The Corpse Bride’s Recommended Reads for Halloween 🦇

My favourite time of the year is approaching – Halloween!  🦇

Here are  my Halloween reading recommendations. These are the books that have scared or thrilled me over the years!

Winterbay Abbey by John Bladek and Davonna Juroe

This is a creepy, atmospheric, old style ghost story with a sad, haunting ending. Will, an architect, goes to the historic Winterbay Abbey to design a grand restoration, but Will and his wife soon fall foul of the abbey’s curse.

The in Woman Black By Susan Hill

This gothic tale is well known as being one of the scariest books in the past few years and it lives up to its reputation. Arthur Kipps goes to the isolated Edel Marsh House to sort out the affairs of the late Alice Drablow. A chilling and brilliant ghost story.

 The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand is not only one of my favourite horror novels, but also my favourite book. It’s an epic,  apocalyptic tale of good versus evil. The horror only begins when a deadly influenza spreads rapidly across the world.

Heart – Shaped Box by Joe Hill

This is a modern, original ghost story from Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill. Scary and gory and further proof that you should not buy ghosts on the Internet! Rock star Judge buys a ghost to add to his occult collection, with horrific results.

IT by Stephen King

IT does not need much of an introduction with the current release of the movie version. The book will always be superior – over 1000 pages of pure horror in the town of Derry at the hands of an ancient evil and the terrifying Pennywise the clown.  🤡 .The characters, settings, atmosphere and scenes are perfect.

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill

This was recommended to me by David at Blue Balloon and it is excellent. This is wicked, twisted, surreal horror – a child killer, Christmasland and a Mother trying to save her son.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

I first read this as a very young teenager and I’ve read a dozen times since. The vampire tale of the beautiful Louis and the enigmatic Lestat is bloody, mesmerising and stunning.

Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe

This had been the only book  that I’ve ever had to leave to one side before finishing because it scared me so much. A particular gruesome, ghostly scene would not leave my head. Charles’ daughter goes missing Christmas Eve and is later found murdered. This is is only the start of the terror for Charles and Laura.  A ghost story and a mystery.

The Ghosts of Sleath by James Herbert

All of James Herbert’s Ash series are excellent, but I picked this one for the list. Psychic David Ash goes to investigate a town full of hauntings. This had lots of gruesome imagery, along with heart.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula, the father of all vampires and written by an Irish man. The tale of Jonathan Harker, Count Dracula and Mena is eloquent, timeless and scary. I think I need to re-read this one soon!

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

This is the first YA book on the list. Creepy little dolls, a windswept location, oijua boards, deaths and a tortured teen make for a brilliant YA horror.

Dark Matter by Michelle Pavar

I listened to Dark Matter in audiobook form and it entranced me. An Artic expedition results in Jack being stranded in a rough, artic Winter alone, but he’s not alone. Haunting, tense and gripping throughout.

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Dead House is also a YA addition. A psychological, gory and original tale told from a variety of sources, including police interviews, video footage and the diary of Kaitlyn and Carly, a girl with multiple personalities.

House on Haunted Hill by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson has a fantastic way of twisting the readers emotions and confusing them.  A classic tale of terror when a group of strangers go to Hill House to take part in a study. The reader is unsure whether this is a a real haunted house or the manifestations of one of the main character Eleanor’s mind.

Zom-B Series by Darren Shan

Zom-B series is a twelve book series, with an extra novella. I read the whole series of a period of months and when it finished, I was devastated to say goodbye to B Smith and the other characters like Mr. Dowling. Zombie filled and action packed, this also highlights more political themes like racism. I devoured this like warm brains.

The Fog by James Herbert

The Fog is a brilliant,  demented and grotesque book.  When the fog invades a small village in England and rapidly spreads, it drives people insane and makes them act on their most depraved and horrific instincts.

Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories – edited by Doug Murano and Alexander Ward

This anthology from Crystal Lake Publishing re-kindled my love of the short story. Each story is unique, beautiful but also horrible. A mixture of poems and stories to entrance and disgust.

 

Turner by Karl Drinkwater

I knew that I’d love Turner from the moment I saw the bloody chainsaw on the cover.
I loved the isolated Welsh setting and the atmosphere of the village, reminded me of Summerville Island from The Wicker Man.  Three strangers fight for their lives on an isolated Welsh island where the locals are not welcoming.

Hannah by Shaun Horton

When Eli, Naomi and their two children return from a camping trip, strange occurrences start in their house and family pet Hannah starts acting viciously and strangely. I’m terrified of dogs, so this canine horror scared the beejaysus out of me.

The Beast House by Richard Laymon

In true Laymon style, this is gory, twisted, sexually charged and action packed. Thanks to my old library in Dungarvan, I discovered Laymon. Tourists come to visit the infamous Beast House, where multiple murders have occurred and get more than they bargain for.

The Silence of Ghosts by Jonathan Aycliffe

Dominic, a wounded former soldier,is sent to the countryside with partially deaf sister Octavia during the blitz. This has eerie scenes, an atmospheric creepy location and a sense of dread throughout.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne

By now, you can probably tell that I’m a fan of the classic ghost story. 👻 Governess Eliza arrives at Gaudlin Hall.  Abandoned children, unexplained occurrences and terrifying experiences await her.

