This week, we’re coming out of the stacks! We are letting the other book out of the bag and sharing a COVER REVEAL (that may be subject to slight changes) for a truly exceptional project with my magical mistress of folklore and mayhem, the lady in red, Ruthann Jagge! We are co-authoring a spectacular world for you. As the wheel turns to the darker side of 2022, you are invited to ‘Delevan House’. Here is the sneak peek of the cover art designed by the talented Don Noble of Rooster Republic Press.
We are a red-hot fusion that is guaranteed to create major waves; that is a promise!
Music is such a profound part of my writing process and always has been. With the imminent release of my novella, Asylum Daughter, I wanted to share the music that formed the soundtrack to the writing of this piece.
Art influences art, and I couldn’t create without music. Every piece I write has its own playlist. Sometimes, those playlists are unexpected and not my taste, but the characters have their styles. I can’t argue. The soundtrack to Asylum Daughter was ‘80s heavy and all good by me.
I can’t wait to hear what you think! And feel free to check out some of the early readers thoughts on Goodreads.
A revisit to what’s on the cards for release and writing this year. First up, is the imminent release of my debut horror novella, Asylum Daughter; this psychological horror hits the shelves on May 8th! The date is significant to the story — I wonder if any of my readers will spot it!
I was also invited to interview with Candace Nola, mother of Uncomfortably Dark for her 2022 Women in Horror feature. We chat about writing, the horror industry, and I share a little insight about influences of the upcoming release. For those who want to have a gander at the chat, head over to Uncomfortably Dark.
Next up, I’m working on a collaboration with another fierce horror author, my sister from across the pond, the formidable Ruthann Jagge! This is special to me as we have shared many pages within the indie horror scene, and we seem to have similar draws to particular elements! When I read her debut novella, The New Girls’ Patient, I could’ve been blown over by a feather with the striking similarities in some of her delightful, diabolical plotting! Have you read it yet?
Our blend of horror will be a magical one for readers! I would love to share a teaser, but my lips are sealed for the time being — maybe come Summer, I’ll spray some of that sweet, irresistible elixir your way. I’ve got the feeling that when our novel is done, we’ll be cooking up something else!
Another compilation of horror shorts will launch later this year. Some stories have been published, and some will be brand new to print! Given my chosen title, Incesticide (yes, the title is a homage to a particular grunge band), I’m aiming for the 14th December release! And, Yes, like the title and cover, the date continues the ‘nod’ — 30 years since that album of B-sides. I will include at least one short inspired by one of the album tracks — which one would you like to see? Feel free to drop me a message with your vote!
I am publishing an exquisite poetry collection, written by Rafik Romdhani, The Crash of Verses. The collection is up for preorder now and releases July 22nd! It’s no secret that I was reluctant to have this much responsibility for another writer’s work, but Rafik is a persuasive wordsmith! And I’m honoured to support another writer in sharing his talent with the world! I’ve read a couple of his pieces over on my YouTube channel. If you fancy getting a feel for his work (which I encourage you to do!), please hop on over to check those out. And, of course, preorder his book!
I have another collaboration scheduled later in the year, with another force of indie horror energy, this one much closer to home, with KJK Publishing’s gaffer, author of Halloween Land (another novella you horror delinquents should read!), Kevin J. Kennedy — more on that when work is underway!
Bear with me. This will be a bit of a concoction — I am, at this time, rather raw, discombobulated and emotionally disfigured. I am feeling uncomfortably challenged. Feel free to look away from the car crash while you have time.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Let’s dive in.
Admittedly I have not done as much writing as I had hoped by this point in the year. January felt like I was playing catch-up to wrap up a few things from 2021 before my degree course started and I could channel writing energy into larger projects. I have also been heavily working on my novella release — finalising the manuscript(s), getting bonus content nailed, finishing covers, developing marketing materials, contacting reviewers, supplying ARC’s and all the other ‘back-office’ that goes into putting out a quality book. As I’ve shared before, so much unseen work goes into getting a book into the hands of readers, writing and editing is only a part of the machine. All in all, Asylum Daughter is feeling pretty pleased with herself. I’m proud to share this debut horror novella with readers and delighted with the positive feedback from early readers. It takes the edge of the nerves (a smidgen). And, of course, working with Word Refinery clients on their projects.
As part of February’s internationally celebrated ‘Women In Horror Month’, I was invited to interview with D&T Publishing. You can read the feature here.
