The vapor wafting from the stagnant pool smelled like the rancid rot from inside a carcass. Mark felt he breathed in fire. The gooey surface boiled and foamed as if a prehistoric substance. His heart stopped as something emerged. A goopy and gnarled dome became a sickly face. The eyelids still closed, the rest of the form rose, covered in green.
A tattered dress clung to the feminine curves. The cloth slipped from the shoulders, drawing his attention to her skin. The texture made him gag.
A sour taste of bile filled his mouth. His skin contracted as he contemplated her spongy flesh. Her black eyes sprang open like a demonic doll’s. Her inhuman gaze stabbed his very core, and he knew he was facing a soul-less being. The eyes burned like hot stove burners.
A decomposing hand extended toward his throat.
Expected Publication: November 20th, 2018 Genre: Mature YA Horror/ Paranormal Published by: Unnerving Press
About ‘Fountain Dead’
Mark isn’t exactly thrilled that him and his younger sister have to follow their parents to the tiny town of Winona and make a fresh start in a creepy house, but he doesn’t have much say in the matter. And his parents don’t seem to notice that strange things are happening in their new home – they just don’t want to see it.
As the pull of the ancient house drags him in, Mark has much more physical things to think about, romantic things, and this only seems to intensify the supernatural goings on. But he’ll soon realise that the past never really leaves and that everything is connected like bricks in a wall, or hearts that beat as one. The secrets of Fountain Dead are about to be discovered, don’t you want to see?
Fountain Dead is a novel that will have you gripped from the outset. In the beginning I have to admit I was afraid that the time jump between the 1980’s and the 1860’s would be jumbled and confusing but it wasn’t, it actually kept the story fresh. There are plenty of underlying themes in the story that are often overlooked in a lot of genres, even horror, and the switch between the Emma’s point of view and Mark’s, added another layer to this dissection of gender and sexuality.
Fountain Dead is a multi-faceted story of past and present, history repeating on itself, and the outliers who break social norms to feel like themselves. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some genuinely scary and creepy scenes in the book either. Mixing historical fiction, haunted house, paranormal romance, and great character building, I thoroughly enjoyed Emma and Mark’s journey and was rooting for them til the very end. I would recommend this book for readers of all ages, but at least 15-16 and up as there are some steamy scenes in there.
Theresa Braun is an American author of Horror fiction who, when she isn’t writing her own stories, teaches English and shares her love and passion for literature with her students. In her spare time she also enjoys painting, photography, and even ghost hunting. Theresa has many nooks and stories under her belt and thinks you should totally check them out.
So, it’s that time of year again – NaNoWriMo 2018! Or, as my boyfriend thinks it’s called, WriterReeno. Currently at the end of the 6th day and as is my custom, I am yet to hit my daily word count. According to my average I’ll be done some time in February next year so… let’s look forward to that! But I’m fine with not hitting the word count for a number of reasons and despite all this talk about ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo and all the merchandise they sell so you can prove it – it’s not actually about winning.
What is NaNoWriMo?
For anyone who doesn’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual event that stands for National Novel Writing Month and it runs for the thirty days of November. In those thirty days, the general idea is to write 1,667 words every single day to arrive at 50,000 on the last day – which is the generally accepted minimum number that a piece of fiction needs to reach in order to be classed as a novel. The site includes pep talks from famous writers, a community globally and also local write-in events where you can meet writers in your area, and a lot of the money raised through donations and merchandise sales goes to fund programs for young writers. Simples!
My Own Experience With NaNoWriMo
The site is great in that your account keeps all your stats and you can track your progress over the years. When I joined in 2015, I’d had a novel in my head for years already and NaNoWriMo was exactly what I needed. I had the story, the plot the characters, beginning, middle, and end – I just couldn’t force myself to get it down on paper. Using Nano, I wrote my first 27,000 words in one month. It was incredible to me. Not only did I get more written than I had ever done before, but it also proved to me that the story was actually big enough to stretch a novel, that the story was deep enough to carry right through to the end. And now, in 2018, that novel is fully drafted, almost edited, and I will soon be sending it out to query. I didn’t get the 50k but I still feel like I won.
