Author: Alyson Faye

The Horror Tree Presents…an Interview with Wesley Southard and Somer Canon

Interview with Wesley Southard and Somer Canon (authors of Slaves to Gravity)

by Alyson Faye.

Q1) How did your writing collaboration come about? Is this your first joint project? And after the success of Slaves to Gravity, will there be more? (Reading Slaves to Gravity, I felt it could be the first of a trilogy with Charlie as the heroine.) 

SC: Wesley had the idea for the story and asked me if I was interested in co-writing with him. I still feel so green, especially compared to so many, and I always thought that I would feel intimidated by working with another author, but Wesley and I are such good friends and I’m really comfortable with him, and I decided to go for it. Wesley is a really imaginative writer and I think that his strong suits tend to be places where maybe I could use a boost, especially when writing with such talent, but he never made me feel like I wasn’t carrying my own weight in this work. It’s a first collaboration for me, and I’m happy to say that I’d totally be down for writing with Wesley again.

WS: After I moved to Pennsylvania from Indiana, Somer and I became good friends through our mutual author friends. We hit it off pretty quickly, and after reading her work, I knew I wanted to work with her someday. When I felt the time was right to start my first long-form co-writing project, there was no other person I wanted to work with. This wasn’t my first collaboration. I wrote a novelette about ten years ago (with a friend) called “Home Invasion”, which appears in my short story collection Resisting Mad

 

ness. As far as the success of Slaves to Gravity, we’re both incredibly thrilled about it. We weren’t sure what people would think, but the reception so far has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve seen a lot of people ask about a possible sequel in their reviews. Never say never, but I personally feel like the story has a very definitive ending, but you never know. I would absolutely work with Somer again if she wanted to.

Q2) As a writer myself, I’m really interested in the logistics of co-authoring a novel. How did you structure it? Did you say – write alternate chapters? Or did one of you write particular characters? Did you brainstorm and put ideas down on a virtual whiteboard? 

Somer CanonSC: Wesley had a lot of the framing of the story already locked in his head and we worked around that. We wrote alternating chapters and sort of started having fun leaving complicated cliff hangers for the other to deal with. I always looked forward to getting Wesley’s chapter and would always laugh at the situation he left for me. We would do light brainstorming sometimes, but really, a lot of this was us just winging it.

 

WS: We decided early on to simply flip-flop chapters. Even though I had worked on a collaboration before and Somer had not, we were both pretty nervous and needed to take it slow to feel one another out. We also decided before we started that we did not want to try to ‘one-up’ one another with our chapters. We wanted one cohesive narrative and didn’t want the readers distracted by the battle of “gotcha’s” between the authors. For me personally I find that distracting when reading a collaboration. I shouldn’t be able to tell who’s writing which chapter. I should only be invested in the here and now with the characters and their journey.

The characters themselves were created by both of us. I originally wanted the protagonist, Charlie, to be the main focus. Somer introduced the rest of the cast, and we developed their personalities and back stories as we went. The only character that was truly mine was Tanya, who, while writing the book, I realized I could fit in seamlessly. She’s a minor character in a short story of mine called “Arrearages” and she, too, experienced extreme trauma, which I realized would work perfectly in the context of the current story. I loved that we were able to fit her in as an Easter egg of sorts.

Q3) As writers, are you ‘Planners or Pantsers’? (Generally; not just when writing Slaves)

SC: In general I am a proud Pantser. Wesley is more of a planner and that happened a bit in Slaves, but there was quite a bit of pantsing that went into the creation of the story as well.

WS: Me personally—I’m a planner. I outline every single writing project I do, from flash fiction up to novels. I like to have the story completely ready to go before I start to type the opening line.

Q4 ) How long did the planning and writing of Slaves to Gravity take? And where did the idea for this rather unusual tale come from? 

SC: From the idea being laid out to us submitting the manuscript to Ken McKinley at Silver Shamrock, it was less than a year. The actual writing took four or five months and we spent maybe a month and a half tightening up the story.