I also participated in a panel for a podcast series about ‘Hidden Voices in Horror‘. The focus of the episode was on Mental Health in Horror. I had some technical hitches (as if my nerves weren’t already showing)! But the wonderful and inspiring creator and host was professional and understanding. It didn’t hold back the conversation between the host, myself, and the other awesome panellists of independent horror writers who stepped up to the plate. When I can do so, I will share more specific details when this airs and where to access it. I’m not in the position to share much yet. This panel was one in which I was nervous about taking part because of my mental health issues and reservations about talking so publicly about those, but I was keen to be involved because it’s a critical discussion that should be far less hidden.
‘Mental health’ can be a buzz phrase, along with the interlinked ‘wellbeing’ and other such sentiments. I always worry about the lack of substance behind so-called ‘awareness’ and ‘support’. My experience has proven such reservations to be true. As a writer, mental health issues come up regularly in my fiction and non-fiction work. Honest discussions without shame and judgment do not happen enough to break the discomfort of getting to the nitty-gritty about ill-mental health. I feel a profound responsibility, as a mother too, to strip any stigma from ‘real talk’. So here I am going to share some of that with you.
I’m going to ‘talk’ and feel free if the notion takes you to do the same.
I’m ‘coming out’. Emerging from between the lines, out of my shoddy poetic disguise. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with mental-ill-health — yes, childhood, (very) pre-adolescence. I actively covered it up and felt shame. The shame was most definitely linked to nurture and not nature. However, it has felt like nature in parts of my life due to its early, deep infusion. I like to thank some of that to those good old Christian’ values’ washed in through family and catholic schooling and, in a small part, my nature to consider things literally, which was misunderstood and shut down my voice from early on. The hypocrisy in those organised religious roots was (and is) blaring. Not the best of foundations. That’s my perspective anyway.
I secretly self-harmed (pre-teen — no, it was not cool, and it was not for attention). I hated myself. I had zero self-esteem, I struggled with friendships and social dynamics. I was bullied — inside and outside of the home. Every day was hard. And as a child, when I struggled to sleep, I begged inside my head to whatever’ higher power’ there may be to let me not wake up. I wanted to cease existing. I felt my existence was a mistake. I longed to die. I was a pre-adolescent child. I was entirely alone in my deep depression. Children often get ‘fobbed off’, talked down too — how could a child have such complex feelings? This was the ’80s and ’90s; maybe I should cut parents of that time some slack for that?
On the outside, attitudes towards the complexity of the human experience of all ages may have evolved. But I fear (as a mother) that it is not enough. I left school and home sharp to escape my terrible relationship with my mother, which fed into my ever-dwindling mental health state. I had to escape. I was ridiculed, blamed, threatened, the emotional punchbag. I had no choice but to get a job — any job, and leave. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens and had moved out from the parental home that I sought professional support for my ill-mental health (too ashamed to try to deal with it while I was there when I had little privacy. I was desperately suicidal and had planned it down to the finer details when I sought that help.
It was rough.
I didn’t want to take drugs.
I didn’t want to ‘talk’ to a therapist (I’m not one of those Americans on TV?!) I’m British, even harsher – Scottish! We don’t talk about those things.
I didn’t want to admit my shame.
I didn’t want to be seen.
I was desperate.
In short, and let’s be honest, these things are never short in ‘real conversation’ terms — I have Major Depressive Disorder. I’ve also struggled with Post Natal Depression (much later than one would expect) and interlinked Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Of course, mothers who have a history of depression are more at risk of PND. That’s another thing with mental health. Women are often not heard — ‘hormones’ takes much of blame, which does little to support solutions — for many folk with mental health problems beyond that. My lifelong depression has undeniably manifested in physical ways; insomnia, chronic headaches, chronic pain, chronic tiredness, anxiety and panic attacks (which can be separate — being in many ways depression’s opposite) and nausea. Depression does that; it’s an all-consuming beast.
I’ve gone through therapies, tried different medication regimes, mindfulness techniques. I’ve written and utilised art and nature as my therapies for as far back as I could pick up a pencil and make shapes with it and walk on my own two feet. I’m insanely self-aware. I will never be without this illness; I have accepted that and understand when a spiral is snaking in and darkening my days. I’ve been spiralling lately, though it’s easy for me to pinpoint the whys on this one — when triggers are circumstantial, it’s easy. I have coping mechanisms in place — boundaries where they need to be for my survival. I know what helps (sometimes) and (with certainty) what doesn’t. I still struggle. I still require prescription medication. Depression and ‘recovery’ is a selfish illness in many ways. Another thing that brought me ‘shame’ — I was never ‘allowed’ to be ‘selfish’.
