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  • But, I Thought You Were Happy?

    I am, but that doesn’t mean the Dark Shadow doesn’t come to try to draw me away from time to time, to tempt me with the sweet sense of calm, of oblivion, of nothingness.

    For weeks now, the Dark Shadow has been stalking me, reaching its tendrils out to latch onto me and drag me ever closer to the edge. I’ve resisted, as I always do, but for the first time in a very long time, I have stared over the edge, into the abyss. Last night, in fact, I leaned over.

    Sitting in the bath, Bat Out of Hell II playing in the background, tears coursing down my cheeks, the voices urging me on; I stared into the water, my face millimetres from the surface, and I wanted desperately to know what it would feel like to inhale that lavender-scented water into my lungs. Would it be painful, as they say? Would my body reject it or, would it do as it was told and yield? To quieten the voices, to calm the storm, to close the doors on the world – this is what the Dark Shadow was offering me.

    But as my nose disappeared beneath the surface, a tiny voice whispered, ‘help me’. This voice grew stronger and stronger until I realised it wasn’t inside my head. I was speaking. I was uttering those two life-altering words out loud. I was finally asking the universe for help. I was acknowledging that I couldn’t defeat the Dark Shadow alone.

    I cannot predict when or, largely, why the Dark Shadow comes, but I have, over the years, learned to recognise its presence. It’s a weight in my chest, a veil over my eyes, a cloud blocking my thoughts. But, more than anything, it’s the voices in my head; not the ones who craft my stories, but the ones who want to remind me of my station – you’re not good enough, your writing is crap, you have no talent, you’re getting old, you’re ugly, you’ve got no boobs, you’ll get fat if you eat that, no one loves you, no one will miss you, what’s the point in you. These were the voices forcing my face under the water, these were the voices who very nearly won this time, but for that voice that spoke out, that inner strength of which I am most proud, and asked for help.

    I cannot tell you exactly how long it took following my plea, but I do know that before I went to bed, I felt a little lighter, and when I woke up this morning, I saw a sliver of light through the darkness.

    What pulled me back from the edge? Did the universe intervene, and my guides stop me? Did my own willpower suddenly cause me to dig in my heels to prevent my fall? Or, was it a combination of both? Whatever, or whoever, it was, I am grateful.

    I believe it is some of the traits that are good about me that make me vulnerable to the Dark Shadow. My compassion, my empathy, and my vivid imagination, all contribute to my greatest weakness. The state of the world right now – climate change, wildfires, animals in peril, the farce that is Brexit, the hatred, disrespect and vileness of the human race – have all been too much. And, once the chink in my armour is exposed, the voices begin. Where do those voices come from, though?

    For me, the voices come from inside, fed and nurtured by my interactions with the world, filtered through my fragile confidence, to become something more than they initially were.

    Listening as I am told I should wear makeup and dress up more, that a real writer writes every day and sells thousands of books, that I should write romance or erotic fiction not that rubbish you write, that I shouldn’t watch the films and shows I do, that I should socialise more, that I shouldn’t fall in love so easily, that I shouldn’t pin my future on a pipe dream, that I shouldn’t be interested in the stuff I am as it means something is wrong with me, mentally.

    Hearing that I am not good enough, that I am not pretty enough, that no one will love me, that I’m not worth being with, that I am a failure, that my writing is rubbish and I am wasting my time, that my creativity is a joke, that my dreams are a delusion, that no one will want someone like me, that I am broken.

    Listening vs hearing – a daily battle that I know isn’t unique to me. Most of the time, I can block out the voices, but sometimes they take over, and occasionally, like last night, they almost win.

    But on this, for me, most auspicious of full moons, it is time for me to ignore the voices and to shout out those things of which I am most proud, for Aries is insisting that I do just that.

    I salute my resilience, my tenacity, and my strength, for they have helped me battle the abuse, the heartbreak, and the misfortunes life has thrown my way, and have made me the strong, determined, independent woman I am today.

    I worship at the altar of my creativity, for allowing my dark imagination to run wild, to create memorable worlds and unforgettable characters, to share my dark tales with the world, to help troubled souls find hope, and to keep me out of jail.

    I relinquish my soul to my compassion and empathy, to that part of me which cares about the planet and the wildlife upon it, that carries the guilt and shame of generations for what mankind has done.

