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IN THE SHADOW OF THE AXE Available Now In E-Book Edition! [Sep. 26th, 2016|01:40 pm]
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I told you it was coming soon! My new novel, In the Shadow of the Axe, is now available in an e-book edition from Crossroad Press! Here’s a description:

The year is 1847, and Kasch Möllhausen has returned to the small German mountain village of Helmburg in disgrace. Kicked out of the Swiss boarding school where he was unforgivably abandoned by his father, Luther Möllhausen, his humiliating homecoming is further complicated by the news that Luther has died. Worse, Kasch learns that the father he has come to despise instructed the village elders not to inform Kasch of his death or invite him back for the funeral.

But not everyone hates Luther as much as Kasch does. To the people of Helmburg, Luther was a hero. Shortly before Kasch was born, Luther led an uprising against the Necromancer, a mysterious figure who lived in a castle high in the mountains and preyed mercilessly upon the villagers. It was Luther who struck the final blow and put an end to the Necromancer’s reign of terror.

But Kasch finds Helmburg is still a haunted village. The ghosts of the Necromancer’s victims have begun appearing at night, and the old survivors of the uprising are being killed one by one, their bodies chopped to pieces. With the help of Hahn Gehrig, the elderly village doctor, and Liese Maentel, Kasch’s childhood love, he sets out to discover if the Necromancer is still alive — which would prove once and for all that his father was no hero — or if someone else is responsible for the murders, a madman living among them with no conscience or mercy. The terrifying truth he uncovers will change Helmburg forever — because the past leaves a long shadow, and the axe has only just begun to fall.

Includes an Introduction by multiple award-winning author Laird Barron (Swift to Chase) and the bonus short story “(F)Earless.”

A print edition of In the Shadow of the Axe will be available shortly, but the e-book edition can be purchased right now at the following online stores:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

If you are a reviewer for a magazine, newspaper, website, podcast, etc., and are interested in receiving an electronic review copy of In the Shadow of the Axe, please feel free to contact me. Please note: I am only looking for professional review outlets at the moment. Goodreads reviews, Amazon reviews, social media reviews, and personal blog reviews are certainly welcome, but I can’t give away copies to readers at this time.

Thanks, everyone, and I hope you enjoy my new novel!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Cover Reveal [Sep. 24th, 2016|11:20 am]
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Coming soon. Very, very soon. Watch this space for more information.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival 2016 [Sep. 21st, 2016|02:29 pm]
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I will be taking part in the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival this year: Saturday, October 22nd, 10 AM – 4:30 PM at the Haverhill Public Library in Haverhill, Mass! This event is free and open to the public! There will be lots of great stuff going on, but here’s where you can find me:

Signing, 10 AM – 12 PM

Copies of Dying Is My BusinessDie and Stay Dead, and Chasing the Dragon will be available for sale at the event, but I’ll happily sign anything of mine that you bring, too! Don’t worry if you miss the window of my official signing, I’ll be at the festival all day and will be happy to sign your books whenever.

Some of my Best Friends Are Vampires: Diversity in Urban Fantasy, 3 PM – 4 PM

Kat Howard, Errick Nunnally, Nicholas Kaufmann (M), Douglas Wynne, E.J. Stevens

Much of the first wave of urban fantasy and paranormal mysteries didn’t contain many characters that reflected the diverse nature of the real world. They tended to be white, middle class, and North American in both setting and population. A new wave of writers in these subgenres are exploring cities and characters that are more inclusive. Panelists will discuss approaches to broader perspectives, challenges they face, and the best works of urban fantasy that embrace the multicultural nature of our world.

For more information, check out the festival’s Facebook page! I hope to see you there!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Library at Mount Char [Sep. 13th, 2016|08:14 am]
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The Library at Mount CharThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite the enormous amount of violence and death in this novel, I actually found it quite delightful! That’s thanks to of Hawkins’ breezy prose and sense of humor throughout, as well as his ability to write interesting, well drawn characters. There’s a lot of bold and original creativity on display here, and a truly fascinating magical system. I was ready to give this book five stars, but found it stumbled toward the end with clumsy expository dialogue, frequent mentions of antagonists who never show up (wherefore art thou, Billy O’Shea?), and the redemption of a character who has, for 300 pages, been irredeemable to the reader for his stunningly heartless brutality toward the children. He is presented in the end as having a good reason for his sadistic cruelty, but that reason is never fully explored or made comprehensible to the reader, and thus it all comes off as needless. There’s some stuff with the president that’s just silly, and Hawkins makes the mistake of introducing us to several of Carolyn’s fellow librarians, all of whom are interesting in their own way, and then completely removing them from the story off-page so that we neither get to experience their absence ourselves nor feel Carolyn’s emotions about their absence, which leaves us not feeling anything about it either.