My next attempt was 2016. I only logged in recently and discovered that I had apparently written another 20k of something I didn’t recall in the slightest. It only hit me the other day that I had had a lightning strike of an idea, an idea so unique it was going to take the fiction world by storm. I was going to be an overnight billionaire to rival Stephen King and all I had to do was get it all worked out. EXCEPT… I wrote this in November 2016 and any Netflix enthusiast will tell you that December of 2016 was the release of a new, and unique series called ‘The OA’. That was my idea, I shit you not. I had never heard of it, my idea was that a girl who had been missing showed back up suddenly, wouldn’t tell anyone where she had been, wanted to go back where she had been and she had numbers all over her body? Why the numbers? That was how many times she had been killed by her sick science experiment captor and brought back to life of course! Fucking heart broken I was and this is exactly why you shouldn’t hang around with ideas – YOU WILL REGRET IT!
My current NaNoWriMo project, as seen above, is a new idea that recently hit me so if it shows up on Netflix next month I’m just gonna walk into the sea and call it a day. It’s only the bare bones of a story so I don’t expect to get anywhere near 50k but it’s the first big chunk that really tells you whether it’s even worth spending time on. And if it turns out to be a short story instead – still worth it!
Why NaNoWriMo Gets So Much Sh*t Every Year
There are people out there just looking for things to complain about. People who have to find something wrong with everything, people who see a ray of sunshine and instead of basking in it, tell you they’re blinded and UV rays give you cancer. And every year there are tweets and posts and blogs written on why NaNoWriMo is a waste of time or why you’ll only produce crap during November if you sign up for it. Some of these people may have good intentions but a lot of them are elitist and ‘traditional’ writers who think that isolating yourself and slogging away for months at a time is the only pure way to write.
Set Your Own Goals
It’s not too late to sign up, but if you want to wait til next year just remember to see it as an exercise, as something that will help you get words on paper. Use it as a tool, whether it’s the looming deadline, the daily reminders, or the community that helps you along – you can use all of these things to meet your own goal. Screw the 50k if that’s not what you want! You can use NaNoWriMo to edit a collection of short stories or fill up your repertoire of poetry if you want. It is what you make of it. Even if you only write 100 words, that’s still 100 more than if you didn’t start!
So, don’t shit on things that other people are enjoying just because you don’t want to participate. Let people do their own thing, and you worry about your own. And yes, before you ask, writing this was totally procrastination from hitting my NaNoWriMo word count – deal with it!
“For months, the nightmares of battling the sea would find him in the small hours. Fighting wave after wave, he struggled to keep afloa “For months, the nightmares of battling the sea would find him in the small hours. Fighting wave after wave, he struggled to keep afloat as the undertow pulled him away from the land. In the deep ocean, he’d surrender and beneath the water, he went.
His lungs would flood.
He wouldn’t die.” Sea Ate Nine, ‘The Sea Was a Fair Master’ by Calvin Demmer t as the undertow pulled him away from the land. In the deep ocean, he’d surrender and beneath the water, he went.
His lungs would flood.
He wouldn’t die.” Sea Ate Nine, ‘The Sea Was a Fair Master’ by Calvin Demmer
‘Connection. Disconnection. Loneliness. Love. Friendship. Murder. These are but a few of the elements of great horror, and Calvin Demmer expertly blends each one into his fiction – to a supremely devastating and unsettling effect.’ – Gwendolyn Kiste
From the dark depths of the ocean to the love of an android’s heart, you can expect a lot from Calvin Demmer’s latest collection The Sea Was a Fair Master. Offering a generous collection of 23 dark fiction stories, all short but none of them sweet, you will definitely find a story in this book that resonates with you. Despite what the title might imply, there are only a few stories in the collection centered around the sea so if you aren’t into nautical terrors never fear – there’s plenty in this collection for everyone. The overarching theme of this collection, in my opinion, would have to be darkness. I feel like the sea as in the title of the collection captures this pretty well, but the stories in it also get at the darkness in humanity and explore the possibilities there in a chilling and honest way as well.
