Happy New Year – Coming back from burnout

Happy New Year – Coming back from burnout

Hi.  Long time no write.
When Stuart asked us all to write a blog about the New Year and share advice, the only thing I could think of was ‘why would anyone care what I had to say, it’s not as if I’ve written in the last year.  Between Uni, my adult children, my own illness, and all of the other stuff I’m doing, and honestly, I don’t think horror readers would care about what I’m doing with infosec’.  And then I realized, you just might, because one of the things I did this year, finally found my way back from burnout.

Burnout city, population….variable?

The last few years are probably the sort of years many can relate to though, possibly not all in one burst.  In the last three years, since my last fiction book was published, I’ve had to close parts of my company, discovered that my mental health is anything but straightforward, and actually, probably the weirdest combination known to man (aspie+a form of issues with language processing that goes the other way from normal (fussiness about definition to the point of pedantry, CPTSD and bipolar disorder.  I’m just a bundle of fun 🙂 ), and I’ve been doing therapy to train me out of my automatic reactions to upset and worry/fear/panic which has taken up a lot of my time.  I also got involved in the information security (Cyber-sec) community and started a degree.  And while I’ve always been involved in Nanowrimo, this year was actually really quite nice, because by November, the stories were whispering again!  Admittedly, the stories had to, we ended up with so much more going on in our world (the word three kidneys and my son feature quite prominently, to be honest), so my time is spent, most of the time, in waiting rooms, and I’m learning my way around an Android tablet, and actually, finding joy in my writing.

And that’s what hit me the hardest.  For so long, I’ve worked very hard to ‘work’ at my writing.  It’s been a chore and often ends up being something I avoid. I commit to stuff, and then end up being overwhelmed, and then get into a loop, and I finally learned this year how to avoid that.

My three tips for the New Year

So, with that in mind, here are my three tips for the New Year, and new decade.

  1. Self-care is not a bad word, and neither is no: I’m not very good at saying no, and I’m even worse at knowing when to stop, and it’s a very common thing in creatives.  So…while you’re slogging it at everything else, remember it’s ok to say no, and make time for yourself.
  2. Write every day – edit when you’re happy – this might seem a bit of a weird one, but I’m pretty sure that if I just write and not worry about it, I’ll find it far easier to edit when I feel less pressure over it.  I’m not saying ignore deadlines – far from it. But I am saying that editing isn’t something I always need to be in the mindset for and honestly, that’s ok.
  3. Read, read, read.  My Goodreads listing, which doesn’t include most audiobooks I listened to, has me at 120+ books. I’m really delighted with that because reading was hard this year.  And so, I’m upping my goal.  I’m doing 150 next year.  I’ll be reviewing some on Netgalley (and maybe bringing horror ones over here), and working on other books as time permits.

Did I say threePhoenix Kai?  Well, here’s a bonus.  If you’re really looking to give yourself a kick in the pants, shoot for the moon.  Make a big pledge, and make it in front of as many people as possible. So.  Gulp.  Here’s mine.
I’m going to write a million words, I’m going to publish at least 12 books and 8 novellas.  I’m doing some boxed sets and anthologies and entering as many short story projects as catch my attention.  I’m taking this year, and beginning this decade and I’m hoping to do it and do my degree, but if I don’t, that’s ok.  I’m going for it, but it’s a lofty goal, so though I’m sharing it loudly, if I miss, I’ll have things to talk about.

What are your plans for the new year, and are you coming off burnout, or trying to avoid it (I’ll write about that later in the year).  Whatever it is, good luck, and I hope you keep visiting the site for markets, advice, and information.


Guest Post: UK Ghost Story Festival – Part 2

A Report from Inside the UK Ghost Story Festival by Alyson Faye

Venue: Derby Quad from Friday 29 November, 2019 to Sunday 1 December, 2019.  (@UKGSF1)

Continuing from last Saturday’s post.

At 4pm it was time for thriller writer Sarah Ward’s workshop – Putting the Supernatural into Crime Fiction.

This was one of the high spots for me of the whole weekend, as Sarah offered some really interesting information and tips in this workshop. She has written four D.C. Childs’ novels (which I’ve read) but next year she is shifting genre, and her début Gothic thriller, The Quickening will be published in August, under the pen name Rhiannon Ward. (https://crimepieces.com/). So she is well placed to teach a cross-genre workshop like this one.

First off she asked us to throw out the names of authors who are already writing across the crime/supernatural genres:- Wilkie Collins, John Connolly (Charlie Parker series), Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, James Herbert, Michelle Paver, J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, Phil Rickman’s Merrilly Watkins, exorcist, series, Christopher Fowler’s Bryant May series and Susan Howatch all got mentioned. I also tossed in a début author I’ve interviewed recently for the Horror Tree site, Anita Frank’s The Lost Ones.

