Zombies:- Deborah Sheldon’s latest novel free giveaway on Horror Tree and films…

Those who know me know I love zombie movies and World War Z is one of my all time faves; just last week I finally caught up with the 2016 Korean zombie apocalypse movie Train to Busan, which if you’ve not seen I can highly recommend.

Set on a bullet train from Seoul to Busan, the zombie outbreak happens and one of the ‘infected’ stumbles, last minute, onto the train and thereafter the infection spreads, rapidly, horrifically and excitingly through the train passengers. The claustrophobic confines of the train’s narrow corridors, tiny toilet compartments and length of the train, are all used very effectively by the director.

There is literally nowhere to run or escape to, except maybe the loo and that’s a dead end. There are many exciting scenes and of course there’s a divorced dad, his child and a pregnant lady in the forefront.

Train to Busan Poster

Coincidentally I have not one but two zombie novels to read and review coming up this week. I will be in zombie heaven.

One is from Demain Publishing aka Dean Drinkel – A Quiet Apocalypse by Dave Jeffrey

A Quiet Apocalypse by [Jeffery, Dave]

available to buy on amazon.

And the other is Australian horror writer Deborah Sheldon’s Body Farm Z- which is featured this week as a FREE giveaway on the Horror Tree site- grab it while you can, cos Deborah Sheldon is a highly entertaining writer of this sort of genre.

She has also written an article- which is funny and bang on.

10 Most Hated Zombie Clichés


Body Farm Z by [Sheldon, Deborah]

Honourable mention in latest Corona anthology pic and cover of Things in the Well Guilty Pleasures antho pic…

Here’s my name in the Honourable Mentions page of The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories

next to Stephanie Ellis of Horror Tree and Horror Addicts-

the anthology is out for pre order on https://www.amazon.co.uk/Third-Corona-Book-Horror-Stories/dp/1999657942Corona antho hon mentions close up.JPG

Corona received over 800 submissions- an all time high. So am more than pleased to make the honourables list.


Here’s a sneak peek at the cover of the anthology I have a double drabble in from Australian publisher Things in the Well aka Steve Dillon.

There will be a Facebook launch :-

“I hope you can make it to the online launch event (you can post questions in advance, or share your thoughts) on October 5th – I will reveal the complete cover, explain how to order, organize the digital copies, etc. and perhaps even give some ‘door’ prizes 😊”


Cover of Guilty Pleasures.png

Review of debut supernatural thriller The Lost Ones by Anita Frank…

The Lost Ones

Due out 31 October.


This is a début novel and I was drawn to it because I am a sucker for ghost stories, haunted mansions, family secrets, Gothic hints, lost children and things that go bump in the night.

Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers for an E-Arc in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Set in 1917 when the Great War is raging and the losses at home are being mourned, Stella Marcham, our bereaved heroine, is sent to live with her pregnant sister after a break down, in the husband’s mansion, Greyswick- very much a character in its own right. Brooding, cavernous, filled with corridors, whispering, secrets, run by a female staff and ruled by the formidable Lady Brightwell who is quite the harridan.

Here Stella has to fit into the household with her strange sullen maid Annie Burrows who has a useful ESP gift, and deal with the strange incidents happening up the stairs in the old closed up nursery, the hostility of the housekeeper Mrs Henge, (very much in the Mrs Danvers mould I thought who swishes and pops up at all the wrong times), and the arrival of a wounded war vet, turned psychic investigator, Tristan Sheers, who makes it his business to disprove everything Stella says.

The novel is split into two parts:- the first is overly long and drawn out I felt with too much description, for my tastes and some of the dialogue repeated itself as characters paraphrased what had just been said.

The second part of the novel is when Stella is left behind at Greyswick and her sister and husband depart for London; here the pace does finally pick up and the historic secrets which cast long shadows are revealed, the ghost becomes more active and the conflict within the household bubbles over.

