Reviews of the Sweet Dreams anthology and my story R.I.P.

The first couple of reviews for the Sweet Dreams anthology have been published on Amazon, both of which mention my story R.I.P.

 

 

 

 

A collection of unique tales by some very talented authors that will leave your mind wondering at possibilities. My favorites tales were the waking hour and R.I.P, which one’s will be your favorites I wonder.

 

This one is Chastity H. King’s Review of ‘Sweet Dreams’


For her horror anthology ‘Sweet Dreams’, J. L. Lane has selected some of the best short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. Although brought together under a common theme, these tidbits of terror are as diverse as the authors who wrote them. Whether you are looking for some new stories from authors you know and love, or new ones to fall in love with, your search is over. This anthology has something for anyone who loves horror fiction.

A great novel is like meeting someone, going for drinks, then dinner, learning about them over the course of a few months, maybe longer, and hoping it will turn out the way you want. A great short story is meeting someone, skipping the drinks, sharing a passionate kiss in some dark corner and walking away with no time for expectations, just excitement and pure adrenaline. These pages pull you into that corner, kiss you deep, and leave you wanting more.

This book snagged me from the start with Kitty Kane’s Souldrop: A town of terror. This is a story about a journalist whos’ gruesome actions lead her down a road to her unexpected destiny. A little farther along I was delighted to find a wonderfully morbid story by J. L. Lane herself. ‘Waking Hour’ is a nightmare of such intensity that you find yourself questioning which is the dream and which is reality. I was thrown from one dreamland to the next, delving deeper as I went and loving every minute of it. I mean everyone likes to be scared sometimes, right? If you do like getting scared and are wondering if this book is enough to do it, just read this passage from G.H. Finn’s ‘R.I.P.’: I’ll open you up don’t be afraid, just feel the kiss of the edge of my blade.

So, get your copy of ‘Sweet Dreams’, lock your doors, check all the lights are in proper working order, and be ready to go without sleep for the night

Sweet Dreams on Amazon UK

Sweet Dreams on Amazon US

Shirley Jackson: US Queen of Gothic Horror

 Shirley Jackson in 1951
Shirley Jackson in 1951

Ignored by critics during her lifetime, the Haunting of Hill House author is now recognised as a great American novelist – by Sarah Hughes


Reblogged from The Guardian : https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/22/shirley-jackson-america-queen-gothic-noir


She has been cited as an inspiration by Stephen King, Donna Tartt, Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris.
Now the American author Shirley Jackson, once memorably described as writing “not with a pen but a broomstick”, is set for a long overdue reappraisal on this side of the Atlantic.

This week sees the release of a new biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, swiftly followed by a graphic novel version of her most famous short story, The Lottery, illustrated by her grandson, Miles Hyman, and the publication of Dark Tales, a collection of her most chilling short stories. And the revival does not stop there: next year will see a film of her book We Have Always Lived In The Castle, with rising stars Taissa Farmiga and Alexandra Daddario, alongside Sebastian Stan and Crispin Glover.

It would be easy to attribute this sudden flurry of interest to the fact that 2016 marks the centenary of Jackson’s birth – she died in 1965 from heart failure at the age of 48 following a period of heavy drinking and a growing dependence on painkillers – but, while that plays an important part, there are other more interesting factors at work.

“One of the most striking things is how relevant both her writing and her life seem today,” says Ruth Franklin, author of A Rather Haunted Life. “There’s something timeless about her work. It doesn’t feel particularly of its era – there’s no sign that the stories are taking place in the 50s and the sensibility feels modern.”

Indeed, Jackson increasingly looks like an author ahead of her time. In addition to building up a reputation as the queen of gothic horror with unnerving spine-tinglers such as The Haunting of Hill House, she also turned her hand to nonfiction, writing essays about her life bringing up four children, running a household and ensuring everything ran smoothly for her husband, a literary critic and academic whom she ferried to work each day, fitting her writing around his schedule. Their light-hearted, sardonic tone feels almost like the 50s equivalent of today’s popular mummy blogs.