We went on to discuss the conventions of the crime novel mentioning P.D.James’ famous quote of ‘an avenging angel’ for the detective’s role and how a ghost might push the story to a resolution.

Sarah gave us some notes on how much the supernatural element might be realised or left open to interpretation in fiction – and gave us some useful handouts to take away. I do love a tangible handout- it makes me feel 13-years-old again.

I learnt a lot from this workshop and as my writing does incorporate the supernatural which is often inspired by a historic crime this was great match up for me.

Last event of the day- was 7.30-8.30pm Laura Purcell’s interview with the festival’s director, Alex Davies about her writing career to date and her latest book.

I’ve read all three of Laura’s historical thrillers (The Silent Companions/The Corset and Bone China– which came out in September 2019). I have hugely enjoyed all three and would recommend them to horror/supernatural writers if you’ve not tried them yet.



I also made a new discovery about Laura’s amazing overnight success as an author, it wasn’t overnight! She started writing at 14-years-old with a series of Regency romances and pretty much knew then she wanted to be a writer. But she had been writing a lot of historical fiction for years, (image of one from 2014 below) which she said wasn’t really going anywhere for her, until she hit on, during her research, the real life historical wooden Silent Companions. Here is a link to an article I found on them:-  tps://www.incollect.com/articles/silent-companions.

Laura decided to write about them and a hit was born. She said she was very surprised by the immense success of the book especially as she had a lot of rejections from agents/publishers saying they didn’t want a Gothic story.

Her third novel, Bone China, was inspired by an American doctor in Victorian times who did indeed take a group of sick people to live in a cave in an attempt to cure them.

She found Bone China, was the most challenging of her books to write she said, as it used a dual time line but Laura does enjoy showing how the past impacts the present and how the past lingers. Location is very important to her writing and for Bone China it was the lure of the rugged Cornish landscape and the power of the sea which interested her.

Asked by Alex how she sets about writing a plot, Laura answered that she begins with a plot outline and then develops the characters; she is particularly drawn to the ‘outsider’ characters and characters who walk in ‘the grey areas’ as she likes to explore questionable morals through her characters and those ones make for conflict.

Asked about her writing influences, Laura referenced Daphne Du Maurier (whose work her own has been closely associated with), Susan Hill, and for The Corset she drew on Sarah Waters and Margaret Attwood. Ruth, in that novel, is one of her favourite characters, albeit a difficult one to write or like.

She also praised Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts and once again Michelle Paver got a mention too.

She gave some information about her next book, due in September, 2020.

Its title is:- drum roll here – The Shape of Darkness, it is set in Victorian (not Georgian) Bath, a city Laura loves, and much of the story happens at night. Its main protagonist is a silhouette artist whose clients are dying in mysterious ways so she joins up with a medium, and they both try to find out what’s happening with the deaths. However they raise a darkness they can’t restrain.

Below is a pic of Laura and an example off the internet of a silhouette portrait. (Not one which will appear in Laura’s work).





I for one can’t wait, it sounds just up my spooky alleyway.

From the audience writer/editor Mark Morris asked if Laura would ever set one of her novels in the present day? Laura replied that she’s a bit scared of that, as she knows the Victorian era so well but she likes the idea of writing a time slip story. She felt her new one, had to be Victorian set, as that was the era when old beliefs in spiritualism co-existed with the rise in new tech, like the telegraph service so there was a strange balance between the two and a sense that anything could happen.

Both The Silent Companions and The Corset have been optioned for films- we can only hope they go into production.

When asked how long each book had taken to write, Laura said, The Silent Companions, took longest, with many rewrites; The Corset she wrote in a year, and Bone China a first draft in six months (whilst she edited The Corset and did promo for Companions!!!)


That concludes my write up of the first Derby UK Ghost Story Festival- which I loved going to and which should run again next year.

Watch out for it and go along.

My own blog is here at https://alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com/blog/ and I’m hovering on twitter @AlysonFaye2

Please get in touch if you’d like to chat about writing matters.

Alyson Faye

Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Future work will appear in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers.

She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.

Twitter @AlysonFaye2

Ten Tales of a Dark Tomorrow Blog Tour: Kevin Kuhn on Writing Short Stories

Short stories are hard. In less than 7,500 words or less, you have to set a scene or two, introduce characters, establish a plot (and maybe a bit of a theme), and find an ending that leaves a reader satisfied. In this post, I’m going to focus on character development in a short story.

Let’s start with some basics. First, this might be obvious, but limit your scenes and characters. You must strip down your plot to the bare necessity. What scenes are absolutely required to tell your story? How can I design my scene to have as few characters as possible? There is no room for information dumps about setting or character backstories. Start your story right in the middle of a key scene and use the action to give readers hints about the characters.