I did guess the twists of the plot, but then I’ve read a lot of this genre, so I can’t say I was ever surprised, but that’s not to denigrate the number of twists the author does fit in, and one of the finale scenes set in the smoking room was both grisly and touching.

Franks has real talent and I would look out for her next book, but whether this was a choice to write in this long convoluted adjective heavy sentences as it fitted the genre or whether she and the publisher together thought it worked, as a reader I longed for more direct dialogue, less convoluted speech and more action.

Review of Sarah Rayne’s latest thriller out on 3 December …


Music Macabre

(Phineas Fox #4)

Here’s the blurb below:-
Researching a biography of the composer Franz Liszt, Phineas Fox uncovers evidence of a brutal murder – and finds his own life in danger.

Music researcher Phineas Fox has been enjoying his latest commission, gathering background material for a biography of Franz Liszt. But although he has – as anticipated – uncovered plenty of scandal in the 19th century composer’s past, matters take a decidedly unexpected turn when his investigations lead to Linklighters, a newly-opened Soho restaurant built on the site of an old Victorian music hall, and unearth evidence of a possible murder involving the notorious music hall performer known as Scaramel.

Just what was Liszt’s connection to Scaramel … and, through her, to the infamous Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper? As he delves further, Phin’s enquiries uncover clues to a fascinating and extraordinary story – and plunge his own life into jeopardy.

Sarah Rayne is up there, for me, amongst my top 20 authors. I’ve read pretty much everything she’s written historical thrillers wise, (excepting her fantasy books which isn’t my kind of thing) and her new release is always a fantastic few days of happy reading escapism for me.
Due to the wonders of free copies off Net Galley and me approaching the publisher, Severn House, last time, to plead and beg, for a copy to review, I have just finished reading it.
Here’s my review:-(I do try to avoid spoilers and giving away too much of the plot)

I have been reading Sarah Rayne’s thrillers for years and always await her next one with baited breath. This is the fourth one starring music researcher and academic Phineas Fox, his girlfriend Arabella (here in a more peripheral role than previously) and best mate, the hapless Toby.

Rayne utilises mirroring time lines for her novels- present day here and now and 1880’s London when Jack the Ripper prowled. The chapters alternate between the two time periods and music plays a key role as it often does in Rayne thrillers, as well as music hall and theatres.

A strange eerie piece of music (composed by Lizst?) with accompanying creepy words, leads Fox to a notorious Victorian music hall performer, Scaramel and to the newly renovated LinkLighters* restaurant, which is the physical ‘link’ (excuse the pun) for the two stories, historic and present day. There is a horrible underground sluice gate below the restaurant which plays a major role in the action and there are many effective passages set in peasoupers in the 1880’s and in the ‘ghost rivers’ which proliferate beneath London. The story hops over to Paris for a brief digression as well.

Rayne is very adept at drawing you, the reader, into the smells, sights and sounds of Victorian London, then contrasting and overlapping with the modern day locations too. Music, pub songs, playbills, letters, sketches by a young artist, programmes and newspaper reports play their usual part in the narrative, providing Fox and us with answers. This is a style which any regular reader of Rayne has come to expect and enjoy. History is all around us, along with murder and death.

This is a dark, entertaining, sometimes violent romp (with a version of the Ripper legend thrown in) with characters you can warm to (Scaramel and her maid, Daisy in particular for this reader) across two time periods with a surprising ending.

*Linklighters were the young children who held the taper or lit torch during peasoupers in London, to light the way for the well to do as they trudged home from the theatre or the restaurant.

Other Worlds Writing weekend in Nottingham, drabble up on Horror Tree, payment for a short story…

I’ve just got back from a fun and interesting weekend away in Nottingham, attending the Other Worlds writing residential run by -the Derby based Edge Lit/Sledge Lit conventions -co ordinator and horror writer/film buff Alex Davies. It was held at the Nottingham Writers Studio https://www.nottinghamwritersstudio.co.uk/ which is also a creative hub with amazing sketches and artwork graffittied onto the walls, making a trip to the toilets an artistic journey, as it’s home for a group of print makers and their posters.