WS: The idea was something I had in my head for several years. When I come up with story ideas, my brain conjures specific, cinematic scenes, and the very last scene of Slaves to Gravity had been playing over and over in my head with zero context attached. Whatever that scene was, I had to know the rest of this story. Before I approached Somer about the project, I came up with a general idea of what we could do. We talked on the phone about it and then a few weeks later we met up at a diner halfway between both of our homes and spent several hours with notebooks, hashing out the story and what we could do with it. It was a really fun process.

Q5) Do you write with pen/paper or pc? Drink coffee or tea? Have music on or off? Work in a study or the garden shed or somewhere else?

SC: I use both pencil/paper and PC. I don’t drink much caffeine because I lose my mind a little, so I drink lots of water. I sometimes have music on, but it depends on if my children are marauding about. I need to be able to hear what they’re getting up to. I have a really neat writing room that I do most of my work in, but I do change the scenery on occasion by going outside or sitting on the couch.

WS: I don’t like to write longhand. I do my outline on paper, but everything I commit to goes down into my laptop. I usually have a soda or water with me in my home office, and my ear buds are smushed into my head with music going at a low volume. It took me until earlier this year to be able to write with music playing and not be completely distracted.

Q6) Have you both always written dark/supernatural/horror fiction? 

SC: For the most part, but my first published story was a piece about pancakes!  After that, it was all dark and gruesome.  

WS: I’ve always preferred to write horror, but after seeing that I can write some form of sci-fi, as we did with Slaves to Gravity, I would be more willing to see what can come from that experience.

Q7) Do you both read that genre? If so, which authors and books stand out for you, or have influenced you?

SC: I absolutely read the horror genre. I am a fan first, always and forever.  I grew up reading paperback horror novels that my grandma kept stacks of in her house, but the first one that really blew me over was The Haunting by Ruby Jean Jensen.  That book made me afraid to put my feet on the floor for fear of the thing under the bed, the thing from the book, getting me.  As I got older, I graduated to Stephen King and some Dean Koontz, but the foundation of my fandom will always be Ruby Jean Jensen.  As for some more contemporary authors that really do it for me, I love Wesley’s work as well as Mary SanGiovanni, The Sisters of Slaughter, Tim Meyer, James Newman, Kenzie Jennings, and Jonathan Janz.  Look, if I named everybody, I’d be here all day, but those names are names I always love to see being published.

WS: I’ve always been a huge horror fiction nut. My biggest inspirations for becoming a writer were Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzalez, and Tim Lebbon, but I feel my personal writing style was and continues to be heavily influenced by Graham Masterton, and Ray Garton. I adore Masterton’s storytelling ability, and I’ve tried to adapt the way Garton writes action scenes and tension. As far as newer, more current authors, I think writers like Kristopher Triana, Aaron Dries, and Somer Canon are leading the way for the new generation. Each has such a unique voice and are highly readable and enjoyable.

Q8) What are you currently reading?

SC: I’ve just started Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. I’ve seen the movies and shows and it’s about time I got to the books.

WS: I’m actually beta-reading a new horror western for Kristopher Triana, which will be out soon from Death’s Head Press.

Q9) Do you gain inspiration from films and/or music? Can you name a fave film or album or artist whose work has inspired or influenced you as a writer?

SC: I get very light inspiration from music. My music tastes are all over the place. This is going to sound so weird, but I think the movies that I get the most inspiration from for my writing are those horrible, cheap, sequel movies that we got a lot of in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Like Children of the Corn III and The Howling V. These movies didn’t take themselves too seriously, and if they did it came off as hilarious as opposed to terrifying, and I really like highlighting the absurdity of a horror story. I tend to add humor to my work, or course, but I think that it offsets the heavier parts wonderfully. 

WS: My favorite film ever is From Dusk Till Dawn, and I feel that movie has influenced me more than any other. I adore the characters, the atmosphere, the tension, the dialogue, and the action and gore. I’m forever searching for my perfect vampire novel idea because of that movie.

Q10) What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as writers?

SC: Take all advice with a grain of salt. There is no one-size-fits-all writing career.

WS: Have patience. This can be a painful, slow moving business.

Q11) Do you belong to a writers’ group or bounce ideas off each other, or other writing friends?

