Footsteps in the Dark: update 2

Here’s a link to an interesting blog featuring interviews with the authors in the new anthology Footsteps in the Dark, which includes one of my stories, plus many others.

The authors write about the works that inspired them and describe their writing methods.

Interview with the authors of Footsteps in the Dark


Footsteps in the Dark: anthology update

Covid-19 delayed the release of many books, including an anthology of Gothic fantasy short stories called Footsteps in the Dark, which I’m pleased to say contains one of my short stories.

The book also includes work by Ramsey Campbell and many more authors. You can read about the inspiration behind each story on the publisher’s website here.

The book is now available in the USA and Canada, as well as the UK.






Zombies for Halloween

ATZ book of zombies

This week I found out my short story The Skeleton has been accepted in a new horror anthology called Tricks, Treats, & Zombies – a collection of zombie stories published by ATZ Publications for Halloween, edited by Jeffrey Clare.

The other contributors are Eric A Shelman, Katy Walker, Chris Philbrook, P Mark Debryan, Aria Michaels, Brea Behn, DD Vangarde, Jay Wilburn, Suzanne Casey, Bethany Hagardt, James Dean, Laurie Lane Mault, Richard Correll and Amy Bartelloni.

You can learn more about this on Facebook from All Things Zombie.

Update October: The book is now released on Amazon.

Tricks,Treats & Zombies US

Tricks, Treats & Zombies UK

Ten Deadly Tales – charity anthology

Ten Deadly Tales

Ten Deadly Tales is a charity anthology of horror stories just released.  It includes one of my stories called The Cursed.

‘Ten Deadly Tales’ is a collection of short stories and flash fictions from the darker side of life. Contributed by up-and-coming independent authors, this is an anthology for anyone who likes ghosts and gore, mutants and monsters, demons, death and everything in between!

All proceeds from this anthology will go to Derian House Children’s Hospice.

List of contributors: M.K. Feese , Glo Gray , John Hoggard , Sherrie Lee James , John Moralee , Jason Purdy , M. Sinclair , Bart Van Goethem , JC Mitchinson

US Amazon link for Ten Deadly Tales.

Inside the writer’s mind: Halloween

Halloween comic strip.

Related post: Using Kindle Comic Creator.

My horror collection The Bone Yard and Other Stories is now available as a paperback and ebook.

It is a collection of fifteen dark stories, ranging from a traditional ghost story to splatterpunk, totalling over 70, 000 words. Some of these stories have appeared before in print in horror anthologies and magazines, but many others are new and original to this gruesome collection.

This collection includes:

The Bone Yard – a group of boys discover something terrible in a graveyard.
Nematode – the reason why eating too much meat is bad for you.
Open Wounds – torture and pain are the least of one man’s worries when he’s arrested.
The Challenge – a woman finds herself trapped in a strange tower with no memory of how she got there.
The Shadow of Death – what would you do if the world was overrun with zombies and you were one of them?
Monsters – The Nazis perform horrific experiments on humans with the aid of Dr Frankenstein’s reanimation technology, making one scientist question his beliefs.
Sickness Country – a racist community face retribution.
The Midnight Murderer – a writer suspects a psycho-killer is stalking him.
The Faintest Echo – a man’s son dies, but he sees him again …
Sleeping in the Earth – a killer makes a deal to get out of prison one more time.
The Gift – a woman receives a disturbing present.
The Deepest, Darkest Fear – a sheriff investigates the disappearance of his own child.
The Big Favour – would you help your friend dispose of a body?
Starlight – a ghost-writer encounters a famous actress with a secret.
Disconnected – two girls become trapped in a telephone box with terrifying results.

Contains 70, 000 words/277 real pages.


Killing Sound by Paul Southern Review

Killing Sound by Paul Southern Review

I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

Cover of Killing Sound
Killing Sound by Paul Southern

Killing Sound by Paul Southern

Paperback: 317 pages

Publisher: Chicken House Ltd

ISBN-10: 1909489085

ISBN-13: 978-1909489080

Review by John Moralee

Killing Sound is Paul Southern’s third novel, his first for YA horror readers after writing two gritty books for adults. It mixes fringe science with the supernatural, delivering a creepy, disturbing story about a teenage girl called Jodie, whose parents died in a mysterious, gruesome science experiment when she was only five-years-old.

