#CaseClosed: #October2017 #BookOfTheMonth #amreading #amreviewing #bookblogger #damppebbles

Hello and a warm, squishy welcome to my October #CaseClosed post where I look back on the month just gone and wonder why I didn’t read more books!  I know, I’m letting the side down.  Who needs sleep anyway….? Heh heh!

October was a rather exciting month for me.  Y’all be sick to the back teeth of this soon (maybe you are already!) but I decided to have a bit of a new books and blog tour ban to enable me to make a more substantial dent in the terrifying TBR.  To keep my FOMO at bay I have a list of 20 authors whose books and tours I am allowed to partake in.  So, how did I do in my first month?

In October I was part of FOUR blog tours (compared to my twelve tours in September I think I’ve done alright!):

All four were review posts:

Her Last Secret by Barbara Copperthwaite | Fox Hunter by Zoe Sharp | Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister | Murder Game by Caroline Mitchell |

But the blog wasn’t empty, oh no!  I featured these publication day reviews (or as near as dammit to publication day!):

The Visitors by Catherine Burns | Sleep No More by P.D. James | The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell | Two Dark Tales: Jack Squat and The Niche by Charles Lambert |

And I also got to read these beauties, all of which have been sitting on my terrifying TBR for some time encouraging me to cheat on my scheduled reads with their come-hither looks:

The Corruption of Chastity by Frank Westworth | Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart | Final Girls by Riley Sager | The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis | The Dry by Jane Harper | Follow You by Richard Parker |

And last but by no means least, I shared a cover reveal post for the latest book in the Kay Hunter series titled Hell To Pay.  Isn’t it a stunner? Keep an eye out for my stop on the tour in mid-November.  Really looking forward to reading this one!

Hell to Pay Cover MEDIUM WEB

All in all, I have rather enjoyed my first month of being able to choose what I read and when I read it.  I think it’s given me a much-needed boost to my confidence and has reminded me exactly why I love (LOVE!) reading so much.

Saying that there has been one rather negative knock to the damppebbles armour which has caused me a lot of upset.  Two words; Twitter Jail!  Ugh.  Twitter jail, for those that haven’t heard of such a thing before, is more commonly known as Shadow Banning or Ghost Banning.  During the month of October, I have been in Twitter Jail at least once a week and nearly every weekend.  I laughed it off to start with but it got to the point where it became no longer funny.  I could tweet to the masses but I couldn’t speak to an individual or a group of people.  As soon as I added someone’s Twitter tag to my tweet I was silenced.  After a little bit of detective work, I discovered that I share, on average, 102 tweets containing a URL to Twitter on a daily basis, 102 TWEETS!  I thought I could beat the system.  I can’t.  I thought I could find a clever way to get around the problem.  I couldn’t.  So I have come to realise that I can’t share posts like I have been doing which is quite upsetting for me.  I’ve been told to share no more than 20 posts a day.  But how do I go from 102 to 20…..?!  All ideas welcome, I’m reaching out to you dear damppebbles visitor so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.  At the moment I am considering a spreadsheet which randomly generates 20 blogs a day.  I may be thinking about this waaaaaaaaaay too much……!

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If you’re a regular visitor to the blog or you follow me on Twitter I don’t think my Book Of The Month is going to come as a massive surprise.  I have found a book which may well become my book of the year and it rightly deserves a place on my favourite books EVER list.  That book is…..

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giphy (3)

Taddah!

final girls

There we go, no big surprise really.  I fell head over heels in love with this gorgeously creepy mix of crime and horror.  It was absolutely everything I’ve ever wanted in a book and felt almost like it was written especially for me.  I adore it and if you haven’t read Final Girls yet then you MUST!

“I’m so excited that this book exists – it’s perfect and I want everyone to read it so you can all see how awesome it is as well.  Brilliantly addictive, deliciously dark and everything I want in a book! Superb.”

So there we have it, my bookish October in a mere 900 words (or so!).  I may be a little quiet as we start November; I have a number of blog tour reads all bunched together halfway through the month so will be concentrating on getting them all read and reviewed in time.  After that, and I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, I have NO blog tours scheduled – no tours in December, no tours in the New Year.  I know it won’t stay that way (especially as Steph Broadribb and Orenda Books are releasing the new Lori Anderson book in the coming months and that’s one book/tour I ain’t missing!) but it’s quite an exhilarating feeling.