 

Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

This book is aimed at teens and is the perfect mix of scary and humourous. This is the first in the series where the team of courageous Lucy, the enigmatic Lockwood and Georges,  first start investigating hauntings across London. Hugely entertaining!

Ring by Koji Suzuki

This is the book that spawned the Ringu and Ring films. Again,  the first in a series, this story of a videotape that kills you seven days after you watch it is a tense and creepy horror.

The Ghosts of Magnificent Children by Caroline Busher

Though for younger readers, this book had to make the list, everyone knows that children love ghost stories! It was haunting and gripped me until the bittersweet ending. Four magnificent and gifted children are taken to Badblood’s circus, where a dark fate awaits them. 100 years later, their ghosts appear the Irish coast, where they befriend Rua, who must help them.

The Dead House by Billy O’Callaghan

Billy O’Callaghan’s first novel is a beautifully written ghost story. Set in the wilds of West Cork, a group of friends visited artist Maggie and try out a ouija board. Maggie unravels emotionally and artistically as the real, unseen terror unfolds. The clever, perfectly eeerie ending to this book will stay with the reader for long after the last last page.

Darkmere by Helen Maslin

Darkmere is a ghost story told in dual timelines by modern day Kate and nineteenth century young bride Elinor  and their experiences at Darkmere Castle. This a fun,  YA horror with a mix of romance, ghosts and mystery.

The Demon Road Trilogy by Derek Landy

When Amber turns sixteen, she finds out that she’s not the boring girl she thought, she’s also a beautiful red-horned demon. This is an epic rollercoaster of a journey as Amber and Milo travel across America to try to escape Amber’s parents. A brilliant trilogy featuring demonic bikers, vampires, undead serial killers and awesome characters

Zombie Girl Saga by Alessia Giacomi

This is the second atypical zombie series on the list. Eve Brenner goes on an archaeological dig with friends Akex and Cam, and is bitten by something that causes her to become a thinking zombie. This series was full of great action sequences and friendship, it reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Hell House by Richard Matheson

It’s a very long time since I read this, but I can still remember the opening chapters and our introduction to the ominous Belasco House or Hell House. Four people are hired by a millionaire to enter the house and investigate the paranormal phenomena. Chilling and psychological, another classic ghost story.

The Haunting of Highdown Hall by Shani Struthers

This is a recent read for me and the Psychic surveys series is entertaining and scary. The series follows Ruby’s psychic investigations agency as they try to help trapped spirits. Each book has a great story at the heart and feisty characters.

The Other Side of the Wall by Andrea Mara

This is the only real thriller on the list. I had to add this as it’s the only book in a long time to really freak me out! One scene had me hiding under the covers and listening for noises downstairs.  Sylvia looks out her bedroom window at night and sees a child face down in the pond next door, she races into her neighbour’s garden. But the pond is empty, and no-one is answering the door…

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Vicious, strange, heartbreaking and bloody, a vampire novel unlike any other. Loner Oskar is befriended by new neighbour, the strange Eli, who never leaves the apartment during the day. The real horror in this unfolds as Oskar is horribly bullied. Utterly brilliant and disturbing.

Mr. Sparks by Danny Weston

Ventriloquist dummies have scared me ever since I came across Mr. Slappy in Goosebumps! Mr. Sparks is an even creepier character! After Owen’s father goes missing in the war and his Mother has a breakdown, he is left with his cruel aunt in her boarding house. Mr. Sparks shows him a way out, but soon it becomes  apparent that Mr. Sparks is not as friendly as he first seems. A tense, gripping and scary YA horror.

I’ve finally come to the end of my list! Have you ready any of these? What books really scared you?

Have a wicked Halloween! 🦇 🦇 🦇

 

Rapid Fire 🔥Fiction, Cork Short Story Festival

As most of you probably know, I’m a regular attendee of the monthly Fiction at the Friary event (you can read about it here.)

On 13 Sep, Fiction at the Friary organisers Danielle Mclaughlin and Madeleine D’Arcy brought their event to the Goldie Chapel in Nano Nagle Place, as part of Cork International Short Story festival.

The night kicked off at 7.30 with Danielle and Madeleine reading some of their own work, with Eimear Ryan of Banshee Literary magazine facilitating. I’m used to listening to them introducing other people’s work, so this was a lovely treat. Both ladies are masters of the short story, as they showed on the night.

Madeleine introduced us to Victor, an aging rock star, that you pitied and liked all at once. Vivid characters brought the piece to life. I’d love to hear about more about Victor’s escapades. Danielle read a piece of flash fiction, The Hook, told from a young girl’s point of view. This was an anxious, beautifully descriptive tale, with dark undertones.

During the Q&A session, we found out about their writing, inspirations, their editing processes and the writing community. They work brilliantly together and love hosting the monthly Fiction at the Friary events. This is no surprise to anyone who has been to the Friary Bar on the last Sunday of every month!

At 9.00pm the rapid fiction event started.

Rapid Fire Fiction

In the usual Fiction at the Friary style, jelly beans, marshmallows and Hula Hoops were in plentiful supply. Twenty writers, including myself,  read a two minute piece of fiction. As you can see from the listing below, I was surrounded by wonderful writers. I was in awe to be involved!

Rapid Fire Fiction

 

When each of us finished our piece, at the ring of the bell, we moved to a computer to write a completely original story, contributed to by everyone.

