DEAR LAURA long listed in the preliminary ballot for the 2019 Bram Stoker Awards

Dear Laura has made the preliminary ballot of the 2019 Stoker AwardsI can hardly believe I’m typing this, but I glanced at my phone yesterday to see a veritable storm of notifications and found, to my utmost joy, that my book DEAR LAURA has made the preliminary ballot for the prestigious 2019 Bram Stoker Awards. It’s listed in the category ‘Superior Achievement in a First Novel’, and if that isn’t something to get printed on a t-shirt and wear around town, I don’t know what is!

The Stokers have been around almost as long as I have, and have become the gold standard for horror writing. To see my name on a list alongside titans like Malerman, Nevill, Tremblay, Ari Aster, Mike Flanagan, Neil Gaiman and Chuck Wendig is bonkers, quite frankly, and I’ll be floating high for weeks as a result of this.

DEAR LAURA being balloted is no guarantee of a win of a Stoker Award, but it does make me glad that I took a punt on the impulse I had to tell Laura’s story and not wait to shop it around to agents or publishers, (novellas are a notoriously hard sell anyway). I like that I had full freedom with Laura and I could present her in a way that I felt did her justice. Even if my little books gets no further in the process, being listed alongside my idols and peers in this way is just fantastic, and a wonderful way to start 2020!

The shortlisted books are announced in February, so fingers crossed for me, gang! In the meantime, if any Active or Lifetime HWA members out there would like to get a copy of DEAR LAURA to read ahead of the shortlist vote, please contact me and I’ll sort one out for you.

And to everyone who has bought, read and reviewed the book so far, and the HWA members who nominated it for the Longlist- THANK YOU!!

You can buy DEAR LAURA HERE.

See the full Preliminary Ballot here

12 Indie and Horror Authors you should be reading in 2019 

Hello! Over on Twitter, it’s #FollowFriday, a weekly game of digital tag that can be a jolly nice way to meet new people and discover new audiences, especially for indie horror authors like me with actual peanuts for a marketing budget. Word of mouth being the most valuable currency of all, the practice of lifting other authors up and singing their praises is one I wholeheartedly agree with. So with that in mind, here’s a short list of some amazing horror writers- some indie, some small press, some big news, all awesome- so that you can buy their books and support them online. I’m proud to be part of this community, the most welcoming, supportive, inclusive and generally brilliant bunch of people in existence. 

A list of indie horror authors to inhale right now

Without further preamble, here she goes:

Kealan Patrick Burke- stories that pack a punch  

we live inside your eyes, by indie horror author Kealan Patrick BurkeKealan Patrick Burke, aka the gentleman of horror fiction, has an impressive collection of books to his name and doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon, thank goodness. 

The thing about Burke’s writing is that he doesn’t mess about. His prose comes at you like bullets fired from a gun: rapid and deadly. An example of this is Sour Candy, his novella about a man who reluctantly adopts a strange young boy. It’s an extremely good illustration of an uncompromising, ‘buckle-up-and-read-bitches’ approach to writing that’ll sweep you off your feet within the first three paragraphs. 

His latest collection is called We Live Inside Your Eyes, and Cemetery Dance wrote a glowing review of it that you can read here. He does have a propensity to take his shirt off every now and then over on Instagram, but I think we can forgive him the odd selfie in exchange for all those lovely books. 

Gabino Iglesias- fighting for indie authors everywhere

Gabino is everywhere these days, and in a very good way. Need a signal boost for your latest book? He’s there. Need someone to fight your corner against trolls, racists, sexists and the like? He’s there. Need a panel speaker with guts and pathos? Yep, Gabino is there. The guy needs a superhero outfit pronto, and also happens to write amazing fiction. Coyote Songs has been on my to-read list for ages, and according to Sci-Fi and Scary, this barrio noir “is a stunning example of a mosaic horror/crime novel that pulls the reader through vastly different, yet similar, experiences.” Go check out his work- you won’t regret it. 

