Sunday, 3 December 2017

Evernight Readers' Choice Awards!

Listen up, folks! It's that one time of year I put aside my shame of self-promotion and ask you to get out and vote! On the condition that you only vote if you actually read one of my books and enjoyed it. Don't just vote because I told you to. I feel like that would undermine the process.

Anyway! It's time for the fifth annual Evernight Readers' Choice Awards! Get out there and show your favourite authors and books some love (and get yourself in the running for a prize!). Five of my books are eligible for awards this year, should you be so inclined:

THROWN TO THE WOLVES - best lesbian, best paranormal, and best Romance on The Go

IN COLD BLOOD - best paranormal, best suspense, and best lesbian

LICH QUEEN - best paranormal and best suspense

ON A DARK TIDE - Best paranormal, best contemporary, best suspense, and best lesbian

And IMPERIAL DEMONS - best paranormal, best contemporary, best suspense, best lesbian

And you can vote for any of these titles for best cover and book of the year, as well as voting for Blood Canticles as best series and me as author of the year! Phew. It's been a busy a year, I realise, when I line them all up like that.

I've been honoured and humbled to be a winner or runner-up in several categories over the past four years. I never expect it and I'm always thrilled, and I would be grateful for your votes again this year! 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017


Hello, folks. *blows dust off blog* It's been a bit quiet round here since the release of IMPERIAL DEMONS, I know. I've been a bit quiet. Normally I would have sent out promo packs to fellow authors who generously offer blog space, and I generally try to be "present" online without constantly screaming HEY I HAVE A NEW BOOK OUT PLEASE LIKE IT!!!

But I'm not feeling very normal at the moment. I'm going through what I think of as a quiet patch of depression. That is to say, I'm standing at the edge of a stormy sea, aware I could be sucked in by the tide, rather than being out in that storm, helpless while the water closes over my head. I've suffered from depression on and off for...most of my life, I guess? I was undiagnosed as a teenager, but once I got diagnosed at university, I could look back and say "oh, that's what that was." Sometimes I need counselling and medication, and sometimes I get by without either of those things and just ride the storm out.

This time, it crept up on me slowly. I knew I was getting more anxious and irrational in my thoughts throughout September and October, but I blamed that on the approaching anniversary of my dad's death. But the feeling didn't pass once October did, and suddenly I found myself in the toilets at work, the day after IMPERIAL DEMONS came out, sobbing over nothing, and thought, "yeah, you probably need to talk to someone."

So I talked to my doctor and I'm taking medication, and I'm now at that nice point where I recognise that my thoughts aren't facts, and I can observe them rather than let them consume me. The storm is still out there, but I'm safe on the beach.

The downside is I really, really cannot write. Forget the romantic notion that suffering is good for art. For me, that's never been true. My writing started to lag in September, was almost nonexistent in October, and despite my resolution to write every day in November to finish an Amber Morgan book, I've done...virtually nothing again. It frustrates and panics me, and it takes away one of my coping mechanisms for when I feel low. So that's kind of a vicious circle. I want to write because I feel sad, but I feel too sad to write. My brain is...blank. Simple tasks feel beyond my strength, and writing isn't a simple task no matter how much I enjoy it. It takes time and care and love, and I don't have the energy or motivation for those things right now.

So in short, I'm not doing very much at the moment and I'm saving my energy for stuff I can't avoid, like going to work and remembering to put my clothes on the right way round (I did forget one day, but luckily I realised my top was on back to front before anyone else got to the office).

Nevertheless, there is stuff happening that I want to talk about. People who follow me on Facebook and Twitter may already know, but for those who don't, Ragnarok Publications recently announced they will be closing their doors temporarily. I don't know what will happen long-term (though I wish the team all the best), but short-term, UNDERTOW is one of the books that will be pulled from sale in December. All the rights will revert to me then.

