Latest ezine is out of Siren’s Call Issue 45 in which I have 2 poems/got a drabble in Kevin Kennedy’s latest horror antho/ 2 drabbles accepted by the Horror Tree/ and made longlist for Corona antho…

Looking at that heading- that’s a pretty good round up there- though why is it you always remember the rejections?

I also did a fun drop in creative writing workshop at Bracken Hall on Baildon Moor for kids mainly to write shape poems- I wrote a fish one.

Fellow Otley writer Martin P Fuller has his short story in – Snap Alley and also fellow Horror Tree writer Richard J Meldrum has a story in there too. Both are strong and entertaining horror writers- worth checking out their work.

Here’s the link to Martin Fuller’s amazon author’s page :-

This time I opted to submit 2 poems – dark verse- instead of prose- Stone Boy and Heavenly Prisoner.


Writer editor Kevin Kennedy is editing a 3rd horror anthology – here’s the fab retro inspired cover below:-

and he accepted a horror drabble of mine for this. I was delighted to get into this much sought after anthology.

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Editors Stuart Conover and Steph Ellis at the Horror Tree

have accepted 2 more horror drabbles by me, including one which is a prose poem- they have been so supportive of my writing over the last couple of years.

Horror Tree is a one stop hub for all sorts of useful info on comps/mags/submission callouts/ fiction- it’s really worth checking out.


Today I heard back from Corona Books who are putting together The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories.

To my great delight my story made the longlist of no more than 50 stories and will get an ‘honourable mention’ in the anthology – Corona had 824 stories sent into them for this antho so I’m really pleased to get the acknowledgement.



Review of Scottish set thriller Mosaic by Caro Ramsay…


Due out 28th June 2019.


Thank you to the publishers Severn House and net galley for sending me an advance E-ARC of Mosaic by an author new to me, Caro Ramsay, who I can totally now recommend as I was gripped by this thriller.

It is set in Scotland, on a huge estate bordering the Brenbrae and the Tentor Woods, owned by the Melvick family and the narrative is told in two girls’ voices:- Megan Melvick in the present day who has returned to the family home, after a three year absence, to bid farewell to her dying sister, Melissa (the family’s golden girl) and by Carla, Megan’s close teenage friend, a rebel and a tough cookie. There is much to be surprised about in Carla’s narrative, so I won’t give away any spoilers. But nothing here is what it seems.

The Melvick family have many secrets, both in their past and currently. They are a family haunted by tragedy- suicides, a maternal disappearance, Megan’s unexplained deafness, which is key to the plot, Melissa’s anorexia, rampant infidelity, lies, child abuse, an explosion and a death at Melissa’s wedding which was never fully investigated. This is one messed up family and Megan isn’t the most reliable of narrators either, only hearing so much, prone to blackouts/amnesia and guessing at what she doesn’t know.

But can we trust Carla? How reliable is she? Ivan Melvick, Lord Lt has problems and exploits his power, his household staff hover and haunt the big old house, each with their own agenda. There is some gas lighting and manipulation going on. A tame psychiatrist hovers over the household. Is Megan safe at home or merely trapped like a fly in a deadly web?

The revelations come thick and fast towards the end, with an Agatha Christie homage style ending, where all the suspects are gathered in the drawing room for the truth to be revealed by the young keeny weeny police officer who’s been hanging around for most of the story.

This is suspense filled, gripping, entertaining, people driven, psychological thriller where family, class, power, money, bereavement, murder and loss are all dissected.

Highly recommended.

Review of Gothic thriller – due out in September…

Thank you to the publishers and net galley for an E-ARC of Laura Purcell’s third Gothic chiller, in exchange for a fair and honest review. Following on the success of The Corset and her début The Silent Companions comes Purcell’s latest, Bone China.

This novel invokes the spirit of Daphne Du Maurine and is set in Cornwall in the regency period onwards. It is set in two time periods, and told in two female protagonists’ voices :- in the current day (ie for the novel) Hester Why arrives to take up the post of lady’s maid/nurse to the aged paralysed and nearly mute, Louise Pinecroft, mistress of Morvoren House; Hester is not who she purports to be, she also has a serious alcohol/drug habit and she has a chequered past which is gradually revealed. (An unreliable narrator perchance?). Feisty too.

