The Legacy of Old Gran Parks cover reveal!

I’m thrilled to share the cover of my latest novel, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks, available from 24th February, 2018. It’s a dark comedy thriller and I had such a lot of fun writing the story. Big thanks to all the team at HellBound Books for believing in my work and being generally amazing! A huge thank you to local photographer Wesley Stephens for his photo of Point Hicks lighthouse, and a very special mention to local resident and dear friend Cassarndra Skarratt, without whom this book would never have been written. ‘Gran Parks’ is available for pre-order too – see below. Stay tuned for details of the official launch on 12th May at the Cann River hotel!

Set in Cann River in Australia’s rugged southern wilderness, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a tale of a remote town haunted by a legacy, a legacy with ominous consequences.

It’s a warm evening in the autumn of 1983 when Miriam Forster rolls into town in her broken down car.
Frankie the deer hunter, is up in the forested hinterland with her gun. Old Pearl the fisherwoman sits on her front deck down by the lagoon with her whisky and her dog. And Emily, the English backpacker, scrubs out the pie-encrusted kitchen at the roadhouse.

All is not well. There’s a hoon doing donuts at the crossroads and screaming down the fire trails in the woods; a suspicious-looking city-slicker with two small children, squatting in Fred’s shack down by the lake; a beanie-headed gaunt guy convalescing at the lighthouse; and an acne festooned creature in the hotel room next to Miriam, thrashing about in the night.

Gran Parks is stirring. Who will survive? Who will get away? Who will stay?

Pre-order you Kindle copy now!

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Stunning *****5 star review***** of The Cabin Sessions!

For once I am sharing a review of one of my own titles just in on Amazon. It isn’t every day an author receives such high praise.

The Cabin Sessions – for those who like their horror dark and psychological.

“Well!
Talk about being blown away.
If you are in search of a stonking read with delicious descriptions – chilling horror (very psychological in places) and perfect prose then this is the book for you.
The horror was delivered with sophistication and stealth – so much so that when I wanted to pull back or run for cover I couldn’t.
The story telling is masterly and I would class this book – author, as a modern day classic.
Unique- individual- and unapologetic.
To me was as good as a holiday- I love that feeling you get when a read has reached every wanton corner of your psyche and cleaned up!
Thank you to the author for a truly defining read!” – Amazon reviewer Kathleen McCarthy

Thank you Kathleen, for making my day!

You can read more Amazon reviews here

Review: Harlequin’s Riddle by Rachel Nightingale

Here’s my review of a sensational debut novel by Australian author and award-winning playwright, Rachel Nightingale. It might look like a YA fantasy novel, but don’t be fooled! Read on and discover why I am in rapture over this book.

“The Gazini Players are proud to present
For your Edification and Enjoyment
Tales of great Joy, and of great Woe

Ten years ago, Mina’s beloved older brother disappeared with a troupe of travelling players, and was never heard from again.

On the eve of Mina’s own departure with a troupe, her father tells her she has a special gift for story telling, a gift he silenced years before in fear of her ability to call visions into being with her stories.

Mina soon discovers that the travelling players draw their powers from a mysterious place called Tarya, where dreams are transformed into reality. While trying to solve the mystery of her brother’s disappearance, she discovers a dark secret to the players’ onstage antics. Torn between finding her brother or exposing the truth about the players, could her gifts as a story teller offer a way to solve Harlequin’s riddle?”

*****

It is a stark fact that for the last few decades the major players in the book publishing industry have chosen to be led by their sales teams, and commissioning editors must bow to their publisher’s bottom line. Editors may fall in love with a story, want to praise it from the rooftops, but they are stuck with having to tell the author the harsh truth that their sales department, not known for vision and decidedly risk averse, have deemed the work unsaleable. It happens time and again that a truly great work slips through the cracks and ends up – because it IS truly a great work – being picked up by one of the lesser known small presses. If you want to read excellent original fiction, hunt out works released by reputable small presses.

Harlequin’s Riddle is one of those books, for Rachel Nightingale has composed a work of remarkable vision and depth of insight, a work narrated in an accessible and enchanting style; gentle, inviting, sensory, like silk and gossamer. The pace is slow at first, but never meandering, and quickens at each plot point, as what begins as a quest evolves into a dark mystery.