I won't lie. I'm gutted. I'd just started to think there was still a chance to keep the Shoregrave/Ethan Banning dream alive. I'd had some positive talks with the new Ragnarok team when they took over, and felt like Ethan, at least, had a shot. I don't know. In a way, the depression is helping me decide, because when I weigh up whether I have the energy right now to either self-publish AFTERLIFE, DEMONIZED, and UNDERTOW, or try to find new homes for them, the answer is hell no. I've been trying to keep the series afloat for a long time now, and honestly, whilst I love Ethan Banning to death, I'm basically flogging a dead horse at this point. Part of my heart will always tell me I need to go back and write more stories in this world, with these characters, but after years of telling myself "maybe," I think it's time to tell myself "no."

So that's that. As from December 1st, UNDERTOW will no longer be available. I will leave the Ethan Banning Files short stories available on Amazon and Smashwords, but AFTERLIFE and DEMONIZED will not be republished and I don't intend to write anymore books in this series.


Okay. That's it, really. I'm hoping to ease back into writing a bit at a time, and in my ideal world, I'll finish that Amber Morgan book before we take off to Japan at the end of December. Realistically, that probably isn't going to happen, but let's call it a soft goal. In the meantime, I'm off to check my jumper is on the right way round.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Imperial Demons is in the wild!

Today's the day, folks! IMPERIAL DEMONS is unleashed! And I am SUPER EXCITED. I feel like DARK DAYS may as well have been released a lifetime ago, and I've been raring to get Lola and Tristesse's next adventure out in the world. And now, here we are!

There is nothing I don't love about this book. World-building Gehenna was so much fun. Writing a truly inhuman villain was a great challenge. Forcing Lola and Tristesse to grow in ways I absolutely hadn't planned way back in BLOOD WITCH was fantastic! I know I've said it before, but I never intended BLOOD WITCH to be anything more than a one-off novella. To now be at book four in the series, with books five, six, and maybe seven in the pipeline makes me incredibly proud and excited.

Parts of IMPERIAL DEMONS were wrenching to write, but I think I've given you an awesome story, and I have plenty of fun, madness, and magic coming up for Lola and Tris still. We just have to go through some hard times to get there...

Magic can make you mad. Love can make you dangerous.

Tristesse is gone, taken between worlds to be the bride of a sadistic demon prince. And Lola will do anything to get her back. Crossing into Gehenna is only the start. Hunted by monsters and accompanied by allies she can’t trust, Lola must endure the horrors of the demon world, and embrace the darkness of demon magic. If it doesn’t consume her, it might just save both her and Tristesse.

But in Gehenna nothing is guaranteed. Nothing except pain.

Pick up your copy (for a discount!) right now at Evernight. Or grab it from Amazon US, Amazon UK, and probably wherever else you get your ebooks!

And you can read on right now for a glimpse at the first chapter!


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Author Interview - Aletta Thorne and her ghostly romance

I know, I know, I should have got this up yesterday. It would have made a perfect Halloween post! In my defense, I've had a headache since Sunday and I'm having a bout of seasonal affective disorder that's been kicking my ass, so I've basically been shirking...everything except the basics, I guess. You know, the day job, tea, cheesecake.

Anyway! It's the first of November and Aletta Thorne is here to talk about her new release, The Chef and the Ghost of Bartholomew Addison Jenkins, which is just a fantastic title. So, no more excuses from me - let's find out what it's all about!

Hi, Aletta! Tell us a little bit about your newest release.

My new book, The Chef and the Ghost of Bartholomew Addison Jenkins answers a question you probably haven’t asked, although I can’t imagine why not!  What happens if you have a one-nighter with a ghost?  The story is set in a little Hudson River town in upstate New York, in the autumn of 1982. The main character is a woman chef trying to recover from a nasty divorce.  The restaurant world was a pretty crazy place in the early 80’s.  So: Revolutionary war era ghosts--and cooks.  And believe it or not, a happy ending, but it’s a pretty wild ride.

