Review of Amanda Huggins’ poetry collection The Collective Nouns for Birds from Maytree Press…

I was happy to receive an E-ARC of this collection from the author; I’ve known Mandy ever since we both had our flash fiction collections published by Chapel Town Books and her writing career has skyrocketed since then, with many publication credits, a collection of brilliantly observed short stories, Separated From the Sea published by Retreat West Books and then the glory of making the Costa Short Story finalists’ list for the Short Story Prize then going on to win 3rd prize with her story, ‘Red.’

The cover of the poetry chapbook is by artist Alice Parker and is a thing of beauty in itself. It could be a poster on my study wall.

The collection is available from 28 February to buy on amazon and elsewhere.

Here’s the link for Waterstones:- https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-collective-nouns-for-birds/amanda-huggins/9781913508005

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Collective-Nouns-Birds-Amanda-Huggins/dp/1913508005/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=amanda+huggins&qid=1582826300&s=books&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Collective-Nouns-Birds-Amanda-Huggins/dp/1913508005/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=amanda+huggins&qid=1582826300&s=books&sr=1-1

I don’t actually read much poetry, I know, mea culpa, as I tend to read around my genre – horror and dark fiction. I don’t regard myself as a poetry expert either. So I come at it very much from the point of view- do I understand the poems? do they touch me? do they entertain? and do they create wonderful word pictures in my head?

This collection ticked all of those questions – with a resounding yes.  I can say unequivocally, that if you read only one poetry collection this year, then make it this one.

Amanda Huggins is a brilliant wordsmith, conjuring up whole stories in a few words- I’ve picked some out:-

“two homespun girls…”

“one-trick town..”

“jellyfish danced in puffball skirts..”

“salt-licked boots..”

“A ziggurat of half-read books…”

“stitched motorway lanes ..”

“tow-haired lasses on piebald ponies…”

and these are just some of my favourites- they roll off the tongue, so pleasingly, conjuring up luscious, sensory, charming images.

Two of my favourite poems were Dizzy With It which is a flashback to the writer’s teenage years, filled with shopping at Chelsea Girl, making music and recording it on cassette tapes, whilst wearing up “patched-up pale-sky jeans”.

The whole poem resonated with me as it could have been my teen years – I still remember a fab bright yellow tie neck blouse I bought at Chelsea Girl and eating at Wimpy bars wearing my patched jeans. All my clothes back then were second hand or charity shop purchases, so my patched-up look was not ‘cos I was trendy but due to necessity.

Another favourite was the witty and gentle Chris Clarke-with-an-e.

When you meet your first love at a friend’s wedding years and years later, you’re both the same and both so different and this poem explores that dichotomy. “Half-curious to know our different ending…”

Every poem is a little gem and pays rereading. These poems are accessible, but that doesn’t mean they are facile. There is much to be gleaned from the subject matters on display here – some pretty big stuff like life, relationships, falling in and out of love, moving away and growing up.

I could imagine some of them being set to music too. They have a lyrical feel to them.

So in short, an elegant sharply observed collection which I really enjoyed.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

Access to free e-books (many prior to publication) on netgalley including Stephanie Ellis’ horror novella Bottled-

Join Netgalley -as I have done- set up a profile and start requesting FREE e books to your pc and/or kindle. It’s been a fantastic resource for me. In exchange you post a review – and it can be brief – it doesn’t have to be an epic essay – on amazon/goodreads or your blog or anywhere really- to share your opinion of the book.

So- onto how to get a free copy of Stephanie Ellis’ latest release from indie publisher Silver Shamrock-https://www.silvershamrockpublishing.com/

Bottled

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/185602

Here’s the plot overview:-

Description

 

Here’s Steph’s writer’s blog link:-

https://stephanieellis.org/

Interview with me talking about why I write horror on Janine’s Ghost Stories blog…

https://janinesghoststories.wordpress.com/2020/02/23/women-in-horror-month-interview-with-alyson-faye/

A massive thank you to Janine for interviewing me on her blog to support Women in Horror month (ie February).