S.H. Cooper – wholesome horror with a heart

Cooper will probably murder me for tagging her with the ‘wholesome horror’ badge, but it’s what she has become known and loved for. A hugely popular writer on the NoSleep subreddit, with tales like ‘The Rosie Hour’ getting legions of fans, she also writes stories for the NoSleep Podcast, which I also write for, and as such is like family. We work together as co-writers for our horror comedy podcast Calling Darkness, which also features Kate Siegel from The Haunting of Hill House, so there’s that too. Whip-smart and a prolific writer, she is currently working on a few novels. You can buy her latest story collection, From Twisted Roots, on amazon.

John F. D. Taff- the ‘King of Pain’

Twice Stoker-nominated, John is a much loved presence on Twitter and his new book, metaphysical apocalyptic serial The Fearing, is making waves already. A recent, extremely fascinating podcast interview on Inkheist reveals the book was seven years in the making. I’d recommend setting aside some time to listen to John talk about his creative process and many literary influences- a green author (like me) can learn a hell of a lot by doing so. 

Check out his website now. 

Gwendolyn Kiste- iconic woman in horror 

When I grow up, I want to be Gwendolyn Kiste. There, I said it. With fifty-six works to her name on Goodreads, accolades heaped to the sky and a string of awards for her beguiling, haunting fiction, Gwendolyn is the writer I aspire to be. One of the hardest working writers in the game, her new book, The Invention of Ghosts, is out soon from Nightscape Press. I will be buying it. 

Sisters of Slaughter- sisters in life and art

What is not to love about a pair of kickass women in horror who also happen to be twins, banging out Stoker-nominated books and doing it with enormous style? Nothing, is what. I am in awe of anyone who manages to collaborate on a writing project, particularly where family is involved. I mean I love my sisters, but I’d rather pull each one of my hairs out individually with blunt tweezers than write a book with any of them. Michelle and Melissa’s first novel, Mayan Blue, won them a coveted Bram Stoker nom, and they haven’t looked back since. Both were interviewed by Gwedolyn Kiste over on her website, so go check it out. They also speak about their books as their ‘children’, which I adore, because books are babies, precious, precious babies, and should be treated as such. 

Chad Lutzke- dark novellas with a heart

Chad Lutzke is one of those authors who keeps himself insanely busy yet always manages to find the time to interact with other writers, support them and generally act as a champion in the community. He is a highly regarded and much-loved author of dark and twisted fiction, and his new book, The Same Deep Water as You, is described as “a parent-less indie yarn with a dark heart”. You can even buy a bookmark of him, for heaven’s sake, that’s how cherished he is. 

Lutzke has just revamped his 2015 story collection Night as a Catalyst, with four new stories and reworked tales, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Tim Meyer interviewed Lutzke over on his website, a read that is well worth saving for your coffee break. 

Linsey Knerl-  freelance writer and business maven 

A fellow content writer as well as an author of dark fiction, like me, Linsey’s new novel, as yet untitled, is coming out in 2020 from Giles Press, which makes us publishing house buddies, and I couldn’t be happier about it! She has a sparkling social media presence and oodles of nous, and I can’t wait to read her work when it comes out next year. She also has one of those trendy blue tick thingies after her name, which I will have to twist her arm about if I ever get the chance- oh, for the coveted blue tick! Find out more on her website

V Castro- lantinx, feminist vampire icons? Yes please 

V is a passionate woman with a passionate story to tell: she writes of the marginalised, the abused, the disenfranchised and the neglected, telling tales of immigration, vampirism and corruption from a mexicana perspective. She also writes dark erotica, if you fancy getting hot under the collar. I’ve met V in person, and adore her to bits: shes an indie horror author with real class. Check out her website here, and buy her book, Maria The Wanted and The Legacy of The Keepers, on amazon. 

Christopher Buehlman- pedigree horror and fantasy

Chris is a horror novelist traditionally published with Penguin Random House, a Bridport Prize winner for his poetry, and a World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson Award finalist. I mean come on, do you need anymore credentials? His debut novel Those Across the River is on my to-read list based purely on the synopsis, which pits an old plantation against small-town drama, and that, my friends, is the finest type of strawberry jam to me. He’s also a thoroughly nice chap to boot, and one I enjoy interacting with. Oh, one last thing- Chris is involved in writing for Shudder’s upcoming TV project Creepshow, and if that isn’t exciting enough for you, then I give up, quite frankly. 

