2014, thanks and no thanks.

So another year bites the dust.   2014 was a mixed bag for me, containing some real highlights and memorable moment. Moments I’ll never forget.   I got to travel to New York and conquered my fear of flying more than a few hours.  (well, sort of. I might have been medicated..just a little)   I also saw my debut book Urban Chiller make it to a Kindle release and based on it’s feedback, also a paperback release.   Thanks to everyone involved in the project and of course to everyone who bought a copy.   I was delighted and proud of the feedback.

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I also attended Fantasy Con in York this year and got to meet some of my peers, some of which I had already met in a social media environment.   I can’t explain how nervous I was about meeting other writers in the flesh, people I aspire to and really admire.  I particularly enjoyed the evening section of the day I was there and sitting at a table in a pub drinking beer with people like Gary McMahon, Adam Nevill, Stephen Volk, Mark Morris and Tim Lebbon really was a highlight.  I didn’t have a lot to say, but I just took it all in and also got to meet new people, too.  Thank you also to Paul Meloy for some good advice and indeed for spotting me outside heading towards the wrong pub in the first place, whilst he was enjoying a crafty smoke in the doorway.   Meeting my mate Gary McMahon in person was a particularly great experience.  I met Gary about two years or so ago on social media and both being long suffering mackems and followers of the mighty red and white stripes through thin and well, ..thinner, we hit it off straight away.  It was really great to connect with him in person.  A top bloke and a fine writer.

Alas, despite him being only a few feet away at several points of the evening, I lost my bottle to introduce myself to Conrad Williams, too a writer I really admire.  Whilst I’m sure he’s a nice bloke, Conrad did look a little stern and I filled my pants at the last minute.   Maybe next time!

Those that know me personally know I’ve had a terrible last quarter of the year for reasons I can’t discuss here.   But the dust finally has cleared, I now have a clearer road ahead of me and I’m taking that forward in 2015.  I have a lot of new ideas, I’m back to working on my debut full length novel and preparing short story submissions for various different publications.   I’ve re-discovered a little self confidence and that is translating into consistent and solid writing time after a period of creative paralysis.

I’m a year older, but feel a lot wiser as a result of this year so I guess there are positives to take out of the great balls of shite that 2014 slung my way, at times.   Above all, I’m starting to believe in myself again and whilst I’m sure life has many more ups, downs, twists and turns to reveal to me in the future, I feel better placed to tackle them.

Good luck and good health, folks for the coming year.

Jonathan

Review No One Gets Out Alive Adam Nevill

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I’ve been raving about Adam Nevill for ages.  And in a good way.   Ever since I picked up his earlier novel “The Ritual”, I’ve been hooked on the guy.  Adam is one of the torch carriers of horror, for me and always hits that glorious sweet spot of combining genuinely frightening tales with thoughtful character driven plot, and he does it with originality too.

His latest offering, “No One Gets Out Alive” may just be his best book yet. “The Ritual” greatly impressed me because, having been a resident of Sweden for five years, it was clear that Adam had done his homework (and indeed field work) into capturing the isolation and desperation of getting into trouble in the harsh Swedish north when you don’t know what you’re doing.  And “The Ritual” hit all the right notes as a direct result.

With “No One Gets Out Alive”, he achieves it again with an unflinching and uncomfortable commentary on how poverty and exploitation can lead to you becoming the perfect victim.

Stephanie Booth is a hard up, borderline poverty stricken young adult in the Midlands, struggling with the aftermath of a failed relationship and the direction-less malaise that affects many post University students.   Bungling her way from poorly paid temp agency job to job to make ends meet, when she sees an ad to rent a room at 82 Edgehill Road for a fraction of the going rate, it seems like a gift horse.
But very quickly, we learn that things are not as they appear to be at 82 Edgehill Road.   We are soon introduced to the despicable and abhorrent live-in landlord Knacker Maguire.    There’s also something sinister and supernatural lurking within the walls of the house.  Something Stephanie becomes aware of almost immediately.  So pack your bags and leave, I hear you say?    Not so easy when you are penniless, desperate and have literally nowhere else to go.   Add to that a manipulative, bullying Landlord who always seems one step ahead of Stephanie and knows exactly how to play her.   As the house begins to steadily reveal itself and life could not appear to get worse for Stephanie, Knacker’s vile and psychopathic associate, Fergal turns up.
I won’t say more about the plot as to do so would be doing the book a little of a disservice.  What we have in “No One Gets Out Alive” is a fantastic blend of supernatural horror with some memorable characters and truly creepy moments.    Nevill offers a credible, at times soul destroying take on what it is to be truly hard up, down on your luck and in that spiral of decline that is all too easy to for the poor and vulnerable to get sucked into and the cruel parasites who are always there to take full advantage.  As a reader we feel genuine empathy for Stephanie in her desperation, and we never stop rooting for her.
If you are a fan of the horror genre, this novel is a must read and my pick for 2014, albeit it’s an unrelenting and at times brutal story which takes you firmly by the lapels very early on and gets firmly, and unapologetically, right in your face.
Jonathan Wood