If you’d like to hear my piece, click on the link below. I will add the whole piece to the end of the post. My piece was flash fiction, aptly inspired by the Flash Fiction at the Friary event with Denyse Woods and Nuala O’Connor, hosted by Catherine Kirwan and Marie Gethins.

While our story was deciphered and edited to make some sense, special guest Nick Kelly took over on the altar with a song to revive the hard working writers.

I was excited and half dreading to hear our combined original story! After some much needed editing, Cork actor Kevin Power appeared with the printout of our story. He did a brilliant job of bringing the piece together. It was surreal and strange, with some hilarious parts, the star of the piece was a wheelie bin! Kevin definitely had the most difficult job of the night!

The wonderful evening continued with a warm, evocative short story by Colm MacManus, assisted in song by Colm Scully. The short stories continued,  as Nick returned to the stage to read a short story he had written twenty years before. The evening wrapped with a song from Nick about Andre the Giant and Samuel Beckett, which was definitely a story, as well as a song!

It was an amazing evening and such a pleasure to take part in, especially in such a magnificent venue as The Goldie Chapel in Nano Nagle Place. Thanks to Danielle and Madeleine for organising this event which showcased the beautiful short story in many forms.

Here is my piece of flash fiction from the night:

INFESTATION

It all started on the Ryanair flight back to Dublin from London. I hated flying, I said that aeroplanes were nasty hotbeds of infection. In turns out I was right, as always, my husband said.

Before the take-off, two rows in front of me, a man sat spluttering and coughing. I could almost feel the infectious drops flying towards me in the air. My husband said I was a hypochondriac. Mid-flight, a woman started retching and vomiting, commencing a domino of puke from rows 17 to 14. I was in row 10, but the disgustingly sweet smell still assaulted my nostrils.

At home, three days later, my husband started hacking and barking. I tried to ignore it, until it was followed by projectile vomiting. I went around sanitising, failing to notice the other changes until it was too late. The vomiting began at 8 in the morning and by 8 in the evening, he had started to dry out. His skin grew bumpy and grainy, seeds popped out of the tips of his fingers and ears. His breathing was suddenly laboured and he pleaded wordlessly at me with yellowing eyes. I rang for an ambulance and explained the symptoms. There was a pause before she told me that he was another victim of ‘The Shelling’. She asked me if I’d been watching the news. I replied no, it made me anxious.

He dried out to a dead, beige husk before my eyes and his breathing halted. I cried, but no tears came. A rasping cough erupted in my chest. Finally, I turned on the news. The pandemic of the Bushels virus, AKA, The Shelling, was spreading worldwide, with no cure. The had tried pesticides, but they just killed people faster. I lie and wait until I too become a shell.

 

A Big Week for the Corpse Bride

This week is shaping up to be a big one for me, with lots of happenings to keep me busy!

The week started with ‘Blood Eaters and Banshees’ yesterday in Killeena House in beautiful Baltimore.

Blood Blood Eaters and Banshees

This talk was part of A Taste of  West Cork Festival and was absolutely fascinating, himself even came along and thought the same. The talk focused on Ireland’s blood eating relationships, vampires, The Morrigan and Banshees. I’ll be doing a follow-up post on this soon.

This evening, I’m finally going to see the highly anticipated Stephen King’s IT.

It

I’ve been looking forward to this one for ages! I’ve been trying not to read reviews or posts on this until I make up my mind on it. I’ll let you know what I think, but it looks promising. The Losers are an excellent bunch of child actors and Pennywise looked terrifying in the promos. Let’s hope it’s good AND scary!

The biggest event of this week for me is reading a flash fiction piece at The Rapid Fire Fiction event in Goldie Chapel, Nano Nagle Place in Cork tomorrow evening.

I’m a regular attendee of the monthly Fiction at the Friary event and the organisers Danielle Mclaughlin and Madeleine D’Arcy are bringing their event to the Cork International Short Story festival.

To find out more about the event, click here.

The programme kicks off at 7.30 with Danielle and Madeleine reading their own works and taking over the spotlight, which will be great.

At 9.00 the rapid fiction event starts. Twenty writers, including Eimear Ryan, Susan Lanigan, E.R. Murray, Danny Denton, Catherine Kirwan and myself, will read a short piece of fiction and also write a short story on the night! I can’t wait to hear Cork actor Kevin Power read the final creation aloud. This is followed by a short story by Colm MacManus assisted by Colm Scully and a performance by special guest, Nick Kelly.

It promises to be an extremely special event. This will only be second time reading in public, the first was at last month’s Fiction at the Friary event, so wish me luck!

 

Living Like A Vampire: A Paranormal Romance (Suckers Book 1) #BookReview

I’d like to thank Jacky for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Best Read

In the depth of a black night, when all horrors seem possible.

About the Book

It is October 2004 and the world is plagued by a virus outbreak that turns people into super-strong, photo-phobic blood-suckers. Kate is a young science teacher living in a country town in Maine (US) and she doesn’t have any plans to become a ‘sucker.’ 

When it looks like suckers are nearing her hometown, Kate and her friends flee to a campground to hide from the pandemic. They thought they were safe there.

Then things go wrong. Very wrong.