    I am humbled by my bravery as I stand up to those who hurt me, and to take the steps I need to, to see myself as others do – my body for its beauty, my mind for its fascinating capabilities – to change my life on nothing but self-belief, to forge ahead, alone, in this uncertain world.

    It is through these traits, and by recognising when I need help and accepting it, that I have created this wonderful life, for which I feel very blessed. I own my own home, I run my own business, I am a successful author, I am a respected yoga teacher, I am a DJ, I rely on no one but myself, and I have people who care about me. I write dark and twisted stories and I believe in the dark and twisted fairy tales. One day, my prince will come. Until then, I will continue to live.

    To sit here and write these positive things about myself has been extremely difficult, especially with the Dark Shadow still hovering, and there are things I didn’t write, as I felt they sounded conceited, which I am not. But, as Aries rules this October full moon, it is my duty to shout out about myself, because if I don’t or can’t do it, how will anyone else?

    For those of you with your own Dark Shadow, like me, know you are not alone, and believe that when you ask for help, you will receive it; just be open to it.

    May fear protect you when the darkness come.

    ’Til next time.

  • A Vampire Queen in a Posh Frock at this Year’s Literary Lunch!

    As you may be aware, if you follow my blogs, the Literary Lunch is an annual event, hosted by the lovely Sue France, and involves a group of like-minded women (though men are not excluded) coming together to network and listen to keynote speakers, all whilst dining in style in posh frocks!
     
    One of the speakers this year was the gorgeous Amanda Prowse, who I first met at the Wrexham Carnival of Words in April. Her speech moved us all to tears, and I can honestly say that every person in that room went away inspired by what she’d said.
     
    You may be wondering why I have jewels stuck on my face…? Well, the lovely Fay Evans was writing a poem involving all the children’s book authors from Team Author UK, and I was requested to come as a Vampire Queen.
     
    I think I pull it off quite well, don’t you? 😈
  • My Interview on The Train at Condor Online

    Check out my interview with John Durrant on The Train, talking about my books, my influences, and my beliefs. Paranormal, supernatural, vampires, werewolves, demons, angels; we covered everything!

    You can find John at www.myspirituallink.com

  • The Tale of Taz

    For those of you following my photos over on my Facebook author page, you will remember me promising to tell you the story behind my Taz tattoo. Well, here it is.

    Many many moons ago (1996) I was travelling the USA on a Trek America style holiday, and our tour had landed in Panama City Beach, Florida.

    Let loose for the day, my friend and I did the one thing neither of us should ever do… we went sunbathing. Both tending towards the milk bottle glow, we knew very well that it was a fine line between white and lobster, but we didn’t care; three weeks on the road cooped up in a van with a bunch of strangers can do that to you.

    Promising not to be gone too long, my friend disappeared to find us some lunch. Four hours later she returned to find me sound asleep on the beach, the back of my body a beautiful shade of ruby.

    Now, you may wonder what this has to do with Taz, but bear with me, all will be revealed.

    After one of the tour guides thought it funny to advise me to take a ‘hot’ shower to ease my sunburn (don’t ask), I stiffly accompanied everyone out for an evening at the fair.

    Being of the ‘unable to resist’ a dare variety, I jumped at the chance to do something wild; the options being bungee jump or tattoo.

    Well, this choice wasn’t difficult. As I valued my brain and didn’t want to compress it doing something stupid, I opted for tattoo.

    Picture it: midnight in a tattoo parlour in Panama City Beach, my first tattoo option (a butterfly on my tummy) turned down by the artist (he didn’t tattoo women on their stomach as pregnancy distorted them permanebtly) I was left to browse the hundreds of options.

    Cue an idea! I was frequently called ‘Taz’ around this time, for my ability to go from calm and serene to cataclysmic in seconds, and so I hunted down the Taz pictures and found the perfect one. Taz with a halo – a contradiction. I couldn’t have hoped for a more apt representation of myself.

    Pleased, I presented my choice to the Tattooist who smirked before asking where I wanted it. ‘See the white bit amongst all the red,’ I said, indicating my expanse of raw skin. He flinched before nodding. ‘Put him there.’ The Tattooist asked me why and I replied, ‘Because my dad will never see it!’

    Side bar in my tale – my dad did see it. Unavoidable really when you get married on the beach and take your parents as witnesses – to your nuptials AND the change in bikini fashion!