This is still uncomfortable.
Is it the same for you?
So, I’m a writer, and such related posts are the prime focus in this space — why am I droning on about my mental health here?
Well, I was inspired by the candidness of my fellow writers in the horror community (which is bloody fantastic) on the podcast recorded recently. And I’ll share a little of how the subject links with some of my published work. A debatable move, and trust me, I am an over-thinker of everything. To compartmentalise or not? Eeeeek! To try to maintain a ‘brand image’ or be authentic and real?
Well, fuck it — this is straight-up raw, and you chose to keep reading.
The first book that I published in 2018, my mental health was a dominant feature during a specific window of time when one of my daughters was born and fighting to live in neonatal intensive care.
That experience taught me more than I ever imagined. It taught me how resilient and strong I am, through family estrangement on top of baby loss and having one (then another) in NICU and going through isolation and a troubled, strained relationship. I also (alone) dealt with the loss of my grandmother. I love her deeply and couldn’t physically be with her due to my circumstances, having a baby in another hospital. Winter has been heavy for so many years now.
So many highly underestimate the HSP; I, like many, am very thick-skinned. Sensitivity is not necessarily weakness — a common misconception. Nor is my boundaries a ‘cold heart’. My heart is guarded for my protection. The cold reputation couldn’t be further from the truth.
I learned that to be the best mother to my children, I had to respect my boundaries (finally) and provide an example to them as they grow. Part of parenting is sorting out your own shit so you can be right for them. Brushing real stuff under the rug wasn’t a path that I was willing to fall in line with — not good enough for my children.
My honesty, protecting my boundaries has alienated me from the majority of my family. How dare I right?
Trust me when I say my decisions as far as my family go were the last line when all else had been exhausted. Nothing was changing. I had no choice but to draw my last line of defence.
Mental health isn’t recognised as a thing — I wasn’t physically abused, unlike some, so it was all rosy as far as some saw. Emotional abuse is entirely dismissible. I imagined if someone treated my children as I had been. Suppose they had gone through snippets of it. If they had felt as hopeless, unsupported, unloved. No, it’s not good enough. It’s not easy being the one to break the cycle, but when my priorities were lined up — it was a quick, decisive cut. My inner child needed my support to protect my own brood.
I’m mostly at peace with that, the alienation — being the ‘bad egg’. I’ve had to be. I know I’ve been the subject of gossip. There’s no love lost in that. I’m happy about the dilution of that blood. Opinions based on little to zero facts are meaningless idle static.
My skin has thickened, and that is no bad thing. It’s survival. Responsive to experience.
Back to that book, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back— a condensed, diluted snapshot of my reality in my early motherhood. I shared it for my children and in camaraderie with other families struggling through that particular trauma — a little to take the edge off the isolation, perhaps for someone who may read it when going through or reflecting on their NICU journey.
The reception of that book was interesting — predominately supportive. I was inundated with messages of support, many from the staff we had been supported by in the unit. However, the flip side was a few nasty reviews, several who hadn’t read the book but jumped on the attack bandwagon to try to discredit me and ‘defend’ what they viewed as an attack on the nursing staff. You spend every day for 106 days in a ward — trust me, mistakes and lapses in care are made. NHS staff are human and make mistakes. My grandmother’s death mentioned earlier was also the victim of such a mistake. My baby, like many other people and loved ones, are on the other side of mistakes and oversights. I was expected to overlook these and paint a rose-tinted picture since my child survived. Gratitude only. My honesty doesn’t negate my gratitude for those that did their work well and saved the lives of my children. To not mention (some) of the bad would’ve been disingenuous to the book and painting that honest view as a NICU parent. The irony of direct attacks (on a mother who had gone through trauma) by care professionals didn’t go unnoticed. This is a reality that I’ve faced in person when I’ve opened up about my mental health struggles — and trust me; it’s been rare that I talk about this thing that is embedded into me, my everyday war. My demon.
The second book was fiction, published later that year; a trio of short stories all with the central theme of one character’s suicide; A Life of Suicides. Fiction, yes. But it’s not gratuitous, exploitative or designed to shock. No, I will admit here, publicly to you despite my deep discomfort. I have sat on that rock, stood on the windowsill, waded into the loch to my knees. I’ve played out those suicides and many more of ‘my own’ in graphic detail. I’ve done it all but the execution.
