My review of Stephanie Ellis’ horror novella Bottled…

The gorgeous cover is by Kealen Patrick Burke and Bottled is published by Silver Shamrock in e book and as a paperback.

 

5/5 stars

This is an atmospheric slow build, a quiet horror with many layers which peel away to reveal the nightmare at its heart. It has an original idea too, one I’ve not come across before – of the ‘impossible bottles’ rather like those ones we stared at as kids with the tiny ships trapped inside. However these bottles – an army of them- lying around Tyler’s granddad’s creepy old house- contain a myriad of miniature scenes, entire worlds and figures. Uncork one at your peril. Already we can tell these bottles are not merely pretty and decorative but rather more sinister.

Tyler, our lead guy, whose eyes we see the tale unfold through, inherits the house where on visits as a child, his granddad and the hideous housekeeper, Mrs Waites, tortured and beat him, but also tried to teach him a unique skill. He has terrible memories of the house but if he wants the money he has to spend a night there or wait a year to collect. His ex-wife has her own agenda, and Tyler has a son, Paul, who he feels huge guilt towards as he’s been an absentee and alcoholic father. So though we the reader are screaming ‘No! Don’t spend the night in the weird sinister house!’ off Tyler goes and does just that.

There are other themes enriching the supernatural horror drive of this novella – an exploration of how alcohol has destroyed Tyler and how broken fatherless families and the subsequent guilt lead to lifelong problems which bleed through the generations. This makes Tyler a more rounded and interesting figure.

The house is another leading character in the narrative, not behaving internally or externally as houses should and throwing up roomfuls of secrets and nasty tests.

Then there are the bottles, which are everywhere. What are they? Who makes them? What do they contain? I won’t give anything away here to spoil your discovery. But they certainly don’t all contain the whiskey Tyler drinks to blot out his past.

The final denouement I found to be quite horrific and very well envisaged. There are also powerful scenes in the house’s garden where Tyler learns another piece of the puzzle and in the cellar – which is one room we know he should never have ventured into.

None of this ends well of course, you wouldn’t expect otherwise so be prepared for that.

This is an entertaining, atmospheric, slow build horror but with scenes of intensity and dread but it is also one man’s journey into his past and coming to terms with his demons.

Can I also give a shout out for the gorgeous cover by artist Kealen Patrick Burke which perfectly captures the heart of the story.

I received an E-ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Lovely review of Maggie of my Heart…

Mandy Huggins’s Reviews > Maggie Of My Heart

Maggie Of My Heart by Alyson Faye

Read
My rating:
Maggie Of My Heart
by

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Mandy Huggins‘s review

Jan 22, 2020
it was amazing


This gorgeous slice of noir would make a wonderful TV drama. A tautly-paced page-turner that demands to be read in one sitting. With pitch-perfect writing, and each character a gem, Maggie of My Heart draws you into its gritty world and doesn’t let you go until the last page. Maggie is a wonderful character, strong and yet vulnerable, a woman who has escaped a life of crime and sleaze only to have it rear its ugly head again in the form of her erstwhile lover, Johnny. I was rooting for her every step of the way with my heart in my mouth.

Bottled by Stephanie Ellis

A review of Stephanie Ellis’ novella from Silver Shamrock Bottled, out now to buy in paperback or e book-my review is yet to come – for Horror Tree.

Mediadrome

Disclosure:
I received an Advance Reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. They give me no money, nor do they in any way influence my thoughts – those are 100% my own for better or worse. A great big thank you to Ken McKinley at Silver Shamrock!

Synopisis (from the publisher): The house was his, an unwanted and unwelcome inheritance. As a child, Tyler Torrence spent many miserable hours beneath its roof, hating his grandfather and the man’s housekeeper, Mrs. Waites. His only escape during those visits had been via the impossible bottles created by his granddad; bottles holding miniature worlds in which he could lose himself for hours.