    Anyway, back to the Tale of Taz. I was told to straddle what reminded me of an upright bench press and was given a pillow to “bite down on”. Now, I was a little alarmed by the news that I would need to bite down on something, but a dare was a dare.

    The Tattooist went to work and I could feel a tickling sensation on my lower back and after a few minutes he showed me the result.  Although much larger than the picture I’d given him, I was impressed and gave him the pillow back, surmising that most of his clients must have a really low pain threshold. I started to get up, when he asked me where I was going. I looked at him, puzzled, and said, ‘Haven’t you finished?’, to which he erupted in laughter and pushed me back down. ‘I haven’t even started,’ he replied.

    Apparently, all that could be heard in the waiting room was, ‘Ow, ow, that f***ing hurts’ over and over, until I ran out to show my friends the results of my dare. That the waiting area was packed with people I didn’t know, people who got a full on view, not only of my lovely Florida suntan but also of my ass, still makes me shudder!

    Once my embarrassment was over – no amount of blushing could rival my posterior chain! – I was sent away with strict instructions to clean my new friend in a couple of hours. There were two issues with this – firstly, it was now 1am and I would need to stay awake (didn’t go so well for me earlier in the day), and secondly, I was on a campsite.

    Being the good little Girl Guide I once was, I managed to stay awake and at 3am precisely took myself off to the less than clean bathrooms on the campsite. Naïve is probably the best way to describe my expectation as I peeled away the covering over my brightly coloured devil. Expecting to see a pristine tattoo, I was not prepared for the amount of blood that covered him.

    Horror writer or not, I passed out cold on the grubby tiled floor of that bathroom, shorts halfway down. Lucky for me, one of the girls I was on the trip with came in half an hour later otherwise who knows when I’d have woken up!

    You’ll be pleased to know my second tattoo went much more smoothly.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    ’Til next time.

  • Learning to Love Yourself.

    Did Whitney have a point when she sang about learning to love yourself being the greatest love of all?

    How often have you truly believed you are strong, happy, and in the right place, only to have your heart stamped on and all the insecurities come crashing down once more–I’m unlovable, it’s all my fault, I must have done something wrong, etc.?

    I know I do, and it took a good friend to point out to me, despite what I may tell myself, I don’t love myself; not completely.

    Now, I hadn’t been talking about the relationship which had recently fallen apart, leaving me wondering what it is about me that makes me so unlovable. That was a different conversation. No, we’d just been having a general chat over dinner before heading to a concert.

    I paused for a moment before saying, ‘Yes, I do, or I think I do.’

    ‘No, you don’t,’ she persisted, offering nothing further.

    I continued to munch on my sweet potato fries before venturing the question I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted an answer to, ‘What makes you say that?’

    ‘You put yourself down all the time.’

    ‘I do not,’ came back my immediate response.

    ‘Yes, you do.’

    ‘When? Give me an example.’

    ‘Just before, when we were talking about your website.’

    I looked at her, my brow furrowed. Clearly, I had no idea what she was talking about.

    ‘When you were saying you couldn’t change the sign-up form on your home page.’

    ‘That’s not putting myself down, that’s stating a fact.’

    ‘No, it isn’t, it’s putting yourself down. If you loved yourself, you would have said you hadn’t yet figured out how to change the sign-up form.’

    Until this point, I had never viewed comments such as “can’t” as a put down, but the more I think about it, the more I can see her point.

    To truly love yourself, you must believe in yourself completely, knowing deep down you are capable of doing, or finding a way to do, pretty much anything.

    To be fair, I honestly thought I did. Keeping the website as an example, I had spent several days the previous week building a landing page, a secret page for subscribers who join my mailing list, moving from MailChimp to Mailerlite due to the former’s recent rule changes, setting up an automation sequence and linking it through to my landing page. By 11pm one evening, after 12 hours at my laptop, having achieved all this, I raised a large glass of Malbec to myself and ran around the house telling the cats how “fucking awesome” their mummy was. The cats, predictably, were unimpressed.

    Now, I am not a coder or a technical expert, nor do I want to be before you point out I’m putting myself down again, but I am tenacious and if I put my mind to it, I can usually figure things out. And I did, to a certain extent, in that I manipulated the code on my home page to get it to point to Mailerlite. The trouble was the “submit” button changed colour so you couldn’t read the writing on it. I will concede, due to fatigue, and the previously pointed out “noncoding skills”, I called in the experts to fix this final issue, which they did.