SC: I’m a member of the Mid-Atlantic Dark Fiction Society. I, personally, am not terribly comfortable talking openly about my works in progress with many people, but I like talking shop with other writers.

WS: I don’t belong to an official writing group, but I live around enough creative people who I’m constantly bouncing ideas off of. They’re a massive help.

Q12) How involved are you with social media? Where can fans and followers find you online?

SC: I’m present on social media, but I prefer to be a more light presence, a distraction. You can find me on Twitter (that’s where I’m usually hanging out), Facebook and Instagram.  (And here somercanon.com)

WS: I’m always hanging out online. I’m pretty easy to find on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and I try to keep my website (www.wesleysouthard.com) as updated as possible.

Thank you, Wes and Somer, for the interview. It’s been great and really interesting. 

SC:  Thank you!

WS: Thank you!

Epeolatry Book Review: Slaves to Gravity by Wesley Southard and Somer Canon

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Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Slaves to Gravity
Author: Wesley Southard and Somer Canon
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing
Release Date: 3rd August, 2020

Synopsis:  After waking up in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the waist down, Charlie Snyder had no idea where life would take her. Dejected, broken, and permanently bound to a wheelchair, she believed her life was truly over. That is…until gravity no longer applied.It started out slow. Floating from room to room. Menial tasks without assistance. When she decided to venture outside and take some real risks with her newfound ability, she rose above her own constraints to reveal a whole new world, and found other damaged individuals just like her to confide in.But there are other things out there, waiting in the dark. Repulsive, secretive creatures that don’t want Charlie to touch the sky. And they’ll stop at nothing to keep her on the ground.

This is another cracker from Silver Shamrock, and my first introduction to the work of both Southard and Canon who sharing the writing reins. (I was fortunate enough to interview them both about that, amongst other writerly matters, for a separate article to be posted on Horrortree.com).

Slaves to Gravity has an original, unique storyline. It starts off as a family drama with the protagonist, Charlie, recovering in hospital, going home paralysed in a wheelchair after a horrific accident. On the majorly plus side, her supportive husband, Marcus adores her. 

To my surprise, the narrative switches gear, which the reader must buy into when Charlie discovers she can defy gravity and fly. If you can fly along with that leap, then you are in for a terrific, exciting, fast-paced ride. Charlie, with her new-found powers, soars skyward and there under the clouds she meets up with a group of land-disabled night-time sky-flyers known as ‘volitants’.

Up in the sky the rules are different. Charlie learns there are hideous dangers above the clouds and back on earth, lurking in the shadows (like creatures that secretively change shape). The foreshadowing is genuinely scary and goosebumpy. I will never view a changing room in a clothes shop the same way again! 

So, as you might gather, the novel morphs into magic realism/fantasy before its finale reveal which then streamlines into sci-fi/post-apocalyptic scenarios. That’s a lot of canvas and landscape to fit into 130 or so pages, and the pace is relentless, as are the fast and furious action scenes.

More than one terrific twist took me by surprise. Charlie’s character grew as a fighter and leader on a helluva of a journey of discovery.

For me, I would have liked more world building and back story, as there is an awful lot going on in this novel. There was much to take in. Also the ending felt a little abrupt, leaving me wondering if a sequel would follow. (A question I asked the authors in my interview).

4/5 stars.

A fast paced, entertaining, thought-provoking read with brevity, allowing for one massively adrenaline soaked sitting.

Available from amazon.

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Epeolatry Book Review: The Stain by Ruschelle Dillon

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Disclaimer: For full transparency, the author of this novel is a Horror Tree contributor.

Title: The Stain
Author: Ruschelle Dillon
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Black Bed Sheet Books
Release Date: 15th May, 2020

Synopsis: Born of bloodshed, a prolific stain, fed by the sins of earliest man….The Simmons moved into 228 Briar Street. With two growing children needing a stable routine and a house to call home, Marc and Claire settled into the old red brick, unaware of the neighborhood’s dirty little secret. In the dark and unfamiliar depths of the basement it lurks. It desires to manipulate the family into destructive chaos as it has countless times past and as far back as there were settlers in this plot of land, feed upon both flesh and the ecstasy of its dark influence. And not just in this house. It is old, mischievous, and inherently evil. It is…THE STAIN.