[Photo – Julie Harris and Richard Johnson in “The Haunting”, the 1963 British adaptation of “The Haunting of Hill House”]

“She received all these letters from fans asking how she coped and saying that they were too exhausted after doing the housework to write – I call them her ‘I don’t know how she does it notes,’” says Franklin. “She would write back cheerful replies saying ‘do less housework, write more’, but of course the real answer wasn’t so cheery: she was refuelling on amphetamines and tranquillisers.”

Robert Weil, editor-in-chief of publishers Liveright, believes Jackson was largely ignored by the predominantly male literary establishment of the 50s and 60s because of her looks. “I stand by my belief that if Patricia Highsmith and Shirley Jackson had looked like Sylvia Plath they would never have been condemned to the margins,” he says. “There’s this sense that people don’t take Jackson seriously at the time because she’s viewed as a dumpy, overweight housewife.”

Nor did it help that Jackson’s subject matter was so exclusively female. “You can count the number of male protagonists on one hand,” says Franklin. “Her work is almost exclusively focused on women and women’s lives and when her work came out the majority of book reviews were mainly by men. They either didn’t get what she was doing or didn’t regard the stories of women as important.”

Nor did it help that Jackson’s most famous fiction saw her condemned as a “mere” horror writer. “It’s so often a problem that people condemn certain genres as not literature,” says Weil. “Patricia Highsmith was described even in the late 90s as a ‘mystery gal’, Ursula Le Guin has argued for years about the need to treat science fiction as literature. Jackson was packed away as a horror writer and that allowed people to dismiss the work.”

There is also a slipperiness to Jackson’s writing that can make her work hard to categorise. US novelist Jonathan Lethem has described her as “one of this century’s most luminous and strange American writers”, and her best writing trades on ambiguity making you unsure as to what really happened and why.

The Lottery, published in 1948, tells the story of a murderous ritual in a New England village, and was described by the New Yorker as “probably the most controversial story [the magazine] has ever published”. It lends itself to interpretation – Jackson herself at various times claimed it was about antisemitism, parochialism, a reflection of the ugliness of society and a play on ancient mythological tropes – and its influence can be seen from The Wicker Man to The Hunger Games.

In an era when domestic noir reigns at the publishing houses and our thirst for dark tales of women under threat rages unabated, Jackson’s ability to unnerve strikes a chord. “There’s a whole new appreciation today of what it means to be a mother and a writer and how to reconcile those two things,” says Franklin. “We’re also more interested in the lives of women and that in turn has led to a revival of interest in Jackson’s work. I honestly feel as though she’s one of those authors who’s been in the background for a long time, yet has a huge influence on American fiction, and it’s only now that we’re beginning to see how important she is.”

A Rather Haunted Life is published by Liveright on 25 October, £25; Dark Tales (Penguin Classics, £9.99), is out now

Reviews for “Wild Things”

A few reviews of Wild Things, the horror anthology that features my story Santa Marimbondo, published by Black Shuck Books.

 

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Wild Things Cover

Black Shuck BooksWild Things – Thirteen Tales Of Therianthropy (anthology), edited by Steve J Shaw,  published in the UK by Black Shuck Books, an imprint of Great British Horror Books.

Link to Wild Things on Amazon UK or if you are in the US Wild Things on Amazon.com

Steve J Shaw’s website Great British Horror

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Santa Marimbondo/Wild Things – Book review

A very nice review of both the anthology Wild Things and of my story Santa Marimbondo (highlighted in red below).

Wild Things – Book review

reblogged from:

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http://www.britishfantasysociety.org/

Wild Things Edited by Steve J Shaw, 2015, Black Shuck Books, Website, p/b £8.99

 Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

There could be no better celebration for a publishing house named after a spectral hound than to produce an anthology of therianthropy or humans changing into other beasties.

This reviewer will admit to an appreciation of short stories as they are an ideal tool in taking the tedium out of commuting. I no longer have to submit to the vagaries of public transport but the habit has stuck, along with the shortened attention span.