    To put this in context, my website is a very specific custom build, so the usual “help pages” do not help. And, yes, I did call the people who did my custom build to help with all this, but when they quoted me £400 just for the secret page, I decided to go it alone as far as I could. After all, I’d rather spend the £400 on advertising!

    So, where does it come from, this tendency not to love myself?

    A couple of years ago, after another failed relationship, I decided I was done, that I was going to focus solely on me and do everything to please me. It worked. I was happy. I loved my life. I was confident, healthy, had a great social life, and I loved me, or so I thought.

    Then I was “persuaded” to start dating someone who had yet to get divorced. Everything was going great. We talked, laughed, holidayed, made plans for the future, and believed we were soulmates. Then the divorce proceedings started, and it all went sour, to the point we broke up. His doing, not mine.

    Despite my common sense telling me it was timing and circumstances, the little voice, the one I thought I’d finally silenced in my year of abstinence, piped up again, telling me I was innately unlovable.

    But why? This wasn’t a natural reaction to a break-up–after all, I’ve never shed a tear about it–it was more primitive. It was a voice that came from deep down inside, from long ago, maybe even from a different lifetime–the message an interpretation, not a fact. It’s easy for me to say the words are untrue, but it isn’t so easy to shake the feelings.

    So, again I ask, where do they come from? Why do I believe I am unlovable?

    When I was a teenager, I fell in with the wrong crowd. My best friend and I liked to pretend we were older than our fourteen years and frequented the local pubs. Here we met a group of older guys, and it wasn’t long before romances blossomed. It never occurred to me anything bad would happen. I, like all kids, believed I could take care of myself. After all, I’d refused to take the drugs they liked to inject on a regular basis.

    But little prepared me for what happened. After all, why would a man hurt the girl he professed to love? But hurt me, he did. He stripped me of my innocence, without my consent, and didn’t want anything to do with me afterwards.

    I blamed myself. For years I kept it inside, never telling a soul what had happened, berating myself for putting myself in that position, for believing his words, for not fighting back. It was only through therapy–a place I have been multiple times over the years–I was made to see what had happened to me, that I was told in no way was I to blame or that it was a reflection on me. Whilst finally I accepted the first two points, the last point, despite me believing otherwise, I clearly haven’t accepted.

    If I believed it wasn’t a reflection on me then why, each time I have sex, do all the insecurities come crashing back in? Why then, each time I’m told I am loved, do I question it?

    Over the years, broken relationships have sent me back to therapy, searching for answers to the question of “what is wrong with me?”, refusing to accept there is nothing.

    My last therapist made a breakthrough when he said I look for people who are broken and then fix them. The trouble was, he said, I only ended up fixing them for the next person, because I’d walked away long before then. He said it wasn’t my job to fix people, but he never did unearth why I thought it was.

    It was only recently, whilst seeking advice on another matter, that the lady I was talking to said, ‘Yes, but who fixes you?’ My only reply was, ‘I wasn’t aware I was broken.’ Even as I said it, I knew it to be a lie, and I told her about my ability to detach my spirit from my body when I encounter unwanted attention. This scares me on so many levels, and I trace it back to the loss of my innocence all those years ago, it being my brain’s way of protecting me from what was happening to my body.

    As I told her all this, she kept asking, ‘In how many previous lives were you a sex therapist?’. I kept shaking my head and carried on talking, but she repeated the question, over and over, until a number popped into my head.

    ‘Seven,’ I said and fell silent, the weight finally lifting from my shoulders as realisation dawned.  Her simple question made complete sense to me, although, as she pointed out, I am not a sex therapist in this life.

    So, are these the reasons I feel unlovable? Because I was a sex therapist in previous lives? Because I was raped when I was young? A combination of these? Or something else entirely?

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer yet, but it is a path I am continuing along as I approach my 50th year. It’s the reason I had a Boudoir photoshoot done a couple of years ago–to learn to view myself from the outside in, to see what others see.

    I have no idea how long this journey to self-love will take, all I know is it is one hell of an interesting ride!

    ’Til next time.

  • Diary of an Author – UK Indie Litfest

    Yesterday was my first Indie Litfest, held at the Kala Sangam Centre in a very wet Bradford. I had a fantastic day, meeting fans and new readers, and catching up with other indie authors.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    These kinds of events are perfect for authors, whether you have an established fan base or not, as it enables you to market your books to new readers.