Kate is thrown into emotional turmoil, action, and suspense. To top it all off she falls in love with one of the suckers.

Will love win her over to the dark side?

My Thoughts on Suckers

During Black October, an infection swarms through the human population, turning people into Suckers.

I really liked the premise of this book and the new term Suckers or succedaneums. I could imagine how easily an epidemic like this could spread in today’s world.

The story focuses around three friends – Sue, Charlie and the main character Kate. I loved the dynamic of their friendship.

There was action and drama galore in this book, but I’m a bit of a gore whore and I would have liked to see more bloody scenes.

A negative for this book was that the main character, Kate, fell in love too easily, too fast. Maybe it’s the realist in me, but I’m not a lover of romance novels or films in general, so I’m probably alone in thinking this.

The story made lots of twists and turns later in the book, which I really enjoyed. I especially liked the changes to Kate and the transformation of her relationship with her friends.

The book ended on a hopeful note, but I have a feeling that more trouble lies ahead for Kate and Charlie as Suckers: Book 2 Raising a Vampire is out now!

Purchase link:

To buy book 1 click here.

To buy book 2 click here.

Movie Nightmares

 

Jenny over at Mattressonline asked me to share this awesome Infographic with you all!

The theme is Movie Nightmares – the top movies to give you nightmares or keep you awake at night! There are some classics in the list, including my favourite movie, The Shining. The twin girl ghosts definitely gave me nightmares!

Have any of these movies kept you awake at night or gave you nightmares? Or have any other ones?

Blood Eaters and Banshees at Taste of West Cork

Blood Blood Eaters and Banshees

When a work friend told me about Blood Eaters and Banshees, I was immediately intrigued by the event! It also lined up nicely with a few days off work! I’m so excited for it!

Taste of West Cork Festival 2017
Killeena House together with West Cork College offer:
Blood Eaters and Banshees.
Monday 11th September 11am – 1pm
The creator of Count Dracula was Irish but for centuries before that we had a tradition of blood suckers and ghouls. In the atmospheric surroundings of Killeena House you will be treated to a talk on this mythological world of the Irish undead! Suitable scary snacks included.
Presented by West Cork College founder Dr. Bernie McCarthy.
€15 euro per ticket including a tea and homemade cake break.
Venue: Killeena House, Baltimore Road.
Limited Numbers: Get Your Tickets Early!
As this is a sit down talk it’s not suitable for small children.
​For bookings email mail@killeenahouse.ie, call 0877547665 or 02821029. 

Even if Blood Eaters and Banshees are not to your taste, there are enough events on to tickle anyone’s fancy! Roll on September!

Find out more about the festival here.

#Book Review: Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders

Behold is a colourful kaleidoscope of weird, wacky and bizarre stories and poems.

About the Book

Want to see something weird? Embrace the odd. Satisfy your curiosity. Surrender to wonder.

From Crystal Lake Publishing and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated co-editor of the smash hit Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories comes Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders.

Sixteen stories and two poems take you into the spaces between the ordinary—and the imaginations of some of today’s masters of dark and thrilling fiction.

A travel writer learns the terrible secrets at a hotel that’s not at all as it seems.

A disfigured woman and her daughter explore methods of weaponizing beauty.

An amateur beekeeper acquires an object that shows her the true
danger of the hive-mind.

Drifters ride the rails seeking something wondrous that could change their fates forever.

A strange creature that holds our very existence in its hands shapes the lives of two lovers to touching and devastating effect.

A young man helps his grandfather—and something much more monstrous—atone for bargains made during wartime.

And much, much more…

Best Read

Lying in an empty grassy field on a splendid sunny day or in a giant tent, while sipping on something magical.

My Thoughts on the Book

 

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of this book for months and I’m delighted to have received a launch day copy to review! Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders is an anthology from Crystal Lake Publishing, edited by Doug Murano and featuring a vast array of authors, including Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker. My obsession with short story collections was triggered by another Crystal Lake anthology, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. Gutted was also co-edited by Mr. Murano, so I had very high hopes for this.

This is another cracking anthology from Crystal Lake. This is a wondrous collection, full of strange other-worldly tales and fans of Fantasy Island will devour this.  Every addition is unique and leaves the reader feeling like they are entering different tents at a carnival, with many different, some grotesque wonders to behold. Below are snippets of my favourite stories.

Larue’s Dime Museum

This story opened the anthology – a stylish and clever take on “carnival freaks” and curiosity. Beware of what you pick up in Larue’s Dime Museum!

Wildflower, Cactus Rose

A strange tale that is sad in parts. The most horrific part to this story is humanity and our obsession with outer beauty. This was brutal in parts, but I loved the message. The author quotes it perfectly: “The world is a mirror, what we see is a reflection of who we are. So the question is, what do you want the world to see?” The ending leaves the reader keep pondering the question.

The Baker of Millepoix

Set in a beautiful French village, this is both charming and grotesque. A miraculous baker with a secret ingredient that will leave a taste in your mouth.

 Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament

Clive Barker’s sprawling tale mingles horror, pleasure, obsession and love. Brilliantly written, this is a monstrous story with gore and heart. Jacqueleine is unlike any other woman, imaginary or real.

An Exhibition of Mother and Monster

I don’t normally read poetry, but I loved this nighmarish poem. It features a delicious collection of Nature’s freaks for a cheap price – “A Wholesome Fee for the Devil’s Smile.”