Have a warm and cosy November filled with the very best books.  Tarrah for now!

 

 

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#BookReview: Follow You by Richard Parker (@Bookwalter) @bookouture

follow you.jpg“Her eyelids were the only parts of her body she could move. The figure spoke, then retreated into the gloom. She couldn’t accept what they’d said. How could she have brought this on herself?

When an online prank goes viral and triggers a spate of gruesome murders, documentary maker Hazel Salter watches in horror. But then a new victim is found, her body bound to a pillar, and its Hazel’s childhood friend, Meredith Hickman. Hazel must find out what happened to her.

Is it one killer or more? Random, or part of a bigger plan?

The police have no leads, but Hazel has a theory – one she’ll stop at nothing to prove. With her film crew in tow, Hazel sets off for the abandoned amusement park where Meredith was found, to solve the crime, bring Meredith justice, and make the documentary of her lifetime. But as Hazel interviews the victims’ families and friends, people start disappearing.

As the death toll rises, Hazel realises someone close-by is targeting her team methodically. Can she uncover the truth before another life is lost, or will the killer get to Hazel first?”

Follow You by Richard Parker is a book I have been wanting to read since it’s release in May 2017.  I had the pleasure of reading Parker’s second Bookouture release, Hide and Seek at the start of September and confessed then exactly how much in love I was with Follow You without even reading a word.  To check out that review click HERE.  I had based my adoration purely on the reviews, the fact that so many readers pointed out how gory it is and that stunning cover (I’m moth-a-phobic, by the way!).

It had a lot to live up and it and it surpassed my expectations!  This is exactly the style of book that I devour.  It has the feel of a horror film in the making (not that I actually watch horror films….ever!), it doesn’t hold back on the detail (some gory) and the reader rarely has a moment to draw breath before the next heart-stopping moment.  I absolutely loved it.

I tweet.  I tweet a lot actually and tend to get into trouble for sharing too many awesome book review posts.  But imagine if a killer took to Twitter with the tag @BeMyKiller.  Would you be tempted to tweet them, to poke the sleeping tiger with a big sharp pointy stick?  No, I wouldn’t either but in Parker’s terrifyingly good story that’s exactly what happens.  After all, what’s the worse that can happen?  It’s just a wind-up, right?  Wrong – wrong with a capital W!  Bait the killer and you could be next.  One of my favourite things about Follow You is the way in which the killer disposes of their victims.  Each method is unique and perfectly in line with the taunting phrase used to provoke the killer to act.  It’s wonderful, gory and so compulsive I couldn’t put it down.

Hazel Salter is the owner of a documentary production company which recently won an Emmy but business certainly isn’t booming.  When Meredith Hickman is murdered after tweeting @BeMyKiller Hazel comes up with a plan – to take a crew to Broomfield and conduct her own investigation.  After all, Hazel has her own theory which the police refuse to consider.  Before they start work on the documentary, the crew settle down for the night at Fun Central, the location where Meredith Hickman’s mangled body was discovered.  Fuelled by alcohol and a hefty dose of bravado, they take to WhatsApp to bait the killer in private.  But the killer is watching…

Chilling, thrilling and completely engrossing.  I adored Parker’s plotting, the speed with which the body count increased and the quite astonishing ways the characters were killed off.  It was a joy for me to read and I savoured every last moment, even the icky ones!  And that staggeringly good ending – WOAH!  It was so beautifully choreographed that I did a little happy dance.  Those final scenes will stay with me for a long, long time.

Would I recommend this book?  Yes, it’s brilliant.  If you want to miss out then that’s your choice but you’ll be a fool to pass this one by (although you may need a strong stomach for certain parts so I know it won’t appeal to everyone).  I’ll happily say it again, I loved it and wish every book I picked up was like this one.  Engrossing, gross and dark – my perfect read.

Five out of five stars

(NB. One day, Richard Parker and Bookouture, ONE DAY I promise – hand on heart – to get the title of this book right; Follow You, NOT Follow Me….I’m easily confused!  My apologies to you all for getting it SO wrong, SO many times in the past. Doh!)

Follow You by Richard Parker was published in the UK by Bookouture on 26th May 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

RichardParkerPicRichard Parker was formerly a TV scriptwriter, script editor and producer before turning his hand to penning twisted stand-alone thrillers.