So we've got the 80s, food, and a ghost. This sounds perfect! Was there any part of this story you found particularly tough to write? If so, why?

I’ve written YA books.  This is my first adult romance.  At first it felt weird NOT to cut away during the love scenes.  But after I got used to it, I was able to cope quite nicely by fanning myself a little and having a Diet Coke, thank you very much.  My life has been…enriched!  Funny how something that seems challenging at first can end up being liberating.  And wonderful.

So leading on from that, is there any part of this story you absolutely love, and why?

I love my characters.  The lead ghost is pretty complex: confident, needy, and quite sexy.  His side-kick Geoff is very funny, too.  He’s a trickster.  I love the setting.  I was a chef for a while in the 80’s and those were wild days.  It was fun being about to write about that pirate ship world. Anthony Bourdain doesn’t lie about how nuts it was.  Professional cooks are interesting people: smart, tough, and practical. Risk-takers.  A tribe, for certain.

I'm always fascinated by behind-the-scenes accounts from the restaurant world! Do you have a favourite genre to write in?

I’m a paranormal author if I’m writing fiction, whether it’s for grownups or for teens. I just like magic--stuff that can’t possibly happen, but does.  And I almost always write in the past.  I guess it’s the “once upon a time” beginning that hooks me in creatively.  My YA books are time travelers.  

I feel the same way about magic :) If you could have dinner with any three writers, living or dead, who would they be?  

Hmm...Madeleine L’Engle (who wrote A Wrinkle in Time)  is a huge hero of mine, and informs my writing for young people.  I guess I’d also invite the contemporary British author of historical fiction Sarah Waters, who blows me away every time I open one of her books.  And the American poet Anne Sexton, who kept me sane during college years, and I think would have been wonderful to have a few glasses of wine with.  I’m sorry I never got to at least thank her.  That would be a good party!

Good choices! Anne Sexton would be a great person to sit down for a drink with. Are there any books you can just read over and over again and never get sick of?

I used to teach high school English,  so I’ve probably read The Scarlet Letter twenty times. Although Hawthorne was a gloomy gus and I don’t think I’d want to dine with him, that is pretty much a perfect novel.  (He was, however, really cute.  Google him and see!)

I felt obliged to add a picture of Nathaniel Hawthorne for you all.

If you could recommend any book (beside your own) to everyone reading this, what would it be?

Lincoln in the Bardo totally deserves the Man Booker Prize, and I’m not just saying that ‘cause I’m from the States.  Mind blown!

Now the hardball question. Tea or coffee?

Coffee, preferably latte.  Two cups in the morning, while I write.

I'm starting to feel like the only tea-drinker in the world! Apart from writing, what are your great passions in life?

I love music.  I sing choral music regularly, and play guitar and dulcimer.  I used to ring tower chimes in a church in New York City.  I DJ rock and roll at a little internet radio station, and I listen to absolutely everything.  I’m currently obsessed with a group called Offa Rex.

Awesome! My fiance used to DJ regularly, and still breaks out the decks every now and then. What else are you working on right now? What's up next from you?

I’m going to bang through something during National Novel Writing Month in November.  I’m actually toying with going way outside my comfort zone and writing a romance about a woman trying to live in one of the tiny houses that seem to be on TV so much lately.  

My all-purpose writer’s website is still under my real name, Christine Potter, (although posts about the romance are starting to appear there, too).  Because I will continue to write YA, I’ll probably split off a site for Aletta, but for now:

Aletta Thorne on Facebook:

Instagram (all my writing here, too):

Thanks, Aletta! So, now you know a bit more about the author and her book, how about a teaser from it? But first - don't forget to pick up your copy!


“You’ll turn over the record. Oh, because you…”

“I do like to keep up. Who poured you wine from the … refrigerator? Although, I don’t understand why people of your age prefer it so icy.”