    These readers will one day, hopefully, become fans, and your fans are your greatest weapon in spreading the work about your writing.

    The hardest thing about being an indie author is marketing myself. Unless I am constantly promoting, the sales merely trickle in. By attending events like Indie Litfest, I am able to increase my visibility, interact with people – some of whom buy a book – and pick up tips and advice from other authors. Sharing what works and what doesn’t is invaluable to us indies.

    Props and an attractive table are vital tools in helping attract customers to come and take a look at my books. It is up to the covers to entice a potential reader to pick up the book for a closer look. I then talk to them about the book, answer their questions and hopefully close a sale.

    As you can see from the photos, I have an array of marketing materials. For the Bonds series, I have the wooden box in which Becca finds the spells she needs to stop Antony, bookmarks and themed pencils. For The Misfits, I have the physical mascots of the characters, which I didn’t make myself, plus bookmarks and themed pencils. For Tales From a Scarygirl, I also have themed pencils made.

    My biggest change in my marketing has been to market me as a brand. As such, I’ve had a T-shirt, hoodie, mugs and bags made up, with my logo on one side and my Photologo signature on the other. If you zoom in on the mugs you will see, but I’ll post some photos of my new branding soon!

  • Diary of an Author – Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival

    Having just returned from the annual Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, I decided to start a series of mini blogs, charting my adventures as an author. Maybe I should have started this earlier in the year, or even last year, but better late than never, as the saying goes.

    The festival is a four day event, but I only bought a ticket for one day this year – I have booked for the full event next year though! My reasoning was two-fold – I hadn’t been before and so didn’t know if I would enjoy it, and, more importantly, I only had eyes for James Patterson.

    Now, you may be wondering why a horror writer could possibly want to go to a Crime Festival. Well, the short answer is that I love crime. I read it and watch it all of the time, though I have only dipped my toe into it as an author. I do have a plan to branch out into crime writing once the Bonds Series is complete, and what better way to discover the life of a crime author than by going and mixing with them.

    The great thing about this event is that there is a fabulous mix of authors, from the very well-known right down to the debut. It’s a chance to rub shoulders with your idols, make new friends, listen to interesting talks, and make useful contacts for your own writing.

    As I sat and chatted with my new bunch of friends, they told me that despite what they write, crime writers are a friendly bunch, and I have to agree. I recognised people whom I’d seen at Crimefest earlier in the year, and even plucked up the courage to say “Hi”. My new friends told me that the same faces attend every year and so you soon become part of a wider circle who will never let you sit there on your own – which was my biggest fear.

    Now, back to the reason for my visit – Mr James Patterson. I have been a major fan of JP for many years, with the Alex Cross series and The Women’s Murder Club series being my favourites. I also subscribe to his writing Masterclass and drew an immense amount of inspiration from his words, glowing as I discovered that we have a similar approach to writing novels. So, when I saw he was one of the headliners, I just had to go.

    My plan was to ask him how I apply for the chance to co-author with him, and one of my friends suggested I take a sample of my writing with me, to give to him. This was a week before! I was in a panic as I hadn’t written any crime yet, and then I remembered that I had, many years ago. As such, I dusted off that old short story, read through it, cringing as I did so, before attacking it with my trusty red editing pen, forming a cohesive crime story from it.

    Despite my gin intake the previous day, I was there bright and early to listen to his talk – he is very entertaining – before standing in line with my books for him to sign, my story clutched in my hand. I was a nervous wreck! My hands were shaking and, when I eventually had my chance, my words came out in a fangirl tumble. I did manage to cohesively get across what I needed to, and his publisher was only too happy to accept my short story. Right now, everything is crossed in the hope that he, and she, read it, and that it wasn’t confined to the recycling.

    The point is, I took an opportunity that I was presented with and went for it. Who knows where it may lead!

    Well, as you can imagine, I needed to lie down with a cold flannel on my head after all that, but alas, I was not staying at the Old Swan. Instead I made a beeline for the coffee shop and a well deserved latte. Whilst I was making my way there, I thought I saw another of my heroes, Ian Rankin, heading in the same direction. Sure enough, as I entered the coffee shop, I saw the esteemed Mr Rankin grabbing a corner table to relax and do his crossword.