Twelve years later, Jodie remembers little about what happened to her parents, believing they died in a car accident, but when she finds some of her father’s scientific notes hidden in the attic of her family home, Jodie learns about her father’s experiments with infrasound, the sound hidden below the frequency of normal human hearing. Infrasound can’t be heard – but its ominous presence can be felt by sensitive people, like Jodie.

Soon Jodie starts having frightening dreams and disturbing hallucinations, forcing her to investigate her family history, slowly uncovering the truth about how her parents died.

Jodie’s helped by her boyfriend Luca and her friend Kamran – but her task is complicated by a nasty girl called Laura and her sinister gang of goths. They want to harm Jodie and Luca – putting their lives in danger.

Killing Sound begins with vivid horror and delivers a good, chilling atmosphere throughout, making the grim streets of London and the cold dark tunnels of the Underground come alive in the imagination. The details about infrasound and the London Underground are interesting and well-researched. I had read articles on the effects of infrasound before in The Fortean Times, but I had never read anything about tigers using infrasound as a weapon to stun their prey. Very interesting.

I would have liked to know more about the characters for greater empathy, but Paul Southern writes well and knows how to build suspense. The story reminded me of the classic 1957 horror film The Night of the Demon (US title: Curse of the Demon/The Haunted), as it built up the suspense. You know some bad things will happen – but when they do it is still a shock.

Killing Sound is a supernatural horror story worth reading if you like YA horror with a dark theme and a bleak urban setting.

Interview In A Mirror

Interview In A Mirror

Today I’d like to interview myself on the subject of horror fiction. I’m not keen on talking about myself – so I hope I won’t ask myself some personal questions. I sit down and stare at myself in a mirror. I don’t like the guy staring back at me. He hasn’t shaved yet. He looks like a werewolf with a hangover, but he’s available for an interview because he’s got nothing better to do.

Questioner: Hello, John. You write horror stories. What’s the first horror story you remember reading?

John Moralee: That’s a good question. Let me think. Uh – Slugs by Shaun Hutson. No – wait. There was one thing before that – a scary collection of stories for kids that included a disturbing drawing of a banshee. I didn’t sleep for weeks after reading that book. I was scared of opening it to the banshee picture. Its dark red eyes seemed to stare out at me like it was alive.

Questioner: Going back a sec. Slugs is a gruesome and violent adult book. How old were you when you read it?

John Moralee: Ten.

Questioner: That’s young for reading an adult horror novel, isn’t it?

John Moralee: Yeah. I think I borrowed in from my local library on my dad’s library card. There was no kid’s section for horror back then – but you could see them around the next corner with their excitingly frightening covers. As soon as I had my own adult card, aged eleven, I think, I read all of the scariest books in the horror section, which was large in those days, much larger than it is these days.

Questioner: You must like libraries, then?

John Moralee: No – I love libraries. When I hear good things about a writer, I always go to a library and borrow their first book to see if I like their writing. If I like what I read, I’ll buy copies of their other work – as long as they are not too expensive. I would never have read some of my favourite horror writers if I had not found them in my local library aged eleven. I remember being scared of the picture on the cover of The Keep by F Paul Wilson. I just had to read it after seeing it. The Fury was another. And all of the books by Stephen King.

Questioner: Do you like writing short stories more than longer stuff?

John Moralee: No – but it is easier to finish writing a short story. I have a dozen incomplete horror novels in progress – but I’ve completed dozens of horror stories. It is deeply satisfying to finish something. You can do that with a short story in a few days or a week. But a novel is a massive project. It’s much harder to keep going. I have dozens of manuscripts of about 200 pages each. I intend to finish them eventually – so it is not completely wasted time. I like short stories because they are more manageable projects.

Questioner: What writer influenced you the most?

John Moralee: There’s not one writer – but dozens of them. I’ve always wanted to write – so I read as much as possible. I don’t limit my reading to one genre. I’ll read books I think I won’t like just to see what the author does with another genre. I started reading crime novels because I read the Agatha Christie books in my library. And I would not have liked science fiction if I had not discovered Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick. I’m a binge reader, easily hooked on reading everything by an author before moving on to another one. I buy all of their work until they write a dud – then I might stop reading them unless they return to form.

Questioner: You must have a favourite of your favourites?

