Exquisite Corpse – a new monthly exercise

The other week, Angela Yurko Smith, editor at Space and Time magazine, put a call out for writers to contribute a line to her revolution-themed exquisite corpse poem (

Having followed news of those powerful protests in Hong Kong against the imposition of extradition laws which allows those in Hong Kong to be extradited to China, I chose to write something reflecting current affairs. Protestors were seen marching with umbrellas and the umbrella has pretty much become a symbol of that protest. Whilst this is a protest and not exactly revolution, it could lead to more and that’s where the reference to the ‘velvet hands’ came in – a nod to the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in Czechoslovakia in 1989. I do not need to explain the dragon.

My line came out as:

‘umbrellas form a shield wall, held by velvet hands, to stand against a dragon’

In this, I wanted to show how something as flimsy and everyday as the umbrella can become a powerful symbol against an aggressor. Reading the rest of the poem, there is a similar juxtaposition of something regarded as lesser, weaker, rising up against those who would crush them ‘but still it rises’ and in fighting against an oppressor, so ‘re-evolution’ begins. It’s heartening to see that from over twenty different voices came an overwhelming expression of the power of the human spirit in the face of tyranny.

Why did I join in with this exercise involving only one line?

As a writer who is often left waiting for results of publication submissions, who works on pieces that take weeks and months to complete, it is refreshing to find something else to do in between these more marathon tasks. I already take part in Visual Verse’s monthly call – and you will find all my published work in that forum here – which challenges you to write 50-500 words of prose or poetry in an hour. I do this pretty much as soon as the image has been released on the 1st of the month and as a matter of honour, do not take longer than the allotted time.

Now I’ve got another little monthly challenge.

But why poetry?

I have written, and had some poetry published, and it is very much a form in which I feel at ease, particularly in the way I am allowed to play with language to create an image or feeling. Often something serious or dark will emerge from these efforts but I have so much fun in their creation. I can ignore rules, I can ignore punctuation, I can do what I want. Poetry is my break from the weight of a novel’s structure, the pacing and voice of a short story, the tyranny of grammar.

Poetry is my playground.

Poetry is time to play.

Roll on Halloween!: Trickster’s Treats 3 – Seven Deadly Sins

A very recent decision of mine has been to move away from non-paying markets and to submit only to those which will provide a return (even a small one). This is a tough one I’ll admit and will definitely be more of a challenge in terms of getting published as the market is so competitive but if I want to make any headway into turning writing into a career path, it is one I must do. And writers, just like any other profession, deserve to get paid. Having said that, there are instances where I will happily ignore this rule, perhaps someone starting up a venture (for example, Oleg Hasanov’s work with Horrorscope Press over in Russia) and very definitely the world of charity.

Steve Dillon at Things in the Well Press has created Trickster’s Treats 3, a charity Halloween magazine, themed around the Seven Deadly Sins. All proceeds will go to charity: water and help those who are not as privileged as so many of us to gain access to good, clean water. Make sure you pick up a copy when it comes out. Edited by Marie O’ Regan and Lee Murray it’ll certainly be a good read.

I subbed to this and this month received an acceptance for my flash story The Devil Inside which fits into the deadly sin of sloth. I was particularly pleased with this tale as it got through as a blind submission (much like my HWA Poetry Showcase sub). A method which I like as I feel it validates a person’s writing. All preconceptions and knowledge of an author are removed and the words have to speak for themselves.

As an aside, I have actually noticed that the horror industry is very active in charitable fields, much like the heavy metal genre in music and despite appearances I’ve found these are often the nicest, friendliest and most accepting of communities of which you could be part. \m/

A Moment to Reflect

I have been waiting for a number of decisions on many submissions for a while now, mainly because I have submitted to publications with either far ahead closing dates or long turnaround times. This gets depressing … BUT there is always a silver lining and this is one of those moments as works long in the pipeline have emerged – or are emerging – into the light. This month has seen:

Thread of the Infinite

Thread of the Infinite (Snowbooks) is an industrial horror anthology containing my story, Transcending Nature. Due out 1st August, it is now available for pre-order. This story was written a few years back and accepted for publication but the initial press folded. Dean Drinkel, the editor, was however, determined it should see the light of day and pushed until he found a home for us all. Transcending Nature focusses on the drive of humans to become ever more efficient, in this case in the field of communication and the internet, without considering fully the consequences.