    I purchased my coffee and then went to occupy a table close to him, and sat for a while pondering whether I could and should disturb him.

    In the end, I adopted my usual take on things and went over and introdcued myself. I must say, 

    I was far more articulate than I had been with JP, and we sat and chatted for a short time before I left him to his crossword and departed with a much treasured autograph.

    Sitting back at my table and sipping my coffee, I realised I had missed an opportunity and again, after much pondering, I broke into his crossword time once more to broach the subject of a photo. He was more than happy to oblige and took it himself!

    I thought I’d peaked for the day, but as I was walking through the bar, Ian Rankin was coming towards me and, recognising me, he told me he loved the photo of us that I’d posted on Twitter. I was made up. Oh, and he did manage to finish his crossword… in the end!

    By the way, how many people can pick up their phone to take a photo and say “Ian Rankin had this last, and I don’t know how to take it off selfie mode”?!!

  • Is it Sci-Fi or is it Horror? More to the Point, How do You Tell?

    This debate raised its head again, not too long ago, when I went to see A Quiet Place, a film firmly promoted as a horror and yet, to me, so obviously science fiction. It sparked quite a heated debate with my friends afterwards and got the voices in my head chattering.

    But why? Why did I know in an instant that this, to me, wasn’t a horror film? Easy – the monster. As soon as I saw it, I switched off, because, as far as I was concerned, the monster was an alien and hence lived in the category of science fiction – of which I am not a fan.

    But why did I determine the monster in A Quiet Place to be an alien? Firstly – the way it looked. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t go into detail. All I will say is that it was a creature with parts. You may argue that many a horror movie has ‘creatures’ as the monsters and you are correct, but, when it is a completely made up monster (as in this case), there is usually only one of them – as in The Ritual.

    This brings me to my second point – there was more than one of them. Even in the area the film was set, we saw more than one. Again, you may argue that many a horror movie has multiple creatures i.e. Aracnophobia and you are correct again, but that is a known insect, not a made-up creature.

    My third reasoning is that the invasion was worldwide and had come from outer space – bit of a giveaway. This fact was shown in the subtly placed newspapers blaring out their headlines.

    So why is it being touted as a horror film?

    Probably because the film itself is based around fear. The whole premise of the film is that people have to live in silence because, if they make a noise, they will draw these creatures out and they will be killed.

    Now, the instilling of fear in the audience is indeed a horror movie trait, but is this enough to make it a horror? No, I don’t think so. Not when you have a monster involved. Fear does go hand in hand with a monster, but so does blood and gore, which this film didn’t have.

    I think the correct categorisation of A Quiet Place would be sci-fi horror, as it has a mix of the two genres.

    So, what is it that makes a film science fiction? After several days of pondering, the voices in my head came up with a few requirements – the action must be set in space or the threat is from space, the monsters are non-humanoid, the story is science based (usually science gone wrong), there is an ‘other’ world invasion, or the story is based on the writer’s imagination and what they believe the future may look like.

    Once I’d finished the consultation with my voices, I decided to garner some other viewpoints. What I found out wasn’t too different from my view, it just had more detail and, of course, specific examples…well, it is ‘science’ fiction – they have to prove everything!

    A sci-fi story is usually scientific, visionary and imaginative in nature and includes robots, spaceships, scientific development, futuristic technology, or distant planets. Many sci-fi films feature time travel or fantastic journeys, and are set either on Earth, in outer space, or (most often) in the future.

     True sci-fi stories often portray one of the following:

    • The dangerous and sinister nature of knowledge (Frankenstein, The Island of Lost Souls)
    • Vital issues about the nature of mankind and our place, and individuality, in the world (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Incredible Shrinking Man)
    • Space-related conspiracies (Capricorn One)
    • Supercomputers threatening impregnation (Demon Seed)
    • The results of germ-warfare (The Omega Man)
    • Laboratory-bred viruses or plagues (28 Days Later)
    • Black hole exploration (Event Horizon)
    • Futuristic genetic engineering and cloning (Gattaca, The Island)
    • The unleashing of strange and extraordinary microscopic organisms or giant, mutant monsters, either created by misguided mad scientists or by nuclear disaster.

    Science fiction tends to be quite prophetic in nature and is often set in an imagined future. It portrays a view of the world which appears grim and unappealing. Examples of this are Metropolis (underground slave population), 1984 (Big Brother is watching), Westworld (malfunctioning androids) and The Stepford Wives (perfect suburban wives).