 Harlequin’s Riddle is a story of illusion and make believe in art and theatre. The novel opens with Mina watching a travelling theatre troupe perform in her village as she misses her older brother, Paolo, who took off with a troupe a decade before, and never returned. She was seven when he left, and she’s seventeen when with her mother’s blessing she joins the theatre troupe in the hope of finding him. The reader is swept along on the aspirations, hopes and dreams of innocence, a false innocence for Mina’s childhood scars are many, and the grief and anguish and betrayal are buried so deep Mina is numb to them, until they surface and form a destabilising force, propelling her into understanding and ultimately wholeness.

Despite the fictitious setting, Nightingale paints an evocative portrait of medieval Italy with its rugged coastline, its quaint villages, forests and northern lakes. The author’s depiction of the theatre troupe with their colourful sets and costumes is vibrant and alive and enthralling, the reader provided a privileged view, looking over Mina’s shoulder at the other players and the audience. Much of the story involves the travellers journeying in their wagons to the Festival of Lights held in the large city of Aurea, and again, the reader is swept along for the ride as the troupe cope with various dramas and adventures along the way. There is much here to entertain every reader, young and old, the final quarter of the novel dripping with visual splendour.

On another level, Harlequin’s Riddle is less a tale of Mina’s quest to find her brother, and more a study of the nature of imagination and creativity, that curious moment of conjuring, bringing into being that which we inwardly see, and seeing that which we inwardly describe – words and pictures, which comes first? The creative process, at the moment of conception, differs between the arts and among artists, but always there is a point of manifestation and it is this that fills the pages of Harlequin’s Riddle.

Coupled with the theme of creativity and the creative process are ideas of spirituality and healing, the very quality we access when we transcend ordinary reality in creative imaginative acts, is also a powerful source of beneficial transformation and healing. Nightingale calls this multidimensional realm Tarya. It is what esotericists call the ‘inner planes’, and it is here that the deeper essence of Harlequin’s Riddle is apparent. 

Entering Tarya involves altering your state of awareness, undergoing an out of body experience, and engaging in astral travel. Tarya is the realm of the shaman, the magus, the trickster, the psychopomp. Here is a small taste of Tarya.

“A subtle buzzing of hidden energy surrounded her. She looked down on distant mountains, and nearby trees, and people, many people, and each shape glimmered with light, layer upon layer of light, blurring outlines of real objects. There were intricate spiderwebs laid across the whole scene, gold threads wrapped around and over everything.”

In the villages, the players are feared for it is known they have occult or arcane power, one that destroys as it sets out to give joy. Unlike the players, Mina has the gift of storytelling, and she accesses Tarya differently, going far beyond the realms accessed by the players, realms that are connected to the  living earth, to enter the purer planes of existence, where spiritual wisdom resides. This innate ability sets her apart, leads her into danger and ultimately drives her quest.

There is much to reflect on in Harlequin’s Riddle, and much to appreciate. Harlequin’s Riddle  is a story to lose yourself in, and can be read on many levels. It isn’t necessary to understand anything about the occult or arcani to appreciate the novel, although the astute reader will recognise Harlequin’s Riddle  as a transpersonal journey, one of initiation and healing. Nightingale has penned a unique and exquisite tale that deserves to be widely known, a story with a depth of awareness and understanding that will hold special appeal to those with an interest in alternative spiritualities. In the final analysis, Harlequin’s Riddle a work of intelligence and refinement that I can only compare to an Ursula le Guin, with overtones of Umberto Eco in theme but not in compositional style. A visionary fiction masterpiece.

Harlequin’s Riddle is available through all good booksellers.

Buy your copy here

Find Rachel Nightingale here

 

Review: The Blood Red Experiment

My journey into dark fiction just keeps getting better. What is it that draws the reader into the realm of the macabre? I guess the answer to that is different for everyone, but for me, uppermost is the application of top-class literary skills.

“Inspired by the genius of Hitchcock and his films, latin luminaries such as Argento and Bava directed macabre murder-mystery thrillers, that combined the suspense with scenes of outrageous violence, stylish cinematography, and groovy soundtracks. This genre became known in their native Italy as giallo.

Giallo is Italian for yellow, inspired by the lurid covers of thrillers, in the way that pulp fiction was derived from the cheap wood pulp paper of the crime stories, or Film Noir came from the chiaroscuro of the German Expressionistic lighting.

