Moving Day – short story

My short story Moving Day is now available via Crystal Lake Publishing’s Patreon page as one of the shortlisted stories in their latest competition. If you want to read my story, you can find it here. You can also vote for the winner if you are a member.

CLP’s Patreon link is here.

Crystal Lake Publishing (July stories)

Hi! One of my short stories will appear soon via Crystal Lake Publishing’s Patreon page as one of the short-listed stories in their latest competition.

Here are the 17 finalists, and the order in which the stories will be posted, starting tomorrow (July 6th):

“Safe House” by Madeline Mora-Summonte

“We Live To Entertain” by Gregg Stewart

“This House is a Web” by Justin Zimmerman 

“This Old Haunted House” by Larry Hinkle

“Moving Day” by John Moralee (my story, published on 10th July!)

“Beverly” by Wofford Lee Jones

“The Haunted Mouse” by Jacob J Hyde

“Hide” by Gert Hanekom

“S/MART” by Jonah Buck

“Non-verbal Commands” by Marcelo Medone

“I Am a Room Unto Myself and I Am Ravenous” by Jonathan Gensler

“My House” by Karen van Vuuren

The Doll” by Francesca Maria


“Always Watching” by Anna Dress


“Playing with Children” by A.M. Symes

The stories will appear on their website for members to read, with one new one added each day. My story – Moving Day – will become available soon. CLP members can vote for the winner after all short-listed stories are published.

I hope you’ll check them out.

CLP’s Patreon link is here.

Retro Review: Maximum Bob by Elmore Leonard

Maximum Bob by Elmore Leonard

I could have picked almost every book by Elmore Leonard for review – but most people have already seen film adaptations of his most famous ones, like Get Shorty, Hombre and Mr Majestik. I’ve picked Maximum Bob because it is representative of his work in general – a crime novel written by a superb writer. Elmore Leonard died in 2013 after producing an impressive list of books in the crime and western genres. One of his short stories was used to create the TV series Justified, which has brought him a large number of new fans.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/reader/B006ZZSHSQ/ref=sib_dp_kd#reader-link

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

Maximum Bob is a judge known for giving criminals hard sentences. His toughness has made him so many enemies someone wants him dead in this tough novel filled with hard criminals and black humour set in a small town.

(Maximum Bob was made into a short-lived TV series starring Beau Bridges. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after its first season.)

WHY IT DESERVES FIVE STARS

Maximum Bob is a typical Elmore Leonard crime novel. It features quirky characters, sublime dialogue, a blistering plot, and Elmore Leonard’s trademark style of sparse writing. Elmore Leonard believed a writer should “cut out the boring stuff readers skip” to produce a lean, mean story with lots of white on each page. He wrote his books like scripts – leaving out long descriptions of the characters and setting because it wasn’t necessary. Some critics complain he ignored grammar – but he never did that. He often wrote in the style of the character, which meant he would occasionally ignore the grammar rules, though never at the expense of comprehension. He knew the rules of grammar – but he didn’t let them rule him. He created character through sparky dialogue and narrative, cutting out every unnecessary word.

Elmore Leonard was a writer’s writer. His non-fiction essays and articles on writing contain valuable advice for anyone considering it as a career. I think they should be essential reading on all creative-writing college courses. Even if you are not a fan of crime fiction, his fiction is worth reading just to learn how to write more concisely. After reading his essays, you’ll never use a fancy word for “said” again.

You will like this if you like: Quentin Tarantino movies, Donald Winslow, Richard Stark “Parker” novels, Justified, Get Shorty, Carl Hiaasen, Banshee, Lawrence Block, Ed McBain.

Retro Review: Cold in July by Joe R Lansdale

Cold in July by Joe R Lansdale

I became a fan of Joe R Lansdale long before his work was adapted into TV shows and movies. I just loved Cold In July and his Hap and Leonard novels, which feature black humour and dark crimes. I’d like to see his early books become more popular because I think a lot of people are missing a treat.

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW

What would you do if someone broke into your house in the middle of the night? That is the situation facing the main character at the beginning of this concise novel. Joe R Lansdale turns that simple premise into a tough thriller that deftly changes tone into a black comedy with a brilliant shift in the plot.