     The sci-fi genre often expresses anxiety about technology and how to forecast and control the impact of said technology on society. It frequently shows us the power of this technology through world ending events, as seen in The Day The Earth Stood Still, The War of the Worlds, Deep Impact, Armageddon, and The Day After Tomorrow.

    Science fiction is a genre that thrives in asking ‘what if?’ It involves technology that does not yet exist and often focuses on exploring philosophical ideas. The speculative nature of science fiction allows writers to create their own worlds and their own rules for these worlds, where they are not restricted by the here and now. These worlds, however, still need to be believable and the writer still needs to be able to get us to suspend our disbelief, by creating worlds that we can actually imagine taking shape.

    So, that’s sci-fi. As I said, it’s not my cup of tea, but horror, well, now you’re talking. I asked the voices to be objective as they argued over what it is that makes a film horror. All I can say is, they did me proud.

    Horror, for me, is set on earth with humanoid monsters. The important factor is that horror is fear based, with plenty of blood, gore and death, and is generally supernatural or paranormally based. Yes, even Halloween, as Michael keeps returning from the dead!

    As is only fair, I also did my research into what other people say horror is and this is what I found. A horror film seeks to elicit a physiological reaction, such as an elevated heartbeat, through the use of fear and shocking the audience.

    Horror, as a film genre, has existed for more than a century and was initially inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, with the themes of the macabre and the supernatural being the most widely used. Horror often aims to evoke viewers’ nightmares, fears, revulsions and terror of the unknown.

    Horror storylines often involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or person into the everyday world, with the most prevalent elements being ghosts, vampires, werewolves, demons, satanism, evil clowns, gore, torture, vicious animals, evil witches, monsters, zombies, cannibalism, psychopaths, and serial killers, to name but a few!

    Horror, like most genres, breaks down into many subgenres including psychological horror, slasher horror, supernatural horror, and science fiction horror.

    The aim of the horror genre is to elicit a fear response from the viewer, just for the thrill of it.

    As with most things in this age in which we live, purism is a dying art and what is left behind is an amalgam of different genres. Sci-fi horror is one such genre and is, arguably, where far too many films sit these days.

    To create a successful bridge between these two, in my opinion, very different genres, the storyline needs to have, quite simply, the alien/scientific/space element combined with the fear, blood and gore of a good horror. The best examples I can think of to illustrate this are The Fly, Alien, A Quiet Place and Event Horizon.

    But what do others think? Apparently, sci-fi horror often revolves around subjects that include alien invasions, mad scientists, and/or experiments gone wrong.

    Sci-fi horror films contain all the thrills of a horror movie whilst also containing the science fiction, and often philosophical, element. Good examples are Predator, Event Horizon, The Thing, The Fly, Looper, Pitch Black, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Terminator and, of course, Alien,

    Given our propensity to fear the unknown, it’s easy to see how science fiction themes can be twisted and used to instil fear and terror into audiences.

    So, dear reader, which camp do you sit in? Sci-fi or horror? Or are you more of a sit on the fence, embrace it all kind of person? Do let me know.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    ’Til next time

    MARIE

  • Bonds Series Gets US Publisher!

    Here at CASTLE MAC, Yose is excited to announce that we have signed a publishing deal with US publisher Crimson Cloak Publishing for the BONDS SERIES – woo hoo! ??.

    We couldn’t be more excited!! 

  • Horrifically Inspirational…Women of Horror

    Ann Radcliffe (1764 – 1823)

    Ann Radcliffe was born Ann Ward, in Holborn, London and she married journalist William Radcliffe, part owner and editor of the English Chronicle. William was prone to working late and so Ann sought to amuse herself by writing stories, which she would then read to her husband on his return.

    Ann wrote five novels during her lifetime, all of which she classed as romances. Scholars, on the other hand, saw her as the pioneer of the Gothic novel, and the way in which she explained the supernatural elements of her novels, enabled Gothic fiction to become respectable in the late 18th century.

    The average earnings for an author in the 1790s was around £10 per manuscript. Ann received £500 for The Mysteries of Udolpho and £800 for The Italian, making her the highest paid professional writer of the decade.

    Ann didn’t believe in differentiating between the roles of her male and female characters, choosing instead to see them as equals. By doing this, she created roles for women in literature that had previously been unheard of.

