness and the old woman waited below, listening. She watched the flickering shadows until they faded to blackness and knew they’d reached the door at the top of the stairs. The old bones of her vengeful hand closed on the key in her pocket. She’d been unsure whether she should go through with her plan. But Julie’s dreadful accusations changed all that. It would serve her right to suffer a little, give her time to think about the wicked things she’d said. Triumph twitched Agatha’s lips, cut a quick gleam in her eyes.”

From my short horror, Heir to Death’s Folly, this sample gives the reader the detail that allows engagement with the characters and encourages them to wonder what will happen next.

If nothing else, I hope this series will enhance our writing with words that more precisely reflect what we’re trying to convey to readers.

I use Roget’s Thesaurus when editing, the 1987 edition, which I started with; it still lives within reach on my reference shelf. Other books of word choices, which I consult when the apposite word continues to evade me, live with it. But first I try to gather that ‘right’ word from the void within my skull: it’s good mental exercise.

Any thesaurus will provide alternatives for the idea of the word you seek, but not all those suggestions are true synonyms, so always consider context.