I am a survivor of suicide — a survivor of myself. In many ways, ‘Rebecca’ is me. I admit it, and I am not ashamed. The subject of suicide is another riddled with shame and ignorant judgement. I’ve heard it all — it’s for the ‘weak’, it’s the ‘easy way out’, a ‘sin’, it’s a ‘coward’s way’ — is it?
It is no coward’s way. Nor is it the easy way out or any other ignorant sentiment. Something that cut a little deeper than it should was some reactionary comments from ‘friends’ who couldn’t read such a piece because it would be too uncomfortable, too ‘triggering’. Honestly, being so intimate, this was akin to “You can talk to me” then being shut down cold if ever attempted. Talk, but not about that!
This struck me again as to how ill-equipped many are to genuinely support someone who is deeply depressed or/and suicidal. It’s easy to say ‘reach out’, ‘I’m here for you’, ‘you can talk to me’, until someone does… again, I know this from experience.
A number of my short stories have been published since then. I enjoy the freedom of frolicking in the horror field. Not all of my work is steeped in these notes, but there are crumbs here and there, no doubt. Writers so that we scatter pieces of ourselves — blood spills into each story, even the more extreme, fantastical and unlikely of places, sometimes just a light aroma, but it’s there.
Moving on again toAsylum Daughter. The novella — the events, the characters, the entire story is fiction. But themes sprinkled through this horror are strong elements of mental health, stigmatism, abuse, matriarchal control, and corruption.
True horror has nothing to do with gratuity and shock value. True horror is born of reality.
It’s March now, and I have some serious writing to do with a vivacious and magical red-headed horror queen. More blood to be spilt, and I have a phenomenal accomplice. And academic assignments to tackle — it turns out that I still love essay writing after all these years. They excite me.
I’m spiralling, but I recognise it, and I’m clinging on for dear life instead of planning my death today. I have to be strong for my family. They need me. And I realise that I have to be strong for myself too, even when I don’t always like her and it feels too selfish — mental health matters.
If you read this all the way… what is wrong with you?
No, I actually mean — thank you.
— The misunderstood, depressed, arty type. Such a cliche! The Clan Witch.
Asylum Daughter, my novella is bouncing off the padded walls to escape!
I present the cover wrap! The blurb was written by the utterly enchanting Author of The New Girls’ Patient, Ruthann Jagge, and the cover image is from the wonderful Rooster Republic Press. What do you think?
Thanks to everyone who has supported the project so far and those who have preordered — I love you, big time!
The eBook can be preordered. Paperback and Hardback editions will go live upon release.
Fancy a little peek inside?
I recorded reading the preface of Asylum Daughter. You can tune in on YouTube. I promise the book is more polished than my awkward speaking!
I was invited to interview with the ever-inspiring D&T Publishing for their Women in Horror Month feature in other writing news. You can check out the interview here.
My upcoming psychological horror novella, ‘Asylum Daughter‘, is scheduled for release this summer! The Amazon eBook preorder is live, paperback and hardcover editions will be available upon release. Currently, the release date is set for Summer Solstice 2022 (June 21st); however, there may be an advance on this. More on that in due course.
I am beyond excited to get this one out. It’s a piece of work that’s been in the making for quite some time. The novella was the victim of a long pause while I focused on editing work and short story submissions through the end of 2020 and 2021.
Summer Solstice Book launch! My solo collection of 9 short stories,Murmur: Collected Horror — the paperback and hardback are available now, the eBook lands tomorrow, 21st June! For an indie, I am generally pretty reserved about sharing and shouting about my work. It is a form of absolute introvert torture but I’m trying to work through that — it’s a slow process! Some of the contents have been published previously, these are spliced with a few never been printed pieces. Writers are often asked where ideas come from or what prompted a story, so each piece in the collection is followed by a few brief words about that. This little personal touch has been received positively by my pre-readers — I hope you enjoy that little insight too. I would love to share a read from the collection in the coming weeks. So, if you read it and have a favourite story — let me know in a review and/or by dropping me a message here, on Facebook or Instagram and I’ll pick the reader’s favourite to share! In time I would love to build on my ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) team for future releases, who would receive a free ARC of my books to read and review before public release. If you read and enjoy my work and this is of interest to you — please drop me a message. I want to hear from you!