WHY IT DESERVES FIVE STARS

This book could have been a superb conventional thriller – but Joe R Lansdale didn’t want to write one of those. There are plenty of them. Instead, he wanted to write something different – which he did here by playing with genre expectations. It was a risky move – but it worked for me.

Sharp dialogue, strong characters and a brilliant twist make Cold in July something unexpected and entertaining for anyone with a dark sense of humour. A cult classic.

You will like this if you like: Cape Fear, Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiassen, Dexter, Banshee, Dirty Harry.

Book Review: The Void by Chad Miller

The Void is a collection of fifteen creepy short stories by Chad Miller. I received a copy from the author for my honest review.

The Void Review

It’s often difficult to judge a collection as a whole because each story will be different, appealing to a different readership, so I will first describe each story separately.

This book contains the following short stories/ flash fiction pieces:

Descent: a dark and very bleak tale about the long-term effect of abuse and its consequences.

The Helpless: A man trapped in a coma hears everything his greedy relatives think about him.

Always There: A harrowing ghost story involving the horrors of the Holocaust.

Nightmare at the Pharmacy: A short and darkly funny story featuring a lot of toilet-based humour.

DNR: An Artificial Intelligence contemplates a future without its creator.

Survivor: A divorced man’s life hangs in the balance – literally.

The Proletariat: A man’s arrested for something, but he doesn’t know what.

A Sick Sense of Humor (Living the American Dream): A wage-slave looks forward to retirement after years and years of tedious work.

Lady Davignon: A flash piece inspired by Lady D’arbanville by Cat Stevens/ Yusaf Islam.

The Beast Awakens: A young girl lives in an abusive home with her beastly mother.

Tall Tale: A True Story: Another toilet-based humour story about a man with a strange bowel problem.

Sanctuary: A vignette about love.

Guilty Pleasure: A man must clean his knife because it has become horribly stained …

The Nick: A little historical tale – a guillotine pleasure.

To Death with Irony: A flash story about death and the afterlife.

There’s a lot of variety in this collection. The ones I liked best are where the author uses his personal knowledge to good effect. Chad Miller is a trained pharmacist – so the medical details in Nightmare at the Pharmacy ring true. It was darkly funny in places, too.

I also enjoyed Guilty Pleasure for its twist ending.

Always There, a harrowing tale of the evils of the Holocaust, was a heartfelt story that showed the grim reality of the concentration camps. One of the author’s relatives was a survivor of the atrocities, so that story had great details and compassion for the victims. It’s longer than most of the stories and has more depth because of it.

Some of these stories are very dark, involving such themes as abuse, suicide and drug addiction. There’s one that is a Kafta-esque nightmare. Another makes me glad to have had a happy childhood.

Personally, I prefer when the author’s displays his macabre sense of humour, like in DNR, or when he focuses on the relationships between characters, like in A Sick Sense of Humor.

All are well-written, even if the subject matter is not to your taste.

If you like a quick dose of darkness, you might like reading Chad Miller’s The Void.

About the author: Chad Miller has a B.A in psychology from Syracuse University and a Pharm D. from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. He lives in Delaware with his girlfriend Natasha, her daughter Sasha, and his three children, Killian, Willow, and, Halina. His novel, The Prisoner of Fear will debut this fall. For other published works and information check out his website here.

You can find his book The Void on Goodreads and Amazon US / Amazon UK

Book Review: The Survivors by T.C. Weber

The Survivors by T.C. Weber is a post-apocalyptic horror novella set in a grim dystopian future, where civilisation has undergone a total collapse. In a world ravaged by ecological disasters and the mass extinction of humankind by unknown events, the few survivors live in small groups like hunter-gatherers from prehistoric times. They hunt and kill just to survive. Nobody is safe. Life is tough and short.

In the beginning of this tale, a young adult – Lucy – is a reluctant member of a small group of survivors commanded by a fierce and ruthless woman called Irma. Unfortunately for Lucy, Irma is no Boudica protecting her people. She rules by fear and violence, forcing Lucy to do bad things to survive.