The second narrator is Louse Pinecroft herself, depicted 40 years earlier living in the same house with her physician father, who has been all but destroyed by the deaths of the rest of his family from that widespread killer disease:- consumption. He is seeking a ‘cure’ through a strange new experiment involving convicts living in the caves on the beach. Yes you read that last line correctly- and you end up really empathising with these men, one of whom plays a key role in the story. If this isn’t strange enough for you, there are the servants in both time lines, who age with the family, one of whom believes in fairies and magic and weaves her own powerful spell over the Pinecroft family.

There is much interesting historical information in the novel on the manufacture of the titular china, on early medical treatments of consumption, the conflict between scientific ideas and magic; the tension and power balances in a household between servants and the mistress; there is the question of who is a prisoner and what is being hidden? There is a woman dressed as a girl, and treated as a child, locked away, (reminiscent of Jane Eyre’s attic) who has a vital role to play in the drama too.

The ending took me by surprise too; I never would have guessed that. Clever finale.

There are many haunted folk in this book, no one has a clean slate and everyone has one eye to the past or to the world of the fairies.
This is an engrossing, compelling, beautifully written, many layered historical Gothic chiller which sucks you in, and holds you in its tricky intricate web.

Interview with Frank Duffy where I chat about writing and Night of the Rider…

Image may contain: Frank Duffy, sunglasses, selfie, close-up and outdoor

Frank Duffy pic above.

FD: Hi Alyson. Many thanks for joining us today.

Image may contain: Aly Rhodes, smiling

Me and a werewolf created by the talented Darren Grassby

AF My pleasure Frank.

FD: I’d like to start by asking you when you first started writing?

AR: As a kid I wrote stories like ‘The Griffon of Death’, aged 11; but I got writing seriously whilst I was tutoring children in the 1990’s and had a couple of children’s books published and after a break to raise my family, I started up again about 7 years ago.

FD: What drew you to genre fiction as a writer?

AF: Well- truthfully I write what I am interested in, to entertain the reader and I enjoy telling stories. I have read a lot of ghost/horror stories and watched many horror movies and I just love that genre – so it was a natural development.

FD: What are some of the themes and ideas which drive your stories?

AF: Memories of old films, like Lon Chaney in Phantom, (see pic below) Val Lewton’s Cat People, Hitchcock and the film noirs of the 1940’s – all inspire my stories. I did a History degree and enjoy visiting derelict buildings and reading about the Victorian era. I like to blend my interests into my stories:- so haunted churches, demonic ventriloquist’s dummies and dolls feature heavily.


Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

FD: Do you have a typical writing routine?

AF: The guilt that question gives me! At my old p.c in my study, staring at pics of old movie stars, in bursts of energy, lasting hours or days or then nothing at all till the writing itch starts again.

FD: Are you one of those writers who takes a notebook and pen everywhere you go? Or are you a post-it-note kind of writer?

AF: I’m a notepad/whiteboard/stickers/ scribble on back of hand type writer.

Image result for cartoon of writer scribbling

FD: Do you plot everything you write, and if so, what’s your method of approach? Do you write in longhand before, or do you use a card index system, or something completely different?

AF: I only now write my poetry longhand- old habit that. I keyboard the rest of my fiction- if it’s a novella or longer I do keep notes for each chapter and a time line on a whiteboard and the characters’ traits. If it’s a shorter piece I tend to do a rough draft then edit, edit, edit.

FD: Kurt Vonnegut (see below) was supposed to have written each page multiple times before moving onto the next, thus only ever doing one complete draft the first time around. Whether apocryphal or not, how do you approach writing when drafting a short story, novella or novel?

AF: Yeah I read that and I use Vonnegut’s top tips in my creative writing classes. I binge -storm- write my first draft, really just going for it, not worrying about punctuation. This is fun and high energy. It’s very rough but there are good bits in there worth keeping. I might start in the middle of the narrative, not at the beginning. The ending might not come to me straight away either. Then I rewrite – a lot.

FD: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about writing?

AF: You’re learning all the time, persevere and don’t be too hard on yourself.

FD: Many writers talk about the difficulty of writing dialogue. What are your thoughts on this?