It may sound like I’m complaining a lot about this novel, but that’s only because I loved it for so much of its page count and found the ending disappointing. I still highly recommend the novel — there’s a reason I’m giving it four out of five stars, after all — and I think a lot of readers will find it as delightful and wonderfully original as I did. But I can’t help feeling that something went wrong at the end, whether it was too much editorial interference or Hawkins simply losing confidence in what he was trying to accomplish. Perhaps if I were to take one of the books from Father’s library I might discover an alternate past where THE LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR had the satisfying ending that such an amazing novel deserves.

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Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Scariest Part: Jason Arnopp Talks About THE LAST DAYS OF JACK SPARKS [Sep. 13th, 2016|07:00 am]
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This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is Jason Arnopp, whose new novel is The Last Days of Jack Sparks. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I read the novel in manuscript form back in March and really liked it. I think you’ll like it, too. Here is the publisher’s description:

Jack Sparks died while writing this book. This is the account of his final days.

In 2014, Jack Sparks — the controversial pop culture journalist — died in mysterious circumstances.

To his fans, Jack was a fearless rebel; to his detractors, he was a talentless hack. Either way, his death came as a shock to everyone.

It was no secret that Jack had been researching the occult for his new book. He’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed in rural Italy.

Then there was that video: thirty-six seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed — until now. This book, compiled from the files found after his death, reveals the chilling details of Jack’s final hours.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Jason Arnopp:

The Last Days Of Jack Sparks involves exorcisms (two of them, no less), a creepy YouTube video and generally supernatural shenanigans. You’d think that one of these malevolent elements would have sent the biggest shiver rocketing up my spine while I put the novel together, right?

But no. Aside from the fact that I wouldn’t want to describe the book’s creepiest moments too much (a ghost train becomes less frightening when you’ve had the contents detailed up front), the scariest part was most certainly structure, in one specific segment of the book.

If you’ve read the novel, you might be forgiven for thinking that the beginning and end would have been the scariest parts to get right, for one particular reason that would be spoilerific to detail here.

But no again. The scariest part was the middle.

Middles can be the very epitome of evil.

Like a fair few writers, I have what I believe to be a healthy distrust of structure. Or at least, that whole overly prescriptive structure thing. The Robert McKee thing: the hero absolutely must develop a phobia of geese on page 79 and all that stuff. Rightly or wrongly, I worry that such rituals could shut your mind off to great possibilities.

I do think in terms of three (or sometimes five) acts when planning a story as a whole, but beyond establishing some kind of skeletal, tent-pole structure, I prefer to roll up my sleeves and work out the rest as I go. This can make life extremely hard for me, but it feels as much a necessity as a choice. For one thing, I find it difficult to fully explore my characters’ heads while initially gazing down at the grand overview. I can only truly achieve this feat of imagination down at ground level, while chipping away at the coal face.

When I hit big problems along the way, that’s when I resort to structure. So I think of real, clinical structure as my fall-back plan, like some kind of rescue service. Scaffolding that I can apply to a crumbling or otherwise messed-up house. And at one stage, Act Two of The Last Days Of Jack Sparks sorely needed scaffolding.

Each story has three acts. Each act has three acts, and so on, until you’re looking at the beginning, middle and end of each scene, or even the beginning, middle and end of each sentence. I didn’t quite drill down that far, but something had to be done. It felt vital for Act Two to reach a big climax. This had to be in terms of character, as well as a major incident. I wanted this act to be a pressure cooker. Various cords that intertwine, while snaking their way towards one dynamite plunger. I often like to think about middles as endings: it’s always exciting when a story develops faster than the reader expects. But at this point, the structure just wasn’t getting us there. Act Two’s climax didn’t feel earned and the whole middle section didn’t feel right.

When a whole third of your novel feels wrong, trust me, that’s about as scary as it gets.