Sometimes however, he sensed something else living in the house and in the bottles and when he returned home, he took the nightmares with him. Now an adult, Tyler decides one last visit can do…

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I have a story in the charity anthology Burning Love and… from Australian publisher Things in the Well…

The official announcement has been made on social media and the TOC has been released so I can post it here;

I am proud to say I have a 1200 word story in this charity anthology – Fallen Angel[

“We are excited to announce the first round of acceptances for inclusion in Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts. This is our charity anthology to raise funds for the Australian bushfire victims… All sale proceeds will be donated to the Australian Red Cross and matched dollar-for-dollar by Microsoft (up to $50k) as part of their Giving campaign.”

Below is a sneak preview of the cover

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and here are the pre-order links:-

There is an amazing range of talent contributing with names I am so proud to share a TOC with:-

This isn’t the complete line up, but so far the authors and stories announced are:-

Erik Hofstatter ~ “Tender Whisper on a Crimson Tongue”
Kurt Newton ~ “Honeymoon Lodge”, “Bloom”, “The Rose Room”
Susan Snyder ~ “When He Comes”
Janis Butler Holm ~ “Abduction Again”
Russell Hemmel ~ “Orchid, Squirrel, White Hot Star”, “Lover Song, Mantis Instinct”
Joshua Strnad ~ “A Receipt”
William Falo ~ “Broken Crows”
Bruce Meyer ~ “Invisible Boy”
Miguela Considine ~ “Oldstones”
Lynne Lumsden Green ~ “Smoke Signals”
Kevin David Anderson ~ “Damaged”
Liam Hogan ~ “A Ballet of Blood and Flames”
Kevin J. Kennedy ~ “Edible Panties”
Matthew R. Davis ~ “The ballad of Elvis O’Malley”
Alyson Faye ~ “Fallen Angel”
Sara Tantlinger ~ “Fermented fatalities”, “Incisions”, “Or Something”, “Polluted”
E. E. King ~ “DNA”
James S. Dorr ~ “A Saint Valentine’s Day Tale”
Ronnie Smart ~ “Doris”
A J Collins ~ “Valentine’s Volunteer”
Josh Dygert ~ “King Cupie”
Anthony Ferguson ~ “One from the Heart”
John Grant ~ “The Music of the Heart”
Sarah Doebereiner ~ “Melody in the Dark”
Steve Dillon ~ “Cleaning up the Act”

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This is Horror site mentions one of my interviews with Alison Littlewood in their top 5 must read articles today…

https://www.thisishorror.co.uk/5-must-read-horror-articles-20-january-2020/

5 Must Read Horror Articles 20 January 2020

True-Terror-Robert-Englund-Tv-Show-Travel-Channel

Welcome to Must Read Horror, where we search the internet for the best horror articles of the week so you don’t have to. Without further ado:

Collated by Kev Harrison

A talented horror writer in his own right.

I can recommend his Short Sharp Shocks, cover pic below, which I’ve read, with its hints of The Wicker Man. Only 99p to buy.

 

This is a first for me, getting this shout out on This is Horror and I’m delighted that my piece got circulated wider and recognised, as the readership for This is Horror is high.

It is a really useful blog to follow and keep up with- if you write dark fiction you should follow it.

My interview with horror writer Alison Littlewood is up on Horror Tree site today…

https://horrortree.com/horror-tree-presents-an-interview-with-alison-littlewood/

Here’s the opener where she talks about her early days and the importance of public libraries which are so under threat…

Interview questions for Alison Littlewood put by Alyson Faye

I recently met up with Alison Littlewood at the UK Ghost Story Festival at the Derby Quad, where she was on the panels and talking about her latest novel, the seasonal chiller, Mistletoe. I’ve been reading Alison’s fiction for over 8-9 years now, and remember her début thriller, A Cold Season, coming out in 2012 and being prominently displayed in all the W. H. Smiths, as a Richard and Judy Book Club recommendation. I’d been following Alison’s short stories in magazines like Black Static as well and downloading them onto my Kindle, like Fogbound From 5 (published 2011). So, I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed.

 

Q:- Hello Alison. Could we start off by you telling us something about yourself, please?

Hello! I’m a writer of fiction, of the dark and often a little weird variety. I live in Yorkshire with my partner and two dogs in an old and wonky house, am slightly obsessed with fountain pens and other assorted stationery, have a growing collection of books on weird history and folklore, and am alarmingly attached to semicolons.