Lucy has two children, Mary and Isaac. She dreams of finding a better place to live with them, so she has taught herself to read the books left behind by the Vanished Ones. She has also learnt how to heal, a skill that is useful to her group.

Lucy’s only hope is to find somewhere built by the Vanished Ones – a new, safe haven – but many dangers await her on her long journey.

Reading this novella reminded me of Mad Max, The Hills Have Eyes and The 100. It’s very violent and extremely gruesome, featuring explicit descriptions of killings and cannibalism. You will need a strong stomach to read some sections. There is a lot of gore splattered on these pages, as Lucy encounters some terrible things on her way across America. The author does not shy away from showing readers his nightmarish vision of the year 2200.

There’s a strong theme in this novella about irreversible Climate Change and the horrendous damage we’re currently inflicting on our planet. It’s a stark warning of a plausibly horrific future – if we don’t do something now to stop it happening.

If you like your dystopian fiction ghoulish and brutal, you might enjoy reading T.C. Weber’s The Survivors, which delivers a disturbing and memorable story showing what could happen if we don’t fix things now.

I received a copy of The Survivors from the author for an honest review.

About the author: T.C. Weber is the author of Sleep State Interrupt, published by Sharp Press, which was a finalist for the Compton Crook award for best first science fiction, fantasy, or horror novel. He has also written two sequels, The Wrath of Leviathan and Zero-Day Rising, as well as an alternate history novel called Born in Salt. He’s a member of Poets & Writers and the Horror Writers Association.

You can find The Survivors (published by Solstice Publishing) in paperback and Kindle versions. It is also on Goodreads.

Amazon US paperback / Kindle

Amazon UK paperback / Kindle

Shiny New Idea Syndrome

I just read a fascinating article by Gary Dalkin in May’s edition of Writing Magazine about Shiny New Idea Syndrome – a condition that afflicts many writers. In a way it is sort of the opposite of writer’s block because you don’t have no ideas about what to write next, instead you have too many. That’s exactly like me! I like starting a new project much more than finishing one. My hard drive is absolutely filled with half-finished manuscripts. Something SHINY and NEW is far, far more exciting than whatever thing I’ve been working on. It’s a problem, but I didn’t know it had a name until now.

I’m not going to rehash that article here or suggest ways of dealing with the problem – other websites have done that already – but it is good to recognise that it is a problem. New ideas distract and delay the completion of whatever you’re wanting to finish. I’d love to just sit down, write, write, write, then hit save on a completed draft. I’d be a lot more productive if I didn’t have new ideas sneaking into my brain, demanding attention like crying newborns.

But I’d honestly hate it if I didn’t have new ideas popping up all of the time. I like it! Sometimes those Shiny New Ideas are worth writing down immediately because they write themselves. There’s nothing better than writing a first draft that excites me to its end. The writing becomes a pleasure, not a chore. Like magic, the first draft is effortless, fast and exciting.

Afterwards, I can reassess my previous projects and figure out why I lost enthusiasm at a certain point. Hopefully, by then, I’ll have some Shiny New Ideas for continuing work on them.

If not, I know a new idea will soon come along, screaming for attention.

I’d love to know how you feel about Shiny New Idea Syndrome.

Does it affect you? How do you cope? Is it a problem or a solution?

Natalie’s Ghost – short story

My short story Natalie’s Ghost is now available via Crystal Lake Publishing’s Patreon page as one of the shortlisted stories in their latest competition. If you want to read my story, you can find it here. You can also vote for the winner if you are a member.

CLP’s Patreon link is here.

Crystal Lake Publishing (January stories)

I haven’t posted anything on my website for a while, so I’m pleased to have some positive news for 2022. One of my short stories will appear soon via Crystal Lake Publishing’s Patreon page as one of the shortlisted stories in their latest competition. If you want to read the stories, you can find a list of them here. The stories will appear on their website for members to read, with one new one added each day. My story will become available to read in 20 days. (It’s called Natalie’s Ghost.) CLP members can vote for the winner after all twenty stories are published. I hope you’ll check them out.

CLP’s Patreon link is here.

Have a happy New Year!

Maria Haskins

Writer & Translator

Tim Stout

Writer & Editor

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