Here’s the real trick. Readers like to work! They like to make deductions, find connections, and fill in the blanks. It pulls them into the story and gets them invested. They need way less information than you might think to visualize characters and settings. However, you do need to give them something to work with – no white rooms (a scene where the setting is not described), or generic characters. Let me give an example:

The wrinkled, white-haired old man hooked his thumbs in the straps of his bib overalls.

It’s not exactly genius writing, but I’ll bet you have a mental image of this man already. You might even have a face associated with him, even through I only described his wrinkles. Just based on the facts that he’s old and wears bib overalls, you may have a voice associated with him.  Readers have thousands of mental images of various people in their heads. Often, they prefer to ‘pull up’ on of these mental images as the characters. The more detailed you are in your description, the less likely it is that they can use one of their own mental images. Save your descriptive writing to eloquently describe important scenery, or even better, exciting action.

You may have a huge, complex backstory about your character, that’s fine. It will help you stay true to their personality, motivation, and dialog. You don’t have to reveal most of that backstory, in fact, you shouldn’t. Think of it as an iceberg. You’re only showing a bit on the surface, but the reader will feel the support of everything below. Differentiate your characters through their actions and dialog. Never explain your character’s feelings or emotions through narration! That will remind the reader that it’s only a story and they just characters. You’ll lose the mental images in their head. Show it with their actions, reactions, and dialog. Make them consistent with their motives. Give them an easily recognized quirk or flaw that ties into the storyline. Maybe they have a fear of heights, or an obsessive love of chocolate, or maybe they like to show off a pretentious vocabulary. 

In summary, show your characters through their dialog and actions. Give the reader minimal, yet distinctive clues about their appearance. Distinguish them with their dialog and with flaws, quirks, or motives. In short story character development, less is more, but make the ‘less’ count!


Kevin Kuhn writes speculate fiction and is the author of an Amazon #1 Bestselling time travel novel. He has won multiple independent literary awards. He is a proud member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Kevin lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota with his wife and three children.

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I’m thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for Ten Tales of a Dark Tomorrow by Kevin A. Kuhn! Read on for more details, and a chance to win a paperback copy of the book plus a $15 Amazon Gift Card!


Ten Tales of a Dark Tomorrow

Expected Publication Date: October 25, 2019

Genre: Speculative Fiction/ Sci-Fi

Ten speculative fiction stories inspired by the original Twilight Zone series, including cautionary tales, horror, science fiction, and more.

In the spirit of that iconic, timeless show, these mysterious and gripping narratives explore parallel worlds, faraway planets, dystopian societies, and unsettling reality.

• A toddler shifts through parallel worlds, changing into different versions of herself. What would a mother do for her daughter?
• A chef finds an alternate food source on a remote world. When the new chef arrives, will he be forced to reveal a horrific secret?
• A twelve-year-old Earth girl is randomly chosen to rule the galaxy. Why are galactic administrators so desperate to stop her?
• Humanity is on trial, annihilation at stake. Can an underdog alien lawyer save us?
• Time seems to stand still as a young boy bikes with his troubled friend. Is the friend causing this phenomenon—and what if he doesn’t stop it?

Explore space and time—and confront humanity’s deepest fears—with Ten Tales of a Dark Tomorrow.

Add to Goodreads


She says nothing, content to burrow into my chest. I look at the top of her head: thick blond hair, a line of pink scalp at her part. She’s wicked smart for her age, and I’m still trying to get used to that. The doctors have used words like gifted, genius, and prodigy. She plays piano pieces that most couldn’t master at any age. She can multiply three-digit numbers in her head instantly. She reads voraciously and beat me in chess the first time we played. People say she is a gift. I smile, but only I know what she is. She’s my child, but she isn’t—she’s a version, a duplicate.

Available Now

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About the Author

B&W Kuhn

Kevin A. Kuhn is a proud member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. His first novel, Do You Realize?, won five independent literary awards and spent time as a number one Amazon best seller in four countries. He is also a retired technology executive who currently teaches at a major business school. Kevin lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, with his wife, Melinda, and their five kids—three human children and two schnoodles.