Chivalry

Neil Gaiman’s addition to the collection is a quirky, magical tale, with a lovely touch of humour. Mrs. Whitaker, the main character, is a feisty old lady with a great eye for antiques.

A Ware That Will Not Keep

A dying Grandfather tells his son of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. It’s a tale of escape, release, true horror and desperation.

Earl Pruitt’s Smoker

A wonderful, vivid flight of the imagination with a bee-keeper.

As A Guest at the Telekinetic Tea Party

I loved this poem, the second I read the alliterative title. The second poem anthology is vivacious and the cadence reminds me of a dance. It’s a dark tale of a witchy afternoon tea.

Knitter

Knitter reminded me of a gruesome Grimm’s Tale, where the unsuspecting characters have a sad fate awaiting them. Creepy and disturbing with a mystical twist.

Through Gravel

A surreal, strange tale of an underground world where the Kindred pluck their offspring from the world above.

Each story in Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders is a gem. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, so dig into this treasure trove and you won’t regret it.

 

Click here to purchase the book.

 

 

My Final Letters – Part 1

Toast some marshmallows and settle in by the campfire for a creepy tale… 

I’m writing this in hope that my final days in this life are somewhat peaceful, in the hope I won’t have to wake every night to my screams, drenched in sweat as I have for the past 10 years.

God,  how have I managed this long? I’ve had my moments where the pain has felt too much, where I’ve tried to end it all, but somehow I’ve never had the guts , the coward in me always prevails and I sink away back to the miserable existence curled away in the blackness I endure everyday, stuck behind the mask of a “normal” functioning member of society.
Last month, I was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The disease spreading across my body like oil across the open ocean consuming the life within me. It’s ironic in a way all this time I’ve been dying slowly and it seems faith will rob me of the opportunity to finish the job myself.

The story I’m about to tell doesn’t paint me as a hero, nor an adventurer thrown against a unfathomable task only to struggle my way to victory. No, this story paints me as something much more vile, it paints me as a murderer.

A decade ago I was a young traveller, hiking the wilderness of the United States. My partner in all of this was my friend and brother in arms, Donald Moorehouse. An amazing man, burley and built like a redwood, with a heart of gold and a kindness I have never seen since in any human being.
One night while drinking in a tavern high in the Rockies, nestled between two beautiful valleys, we made the decision to trek along an old trail situated along the side of Pike Peak. The story goes that the trail was made by early pioneers in the 1840s, but somewhere along the journey the group disappeared. Fur trappers trekking the area found only tents and carriages rotten, decayed from the winter freeze. No bodies were ever discovered and tales about the group have sprung up across the area of ghosts and monsters, even a tale of ancient UFOs is heard in a bar or two around the peaks.
The trail is avoided by most, because of superstition and folklore that surrounds it, but myself and Donald had never paid attention to old wives tales or campfire tales used to entice a few gullible teenagers. Instead the idea of roaming land without the interference of another human being is what really drove us to take the journey – open air and lush spruce forest, what more could one ask for?

If only we had heeded the warnings then.

We set off early in the morning before dawn  to reach the start of the trail before the sun rose across the plains. We arrived just as the sun came up across the valley, illuminating the peaks of the mountains around us. We packed our gear, enough for a weekends trip, along with a double tent to hold the two of us.
The trail begins at the mouth of a thick spruce forest , between two peaks both topped with thick icey snow. The location of the forest, hidden between the mountains, covers it in shadow throughout the day, giving it an eery look like a place locked in twilight never truly seeing the light.  Looking back, I knew as we walked from the morning sun into the gloom of the spruce, that something horrific waited within.
The first hours of walking were slow paced, myself and Donald spoke very little, instead we tried to take in the scenery and enjoy some of the sites, like we always do on our hiking treks in the area, but something was different this time. Instead of the serene feeling that accompanies treks in the wild, there was a tension I can’t describe with words. A thick harrowing blanket that seemed to cover the air around us and seep into the bark of the trees. Along with this, I believe the both of us felt….. We were being watched.
I plucked up the courage to mention this to Donald and he agreed it was best to make camp somewhere along the inner line of trees up the trail and try to relax for the evening, setting a fire to scare any potential predators in the area  and try shake whatever unnatural feeling had seemed to descend upon us.
We set the tent, gathered firewood and lit a campfire just as the sun set below the mountain and another level of inky darkness covered the forest around us. I remember trying to make small talk as we ate in attempt to force myself back to feeling my normal self, but nothing worked, it clung to me like tar, an unshaking nervousness, like I was waiting for something terrible to happen . During the night, we heard faint cracks and snaps in the forest around us. This isn’t abnormal in the wilderness, these trails are covered with wildlife and game, but the real fear of it all came when we recalled we had not heard one single chirp of a bird of deer call on the whole journey up.
 

The snaps and cracks became louder, heavier and now a faint skittering could be heard in air and God I know between it, I heard some inhuman muttering, silently fading off from time to time.

