At the start of every month I ask my Facebook followers to suggest some writing prompts and challenges and then I post the one I chose at the end of the month. For the second time I was most tempted by a non-fiction challenge from Becky Bekstar Paroz: What are your top 5 favourite authors ever? This question led me to creating more than one list and turned out to be the most expensive blog post I have ever written. Read on to find out why!
Top 5 Authors:
Stephen King – for his character driven stories, writing style, sheer volume and reliability and unforgettable horror! He really is the master and I got hooked on his writing aged 12.
Charles Bukowski – for his raw, honest, beautiful words about everything. The only author’s words I have tattooed on me. I picked Ham On Rye up in a book shop one day having never heard of Bukowski. That soon changed as I worked my way through his novels, short stories and poems.
Chris Whittaker – for the best, flawed, beautiful, heartbreaking and memorable characters you will ever come across. Plus his writing style and incredible plots.
SE Hinton – for inspiring me to keep writing as a teenager, for characters I fell in love with, for teaching me the skills of creating believable characters you root for.
Kate Rigby – for being my favourite indie author with a huge and varied catalogue of gritty, character-driven books.
Top 5 books:
The Catcher In The Rye – JD Salinger – one of the only books I can read time and time again and still get something new from
Watership Down – Richard Adams – for inspiring me to write as a child
The Outsiders – SE Hinton – for luring me away from animal stories and making me want to write about harder hitting topics
Ham On Rye – Charles Bukowski – for being the book that introduced me to one of my favourite writers and poets.
IT – Stephen King – for just being utterly epic and a book I could read again and again forever.
Top 5 Need to Read More From authors
Amy Reed – Nowhere Girls and The Boy and Girl Who Broke The World are two of my favourite books so I need to read more of her. After I wrote this post I ordered Invincible.
Alice Feeney – recently read and loved Daisy Darker, so have just bought Sometimes I lie.
Andrew Michael Hurley – I had The Loney for years begore I got round to reading it and after that quickly devoured the intensely creepy Starve Acre. I’ve just ordered Devil’s Day and I can’t wait. His writing and settings are so atmospheric.
Amy Engel – I was blown away by the disturbing The Roanoke Girls, then mesmerised by The Book Of Ivy and heartbroken by The Familiar Dark. I need more!
Sarah Pinborough – I absolutely loved 13 Minutes a few years ago then recently fell in love with The Death House. These are both YA books. I then tried one of her adult books, Insomnia, so have just bought A Matter of Blood to try!
(Thanks to this list I ended up ordering four books from four of these authors, hence this turning into an expensive blog post!)
Top 5 Everyone Should Read These Books
The Hate U Give – to have a better understanding of racism
Nowhere Girls – to have a better understanding of misogyny
The Outsiders – to have a better understanding of class inequalities
Tender Is The Flesh – to think about how we treat animals
The Forcing – to face the frightening future of climate change.
Top 5 Books that are as good or better than the TV show/movie
Lockwood and Co series – Season One was amazing and had me so hooked I bought the first book in the series. The writing is superb, and I’ve read the first three!
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things – the book was strange but brilliant. For me, the movie was just strange.
The Walking Dead comics – in some ways as good as the TV show, in many ways better
All The Bright Places – I just much preferred the book! The movie was just missing something.
Any Stephen King adaptation – many of them are brilliant but none of them will ever match the books!!
If you are looking for a creepy read for the spooky season, perhaps something slightly different to the usual witches, vampires, and ghosts, then look no further. These are six books I’ve read in 2022 that seriously creeped me out. Counting down from number six being the least creepy and number one the most, here are my top picks for the spooky season.
6. Fairy Tale by Stephen King
Blurb: Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was seven, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself – and his dad. Then, when Charlie is seventeen, he meets a dog named Radar and her ageing master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.
Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world.
King’s storytelling in Fairy Tale soars. This is a magnificent and terrifying tale about another world than ours, in which good is pitted against overwhelming evil, and a heroic boy – and his dog – must lead the battle.
5. Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan
Blurb: Near the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, local police detective Alec Nichols discovers sixteen horses’ heads on a farm, each buried with a single eye facing the low winter sun. After forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen travels to the scene, the investigators soon uncover evidence of a chain of crimes in the community – disappearances, arson and mutilations – all culminating in the reveal of something deadly lurking in the ground itself.
In the dark days that follow, the town slips into panic and paranoia. Everything is not as it seems. Anyone could be a suspect. And as Cooper finds herself unable to leave town, Alec is stalked by an unseen threat. The two investigators race to uncover the truth behind these frightening and insidious mysteries – no matter the cost.
4. I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Blurb: Jake and his girlfriend are on a drive to visit his parents at their remote farm. After dinner at the family home, things begin to get worryingly strange. And when he leaves her stranded in a snowstorm at an abandoned high school later that night, what follows is a chilling exploration of psychological frailty and the limitations of reality.
Iain Reid’s intense, suspenseful debut novel will have readers’ nerves jangling. A series of tiny clues sprinkled through the relentlessly paced narrative culminate in a haunting twist on the final page.
Reminiscent of Michael Faber’s Under the Skin, Stephen King’s Misery and the novels of José Saramago, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an astonishing and highly original literary thriller that grabs you from the start—and never lets go.
3. The Watchers by A.M. Shine
Blurb: This forest isn’t charted on any map. Every car breaks down at its treeline. Mina’s is no different. Left stranded, she is forced into the dark woodland only to find a woman shouting, urging Mina to run to a concrete bunker. As the door slams behind her, the building is besieged by screams.
Mina finds herself in a room with a wall of glass, and an electric light that activates at nightfall, when the Watchers come above ground. These creatures emerge to observe their captive humans and terrible things happen to anyone who doesn’t reach the bunker in time.
Afraid and trapped among strangers, Mina is desperate for answers. Who are the Watchers and why are these creatures keeping them imprisoned, keen to watch their every move?
2. Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley
Blurb: The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors, was to be full of life, but is now a haunted place.
Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.
Starve Acre is a devastating new novel by the author of the prize-winning bestseller The Loney. It is a novel about the way in which grief splits the world in two and how, in searching for hope, we can so easily unearth horror.
Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Durham
Blurb: Everyone has wanted their favorite book to be real, if only for a moment. Everyone has wished to meet their favorite characters, if only for a day. But be careful in that wish, for even a history laid in ink can be repaid in flesh and blood, and reality is far deadlier than fiction . . . especially on Addington Isle.
Winterset Hollow follows a group of friends to the place that inspired their favorite book—a timeless tale about a tribe of animals preparing for their yearly end-of-summer festival. But after a series of shocking discoveries, they find that much of what the world believes to be fiction is actually fact, and that the truth behind their beloved story is darker and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It’s Barley Day . . . and you’re invited to the hunt.
Winterset Hollow is as thrilling as it is terrifying and as smart as it is surprising. A uniquely original story filled with properly unexpected twists and turns, Winterset Hollow delivers complex, indelible characters and pulse- pounding action as it storms toward an unforgettable climax that will leave you reeling. How do you celebrate Barley Day? You run, friend. You run.
And there you have it – six seriously creepy reads which are perfect for the spooky season!
Welcome to another guest post for my ‘Hello Home…’ pandemic themed feature. It would seem all of us have experienced or are still experiencing a lockdown of some sort while the corona virus continues to blight our lives. Although we are all in the same situation, we experience it differently because our homes are all so different. Thinking about this inspired me to write a piece a few weeks ago dedicated to my house and what it has meant to me during these strange and unsettling times. This week, please welcome author Paul Waters to the blogwith a wonderful piece about a lockdown project that really brought the local community together. Enjoy!
The Blue Book House
During Covid my second home has kept me connected to the world. It’s not what you think. I don’t spread my life between two properties. But I do have a home-from-home with essential creature comforts and it sits on my front fence.
My other house is wooden, double-fronted and painted blue. My carpenter friend, Mick, made it watertight and solid for me. My friend, Wink, friend carefully painted it. My Mum, Patricia, did the lettering. And the creature comforts it contains are a selection of one of life’s essentials – books. Hence the name, the Blue Book House.