Kevin A. Kuhn | Twitter | Facebook

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Blog Tour Schedule

December 9th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://rrbooktours.com

Crossroad Reviews (Spotlight) http://www.crossroadreviews.com

Scarlett Readz & Runz (Review) https://scarlettreadzandrunz.com/

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

December 10th

Horror Tree (Guest Post) https://www.horrortree.com

Splashes into Books (Spotlight) http://splashesintobooks.wordpress.com

A Garden of Books (Review) http://agardenofbooks.com

December 11th

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Guest Post) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

December 12th

Life’s a Novelty (Review) https://lifesanovelty.blogspot.com/

The Bookworm Drinketh (Review) http://thebookwormdrinketh.wordpress.com/

December 13th

Turning the Pages (Review) https://turningthepagesonline.wordpress.com

Port Jerricho (Review) http://www.aislynndmerricksson.com

Entertainingly Nerdy (Spotlight) https://www.entertaininglynerdy.com

I’m into Books (Spotlight) https://imintobooks.com

Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com

Guest Post: UK Ghost Story Festival – Part 1

A Report from Inside the UK Ghost Story Festival by Alyson Faye

Venue: Derby Quad from Friday 29 November, 2019 to Sunday 1 December, 2019.  (@UKGSF1)

This was the début Ghost Story Festival at the Quad Arts Centre in the heart of Derby city centre, where over the weekend a host of author readings, film screenings, panel talks, workshops and author interviews was happening. The event is the brainchild of Alex Davis (@AlexDavis1981) who is the Literature Officer at the Quad and an Associate Lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at  Derby University. I spoke to Alex during the weekend and I will share his comments a bit later on in this article.

I started off my Friday evening by attending best seller horror writer Adam Nevill’s reading and talk about his latest folk horror novel, The Reddening. (released 31 October, 2019). Nevill read the opening chapters at the mic, ending on a cliffhanger of course, then he talked about the two year journey he’d embarked on when researching and writing the book. He’s a keen walker, kayak-er and swimmer and has explored much of the South Devon coast where he lives. The inspiration for The Reddening, came to him in Kents Cavern, near Torquay ( https://www.kents-cavern.co.uk/) in the middle of a guided tour. The caverns are prehistoric and were once home to our ancestors; when the tour guide switched off all the lights underground, he then played a recording of a hyena- screaming in the darkness. That was the moment when the plot clicked in for Nevill.

He opened the session up to questions from the floor :- which included ones on how hard/easy he finds it to write female protagonists? Answer:- He challenged himself, four books into his career, to switch to a female lead for House of Small Shadows. Which of his books would he like to see filmed? Answer:- No One Gets Out Alive (which he saw as a sister novel to The Ritual).

He talked about the filming of that book, which he’d hoped would get a US cinema release, but was instead sold to Netflix, where it became a slow burn hit. Now six of his back catalogue have been optioned for films. He described this as a ‘game changer’ in his career so far. Nevill referenced M.R.James, Algernon Blackwood, and L.P.Hartley amongst his favourite ghost story writers and of the modern writers, Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger. His latest venture has been turning his hand to writing screenplays of his ideas, first, before he turns them into novels. Doubling up on their potential market value, as he put it.

Afterwards at the author book signing, where I bought The Reddening, I found myself fan-gushing to Nevill about how he began following me on Twitter a few weeks ago and how thrilled I was. He smiled kindly at me.

Saturday was my full-on, 10.30am- 8.30pm day, with a brief break for lunch. There was such a  choice of events that it had been a tough job to pick – I had to, regretfully, opt out of going to the film screenings as I prioritised various panel talks with authors I’ve either/both read or interviewed or met before and choosing a workshop with thriller writer Sarah Ward.

First up, at 10.30am was Supernatural Shorts- with James Everington, Alison Littlewood, Sarah Ward in the chair and Mark Latham.

Discussing their influences growing up, the panel all credited libraries and the experience of  choosing books there whilst growing up, as very important to them; Ramsey Campbell and James Herbert also got mentions. Mark Latham carried his battered copy of the 1972 Fontana book of Ghost Stories (which I remember reading) around with him all day.

The panel discussed the advantages of the short story format for writing ghost stories and their Golden Age in the Victorian era, how ghost stories allow us to explore our relationship with death, and our fears, what clichés to avoid and whether there was a place for humour in the genre. The question of how to write an effective ending divided the panel:- James Everington opted for ambiguity in his endings, Alison Littlewood thought the story’s internal rhythm took you there, and she doesn’t plot her short stories as much as her novels, and Mark Latham talked about the ‘snapshot’ demands of the short story and how he used familiar shorthand settings to speed up the narrative and how he focuses on ‘the unknown not the known’. Recommendations of short story authors from the panel included Paul Tremblay, Lillies by Ian Rowan, Michelle Paver’s Thin Air and Dark Matter and Adam Nevill’s story, ‘Florrie’.

I caught up with Alison Littlewood (http://www.alisonlittlewood.co.uk/) after the session, as she has kindly agreed to be

interviewed for me for the Horror Tree and I will also be reviewing her latest seasonal ghost novel, the haunting Mistletoe, a copy of which she signed for me. We chatted about her career, her break through book and her current book. More to follow on the Horror Tree site.