I’ve read Ruschelle Dillon’s dark fiction over the last couple of years, and enjoyed her often wacky, quirky take on tropes and the whole genre. Once or twice we’ve had our fiction published in the same anthology. Yes, she does reviews for the Horror Tree, and she also interviews writers.

So, having got that bit out of the way, and being above board about our writing acquaintanceship, I was more than happy to read her latest, this novella from indie American publisher, Black Bed Sheet Books.

The blurb was enticing: a family moves into a house, the oh-so-normal mum and dad, (Marc and Claire) and their two kids. They are hoping to build a more solid base in this old red brick with a basement than provided by their past string of short-term rentals. 

The story is told in shortish pacy chapters which crack along, and it’s heavy on dialogue. This is an accessible read, and one easy to get into.

Of course, the very first chapter which opens with the words, ‘I was born of bloodshed’, tips us off that all will not be a sunny walk in the park. There is something else, or someone else, sharing the house, living in the basement, whose history and evil heart are entwined with the foundation. And there is a lot of history, none of it good, attached to this particular house.

Familial relationships are evocatively and swiftly established. Olivia (Livy- the teen) is particularly likeable, shrewd, and feisty. She is the one who first realises something is not quite right about the shadows in the basement. Claire is a doting mum to Livy and three-year-old Jasper. Marc, though an absentee working-away dad, also seems a doting family man. Or is he?

Every few chapters, Dillon inserts a flashback, revealing another piece of The Stain’s history. The first time this happened it threw me off as it took me away from the current day narrative, but I quickly adjusted; the information gave perspective to what was lurking in the bowels of the house or, the ‘root cellar’ as Dillon called it. Never have I known anything good to happen in a fictional ‘root cellar’.

A third of the way in, there is a switch in the way we perceive the dad, Marc. The layers of his marriage to Claire deepen and darken. I won’t give away more than that, but it’s a fun ride.

Throw in the possible paedo neighbour who lurks on the sidelines, and uncle Travis—a work colleague who hangs around the family, and the human drama ramps up. Meanwhile, Livy becomes increasingly sucked into the web of tricks and games the inhabitant in the basement is playing.

There is a terrible tragedy which I didn’t see coming—it took my breath away. Dillon plays with our assumptions very effectively throughout the book. It certainly surprised me which way Dillon took the narrative.

The ending has a few more contortions to put the reader through before the final devastating paragraphs. 

This is an entertaining, fast read, which took me on a rollercoaster ride – a blend of horror and thriller with family drama. It’s rather different from Dillon’s previous fiction and not what I was expecting to read, but that’s not an issue, just a comment. 

The cover is pretty cool too.

4/5 stars.

Epeolatry Book Review: The Ruin of Delicate Things

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Title: The Ruin of Delicate Things
Author: Beverley Lee
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Ink Raven Press
Release Date: 5th April, 2020

Synopsis: Barrington Hall is a place of secrets—something Dan Morgan has worked hard to forget. But when a heart-breaking loss brings him back to the place where he spent his childhood summers, Barrington Hall will do what it must to make him remember.

Faye Morgan blames her husband for the death of their teenage son. She doesn’t want to leave the place Toby called home. But after she catches a glimpse of a strange boy in the midnight woods and learns of his connection with Barrington Hall, her need to learn more pulls her further and further into a nightmare world filled with past atrocities and the burning flame of revenge.

A tale of grief and horror, The Ruin of Delicate Things explores how loss can leave a hole inside of us. A hole large enough for anything to crawl into.

Beverley Lee is a new author to me, her previous publications include the Gabriel Davenport Vampire Trilogy; but this book is a standalone novel. The Ruin of Delicate Things is a rich tapestry of a narrative with many threads:- an exploration of grief and loss, a marriage in trouble, a rediscovery of a lost childhood and memories, a blend of horror and dark fantasy with an injection of magic- there is a haunted house alive with ghosts, an ancient forest which hums with strange creatures, a treacherous lake, and a village steeped in superstition and the old ways.