Here’s the interview-

Women in Horror Month – interview with Alyson Faye

I am very happy to present to you today an interview with the lovely Alyson. Without further ado, I present to you, Alyson Faye.

When did you start writing?
I was a bookish only child always scribbling stories in notepads with titles like The Gryphon of Doom. In the mid ‘90’s after a serious illness, in order to help my recovery, I began writing poetry then I got into writing children’s stories, (as I worked with kids) and Collins Educational bought my Soldiers in the Mist, a time slip tale. I was thrilled. After a long family break as a carer and a mum, I took up my writing again, after joining a W.E.A. class near Leeds about 8 years ago.
What made you choose horror, it is sometimes regarded as a particularly hard genre
to break into?
I was writing flash fiction a lot, (pieces under 500 words or so) and much of it was dark,
and some of it was spooky. My collection came out in 2018, Badlands, published by
Chapel Town Books. I made contact with the Horror Tree site online, who had amazing
editors and gave support to their writers and I began subbing to them. I became their most published female writer. It is the case that fewer women tend to sub to horror magazines and sites. I have read it’s about 70/30 split often, in favour of male writers.
However, I’ve reached out to horror blogs, like Kendall Reviews and they have been very
supportive giving me blog space for interviews and posts.
In May last year Dean Drinkel of Demain Publishing (a new up and coming horror
publisher) was looking for horror stories for his Short Sharp Shocks! Series and he
published, as an e book, my Gothic tale, Night of the Rider, which made it into the Amazon top 10 kindle shorts horror charts. That was very exciting.
I write what I would like to read myself. I don’t consider myself an extreme horror writer,
more a writer of disturbing, eerie tales often with twists.
I’ve persisted with subbing and not been deterred by rejections, built up a great on line
writing network, but yes it’s tough to break in.
In the last couple of years I’ve attended Edge Lit/Sledge Lit horror conventions in Derby
and really enjoyed those. That provides the opportunity for face to face chatting with horror writers/publishers. In April this year I will be going to Stoker Con in Scarborough, which is a massive convention and is here in the UK from the US for the first time.

If one of your books/stories was made into a movie, who would you like to see cast
in the main roles?
I do love film, and have an especially passion for the Golden Age of Hollywood and the
horror of the 1930’s and 1940’s from Universal (Frankenstein) and RKO’s Val Lewton (Cat People). I watch a lot of horror on netflix and DVD too.
So, for Night of the Rider, I’d pick Tom Hardy as the cursed disfigured Rider who is forced to hunt for eternity, and as Leonie, the Gothic heroine, Florence Pugh who starred in Midsommar.

Who are your writing influences?
Growing up I read voraciously across all genres, but I had a particular fondness for
Penelope Lively’s time slip novels and I loved Susan Cooper’s dark fantasy/magic realism series, The Dark is Rising. I remember reading James Herbert as a teen and being freaked out by his novels, The Rats, and I read all of the early Stephen Kings. The 1979 TV version of Salem’s Lot gave me many sleepless nights. Later I discovered Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson, and of course the wonderful Susan Hill.
A mini dream of mine came true last year when I ended up in the same anthology as
Ramsey Campbell. Guilty Pleasures edited by Steve Dillon.
Have you had any supernatural experiences yourself?
No, not really. I’ve been creeped out in derelict buildings and deserted woods but that’s
probably my imagination working overtime.
What are you reading right now?
I’ve just finished an ARC of Ramsey Campbell’s latest, due out in April, The Wise Friend,
and next up is C. J. Tudor’s latest thriller, The Other People, followed by Louise Doughty’s Platform 7.
What is next for you?
Good question! I had a really amazing 2019 in terms of publishing acceptances both in
online sites/ e zines and print anthologies, from some wonderful folk like Things in the
Well, Twisted Wing, Mortal Realm and Coffin Bell.