We at TBRE want to bring gialli-inspired stories by some of the best crime writers on the scene today to a wider audience, giving birth to a new literary movement in crime writing, NeoGiallo, and drag this much maligned genre screaming and slashing its way into the 21st Century.”

*****

My entry into NeoGiallo has been rewarded with this superb collection. Edited by Jason Michel and Craig Douglas, The Blood Red Experiment is a well laid out magazine with a healthy noir vibe. Many of the stories are first instalments of serialised works, a smart move on the part of the editors, as those stories are compelling and leave the reader wanting more, rendering The Blood Red Experiment a collectible, a must-have for any noir-loving fan.

The opening story, ‘Machine Factory’ by Richard Godwin, is about as confronting as it gets inside the mind of a psychopathic killer. Unrelenting, vivid and artistic in its execution, I am in admiration of the author for his ability to enter into the pathology of macabre glorification and can only hope the protagonist is not his ‘Mr Hyde’. Godwin display his literary talents in evocative descriptions:

“I will escape it and find otherness like a black widow spider clutching with unreal feet at the empty window pane of time.”

‘Machine Factory’ contains a satisfying twist, one that entices the reader to start back at the beginning.

Every story in The Blood Red Experiment is worth a mention. Mark Cooper’s intriguing ‘Quaenam in Illis’, the tale of an out-of-work linguist used by a mysterious group to decipher ancient writings, pulls the reader into a seedy Paris underworld. Kate Laity’s ‘Maddona of the Wasps’ is a rich and tantalising tale of erotic desire and gore, as a dominatrix uses her minion, a slave to his own lust. In ‘Didn’t Bleed Red,’ Tom Leins makes use of a reflexive giallo motif, as his private investigator protagonist comes face to face with a grotesquely overweight, red-faced man who calls himself The Auctioneer. Jack Bates displays impressive narrative control and provides an unexpected twist in his confronting tale, ‘Canvas of Flesh’. Then there’s James Shaffer’s chilling and tense ‘Blood of the Lamb’, a story in which even the light bleeds; and Kevin Berg’s sensual and literary ‘L Impermanenza Dell’Art’, a story that takes searching for inspiration in an art class to a whole new level.

The high literary standard that can be found in the dark-fiction genre never fails to please, and the standard of writing in The Blood Red Experiment is excellent. The authors are adept at creating evocative metaphors and captivating imagery, and display all the artistry of good prose, brought to bear on the gruesome side of life.  Dripping noir from every page crease, the hallmark of this issue is dark sensuality, the sort only good writing can achieve. Every author is engaged in a dance of seduction with the reader. The Blood Red Experiment is a privilege to read. My only critical remark is the shortage of women writers in the mix.

Grab your copy here

#SuperBlueBloodMoon

The Moon must be feeling ecstatic, a bit like a film star having been awarded an Oscar. Perhaps now a little deflated knowing the glory was momentary and soon the wonder will fade and the moon will have to go back to its regular cycle of waxing and waning.

Photo by Heather Riddell

Is the lunar hype warranted? Is the Moon really super and blue and blood all at once and how can this be? ‘Super’ kinda just means big because the moon is close to the earth. ‘Blue’ can mean there are two full moons in the one calendar month, or that there are four instead of three full moons in a season, or that there are two full moons occurring in the one zodiacal sign. The media latches on to the calendar blood moon, whereas astrologers tend to go nuts over the zodiacal variety. A blood moon occurs when there is a total eclipse and the sunlight is refracted through the earth’s atmosphere. What are the chances of all those three occurring at once? The analysis abounds.

But what does it all mean? Other than revealing how obsessed we are with slotting occurrences into categories and reading tons of significance into them?

Everyone gets excited when the moon does something special, as though deep in our ancestral brain lurks an echo of the days of the ancient goddesses. I guess thanks to the hype most of us know that for the ancient soothsayers of Mesopotamia, an eclipse augured the death of a king or even the end of times. It was a reasonable belief. In the millennia before there was any astronomical explanation for an eclipse, let alone a blood moon, seeing the moon glow blood red would have been awe-inspiring if not down right terrifying.

But in the final analysis the super blue blood moon doesn’t mean much. It only means what we want it to mean. In astrology, the moon’s motion is said to trigger events if it touches a sensitive part of a horoscope and sets off some significant configuration. That’s about it.

For me, the super blue blood moon presents a cheeky newsjacking opportunity.

