The Log House by Baylea Hart

The Log House by Baylea Hart tells the story of a young woman who is left for dead in a forest which is full of creatures that want to kill her. She needs to get back to the only home she has ever known, where her son is before she starves to death, or the forest and the monsters that lurk in it get her.

This was one of those books that hooked me pretty quickly and it was very rare where I’d read one chapter at a time. The world that Baylea Hart has here was one which really fuelled my imagination. Hart is very vague about some of the larger details of this world, focusing only on Penny’s (the protagonist) efforts to get back to her home, and I think it works well. Sometimes this vagueness can hinder a book, leaving too much left unanswered but Penny’s story here was enough to keep me turning the pages.

I liked what Hart did with the characters. Although we get the whole story from Penny’s point of view other characters are well laid out. Whether it was Penny, or her nemesis Mary, or even the forest itself I thought they provoked a strong reaction out of me that whether I liked them or not kept me engaged in the story and revealing the past that there is between Penny and Mary. That is the main mystery in the story, why there is such animosity between Penny and Mary, and I really liked how Hart drip fed that backstory throughout the novel. It comes at just the right times and doesn’t slow the story down at all. If anything they made me want to read more of the story.

One element that I was impressed with was how Hart’s description affected me at times. When it comes to horror I’m still a super newbie. I’m still learning what make me flinch, what makes my stomach turn, and what pushes me out of my comfort zone. With The Log House I found I felt like someone was standing behind me running their fingernails down a chalkboard. It was that sensation of ones skin crawling that got me with this book. Even now just writing it I want to scratch my skin. Hart does this so beautifully and in a way I haven’t yet encountered it really rammed home what Penny was going through. Hart creates such a tense atmosphere through the book which makes it uncomfortable in the way I think horror should be.

The Log House is definitely a book I’d recommend.

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The Silence by Tim Lebbon

I wrote a post about The Silence as I was about halfway through it. I talked about how it was getting under my skin, and how uncomfortable it was making me feel. It made me realise that’s what horror should do. It should make you feel uncomfortable, to the point where you don’t want to carry on with the story. Don’t get me wrong, the gross out stuff is fun but this touched a nerve I’ve only just started accepting that I have.

I’m glad I stuck The Silence out. It is a book that struck at so many of the fears that I have. There are characters that remind me of people I love. I could get on board with some of their motivations as well and decisions as well

I said in the post I wrote the other day that it felt like this book was written for me, simply because so much of it struck me. I understood the fear the characters had, I felt it as they feared for their lives. I felt the conflict when hard decisions had to be made. I felt their grief, and confusion.

Each time the protagonists were pushed by the events around them it felt like a punch in the gut each time. A few years ago I would have stopped listening (I have the audiobook), but the characters kept me going. I needed to know what happened to them in the end. I was cheering for them, hoping they’d get to safety.

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The movie The Ritual (based on Adam Nevill’s book) taught me a lot about horror last year. It gave me a whole new perception of what horror meant. The Silence did ten times more than that. It got under my skin and into my bones.

There is a movie adaptation coming this year, if it’s half as good as this then it’ll be a great movie.

The Malignant Dead by CL Raven

The Malignant Dead by CL Raven is the story of Alex McRae, an Edinburgh plague doctor, and his desire and effort to cure the disease that took so many.

Like the rest of their work The Malignant Dead is a very tightly constructed story. There’s not a lot of fat in it to get choked on. This allows the story to move at a brisk pace that meant I’d find myself surprised at how many pages I’d read in a sitting. Especially as its historic fiction, which isn’t normally my cup of tea. There’s enough detail and references, like words that would have been used back then, that it pulls you into Edinburgh during that time period. It was easy to feel how dirty and dangerous the city was back then.

Something Cat and Lynx do particularly well are characters. The protagonists in this story are people I want to hang out with, and I fell in love a little with the lead female character, Katerin. They felt very real, with real motivations and concerns. Alex McRae’s love for those he holds dear is felt throughout the novel. You feel what he’s going through, whether its his frustrations with those who have the plague or his joy at being with Katerin or his friend James. There are a couple of moments which had me choking up as well. Events in the life of Alex McRae that strike him hard. It is counterbalanced by some good humour as well.

I definitely recommend The Malignant Dead.

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This book involves characters from their 2017 novel, The Devils Servants. Although The Devils Servants isn’t a direct sequel I’d recommend reading The Malignant Dead and then The Devils Servants.

Horror Thatโ€™s Getting Under My Skin

Up until recently I’ve rarely seen a horror movie that got under my skin. I say movie because I’ve only started delving into horror novels recently.

Aside from being grossed out by the odd scene here and there I’ve never really felt uncomfortable in a way that I now know horror should do. The first I noticed this was last year when I saw The Ritual. This is a film that was based on the novel by Adam Nevill. When I watched that film in the cinema I remember feeling a long way out of my comfort zone, but I still got through it and really enjoyed the movie (I’m looking forward to reading the book itself soon as well).

This week I’ve started listening to The Silence by Tim Lebbon. Tim Lebbon is a name I keep seeing pop up, and after meeting him at Bristol horror con last year and hearing him on a couple of podcasts (Three Guys With Beards & The Horror Show With Brian Keene) I knew I needed to check out some of his stuff. At the con I brought off him his book After The War, but knowing what a slow reader I was and that The Silence will be released as a movie sometime this year I believe, I wanted to read that one. So I got it on audiobook and although I’m only half way through it, it’s got under my skin. I thought The Ritual had an unsettling affect on me, but The Silence has gone deep. I almost stopped listening to it a quarter of the way through. It is so carefully crafted to trigger the readers own fears, even to the point where it feels like Lebbon’s written it just for me. Some of the elements here feel personal in a way I’ve not felt from a book before. That’s not to say books haven’t had an effect on me, because they have. Hell, a few have had me chocking up while others I’ve been punching them air in triumph and celebration.