Next up for me was the 12-1pm panel who were debating How to develop a great ghost story – with Adam Nevill, Charlotte Baker, Sophie Draper and James Brogden who was the chair. I sat on the front row, which probably slightly concerned Adam Nevill, but at the end he asked me ‘Did it all make sense?’ i.e. his advice and yes, it did. In fact it was very useful and on point. (I had previously attended another Alex Davis organised workshop in Nottingham where Sophie Draper, author of two Derbyshire set thrillers, Cuckoo and Magpie, and Charlotte Baker had been workshop leaders).

The panel listed their influences as Susan Hill, Shirley Jackson, Michelle Paver (Sophie)’ The Blair Witch Project (film), The Lovely Bones and James Herbert’s The Secret of Crickley Hall (book and film and a favourite of mine) (Charlotte); M.R.James had been read to Adam Nevill by his father, and he also loves H.R.Wakefield, Robert Aickman, Walter de la Mare, Algernon Blackwood and Sarah Waters.

Asked what characterised a ghost story the panel offered :- a preoccupation with the past, spooky atmosphere, a sense of the unknown, and Nevill said it had to ‘inflict dread and terror on the reader.’

The writers have all done some unusual research in their time for the sake of their novels – Sophie about a coin called The Puppet Rider (Magpie), Charlotte on flies and decomposing bodies and Adam Nevill at one time had 36 books out from the library all on witchcraft.

Asked how they each start their their own ghost story- Charlotte begins with her characters, and history, often tied to old buildings and asks herself ‘what if ghosts are attached to events?’ Sophie believes however that the setting is paramount and draws on her own knowledge of folklore. Magpie was located very much on her own doorstep, but her next novel, her third, she told me is set in Staffordshire. Adam Nevill creates a recognisable settings and then incrementally inserts weird and unsettling events so that when the supernormal crosses over the line, it works and the reader accepts it as the norm and buys into it.



After this session I hit the Quad bar café for lunch and a mini interview with Lewis Williams, one of the founders of Corona Books. (https://www.coronabooks.com/) who was there with his business partner, Sue Eaton to give a talk on ‘Editing a Horror Anthology’ and to promote the latest anthology from Corona. The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories (published October 2019).

Interview with Lewis Williams of Corona Books.

 (Reveal- I had myself submitted to the call out for this anthology and though I didn’t make the final cut I did receive a polite and lovely email saying that they had been overwhelmed by the 800 plus story submissions they’d received and that my story had made the long list of the final 50 ‘honourable mentions’ and it would be listed at the rear of the anthology).

Lewis wrote in his email: “We’re a very small publishing business and one that’s committed to publishing as much great writing by indie authors in the horror and sci-fi genres as we can.”

I asked Lewis to talk about why he’d set up Corona in 2015. (Note:- the cover (image above) by the way is a homage to all those classic paperback Pan/Fontana anthologies).

Lewis said he has a great love for sci-fi and horror and he was aware there was a wealth of talent out there which with a bit of help and editing could be even better and he was keen to promote that.

His business partner, Sue Eaton, is a former teacher (like me) and has had her work performed on Radio 4. She is a huge Dr Who fan, Matt Smith is her favourite (mine’s Tom Baker of course).

Asked about the future for Corona, Lewis promised (and I said I would quote his very words) that ‘as long as my heart is beating’ there will be an annual Corona anthology.

So, would-be horror/sci-fi writers, go follow them on twitter @CoronaBooksUK and keep an eye out for their call outs.

They are an indie horror press to watch out for run by committed, enthusiastic folk.

After lunch I was off to a 3-4pm panel talk on History in the Making? What relevance does the ghost story have today? The panel on this one was – Paul Kane, Laura Purcell, Mark Latham with Sophie Draper in the chair.

Asked what their favourite contemporary ghost stories were the panel opted for Ghoster by Jason Arnopp, published October 2019 and a new one for me, though I’ve ordered my copy and it has been garnering great reviews.

(Paul), Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts (Laura), Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter from Mark and Sophie mentioned Susan Hill and Shirley Jackson whose stories she has recently got into.

Asked about the enduring popularity of the ghost story the panel commented that people enjoy the need to be unsettled, the fear of the unknown and there is a trend towards genre mash ups (Latham) where the settings have become more innovative. (Alien is a ghost story in space.) These days technology is changing the content of ghost stories -e.g. Transcendence – is your soul in the machine? Or is it really you? or are you the ghost? There is the tech to reproduce the images of dead actors in new films and new gadgets give writers a fresh spin on old tropes.

Mark talked at length about the internet urban legend of ‘Creepypasta’ which has been spread by memes, gamers and you tubers as an example of the twenty-first century equivalent of the Victorian fireside story. Laura Purcell for her research on Bone China had immersed herself in the video game Dear Esther and Sophie  suggested that social media was the new version of the traditional oral storytelling. Twitter was mentioned as a way of writers adapting ghost stories to the tiny original 140 characters length and doing it well and Joe Hill’s short story Twittering from the Circus of the Dead was referenced, which he wrote entirely as a series of tweets.