Myself and Donald shouted into the inky black, in the hope whatever lurked around us would scatter in fear but the noises continued until suddenly, all at once, silence fell among the dark again.
I want to tell you we relaxed, that we returned to our happy go lucky selves, but the darned silence was much worse. I still felt eyes on me in the dark, the hairs standing on neck. I waited for some ungodly demon to run at us from the shadows and pull us into the black to disappear like the pioneers all those years ago, but it never came.
We both huddled ourselves in our tent a few minutes later, making sure to lock the clasp blocking us from the outside under the feeble guise that a thin layer of nylon could protect us from the dangers outside. We both agreed not to sleep for fear whatever lurked outside would return late in the night….  it did.
It started with the snaps and cracks in the brush, but now much closer to the tent, then the muttering and jibbering, we both tried to make out words but the sound was so unnatural it was impossible to do so. I began to shake and I felt Donald trembling beside me, as the noises came closer.  I wanted to scream, but terror silenced my voice when suddenly the noises once again stopped. Replaced by a soft padding close to the tent, accompanied by skittering footfalls moving closer. Until in the faintest light of the fire, the shadow of some inhumane form pressed against the opening of the tent.
I watched in complete terror, tears rolling down my cheeks as the locked clasp began to shake the thing outside trying to make its way in. I can still see its’ shadow to this day, bent and frail, shaking in the light like an animal in excitement or about to feed…. about to kill. The clasp shook for a few moments until a blood curdling squeal rose up from the thing, joined by a chorus of others around us.
The next few moments are a blur of panic and chaos, as the thing outside swipes against the from of the tent tearing a long opening across the nylon layer. The smell hits us like a arctic truck. Stinking rotting meat like a carcass of a deer or game  left to melt against the forest floor festering away. Then pale emaciated gangly arms reached in, filthy hands clawing at our feet and in the pale light i saw the outline of its face. I want to tell you it was human and indeed some of its features were,  but a unworldy death hung about it and the space where its eyes were supposed to be only black caverns lay and a wide mouth opened it jaw hanging far too low,  black and rotted test sharpened at points thrusts out from it mouth and wet saliva dripped from its jaw. The terrifying thing is I knew it was watching with some ungodly sense and it was hungering for us.
In a flash I somehow grabbed for my hunting knife below my belt and in the blur of screaming and snarling,  sliced my own opening in the side of the tent and scrambled out into the cool night air. Donald followed after me and I tore down the path we had trecked hours before. The light from the fire was stronger outside the tent and in my peripherals I saw more of the things bent and snarling like a pack of wolves waiting for the moment to finish an elk surrounded and terrified.
They began to squeal and snarl, that ungodly sound rang out in the silence of the woods and I listened as they tore after us down into the cover of the spruce crashing against the brush.
There’s another level of fear and adrenaline most humans will never experience, a built in primal response  that the safety of society has numbed out over centuries. You’ve probably heard of fight or flight,  to experience it is the most terrifying thing I have ever faced.

I listened as those creatures raced after us, their snarls becoming closer, just one mistake and those thing would pull me into the dark to feast on me.

In the madness of it all, I noticed Donald slip. In the moment it was like slow motion,  his face twisted in terror staring to me as if hoping I could catch him as he lost his footing slamming against the forest soil.
I stopped at first and tried to pick him up but I wasnt strong enough, for god sake, the man was like a concrete block. I watched as he tried to stand but collapsed in pain.

Then suddenly the silence came again and I knew….. They had caught us.

In the silence I could make out panting and wheezing, as the forest floor began to crack as they moved in closer. The smell of death hung about the air as before and I could feel their eyes anticipation for the feast they would now have. Donald began to scream for help,  breaking down like a child crying for his mother and for God, but no God came.
What happened next has haunted me all these years and I have played it over a million times, but the outcome is always the same. I knew standing there in the dark, those things surrounding us ready to pounce and finish us both, and my closest friend babbling like a new born injured on the floor. Only one of us would leave.
Something in me, some long forgotten base instinct for survival took me and although I admit I am a coward, somehow in the moment it was as if my control was no longer my own.
I stood above Donald his hands wrapped around the leg of my jeans, clutching at them screaming for help. I swung my free leg back, giving space and smashed my knee forward landing just beneath his jaw. As strong a man as he was, I felt the impact as his head slumped downwords unconscious.
I ran,  I ran knowing they would grab him. I ran knowing his death would buy me time to escape. Leaving my closest friend to be taken by those demons to die alone.
I expected one to jump from the blackness at me as I ran, but it never came. As I realised I might have escaped,  I began to hear the screams. The pain and anguish in them the agony in every moment. They rang out as I made my way deep down into the canyon and even after they stopped I could still hear them in my mind….  I still hear them today. I wonder how he must have felt in that moment of betrayal, how he felt as those creatures sunk their rotting teeth and hands into him. Did he expect me to return to save him?
The story told to the authorities and Donald’s family isn’t the story I’ve told you. I lied in my statements, telling them a cougar  attacked us in the night dragging Donald off. That I tried to fight it off to save my friend but lost it in the darkness of the woods. They searched for 3 weeks and found nothing, only our tent and remain of the campfire.
I moved to another state, into an apartment in a quiet neighborhood. I quit work,  I started drinking and picked up a needle habit in hopes it would drown out my thoughts,  but it was only a temporary escape.

I murdered my friend that night and left him to die in agony and I can never forgive myself.

Ive made the decision with only a short few weeks left before this disease rots my insides and robs me of my mobility. I’m going back the the trail. I’m going back to find Donald.
To find out what happens next, tune on later this week! 