I also self published my own mini collection, Christmas Terrors which got some great
reviews.
So for 2020 I have decided to write longer, and write a horror novella with the aim to
submit to an reputable indie horror publisher.
I also will be continuing to perform at open mics around Yorkshire, do my editing job and
hopefully teach some creative writing workshops.
I have a story in the just out women-only authored horror anthology Strange Girls edited by Azzurra Nox.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Strange-Girls-Women-Horror-Anthology/dp/1655783882
whhich has been up on Net Galley for a few weeks. Happily my story, The Doll’s House,
has been picking up some great reviews there.

Link to my latest dark fiction on the Horror Tree- https://horrortree.com/unholy-trinity-
clockwork-by-alyson-faye/
My blog is at https://alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com/
I’m on twitter @AlysonFaye2
Amazon author’s page:- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alyson-Faye/e/B01NBYSLRT

Thank you so much Alyson!!! Now, go ahead and follow her on all of the above platforms. Enjoy discovering a new women of horror and, as always, sleep well …

Two Australian anthologies published by Gypsum Sound Tales I have stories in…

This is a charity anthology to raise funds for the bushfire victims – the paperback isn’t out yet but here’s a sneak preview of the cover.

Gypsum charity antho Amongst friends

A second anthology from Gypsum Sounds Tales in which I have a story is due out soon- within a week or two is-

https://www.gypsumsoundtales.com/Submissions.php

Colp: Black and Grey

containing stories in which tattoos play a major part –

including my story- set in the American Depression era of the 1930’s.

Here’s a sneak glimpse at the fab cover for this anthology- this is probably one of my fave covers for anthologies my work has appeared in- though I don’t have any tattoos myself, too scaredy cat to go that down that pathway- I do have a fascination for the craft, artwork and beauty of the best of them and also what they mean to the people who wear them.

Colp Black and Grey Cover Art

I am delighted to have my work published by Gypsum Sound Tales and here’s the amazon page link to their previous publications:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gypsum-Sound-Tales/e/B07FZLW1TK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gypsum-Sound-Tales/e/B07FZLW1TK?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_11&qid=1582477823&sr=1-11

Horror films directed by women- my article on line at the Horror Tree…

https://horrortree.com/wihm-a-bloodcurdling-bouquet-of-nine-of-the-best-female-directed-horror-films/

Here is the opening-

According to The Guardian newspaper article (2018) of the 1100 films surveyed in the last 11 years, only 4% were directed by women. So that’s 22 male directors hired for every woman. Of those female directors typically they had shorter careers than those of their male counterparts with over 80% never asked back to direct a second film.

So it’s tough being a woman in the film making business, therefore it’s perhaps surprising how many horror films in the last decade or so have been directed by women, and not obscure ones or arty ones but mainstream hits that millions have watched and streamed, like Netflix’s Bird Box (2018).

I have picked nine of the best and all are ones I’ve watched. Therefore they are accessible via DVD, streaming or wide cinema release.

If asked to name one female director I suspect most film fans could come up with just one name :- Kathryn Bigelow- who won best director Oscar  in 2009 for the massive hit The Hurt Locker (2008).

And it is Bigelow (rather the exception to the rule) with her lengthy and hit-filled directing career that I shall begin with. In 1987 (and it’s only her third credit) Bigelow directed and co-wrote the now cult neo-western vampire film, Near Dark, starring a trio of actors straight off her then- husband James Cameron’s Aliens; Lance Henriksen Bill Paxton, who is memorable in this film and Jenette Goldstein (Private Valdez- remember her?)

Unusually Near Dark tells the story from the point of view of the bitten human, a farm hand, Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) and how he changes gradually into a vampire, falls in love and has to fit into a new friendship group of – biker vampire nomads.

Though at the time the film performed poorly at the box office (being overshadowed by The Lost Boys) it has gained traction since and a following.

Bigelow had at first wanted to direct a western, but with the funding not forthcoming she was advised to combine the western idea with a more popular genre- i.e. horror and vampires.