The consensus is that ghost stories will embrace whatever the new tech is and adapt to continue in some format or another to tap into our darkest fears.


Sarah Ward’s workshop was next up but before that I did a mini interview with the festival’s driving  force Alex Davis.

Interview with Alex Davis

I asked Alex how long he’d been planning this festival? It turned out it has been a bit of a dream of his, and he’s wanted to run one for years and has been discussing it with the Quad team. He’s already the founder of the two Derby Quad-based horror conventions (and sci-fi) the summer Edge-lit and the winter, Sledge-lit (both of which I have been to) but one focussing purely on the ghost story form took some putting together and he said it had been a big decision to replace this year’s Sledge-lit with this instead. He wanted it to have wide appeal, ideally in the winter season, but in the end he suspected he’s programmed what he himself would like to see and go to.

He had a key hot wish-list of authors to invite:- Adam Nevill, Laura Purcell, Andrew Michael Hurley (author of The Loney) who I simply couldn’t manage to fit in seeing this time but I have seen him twice before at other events and happily they all agreed to attend.

Being aware that ghost stories cross different media i.e. books, films, Alex wanted a pop in/drop in option for attendees and a dedicated weekend pass so that he could attract both the committed writers/readers and a more casual audience and hopefully the festival would appeal to folk living in Derby itself. He believed he’s succeeded as the events (all of them, I think) were sold out and there was a mixture of weekend passes (like me and my Otley writing group mates, Martin and Jo) and casual one-offs, come for one event and a drink in the bar).

Other people, like writer Johnny Mains, came along and pitched a talk idea to Alex which became ‘How to find the Hidden- researching ghost stories) and Alex booked him in into the schedule.

It is, Alex believed, one of the main dedicated themed writing festivals in the UK and he aims to run it every year and plans go international with his author invites.

(Well, I did get to see Paul Tremblay at the Quad last year).

If anyone can do it Alex Davis can, with his drive and enthusiasm for the world of horror, sci-fi and fantasy.

Look out for Part 2 of Alyson Faye’s write-up of the Ghost Festival, next Saturday. (As a previous attendee of Edge-lit and Sledge-lit, I’m really disappointed I couldn’t go – Steph)

Alyson Faye

Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Future work will appear in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers.

She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.

Twitter @AlysonFaye2

Patch Lane Blog Tour: Five Things That Inspire My Writing By: S.F. Barkley

Five Things That Inspire My Writing

By: S.F. Barkley


Some people grow up always knowing that they wanted to be a writer. They loved writing essays in school, maybe got their college degree in English, or perhaps they even wrote their first novel before ever finishing grade school. That, however, wasn’t me. I had no idea that I wanted to be a writer until, well, I started writing. To explain what gave me the push to first put the pen to paper (or more realistically, my finger to the keyboard), I’ve narrowed it down to the five main things that inspire my writing.


  1. My Love for All Things Creepy

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to the paranormal. Every eerie sound I heard in my house as a child, every chill down my spine, I always believed in ghosts. It’s no surprise that my favorite books growing up were Goosebumps by R. L. Stine. My interest in the paranormal only grew the older I got. I love going on ghost tours of old cities, visiting supposedly haunted places (big fan of Gettysburg), and hearing the fascinating histories of buildings and places.


  1. My Experiences as a Cop

I was a cop for nearly three years. During that time, I discovered an underground tunnel system, a secret room behind a fireplace, and was dispatched to an abandoned building for 911 hang up calls- all while on the job. First responders commonly find themselves in creepy situations, especially those who work the night shift. All of my experiences left me wondering, “What if…”


  1. My Personal Life

One of the most famous pieces of advice for writers is to “Write what you know.” I know law enforcement, but there’s a lot more to a story than just the main character’s career. I constantly draw on my personal life’s experiences to help build the world and characters in my stories. For example, I grew up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, so the fictional town I created was in Western Pennsylvania and inspired by the towns that I knew. There are pieces of my life sprinkled throughout my stories.


  1. Reddit r/NoSleep

My first attempt at writing was on Reddit’s subreddit r/NoSleep, which is a forum for realistic horror stories told from first-person perspective. My first short story was about finding dead space in my house, but it only received about 60 upvotes, deeming it not very popular. I still had a lot of fun writing the story and reading the responses though, so I wrote a second short story series. This second series was about being a rookie cop and getting dispatched repeatedly to an abandoned house for 911 hang up calls. In a blink of an eye, the story blew up. It was read over 100,000 times, upvoted by over 5,000 readers, and eventually went on to win Story of the Month in August 2018, having competed with nearly 4,000 other short stories.

Once I received such an outpour of positive feedback, I was inspired to turn the short series into a novel, and that’s how Patch Lane was created.