Urban Chiller creeps it’s way to a paperback release

unnamedThis week I was delighted to see Urban Chiller, which has been loitering around with intent on Kindle, make it to a full paperback release.  Urban Chiller marks a little bit of a watershed for me because it contains most of the tales I’ve had published previously in different horror anthologies and makes them available in one book.  I was also able to re-edit the stories and offer the original cut of many of these stories also.  Bringing Urban Chiller to life was a long and painstaking process, but I had an excellent team behind me and again, my thanks goes out to Tracey Poist, a fantastic editor and colleague, Tonia Brown for guidance with formatting and production, and artist Steve Upham for a toothsome front cover.

The book is now available at Amazon.com for order and there are a limited number of signed copies available direct from me also, so get in touch if you’d like a signed copy.

Moving forward, I recently completed a number of new short tales, including “Crawlers” and a short story titled “You Don’t belong Here” set here in Sweden.  I am also currently working on the second draft of my novel with the working title “Dark Places” and will provide more information on this in due course.

For now, thanks for all the support, I hope you buy Urban Chiller and enjoy it.  I feel extremely proud to see the book finally in print.  You can find the link in my “books” section but also at the link below.

Jonathan

Kiss and Tell…free story available at Wattpad.

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Yesterday, I released my short non-horror tale Kiss and Tell at Wattpad which can be read, or downloaded using the Wattpad app which is also free via the Apple Store or Google Play Store.

Kiss and Tell was a little sideways mash up of Fifty Shades of Grey meets Tales of the Unexpected and centers on themes of office sexual tension and a silly bet between two co-workers that takes a wrong turn.    I don’t deviate from my comfort zone very often but I had fun with Kiss and Tell, and tried to offer something with a little splash of noir.   Always hard to do in a short tale, given the characterisation and length constraints, but overall I was pleased with the result.

There were two very different versions of the ending of this story, but after considering them both, I decided to go all in with the released version as it offered a more consistent beat with the femme fatale theme I was trying to deliver in the first place.

Kiss and Tell will mark the last short story I intend to release and give away for free, at least for a while as I try and devote more time to the novel I’m working on.   I’ve been cutting my chops for years as a short story writer and still have a passion for writing short tales, but I’ve decided to be more selective about the type of tale I write as a short piece, and I’m also of the view that there is enough of my stuff out there for free now to enable readers to get a flavour of my work and if they want to read more.

You can get Kiss and Tell at the link below.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/21375234-kiss-and-tell

Creepy Crawlies….coming soon to an apartment block near you.

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I hate anything that crawls, I’m a bit finicky about stuff like that.  Coming face to face with a hand sized tarantula which had been roaming around our villa apartment at night whilst holidaying in Cyprus ten years ago didn’t help my cause, either.  Especially when the thing reared up and hissed at me and the drunken berks I was with who tried to tackle it with a coat hanger, plastic mixing bowl and a rolled up copy of FHM.      As our climate changes, we’ve seen insects, beetles and other manner of squirming winged beasts with antennas manage to migrate to countries which are now warm enough for them to make homes.  Sweden has it’s fair share of these invading beasts, I’m sorry to say. 

It’s this premise that’s behind the short tale Crawlers that I’ve recently completed.    Crawlers is a pulpy mix of Cronenberg like imagery meets the Twilight Zone and it’s my hope that it can wriggle it’s way into a suitable anthology of some kind in the near future.  

For now, here’s the blurb….

“Danny Henderson is a shut in.  Plagued by agoraphobia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, his world is limited to the crumby apartment inside the run down inner city building he lives in.   When an infestation of odd looking cockroaches threatens to overrun his apartment, it triggers a set of strange events that leaves a trail to the building basement.   A basement that shouldn’t even be there anymore”

Book Review…Bird Box By Josh Malerman

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Bird Box sits nicely in the genre of haunting apocalyptic fiction and ticked all the boxes for me on reading other reviews and plot summations, so I had no hesitation in picking it up.

 
Our central character is Malorie, who watches with despair as an unspecified event /phenomenon occurs, beginning slowly at first, then escalating to almost pandemic proportions.
 
People begin committing acts of inexplicable violence, towards others and themselves and for no apparent reason.    The only correlation between these acts of violence are that the victims saw something before they descended into acute madness.   This leads to mass paranoia within non-affected people who turn to wearing constant blindfolds, locking themselves up in their homes and keeping their eyes closed most of the time to avoid the same fate.   Society and the rule of law rapidly begin to break down.   
 