As I was listening today I was thinking I’ll be finished it by the time I finished work at 3pm tomorrow, but I had to leave a day between the quarter way point of it and where I got to today, so I might resume it Monday and let the events in it sink in a little.

This book is really getting under my skin, and although it’s making me feel this way that’s what I feel is good horror. For horror to really work it has to make you feel how this is feeling. If I had to give this a rating right now it’ll easily be five stars.

I don’t have any ideas how this book will end, but I’ll be going in headfirst to find out.

Sunday 22nd October 2017

This last week has been great, Sparks An Electric Anthology came out from Burdizzo Books. It’s got my story ‘The Last Charge’ in it, and all of the proceeds go to Resources for Autism. You can find it on Amazon here. Yesterday we had the first of two launch parties, you can see the readings from some of the stories at the Burdizzo Books Facebook page. The second launch party is on the 3rd of November, here’s the details. If it’s half as much fun as yesterday’s then it’ll be a lot of fun.

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I’ve been up and down with writing this week. I’ve not got a whole lot of words done but I haven’t done bad. Today I’ve knocked out about two thousand words, despite feeling extremely wiped out.

Life does settle down a little from here on out, I think. I’ll no doubt be off to the cinema one night this week, a NaNoWriMo prep Write-In on Wednesday. This weekend is pretty clear though, I have friends over on Saturday but that’ll be nice and chilled out.

As I wrap this up, I’ll end by asking that everyone please check out Sparks. I’m really proud of this story, and happy to be in this anthology with some fantastic writers.

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Myself, Pippa Bailey, Matthew Cash and David Court.

Sunday 15th October 2017

I haven’t got my word counts close to hand so I can’t say what my numbers for the week are, but they aren’t great.

The last week has felt like it’s flown by; I can’t really recall much about Monday and Tuesday, but on Wednesday I was at a Write-In and got some good words written. Thursday I was at the cinema to see Blade Runner 2049. Friday evening most of it was getting bits and pieces done for going to Bristol Horror Con yesterday.

I’ve got a lot I’d like to get done today. Outside of writing I’ve got a chicken house to clean out, and I’d really like to swap my bookcase around with my movie library (the bookcase is closer to my TV stand), but I don’t think that’ll happen today. I do want to get a good 1000, 1500 words done today, and get stuck into the outlining for NaNo. I’ve changed my mind (again) and will be doing a second draft of my zombie piece I wrote a few months ago. I think that’s the right piece to be doing, and there will be less prep for it than one of the other options. That’ll give me more time to focus on the WIP and getting that done before NaNo starts.

I enjoyed Blade Runner 2049, but it was too long. If there was half an hour shaved off it then I think I would have enjoyed it more. I’ve never been a huge fan of the original Blade Runner but do have some moments in the film that I find really memorable. I’m not sure there’s much in Blade Runner 2049 that I’ll find iconic. The performances were good and it looked amazing. The sound didn’t work for me. I’ve also seen the storyline before, anyone who saw the Battlestar Galactica reboot has seen it. I will give a shoutout to Dave Bautista, he was really good and showed just how talented an actor he is. Mackenzie Cook was also very good. It was hard to take my eyes off of her when she was on screen. Ana de Armas as Joi was incredibly good as well. She put a lot of heart into the film.

Finally, just a quick few words on Bristol Horror Con. It was a lot of fun. Last year was good, but this one was better. It’s been expanded into a bigger hotel, and I caught a couple of panels and the readings which was so much fun. I caught up with my friends CL Raven, such awesome people. I had a chat with their friend David Davies (From The Shadows Ltd), again. He’s a great dude. I also had a chat with Adam Millard again, again another great fella. His wife is really nice as well. I got a couple of minutes chatting to Tim Lebbon as well, another really cool and nice dude. That’s something that has struck about the couple of Horror cons I’ve been to, everyone is just so nice. When I was younger, and more stupid, I’d be a little wary of people who did live their lives different from mine. But in listening to more metal and ‘alternate’ music and going to cons, and seeing people from the Horror community online I’ve realised that this community is not only amazing, but incredibly welcoming as well. I’ve been to three horror cons now, and each one I’ve felt at home at. Everyone is smiling and having a great time. Cat and Lynx Raven have said a couple of times how great this community is, and they’ve been in it a lot longer than I have. Come next year, I want to get to a few more horror cons next year.

Good Morning, Sunday 8th October 2017

This last week has not been that productive. I think I hit a bit of burn out earlier in the week, and then I had a couple of nights where I was catching up with friends, but come Friday I was back on it. I had three different stories fighting it out in my head for attention.

The Sparks ebook went up for pre-order over at Amazon, here’s the link.

Sparks is released on the 17th of this month.

I’m really excited about this anthology. There’s some great people involved and all the proceeds go to Resources for Autism. We are having two launch parties for Sparks, one will be in Walsall on the 21st of this month at Southcart Books & Comics at 11am. I will be there. The second is on the 3rd of November at No.84 Tearoom and Eatery at Echo Square, Gravesend. I will definitely be at this one as well, seeing as it’s my hometown.

Sparks Cover

Sparks includes stories by; Ash Hartwell, Calum Chalmers, Em Dehaney, Betty Breen, Peter Germany, Lex Jones, Christopher Law, Dani Brown, Matthew Cash, Mark Cassell, Samantha Hill, CH Baum, Pippa Bailey, GH Finn, and David Court. Sparks is edited by Matthew Cash and Em Dehaney. With the cover by Matt Hill.