  1. Wine

There are actually two ways that wine helps inspire my writing. First, it’s no secret that alcohol loosens us up and gets the creative juices flowing. My writing routine involves sitting in my wine/writing room, pouring myself a large glass, and turning on some soft music. Second, by making such a cozy and zen writing setting, I give myself something to look forward to. I don’t allow myself to sip on wine until I’ve sat down with my laptop in hand.

PLane digital cover.jpg

Patch Lane

Publication Date: October 22, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Sarah Hastings is a rookie cop who works the night shift in Amber Forest, a small rural town nestled in the Western Pennsylvania mountains. After repeatedly responding to an abandoned and allegedly haunted farmhouse for 911 hang up calls, she discovers a dead body in a secret room. The forensic investigators determine that the body has only been dead for three to four days, but the case takes an unexpected turn when Sarah runs the victim’s fingerprints and finds that her Jane Doe actually died 20 years ago.

The murder investigation is complicated with a sloppy autopsy and delayed forensic reports. When the US Marshals and FBI join the case, Sarah realizes that she is caught in a web of jurisdictional politics that seem to care less about the victim and are more concerned with a larger confidential case. Sarah soon realizes that she may be closer to the victim than she thought and finds herself drawn deeper into the case, threatening not just her career, but her life.

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The house was in total disrepair. The exterior had white wooden siding with loosely attached, rotting black shutters. The moonlight highlighted the chipping paint, making the shutters appear two-toned. The old brick chimney was pulling away from the side of the house, and small trees were growing on the lower roof. There were no signs of life inside—no lights, no sound, not even a car parked on the property. It was the only house on the lane, so I deduced this was once a running farm. This must have been the original farmhouse. I slowly made my way around the house, trudging through the overgrown grass, to check the perimeter. With no evidence of life or habitation, I was beginning to question if Dispatch had gotten the address wrong. I got on the radio. “1034 to Dispatch.”

“Dispatch, go ahead.”

“I’m at 52 Patch Lane. Can you confirm this is the address?”

“Stand by.” After about a minute, Dispatch got back on the air. “1034, yes, that’s the correct address. Do you need backup?”

“Negative. It appears no one is home, but I’ll update.”

At this point, I knocked on the front door and announced myself. “Officer Hastings, Amber Forest Police Department!” No answer. All of the windows were closed, so I tried the front door. Locked. I didn’t have any extenuating circumstances that would allow a warrantless entry, so all I could do was leave. There wasn’t even enough for me to write a police report.

“1034 to Dispatch,” I radioed again.

“Dispatch, go ahead.”

“It looks like this house is abandoned. I think the 911 hang up might have been some crossed telephone wires. Clear me from the call with no report.”


I began driving back down the gravel lane when another wave of chills shot through me. I hit my brakes and glanced in my rearview mirror. My brake lights flooded the house in red, and for a split moment I thought I saw someone standing in the window watching me leave. I blinked, and the figure vanished. My intuition had kept me alive this far, but I knew Chief Fox would rip me a new one if I tried to enter that house based on my intuition and faintly seeing shadows. I took a deep breath and convinced my foot to ease off of the brake and back on the gas.

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Blog Tour Schedule

December 2nd

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Horror Tree (Guest Post) https://www.horrortree.com

I’m All About Books (Review) https://imallaboutbooks.com/

Kim Knight (Review) http://kimknightauthor.wordpress.com

December 3rd

B is for Book Review (Guest Post) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

Just 4 My Books (Spotlight) http://www.just4mybooks.wordpress.com

Scarlett Readz & Runz (Review) https://scarlettreadzandrunz.com/

December 4th

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Interview) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Reading Nook (Spotlight) http://readingnook84.wordpress.com

J Bronder Book Reviews (Review) https://jbronderbookreviews.com/

December 5th

Cup of Books Blog (Review) https://cupofbooksblog.wordpress.com/

Read and Rated (Review) https://readandrated.com/

My Comic Relief (Review) https://mycomicrelief.wordpress.com/

December 6th

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Spotlight) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

About the Author


S.F. Barkley is a former police officer who uses her law enforcement knowledge and experience along with her love for all things creepy to create short stories and novels. She had several eerie experiences as a cop, including having discovered secret underground tunnels and responding to 911 hang up calls to an abandoned industrial building. She has published short horror stories in various anthologies and is publishing her debut mystery novel, Patch Lane, in October 2019. She was raised in Western Pennsylvania and currently resides in Maryland with her husband and their rescue pup.

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Guest Post: The Personal Connection of Horror Fiction

Horror runs in the blood. In my case, I inherited my love of all things creepy from my folks, who both shared a love for all things macabre. My mother, a diehard Stephen King fan, inspired my love of writing early on, and my father shared his favorite movies with me as a youngster, Jaws, Halloween and The Changeling on regular rotation in my youth. This adoration for all things scary was instilled in me and remains to this day.