Be warned this book is not for bed-time reading. Do not under any circumstance read any of these stories before you switch off the light to go to sleep. Each has its well-fabricated terrors which could easily come back to bite you during the night. As it was I read most of it with an aging cat snoozing on my lap in the sure knowledge that she has ambitions, as yet frustrated, to become human and relate at length the injustice of nature that made me a man and her a cat.

There are stories of werewolves, sure. But also were-birds, a were-centipede and were-pretty, little dogs. For myself, and I recognise that the whole point of anthologies is that there is something in them for all tastes, the best is Rachel Halsall’s `Hunting’. A powerful story of difference, cruelty and identity built around the silkies or selkies, those mythological creatures, part-man and part-seal who are said to inhabit the North Sea. Are they a memory of those hunter-gatherers in Mesolithic times who drowned on Doggerland when the last of the ice melted? A hidden portion of my or our collective unconscious?

There are thirteen stories of which all contain quality writing with plots to a high standard.

`Fish’ by Anna Taborska is a well-executed, ironic tale of the unfortunate outcome of mistaken identity involving a puffer fish. It contains a strong moral message.

`Confession’ by Christopher Law is almost a shape-changer in itself. It starts out as a fairly mundane tale involving familiar clichés when it is actually about a man who finds he can turn into a bird of prey. The story goes wild as our hero becomes a junkie who eats children – mmm, delicious – as he yearns to be free from his ravening hunger!

`Scruffy Dog’ by D S Ullery is a delightfully whimsical story about a little stray dog. We have been conditioned to see were-wolves as horrific creatures of the night, only this one isn’t. Or is it?

`Hunting’ by Rachel Halsall is a wonderful tale which is to be recommended. It pulls no punches as sea creatures are hunted down by men for their meat and for the purpose of sex-slavery. The heroine is a child trapped between her human and selkie origins. It contains some excellent writing and is a challenging experience. Take it and enjoy!

`A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing’ by Darrel Duckworth is a humorous tale of lycanthropy in modern dress. Are all company boardrooms populated by were-wolves and wizards? In this case the wizard gets it wrong as he relied upon an ancient archive rather than the scientific method.

`The Shape of Nothingness’ by Scott Shoyer assures us that a shape-changer is immortal, so he fears being dead. If a sexual partner falls in love with him sufficiently to fear losing him then he involuntarily turns into a monster and eats them. Then he comes across another woman he quite fancies, but she is an immortal too!

`The Fragility of Flesh’ by Laura Mauro is a strong narrative of a poor kid, badly bullied at school who no longer wants to be seen by anyone so becomes something else.

`Golden Moments’ by James Park also introduces an immortal woman with the dietary habits of a praying mantis. For a price she traps a man who lusts for her fleshly attributes. This is an exotic tale of revenge eaten in the best way possible.

`Leydra’s Maiden’ by Kelda Crich tells us of Matilda, a housekeeper on the make who can become a crow. She seeks the hand of her employer whilst slowly poisoning his wife. Leydra is an aspect of the Great Goddess who sees all and knows all. This is an ingenious story about the outing of wickedness that draws upon our deeper nature.

`Santa Marimbondo’ by G H Finn is about an anthropologist in Brazil researching the cult of Santa Muerte or St Death, a version of the Grim Reaper. Then a peasant tells her about Santa Marimbondo, a demonic wasp that has to leave its eggs in a human host to develop. This is an excellent plot set out to induce an exquisite sequence of tensions.

`Centipede’ by Helen Catten-Prugl returns us to the poor kid bullied in school. Only this one has the ability to turn into a centipede to eat babies, policemen and, in a fit of jealous anger, the girl he fancies. I think I prefer it when they just turn up with a gun.

`The Change’ by Callum Chalmers tells the story of a man with a secret shame. Every Thursday he has to get home early before he turns into an animal. This is a wonderfully detailed account of a man forced to hide his true nature for fear of being ridiculed.

`The Were-Dwarf’ by Johnny Mains is about what can happened when a height-challenged disc-jockey is attacked by a were-wolf. This develops into a hilarious tale of a bizarre celebrity trying to manage an insane condition. The denouement is quite superb. Read it!