Ania Ahlborn- nightmare architect extraordinaire 

I swoon a lot over Ania, who seems to have effortlessly captured the hearts of the horror community with such grace and aplomb that I would be green with envy if I wasn’t so in awe of her talent. Ahlborn began as a purely self-published author (read more on this here) and has since been picked up by Simon and Schuster. If you See Her, a novel about tragedy, grief, memories and a haunted house, is out now. Ania also runs writing workshops, which I have been keeping my beady eye on, and bootcamps in partnership with Litreactor, giving her talent and knowledge back to the community in an invaluable way. Anyone new to the writing community and horror landscape should start by following and reading Ahlborn’s work. 

Georgina Bruce 

I find it very hard not to call Georgina by her twitter handle Wonko, but for the sake of professionalism I shall try. Bruce’s debut short story collection, This House of Wounds, is published by Undertow Books and available on amazon. Publisher’s Weekly says: “Bruce’s knack for ethereal tales that cut straight to the core of what it means to be a human (and specifically a woman) will delight readers who enjoy a smattering of the supernatural and blurred edges of reality.” And that is what I am here for: real women, real stories, real nightmares, glorious prose. More on her work, her reviews and general musings on her website, here. 

And with that, ladies and germs, I’m out. Enjoy this list, enjoy all the new books you’ve now got to read, and enjoy your weekend!

Writers and Twitter: how to get noticed for all the right reasons (and not be a dick)

writers and twitter: how the twain should meetHere’s the thing: I joined Twitter many, many years ago, and never really got the hang of it. The site seemed rather cryptic and pointless, and the concept was lost on me. I was always a fan of long, emotive ramblings online, so short and random strings of characters, a seemingly complicated interface and a distinct absence of my personal friends on the platform were the final nails in the coffin- in those days, we all used to enjoy hanging out on Facebook, or *GASP* in real life places, like the pub (oh, how times have changed).

So my little Twitter account lay neglected and abandoned in the back of my priority list until roughly one year ago, when this humble indie author decided she needed to put her marketing nous into play and invest a bit more time on social media in her writer capacity.

And in doing so, I have learned two things:

  • Twitter for writers can be a marvellous, rewarding place that helps you to sell books, build brand awareness and become part of a wonderful, friendly and supportive community
  • Twitter is also full of people who, quite frankly, need to read this blog post.

I don’t say this out of arrogance. I still have a long way to go to to be an ‘influencer’, whatever that is. But I say this in a state of sheer frustration as I observe behaviour in others that makes me want to curl up in a cringe ball and die. These people tend to be repeat offenders, too, the social media equivalent to repeatedly trying to jam a square peg into a round hole, only to eventually mutilate the hole so much the peg eventually fits- the end result being a highly uncomfortable experience for everyone involved.

So here, dear readers, are my heart-felt tips to help you ‘win’ at Twitter instead of being THAT PERSON.

Practical Tips for Authors on how to succeed at Twitter

  1. Stop trying to sell your book.

Tips for writers on TwitterI know, right? Rubbish marketing advice, straight from the outset. Pfft, what kind of Author are you if you aren’t trying to sell your own stuff?

Well, here’s the thing. From experience, people are much, much more likely to buy your book if they have first bought into you who are as a person.

Let’s use the pub as an analogy, as I like the pub.

Let’s imagine you’re in the pub, sat next to a roaring fire, sipping the finest ale, lovely warm dog curled at your feet, and all of your friends are sitting around you, laughing, joking, having the very best of times.

A stranger approaches. They look friendly. ‘Mind if I sit here?’ they say.

‘Sure,’ you reply, because, you’re a friendly person too. The stranger sits, and smiles at you.

You open your mouth to ask them what their name is, and try to get to know them. Before you can get even one word out, the stranger leans forward, whips a copy of their new book out of a pocket on the inside lining of their jacket, and starts beating you around the face with it.

‘BUY MY BOOK!’ the stranger screeches, over and over again. ‘BUY IT! JUST BUY IT! BOOK! BUY MY BOOK!’

Your friends sit, horrified, as the stranger beats you unconscious with their latest literary offering and then leaves, disgruntled, because guess what: you didn’t buy the book.

Then, you never hear from them again.