Poetry 6

This is an acceptance dear to my heart. My poem, Stringed Pearls, was accepted for this year’s HWA Poetry Showcase and to say I was overwhelmed by this is an understatement. To appear amongst the names listed in this TOC is an absolute dream. Joining the HWA has been one of the best moves I made.

To find out more about my poem, check out Gwendolyn Kiste’s blog in the near future when she will be holding a round table interview featuring the poets involved (and me!)


As many of you know, I co-edit Horror Tree’s Trembling With Fear (TWF) online ezine. This weekly slot features a long piece of flash and a number of drabbles on Sundays, whilst other days sees us publishing serials and Unholy Trinities (three drabbles on a linked theme). Each year we collect the previous year’s stories together and offer them up for publication. This is our second year of publication and we already have 2019 ongoing. This week saw the publication (at last) of all the stories, and some poems, published at TWF. Year 2 contains all those stories published on our normal Sunday slot, ie the long flash and the drabbles (I do have a few drabbles inside). More Tales From the Tree is its companion and contains Unholy Trinities, Serials and Specials. Whilst a small volume this year, I know that next year’s companion is going to be a much bigger affair as we have had a considerable number of Trinities submitted and published and we also have a number of serials going forward. These anthologies are both available on amazon.

TWF features writers of all levels and is often that first stepping stone in publication for many. Horror Tree itself alerts writers to many submission calls as well as posting reviews, interviews and articles. We are very much a community at Horror Tree, run and overseen by the extraordinary Stuart Conover. We regard those who write and submit as family. Why not join us? All are welcome. You can find us on twitter @HorrorTree and Facebook at The Horror Tree.



Fable (Iron Faerie Publishing) is an anthology containing fairy tales but not as you know them. My story, They Wore Red, is a somewhat different re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood.





The Sirens Call


My gothic horror story, The Choir, features in this month’s edition of The Sirens Call. Free to read!





And last, but not least, my Visual Verse poetry submission, Exposure, is free to read here. Visual Verse is a fantastic writing exercise. One hour to write 50-500 words of poetry or prose and then submit. And I do obey the rules!

Book Review: Coyote Rage by Owl Goingback

5/5 stars

My first introduction to Owl Goingback’s writings was his collection Tribal Screams, which I loved. This book also contained a taster to Coyote Rage and I was pretty certain I would read the novel when it came out. Here I am, some months later and the book lies finished at my side. Goingback weave’s his story between the modern world and Native American mythology, creating a unique blend of fantasy and horror.

Kindle EditionAs the last human member of the Great Council of Galun’lati lives out his remaining days in a nursing home, Coyote hatches a plot to eliminate him and also the daughter who would take his place. He tells the other creatures it is time for those of ‘fur and feather’ to take back control of their world. His target, Luther Watie, evades him and so the hunt begins for both Watie and his daughter…

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Review: Coil by Ren Warom

CoilCoil by Ren Warom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Surprised myself at the rating for this. When I first started reading, it felt a bit too sci-fi for my tastes but that all vanished as I read on. The combination noir, sci-fi and post-apocalyptic feel created an extraordinary world and the characters, though hard-boiled, show their vulnerable side enough to make you care. As to what Warom has put one of its main characters, Bone Adams through, is completely absorbing. Very gruesome, amazing imagery, body horror in heaps, it puts you through the wringer as you race to the end to discover who, or what, Bone really is. But you don’t get an answer, that appears to be for another book which I hope will not be long forthcoming. Absolutely loved this.

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Guest Post: Kill Switch – New Release from HorrorAddicts.Net

KSssALT Press presents…Kill Switch

As technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we’ve created? What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future?

Join us as we walk the line between progressive convenience and the nightmares these advancements can breed. From faulty medical nanos and AI gone berserk to ghost-attracting audio-tech and one very ambitious Mow-Bot, we bring you tech horror that will keep you up at night. Will you reach the Kill Switch in time?