Alma followed Bart into the living room, still wondering why things didn’t seem odder than they were. She remembered the Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons she’d seen as a little girl. This ghost was acting—well, perhaps a bit more flirty than friendly. He only glowed a bit as they walked through the dim hallway that connected her rooms. You can hardly even tell he’s translucent. What had he seen of her, though? She was glad her frustrating night with Sid had been at his place.

As Bart bent over the turntable and flipped the record, the reading lamp by her couch highlighted the silver buttons of his coat. She curled up on the couch and put her wine glass on the glass-covered orange crate she’d turned into a coffee table. 

Bart sat beside her, suspiciously close. He put an arm over the back of the couch, and Alma shook her head again. That’s the old sneaky-arm trick—like a high school kid. It’s kind of cute. She pulled her legs up under herself, and they quietly listened to the music.

“You’re right,” she said after a few minutes. “‘Fountains’ is really good, too. I almost never listen to that side.”

Bart made a quiet harrumphing noise. 

Do ghosts clear their throats? Apparently so.

“Dear lady,” he said. “Although I do try not to snoop, as you would say, I have indeed observed your solitude. Let me assure you, your life will soon be happier.” He slid even closer to her.

Okay. Now the ghost is absolutely coming on to me. This is really happening. Oh, hell—why not? He’s not bad—for a dead guy.

“Um, Bart?” she said. His eyes really were a startling color—almost bronze… “You can’t actually be…”

Bart set his fingertips on her cheeks, looked into her eyes, and sighed. Then he smiled. “You think this is a ridiculous situation. It’s not ridiculous,” he said. “Not at all. Allow me to demonstrate … with your permission, m’lady.”

Somehow, that was funny, and Alma giggled. “Granted.”

Bart’s hands were impossibly soft and gentle—and his touch had some of the same fire-and-ice buzz that she’d felt before in the kitchen when he’d tried to get her attention. He guided her lips to his, and gave her what would have been a tiny peck—from anyone else. It shot a bolt of fire straight through her. 

“Oh,” she said. It took a minute to get her breath.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Retro Reading - Spoopy Edition the Second

I read a lot of RL Stine's Point Horror books, and because I knew he also wrote Goosebumps and Fear Street (even though I never read them), I had this impression of him as A Big Fucking Deal. Like it was probably really cool of him to come and write for Point Horror because, you know, he was RL Stine. Books like The Boyfriend and The Girlfriend, and the Babysitter trilogy (which I also never read) seemed...important to the Point Horror catalogue to me for some reason. I didn't know why at the time and after reading Halloween Night, I'm not the wiser because this book is a shit show.

Let's begin by meeting our heroine,  Brenda. She's your typical American teen, I guess. Just living her best life, dating a guy called Ted, hanging out with her friends and having to share her house temporarily with her cousin Halley, who's living with Brenda's family while her parents work out their horrendous divorce. Brenda is really sympathetic to her cousin during this difficult, traumatic time.

Wait, that's not a great example. Brenda is our heroine, after all. I know the book opens with her picking on Halley, but we're going to follow Brenda through this whole book, so surely Stine is going to show her more empathetic side, right? So we can relate to her when the horror starts. Right?

Right. Okay, well, sure. I mean, it's tough having to give up your room to family in need. I'd probably be angry too, but it's not like this is Halley's fault. She didn't ask her parents to get divorced and pack her off to live with her cousin. She didn't make Brenda's parents give her Brenda's room. This is a rough time for Halley, her life uprooted, her parents in a vicious custody battle, her entire world turned upside down! Surely, even if Brenda is resentful at losing her own space (temporarily), Brenda's friends will try to make her see reason?

Okay, well, never mind.

In any case, Halley is kind of a bitch, managing to steal both Brenda and Traci's boyfriends from them. I personally wouldn't count this as much of a loss, especially in the case of Ted, who's dull at best:

And a downright fucking moron at worst, which is all the rest of the time, to be honest.

