Till the Score is Paid by Gemma Amor is out NOW!

Gemma Amor’s new illustrated short story collection Till the Score is Paid available now

cover image for till the score is paid

Cover art by Mark Pelham

Happy Book Birthday to me! I’m delighted to share that my new book, Till the Score is Paid, written by me (Gemma Amor) is out now from Giles Press.

BUY TTSP NOW

We’re doing things a little differently this time, so pay attention:

Special Hand-Numbered Edition

The special, hand-numbered First Printing Edition of this book is available from the Giles Press website, here. There are only 50 copies available of this first edition, so it’s an idea to get your order in quickly, before they run out. 

If you can’t get a hold of one of these, fear not! The book will shortly be available on Amazon as a paperback and ebook/kindle version as well. I’ll update this post, and my social media, when I have that link. 

Revenge, retribution, and redemption

The theme for this collection is one my readers will be familiar with- good old-fashioned revenge. Each story blends some element of retribution or redemption with horror, and as with Cruel Works of Nature, I have hand-illustrated a plate for each tale too. 

Emotionally, however, Till the Score is Paid digs deeper than Cruel Works did. I went on a bit of a journey, and I explored some far more challenging (and upsetting) themes that may be difficult for some of you to read. With this in mind, I have included some trigger warnings in the foreword of the book. The stories Justine and The Strangler in particular were difficult to write, but I hope I have done right by the themes explored within.  

The official blurb is as follows:

 “Till the Score is Paid is Gemma Amor’s follow-up collection to 2018’s critically acclaimed Cruel Works of Nature. This collection deals with:

  • Lost dogs
  • Mountain streams
  • Halloween costumes
  • Mysterious gravediggers
  • Locked basements
  • Hiking with friends
  • Daddy-daughter dates
  • Strange prisons
  • Birthday cakes
  • Cultists

. . . and so much more. With her signature flair of emotional horror, Amor forces readers to accept the fact that sometimes the monster lurking under the bed is, in fact, someone we know.”

As usual, you may have encountered some of these stories if you listen to the excellent horror-anthology podcast, The NoSleep Podcast. Others are coming out soon: keep an eye out for them!

Don’t forget to leave a review!

As always, I am eternally grateful for those of you who take the time to review my work. Those of you with advanced reader copies (thank you for putting up with the typos!) can now drop a review if you wish on Goodreads. Those of you purchasing the finished product- you are also welcome to review on Goodreads, or on the amazon page once this goes live- amazon reviews in particular can make a large difference to a book’s online visibility. 

Reviews are so important for indie authors and publishers alike, so any rating or recommendation you can provide at all would be massively appreciated. 

Finally, if anyone would like to chat about interviews or features, please get in touch or email me with your enquiry

Much love,

Gemma 

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!

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.

Hmm.

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.

The Little Man- read and listen here

I like weekends. Why? For two reasons.

One: I get to eat buttered toast in bed (if I ask my husband nicely, that is, or forcefully bribe him with cinnamon buns).

Two: the No Sleep Podcast releases a new episode for me to sink my teeth into. Oh, how I hunger for those RSS feed announcements. Mmmmmm. RSS feed. Mmmmm. 

Anyway, in my last post I spoke about my story ‘His Life’s Work’, which was produced by the very talented No Sleep team. They took my little pile of words and turned it into something marvellous: a living, breathing piece of work with AMAZING sound effects, particularly if you enjoy listening to a grown man gratuitously vomiting all over himself. Mmm, vomit. Mmmmmmm.

This week, it was the turn of my campfire story ‘The Little Man‘, released on Episode 13 of Season 10

Again, this is exclusive Season Pass content, but honestly- what else are you going to spend your money on? Beer? Shoes? Food? Why would any sane person do that, when the alternative is so much better? Who wouldn’t want over two hours of rich, immersive, fully produced audio fiction, pouring into your ear-holes and trickling into your cerebral cortex like molten honey? I ask you. In fact, I shouldn’t have to ask you! Tut tut. 

Anyway, this story was born of the No Sleep’s book group writing prompt, a regular challenge with a different theme each month to write around. 

With this story, I wanted to subvert the traditional ‘campfire tales’ approach, and make it more about the nature of friendship than about marshmallows or strange scrabbling noises outside the tent door. 

Hearing something I’ve written in real, spoken form is teaching me to be a better writer. I’ve learned that my preambles are too lengthy, and my carefully crafted descriptive prose sounds a lot more like carefully crafted descriptive waffle than I realised. I tried to work on both these issues with the story I wrote next (details coming soon), and I’m much happier with the end result.

Anyway, if you want to read the original version of ‘The Little Man’, simply click on the image above for a link to the PDF. Don’t forget to leave me your feedback, good, or bad, or even leave me a review on my Facebook page– it all helps me to gain traction!

Until next we meet, dear reader. Mmmmmmm. 

 

 

His Life’s Work- read it here

As per my last post, I thought I’d put a written version of ‘His Life’s Work’ up here for you to enjoy. 

Hi's Life's Work, a short horror story by Gemma Amor

Meet Mr. Halo, an aged scientist on a mission to finish His Life’s Work. Be warned, though-  he may want to make you a part of his experiment…

This story was recently picked up and produced by the No Sleep Podcast, something which I’m still pinching myself about vigorously. You can hear the excellent production here, on the Season Pass version of the podcast episode.