My next (tentatively planned) solo release will be that of my debut novel, working title, Backyard Asylum, this may very well change. I’ve been swamped with other projects this year, so it hasn’t had as much attention as I’d hoped by this point. Projects with deadlines have taken president over the novel, but I hope to delve back into this come Autumn and at least have a completed first draft by the end of the year. Genre wise, it’s working out to be a blend of horror sub-genres, with definite elements of psychological and extreme. The working title may suggest the Asylum being a main (trope) feature but it is merely a backdrop at certain points within the story.
That’s a wrap for just now, if you pick up Murmur, I truly hope you are entertained! Thank you for reading and supporting this wee Scottish indie writer!
My solo collection, Murmur: Collected Horror, is up for pre-order. The paperback and hardback are set and will be available on 21st June! I am stoked that Kevin J. Kennedy, one of the UK’s most prominent horror anthologists, was kind enough to write the Foreword for the collection!
Pre-orders for several books that I have stories featured in have landed all at once, including Black Ink Fiction‘s first two books in their Legends of Night series — Infection and Bloodlust. I have ten drabbles between these two books, including my first time co-writing these micro-flash morsels with David Owain Hughes. How on earth do you go about co-writing a drabble?! Yes, I too wondered that — it was surprisingly fun and a touch addictive. Infection is officially released on 29th June, with Bloodlust at its heels on 13th July.
Next up to be available for pre-order is the highly anticipated, Gorefest from The Evil Cookie Publishing. This extreme anthology promises gross, humourous brutality — as a reader I cannot wait to read it! My contribution, Fuckin’ Maggots, is included in the line-up.
As the editor for KJK Publishing, I have also been working with Kennedy on finalising the next two The Horror Collection books, Ruby Edition and Extreme Edition. Some favourite contributors from previous THC books make the invite-only line-up, alongside some newer voices in the field. As always, Kennedy has his finger on the pulse of Indie Horror talent – if you’re a fan of horror and short fiction, these should absolutely be on your summer reading list! Release dates to be confirmed soon.
This is a unique anthology of short stories, to say the least. Each invited author was tasked to contribute their twist on a beloved fairy tale.
The Table of Contents includes;
Piper — M Ennenbach Midnight at the Glass Slipper — Ruthann Jagge Always Time for Tea — Natasha Sinclair She Saw Red: Once Upon a Crime part 1 — Jason Myers Swine of Another Kind: Once Upon a Crime part 2 — RJ Roles Pinnochio the Wooden Hoe — Matthew A. Clarke The Vengeful Little Mermaid — Tara Losacano What Goes into the Forest, Never Comes Out — Lance Dale Tonight, Tonight — Denise Hargrove It’s No Fairy Tale Out There — Kevin J. Kennedy
In celebration of the book launch, Crimson Pinnacle Press’ duo, along with a few of the contributing authors, are gathering for a blether live on Horror Talk Radio. It could be chaos — check it out on YouTube.
If you pick up the book, please leave an honest review!
A little bit about my contribution:
Always Time for Tea was inspired by Alice’s Adventures in wonderland. While the inspiring story, by Lewis Carroll, is about the ‘normal’ turbulent journey of a young girl from childhood to adolescence, in whimsical, masterful, metaphorical prose. Always Time for Tea only touches on that theme, along with some intolerance. Though at an older stage, as my MC’s story begins as a teenager and meanders through a journey of change — through a radically more alternative setting and situation. Led by the protagonist, Alicia Liddell’s adventure in a polyamorous, BDSM relationship and her subsequent initiation into the head table (the elite tea party) at a local fetish club. To which she was introduced to by one of her lovers (Red) and met the other (Chess). This piece, as would be expected, does get rather trippy, thanks (in part) to the cornucopia of mushrooms served at the tea party and the eccentric host, Myrick Hatch — if readers get a mild Red Cap nod from him, you would not be wrong. He was a fusion character of lyrical eccentricity for sure, designed to create a little intense discomfort. This story began with an idea I had pinned from a while back about tight-lacing. But almost reverting backwards from the modern use of steel boning to whalebone – though as opposed to whalebone, I considered how this could be fetishised and even cannibalistic in sourcing human ribs to restrain ribs. That was the original idea, but it became something else entirely when I returned to it for Fairy Tale Horrorshow. Nonetheless, it was loads of fun to write, and I felt freedom in writing this piece, thanks to the inspiring story and the awesome publishers who didn’t impose any boundaries on the submission invitation.