HIDE AND SEEK is his fifth book and is published August 2017.

FOLLOW YOU was his fourth psychological thriller. Reviewers are saying it’s Bookouture’s darkest crime novel to date.

STALK ME was his third and rode high in the UK and US charts.

SCARE ME was his second. Hollywood movie rights have been acquired by major US studio, Relativity Media. Star of PRISON BREAK and screenwriter of dark horror thriller STOKER, Wentworth Miller, has written the big screen adaptation.

STOP ME, Richard’s darkly fiendish debut, was shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website |

 

 

 

#BookReview: Final Girls by Riley Sager (@riley_sager) @EburyPublishing

final girls.jpg“FIRST THERE WERE THREE

The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma.

THEN THERE WERE TWO

But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or…

CAN THERE ONLY EVER BE ONE?

All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.”

I am feeling quite giddy today.  Giddy because it’s been a long time since a book has resonated with me quite like the mighty Final Girls did.  Having recently turned the last page I feel drained, I feel bereft, I feel strangely empowered, I want to shout from the rooftops exactly how much I enjoyed reading this incredible piece of fiction.  I think it’s fair to say I LOVED Final Girls by Riley Sager!

From the moment I saw that cover, read the blurb and read a couple of early reviews I knew this was going to be a new favourite read.  In a very egotistical way, it feels as though it was written just for me.  I say that because it’s everything I WANT in a book.  You know that age-old advice to wannabe authors?  They say write the book YOU would want to read?  Well, I’m afraid that won’t be happening for me because this is the book I want to read and it’s been written!  I actually feel envious of those that haven’t  read Final Girls yet – I would give almost anything to be able to read this book for the first time again!

Quincy Carpenter is a Final Girl.  Not by choice, no one chooses to be a Final Girl.  There are two other women who lay claim to the title, thanks to two separate massacres several years apart.  Quincy is the newest addition to the exclusive little group and the most reluctant to adopt the title.  She would rather forget everything that happened to her and her friends that fateful night in the woods.  She barely remembers what happened anyway thanks to selective memory loss, and that’s just fine by her!  When the original Final Girl, Lisa Milner, turns up dead in an apparent suicide bid, Quincy is stunned.  She cannot understand why Lisa would take her own life after everything she survived at her sorority house in Indiana.  She’s even more shocked when elusive, mysterious Samantha Boyd – the only other remaining Final Girl shows up at her apartment.  Having hidden from her family and, well, life for years now Quincy cannot understand why Samantha all of a sudden wants to get to know her.  Has Lisa’s suicide brought the two survivors together? Or is it something else completely….?

Where to start..?!  I’m normally a fan of the characters in a book but this time it was more about the situation, for me.  Ninety percent of the time I really liked Quincy, but she also irritated me with her refusal to accept or even acknowledge her past.  For this reason I despised her attorney boyfriend, Jefferson, and Quincy’s negligent mother for encouraging her to look to the future, not the past and suggesting she try her best to be ‘normal’.  Samantha was mysterious from the moment she arrived in the story and I couldn’t for the life of me work out what she was up to.

I absolutely loved the flashback sections where the reader is transported to that night in the woods ten years ago.  There is the most wonderful horror movie vibe about the events of that night which made me feel nervous and apprehensive, despite having a fair idea of what was going to happen.  The pressure mounts as Quincy begins to slowly recall her memories, filling in some pretty frightening gaps and realising what secrets she has kept since that blood filled night.  It’s fantastically written and so very well done.  I loved it!

Would I recommend this book?  Most definitely.  It’s a new favourite and one I will be driving everyone around me crazy with!  I’m so excited that this book exists – it’s perfect and I want everyone to read it so you can all see how awesome it is as well.  Brilliantly addictive, deliciously dark and everything I want in a book! Superb.

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read an eARC of Final Girls.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Final Girls by Riley Sager was published in the UK by Ebury Press on 13th July 2017 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (with the paperback to follow in January 2018) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

Riley Sager is a pseudonym for an author who has been previously published under another name. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley is a writer, editor and graphic designer who now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Riley’s first novel, FINAL GIRLS (called “The first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King), was published in 2017 in the United States, the United Kingdom and more than twenty countries around the world.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

 

#BookReview: Two Dark Tales: Jack Squat and The Niche by Charles Lambert @BelgraviaB

jack squat“A pair of disturbing novellas from the master of ‘the literary uncanny’.