Malorie’s story is cleverly divided into two parts which interweave.   The present, in which Malorie has has been holed up in a ramshackle house, the ward of two young children, a boy and a girl, for four years.  Living in squalor and poverty, windows boarded and all blindfolded to protect them from an unknown terror, Malorie has been preparing the children for the 20 mile journey that they must attempt by rowing boat along the river to an almost mythical sanctuary.   Their only protection is the blindfolds that they all must wear.
 
The other part of Malorie’s story deals with the events prior and during the event outbreak, how she came to seek refuge in the house in the first place and the story of the other survivors that she shared the house with.  
 
Bird Box is beautifully written and Malerman creates a poignant and haunting atmosphere which keeps you hooked from start to finish.     Here we have an original, understated and solemn take on the apocalypse, the desperation of survivors of this phenomenon and their constant struggle to deal with everyday life, who live effectively as blind people should they attempt to go outside.   The characterisation is excellent and Malerman invests whole heartedly in the character of Malorie.   As a reader, we get to see effectively two sides to her.  Past and present.
 
Malerman manages to toe that fine line of offering just enough to keep you hunting for explanations as to the apocalyptic event, but also just engrossing you in the eerie and at times heartbreaking emotion of people truly lost and struggling to come to terms with the world as it now exists.   Part of the novel’s sparkle is the constant unease of not knowing what is out there, stalking the streets and invoking terror and paranoia in the minds of survivors.
 
One or two of the character plots were slightly predictable in my view, but that should not detract away from the fact that this is a finely crafted novel, delicate and melancholic when it needs to be yet also filled with dark, almost hallucinogenic imagery which leaves a lasting impression. 
 
Highly recommended.  
 
 


Kiss and Tell…and an extract from my novel Dark Places.

My new short tale Kiss and Tell will be available for free read for a limited time very soon over at Wattpad.  

Kiss and Tell is a marked contrast the normal stuff that I write and although this story has a creepy edge to it, I’ve gone a little off road from mainstream horror, here.   A kind of send up/mash up of Fifty Shades of Grey and Tales of The Unexpected, Kiss and Tell is a story themed on an obnoxious femme fatale who bites off a little more than she can chew after accepting a ridiculous bet from a couple of work colleagues.   Like many authors I know,  I often find the process of writing fiction draining, sometimes emotionally exhausting, even though the impulse to write is compulsive and something I just can’t control.    Kiss and Tell however, was fun to write.  And I don’t get to have a lot of fun in this vocation, so it was a welcome feeling.   I’ll post more on Kiss and Tell nearer the time of it’s release.  

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Turning to my novel Dark Places, I have periodically released little WIP snippets of the novel as teasers, although many might not make the final cut.  They are designed to give a little indication of what’s to come.   My sincere hope is that Dark Places will be finished this year, marking the end of an exhausting two year project and my debut novel.   Below is another teaser.

On other news, I also have a few more short tales in the mix and my hope is to try and find homes for these in anthology publications or magazines.   For now, I’ll leave you with the following extract from Dark Places….

Jonathan

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“The meeting was an impersonal affair and in a busy franchise coffee bar, I don’t remember the name. I just remember the noise and the crappy mugs and plates, scarred from years of repeated use and being scalded to oblivion in dishwashers.

Mark Swinson unzipped his soft tashe case across the table from me and slipped an envelope over, his face bland and neutral. Detachment was an art he probably had to learn for this job, like a doctor delivering bad news to desperate family camped out in a hospital waiting room, hanging on his every word on the fate of a loved one. I guess to him, it was all in a days work.

I opened the envelope as Swinson guided me through the dates and places of each picture. Black and White images, Ray and another woman, arm in arm, hand in hand in a variety of different locations. 

I remembered that it wasn’t the confirmation that flattened me, it was after all why I’d hired Swinson in the first place. To confirm what I already suspected, what I already knew. It wasn’t even the pretty blonde 
girl in the picture with the pencil skirt and low cut top, ten years my junior and a figure I didn’t even have ten years ago. Although that was bad enough.

It was the look in Ray’s eyes. The black and white pictures captured him well, they made him look thinner and more attractive. He was smiling in all of them, relaxed and unaware of the snapping camera hidden from view, recording these secret moments.

He was holding her shoulders in one, his fingers hovering tenderly over her bare skin. He looked more relaxed and content than he had ever had with me, even in the early days. He looked alive, ignited by the attention of a younger, prettier woman. The elixir of youth all flattering, the most coveted tonic of the older male ego. 

The tears I shed as Swinson looked on slightly uncomfortably were not at the betrayal, but the sadness of what I had been reduced to. My partner was cheating, yes. But the overwhelming emotion that began to brew inside me was not anger. It was jealousy. Jealousy that I couldn’t make Ray look or feel that way, maybe I never had. I was jealous of the sheer unadulterated intimacy these photos bled onto the shit coffee table of this shit coffee house. Intimacy I craved myself. 