Anyway, the crux of the plot is that Brenda, driven mad by Halley inconsiderately being the child of a broken home right under Brenda's goddamn nose, decides to write Halley into a murder mystery story which she and her friends Dina and Traci have to write for a school assignment (what?). Traci is all for it. Dina is more reluctant since, as the child of a broken home herself, she has actual empathy for Halley.

As the story unfolds, strange, threatening things begin happening to Brenda. Someone writes in actual blood on her bedroom wall. She finds a dead bird in her room. She finds maggots in her fucking bed omg. All these warnings seem to point to one thing - someone is coming for Brenda. On Halloween night. Brenda thinks Halley is the one behind it all. Brenda's parents don't really give a shit either way.

"Hey baby girl, sorry someone crept into your room and painted a threat on the wall in actual blood. I couldn't figure out how to fix it myself, so I hired someone, but they no-showed, The couch is free, though."

Okay, I kind of understand Brenda a little better now.

Anyway! As tensions come to a head between Brenda and Halley, and Brenda's Halloween night costume party approaches, Brenda figures out who's really behind all the dead birds and whatnot and formulates a convoluted plan to out the creep.

Okay. Spoilers now. It was Dina. It was Dina, you guys, and you may not be surprised to learn it's because Brenda is an empathy vacuum who can't fathom other people being in pain and needing support in difficult times.

Ugh. So fucking inconsiderate of Dina to make Brenda feel uncomfortable with her traumatic experiences, amirite? Fuck Dina.

So yes, Dina stalks Brenda because she sees Brenda being a dick to Halley just the same way she was a dick to Dina, and she wants Brenda to finally understand what it's like to suffer so much. know, fair enough.

But here's the thing, and the reason why I'm giving away the plot of this twenty-four year old book. The resolution to the plot is so fucking overbooked it's ridiculous. Here's what happens:

1. Brenda figures out Dina is behind the threatening messages, etc.
2. Brenda and Traci agree between them to pretend they still think it's Halley and that they're going to actually murder Halley at their Halloween party like in their story.
3. They think this will force Dina to confess.
4. She doesn't confess.
5. So Brenda and Traci actually proceed as if they're actually going to murder Halley and set up a ludicrous plot involving costume swaps so that (in theory), they can stab Halley at the party and then have the "culprit" apparently disappear because everyone's in costume and therefore nobody can know who really stabbed Halley.
6. On the night of the party, Brenda convinces Halley to switch costumes with her.
7. Dina gets wind of this and stabs Brenda, but doesn't kill her because Brenda sewed extra fucking foam into the costume she borrowed from Halley at some point.
8. Everyone pulls off their masks and shouts AHA! And Dina confesses in a scene I imagine to be like this:

Now, here are the things that didn't happen on page during this sequence of events:

1. Brenda and Traci agreeing to set up Dina.
2. Brenda telling Halley about Dina.
3. Brenda convincing Halley to swap costumes with her.
4. Dina overhearing this conversation and thus knowing who to stab.

And here are some extra things that happened for no fucking reason whatsoever:

1. Brenda convinced Ted to come to her party in a Frankenstein costume because her plan (as she relates it to Dina) is to stab Halley whilst wearing a Frankenstein costume, then get changed to provide herself an alibi. So now anyone who sees the stabbing think Ted did it.
2. Brenda comes up with this side-plot and enacts it without telling anyone else she's manipulated Ted to getting involved, because obviously she isn't really going to stab anyone but she still decides it would be fun if her ex-boyfriend potentially got framed for murder, even a fake murder, even her own fake murder because she's planning to swap costumes with Halley, even a fake murder she can't actually guarantee is going to go down because she has no way of knowing that Dina knows she's planning to swap costumes with Halley and she has no reason to believe Dina would actually stab either her or Halley in the first fucking place.