Q:- What were your favourite books/authors growing up? And how important was visiting the local library to you?

I read anything and everything growing up! I started off with a huge love of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. I cried buckets over The Little Mermaid, but loved it even more because it could make me cry. Then came years of Enid Blyton and Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Later I read really widely, though I used to borrow all my brother’s Stephen King books and discovered James Herbert too.

The local library was really important to me. I still remember weekly trips with my mother. There was a huge old world map printed on the wall in the children’s section, and it felt like that – being let loose into a whole world of stories…

Maggie of my heart by Alyson Faye

A great review of my 1940’s set crime novella Maggie of my Heart published by Demain, Thank you to Bookish’s Janice for reading/reviewing it.

Bookish

This novella was an engrossing easy read. Our heroine, Maggie, is trapped in an abusive relationship with her ‘pimp’ of a boyfriend, the sleazy Johnny. The pair of grifters con and blackmail unsuspecting men, until one of their scams goes awry and ends in murder. Maggie escapes from this life into a well-heeled marriage with an older, gentle, wealthy man who she adores. All seems to be going fine, until her past comes back to haunt her and she is once again facing the terror of her old flame and his diabolical schemes.

It is a slick story, with believable, well fleshed-out characters. I would like to read more of Ms. Faye’s work … oh, and she hails from Norwich (close to where I live!).

The story is entered into the 2020 Readers Choice Awards contest by TCK Publishing. Read it and vote over here on page 9 of the…

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One of my poems is going to be translated into Russian for this antho…and I have my first drabble accepted by Black Hare Press…

 

Got a poem (The Witch Tree) coming in this Russian language anthology- thanks to Stephanie Ellis for telling me about this one.

It’s from Horrorscope- editor/publisher Oleg Hasanov.Image may contain: cloud, text, outdoor and nature

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The 24 hours left is a reference to their submissions window – here’s the link https://www.blackharepress.com/submissions/

Black Hare are well worth checking out, as they have several anthologies, (paid and non paid) that they are looking for stories for.

This anthology will get both a print and digital release.

 

Interview with Raffie Julien, one of the stars of the ghost story show, Upon the Stair written by Adam Z.Robinson…

I saw this show in Halifax this weekend and was blown away by the performance of the deaf actress/dancer Raffie Julien and how she ‘told’ -using dance, expressive BSL integrated into the performance- the trio of ghost stories and their characters. Here’s an interview with her:-

https://limpingchicken.com/2020/01/14/upon-the-stair-a-chilling-theatre-production-coming-soon-to-salisbury-and-harrogate/

The Book of Darkness & Light in association with Little Mighty have launched their latest production, Upon the Stair. A thrilling Gothic show, it tells the tale of three lost souls bound by a cursed book using only three performers.

The production uses a combination of storytelling, live music and integrated BSL. I spoke to Raffie Julien who is the only deaf actor and BSL user in the show to find out what makes Upon the Stair unmissable!

Hi Raffie! Upon the Stair sure does look like a chilling trio of tales. So what’s the whole production about? How is it unique compared to previous productions you may have worked on?

This show is about The Storyteller, The Shade & The Musician who are forever bound to a book full of horror stories. They have no choice but to tell the stories to the world. The Storyteller is hearing and speaks in English, The Shade is Deaf and signs in BSL and VV, The Musician plays violin music in the most beautiful, nightmarish style.

We bring these three languages together and bring the stories to life so it not only sounds scary, but it creates scary visual images from the book too.

This is something completely new for me. Usually I’ve been in bigger productions before and this one has only three of us on stage. I have the main role and as the Shade I have to play multiple characters in the three ghost stories, using BSL, VV and placements which is something I haven’t done before and it definitely has been the biggest challenge I have ever faced.

Also, I have the huge responsibility to make sure that when I perform, my BSL is clear to the deaf audience because there are no captions. No pressure, eh?

You will see only me performing the whole show in BSL & VV, there are no captions as I think we want to give that flavour of how it is in the real world – for Deaf & Hearing.

Who wrote the production and what was it inspired by? Can you tell us about the creatives involved too?