John Moralee: I suppose it would be Elmore Leonard. He wrote about seventy novels. I’ve got them all on my shelves. His economical style and wit were an addictive combination. Other strong contenders are Ed Gorman, James Lee Burke, Donald Westlake, Ed McBain, Martin Cruz Smith, Ian Rankin, Paul F Hamilton, Ian M. Banks, Douglas Adams, Haruki Murakami, Scott Lynch, Dan Simmons and Jodi Picoult. There are dozens more when I think about it. Hundreds more! Honestly, I don’t have one favourite over the others. I like them all.

Questioner: In the horror genre, which is your favourite?

John Moralee: Well – there’s Stephen King because Skeleton Crew got me writing my own short stories. His books always have strong narrative drive. He can turn a simple premise into a brick-sized novel that manages to hook his readers because he delivers realistic characters in nightmarish situations. Salem’s Lot is a classic. There’s also Clive Barker. His imagination is incredible. I loved The Great and Secret Show and The Books of Blood. I also admire Peter Straub for writing Koko and Ghost Story. I also read everything by Dean Koontz, John Shirley, James Herbert and Robert Bloch. I was also addicted to the books by Richard Laymon before he sadly passed away.

Questioner: What books don’t you like?

John Moralee: I don’t like books where the end is too predictable. Or contrived. If the end is what I expected in chapter one, I always feel disappointed, like the author wasted my time. And I dislike so-called literary novels with no plot. I like plot – which is why I like crime novels as much as horror. Crime novels have to make some kind of sense at the end. I don’t like to finish a book wondering, “What was the point of reading that?” It must have a purpose – the telling of a story. I’d prefer a badly-written crime novel with a great plot over a stylistically beautiful literary masterpiece with none.

Questioner: Back to horror. What’s your favourite horror movie?

John Moralee: The Thing.

Questioner: The original version or the remake with Kurt Russell?

John Moralee: The remake. John Carpenter did a brilliant job of creating claustrophobic paranoia. The soundtrack was truly eerie. Very effective shocks.

Questioner: Which author do you admire the most?

John Moralee: I admire any writer capable of finishing a long work. It’s the hardest thing to do.

Questioner: That’s not a proper answer. Name someone!

John Moralee: Wow. You’re getting a bit aggressive, Mr Interviewer. I admire Dan Simmons for writing Hyperion. That’s my favourite SF novel of all time, along with its second part, The Fall of Hyperion. The complex plot has so many interwoven strands that all come together in a superb way.

Questioner: What are you reading now?

John Moralee: I always read about twenty or thirty books at once. They include Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, IQ84 by Haruki Murakami, Heart-Shaped Box by Stephen King’s son Joe Hill, plus a load of non-fiction.

Questioner: Would you like to tell me about your own horror collections?

John Moralee: I’ve self-published two horror collection on Amazon. They contain a variety of horror and dark suspense fiction written over twenty years. Some stories were published in books and magazines.

Questioner: Why did you self-publish them?

John Moralee: I decided to give it a go when Kindle Publishing started. I saw it as a great opportunity because it was better than leaving my stories on my computer where they were doing nothing.

Questioner: Have they been successful?

John Moralee: Yes and no. I feel like I’ve done something with them – so I feel positive about that. In terms of financial success, though, I’d have to say no. I would not call my self-publishing venture a financial success yet – but I don’t regret doing it. At least my stories are no longer just on my computer.

Questioner: What do you plan on doing next?

John Moralee: I’ll keep on writing stories because that’s what I like to do.

Questioner: One final question. Are you going to shave today?

John Moralee: I will if you stop distracting me with questions.

Questioner: Okay. Thank you for the interview.

John Moralee: You’re welcome. Is that it, then?

Questioner: Oh – what’s the web address of your books?

John Moralee: Um – I never know how to post those things on my blog. Ah – here is it for the UK and here for the US. Thanks for asking that question. Will you check out my books?

Questioner: No. I just want to know so I can avoid it.

John Moralee: Hey! I’m ending this interview now. Goodbye.

Questioner: You can’t get away from me. I’m always there – waiting for you in the mirror.

Journal of the Living

Journal of the Living image.
A reader-directed zombie apocalypse story by John Moralee.

Journal of the Living

Journal of the Living is a reader-directed web novel about a survivor of the zombie apocalypse telling his story in a series of blog posts. Some parts of the story feature a poll asking readers what they want the main character to do next, just like a “choose your own adventure” novel. The story will go in whatever direction the majority of voters decide.