A sneak peek inside…

Go Gently


A loudspeaker called Enid’s name. She stood in the waiting room, unsure if she would be hired or fired. To the other old folks waiting in the lounge of the Grandparent Experience, she wanted to look confident, so she headed to Mr. Lick’s office swinging her arms and taking long strides.

Entering Mr. Lick’s office she relaxed into a slump. He sat behind the desk and gestured toward a chair. As she sat, he rummaged in a file. He looked fit. She put his age at thirty-five or so, twenty years at least before he’d have to worry about retirement.

“Enid,” he said, and she drew in a breath, fearing his next words would release her from the Grandparent Experience and the limited protection it gave her. “Here is your next job.”

Enid sighed with relief. Not only was she not being fired, she had a job, an assignment. Her last evaluation had been poor, very poor. Her only defense had been that when playing “Happy Grandma” she’d taken it a little too far. Everyone knew “Happy Grandmas” sometimes drank. She hadn’t worked since then.

He handed her a battered folder labeled “Pearson.” Repressing a display of mawkish gratitude, she opened the folder. The photo showed a red-haired woman in her late thirties.

“That’s Tina Fisher. Tina has hired you to be the mother she never knew.”

“I’ve never played a mother,” Enid said. “Or been one.” Usually, Enid played her role for little brats whose parents wanted a reasonable facsimile of their vanished grandmother.

“She wants you for an afternoon. It’s some sort of family thing, a reunion. I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

Enid read the dossier on May Pearson, the woman she was to impersonate. Six months ago, the police spotted May walking at night using a cane. An ID check showed she was two years over legal age. Her subsequent objection to her arrest and her disorientation indicated as the report stated, probable early-stage dementia, even though the malady tended to be over-diagnosed. The picture of May showed a woman with short-cropped gray hair, lipstick, and beads at the wrinkled base of her throat. May Pearson was classified Not to be Resurrected (NTBR) and she was needled.

Management said death by “needling” was a good death. The ampoule delivered a warm chemical wash bliss, “A way to die when the life had exhausted its use.”

“The daughter was raised an orphan,” Mr. Lick added. “You’ll fill in the gaps.”

Enid frowned. She supposed she could play some variation on the various grandmothers she recreated: “Foxy Grandma” who told dirty jokes, “Prude Grandmother” full of euphemisms for body parts and blushing at off-color remarks, “Bible-Quoting Grandmother” who knew her Ecclesiastes, “Wacky Grandma” whose speech was characterized by non sequiturs from early drug use, and lately there was “Happy Grandma” who had gotten her into trouble.

“She looked at our pictures and said you were the closest thing we had to the woman in the photograph. That’s about it. She wants to know about her father.”

“And so I’m supposed to tell her about a man I never knew?”

“Nothing says home like a grandmother,” he said. “That’s what we’re selling here.”

“But, I’m supposed to be a grandmother,” she objected. “Not a mother.”

“Do you want the job or not?”

It wasn’t right to refuse, so she didn’t. As he completed the paperwork, she settled back and looked at the picture on the wall behind him. It was a picture of Jack Carl, the founder of the GPE. His face was nearly obscured behind a hat pulled low, a thick beard, and sunglasses. “Nothing says home like a grandparent,” was printed below him.

“Apparently, she was a bit of a free-spirit in her youth,” Mr. Lick said, standing to show Enid out. “You might work with that.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“I know you will,” Mr. Lick said. She thought she heard a subtext in his voice, Don’t screw this up.


The next day, Enid waited in a frock coat, beads, and silver-rimmed glasses. She carried a wooden cane. It was the Traditional Grandma look, right out of the company’s manual.

Standing beside a small, neatly tended plot of grass and a white picket fence, she looked out over a gently-sloping valley with a freeway running through its middle, the concrete white as bone. In the old days, which she vaguely remembered, dripped oil had stained the lanes. Her first husband, Roger, had celebrated the spoor as the last remnant of the old technological civilization. He’d been a funny kind of person, an entrepreneur with a quaint nostalgia for old technologies and terminologies, and yet a merciless eye for the economic realities ahead.