The strengths of The Sea Was a Fair Master, and Demmer’s writing in general, are his creative focal points and unique ideas. He comes at stories from an angle you aren’t expecting and this can make what would otherwise be considered mundane, a surprising and exciting twist. His stories open doors into the darkness inside us that we all like to ignore, and point out how easy it is to do just that, to believe that we could never be persuaded to commit crimes or harm ourselves. If you were looking for renewed faith in humanity, I think you picked up the wrong book.
The stories that stood out for me were ‘The Snakes or The Humans’ with it’s chilling and yet lovely ending, and ‘Underneath’ with it’s complete and satisfying ending – I would have even liked to see this in a longer version that expanded more on the characters and motives.
What Was Missing
I have to say I did find some of the stories a little confusing. When it comes to very short fiction it can be hard to fit all the needed details in and a couple of stories just didn’t quite get it all in there for me. I was left wondering where the twist came from, re-reading to see if I missed something or if it was supposed to be that ambiguous.
I would recommend this collection for anyone looking for fresh dark fiction, not just horror, but suspense, crime, sci-fi – it has it all. They are short reads so you can fit them in anywhere and still feel satisfied with the stories.
About the Author
Calvin Demmer is a dark fiction author from South Africa. When he’s not writing he’s studying the night and the sciences of the universe. You can find him online at calvindemmer.com and follow him on Twitter here.
Do you have any sea centered stories of horror? What is it about the dark depths of the ocean that sets our imaginations ablaze? Do we need more dark fiction that captures the endless unknown of the sea? Let me know down below.
If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact!
In case you’ve been living in an underground cave that doesn’t even have basic amenities like WiFi or even just in rural Ireland, you’ve heard of the newest rendition of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘, now blowing up Netflix. Directed by Mike Flanagan, who has also done Hush, Oculus and Gerald’s Game to name a few of my favourites, this is the latest attempt at bringing Jackson’s story of dread and unease to the visual stage, but it is not the first. In 1963 Robert Wise directed ‘The Haunting’, and in 1999, under the same name, Jan de Bont released his version. Both of these movies stick to the basic premise of the original novel with some minor changes, while the new Netflix original series has created it’s own fresh narrative. So why has the story of Hill House survived for almost 60 years? And why is it routinely recognised by the likes of Stephen King and many others as the greatest haunted house story ever written?
Basic Premise –
The story of Hill House begins with Dr. Montague, a psychologist who rents the infamous Hill House in the hopes of documenting scientific evidence of the supernatural. To do this, he invites a group of people he believes have had some kind of interaction with the supernatural to stay in the house for the summer and take notes on everything that happens there. Unfortunately, only two show up to the house, Eleanor Vance and Theodora, just Theodora. Luke Sanderson, the light fingered nephew of the owner is sent to stay with them too though he has no connections anything out of the ordinary. From the very first moment they all feel that there is something off with the house, maybe its the fact that it was purposefully built to be off kilter and confusing, or the dark history of Hugh Crain and his family that were to inhabit the building, but whatever it is, this feeling permeates the group until odd things, undeniable and unambiguous things start to happen.
Jackson’s Writing –
One of the reasons that Jackson’s writing has stood the test of time for so long, is the delicacy and intricacy with which she writes. Every line is deliberate, every character full and complete. You can see this in Jackson’s other work as well but when dealing with the monstrosity that is Hill House, you feel the building take on a character of its own, and you understand completely the apprehension the characters feel just being there. It’s been said before, but Jackson’s story could have been written off a pulp novel and forgotten if not for her treatment of the words. She draws you in from the very first line, that first paragraph quoted so often that always sends chills down my spine. From that first couple of lines you know something is fucked up here, and you have to read more.
The scares in the book aren’t bloody or gorey, they aren’t over the top or ambiguous. They are conscious and intentional, they are knockings on the wall and cold spots that everyone can feel, things that no one can deny being there. There is no what if about Hill House, it’s darkness is already there, seen even in the daylight, and everyone fears the coming of the night – especially the Dudleys.