This week the twelfth entry has a poll closing on June 1.

I hope new readers will want to join in the voting. It will make it more fun for me, as the writer, if readers participate.

The story can be read from the beginning via this link here to the first entry or this one here to the first eight chapters.

Journal of the Living’s Facebook page is here.

Bloodways – updated
Bloodways is a collection of horror stories recently updated with an extra two stories. It now contains eleven stories totalling 30,000 words. It includes the following short stories:

Riding the Lightning – A man becomes obsessed with the supernatural power of lightning.
Bloodways – A journalist follows a killer through a portal into a hellish world.
The Black Chip Game – A telepathic woman plays a deadly game of poker against a formidable foe.
Only Snowing – A man’s journey home turns into a nightmare when it begins to snow
Red Red Wine – A man makes a Faustian deal with a vampire.
Stalk – After an accident Stalk sees dead people – dead angry people
Behind Closed Doors – A sinister group meet behind closed doors.
Deathware – A new treatment method for serial killers.
A Distant Roar – A man encounters some dangerous wildlife in Africa.
Breaking Vlad – an old-school vampire visits the author
The Final Tweet – a famous writer leaves a creepy message for his fans

The Black Chip Game first appeared in the magazine Peeping Tom #28 (C) 1997. Revised 2012.

The Highs and Lows of Doing A Kindle Book Free Promotion

The Highs and Lows of Doing A Kindle Book Free Promotion

Giving stories away for free is one method authors can use to boost their visibility on Amazon – but you can have mixed results doing it. It really is a last resort because you never know what will happen.

I have one title that proves this perfectly. It’s a horror collection called The Bone Yard and Other Stories, which reached #3 in the UK Horror Anthology list this week.

The Bone Yard and Other Stories reaches #3 in the UK Amazon chart.
The Bone Yard and Other Stories reaches #3 in the UK Amazon chart.

About two years ago it was not selling – so I signed it up to KDP Select. My first promotion gave away about 300 copies in the US and a 100 in the UK. It started to sell afterwards in a roughly three-to-one ratio – exactly what you’d expect given the number of downloads. It continued to sell steadily for months in small numbers, but it received no reviews in either region. Since the free promotion had worked, I repeated it. Sales received a boost as a result. I started to earn my some reasonable money from Amazon – but sales eventually tailed off.

On Halloween in 2012, I did a third free promotion.

That resulted in my first reviews in the US and UK. Both reviews were five-stars. Great! I hoped that would help sales. I expected sales to be boosted in a 3/1 ratio based on the download ratio – but something very weird happened.

The next day after the five-star review appeared in the US my sales stopped. Completely. Looking at the chart on Author Central, it was like seeing a lemming dive off a cliff. My book’s ranking plummeted. Weeks went by without selling a single copy. Then months. Then a whole year.

I was baffled and dismayed. What had happened?

Meanwhile, my sales were improving in the UK where the first review was by an Amazon Top 500 reviewer. That made me wonder if that first US review had done the damage. Some people think reviews don’t effect sales – but I had solid proof that they did. That five-star review in the US killed my book on the day it appeared. I studied it to figure out why. The US reviewer did not go into specifics about why they liked my book. It was the sort of review you’d be suspicious of because the reviewer had not written many reviews – unlike the prolific Top 500 reviewer in the UK. Though that US reviewer was well-meaning and genuinely enjoyed reading my book, I wished they had not written it because my book would have been better off without it. Unfortunately, Amazon’s US customers assumed my five-star rating was a fake. It certainly looked like it. Cautious customers avoided buying my book at its pre-promo price of $1.99 price and even when I dropped it to $0.99.

Later on, I did another freebie to try to get some more US reviews – but that resulted in a troll posting a 1-star review based solely on the cover picture. They had definitely not read the book when they reviewed it. They posted the review minutes after downloading it. That gave my book an unhelpful 3-star average. Another person posted a four-star review soon after – but that made no difference to sales.

That book has not sold one copy in the US since that first five-star review. It doesn’t even appear on the first page of results when you type the search words “bone yard” into Amazon. Books without those words in the title appear first.

In contrast to that negative experience, the same book did well in the UK thanks to that first five-star review by a respected reviewer. The Bone Yard and Other Stories is currently in the Top Ten UK horror anthologies, where I am pleased to see it reached number three last week. It just proves that reviews matter a lot more than some people think!