I have an long abiding fascination with alternate realities, doors, gateways and things that might exist beyond. Have a read, and don’t forget that I love feedback, so please do contact me with your thoughts. 

His Life’s Work- now out on the NoSleep Podcast

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I did promise myself I was going to start submitting work this year instead of writing it, obsessively polishing and re-editing it, and then putting it in a dark corner of my hard drive to rot and wither. Once a story goes there, it’s done for- I just can’t bear to pick it up again once I’ve consigned it to the shadows. A careful sweep of my computer will bear sad fruit: countless abandoned novels, poems and characters, starved of attention, doomed to live out their days in a half-finished state, through no fault of their own. I’m just not a natural finisher of things. I am a beginner, but not a finisher.   

Anyway, I decided enough was enough. It was time to finish something, finish anything, and send it off, no matter how shit I thought it was. Published work that is imperfect is a lot better than near-perfect, unpublished work. 

And, so far, so good. I wrote a short story about a mad scientist, submitted it to an audio fiction podcast that I love called The No Sleep Podcast, and… they accepted it! You can find ‘His Life’s Work’ here on their website, although it is worth saying that you’ll need to buy the Episode to hear it, as it’s part of the Season Pass deal. It’s easy enough to click that ‘buy full episode button’, and it’s only $1.50 for over two and a half hours of awesome content, so go on, treat yourself. 

So, yes, that happened. When I got the email, I blinked, quite a few times. Surely this isn’t supposed to happen? Surely that should have said, ‘Thank you for your submission, but…’

But no, no mistake. Before I knew it it was edited, cast, recorded, produced and released. The excitement that hit me when release day grew close was unbelievable. Something I made, out there in the public domain for others to hear, and hopefully, enjoy. Or not. Again, who cares? It’s out there! I am published! I have transitioned! 

Perhaps it’s beginner’s luck, but honestly, who cares if it is. The podcast in question is one of my most favourite things in the cosmos right now. No Sleep has been producing superior quality, award-winning horror fiction in audio form for some years, and honestly, there’s very little else like it in podcast land. I’m an avid subscriber, have purchased all the season passes, and pretty much spend all my spare time plugged into the latest episode, so it feels incredible to have a story of mine accepted by the show. 

I’ll publish ‘His Life’s Work’ in written format in a separate post shortly. In the meantime, listen, support the show, and please help to turn me into a better writer with your feedback. 

Also, watch this space…there may be more productions to come! Onwards!

Why do we love horror stories?

What’s wrong with me- why do I love to be scared?

As a writer of horror stories, I don’t spend as much time as I should thinking about why I love horror fiction as much as I do. I tend to spend my time focusing instead on the mechanics of horror: the characters, the plot, and the gory details.

But there is nothing more thrilling to me than a tale that makes my flesh creep. What does that say about me? Does this make me a scary person? Someone to worry about? Am I going to translate my tastes over into other areas of my life? Start collecting human heads or trapping people in my basement (I don’t have a basement) or working on an inter-dimensional portal to the seventh circle of hell?

In short, no. Just because I enthuse about it, doesn’t mean I want to live it. It all comes down to one thing, ultimately: escapism. 

Horror fiction: escapism for all and sundry

When I was a kid, I, like many other teenagers in the nineties, fell headlong into the Point Horror craze that swept the nation, nay the globe, for many of my formative years as an adolescent. They were glossy books with brilliant cover designs that would make my heart skip a beat when I saw a new one I hadn’t yet devoured. They were easy to read, and therefore accessible, opening up a world of evil boyfriends, stalkers, neighbours and other paranormal beings, vulnerable teenagers who made questionable life choices, unexpected endings, drama, passion…everything a hormonally-driven fourteen year old could hope for. 

Ultimately, my desires when it comes to fiction, and reading in general, haven’t changed much. I still love a good old-fashioned yarn. A story with all the right elements: a well-rounded lead protagonist, a cast of engaging support characters, a threat or danger of some sort, action, chemistry…I want my adrenal glands to thump in response to the events on the page. I want to escape into an uncertain world, fraught with peril. Horror is the perfect genre for ticking off this fiction wish-list: it deals with serious topics, human topics, things like death, loss, transformation. Who here has never experienced fear? Not a one of you, I’ll bet. We’ve all been scared, and we all remember how it felt, how it really felt when your heart banged double-time in your chest and your hands began to sweat and your head began to pound, when your mouth went dry and you could suddenly smell the sour odour of your own sweat. 

And I think fear is something to be celebrated. It makes us who we are: human in the sense that everyone has something that makes them scared in a unique manner that is wholly personal to them.

As an illustration: I asked my Facebook friends what their worst fear was, as an ideas-generator for my next story, and the response was overwhelming: everything from being lost in space, to the death of a loved one, to cows, clowns, dolls, cheese, abandoned buildings…you name it, someone was scared of it.

 

The responses to my post was like a kaleidoscope of emotion: spanning from the tragic, to the sublime, to the ridiculous. 

what scares you 2

The cows? Turns out lots of people are afraid of cows:

what scares you 3

I think it’s healthy to be afraid, for fun, every now and then. It’s healthy if fear doesn’t feature as part of your daily routine, that is.

What are you scared of? I’d love to hear…let me know!