Theodora the Kickass Lesbian –
My first introduction to Hill House was the 1999 movie ‘The Haunting’, where Theodora is a fashionable fun sister and friend to the sheltered and nervous Nell. Maybe I was naive, but I never got the lesbian feeling from Theo in that adaptation, but then again I was born without gaydar so who knows. But when I started reading the novel, having don no research whatsoever, I was genuinely surprised to immediately think ‘Hey! She’s a lesbian!’ It was obvious in the text and even more obvious in the 1963 movie version. But even thought the novel was written in the fifties, the treatment of Theo as a lesbian, (sexuality is not discussed in the text, but there may as well have been a neon sign following Theo around), is surprisingly positive? If that’s the right word to use?
Theo is often seen as a mirror to Eleanor, even given that she doesn’t have a second name like every other character. She is open and expressive where Nell is closed off and repressed, she has her own place where she lives with a woman, where as Nell feels homeless and lost. Theo accepts that she has some psychic abilities whereas Nell denies that the stones that fell on her roof as a child had anything to do with her. The two become close even sharing a bed, Nell begging Theo to come and live with her when she is forced out of the house for her own good. If lesbianism as a theme is to be taken seriously, from my reading it felt as though Nell wanted to be with Theo, but Theo knew they couldn’t, and Nell went mad from that small touch of freedom and home that she felt in Hill House, allowing it to consume her.
In the 1963 movie Theo is played as more forward with her advances towards Nell, and when emotions run high Nell accuses her of being ‘unnatural’, but in the new Netflix show Theodora is out and proud, as she should be in this day and age. The theme of sexual repression and repression in general is something that gives Hill House it’s power not just over Nell, but to continue as a specter of dread and fear for the past sixty years. It’s the power to not just kill you or possess you, but to turn your own mind and your own fears against you.
Humour in Hill House –
One of the reasons I love the novel so much and will read it again and again, is the humour shown between the characters. In my opinion one of the most important things in horror, especially a story that relies on dread and tension, needs something to offset this. It can be the saving grace to a terrible movie, and serve as a break for the reader/viewers nerves so that the story can keep on scaring. I’ve found a few of Jackson’s stories have made me laugh out loud, not least of which is ‘My Life With R.H. Macy‘, I was cackling at that for hours.
The humour in Hill House serves two functions though – to ease the tension for the reader, and to allow the characters to escape the really horror they are in. Even sitting in the house for breakfast makes them feel like they are somewhere unnatural, but pretending they are fictional characters, sisters on a picnic, they can imagine themselves somewhere other than Hill House, proving, if nothing else, that ‘No live organism can continue for long to exist under conditions of absolute reality.‘
There’s little humour in the 1963 movie or the current Netflix series, however they both still work well. If you haven’t seen the new Netflix show I can’t recommend it enough, I will being going back to watch it myself just to try and find all the hidden background ghosts. I have a feeling this story will continue to permeate through the coming decades and get a few more adaptations. I’ve enjoyed them all so far, let’s just hope no one really ruins it.
What did you think of the newest adaptation? Did you see Theo as gay when you read Jackson’s novel? Would you like to see more humour in horror? Comment down below and let me know!
If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact!
Elliott tried to agree but couldn’t find his voice. Something about the way Bill’s mood could switch so fast frightened him. One minute, the old rocker would be completely normal, chatting and shooting the breeze, and the next, he’d spit nails. Mood swings, Elliot thought. Something that burdened a lot of rock stars, it seemed. He’d thought that watching Bill Jennings on tape or on stage was intense enough, but being alone in a room with the man, and at nighttime for that matter, downright terrified him.
Praise for Brain Dead Blues – “Not content to conquer the rock music world, Matt Hayward has now turned his attention to dark fiction, and how much richer we all are as a result. BRAIN DEAD BLUES is everything you’d expect from a rock star turned horror writer, documenting not only facets of the music world but also the darkness that can result from obsessions both creative and violent. I have long been a fan of both the music and the man behind it. Now I’m a fan of his writing too.” – Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of THE TURTLE BOY, KIN, and SOUR CANDY
I was lucky enough to win a small Twitter contest that Matt Hayward was running to get this collection of horror shorts for free, and I’m very glad I did. Outside Stephen King I think it’s the first horror shirt story collection I’ve read and I can honestly say that I am far from being disappointed.