I can't. I can't even, you guys. Brenda's entire plan is contingent on...what? WHAT? WHAT WAS THE PLAN? Dina refuses to A) go along with "murdering" Halley and B) confess to being Brenda's stalker, so Brenda and Traci are just like, "well, shall we go along with the fake murder anyway? Cool!" AND THEN Brenda decides to costume-swap with Halley even though she has no way of knowing Dina would know about the swap. So what's her thinking here? That Dina, who refused to get involved with the fake murder would decide at the last minute to stab Halley anyway even though Dina has been specifically doing all this shit to Brenda because SHE FEELS SORRY FOR HALLEY?



I just want to spell this out again because it makes no fucking sense whatsoever. Brenda does not know that Dina knows they switched costumes. It's revealed AFTER the stabbing that Dina overheard them agree to swap. As far as Brenda knows, Dina thinks she's stabbing Halley. Brenda, for some reason, knew Dina would stab whoever was in Halley's costume even though Dina has been on Halley's side throughout this whole fucking mess.


Does Brenda just hate Halley so much she assumes everyone else does too, and that Dina just won't be able to pass up the opportunity to stab her once it's presented? One of the reasons it's taken me a week to write up this post is that I keep hoping I'll suddenly understand Brenda's plan, and I can't because there is no fucking plan. It's just everyone hoping the right person will get fake-stabbed. I don't even know if there's that much thought behind it, to be honest.

And even if everything else did make sense, why the fuck did Brenda get Ted involved? Like, I know he cheated on her and I'm not condoning that, BUT BRENDA WAS PREPARED TO FRAME HIM FOR A FAKE MURDER IN REVENGE AND THAT IS NOT A PROPORTIONATE RESPONSE OKAY.

Even Vince McMahon might have refused to book this story line.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Imperial Demons cover reveal!


I have been swooning over this baby for days now, and I'm thrilled to share it! Once again, Evernight and Jay Aheer have done me proud. I just don't have words for how perfect this is!

Magic can make you mad. Love can make you dangerous.

Tristesse is gone, taken between worlds to be the bride of a sadistic demon prince. And Lola will do anything to get her back. Crossing into Gehenna is only the start. Hunted by monsters and accompanied by allies she can’t trust, Lola must endure the horrors of the demon world, and embrace the darkness of demon magic. If it doesn’t consume her, it might just save both her and Tristesse.

But in Gehenna nothing is guaranteed. Nothing except pain.

I'm still waiting on the release date, but all the edits are wrapped up so stay tuned!

And look how good they all look together too:

I'm kinda mind-blown that this series is at book four already. When I started BLOOD WITCH back in the day, it was meant to be a quick, short, one-shot novella. Now it's looking likely to be a seven-book series in total, and with every book I just fall more and more in love with the world and characters. I really cannot wait to share IMPERIAL DEMONS with you all <3

Monday, 16 October 2017

"I hate mornings, and Mondays. And working. But other than that I am entirely happy."

I've been in a real writing slump since September. I've been working on an Amber Morgan project ("working" in the loosest sense of the word, because not much work is getting done), which I really should have finished by now, but my motivation levels have been pretty much non-existent. I've been feeling low as a result - when I'm not writing, I'm not happy. It's taken me a while to figure out the problem, and it's a combination of things really, but yesterday I deleted the last 2500 words I wrote on that wip and felt much better.

They weren't bad words. They just weren't the right words. I'm confident that when I go back to the project, I'll be in a better place and frame of mind to tackle and finish it.

That didn't happen yesterday because I had the first round edits for IMPERIAL DEMONS to work on! YAY! This time last year, I was just starting work on this book. I took a break on it to finish LICH QUEEN, so it feels like a lifetime ago that I started it now. I loved getting back to Lola and Tristesse and re-reading the almighty tome that was never going to end that is IMPERIAL DEMONS. I can't wait to share it with you all, and now the first round edits are in the bag, hopefully it won't be too long before I can! I know some people were disappointed with LICH QUEEN and the switch to Dawn, but it was important for me to tell that story and wrap up that story arc in the series. IMPERIAL DEMONS and the next two or three books (haven't decided how many I'll need yet!) will focus on Lola and Tristesse, and the fallout of their time in Gehenna, and I wanted to clear the slate, as it were, before digging into that arc.