I felt certain that the content was pretty much okay, but the order of events was wrong. I pulled out some index cards — another sure sign that I’m getting desperate — and devoted each one to a scene. Then I stuck them up on the only wall in my study that isn’t covered with old shelved VHS movies (don’t ask). In fact, it was a window.

I tried so many combinations of those damn cards, it was like playing solitaire. Those cards went up on that window in three acts, five acts, 277 acts, whatever might work. They were colour coded to denote the various threads, as I searched for the perfect order of events. The order that would reflect both the internal and external lives of my arrogant celebrity journalist Jack Sparks. The order that kept the story motoring along. The order that would continue to deliver unnerving moments as evenly as possible (to this end, I stuck dayglow ‘scare stars’ on the appropriate scene cards).

After many dark nights of the soul, the cards finally clunked into place like the wheels inside a safe. Some rewriting was required, but that was a small price to pay. When faced with the terror of something not working, you’ll fly to the moon to make it right. And when Act Two finally seemed to work in terms of character, pacing and the fear factor, all the angst was worthwhile.

So, yes, middles can be evil, but every book throws up its own problems. In my second novel for Orbit Books, currently in development, the biggest issue is Act One being too long. My task is to boil it down, while not throwing any babies out with the bath water. You never can know what kind of fire any given book will require you to fight.

When you do hit a roadblock with your writing, it’s great to know that there’s a scientific rescue team on stand-by to ease your fear and dread. One that’s always primed to pull up outside your study with a truck load of scaffolding, index cards and neat gin.

Oh, did I not mention all the gin?

Jason Arnopp: Website / Facebook / Twitter

The Last Days of Jack Sparks: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Powell’s / IndieBound

Jason Arnopp is a British author and scriptwriter. His background is in journalism: he has worked on magazines such as Heat, Q, The Word, Kerrang!, SFX and Doctor Who Magazine. He has written comedy for BBC Radio 4 and official tie-in fiction for Doctor Who and Friday the 13th, but The Last Days of Jack Sparks is the first novel which is entirely Jason’s own fault (though some may prefer to lay the blame on Jack…).

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Scariest Part: Jasper Bark Talks About THE FINAL CUT and RUN TO GROUND [Aug. 30th, 2016|07:00 am]
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Run to Ground front cover

This week on The Scariest Part, we welcome back Jasper Bark, whose new novel The Final Cut and novella Run to Ground, both of which form part of an ongoing story cycle, were released this summer. Here are the publisher’s descriptions:

The Final Cut

The Final Cut is a genre busting mash up of crime, horror and urban fantasy. An imaginative and thought provoking tale that explores our need to watch and make horror fiction, examining not just the medium, but the purpose of storytelling itself. Taking in everything from ancient myth, to modern atrocity, this novel will entrance, mystify and appall you in equal measures, haunting you long after you’ve reached the very last line.

In an East London lock up, two filmmakers, Jimmy and Sam, are duct taped to chairs and forced to watch a snuff film by Ashkan, a loan shark to whom they owe a lot of money. If they don’t pay up, they’ll be starring in the next one. Before the film reaches its end, Ashkan and all his men are slaughtered by unknown assailants. Only Jimmy and Sam survive the massacre, leaving them with the sole copy of the snuff film.

The filmmakers decide to build their next movie around the brutal film. While auditioning actors, they stumble upon Melissa, an enigmatic actress who seems perfect for the leading role, not least because she’s the spitting image of the snuff film’s main victim. Neither the film, nor Melissa, are entirely what they seem however. Jimmy and Sam find themselves pulled into a paranormal mystery that leads them through the shadowy streets of the city beneath the city and sees them re-enacting an ancient Mesopotamian myth cycle. As they play out the roles of long forgotten gods and goddesses, they’re drawn into the subtle web of a deadly heresy that stretches from the beginnings of civilization to the end of the world as we know it.

Run to Ground

Jim Mcleod is on the run. He’s running from his responsibilities as a father, hiding out from his pregnant girlfriend and working as a groundskeeper in a rural graveyard. He’s running from a lifetime of guilt and bad decisions, but principally he’s running from the murderous entities that have possessed the very ground at his feet.

Jim has no idea what these entities are, but they’ve done unspeakable things to everyone in the graveyard and now they’re hunting him down. There is nowhere Jim can hide, nowhere he can walk and nowhere he can run that isn’t under the lethal power of the things in the ground. If he stands any chance of survival he must uncover the link between his murderous tormentors, three mysterious graves and an ancient heresy that stretches back to the beginning of time.