Brain Dead Blues consists of 12 short stories, each unique and unexpected in it’s delivery. This set really has something for everyone whether you like the tried and true monsters of vampires, zombies, and werewolves, or you want to read something new like sci-fi, the evil of Irish mythical creatures, or the terrors of a mindless popular song. The horror! You’ll find it all and more in this Brain Dead Blues. I wasn’t expecting what these stories had coming. Any horror fan thinks they know all the avenues you can find a vampire lurking, all the dark, foggy woodlands that a werewolf might appear, and it’s rare to be really surprised as to where a story goes, but I definitely felt it reading Hayward’s work.
I won’t go into each story because that would spoil the fun but the ones that stood out for me were ‘That’s The Price You Pay’, ‘Cordyceps’, and ‘Hunger Pains’. Each of these stories deal with concepts I was familiar with but in a new and refreshing way. There’s no rehashing of old tropes in Brain Dead Blues, just a fresh perspective on them and it can often be something that seems so obvious, but that needs Hayward’s prose to really draw it out.
Hayward’s strengths lie in his ability to sculpt a setting in double time. Whether you like the stories or not, you can’t deny that you find yourself feeling the texture of the air around you, the heat of the sun, the cold of the very atmosphere. Whether it’s the deep South in America or the mountains of Wicklow, it’s never hard to get a sense of the place and feel of the characters in his stories. Counter to that, personally, and this may just be nit-picking, but having my own knowledge of the music world made the music centered stories a little dull for me. Hearing about the industry, fans, bands, and the ‘magic’ of the creative process, and the tortured rock souls that long for the good old days, wasn’t my thing and perhaps if the business side was a little less in-depth I would have liked them more. But the insidious side of those stories still held strong even with that dislike.
What I would have liked to see more of in this collection was satisfying endings. This may just be me wanting longer stories from him, but it did feel that a couple of stories ended quite abruptly, sometimes when you felt that something really messed up was about to happen. But wanting more can hardly be seen as a bad thing really, can it? I guess that’s why I was delighted to see that he does have longer works out and I just bought a copy of ‘Practitioners‘ by Matt Hayward and Patrick Lacey. I can’t wait to get stuck into it, it looks just like the type of thing I’d like – cults and weirdos galore. You can stay tuned for that review ASAP.
Matt Hayward is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated horror author and musician from Ireland. You can find Hayward on Twitter at @MattHaywardIRE and can find his books online at the usual places, I would recommend giving him a go.
What do you think of horror story collections? What would you like to see more of? Do the veteran monsters and ghouls need to die for good, or do we just need fresh takes on the concepts?
If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact!
I studied English in university and during an exercise in one of the classes, we were asked to take a list of writers and place them within a circle. The more influential the writer was the closer to the center they would go, the least influential sticking to the outer rim. We were given a handful of writers from modern to ancient but the two I remember were J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord Byron. I argued in my group that J.R.R. Tolkien should be near the middle because his work has had such a huge influence on popular culture, even if you hate fantasy and you’ve never read Lord of The Rings, when you think of an elf or a wizard, you are thinking of his creations. The rest of my group agreed. Our lecturer however, did not. I was given a condescending sneer as she moved Tolkien‘s name to the furthest reaches of the circle and told that because he was a ‘genre writer’ and because Lord Byron was a ‘literary writer’ that obviously Lord Byron had more influence. I don’t know about you but I can’t name you a Byron poem, and I studied the guy. All I remember is that he had a club foot and he was there when Mary Shelley, another genre writer, wrote Frankenstein. I’m not saying he wasn’t influential and his work should be forgotten, but we have a habit of rehashing old stuff when we should be supporting writers and artists who are alive right now and actually need it.