This has happened to me multiple times in the Twittersphere. Aggressive, boring and sometimes maniacal self-promotion. That person has no interest in me, only how much money I spend buying their shit.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use Twitter to try and sell your latest novel, collection, anthology, whatever.

Now, let’s imagine this differently. The same person approaches you in the pub. They sit, and you chat for a while. During the course of conversation, you learn things about each other. Chatting is fun, humorous. Other people get involved in the conversation. By the end of the evening, you have both had fun.

And guess what? You just put the stranger’s book into your shopping cart. Because the chances are, if you enjoyed conversation with them that much, you might enjoy their writing. Might- this is no guarantee of an enjoyable book-reading experience, but you are a damn sight more likely to give it a go as a result.

So, in short, don’t be a dick about selling your book. Relax, connect with like-minded writers and readers and enthusiasts, get involved in conversations, have fun, tag each other in silly twitter challenges, share GIFS, and ALSO promote your book, in a friendly, non-aggressive way.

It’s worked a lot better for me so far than the other method.

2. Stop hijacking other writer’s tweets to sell your own shit (unless they ask you to)

Hijacking other's tweets is just not cool. Oh, man, I hate this one.

So let’s go back to the pub. You’re in the pub, and your friends have asked you about your latest book. So, you start talking about it. ‘Okay, since you asked, this is my book,’ you say, ‘And this is….’

Without warning, a stranger jumps up from nowhere, whips a copy of their book out from that inside jacket pocket, leaps in front of you, and starts waving their own book around.


Now, there is a time and a place for posting links to your own works on someone else’s tweets. And that is when a person has SPECIFICALLY ASKED YOU TO DO SO.

Like this:



He’s trying to announce the launch of his new book guys! DON’T POST ABOUT YOUR OWN GRAND WORKS OF FICTION IN THE COMMENTS THEN!

So we clear? Good. Use a little common sense, feel the mood, figure out when it is appropriate to post about your stuff on other’s tweets. DON’T hijack another person’s tweet to promote your own shit unless they have specifically asked you to do so.

3. Stop sending female Authors pictures of your junk

Seriously, stop it. If I wanted to see those parts of your anatomy that you are clearly proud of, there are websites where I could no doubt look for it, or another tiny penis clones exactly like it.

I’m not interested.

And no, I don’t want to hear about your stinky foot fetish either. Piss off.

I’m not changing my profile picture to something gender-neutral to avoid perverts, either.

Come on, guys.

4. Use Direct Messaging responsibly

This is a continuation of the post above. Unfortunately, unless I have interacted with you in some way, or you have a genuine query, writing proposal or are answering a question directly, I’m unlikely to answer out of the blue messages asking me personal questions. My writer twitter account is professional, I treat it like a more casual version of LinkedIn, really. I do not answer personal questions via DM unless I feel that I know and trust that person. Think about what you send people before you hit that send button. Is it a question you can ask that person out in public? Is it really necessary? What is your agenda?

5. If you don’t like something, DON’T TAG THE AUTHOR IN YOUR CRITIQUE

I mean, come on.

Let’s work this into the pub analogy, once more.

So, you’re in the pub, and you’re talking about the latest Stephen King book. And, let’s say, for the sake of the visualisation, that you aren’t a big fan, you’re disappointed, it didn’t float your boat, whatever.

In the old days, when this happened, people kept these discussions where they belonged: IN THE PUB. Or, they posted an honest review to their website, blog, a book review site, whatever. There was no expectation that the author would see this review, but if they did, it was something they had control over. Choose to read, or not.

And guess what? If Stephen King were ever to one day physically walk into that pub, not a single person would rush up to him immediately to tell him how much they hated his latest work.

Not a single person, unless that person were truly awful.

They would probably swallow that opinion, smile, shake his hand, and maybe talk about, to his face, the stuff they DID like. Or just maintain a polite silence. After all, no one is saying we all have to like the same stuff, and that’s cool and fair.

And everyone came out of the encounter happy.

THIS DOESN’T MEAN YOU CANNOT HAVE AN OPINION. Opinions and critiques are what makes creators better at their craft.


Writers do not want to wake up in the morning and find themselves tagged in a tweet like this:

‘@Writerdude’s latest book is the pits. Can’t believe I wasted my money on this rubbish tbh. This book sux’

This is the online equivalent to opening your door on a sunny morning only to find a rude, belligerent person standing there holding your latest book and saying ‘I came here to tell you this was shit.’