Because of this deeply rooted and personal connection to horror, both film and literary, when my father passed away in February of 2019, I was struck with an inescapable feeling of how one approached the existential horror of mortality. That, combined with a sadness I had never felt before, led my mind down the darkest possible rabbit holes it had ever inhabited. My entire worldview shifted, and things that once mattered to me, simply didn’t any longer.

Teaching and working in education had somehow lost its vibrance, working with children, something I truly loved, just didn’t matter anymore. Friendships and relationships suffered. The world had just gotten painfully darker for me.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it was in that darkness that I was able to find solace in writing. I had written a lot in high school and during college, winning a few awards for my original works, and found a modicum of success as a journalist after getting my bachelors, all the while, my parents, specifically, my father, cheered me on, reading and talking about my work as much as humanly possible. Had my father lived to see my first collection of short stories published, he would’ve been my biggest fan and cheerleader, but in many ways, it was in the trauma of losing my father that I was able to put these stories together.

The personal connection to writing horror, for me, had gone far beyond passive fandom. I was staring, every day, into a precipice of despair, and instead of falling fully into it, I decided to put a variety of works together. Short stories, flash fiction, a novella, whatever I had in me, spun into deeply personal, creepy stories that, while being “horror,” had more in common with the general human condition than they did with anything in the Saw or Paranormal Activity flicks. To me, the best horror, whether it be a film, literature, whatever the case may be, is the kind that stays with you, the kind that digs its nails into your very soul or your being. Concepts that play on a human being’s deepest, ugliest insecurities and fears.

Having grown up in an era where it wasn’t cool to be a superhero fan or a fan of weird shit like horror, I know what it’s like to have insecurities. While friends and classmates were having success in sports or with girls, I was busy learning everything I could about the last days of Krypton, or trying to understand why a rich guy from Gotham City would put on a mask, a cape and take out his rage on the thugs that lurked around every corner in his city. I wanted to know and understand Michael Myers, wanted to understand how the devil could possess an innocent child. Over time, I didn’t simply want to know or understand these things, I needed to understand them. Growing up, my friends and I would watch horror movies, and instead of the usual stuff like Friday the 13th, I was trying to show them Rosemary’s Baby, Sweet Home or Willard. Horror was my thing, and I was trying to share it with everyone.

It was in these memories, these concepts of sharing horror with people, that helped bring my first novel, People: A Horror Anthology About Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night, to life. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with this weird collection of stories I was building, but I knew I wanted to share them with as many people as possible. The collection held some very intense stories, many culled from my own feelings and reactions to situations in my life, specifically, the passing of my father in the story The Veil, which is, by far, the hardest for me to re-read after publication.

The stories were horror, but a different kind. They weren’t particularly gory, nor were they about old, haunted Victorian mansions in secluded areas of New England. The stories came out of the human side of horror, for me, and the concepts of how individuals react to that horror. The story, Kiwi, for example, is about a haunted doll, but it’s not about the chaos that doll causes, it’s about the person who created the doll, and how she comes to terms with her connection to it. The horror, in this case, is on the periphery, creeping in at points, but not the focal point. That story, for the record, is about my mother in many ways.

The publication of the book was, now that I look at it, me exorcising many personal demons, as well as putting my emotions out there on a silver platter. I’m fortunate that the response to the book has been largely positive, and, I think very cathartic for some readers. Horror isn’t always a cathartic genre to play around in, but when we let that horror into our beings, and let it take hold, we can use it to tell stories that resonate, stories that help others work through issues, whatever they may be. We can also use horror to work through things in a way that traditional therapy may not be able to help with.

Since writing the book, I’m just about finished with my follow-up and will be taking a similar approach to horror that I did with the first collection, only, instead of relying more on the humanity of the situation, it’ll be more connected to everyday fears. I think in discussing and immersing ourselves in horror, and, to a greater extent, in fear, we understand ourselves better, and, by extension, understand each other better, too.

Plus, scaring people is fun as fuck.

Robert P. Ottone

Robert P. Ottone is an author, teacher, and cigar enthusiast from East Islip, New York. He delights in the creepy. He can be found on Instagram: @RobertOttone, and online at www.SpookyHousePress.com

His debut novel, People: A Horror Anthology About Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night is available now, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as other retailers.

People: A Horror Anthology About Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night Synopsis:

A loner hunts down his best friend’s beastly killer. A man discovers new life in the wake of a personal tragedy. An ancient mystery unfolds in the mountains of upstate New York. In Japan, a spirit finds a connection. A woman finds her new side business is fraught with unexpected terrors. A child makes a friend in an otherworldly boy. A high school prom cruise enters uncharted waters. These stories and more are found within.

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