Run To Ground is a tale of extreme folk horror. It opens the reader’s eyes to a terrifying new breed of gods and monsters, but be warned, within these pages you’ll find blasphemy, brutality and unbelievably depravity the likes of which you’ve never read before. Think that’s too grandiose a claim? Why not put us to the test. Go on, click the ‘Buy now’ button, we double dare you …

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Jasper Bark:

In an advance review of my novella Run To Ground, in Mass Movement Magazine, noted music and book reviewer Jim Dodge wrote: “I’m not sure if it should be categorized as ego or genius but Jasper Bark is in the process of creating his own mythos.” In that single comment Jim summed up one of the scariest parts of my latest project. I’ve started a story cycle, beginning with the novel The Final Cut and the novella Run To Ground, which were released last month by Crystal Lake Publishing, and continuing in the novella Quiet Places, which appears next month in the anthology Great British Horror. Each tale is linked by a dark mythology that details a whole new pantheon of goddesses, gods and monsters.

As Jim rightly points out this could be considered as monumentally egotistical. Particularly when you consider that I’m following in the footsteps of genre giants like Lovecraft, Barker and Lord Dunsany. Comparisons to these writers are inevitable, and given their immense contributions to the field, it’s scary to think how my own work might stand up. It’s also worth noting that neither Lovecraft nor Dunsany was intentionally creating a mythos. The term mythos was only applied to a group of their stories years later, by other writers like August Derleth. So my efforts might be seen as doubly pretentious. As scary as this prospect was however, it wasn’t the scariest part of writing these books.

My mythos revolves around a historic blasphemy I learned of called the ‘Qu’rm Saddic Heresy’. This is an archaic set of beliefs that were considered old when the earliest records were written down. No writings by the heretics are known to exist, but we know they were persecuted as long ago as Ancient Mesopotamian times. Their beliefs and practices must have been unbelievably taboo to have been suppressed for over 5,000 years, and there’s something both scary and alluring to me, as a writer, about the heresy.

One of the things I like most about horror fiction is that is that it often touches on the theme of ‘forbidden knowledge’. Even as a small kid, the idea of learning something man was ‘never supposed to know’ fascinated me. Whether it’s Doctor Faustus summoning Mephistopheles, or Doctor Pretorius firing up the resonator in From Beyond, my favourite parts of horror fiction are those giddy moments of ecstatic revelation, when the veil of reality is torn asunder and the unknowable truths of reality are presented to the protagonist. Of course it invariable goes horribly wrong, and they pay a high price for that knowledge, but I still get an illicit thrill at the thought of it.

This may be one of the things Lovecraft was alluding to when he said: “the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”. What is more ‘unknown’ than things we haven’t learned yet, or were never supposed to know? Some of the most important discoveries, and the most essential knowledge, can only be attained by taking a flying leap across the gaping chasm of all that’s unknown and unknowable. What could be more scary than that?

Even still, that wasn’t the scariest part of writing these stories. The scariest part was allowing myself to write something I’d wanted to create since I was a child.

A while ago I cleaned a load of old notebooks out of my parent’s attic. Stolen school books I’d filled with stories, my first steps towards becoming an author. The earliest one dates back to when I was around eleven or twelve years old. It was filled with notes and story ideas for building my own mythology. From the youngest age I’ve been fascinated with mythology, from Greek and Norse tales to old Anglo-Saxon and African mythology. Most of my life, it seems, I’ve been gearing up to create my own mythology. It’s probably my longest held writing ambition.

You might be asking yourself what’s so scary about realising a life long ambition? Well, everything I guess. There’s nothing scarier than the realisation that the one thing you always hoped to do one day, is the one thing you have to do today, because you’re running out of time and you’ve run out of excuses.

For one thing, there’s the fear that what you produce, as a writer, will be so far removed from what you originally conceived, you might as well not have bothered. Nothing you write is ever as great as it appears in that white hot moment of inspiration and the longer you put it off, the more you worry you’re going to mess it up. There’s also the fear that you’re just not up to the job. That you’re never going to have the skill or the talent to make it happen. That was the scariest part of writing these stories, but it wasn’t scary enough to stop me altogether.