I mean, really…what am I supposed to do with that? Oh, wait! Let me rush indoors and rewrite my entire novel to accommodate this opinion: that it’s a bit shit. Phew, thanks for that- you’ve saved me from a career filled with mediocrity and failure.

This goes for all creations really, not just books- films, art, whatever. And, sadly, it’s really common these days, and after a while, it probably becomes like water off a duck’s back, and ninety percent of these miserable tweets will get lost in the twittersphere anyway.

But, still, just to be clear on Twitter etiquette: this is not okay behaviour. It is rude, and disrespectful. And totally unnecessary. Why do you think you have a right to bring your opinions to this person’s attention in this way? You don’t.

And the absolute worst thing is that I have seen WRITERS DOING THIS TO OTHER WRITERS.

I mean, come on, my dudes.

If you wouldn’t say it to a person in real-life, face to face, then you probably shouldn’t say it to them on Twitter.

Don’t tag creators in your shit-shoving rants about their work.

6. Support other writers, authors and creators.

support other creators on twitter This is how we end: on a positive note. Support other writers in your space. They are not the competition, they are part of the same wonderful creative community that you belong to. Promote their stuff, leave a review, alert your own followers to their promotions, get involved. Help spread the word, organically, lovingly, without malice.

Those creators will, in turn, do the same with you and your work.

Over and out, Twitterers. I’m off to the pub.

Listen to the prologue to my new novel White Pines

Twenty years ago, the town of White Pines vanished into thin air, taking each and every one of the 1,346 inhabitants with it. Now, journalist Megan Douglas is on a crusade to find out exactly what happened, and how. Her journey will take her on a nightmarish tour of the surreal, the impossible, and the terrifying, whilst all around, the pine trees watch everything. 

Click on the media player above to hear me narrate the prologue to my forthcoming novel White Pines

Women in horror: what’s going on?

Women get it worse in horror films. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

Before you start sighing and rolling your eyes, here’s a thing: I don’t identify as a feminist. Sure, I know I’m female, and I staunchly and firmly believe in equality, but I find the idea of feminism a bit nuanced and tricky for me to comfortably pledge my allegiance without thinking about it carefully, so I prefer to just continue trying to do my bit to ensure society is non-divisive and doesn’t discriminate or make anyone feel like shit, regardless of colour, gender, sexuality, mental or physical state. And that means looking at women in horror, who, by and large (in my view at least), still seem to get the short end of the bloody straw.

That being said, as a woman, particularly a woman who writes horror, I am naturally and no doubt subconsciously more sensitive to certain things where other women are involved, and one of those things is this: women DEFINITELY pull the short straw when it comes to horror. I’m talking that old-hat trope ‘The Final Girl’, and why I struggle with it as a concept.

Final Girl Syndrome

Bear with me and I’ll elaborate. Please note: I do not possess a handbag, and I am not clobbering anyone with it. And I watch a LOT of horror.

So I’m sick. I’m lying in bed surrounded by the debris of a cold: snotty tissues, various electronic devices, empty cups piling up around me. I’m treating myself to a well deserved horror and crime movie binge, because nothing makes you feel less like dying yourself than watching the pain and suffering of others (caveat: pain and suffering of fictional characters only.)

the snowman movie copyright cineworld

The Snowman, image courtesy of Cineworld

First on the list is The Snowman. This is for a few reasons: I adore norwegian and scandi noir, I adore Michael Fassbender (most of the time, Assassin’s Creed was proper shite) and I adore Jo Nesbo’s writing. It’s one of those films I consider a crime/horror/thriller hybrid, the best type, in my humble opinion.

But. I am twenty minutes in, and so far, one woman has been dissected and is laying in pieces in a snowbank, one woman has been beaten, raped and drowned herself, and another five are missing. So I take a break, and start thinking about how common a motif this is: a serial killer on the loose, doing awful and unspeakable things to a large number of females in an attempt to exorcise some childhood abuse and neglect.

