Events, Publication

Her Dark Voice

Her Dark Voice volume 2This July, the Her Dark Voice Vol 2 anthology will be unleashed.

A collection of horror shorts all penned by women, the anthology will be raising money for Breast Cancer Research.

The book will be launched at a special event as part of Edge Lit speculative fiction literary festival, held at The Quad in Derby on July 14th. The launch will include a number of readings by several of the book’s authors, and I will be reading from my story Rock-a-Bye.

Her Dark Voice Vol 2 is published by Quantum Corsets and edited by Theresa Derwin.


Sledge Lit and Me (Part 2)

Sledge-LitKick off by reading Sledge-Lit and Me (Part 1)

Following the morning’s panel discussion, I ran a workshop on Worldbuilding. The truth is, I could very easily write a year-long course on this, so squeezing it into a session of just under an hour was not an easy task.

Throwing in a group discussion exercise, and a writing exercise meant that I wasn’t able to time it perfectly, but I had a plan B up my sleeve in case I ran out of time, and a plan C in case my script fell short on time. Which it did. So I simply gave out the handouts I’d prepared, and we started going through the extra topics on that. I think it was pretty seamless.

Worldbuilding is something I can happily nerd out over completely, and this workshop allowed me to indulge that. It was exciting to share my passion, and to get other people excited over something I love. And best of all, as one of the attendees said, my “excitement was infectious”. I couldn’t ask for anything more, really.

All of the attendees were great: creative, engaged, and keen to get involved. I couldn’t have hoped for a better group. The atmosphere in that room was electric, and we all went out of there absolutely buzzing with inspiration and ideas.

The feedback I’ve had has been amazing, and made it all totally worthwhile. Really hope I get the opportunity to do more of this.

Edge-Lit 3 Workshop Feedback 1Edge-Lit 3 Workshop Feedback 2Edge-Lit 3 Workshop Feedback 3Edge-Lit 3 Workshop Feedback 4


Sledge-Lit and Me (Part 1)

Sledge-LitSaturday 25th November saw the third instalment of Sledge-Lit, the Christmas edition of Derby’s bi-annual science fiction, fantasy, and horror literary convention. I’ve been attending the events since 2014, but this one was my first time attending as a guest author.

The thing I’ve always found about these events, is that every single time I leave them I am filled with inspiration, enthusiasm, and ideas. And this summer’s Edge-Lit left me with an idea for a workshop. So I emailed Alex, who organises the events, nervously awaited a reply, and that was it, I was added to the line up.

Well, there was just one more thing.

Alex asked me if I’d like to also be on a panel discussion. I said yes straight away (well, straight after I got my husband to tell me to stop being so silly over it all). If I’d given myself time to think about it, I’d have probably wimped out. My whole background is in theatre, I practically grew up on the stage. But I have always, and still do, suffer from terrible stage fright. And there’s one huge difference between being on stage, and being on a panel. On a panel, I have to be myself. There’s no costume, no script, no character to hide behind.

To my great relief, I was sent the panel questions beforehand, giving me a chance to, in my own time, construct answers to them. I brought my prompt sheet with me, because my stage fright does tend to shut my brain down completely. Of course, what I couldn’t prepare for was when the questions were opened up to the audience.

Sledge-Lit 3 Panel Discussion

Although I was shaking the whole way through, I was put at total ease by both my co-panellists, and the audience, and I managed to coherently answer the questions thrown at me. That’s why I love these events: Edge-Lit is a small, tight-knit, friendly, and supportive community of people that only want to see each other succeed.

Now read Sledge-Lit and Me (Part 2), where I talk about my worldbuilding workshop.


The Best Thing I Got from Edge-Lit 6

Edge-LitEdge-Lit is Derby’s annual romp into the world of speculative fiction in the form of a fantastic and friendly literary convention. It also marks my annual escape into the world, and a day that I get to only think about me. My special day that I get to totally nerd out with other people who are nerdy about the same stuff as me. Wonderful.

As is the way with conventions that you’re a regular at, it gets easier, and more tempting, each year to simply sit in the bar chatting. But, for me, it’s all about finding a balance.

Edge-Lit offers some discussion panels, guest speakers, book launches, and workshops. And a goody bag, of course. So it would be amiss of me to spend the entire day simply chewing the fat. You see; balance. Because while some great stuff happens in the sessions, equally great stuff happens out of them too.

With the noted omission of some familiar faces, all the usual crowd were there, and it was so good to catch up with them. But I also made sure I caught a panel, a guest speaker, a book launch, and a couple of workshops. It’s just a shame Edge-Lit don’t have a cloning machine at the front desk, It would have been handy to have been able to be in two places at once.

Everyone talks about the ‘post con slump’ or ‘the comedown’, and it’s true. This one special day that you’ve planned for and looked forward to for ages is suddenly over and real life returns. Like Christmas. But there’s one very important, and very exciting thing that I always come away from Edge-Lit with. Ideas. Loads and loads of ideas.

Like I said, great stuff happens in the sessions, and I came out of those with pages and pages of notes, but great stuff happens out of them too. The networking. Everyone discussing projects, collaborations, opportunities. It’s brilliant. It’s inspiring. And those conversations have fuelled me with plans, and things to mull over, and motivation. That’s what I love about Edge-Lit; all the shiny new ideas.