Because eventually I realised that unless I faced those fears, I was never going to be the writer I always wanted to be. If I didn’t try to realise my lifelong ambition then what was the point of being a writer in the first place? Yeah it scared me, but being a horror writer I should have realised that the best things I’ve ever done with my life (getting married, having kids, starting my dream project) were always the most scary. That’s why, as I’ve said before, the scariest part of writing anything is always the most important.

Jasper Bark: Website / Facebook / Twitter

The Final Cut: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound

Run to Ground: Amazon / Barnes & NobleIndieBound

Jasper Bark is infectious — and there’s no known cure. If you’re reading this then you’re already at risk of contamination. The symptoms will begin to manifest any moment now. There’s nothing you can do about it. There’s no itching or unfortunate rashes, but you’ll become obsessed with his books, from the award winning collections Dead Air and Stuck on You and Other Prime Cuts, to cult novels like The Final Cut and acclaimed graphic novels such as Bloodfellas and Beyond Lovecraft. Soon you’ll want to tweet, post and blog about his work until thousands of others fall under its viral spell. We’re afraid there’s no way to avoid this, these words contain a power you are hopeless to resist. You’re already in their thrall and have been from the moment you clicked onto this page. Even now you find yourself itching to read the rest of his work. Don’t fight it, embrace the urge and wear your obsession with pride!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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R.I.P. Gene Wilder [Aug. 29th, 2016|03:39 pm]
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Young Frankenstein 2

Devastating news. Gene Wilder has passed away at the age of 83.

Goodbye, funny man. The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory are all iconic films, but Young Frankenstein will always be in my top five and so much of that has to do with Wilder’s presence, timing, and delivery. In fact, I found him to be a warm and welcome presence in every film he was in. Rest in peace, Dr. “Frahnkensteen.”

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The EC Archives: Shock SuspenStories, Vol. 1 [Aug. 24th, 2016|09:13 am]
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The EC Archives: Shock SuspenStories, Vol. 1The EC Archives: Shock SuspenStories, Vol. 1 by Al Feldstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This gorgeous, full-color omnibus collects six issues of SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES, hokey thrillers in the inimitable EC style. Each tale comes with a twist ending that might have been original and startling in the 1950s but is now more likely to elicit embarrassed giggles and eye rolls than shivers. Most of the twists come in the form of karmic comeuppance: A bear hunter with a bear skin rug in his cabin is killed by a bear and turned into a human skin rug — Noooooooo! Some twists, oddly, require no punishable transgression on the part of the characters and seem to come out of the blue just to be mean: A man accidentally contacts a beautiful alien woman on his monitor screen, over time they talk and fall in love, she finally crosses the galaxy to be with him on Earth, and it turns out she’s actually 200 feet tall — Noooooooo! Of more interest are the morality plays that appear in each issue, EC-style, twist-ending examinations of thorny societal topics like police brutality, violent nationalism, and racial and religious bigotry. In one, an anti-Semite and his friends harass, beat up, and ultimately kill a Jewish couple who move into his neighborhood, only to discover he himself is adopted and actually Jewish, at which point his friends turn on him and beat him just like they did to the couple — Noooooooo! The earnest hokeyness is part of the charm of revisiting these old comics, of course, and fans of the twist-in-the-tale style of suspense and horror will get a kick out of this collection. The introduction by Steven Spielberg, who grew up as a nerdy kid who loved the escapism of reading EC comics, is quite touching.

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Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Scariest Part: S.J.I. Holliday Talks About BLACK WOOD and WILLOW WALK [Aug. 23rd, 2016|07:00 am]
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bw1_original

This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is S.J.I. Holliday, whose first two novels in the Banktoun Trilogy, Black Wood and Willow Walk, were both just released in the U.S. Here’s the publisher’s description of Black Wood:

Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story. Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for S.J.I. Holliday:

I was mulling over what to write for this blog, and whether to tell you about my latest book (Willow Walk), or the first one in the trilogy (Black Wood) — both of which have only recently been made available in the US. I thought — what do readers of this blog really want to hear about? It became immediately obvious… You want to hear about that time that the guy who was fixing my roof told me there was a ghost in my house, right?

Thought so.