Near Dark is available to buy on DVD from Amazon at very cheap prices. It’s definitely a fun shivery watch. It is also available to be streamed through Prime Video

My rating 7/10

 

 

In 2014 I kept reading online about a new indie film shot in Adelaide, Australia – The Babadook, by an Australian female writer/director, Jennifer Kent, in her directorial début (prior to that Kent had directed one short and one TV episode).

At the 2014 Sundance Film Festival her film won attention and on the back of that a release in the UK and US which allowed the original $2 million budget film to make over $10 million. Ironically it didn’t click in its native home continent.

The titular Babadook is at first a character in the child, Sam’s, pop-up story book, which is read to him by his widowed mother, Amelia, (Essie Davis). However that is only the beginning of this dark, weird and fantastical tale, as the Babadook changes forms and infects the day to day life of the mother and son. Sam is adamant that “you can’t get rid of the Babadook,” and not even burning the book works. But then, as we the audience realise, the Babadook is more than it seems and can be interpreted as a number of monsters (both real and imaginary)….

please click on the Horror Tree link to read the rest of the article-

 

Interview: Alyson Faye, author of Maggie of my Heart

An interview from writer Lynn Love’s blog about my writing journey and my latest release the crime novella – Maggie Of My Heart.

Word Shamble

I recently read the noir-inspired novella Maggie of my Heartby the very talented Alyson Faye. I enjoyed the book so much, I thought it would be great to learn more about Alyson and her writing.

LL: Hi Alyson, thanks for joining me on Word Shamble. I wanted to start with a question about your choice of genre. Your fiction often takes dark themes. Have you always been fascinated with these kinds of stories and where do you think this comes from?

AF: I was a bookworm as a child/teen and read across all genres, but I did particularly enjoy time slip stories (I remember borrowing Beryl Netherclift’s The Snowstorm about five times because I loved it so much), Penelope Lively’s stories like The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy and Susan Cooper’s magic fantasy, Dark battling the Light quintet, The Dark is Rising. But I also devoured Enid…

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Night of the Rider is out in paperback as is Strange Girls anthology and on a book blog tour…there are free copies of Girls to grab too…

Here’s the rear cover with moi beaming away and the front cover side by side.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B084YZT3BH

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B084YZT3BH/?fbclid=IwAR3kESlcg67SPMwV6MjqsQtn2IOmtd2LmiVDMm_D4vsKKLOnn8Y1eERtGxY

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B084YZT3BH/?fbclid=IwAR3kESlcg67SPMwV6MjqsQtn2IOmtd2LmiVDMm_D4vsKKLOnn8Y1eERtGxY

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B084YZT3BH

Strange Girls anthology-

Over at Genre Junkies Podcast you can listen in to a review of the anthology –

check it out here: https://www.genrejunkies.com/70-horror-strange-girls-women-in-horror-anthology-stories-selected-by-azzurra-nox/

and over at Women in Horror blog page it is one of the lead books of the month-

Women in Horror Month

https://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/strange-girls-women-in-horror-anthology-book-release/

There will be a book blog tour following the release & giveaway for those that follow her on Twitter & Instagram!

Twitter: @diva_zura
Instagram: @divazura

Here’s a link to one of the many book blogs where Strange Girls will be appearing:-

https://haleycavanaghbooks.com/strange-girls-by-azurra-nox-spotlight-giveaway/

A huge thank you to publisher/editor Azzurra Nox for all her hard work in promoting this anthology.