That class was my first look into genre elitism, and as I did a double major and studied music, there was plenty more where that came from. But just like everything else in life, genres are not inherently bad, they do serve a purpose, it’s our fault for how we sometimes use them.
What are genres good for?
We love to categorize everything because it helps us make sense of things in a complicated and messy world, and this is no less true when it comes to books. Genres are a way for us to simplify and find the things we need, they help publishers sell books to the people most likely to enjoy them, and they help readers find more of what they are most likely to enjoy – so in that sense having genres is a win win.
Have you ever been excited for a book or movie only to realise that it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be? Marketing can really be to blame for this. There are loads of movie trailers online where they’ve made kids movies look like horror, and thrillers look like teen coming of age stories – its all in how you present it.
Take this for example:
In early 2000s Ellen Page stared in a two movies called ‘Ghost Cat‘ and ‘The Cat That Came Back‘. If you looked at these two posters they look like completely different movies, the left looking and sounding like a horror to me, and the right like a heart warming tale of love beyond the grave. The problem is, these are the same movie, and it even had a third name ‘Mrs. Ashboro’s Cat‘. WHY? Because once you stick a label on something you are shutting off the opportunity to use other labels. If you market as a horror, you get horror fans, if you market as a feel good movie, you get feel good fans, so why not cast your net wide and get both?
It’s absurd to think about now, but it’s the reason books have different covers in different countries, and why, when they realised men weren’t drinking Diet Coke because it was a ‘women’s drink’, they came up with Coke Zero, which is much more manly.
Genres can morph and merge, they can cross borders and reinvent themselves and we see this all the time in stand out books and movies. It all comes down to the formula and tropes that are used to tell the story. We all know them, and if we see certain tropes we get an idea of what we can expect from the story and we automatically label it a ‘western’ or a ‘crime novel’. But those same tropes, with just a little bit of tweaking can completely change how we think about the story. Take ‘women’s fiction’ for example, if you were to take a woman’s fiction book about family, divorce, realistic life struggles, and replace the female lead with a male lead, you suddenly get ‘literary fiction’, the golden boy (pun always intended) of genres. Sometimes books don’t fit the mold of a clearly defined genre, or the can easily slot onto the shelves of many.
Literary fiction is always given more respect than any other forms of writing. I can’t tell you how many writing groups I’ve been in where I was the only ‘genre writer’ and every time someone read a piece of mine they started with ‘I NEVER read stuff like this, so, I did’t really know what to make of it…‘ or ‘You guys are so clever coming with all this stuff! I really envy your imagination. I wish I could write like that‘. In short, it’s cute but there aren’t enough metaphors for sex or impotence. And if a literary fiction writer in one of those groups goes ‘a bit mad’ and decides to throw in something surreal, they are praised for picking elements or for transcending the genre, another sarcastic way of saying ‘you are better than them’.
The fact that its called genre fiction leads you to believe that literary fiction lies outside of genre altogether, that it is the basis for everything and therefore the most pure.
And look, I’m not shitting on literary fiction, what I don’t like about genre elitism, is that we make people feel bad about what they like. We should be celebrating reading and writing, not shaming teens for ready YA, BOOKS WRITTEN FOR THEM I MIGHT ADD, or adults for reading Sci-Fi or Fantasy. Genres are a pointer, a helpful hand given us something to start with, but a great story is a great story.
Readers – Expand your reach, try new things and don’t have ‘guilty pleasures’, there’s nothing to feel guilty about.
Writers – Mix, melt, merge and smash together. Don’t let people tell you you can’t write X because you only write Y, or that no one respectable reads Z. Just make the story great.
What are you opinions on genre? Have you been duped before by a movie trailer or book blurb? Or do you think that ‘genre fiction’ really is sub par? Let me know down below.
“A story Stephen King would have written if he’d grown up in Ireland – a read-in-one sitting, sleep-with-the-lights-on sort of book.” Peadar Ó Guilín, author of The Call.