Into this rural landscape arrive Dan and Faye Morgan, grief stricken after the tragic death of their teen son in an accident, and holding onto their sanity and their marriage by a thread. Dan has inherited the cottage in the woods from his late aunt, Lucinda, with whom he spent happy summer holidays, until something happened (he can’t remember what exactly- why, we wonder? As does his wife) and he’s not been back in thirty years. 

Lee writes fully developed characters you really empathise with and root for. I really invested in Dan and Faye, and wanted them to work it out. 

Lee tells the story from several different points of view:- Dan and Faye’s, but also the lost boy, Milo, (a wonderful touching portrayal) and Corrigan, (about whom I will say nothing more for fear of spoiling the story). Lee juggles the different POVs expertly, picking up one after the other and the effect enriches the reader’s knowledge and enjoyment of the tale without fragmenting it. 

Part 1 builds with slow, creeping, eerie terror:- the mystery of Dan’s lost memories, what is in the glass case in the cottage, who is the boy in the forest Faye keeps seeing at night? Why are some of the villagers behaving oddly towards the couple? What is in the woods? What happened at the lake?

Part 2 takes you inside Barrington Hall, a rotting, looming, hulk of a house with a terrible history, (Gosh I love these houses in books- probably less so IRL) and there are flashbacks to the horrifying events which occurred within its walls over one hundred years ago. Faye and Dan are both drawn/ lured to the Hall and the horror and action really ramps up as they both enter into deadly games of run and hide, chase and kill. But who or what is pursuing them? And why?

Lee writes as though we are trapped within the bowels of the Hall with Dan and Faye, sweating, panting, squeezing into the nooks and hidey holes- so we become a part of their nightmare.

The finale out by the lake, is breathtaking and heartbreaking, and to this reader, unexpected, and Lee is so good at writing these characters you can understand why they all act as they do- fate, nature, grief, loss are all inextricably linked and there is no escape from them. 

I would reread this book again – no problem and that is rare for me. There is so much to enjoy and digest here. 

5/5 

Lee has written a fantastic gripping, magical (in both senses of the word) book which I can highly recommend.

Available on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.

Epeolatry Book Review: Dark Divinations: A Horror Anthology

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Title: Dark Divinations
Author: ed Naching T. Kassa
Genre: Gothic Horror
Publisher: HorrorAddicts
Release Date: 1st May, 2020

Synopsis: It’s the height of Queen Victoria’s rule. Fog swirls in the gas-lit streets, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The séance has begun. Join us as we explore fourteen frightening tales of Victorian horror, each centered around a method of divination. Can the reading of tea leaves influence the future? Can dreams keep a soldier from death in the Crimea? Can a pocket watch foretell a deadly family curse? From entrail reading and fortune-telling machines to prophetic spiders and voodoo spells, sometimes the future is better left unknown. Choose your fate.Choose your DARK DIVINATION.With stories by: Hannah Hulbert, Ash Hartwell, Joe L. Murr, Emerian Rich, Naching T. Kassa, Michael Fassbender, Jon O’Bergh, Stephanie Ellis, H.R.R. Gorman, R.L. Merrill, Rie Sheridan Rose, Daphne Strasert, Alan Fisher, and Jeremy Megargee

This anthology contains fourteen tales all set in Victorian times; each story begins with the location (UK or USA ) and the year it is set. The authors are a mix of Brits and Americans too. The theme of the anthology is hinted at in the title – all manner of divination methods are explored in these tales. We have scrying, (mirrors/bowls), entrail reading, fortune-telling penny slot automata machines, seances, tasseography (reading tea leaves), human seers, animals who can prophesy the future and voodoo spells. The choice of ways in which the characters try to foretell their future or discover hidden secrets is rich and dizzying. 

This sort of read is very much up my dark historical alleyway- loving, as I do, all things Victorian, supernatural and gas lit. 

The stories are very strong on conjuring the era – some capturing the ‘voice’ of the times more effectively than others; I did read the occasional jarring line of rather modern speech or phrasing but overall I could happily believe I was back in the era of crinolines, tea parties, arranged marriages, horses and carriages, or the American Civil War.