 

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B084YZT3BH/?fbclid=IwAR3kESlcg67SPMwV6MjqsQtn2IOmtd2LmiVDMm_D4vsKKLOnn8Y1eERtGxY

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B084YZT3BH/?fbclid=IwAR3kESlcg67SPMwV6MjqsQtn2IOmtd2LmiVDMm_D4vsKKLOnn8Y1eERtGxY

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B084YZT3BH/?fbclid=IwAR3kESlcg67SPMwV6MjqsQtn2IOmtd2LmiVDMm_D4vsKKLOnn8Y1eERtGxY

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B084YZT3BH/?fbclid=IwAR3kESlcg67SPMwV6MjqsQtn2IOmtd2LmiVDMm_D4vsKKLOnn8Y1eERtGxY

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B084YZT3BH/?fbclid=IwAR3kESlcg67SPMwV6MjqsQtn2IOmtd2LmiVDMm_D4vsKKLOnn8Y1eERtGxY

New review for Maggie of my Heart…

https://wolkenskim.wixsite.com/downinabook/post/maggie-of-my-heart-by-alyson-faye

Maggie of My Heart by Alyson Faye

My rating – 3 out of 5 stars

Many thanks to Alyson Faye and Demain Publishing for a free copy of this novella in exchange for an honest review!

About the Book:

Set in the world of nightclubs, bedsits and bars, during the post-war years, Maggie, a beautiful escort girl, is caught up in a violent relationship with her lover, a spiv, Johnny. Their blackmail scams lead to murder, from which Maggie escapes into marriage with a wealthy older suitor. A chance meeting with Johnny years later, tosses her back into his clutches. When his past reveals one secret too many, Maggie has to fight for her freedom and her life.

My Review:

I had never read anything in the “film noir” genre, but I’m glad I gave this one a shot. I love historical fiction, so to see life through Maggie’s eyes, in a country foreign (to me) and in the 1940’s was very interesting. I loved imagining all of the gorgeous clothes and jewelry Maggie must have worn during her life of scandal, and then later as the wife of an older, rich man. And the plot line was a good mix of predictability and clever twists. And it’s hard not to fall in love with Maggie. The poor girl had a troubling past with Johnny, and who could blame her for wanting to turn from her ways and walk the straight-and-narrow road with a wealthy man?

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, but I absolutely adored the ending. I kind of knew what was coming, but had no idea how it would play out. To be honest, I was kind of on the fence about how I felt about the book, but the ending boosted my opinion about it.

This novella is a good length between a short story and novel, so one could devour this over a couple of sittings. It was fairly well-paced, though sometimes I felt stuck inside Maggie’s head too much, so there were a few times I wanted to see more action and less thought. I know the back-and-forth between past and present in Maggie’s head was important to develop the backstory, but I felt the ending (while awesome) was rushed in comparison.

The other complaint was at times I found the sentence structure a bit too choppy for my taste. It’s probably just a style preference for me. It was sometimes distracting from the story for me, but for others, could be a non-issue.

My final thought – you can tell Alyson really enjoyed writing this piece. I feel like she gave her heart and soul to Maggie, which may be why it’s so easy to root for her…she’s a beloved character in whom it must be fun to get lost while writing. And kudos for making Maggie a badass in a time when women were expected to be mild and polite. If you like crime stories, give this one a read!

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0841YR3ND/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_3KzqEb26XKFHF

Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48474724-maggie-of-my-heart

 

Many thanks to Kim for reading and reviewing my novella.

Strange Girls – Women in Horror Anthology

A shout out on Janine’s blog for the WiH anthology Strange Girls and for an upcoming interview with me coming soon.

Janine's Ghost Stories

Today I decided to simply type Women in Horror into the search function of Amazon and see what the first thing was that came up.

And it was this, Strange Girls, a Women in Horror Anthology which looks and sounds fantastic.

Here is what it says –

For fans of American Horror Story, Shirley Jackson, and Creepshow. You know them. Those girls that aren’t quite like everyone else. Those girls who stand out in the crowd. Those girls that dare to be different. Those girls are dangerous. In Strange Girls, twenty-one authors dare to tackle what makes the girls in this collection different. Vampires, selkies, murderous mermaids, succubus, and possessed dolls take center stage in these short stories that are sure to invoke feelings of quiet terror and uneasiness in the reader. Following the successful debut of Women in Horror anthology with My American Nightmare, Strange…

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