The river is the vein of history. Its surface looks the same when viewed by modern eyes as it did to druids and warriors, to Vikings and other invading forces. The river’s secrets are hidden in its mud and its elephant slow days. It carries pleasure cruisers as it once did merchant ships. It doesn’t care, or even notice. Its life is underneath and it skims the edges of its world with slow-destroying fingers. It is the lifeblood of its towns and villages but demands its forfeit. Sometimes, that is great tree, sometimes a fallen and bloated cow, its legs sticking up out of the mud at low tide, sometimes a boat, taken in a storm. Sometimes, it demands a greater forfeit.
Sometimes, it just takes.
Before I dive into a summary or review of Dark Wood Dark Water, let’s set the scene of how I found the book in the first place. Anyone who loves books or writing knows that Twitter is the absolute best place to be, it is chocked full of writers, readers, reviewers, and everything in writing related in between. Tina’s book popped up on my timeline with luck and a little bit of location services too I’m sure. After reading the quote from Peadar Ó Guilín, I simultaneously said “Oh yay!” And thought Oh no! If anyone else out there knows they are a procrastinator, they know the feeling of dread you get when you find something similar enough to your own writing to be exciting and scare you into thinking someone beat you to publishing an idea.
It’s OK! I don’t have to sue her. Tina Callaghan’s idea is all her own, and after having read it I can say that it is unique in terms of anything I’ve ever read, and it’s nothing close to my own work in progress except for the fact it’s set in small town, rural Ireland. Shout out to the tiny Irish towns, respect! But as Tina herself said – You should write it anyway. And I can’t disagree with that.
After finding Tina on Twitter and realising this was a person I should be following closely, I found out that her book was about to be released, where I live, when I was free, and can I just say for anyone out there who wants to write anything or just loves books, going to the launch of an author you see serious parallels with, or have lots in common with, is the ultimate motivation out there. So, I landed down at the Gutter Bookshop in Dublin, and hung around like a bad smell with my free wine to actually meet the woman herself, Tina Callaghan. And, honestly – she was horrible. JK! Just writing some fiction there! She was so lovely, she engaged me and offered to sign my book, recognising that I’m not very comfortable talking to people and even introduced me round, and showed proof of her mission to help other writers by giving me so much advice for my own work. A genuine top notch lady who wants to engage with other writer’s and be a part of the community. On to the material at hand…
There is something rotten in the town of Bailey and the fetid corpse has just risen to the surface of the river. Dark Wood Dark Water itself, is chilling novel that brings you right back to all of your childhood fears. Seventeen years old Kate has recently been forced into independence as the weight of her father’s disappearance leads to her mother being taken to a psychiatric unit- but no one in Bailey seems to mind the minor living by the waters edge alone. Helped by her best friend Gabe, and the newcomer to their triangle, Josh, they have each lost someone to the fast running, murky waters, and as more strange things begin to happen, maybe its time that they did something about it. But as the ghosts of Bailey stir, so to do new and confusing feelings in the trio.
The strengths of Tina’s writing come in her assault of the senses. Maybe it’s because I can’t swim, but there were so many instances where I felt breathless and as though I was the one drowning. There is an uncomfortable feeling of suffocation and drowning throughout, the taste and smell of the water never fully leaving your mind when the pages are closed, and the eerie two-faced town of Bailey gives that sense of the uncanny with secrets clear in the light of day that the townsfolk just don’t want to see.
The only drawback, I feel, is that you want to know more about characters like the Doctor and Adam, you get a sense of their characters but you want to know more about their lives and what has taken them to the point at which they fade to the darker side. And even Kate’s mother, it would have been interesting to get her side of her family story.
I would recommend this novel for any Stephen King fan, any fan of other worldly fiction, and readers of all ages really. You don’t have to be a teenager to love this one. And if you want to check out the myth that started it all, click here.
Tina Callaghan released Dark Wood Dark Water as part of a three book deal with Poolbeg Press, so follow her and them for more delicious darkness in the future @TinaACallaghan and @Poolbegbooks
Tina was kind enough to answer some of my long winded questions and here are her very informative answers!
What would you say Dark Wood Dark Water is really about under the surface? DWDW is about friendship, love, and making a stand against evil, all of which are important to me. I think that a lot of novels have these principles at their heart, because they matter to most people and, I think, comprise the big values in life that link us all.