#BookReview Karl Drinkwater’s Horror Collection

A Facebook competition graced me with two gorgeous printed copies of Turner and They Move Below by Karl Drinkwater.

I’m a fan of Karl’s writing since listening to the audio version of Harvest Festival and had They Move Below waiting on my Kindle, so I was delighted with my prizes.

Turner

Karl Drinkwater's Horror Collection

The bright and bloody cover of the novel Turner drew me in instantly. The book was full of action, gore and gutsy characters.

I loved the isolated Welsh setting and the overall atmosphere of the village. The village reminded me of Summerville Island in the classic horror  film, The Wicker Man. The more gore,  the better for me, and this did not disappoint. Turner would make an excellent horror film, with its twists and turns and constant action.

I loved the clever use of the words ‘turning’ and ‘turner’ in the book also. Like Harvest Festival, tension builds steadily throughout the book to a horrific and shocking ending.

They Move Below

Karl Drinkwater's Horror Collection

They Move Below is a collection of 15 dark tales. Like all of Karl’s other work I’ve read, the writing is excellent. These are my mini reviews of a few of my favourite short stories.

If That Looking Glass Gets Broken

This was the most surprising of the stories for me, I did not guess the ending at all! And I read a lot of horror stories! The ending was shocking and horrific and I really enjoyed it.

They Move Below

The title tale was a strange one. The main character was very unlikeable and I found myself wishing bad things would happen to him… Let’s just say the ending was fitting! A surreal tale where the things that lurk below come alive.

Creeping Jesus

Creeping Jesus was an unusual tale of a school trip to a natural history museum. I laughed out loud at the ingenious ending.

Just Telling Stories

Just telling stories was my favourite of the tales, it definitely has the creepy chills factor. I could see each scene unfold in my head and I’m sure next time I’m wandering down a lonely hotel corridor, this will creep into my head.

Claws Truth Forebear

This tale reminded me if an Indiana Jones movie. I loved the exotic location and the claustrophobic feel to it. I always dreamed of being an archaeologist when I was a child, so I was equally  enthralled and horrified.

Breaking the Ice

Breaking the ice was written like a recording of a police interview. This style works really well in horror and leaves the reader’s imagination to wander as we are fed the information bit by bit.

How It Got There

I loved the red herring in this one, the writer does an excellent job of misleading the reader. A very clever tale.  I also loved the way it tied in with the novel Turner.

The Scissor Man

The Scissor Mam reminder me of a grim, moralic fairytale, featuring a particular dislikable little boy. The reader is left to imagine a deliciously gruesome ending for him.

Overload

Overload was written in a very unusual style with shots of internet conversations (I’d love to know how it was done!) It’s format is perfect in this social media driven age. It’s also a cautionary take about taking everything that you see online to be true.

Living in the Present

This started out as a nice heartwarming Christmas tale, but the reader receives subtle hints that all may not be as nice. This was quirky and grisly.

Bleeding Sunset, Dancing Snowflakes

This original take on the vampire genre was ethereal and slightly erotic. There was beautiful imagery, even in the name.

I find it very hard to fault this collection, each tale is unique, some horrific  and all leave the reader’s imagination run wild.

Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival was a brilliantly written and exciting Sci-fi horror novella. I was very lucky to get a gift of the audio version of Harvest Festival. This was my second audio book ever.  I enjoyed every minute of it and I’m hooked on audio books for car journies now.

The book is excellently written, every word seems to be there for a reason. The tension builds from the end of an average day on the farm for Callum and his family. The ordinary strains on family relationships is very evident in the first few chapters. I loved the realism of those scenes.

The fact that those scenes are so normal allows for tension to build rapidly once the family ends up facing a horrific invasion of an alien kind. Dramatic and terrifying, the scenes move speedily along to an ending which stayed in my head for some while. Though it was a novella, I loved the changing dynamic in the family’s relationships from start to finish. 
Karl Drinkwater's Horror Collection
Karl Drinkwater’s Horror Collection

Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but has lived in Wales for half his life. He’s a full-time author, edits fiction for other writers, and was a professional librarian for over twenty-five years. He has degrees in English, Classics, and Information Science.He writes in multiple genres: his aim is always just to tell a good story. Among his books you’ll find elements of literary and contemporary fiction, gritty urban, horror, suspense, paranormal, thriller, sci-fi, romance, social commentary, and more. The end result is interesting and authentic characters, clever and compelling plots, and believable worlds.

When he isn’t writing he loves exercise, guitars, computer and board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice, cake, and zombies.

Wexford Literary Festival #Wexlitfest17 📙 📚 📖

This is my attempt at describing a wonderful experience at 2017 Wexford Literary Festival!

We drove down to The Wexford Literary Festival, in Enniscorthy, after work on the Friday. After getting stuck in traffic in Killeagh for 45 minutes, we eventually made it to our resting spot for 2 nights. We stayed in the Slaney Suites, part of Treaceys Hotel, which was reasonable and very central. After some quick refreshments (in the form of food and a beverage) we made it to the opening night!