I’ve even been guilty of using this exact same device in an old novel I worked hard on before I abandoned it: a serial killer on the loose in Vietnam, collecting hair samples and drowning young, nubile girls, left, right and centre. Sure, he got his just desserts in the end- at the hands of the female protagonist, of course- but that’s not the point. Wasn’t there something else I could have written about? Why not a string of men lying dead in bathtubs and ponds and lakes and swimming pools? Where are the female serial killers? We have a few- Misery (all hail Kathy Bates) and Monster spring to mind- I also wrote about Ellie, featured in my last post- but it just feels like we don’t ever seemed to get bored of the idea of men with mummy issues slashing their way through ranks of unsuspecting women.


the descent- a high victim count image courtesy of Just watch

Don’t get too attached to this bunch

In my mind, it’s a common misconception that ‘the final girl’ is a representation of women performing better in the survival stakes in scary movies. For every ‘final girl’ in every slasher film, there is a trail of other ‘unfinal girls’ who were not so lucky. Usual body counts for these things seem to average at around four to five corpses, mostly female, before the final girl makes it out alive. Take, as evidence: The Descent, any of the Scream franchise, The Silence of the Lambs, I could go on.

These women are ‘ass-kickers’, apparently. And, yes, there is a strong trend for strong women in many of these films (hello Sigourney Weaver, my hero) but from what I can see, the majority of Final Girls who survive the average B-movie mostly just get lucky, fate being the only reason they escape with only a life-time of PTSD ahead of them to look forward to.

And then take Wolf Creek, which I won’t watch again, because it offends even me a bit too much (it takes a fair bit to offend me). The Final Girl in this film is actually a Final Guy– yet we all know which famous real-life murder case this film is loosely based on, and we all know that the real life survivor was actually female. Why was it so difficult to translate this to film? Is it somehow more believable that the man survives and the woman does not? Is this down to purely practical reasoning- we’re smaller, weaker, therefore more easy to overcome?

Finding a new purpose in horror fiction- a woman who isn’t a victim

I’ll tell you why this bothers me all of a sudden.

I’m sitting here thinking about my next story, which features a woman who is being stalked by a man. Now, this happens, and I know it happens. What I do not know is where the story should go next.

My first instinct about my current stalker story was thus: the stalker is a serial killer, and he has chosen our protagonist as his next victim, along the lines of The Fall- which again, has a familiar menu of helpless female victims on offer, mediated by a few token male victims, one survivor and Gillian Anderson as a deliberately masculine character.

I stop, mid-sentence, about to type up the discovery of my first innocent female corpse.

I just can’t, anymore.

Why it matters to me- we want to survive

At this point, I should also confess something.

About five years ago I was attacked from behind and aggressively mugged by two masked men, who stole my handbag (this is why I don’t have one anymore), but not before punching me multiple times in the head and then some, and running away. I escaped- physically- with some bruises, a swollen face and a few nice new ring marks tattooed onto my nose. Mentally, I didn’t do so well.

While it was happening, I froze. I didn’t fight back. I rolled up into a ball, screamed like a child, and accepted I could do nothing. I was furious with myself for years afterwards until a very clever victim support counsellor told me that it was, in fact, okay to do nothing- because this is sometimes how we survive. They could have been carrying knives. They could have done much worse than run off with a cheap fake leather bag and a second-hand smartphone.

So here’s the rub- this made me, in that moment in time, the weaker of the two sexes. And yes, I can see why it is a recurring theme in horror and crime- the female victim. It is actually harder for a lot of us to fight back than I’d like to admit.

But it still pisses me off. The imaginary me would have kicked and punched and fought like a tiger. The imaginary me wanted to give as good as I got, and the real me wants to see more of the imaginary me surviving in horror films, not being a victim.

edward woodward getting it in The Wicker Man

Sorry, Edward. But it made for a great movie.

So I start thinking about the movies where the male lead/ leads die, and how- and I know how this will sounds, but still- I think about how they are always such good films. Wicker Man. Gerald’s Game. Saw. Cabin in the Woods. The Shining. Many of them were genre-inspiring and pioneering in their own way. All of them have made it onto ‘top 10’ lists and whatnot.

I’m still stuck as to what to do with my story, my female protagonist and her mysterious stalker. But I know this- she won’t be a victim. Not on my watch.

Women in horror: victims no more? I’m not convinced.