In ‘Jack Squat’, unemployed Gordon and his partner Omar see a money-making opportunity helping expats buy homes in southern Italy. But their scheme catches up with them after the first home they sell, curiously built with four entrances but no connecting doors inside, is revealed to have a dark history.

In ‘The Niche’, mercilessly bullied schoolboy Billy Lender finds a hiding place in a nook in the school corridor and begins to hear whispers: the voice of a mysterious friend who will help him to plot a devastating revenge.”

When a call goes out on Twitter for book bloggers who like to indulge in the darker side of fiction, I leap arms waving, into action.  Well, I leap thanks to a lovely book blogger friend tagging me (thanks Kate!).  I adore horror fiction but don’t tend to indulge as often as I’d like.  So I jumped at the opportunity to read this novella of two short dark tales.

The first thing to say is that the paperback version of this book is gorgeous.  Both stories have their own cover and you need to flip the book over to see the cover of The Niche.  ‘Not much good for reading, though’ you may be saying to yourself.  Not the case I can assure you.  The stories are back to back.  The reader can read their first story of choice (in my case Jack Squat) and when finished flip the book over, open the cover of The Niche and off you go again.  My daughter thought I’d finally lost the plot when she saw me reading what she thought was a book upside down!

My preferred story of the two was The Niche.  My heart ached for terrified schoolboy, Billy Lender, as the bullies wore him down with their cruel, brutish behaviour.  My heart sank even further when Billy began to hear voices.  Never a good thing in horror fiction!

Jack Squat felt as though it’s meant to be the lead story in the collection.  I enjoyed it but found certain aspects of the piece bordering on comical.  It may be because I have children and certain bodily functions are hilarious rather than, well, anything else but I couldn’t help but giggle a little.  It is dark, it’s quite gory in places but it didn’t win me over as much as The Niche did.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s a very quick read which I finished off one Sunday afternoon while the kids were hurtling around the local soft play!  I think I had expected a little more ‘dark’ than I actually got but that tends to be the case with most books I read.  I enjoyed the author’s style and would read another of his books if the opportunity arose in the future.  Enjoyable but didn’t knock my socks off.

Three and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Two Dark Tales: Jack Squat and The Niche.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Two Dark Tales: Jack Squat and The Niche by Charles Lambert were published in the UK by the Aarkvark Bureau on 16th October 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

charles lambert.jpgCharles Lambert was born in the United Kingdom but has lived in Italy for most of his adult life. His latest novel, The Children’s Home, described by Kirkus Reviews as ‘a one-of-a-kind literary horror story’, is set in neither country. Earlier books include three novels, a collection of prize-winning short stories and a memoir, With a Zero at its Heart, selected by the Guardian as one of its top ten books from 2014.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter |

#BookReview: HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (@Thomas_Novelist) trs Nancy Forest-Flier @hodderscape

Hex-by-Thomas-Olde-Heuvelt-CoverThe greats of fiction Stephen King and George R. R. Martin lead the fanfare for HEX, so be assured that Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s debut English novel is both terrifying and unputdownable in equal measure.

“Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she’s there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die.

The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.”

OK, I’ll admit it, I was starting to feel in need of a bookish change.  As regular visitors to the blog will know, I am an avid crime fiction reader with quite a few psychological thrillers thrown in there for good measure.  The books I have read recently have all been brilliant, but I needed something …different.  It doesn’t happen often but when it does, I tend turn my attention to horror novels.  I had completely forgotten I had this on the TBR!  When it was first published in April 2016 I was so excited about it but wasn’t lucky enough to get a copy then.  Thankfully the lovely Hodderscape people didn’t leave me waiting too long but by that point, I was deeply immersed in my Summer blog tour reading.  Only now am I starting to choose what to read again and this one lept out at my from my Kindle screen.

Just to prove how excited I was about this book when it first came out, I downloaded the first 10 chapters from NetGalley and reviewed them on the blog back in February.  If you click here you can read that review.  See?  I was really keen!  (In my defence, it was only my second month as a book blogger, I was still refining my art!).  As so much time had passed between those first 10 chapters and now I decided to start reading at the very beginning.  I was amazed at how easily I remembered the characters and what was going to happen next, testament to a good book.