I couldn’t resist a newsjack! After all, the moon won’t mind. So I grabbed an image of her slipping into blood-rich darkness and popped her into this:-

The Cabin Sessions

Book Review: No Rest For The Wicked by Pamela Morris

Continuing my series of horror novel reviews, I am delighted to share my reflections on Pamela Morris’ No Rest For The Wicked.

“Every ghost has a story. Not all of them want it told.

From beyond the grave, a murderous wife seeks to complete her revenge on those who betrayed her in life; a powerless domestic still fears for her immortal soul while trying to scare off anyone who comes too close; and the former plantation master – a sadistic doctor who puts more faith in the teachings of de Sade than the Bible – battle amongst themselves and with the living to reveal or keep hidden the dark secrets that prevent any of them from resting in peace.

When Eric and Grace McLaughlin purchase Greenbrier Plantation, their dreams are just as big as those who have tried to tame the place before them. But, the doctor has learned a thing or two over his many years in the afterlife, is putting those new skills to the test, and will go to great lengths in order to gain the upper hand. While Grace digs into the death-filled history of her new home, Eric soon becomes a pawn of the doctor’s unsavory desires and rapidly growing power, and is hell-bent on stopping her.

Enter the Winchester Society of Paranormal Research; could the solution lie within the humble ranks of this group of investigators? It seems unlikely, but the crew is eager to try. Is there any force powerful enough to put to rest the wickedness that demands complete control, not just over its ghostly adversaries, but the body and soul of Eric McLaughlin?”

*******

No Rest For The Wicked is a haunted-house tale laced with Gothic imagery and filled with suspense and erotic interludes. A spooky house in need of renovating, a couple in love with the passion to do the repairs, a horrific backstory filled with terror, it’s a delicious mix that cannot fail to hit the mark. There is enough originality in themes and characterisation to hold the attention of every gothic horror fan.

In the historical backstory, Morris combines the issue of slavery with a malevolent doctor come funeral director – the house replete with its own embalming room – and a macabre tale of intrigue, betrayal and murder that explains the nature of the spirits haunting Grace and Eric’s home.

Dread infuses the story from the first page, and a steady build unfolds as Morris deploys good plotting and pacing along with some satisfying twists. Thick descriptions in combination with light touches of foreshadowing serve to cloak the reader in the story.

Morris has created well-crafted and believable characters in Grace and Eric, and in the ghosts but it is the antagonist, Mr Addams, who steals the show. He is as lecherous, misogynistic and debased as they come and through him, Morris portrays brilliantly outmoded sexist attitudes of men and their view of women as sexual playthings, the sorts of attitudes many today would find medieval. Bringing his bigotry into the 21st century through the lens of Eric is Morris’ masterstroke.

“They’re like so many hens conspiring against us thinking they know best”, sums up Mr Addams’ attitude and underscores the premise of the book. Eric, a man carrying a few prejudices of his own, is brought into a tortuous inner conflict as he acts out the script Mr Addams’ has planned. Will Mr Addams succeed in his wicked objectives, or will a group of paranormal researchers quell his evil soul?

No Rest For The Wicked is a riveting read, perfect for cold winter nights or for relaxing on vacation, although it is probably best not to pick it up if you find yourself in an old run down house somewhere in Virginia.

No Rest For The Wicked  is available on all platforms.

You can buy your copy here.

Find Pamela Morris here. 

Getting personal with Isobel Blackthorn

I’m delighted to re-blog this in-depth interview with Becky Narron of Roadies Notes! Thanks for the opportunity, Becky.

Roadie Notes

Isobel Blackthorn is the author of the novels, The Cabin Sessions, Asylum, A Perfect Square and The Drago Tree, and the short story collection, All Because of You. She holds a PhD in Western Esotericism and carries a lifelong passion for the Canary Islands. She has worked as a high school teacher, market trader and PA to a literary agent. Her writing has appeared in Backhand Stories, Fictive Dream, The Mused Literary Review, On Line Opinion and Paranoia Magazine. Her comedy horror novel The Legacy of Old Gran Parks will be released in April 2018, along with La Mareta, the sequel to The Drago Tree, a mystery/crime novel.

Please help me welcome Isobel Blackthorn to Roadie Notes……..

1. How old were you when you first wrote your first story?

I was eleven years old and in the last year of primary school. I was living in a small country town…

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