What was the first character/image/scene that sparked the idea for DWDW? I have lived near the river Barrow most of my life and spent many hours of my teens on it with my Dad in a series of little boats. The river was cursed by corrupt monks in the 13th century and I seem to have known that story forever. When I first committed to writing a novel, it was natural to me that the river would feature heavily. Everything started from that point.
What was the hardest scene to write? That’s a hard question! Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what happens next, but once I figure it out, the writing is easy. In fact, I can’t recall any of them being hard to write, because once I know how the scene should feel and look, I just write it. I think this is because I become immersed in the story until the writing is almost like transcribing dictation and the scene comes out the way it must. I did cry for a character at a certain point. Readers might like to guess who the tears were for!
How long did it take to write DWDW from first inception to final edit? The first draft took 12 weeks, but it took years to get published! If I don’t count the tricky not-being-published bit in the middle, I got a book deal on the 23rd January 2018 and the book was released on 1st September 2018, with several rounds of editing in those few months.
Was it difficult to find a home for your dark fiction novel? Not really. It is just difficult to find a home for any novel. In most cases, the search for a publisher is a marathon, not a sprint. Writers are creative people but it helps to remember that the publishing industry is an industry. Publishers and agents receive a tremendous number of manuscripts so a writer has to be professional in their approach and work hard to make their book shine.
Are you working on anything now? If so, it is similar to DWDW? I’m writing my second novel now and expect to finish it before too much longer. It will be published in 2019 (date to be confirmed). I can’t say anything about it, except that it will also be a YA supernatural thriller. I’m excited about it! Watch this space!
What was the best piece of advice you got while writing DWDW? Every time I got stuck and didn’t know what came next, I was told to sit down with pen and paper (I write directly onto the laptop normally) and figure out what came next. That works for me, so now I know to tell myself to do it.
What will you do differently when working on your next project? Have faith in my process. Know how to get past being stuck!
After publishing your book, has your writing process changed? No. I tell beginning writers to write the story of their heart. That’s what I do and what I will always do. I believe in the magic of story and the craft of writing. The only difference between the first and second novels is that I’m writing to a deadline now. I find it concentrates the mind wonderfully!
What advice do you have for any aspiring writers who would like to see their own book published? This needs bullet points!*DO call yourself a writer. You may aspire to be published, but if you’re writing, you are a writer. Don’t be afraid to name it. *DO write every day. Every day. The habit is what creates inspiration. Nothing might come at first, but it will. * DON’Tworry about your writing not being as good as that brilliant book you just read. That brilliant book started out as a rubbish first draft and was polished by the writer and then an editor before it saw publication. At the start, don’t get it right, get it written. *DON’T think about what your friends and family will say. Even if there are bits that you don’t want them to read now, forget about it. If it’s important to the story, write it. It won’t matter later; they’ll just be proud of you. *Remember, no one is looking at you or your story. It is totally private. You can write anything you like. This is yours and yours alone. How wonderful is that?! Later others will read it. That’s for later. Enjoy the hell out of writing it now. The rest will follow. * Write the story of your heart.
Bonus question!Other than DWDW, what dark fiction/supernatural/thriller novel would you recommend to readers?I have always loved Stephen King. I love the fact that his novels are about ordinary people experiencing extraordinary things. I particularly love IT, The Dead Zone, Bag of Bones, Lisey’s Story, Duma Key, The Stand, Salem’s Lot…I also recommend the following writers…John Ajvide Lindqvist – Let the Right One In, Harbour
Thomas Olde Heuveldt – Hex
Jack Finney – especially for his wonderful time travel book Time and Again
Richard Matheson – anything of his but especially I Am Legend which is very different from the movie with Will Smith, and is a beautiful story about loneliness and isolation. With vampires.
My new book, which may or may not be called The Witch of November…
Dark Wood Dark Water is available from all good bookstores including Eason, WH Smith, Amazon and Poolbeg Books.
If you would like me to review your ‘dark fiction’ book contact me on Twitter @gloralot