Two of the stories, (one by the editor Kassa) and the other by Jeremy Megargee reference two of the most famous myths of the Victorian era; one fact, the other fictional. I won’t say more due to spoilers. I wasn’t entirely sure about including these in the anthology, as though both were well written, I think the other stories with freer range in material, worked better.

There wasn’t a story I didn’t enjoy in the anthology- a couple did seem to end a little abruptly and didn’t feel fully finalised to this reader. However I do want to mention a few of my favourites, always a personal choice I realise.

Alan Fisher’s “The Moat House Cob” is set in the Tower of London for a start which piqued my interest and is possibly the most unusual and original take on the anthology’s theme and is memorable, especially as I have, (like the main character) intense arachnophobia! The Cob is not what you might think it is by the way.

Hannah Hulbert’s opening story, “Power and Shadow” (set in my home town of Norwich!) – for the depiction of the dominating Mother and the rather nice clever twist in its ending.

Jon O’Bergh’s “The Bell”- don’t want to give too much away here but if you suffer from claustrophobia and/or taphophobia- be warned – this story will not make you feel better.

Stephanie Ellis’ “Romany Rose”- a fully realised world within this story, a lovely depiction of the street urchins and the ending packs a punch.

Shout out to the cover artist, Kladyk, for the stunningly gorgeous image which I’d have as a poster in my study no problem

Quick word about – I did spot a few typos and editing errors; in some of the stories more than others.                                                                                                                  

I would like to thank the editor for sending me an E-ARC for the purposes of me writing a fair and honest review.

4/5 stars

Epeolatry Book Review: In the Scrape by James Newman and Matthew Steensland

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Title: Blood Red Sky
Author: James Newman and Matthew Steensland
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing
Release Date: 1st July, 2019

Synopsis: Most kids dream about a new bike, a pair of top-dollar sneakers endorsed by their favorite athlete, or that totally awesome videogame everyone’s raving about. But thirteen-year-old Jake and his little brother Matthew want nothing more than to escape from their abusive father. As soon as possible, they plan to run away to California, where they will reunite with their mother and live happily ever after.It won’t be easy, though. After a scuffle with a local bully puts Jake’s arch-nemesis in the hospital, Sheriff Theresa McLelland starts poking her nose into their feud. During a trip to the family cabin for the opening weekend of deer-hunting season, Jake and Matthew kick their plan into action, leaving Dad tied to a chair as they flee into the night. Meanwhile, the bully and his father have their own plans for revenge, and the events to follow will forever change the lives of everyone involved . .

I’d like to thank the publisher for an ARC of this book. 

In the Scrape is a Young Adult novel but also wholly suitable as an adult read. The theme works for all age groups: growing up in a dysfunctional abusive family, surviving the school bullies, following your dream and fighting back.

It’s told (mainly) in the first person voice of thirteen-year-old Jake, looking back as an adult on the  transformative summer when he and his younger brother, nine-year-old Matthew, grew up, fought back and came out the other side of a vortex of violence and abuse.

There is no spare flesh on the bones of this short (104 pages) story  From the opening page, the reader is tossed into the maelstrom of the boys’ home life with their alcoholic father and missing mother. 

The narrative mainly unfolds through dialogue, which is direct, unflinching, and takes you into the boys’ hearts. The older lad, Jake, has plans to escape to California where he’s been told his mum lives, and he unquestioningly hates his Dad. But the younger boy, Matthew, has a heart-breaking tug of love/hate war thing going with his father, from whom he craves parental affection and approval.

As if the boys’ lives aren’t hard enough, they are stalked by a school bully. Outwitting him and staying one step ahead adds to the tension.

Jake is likeable, funny, tough, self-reliant, and wise beyond his years. The authors have really nailed the characterisation. I was rooting for him from the start. It’s not easy writing teenage characters so well, credit to Newman and Steensland.

Dad wants to take his lads hunting with rifles, but at the cabin he gets more than he bargained for when Jake ties him to a chair and the brothers try to flee with the help of the (female) local Sheriff.