AF: I avoided dialogue for quite a while, I think, because I was scared of it. I’ve been on workshops, read a lot, co written with writing mates and practised so finally dialogue is a bit less scary than it was! It’s tricky and you need to be clever and careful with it. It’s a game as well. What can/can’t your character say? What do they know? How do they tell their part of the story?

FD: How long does it take for a story idea to make it onto the page? What’s the gestation period before you sit down and hammer it out?

AF: Anything from 5 minutes (flash fiction) to 5 years (Y.A.novel).

FD: Can you tell me about the first stories you had published? How did it feel to receive your first acceptance? Did you celebrate it in any particular way?

AF: In the 1990’s when I began having my poetry accepted and then sold a children’s book to Harpercollins, I was beyond thrilled. Huge personal highlights. Now I’m older the buzz is still there. Getting my début collection of flash out with an indie publisher was mega exciting for me. I keep a record of every publication credit for myself. They are each stepping stones on the journey. I drink a glass of bubbly now and then to celebrate like when Demain accepted Night of the Rider for their Short Sharp Shocks! Series.

FD: What’s the best piece of constructive feedback you had on a rejected story?

AF: From the editors of Pseudopod, last year, and I printed it out because it was so encouraging and helpful.

FD: In your own personal opinion, what’s been your best piece of published fiction so far?

AF: Tough one- I am proud of a few pieces of flash, like Cannon Fodder about the WW1 soldier which got onto Calum Kerr’s Flashflood journal; my children’s book for Collins was a big deal; getting into Short Sharp Shocks was pretty special too.

FD: How easy or difficult is it writing for a specific market, such as a themed anthology?

AF: I don’t find it that hard. I wrote a 1920’s story, for DeadCades last year and I’ve had a story accepted recently by Twisted Wing for their Strange Girls antho. I’m quite flexible I think as a writer.


FD: What are you currently working on now?

AF: A new horror story, inspired by a 1920’s silent film.

FD: What are your general writing aims for the future?

AF: Keep on enjoying writing, trying different styles, like flash, poetry, short stories, getting published.

FD: Which three authors would you recommend to people new to the genre?

AF: Shirley Jackson, early Stephen King and Susan Hill.

FD: Many thanks for talking to me today, Alyson.


Review of Lisa Jewell’s latest thriller due out in August…

If you think your extended family is bad just read this to cheer you up.

Thank you to net galley and the publishers for sending me an e-ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I am a huge Lisa Jewell fan right from her debut to her mid writing career switch to thrillers. So I was delighted to net this book off netgalley. This latest book is more a family drama with characters who act badly or weirdly or criminally than a straight out thriller though.

Even the blurb grabbed me:-

“In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. They’ve been dead for several days.
Who has been looking after the baby? “

I couldn’t resist – I had to know.

On the baby’s 25th birthday, she receives a letter bequeathing her a huge abandoned (or is it?) mansion in Chelsea worth millions. Baby aka Libby has lived a normal boring life, but this inheritance sets her off on a quest to find out the truth both for herself, and her dead /living family members. Along the way she pals up with a newspaper reporter (the truly likeable Miller) who had previously written about the tragedy of the dead bodies and the abandoned baby and is still consumed by the need to know what happened.

Like a few other reviewers I too struggled at first, not so much with getting into the story but to mind capture as it were, the different characters and the differing points of view but I kept on thinking about what was going on in that Cheyne Walk house while I was loading the dishwasher or walking the dog, and I was keen to get back to the story ASAP so it’s definitely gripping and compulsive reading. I read it fast over 3 days and truthfully, I think, if you stretched it out too long, you’d lose some fluency of plot. There are lot of layers, past, present and lacunae in the characters’ lives and memories, so you need to be on top of it all. This is a cleverly plotted, sophisticated read which takes some focussing.

There are definite warning signs early on that all is not well inside that Chelsea mansion in the 1990’s and the arrival of the title’s ‘family upstairs’ splits the existing familial cracks further apart until violence and corruption spew out.

I found the lead characters of Phin and Henry as teenage lads, totally fascinating, and how their dynamics create deadly drama.

The ending is unexpected and rattles the reader- Lisa Jewell has not provided a 100% comfortable ending and even lays the way open for a sequel.

So highly recommend as a summer read and one to buy on the way to or coming back from the airport.