The One Act Play Competition

We made it to the Presentation centre just in time for the One Act Play competition. Each of the four shortlisted plays was performed by the excellent actors of the Enniscorthy Drama Society.  Isherholz Calls by Jay Phillips opened up the evening’s proceedings. The judges had a tough job as all the shortlisted entries were worthy winners. I couldn’t pick between my favourites – Pitchfork by Kelby Gilfoyle and  Nicola Cassidy’s play, Chop! The winning play, One Solitary Line by Neil Walden was extremely clever and entertaining. The night was a great introduction to the events of the festival to come.

Readers and Writers Day

The Readers and Writers Day kicked off early on Saturday with a quick opening speech from the enigmatic Carmel Harrington, along with a plentiful supply of tea, coffee and biscuits. The committee members introduced themselves to us and we we felt welcome immediately. It was great, yet slightly nervewracking to put faces to the Writerswise and Twitter folks that I had only met online up to this point.

Non-fiction Panel

Wexford Literary Festival

The non-fiction panel kicked off with Shane Dunphy, Andrea Hayes and Louise Hall. The talk was fascinating and taught me a lesson that I should not rule out non-fiction books from my reading pile!

I can’t wait to read Shane’s upcoming fiction novel ‘After She Vanished’ and the audience were moved by his stories from his ‘Miserylit’ books- his term! Keep an eye out for one of his books which is being made into a feature film!!

Andrea Hayes was humble and kept telling us that she’s not a writer, despite having published two bestsellers! I’m not the type of person who reads motivational books usually, but after hearing Andrea speaking, I ran straight to buy her book ‘My Life Goals Journal.’ I’m using the audio hypnosis and writing in the journal and have already achieved one of my small goals, thanks Andrea!

Despite not being religious in the slightest, Louise’s book about different people’s stories and their pilgrimages to Medjugorie intrigues me. The nosy side in me loves the human story. The panel melded together wonderfully with facilitator Sheila Forsey at the helm.

The main take away points from this panel were:

  • Write what you want to write. 
  • If you’re interviewing people use a tape recorder 
  • Do what you love and love what you do
  • If you’re telling a real person’s story get their permission

Crime Writers Panel Discussion

Next up was a juicy panel with crime writers Alex Barclay and Michael O’Higgins. They gave us an insight where the gruesome and scary ideas in their books come from. Michael draws mostly  from real life inspiration and regaled us with tales of real life criminals in Dublin.  Alex isn’t sure exactly how the ideas come to  her but has been reading True Crime since she was a teenager.

Next, they moved on to that ‘Killer First Line’ that crime writers are so well known for. Alex advised writers to bring as much magic as possible in the first sentence while also setting the scene for the story. Michael didn’t give it a a huge amount of thought but agreed it was important for setting scene place and character. It was great to listen to the two crime writers spilling their bloody guts to curator Adele O’Neill (who signed a three book deal herself earlier this year!)

The main take away points from this panel were:

  • Don’t get caught up in the ‘how to’s of writing 
  • Write what you can find out and don’t be afraid to ask people for help with research (but do give them credit) 
  • Trust your story, and trust your gut 
  • You can be gruesome anywhere

Publisher Q&A

Before the break for lunch was an insightful chat with publishers Lisa Coen and Sarah Davis-Goff of Tramp Press, moderated by the lovely Caroline Busher. Lisa and Sarah met while they were competing with each other as interns in Lillyput Press. They seem like a force to be reckoned with!

They shared their dream submission with us… I shouldn’t tell you……………….. Well…………………………………………………………………………… Maybe……………………………. OK……………………… It’s brilliant Irish Sci-fi (which I think everyone who was in the room is now trying to write!)

They only publish two or three books a year from exceptional writers. The two wonder woman look after all aspects of the business between them. They’re always looking for diverse writers and be prepared for questions on your influences if you submit to them.

The main take away points from this panel were:

  • When making submissions, follow the guidelines and address the individuals.
  • Expect to be rejected, but keep at it – www.litrejections.com is a great resource for writers. Always be writing the next thing.
  • Do it for the love of writing.
  • Write an exceptional Irish Sci-fi novel and submit to Tramp Press 😉

An Evening in Conversation with Carmel Harrington and Sinead Moriarty

The highlight of the weekend was definitely the gin tea party in the magestic Enniscorthy 🏰 Castle. Sitting down listening to the charismatic Carmel having an intimate friendly chat with the thoughtful and honest Sinead was nothing short of magical.

Gin served from teapots by two fine gentleman in their finest, added a touch of utter elegance to the evening, and helped everyone feel more relaxed and comfortable.

Carmel and Sinead shared personal stories, how they began their writing careers, the ups and downs in their own lives and I feel privileged to have experienced the evening. We left the evening feeling wonderful and totally inspired. My two friends who don’t currently write 📝, even thought they might write something themselves after attending!

The main take away points from the evening were:

  • The Irish writing community is friendly, supportive  and helpful.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Anxiously wait for Carmel’s Cold Feeling book to be released.
  • Carmel Harrington and Sinead Moriarty are both awesome 

We had back to the rebel county on the Sunday, so unfortunately we couldn’t stick around for the Sunday events. By all accounts, the prize giving and the motivational talk with Bibi Baskin was an apt way to close a fantastic festival.

The main thing that struck us all about the weekend is that it was all about the writers and none of it was publicity driven.

The Wexford Literary Festival committee are an amazing bunch and pulled off an epic weekend! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2018! 👏 👏 👏