And with jealousy, I knew what followed next. Rage. Pure, unmitigated rage.”

 

Small Steps

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted here and that’s because I haven’t had a great deal to say.    Slowly and steadily, I’m working on new material, including my novel Dark Places and a host of other short material which I have in the pipeline for release this year.   I have completed a number of short stories and feel rather pleased with Crawlers and Kiss and Tell, the latter representing the first non horror tale I’ve written for a long time.    Ok, ok,  there is a horror element to it, but it’s a marked contrast to the stuff I normally write and I had enormous fun with this story.  I’ll post more on release date schedules nearer the time.  

I’ve also been beavering away at the PR machine lately and been interviewed by the mighty Jim McLeod at Ginger Nuts of Horror.  You can catch the interview at the link below or find it in the “Interviews” section of my blog, if you are so inclined. I also got a guest spot over at the King of Apocalyptic fiction David Moody’s site, to talk about the movie ALIEN. Many thanks to David for having me.    A big thanks to Jim McLeod too for having me over to waffle on about the things I love.

 

http://gingernutsofhorror.com/5/post/2014/05/horror-author-interview-jonathan-wood.html

I’ve also been delighted with the reception my short story collection book Urban Chiller has received and sales have been steady and encouraging.    Thank you to everyone reading, buying and supporting my work.  The Trade paperback version of Urban Chiller will be available very soon.    More to follow.

I’ll also be appearing at FantasyCon this year at York on September 6th.  I’ll be there Saturday for most of the day and shuffling about, so feel free to come over and say hi and have a chat.   

That’s it for now, folks.  Have a lovely summer.  

Jonathan 

 

Review…Trust by David Moody

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I’ve long been a follower of David Moody, ever since his novel Hater took my eye in a London bookstore. I thoroughly enjoyed Hater and it’s sequels and then started devouring his earlier acclaimed “Autumn” collection, the cult zombie themed series that needs no introduction.

 

I had no hesitation in picking up Trust which places itself nicely in the horror/sci-fi genre. Trust centers on the effects on a small UK town of the arrival of alien visitors from the stars. The visitors appear entirely peaceful and make contact to say that they have a ship damaged beyond repair and are seeking refuge on Earth until they can leave. The promise of shared advanced technology and their absolute co-operation with humanity appears to be the perfect result.

 

Our central character is Tom Winter, an ex big city worker, burnt out from the rat race and now settled in the small sleepy country town of Thatcham along with his brother and a small group of friends. As the visiting aliens slowly begin to integrate with humans, Tom gains the feeling that all is not as it seems and gradually begins to suspect that the new visitors have more sinister intentions than they say.

 

There’s obviously a similarity here to the themes explored in the TV series “V”, however that is essentially where the similarity ends with Trust. Anyone expecting perfect and sexy looking Lizards in human disguise will be disappointed, particularly if they are looking for that genre type thrill ride.

 

Moody instead takes a more introspective look at the effects on a small town and the world changing implications first contact with an alien species might have for ordinary people. He cleverly centers most of the story around Tom, his girlfriend and brother. A recurrent theme in Moody’s work is the effect of extraordinary events happening to ordinary people. There are no hero’s nor ex-special forces marines with square jaws around here, and the novel is all the better for it.

 

Moody manages to invoke a persistent creepiness throughout the early stages, from the opening scenes of the grandiose arrival of the aliens through to the climax and keeps the plot moving at an at times slow, yet engaging pace. The story contains a rather unnerving likeness to the feelings of dread I experienced when watching the BBC cult show “the Tripods” which explored similar themes of an alien race here to colonize and enslave humans.

 

I won’t give away plot spoilers, but Trust is an excellent read and Moody handles the gradual unravelling of Tom’s world through paranoia in a thoughtful and deft way as his distrust of the new visitors begins to isolate him against his friends and loved ones and Moody offers enough beef to the central characters to keep the reader caring. Moody’s prose is at times a little nostalgic and steeped in small town UK culture which might possibly alienate some non-British readers with the dialogue, but it has enough of the believeability factor to keep the reader engaged and curious.

 

The one caveat I would mention with Trust, although it is not something I personally had difficulty with, is the pace of the story. Trust is a thoughtful novel, it’s not your “Independence day” type smash up and the novel slowly and surely builds up to it’s climax. The action does come, but you have to be prepared to invest your time and patience in the characterization and spirit of the story. The pay off at the last quarter is well worth the wait!

 

Overall, a quality read from an author at the top of his game in the world of creepy, claustrophobic, apocalyptic fiction.

 

Jonathan Wood