Events, Reading, Writing

The Feminine Grotesque (Edge-Lit 5)

Edge-LitOn Saturday I was at Derby’s bi-annual speculative fiction event, Edge-Lit. This is my third year attending its summer instalment, and it was yet another fantastic event where I could be my usual book-nerdy self without judgement.

While I admittedly spent most of my time in the bar (everyone here pretty much knows everyone, so it means a lot of the day is spent shaking hands, hugging, catching up with friends, and getting introduced to people), I did go to a couple of very interesting panel discussions, book readings, and one workshop which I was very excited about.

The workshop was led by Maria Lewis, a journalist and author all the way from Australia. She was raised on werewolf stories, a love that became an obsession, and, according to her website, harbours the belief that unicorns exist. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t disagree with that. Her werewolf novel, ‘Who’s Afraid?’, is out now.

The feminine grotesque is a concept I’ve been fascinated with since I read Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Sexing the Cherry’ at university, sixteen years ago now. As Maria pointed out, if you think about female monsters (whether human, supernatural, or animal), they are usually presented with the usual Hollywood sex appeal we’re all force fed a diet of. Even while tearing someone’s throat out, or ripping them limb from limb, there’s something inherently attractive about them.

Of course, there are fantastic examples of the feminine grotesque; such as Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s ‘Misery’, the ghosts in ‘Crimson Peak’, or Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of The Red Queen (she excells at the feminine grotesque characters, such as in Sweeney Todd and Harry Potter), but we’re more often shown the combination of deadly and sexy, dangerous and alluring, cabalistic and intriguing.

The workshop really got me thinking about the creation of a true feminine grotesque, and inspired me to up the ante with characters from both my current works in progress: ‘The Visionary‘ (The Paper Duchess Book 3) and ‘The Memory Trader‘. So watch out for some truly fearsome women soon!

What are your favourite examples of the feminine grotesque?


Bristol Horror Con

Bristol Horror ConLast Saturday I was at Bristol Horror Con; an event to celebrate horror in literature, film, music, games and art.

It was a small, yet well organised and well attended event. The traders hall held everything from artists, authors, and publishers to jewellery and houseware designers, and zombie survival courses. Sadly, there were a few no-shows, and in such a tightly packed hall, the empty tables were a noticeable blot.

We couldn’t stay for the whole event, but I did some networking and attended two great panel discussions. I had a long and interesting chat with audio book producers In Ear Entertainment, and discussed which books are better or worse than their movies, and the indeniable excellence of Sharknado, with the guys from Sinister Horror Company.

The first panel I attended was The Use and Abuse of Horror in Literature led by Pete Sutton of Bristol Festival of Literature and Far Horizons e-magazine. He was joined by writer Mike Carey, author Sara Jayne Townsend, writer and games designer Jonathan L Howard, and copywriter Rosie Sharratt.

The panel sought first to define horror: “Horror takes you to psychological brinks, and makes you peer over” (PS), “The kind of horror that will get into your soul, and stay with you” (SJT). The panel also agreed that trends in the subject of horror media, reflected the trends in the over-riding fears of society: “You’re writing about things that scare you, or things that scare society” (SJT), “Horror’s useful for considering real life things” (RS).

The conversation came around to monsters, and the social fears that they represent: “Every horror monster that lasts, is the externalisation of something in us” (MC), “The horror comes from within” (SJT), and Rosie Sharratt defined the monstrous as being something “both threatening and inpure”.

And you can’t talk monsters without talking zombies, and their continued endurance in the horror sphere. Mike Carey summed their popularity up nicely by stating that “zombies are animals and corpses. They remind us of where we come from, and where we end up.” He also felt that we are “at peak zombie now”. This forces the question, can we do anything new with the zombie trope? But he felt that “the more familiar the tropes are, the easier it is to find a sneaky way in.” We’re seeing this in the rise of traditional monsters becoming romance heroes, or comedy characters: “There are so many things that use the horror tropes, that don’t define themselves as horror.” (MC)

When the panel opened up to questions, I asked what they felt may be the next trends in horror, in line with current societal fears. Pete Sutton wondered if immigration may become a new trend (the fear of ‘the other’, or ‘the stranger’ was a popular horror trope in the 1950s), or if the emerging trend of cosmic horror might expand along with increasing astronomical discoveries. Mike Carey wondered if genetic manipulation may expand as scientific experimentation continues on this path. This brings us back to zombies again. And Sara Jayne Townsend wondered if the sheer amount of information that is available on us, publicly, via the internet, may become a horror trend.

The second panel was Gore Vs Psychological Terror: Is less more in horror? led by Ti Singh of the Bristol Bad Film Club. He was joined by Mark Adams of Hellbound Media, writer Thomas David Parker, and writer Ken Shinn.

Thomas David Parker felt that “the fashion today is more psychological, more the slow burn” because “it’s very easy to do gore badly, and then it’s ridiculous.” He thought that, to work well, gore had to be transforming for the victim, to signify that “this is the point of no return.”

Ti Singh felt that the ‘less is more’ approach worked in horror, stating “it’s what you think you see, or what you think is going on, that’s where the fear is”, and that “it’s not about the violence itself, but the threat of violence, and the waiting for violence.” A lot of films work to build tension by breaking down tropes and expectations. By not putting the frights in when viewers would expect them, by leaving them waiting, leaving them wrong-footed.

Mark Adams found that modern horror was seeing a return to fantasy, that franchises were “building their own mythology.” The panel felt that this was due to the current societal situation, that “the darker the world is, the more fantastical the horror has to be, so that we have that escapism.” (TDP)