Adam Robinson wrote the show and he was simply inspired by working with an interpreter on his previous show, SHIVERS. He had a thought in his mind of how visual BSL is and especially because his stories are quite scary. He then linked that to BSL and thought how great it would be to have a deaf actor in the show to make it more accessible for deaf people too. So, why not!

He consulted and worked with Jeni Draper (Fingersmiths) and Deaf actor EJ Raymond on an early research and development process and, later on, with Brian Duffy as a consultant. During rehearsals, me, Duffy and Adam Bassett (BSL consultants) read and translated the script and we helped make some adjustments to make it more clear and accessible for the Deaf audience.

It has been amazing working with all the creatives, I loved working with Duffy & Adam Bassett they have taught me so much on how to perform and create pictures VV materials!

Chloe Hayward (the violinist) has been so patient working with us and teaching each other, finding out what sounds I can pick up on and what would work well in the show as well as for the audience.

Working with Adam Robinson & Dick Bonham (the director) has been just so lovely, they are so open minded, they understand the high importance of working with the Deaf community and how it is so important to have access for them in the show. I have really enjoyed working with this wonderful company.

Do you have any memorable moments from your time working on the show?

There was this one moment where we was going through the third story, which is the biggest one. Going through the script, I stopped dead in my tracks, and realised something wasn’t quite right with the placement of the room in the house in the story. I realised that the placement of the whole story was the wrong way round! Which meant we had to start again from the top and turn the whole house around to the right way for the audience!

I notice there’s a violinist in the show, how have you guys worked to ensure the music is also accessible for a deaf audience? Have there been any challenges or discoveries in regards to access?

We have had a chat about this and I brought up the fact that some Deaf people like to feel the bass. We will also be using other things too such as lights for special effects for the scare as well as feeling the bass from the violin music. We’ve been working with a sound designer with this stuff in mind, too.

How are you feeling about the forthcoming shows?

I am quite nervous but I believe that this show will open up a lot of eyes and it will be amazing since I have a huge amount of support behind me.

I’m aware the age for the audience is set at 14+ is this because of how frightening it is? What can audience members expect to feel/see when they see the show?

These ghost stories are quite scary if you are easily spooked. And also with it being quite visual too you can very easily be drawn into the story and start to create unthinkable images in your mind, I know I did when I first watched one of the interpreters, telling me the stories in the first week of rehearsals. There are few shocking moments too…

Please do come and watch the show or I promise you, you will be missing out on an amazing experience of the scares we have created for you!

My interview with Alison Littlewood is up today on Kendall Reviews:-

https://kendallreviews.com/guest-interview-alyson-faye-interviews-alison-littlewood/

Here’s the opening few questions:-

Alison Littlewood

Interviewed By Alyson Faye

I recently met up with Alison Littlewood at the UK Ghost Story Festival at the Derby Quad, where she was on the panels and talking about her latest novel, the seasonal chiller, Mistletoe.

KR: You can read Alyson’s review for Misteltoe HERE

I’ve been reading Alison’s fiction for over 8-9 years now, and remember her début thriller, A Cold Season, coming out in 2012 and being prominently displayed in all the W. H. Smiths, as a Richard and Judy Book Club recommendation.

I’d been following Alison’s short stories in magazines like Black Static as well and downloading them like Fogbound.

So, I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed.

Q:- Hello Alison. Could we start off by you telling us something about yourself, please?

Hello! I’m a writer of fiction, of the dark and often a little weird variety. I live in Yorkshire with my partner and two dogs in an old and wonky house, am slightly obsessed with fountain pens and other assorted stationery, have a growing collection of books on weird history and folklore.

Q:- What were your favourite books/authors growing up? And how important was visiting the local library to you?

(Alison and other writers had discussed the importance of libraries during the Derby festival).

I read anything and everything growing up! I started off with a huge love of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. I cried buckets over The Little Mermaid, but loved it even more because it could make me cry. Then came years of Enid Blyton and Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Later I read really widely, though I used to borrow all my brother’s Stephen King books and discovered James Herbert too.

The local library was really important to me. I still remember weekly trips with my mother. There was a huge old world map printed on the wall in the children’s section, and it felt like that – being let loose into a whole world of stories.