My fellow writers and companions were Otley writers Alex Williams https://www.amazon.co.uk/Firna-Rex-Shaw/e/B00BCK8LOY

and Martin Fuller; great company for the weekend and on the train journeys there and back.

New writing contacts were made over the course of the weekend, including Australian sci fi writer, and interesting dinner companion, one Steve Cameron, whose blog entry I am stealing. (see below)


Steve Cameron: Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

“I’ve just arrived home from a wonderful writer’s workshop in Nottingham. Organised by Alex Davis, the force behind Edge-Lit in Derby, Other Worlds had four guest presenters, published authors and specialists in their subject. Mark A Latham presented on Planning & Plotting, Andrew Bannister on Politics & Science Fiction, Sophie Draper on Psychological Thrillers and Charlotte Baker on Atomspheric Scenes.  In between and around all this, Alex ran sessions on a range of aspects regarding writing and the publishing industry.

Thank you all.

Even though I have encountered some of this before, I always manage to find new take-aways. And this weekend there were plenty of those from all guests. New ideas, new techniques, things to consider, and pitfalls to avoid.

But it’s the participants who can make or break these workshops. We had an excellent crew, with a high level of involvement, no-one dominating the discussions, and a level of mutual respect amongst us all.

A few others had likewise chosen to stay overnight, so I was able to have dinner with Martin, Aly and Alex. It was a fantastic evening of laughs, shared stories and experiences. And like any other group of writers, it soon turns out there are mutual friends.

Thank you for your time, and for inviting me to join you for dinner.”


Thank you Steve for the mention on your blog and your company.

Happily by coincidence I had read Sophie Draper’s debut thriller, Cuckoo, set in Derbyshire, Cuckoo: A haunting psychological thriller with a creepy twist the week preceding the workshop and really enjoyed its many twists and turns. Sophie was lovely, open, honest about the whole writing a book and getting it published saga and spot on in her discussion of the key points in writing a thriller. I have her second novel on my kindle, Magpie, Magpie: The gripping psychological thriller with a twistan advanced E-Arc courtesy of Net Galley to read. Looking forward to it.

Charlotte Baker, taught a thought provoking workshop later in the afternoon on creating atmosphere in your horror/crime writing- which for me, was very useful.


I heard over the weekend that I’d received my $30 payment from US magazine/anthology publisher Mortal Realm, so we all ( me Alex Martin and Steve) raised a glass to celebrate over dinner at Pizza Express.

Then when I got home there was a drabble of mine up on the Horror Tree site- https://horrortree.com/trembling-with-fear-09-15-2019/ Sacrifice, which is a prose poem drabble ie exactly 100 words  and Siren’s Call ezine issue 47 have accepted 3 of my dark fiction/poetry pieces for publication.

So a pretty fab full on writing weekend. It’s so wonderful to be able to have the luxury of pursuing my hobby, passion and joy to such an extent.

Review of Australian writer Deborah Sheldon’s latest short story collection … due out in November 2019

5/5 stars

This is the latest collection from Australian award winning author Deborah Sheldon. There are about 35 short stories here including some flash fiction (i.e. pieces under 1000 words). Some of the short stories have been published elsewhere, revealing an impressive range of magazines and anthologies in Deborah Sheldon’s CV but there are three new stories written just for this collection as well.

I first came to a Deborah Sheldon novel when I read and reviewed (for the Horror Tree site) her bio-horror novella Thylacines which I hugely enjoyed and so I became a fan of her fiction.

It is always an enjoyable experience to venture into her fictional worlds, conjured up so vividly and so succinctly in these shorter pieces.