It all started before the pandemic when I realised that I had far too many books. It seemed like putting a book house in front of my human house would be a good way to share my surplus and spread the book love. But it has not turned out as I expected.
The message written on both sides of my book house says: “Choose a free book. Read it. Keep it forever. Or pass it on.” And people do. They look through the windows or open the doors for a rummage while standing on the pavement.
But far from reducing my book stock, the book house has boosted it in volume and variety. That’s because people passing by also do two other things. They return books they’ve taken and they kindly add books of their own. Sometimes they slot them in. (I try to keep children’s books on the left and other on the right – though that system and any themed displays I attempt quickly become higgledy-piggledy.) Other times I open my front door to find a pile or bag of books in my porch. Which is lovely, though it wasn’t quite was I was aiming for.
I love books. I read voraciously. I write books – you’ll find my debut historical crime thriller Blackwatertown in shops in the UK, Ireland, France and Spain, and online. I like talking about books – I co-present a books and authors podcast called We’d Like A Word with fellow author, Stevyn Colgan. And I love sharing books and the love of reading. So the Blue Book House fits right in.
But it has also become something else – a point of contact with other people when we are restricted in where we can go and what we can do. It’s a connection at a time of social distancing, loneliness and alienation – and reduced hours or closure for local libraries. Most of the time people dip in and out of the book house without me noticing. The only indication is the books rearranged, some gone, others arrived.
But sometimes I happen to be passing a window when people are browsing. The book house is a reason to pause and rest when walking the dog or getting some exercise. Or perhaps I happen to be coming or going myself and have the chance to exchange socially distanced hellos with neighbours.
Sometimes a note is posted through my letterbox or left inside the book house saying thanks for a particular book. They’re usually anonymous. Sometimes with the handwriting and crayon drawings of a young reader. And that is lovely.
When there’s so much doom and gloom and disruption, the notes and conversations prompted by the Blue Book House bring light into my life.
You’re welcome to look inside and see if there’s a book that tickles your fancy. Or if you’re not in the neighbourhood, you could visit virtually via Twitter @bluebookhouse or Facebook @LittleBlueBookHouse
Even better, you could create your own book house. Just don’t expect it to help you cut down the number of books in your home.
Thank you so much to Paul for contributing this wonderful piece to Hello Home…feature. If you would like to find out more about Paul and his work his bio and links are below!
Paul Waters is the author of Blackwatertown, published in paperback/softcover and ebook by Unbound and audiobook by WF Howes. His website is http://www.paulwatersauthor.com
This is a post to correspond with my Christmas Calendar Countdown. Every day since the 1st December I have been providing a festive treat for my readers and followers, so far including: win an ebook competitions, win a paperback competition, name a character in my current WIP, sneak peek of a new book cover, me reading from my WIP and much more. I hope you have been enjoying them! This post is for Day 13 and behind the door today is a reading challenge for you to get your teeth into throughout 2021. I’ve taken part in a few reading challenges myself and they are really good fun and often force you to try genres and styles and authors you maybe would not have otherwise. I haven’t taken part in one for a few years though, so rather than search the net for a suitable challenge I decided to come up with one of my own. I tried to challenge myself with this, so I hope you like it and if you want to take part, just tag me in any posts you share!
So here is the challenge;
A book where the location is paramount
A book set in a country you have visited
A book set where you live or as close to it as possible
A book with a title at least eight words long
A book whose title is also a song
A book aimed at adults where the protagonist is a child
A fictional book based on real events
A book with a one word title
A book where the protagonist is a different ethnicity than you
A short story collection
A book with a black front cover
A book with a dual narrative written in 1st person
The first book in a series
A book with an illustrated front cover
A book about climate change
A non-fiction book about a serial killer
A post-apocalyptic book
A classic you have always meant to read
A book you wished you had studied at school
A book you have seen the movie adaptation of but have not read the book
A book where the main character is an animal
A book from your least favourite genre
A book from your most favourite genre
A book aimed at children which focuses on nature
A book from an indie author you have never heard of
An award winning book
A book where the main character has your dream job
A book with the most colourful cover you’ve ever seen
A book where the main character has a disability but the story is not about it
I’m quite excited to give this a go! I don’t know what to call it though – any ideas?