I flew through those first chapters and eagerly anticipated the arrival of chapter 11.  So I guess the question is, was it worth the wait?  It was.  This book somehow managed to garner a strange hold over me.  I wasn’t as blown away by the witches antics as I expected to be but that didn’t stop this book being in my thoughts constantly, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep (thankfully it didn’t make it into my dreams!).  It has a certain pull.  There are some very shocking moments but they are well paced making the build of tension and the imminent sense of foreboding quite exquisite.

I read this one slowly, savouring the pictures being painted by the author and enjoying every moment.  It’s so very emotional, something I didn’t expect at all.  Now that I’ve finished the book and taken a few moments to compose myself, it’s become blatantly clear this is book isn’t really about a witch.  It’s about a small community that has to stare death in the face every moment of every day.  How they struggle to keep the madness of their predicament at bay and how when the times comes, they turn their backs on everyone else, even their loved ones.

I heartily recommend this book.  I think it will stay with me for some time and may even be one of the few that I revisit again in the future.

Five out of five stars

I chose to read and review an ARC of HEX.

HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt was published in the UK by HodderScape in April 2016 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audiobook formats | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Goodreads | hodderscape |

Smith & Sons (11)

thomas-oldeDutch novelist Thomas Olde Heuvelt is the author of five novels and many short stories of the fantastic. His short fiction has appeared in English, Dutch and Chinese, among other languages. He has been awarded the Harland Award (for best Dutch fantasy) on three occasions, and was nominated for both the Hugo Award and the World Fantasy Award.

Olde Heuvelt wrote his debut novel at the age of sixteen. He studied English Language and American Literature in his hometown of Nijmegen and at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Since then, he has become a bestselling author in The Netherlands and Belgium. He calls Roald Dahl and Stephen King the literary heroes of his childhood, who created in him a love for dark fiction.

HEX is Olde Heuvelt’s worldwide debut. Warner Bros. is currently developing a TV series based on the book.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website |

 

They Move Below by Karl Drinkwater *Blog Tour: Guest Post & Review*

51+-rQ8ufAL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_“Horror lives in the shadows.

It exists under the earth’s surface in ancient caves; below the vast sea’s undulating waves; under dense forest cover; within a storm’s thick, rolling clouds; downstairs in our homes, when we hear the knife drawer rattle in the night. Even our minds and bodies harbour the alien under the skin, the childhood nightmares in our subconscious.

In this collection of sixteen tales Karl Drinkwater sews flesh onto the bones of our worst fears whilst revisiting some of horror’s classic settings, such as the teen party, the boat in trouble, the thing in the cellar, the haunted museum, the ghost in the machine, and the urban legends that come true. No-one is safe. Darkness hides things, no matter how much we strain our eyes. And sometimes those things are looking back at us.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the penultimate stop on Karl Drinkwater’s July Horror Blog Tour.  ‘Horror…?’, I hear you cry.  Yes, horror.  I LOVE a good horror story and would go as far as saying it’s near the very top of my favourite genre list.  So when Karl was looking for bloggers to take part in his July Horror Blog Tour, I jumped at the chance.

I have read Karl’s fantastic collection of short stories and will share my thoughts with you towards the end of this post.  First up I have a guest post from Karl Drinkwater.  I count myself very lucky as I have had some incredibly honest, truly fascinating guest posts recently.  And that includes this fantastic guest post from Karl, who tells us why he writes and how depression has led him to where he is today.

Why do I write?

Writing is fantasy.

Fantasy is escapism from the darker parts of life.

So writing is like reading, but with a bit more say in what happens.

We all need some escapism. A breathing space from life’s problems, a chance to recuperate and catch your breath before the next frantic season of Reality.

My father died in July 1981. I was 8. My father was only 28. Over the next few years I retreated into books and solitude. I would head off on my bicycle and just spend an afternoon on my own in the fields and woods around my village. Sometimes I felt bad, and didn’t know why. I fantasised that a demon followed me round. I had to see the headmistress at junior school because when I couldn’t take it any more I started screaming: at dinner time, in a hall full of a hundred kids. The headmistress was Mrs Clifton, and she explained that what we imagine in our heads isn’t always how the world is, but it does affect how we see it. I learned to cope a bit better.