These are dark tales, which step into the underbelly of society and the fringes where folk scurry around to make a buck. They are set in hospitals, the outback, (the powerful punch to the gut opening story Basket Trap), on wheat farms, on roads in cars, in caravan parks (the bitter sweet The Sequinned Shirt where the past is a trap and the present is pretty grim too), in roadhouses, in urban offices (the clever twisting Cash Cow where comeuppance is brutal and final) and on the beach.

Deborah Sheldon is adept at drawing you in, writing fast, furious dialogue, making you smell and taste the landscape and the characters’ sweat, taking you on a journey with the lost, the displaced, the broken, the runaways, the misfits and the mad, who populate the pages. Many of her characters are in transition, running away from their dangerous past.

I did say the tone was dark.

This is not always the most comfortable of reads, be prepared to be challenged even disturbed by some of the narratives. There is violence and not many happy endings to be found, though there is some delicious dark humour to be savoured.

But the characters leap off the pages, real, flesh and blood, smoky and smokin’ hot sometimes. You might not want to meet up with them but in these stories you can hang out and still be safe.

My personal favourites – tough call but – the opener Basket Trap, took my breath away; it’s about one woman’s fight for survival in the outback in brutal circumstances, with whole back stories evoked in one sentence. Man with the Suitcase (reminiscent to me, of Donald E Westlake, author of The Hot Rock) in tone, and is a smartly written, slick caper story which reads like a mini movie and pays rereading for its twists and turns and White Powder set around an air plane journey, simply because it was funny and made me laugh.

A horror anthology I have a drabble in is i the amazon best seller charts and I have a new piece up on line…

Screenshot from Kevin Kennedy antho bestsellers2019-09-07 17-50-27

Here’s a screenshot of the anthology ed by Kevin J Kennedy at No 2 in Hot New Releases- a bargain at 99p.

Screenshot from Janet Reids blog comp 2019-09-07 21-31-12.png

Stephanie Ellis of Horror Tree fame tipped me off about Janet Reid’s blog and her fun free to enter comps writing 100 word tales to certain specified rules; This time we had to include 5 random words- and here’s my contribution;-



Horror anthology out for 99p- containing 100 drabbles -including one of mine…

Love this retro cover-from editor/writer/publisher Kevin J Kennedy – this is volume 3 in his drabbles collections. 1& 2 were invite only, 3 he opened up to the whole huge world of writers and he received over 2000 drabbles. He’s chosen just over 100 of his favourites which includes my dark contribution:- The Necklace and fellow Horror Tree writing pal Richard J Meldrum is also in it.

Other names to look out for include Steve Stred/Chad Lutzke /fellow Otley writer Martin P Fuller/Horror Tree’s Stuart Conover/Patrick Winters/Zoey Xolton/Theresa Derwin/Eric J. Guignard – and many others.



Two pieces up- one by moi and the other by writing friend Mari on Gill James’ cafelit site…


Here’s the opener- written as a series of letters between Ben and Di; it is bittersweet and reveals much about their relationship in a short powerful piece of flash fiction.

Stories We Tell Ourselves

by Mari Phillips

whiskey sour

September 1, 1988

Dearest Ben,

I hope you arrived safely. I hated saying goodbye. You said a clean break was best, but I really want to stay in touch. We were so good together. I realise your divorce was hard, as was mine, but it was fun getting over them and I know we could make things work.

All my love Di



My dear Di,

Great to hear from you. The flight was long, but I met a guy who has promised to give me some contacts in Washington. They could be helpful with the background research. He’s calling me later today. Then I’m off to meet my old mate Jez so we can get cracking on the story – there’s a lot to do so I may not be in touch for a while. Hope you’re keeping busy and meeting lots of new people.

Love Ben



I have a poem up on a charity fund raising blog in a competition:-


Carnival- scroll down the page to read it-

Here’s the first stanza:-


Under the canopy of stars

garish side stalls huddle,

jugglers juggle,

tumblers tumble,

stilt walkers stumble.

Its beating heart – the carousel’s stable

of peeling painted steeds

froth and rear.