Picture the scene — I’m writing Black Wood — my first novel set in the fictional claustrophobic Scottish town of Banktoun. It’s a psychological thriller, with some police procedural in there and a hint of the supernatural — they sort that leaves you wondering if it’s real or just in your head (my favourite kind). Anyway, I’m in my very old house (built c1900), which we are still in the process of fixing up. It’s been months of awful work with builders and all sorts of dodgy tradesmen (I could tell you a few horror stories about that) — and I am finally ensconced in my fantastic little room, lined with books shelves, a comfy couch, a real old fire. I’m writing about this old creepy cottage — Black Wood Cottage — where my main character, Jo, has returned to after many years. It’s in a state of semi-abandonment, with creaky floorboards, whistling water pipes and doors that have a habit of slamming shut. I’m listening to one of my favourite CDs (yes, I’m in my 40s, I still like CDs… and vinyl, but that’s another story) — it’s called “Dark Side of the 80s” and it’s all The Cure and Sisters of Mercy and Echo and The Bunnymen (it’s the best CD ever — you should buy it). I’ve just thoroughly creeped myself out with a whispering ghost type part, when there’s a knock on the door…

“Hi, I’m just back round to get the first instalment of the cash so I can buy the felt for the roof.” Smile. “How’s your daughter today?”

“Oh…” *confused face* “I don’t have a daughter.”

“Sorry, my mistake. Was she a friend’s little one then? The girl who was here yesterday?”

“Yesterday?” *racks brains for rational explanation* “Oh — next door had their grandkids round. They were making a bit of a racket in the garden…”

*Roof man slowly backs away from the door, points at a space next to the dining room table* “No… she was sitting on the floor. She was… right there.”

ACTUAL SHIVER DOWN SPINE.

“Um, OK.” *trying not to panic* “Are you sure? I mean… there definitely wasn’t a little girl here yesterday…”

*With wavering voice* “I’m telling you. She was there. Next to the table. Just doing some colouring.” *Pause* “Look, I have to go now. I’ll be back to finish the job in a few days.”

*Rising panic* “Wait… WAIT!”

Oh, he’s gone…

So now I’m in the house on my own. Well, at least I thought I was. I decide the best way to deal with this is to put it on Facebook (obviously). “This weird thing just happened… the roofer reckons we have a ghost. LOL” Within seconds, I get a private message from a friend who came to a recent barbecue at our house: “Was it a little girl? In your dining room? Don’t worry, she’s happy.”

Well…

You can take what you want from like. The roofer did come back, by the way. He was still pretty shaken up. He said he’d discussed it with his wife, and she’d told him he probably sees ghosts all the time, what with all the houses he visits, he just hadn’t realised before. VERY reassuring! We went down to the church in town that had a gift shop and purchased a little angel ornament. I put it on the mantelpiece and left it there. It made us feel better, and I can’t say I ever saw anything… but neither of us walked through that room with the lights off again.

We live somewhere else now. A new place. No way we’ll have any ghosts here, I thought. Until another friend asked what the land was used for before they flattened it and built these new flats. I looked it up… a Victorian school.

S.J.I. Holliday: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Black Wood: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Willow Walk: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

S.J.I. Holliday grew up in a small town near Edinburgh, Scotland. She spent many years working in her family’s newsagent and pub before going off to study microbiology and statistics at university. She has worked as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry for over sixteen years, but it was on a six-month round-the- world-trip that she took with her husband ten years ago that she rediscovered her passion for writing. Her first novel, Black Wood, was published in 2015 and her second, Willow Walk, is out now. The third in the trilogy, The Damselfly, will follow in early 2017.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Inner City [Aug. 20th, 2016|11:05 pm]
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The Inner CityThe Inner City by Karen Heuler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heuler’s collection gathers fifteen prime examples of her hallmark surrealist stories. Each one takes a recognizable character in a recognizable setting but follows the situation through to an absurd, dreamlike extreme. There’s a lot of sly humor to be found in these stories — a woman buys a fish at the supermarket only to discover it’s still alive and can grant her three wishes; an officer worker notices she’s gone bald and that a colleague who’s after her job has come to work wearing her hair; a vegetarian succeeds in bringing supermarket meat back to life, Frankenstein-style — but there’s a darker side to them, too, one that often borders on the horrific. My favorite of the bunch, “Thick Water,” is a remarkably sinister tale of suspicion and paranoia among human explorers on an alien world, in which all of the explorers but one are transforming. It’s an extraordinary piece of work, but then so are all the stories collected here. THE INNER CITY is a dark and delightful treat for anyone who likes their fiction engagingly weird and deeply human.

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Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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