Two young people passed, looking at her curiously. You didn’t see many old people. If not employed by the GPE, they tended to be reclusive, fearing the door knock of health professionals about to do a checkup. Enid was sixty-eight, three years past retirement, a nervous age. Last spring she’d caught the flu and had feared going to the hospital. She might’ve received the NTBR label if a prohibitively long treatment loomed, especially if the GPE withdrew her protected status. Fortunately, she recovered. Since then, her morning regiment included a plethora of pills designed to strengthen, immunize, and bolster.

Turning, she saw the Sycorax model car and heard the whoosh of its electric engine, a sound like wind through the pines. As the car neared, Enid touched her powdered hair, shifted her weight against the wrap-around back support that made her look stout and matronly, though indeed her back had begun to bother her of late. She approached the car as the window rolled down.

“May?” She recognized the girl, Tina Fisher, from the photo. Enid was supposed to be her long-lost mother.

“I’m May Pearson,” Enid said. Her smile was sponsored by the GPE, the polished implants almost a company logo.










Available now on Amazon!

Coming Soon: Fable : an Altered Fairytale Anthology

5th July sees the release of Fable : an Altered Fairytale anthology from Iron Faerie Publishing but today allows you to get a sneak preview of the cover.

The anthology features a short story of mine, They Wore Red, which is a somewhat different, and perhaps slightly more gruesome tale of the origins of Red Riding Hood. If you read it – which I hope you will – you might find that perhaps Red Riding Hood does not exist, that the stories of the little girl in the red cloak were created to hide a barbaric ritual.

I had written the story before the submission call for the anthology as I wanted to revisit the idea of Red Riding Hood as more of a folk legend. Yes, there is a Grandma and the Woodcutter but who is the real evil and who is the force for good in the story? Why not twist accepted versions of a traditional tale and subvert them, go back to the darker side of our fairytale heritage, in other words, lose the Disney and be more Grimm. Sometimes the darkness hides a greater truth.

I can’t wait to get my own copy to see how the other contributors have changed the stories we all know and love, so that we can learn to love them all over again.

Find out a bit more about all the authors in Fable here. A full table of contents will be revealed at the end of May.


The Sirens Call – free stories

Free stories and poems are always a bonus and I can give you two such opportunities (although the ezine itself provides these every single month and you should go and read it).

Siren 44


The Sirens Call, Issue 44, features 3 of my poems: The Deceiver, Creak and Walk with Me. These are just a sample of what you can read in my collection of verse, Dark is my Playground. The latter is also available in print format, here.






The Sirens Call, Issue 43, contains a new piece of flash fiction from me, Deliverance. This is not the story of mountain folk and banjo duels but a rethink of the Wicker Man theme.




The Dark Bites – a Collection of Flash Fiction

This project is something I’ve been working on, off and on, for a few months. I’ve taken part in many flash fiction competitions online over the years, particularly as part of the group known as the FlashDogs – you may see some of them still on twitter taking part in #vss365, the microfiction challenge – and I thought it was about time I compiled them in one place.

I think I started in the flash fiction community way back in 2014, discovering MicroBookends first and from there moved on to Flash Friday, The Angry Hourglass, Three Line Thursday, FlashMoBWrites and occasional dips into others that were around at the time. I found it a great way to hone and develop my writing skills as well as getting to know other writers online – some I have even met in real life. This book is dedicated to the FlashDogs (literally, some might even spot their name inside.)

I no longer have the time to write flash as much as I used to, my efforts these days very much in the opposite direction of novellas and novel but I value the form and will try, when I can to have a go at something, even if it is #vss365 or #horrorprompt on twitter.

However, what these years have led to is a huge amount of flash lurking on my computer which I often forget about and which I’m sure will vanish into the ether one day when the hard drive dies or we get a magnetic storm or some other catastrophe (always optimistic!). I don’t want to lose all these stories and so have gathered most of the darkest of my writings into one place. It is available on amazon, should you so wish to buy it, but it is not there for the sales. It’s there for me. (I tried to get the price down on the print copy but the number of pages means amazon won’t allow it.) The Kindle version is already live and can be purchased here and is only £1.99. The print version has been uploaded and is waiting to be approved to go live.

I would also like to thank my daughter Rhonwen Ellis, who provided the image and did a lot of techy stuff with the picture to create the cover. She also chose the font and colour as she doesn’t trust me(!).

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