However, the school bully and his own bully of a father are following them, and they’re bringing rifles to the party.

The conclusion is a shocking stand-off of shots fired, deaths, betrayal, and the boys teamworking to save each other. There is no happy ending here, but there is resolution and calmer waters ahead. Also, a secret is finally revealed—don’t want to give more away than that. 

There is in fact a lot of story with a lot of punch packed into just over 100 pages which I wolfed down in one sitting (nearly; I had to take the dog out for a walk).

Exciting, engaging, absorbing- highly recommend.

5/5 stars.

Available on Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Blood Red Sky by Paul Kane

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Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Blood Red Sky
Author: Paul Kane
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing
Release Date: 9th March, 2020

Synopsis: The world has changed. Ever since the night that sky, the blood red sky, appeared, and the adults were wiped out by what some of those who remain call the Trolls. Huge, hulking beasts that hunt the young survivors. One such group have tried to make a life for themselves, tried to create another family after losing their original ones—whilst at the same time planning a way to defeat the creatures who roam this new landscape. But that’s all about to change as well, when a couple of newcomers appear. Strangers who have their own story to tell… The latest post-apocalyptic tale from Paul Kane, the #1 bestselling and award-winning author of the Hooded Man novels, Pain Cages, Lunar, Before, The Rot, and Sherlock Homes and the Servants of Hell, this is a compelling coming of age novella unlike anything you’ve ever read.

I’d like to thank the publisher for an E-ARC of this Young Adult novel. I am happily clocking up a few reads from indie horror/dark fiction publisher- Silver Shamrock and can recommend the ones I’ve read so far. More reviews will soon wing their way to you.

This might be aimed at Y.A., but it’s a fast entertaining read for adults, too. This is a post-apocalyptic yarn, which read against the background of global lock down, and the Covid-19 outbreak seems very close to home in spirit if not in actual facts.

The story is told through the eyes of a quartet of teens, our main protagonist Ethan, his brainy younger cousin, Faith (who makes home-made bombs in a shed—gotta love this gal), Becky with whom they meet up, and Becky’s older, protective somewhat sullen brother, Cameron. 

These four find a base, (ironically named the White House—really liked that touch), go scavenging for food, fight off the Trolls, and try to plan a future. There is a touching scene where beans on toast for tea is described as a luxury to be revelled in, in this back to basics new world, with no convenience stores.

There are flashbacks from each of the characters inserted throughout (in italics—I wasn’t sure about the italicising myself; I found it distracting on the eye), with each being given a backstory as to where they were when the world turned to cheese and the arrival of the Trolls—named thus by Ethan due to their leathery grey skin—and the culling of the adults. Only the children and teens are left, and now the Trolls are hunting them, too. 

The quartet of teens are joined by two newcomers, Donna, and Liam—a smooth talker with lots of charm. Their arrival changes the dynamics and loyalties of the group in ways which lead to betrayal and death. The message here is clear: not all the survivors are fighting for mankind’s common good. Who can you trust?

I found it easy to get into the story, was grabbed by the sense of danger, by the bravery and resourcefulness of the kids. I particularly enjoyed the character of Faith, so bright, so young, only eleven-years-old and a chemistry whiz with attitude.

Personally, for me, the story dipped in the middle section, when there was too much description and discussion of the changing relationships within the group of kids. I found Becky’s thoughts about her feelings towards the lads rather over-long. 

The lead-up to the ending and the exciting, gripping finale seasoned with a couple of unexpected twists brought me back on track and raised the adrenaline levels.

There are some exciting individual hair – raising action scenes, where the kids face the Trolls. One, in a small village store, was particularly vivid.

I would probably have liked more description of the Trolls, but that could just be me. You are never sure of the Troll’s agenda, their numbers, or their how intelligence. I also would have liked more information about the title’s ‘Blood Red Sky’, but again that might just be me. 

Fast paced, exciting, believable, likeable characters are fighting the enemy within and without for survival. There’s no easy ending but a definite hope for the future.

A story for our times for teens.

3.5/5 stars.

Available on Amazon.

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