    Ann Radcliffe had a huge influence on many later authors, including the Marquis de Sade, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Walter Scott and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who once said:

    ‘I used to spend the long winter hours before bed listening (for I could not yet read), agape with ecstasy and terror, as my parents read aloud to me from the novels of Ann Radcliffe. Then I would rave deliriously about them in my sleep.’

    Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851)

    Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in Somers Town, London and, thanks to her father’s tutoring of her, received an unusual and advanced education for a girl of her time.

    She famously had an affair with and eventually married poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and had four children with him, three of whom died when barely out of infancy.

    Tortured by the loss of her children, Mary turned to writing for solace and, after the tragic loss of her husband, she vowed that writing would be how she would support herself and her son.

    Now, we all know the story of “The Year without Summer” in 1816, when it rained constantly following a long cold volcanic winter, due to the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815. Well, it was this summer that the Shelleys joined John Polidori and Lord Byron at Lake Geneva. One night they decided to have a competition, to see who could write the scariest horror story. It was at the lake that Shelley had a dream about a scientist, who created life and was horrified by what he had made…..and so Frankenstein was born.

    What you may not be aware of, is that there was huge controversy over authorship of Frankenstein, as both Mary and Percy collaborated on the story.

    In her own lifetime, Mary was taken seriously as a writer, though reviewers often missed her writings’ political edge. After her death, however, she was chiefly remembered as Percy’s wife and the author of Frankenstein.

    Nowadays, Mary Shelley is considered to be a major romantic figure, not just for her writing, but also for her political voice as a woman and a liberal, something she shared with her mother.

      Shirley Jackson (1916 – 1965)

    Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco, California and found herself to be a bit of a misfit, unable to gel with other children. As a result, she spent much of her time writing, much to her mother’s distress.

    Following her graduation, Shirley married philanderer Stanley Hyman and the couple had four children, all of whom would play fictionalised versions of themselves in Shirley’s stories.

    Shirley suffered with ill health for most of her life. Despite being overweight and having heart problems, she was a heavy smoker and, towards the end of her life, was seeing a psychiatrist for severe anxiety.

    It was her most famous story, The Lottery, first published in the New Yorker on 26 June 1948, which established her reputation as a master of the horror tale.

    Shirley’s 5th novel, The Haunting of Hill House, went on to become a critically-esteemed example of the haunted house story and was described by Stephen King as one of the most important horror novels of the twentieth century.

    In 2007, in recognition of her legacy to writing, the Shirley Jackson Awards were established. They are awarded for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.

    Not only that, but her adopted home of North Bennington, honours her legacy by celebrating Shirley Jackson Day on 27 June, the day the fictional story, The Lottery, took place. How great is that?

    Anne Rice (1941 – )

    Anne Rice was born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien in New Orleans. She became Anne on her first day of school, when a nun asked her what her name was and she said “Anne”.

    Anne met her future husband, Stan Rice, in a journalism class while they were both still at high school. The couple had two children, but lost their daughter to childhood leukaemia. Their son, Christopher, is now an author in his own right.

    It was while grieving the loss of her daughter, that Anne took a short story she’d written and turned it into her first novel – Interview with the Vampire. Despite its popularity now, the novel initially earned multiple rejections from publishers.

    Anne based her vampires on Gloria Holden’s character in Dracula’s Daughter. Of the character, she said:

    ‘It established to me what vampires were—these elegant, tragic, sensitive people. I was really just going with that feeling when writing Interview with the Vampire. I didn’t do a lot of research.’

    To date, her novels have sold nearly 100 million copies, placing her amongst the most popular authors in recent American history.

    Anne Rice’s writings have been identified as having had a major impact on later developments within the genre of vampire fiction. Susan Ferraro of The New York Times wrote:

    ‘Rice turns vampire conventions inside out…….Because Rice identifies with the vampire instead of the victim (reversing the usual focus), the horror for the reader springs from the realisation of the monster within the self. Moreover, Rice’s vampires are loquacious philosophers who spend much of eternity debating the nature of good and evil.’

    It’s interesting how two of my writers were cited more as romantic figures than horror. Does this mean that, one day, I will be seen as a romance rather than a horror writer? Well, I have penned a darkly romantic tale and it did win the short story competition at the Carnival of Words last year…so…perish the thought!

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time,

    MARIE