At secondary school I seemed to have more trouble making friends than other kids. I fell back on being the class clown. My other defence mechanism was just not going to school. Sometimes I would miss a whole week. I couldn’t face going in. When I did, my diary entries mostly began with “School was shit today.” My emotions were all over the place. Just being a teenager, eh? We’ve all been there.

And so on in college, then university. My friends thought I was confident and popular and intelligent and busy – I was on the environmental committee, and set up an animal group, and went to demonstrations – and they just assumed that if I didn’t turn up to a lecture I was ill, and if there was no answer at my door I must be out. But something was happening to me and I didn’t understand it. I only felt calm if I went for walks at night and didn’t see anybody. I looked in the mirror during the day and hated myself. Until the day came when I couldn’t take it any more and went home to my worried family, and saw a doctor, and was told I was depressed. At last I had a word for it. (It’s always a pleasure for a writer to find the correct word for something; the right word in the right place is the essence of poetic prose.)

I took the year out and spent it reading. I didn’t leave the house much. I read every day and every night. I alternated between horror novels, and the bookcase of Wordsworth Classics I’d bought in the library for £1 each. I also taught myself the basics of Ancient Greek for when I returned to university.

That time was a breathing space from life’s problems, the chance to recuperate and catch a breath before the next frantic season of Reality.

Since then depression has been an on-off issue in my life. But I understood it. I studied psychology, I volunteered with a counselling service, I read books about our minds. By understanding it better I could adapt, and cope. By acknowledging something it loses some of its power over you. As ever, writing was fantasy, and fantasy was escapism. Not running away, but recharging. Other worlds followed more predictable and satisfying rules than our own. I thought I was in control of it. And for the next 20 years I was, mostly.

In 2015 it hit back, hard, following a combination of external events that had been on my mind for a long time. It took me a while to realise it was depression, that monster I thought I had caged up in the attic. I was in a very dark place, with worrying thoughts, and it reached a head on a day while I was in work, completely unable to function or hold my psyche together any more. Once I got home I couldn’t leave the house for 15 days. Long story short: I left my job as a well-respected professional librarian. I was the person who thought nothing of speaking in front of 200 students, teaching them information literacy and getting them to engage with the material; I was the person who made colleagues smile or laugh, who spoke at conferences, who travelled round Wales supporting college libraries, who was the joking MC for the annual quiz at one of them. I was the person who over-estimated how much control he had of his own mind. Hubris and waxen wings and all that follows.

We all need some escapism. A breathing space from life’s problems, a chance to recuperate and catch your breath before the next frantic season of Reality. For some that is writing. For some that is reading. Appreciate it, and do your best to understand yourself, and know that we’re none of us perfect. That’s something we have in common.

On the plus side: I found the time to write They Move Below. Although I loved teaching, being a librarian, and helping people, I like to think that devoting myself to writing will be equally rewarding. Though being an author is a career followed mainly by fools and dreamers. It is not a quick path to fame and fortune.

It’s hard.

Writing well is hard. Though the generally great reviews I receive makes up for that.

Getting noticed is hard. I haven’t found a way of helping with this yet. You need a lot of sales and reviews before sites like Amazon start offering your work as suggestions for purchasers. It’s the successful writers who appear in the “suggestions to buy” boxes. Presumably they’ve worked hard too.

Making money … I don’t even know yet, because each book costs far more to write and publish than it makes back in sales.

But at least I’m doing what I love, and what I was meant to do, and that’s the best most of us can say in this world.

My last word. Even though I fear I’ve gone on too long already, I wanted to end on something of gratitude, and a note of appreciation to people who work for a good purpose – any purpose – in this time of cuts and cynicism. Normally when someone left my institution they would send a very short and polite thank-you email to colleagues; usually with no personal details if there was anything “untoward” about their leaving. Instead I sent this:

From: Karl Drinkwater
Sent: 21 May 2015
Subject: Pob hwyl

I’m sorry no-one has heard from me in a while. In this case it wasn’t that I got locked in the external store or squished in the rolling stacks; I was off work suffering from depression, something I hadn’t experienced so severely since I was an undergraduate and had to take a year out because of it. (Yes, we’re talking over 20 years ago!) During this time off work I agreed to take voluntary severance, so – assuming the paperwork has been properly signed in blood etc – I am no longer a librarian. It seems weird to write that. I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for being such great colleagues. You’re a wonderful bunch working hard in some trying times of change, but at the end of the day it’s worth it because of one thing – no, not the high salaries, the free pencils, the pats on the head or the holidays to Barbados – but because of the LEARNERS. We do affect them, we do help them, and even though we don’t always get to see the end results, libraries and education do change lives. You might not know but I was a failure at school, and hardly got any GCSEs (too busy with my girlfriend of the time; I went to Butlins with her instead of doing my maths GCSE). I rebelled and hated being told what to do. Then I went to FE college (South Trafford College, Manchester) and it all turned around; I ended up loving the independence and the studying, and got GCSEs and four A levels, and went on to university (1st class hons in English/Classics, plus – bizarrely, considering my MATHS ability – a prize for astronomy). But it was FE college that turned my life around. I even went to night school to study philosophy and in the long wait between the morning class and then the evening class I would stay in the library, reading, note-taking, thinking in the blessed silence about all the knowledge held in books, all that we know, all that we forget. Happy times. They turned my life around and that’s how I know colleges and universities and libraries are vital, cogs on which many wheels rely. It was a pleasure to work with you all. Keep honing the learners’ minds.

In case anyone is interested in my plans, I’ll be continuing to work as a writer, but with more time to do it, and maybe improving on my average output of one book every five years. You can contact me via my blog or Facebook or Twitter and it would be lovely to hear from you. If the writing thing fails then I’ll switch to my alternative careers as rock star, astronaut, and amateur pole dancer. Every moment is an opportunity to redefine your goals and yourself; if we only have one shot at this game of life then we have to make it worthwhile. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Best wishes and great peace,

Karl

Karl Drinkwater
(Ex-) Academic Services Librarian

Thank you so much Karl for this honest and interesting post regarding a subject many people would shy away from talking about.

Smith & Sons (9)

I love a short story collection.  I’m one of those readers that likes to feel as though they are making progress through a book and a short story collection is perfect for that.  All of the stories in this collection are a great length, normally taking somewhere between 15 minutes to 45 minutes to read from start to finish (I am quite a slow reader by the way!).

The stories all are individual in themselves, some with added shock factor whilst others sent chills down my spine.  I particularly enjoyed Creeping Jesus, Just Telling Stories, Claws Truth Forebear, Breaking the Ice (and Second Transcript), The Scissor Man, Overload and Regression.  Some old school horror, some a little different.

I find great horror stories tend to sometimes be more about the things you don’t know than the things you do.  Karl Drinkwater has expertly ended several of the stories with great handfuls of doubt, leaving you guessing and drawing your own conclusions.  I thoroughly enjoyed this approach, especially as it makes you think and consider what you have just read before moving onto the next story.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, to both established fans of the genre and to first time horror readers too.  You don’t know if you enjoy horror novels until you give them a go, do you?  Karl has created a collection of very readable stories which give a comprehensive view of the genre.  Don’t miss out!

Four out of five stars

Many thanks to Karl Drinkwater for providing me with a copy of They Move Below in exchange for an honest review.

They Move Below by Karl Drinkwater was published in the UK by Organic Apocalypse on 24th May 2016 and is available in paperback and eBooks formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

Smith & Sons (11)

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Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but has lived in Wales for over fifteen years, ever since he went there to do a Master’s degree: it was easier to stay than to catch a train back. His longest career was in librarianship (25 years); his shortest was industrial welding (1 week).

He started writing stories when he was 9, and hasn’t stopped. His writing sometimes spends time in the sunlit patches of literary fiction, where it likes to picnic beneath an old oak tree, accompanied by a bottle of wine, some cake, and soul-searching peace. At other times his words slope off into the dark and tense shadows of horror fiction, and if you follow them you might hear chains rattling behind locked doors and the paranoid screams of the lost echoing in the distance. There is no obligation to enjoy both of those avenues. His aim is to tell a good story, regardless of genre, but it always comes down to life, death, and connection.

When he isn’t writing or editing he loves exercise, computer games, board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice, and zombies; not necessarily in that order.

karldrinkwater.blogspot.com

@karldrinkwater

facebook.com/karlzdrinkwater

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