So stay tuned - release dates and cover art are surely not far away!

Meanwhile, are we following each other on Instagram? No? Maybe we should! You can find me there as naomi_jay_clark. Evernight's seventh birthday is coming up and part of the celebration is a Loop Giveaway on Instagram!

Myself and 31 other fantastic authors will be taking part on October 23rd.  Each author will have a prize to giveaway and Evernight is offering a few GRAND PRIZES, including gift certificates and prize packs. If you complete the loop, you’ll have the chance to #win at least 35 different prizes.
I’m giving away a collectible THROWN TO THE WOLVES mug, like so:
So hit me up and look out for the giveaway later this month! Following me also has the benefits of seeing silly pictures of Yuki, and you know that's the real prize.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Hook on the Hand

So one of the things I didn't get around to mentioning in my The Cemetery post is the use of the urban legend commonly known as The Hook. It comes up twice - once when Rick is telling ghost stories at the Halloween party* and again when Dorian is killed by the Ripper. Just before his death, Cyndi finds a hook attached to Dorian's car:

If you're not familiar with the story, The Hook dates back to roughly the 1950s, and like most urban legends, serves as a morality tale for hormonal teens, much the same way fairy tales like Red Riding Hood warned young women against predatory men of court back in the day. The quick and dirty version of the story is thus:

A young couple are parked up down some lovers' lane. The radio plays while they make out. A breaking news story announces that a serial killer has escaped from a local mental institution and can be identified by the hook on his hand. The couple decide to leave, with various spins on the end of the story following. Either they get home to find a bloody hook dangling from the car door, or for some reason the man has to leave the car, and the woman later finds him dead. Some variations see her hearing strange thumping on the roof of the car, only to discover said serial killer up there with her boyfriend's severed head. One version sees her finding the boyfriend hung from a tree over the car, his nails scraping the roof as his body swings back and forth.

However the story ends, the message is clear: keep it in your pants, kids!

Now, clearly this is a warning against loose morals and sexual experimentation, and we could even link to back to the real-life Phantom Killer case of 1946, but I'm not here to talk about horny teens and the fates they richly deserve. I'm here to ask questions. Two questions, specifically.

First - why is the killer an escaped mental patient?

And second - why the blazing hell would someone who'd been instutionalised be allowed to keep a hook on their hand?

I mean, look, I know mental health care in 1950s America wasn't the best, but we were seeing a move towards more community-based care and less underfunded, understaffed, brutally poorly-run institutions. In any case, I have to assume that even the worst asylum going wouldn't let someone with a hook for a hand just keep that hook. Especially if that patient was also a serial killer and also certifiable insane as the story implies. That's just...really bad practice, you guys.**

Also, for the record, I think a hook is probably a really inefficient way to serial-kill people.

But let's circle back to question one. Why does the story conflate mental illness with murder? Why is a mental patient automatically dangerous, or a killer?

I noted with Help Wanted and The Mummy that there is a tendency in Point Horror books to make the villains "crazy." I guess it's an easy literary shortcut - they're doing bad things because they're mentally ill! Case closed. And of course nowadays you don't have to wait long to hear "was he mentally ill?" whenever a lone white male goes on a mass shooting spree. This clearly completely ignores the fact that many of us with mental health problems never bloody kill anyone***.

We can blame it on the era. Like I say, mental health care in the 1950s was undergoing a change, but the change in treatment options wasn't necessarily followed by a change in understanding. The stigma surrounding mental health continues to this day, and the understanding of conditions evolves slowly, with social understanding tending to lag behind medical understanding, because let's face it - "sociopath" is just such a cool term to throw around.****

You would think, for a 1950s warning against whipping your dick out in public places, you wouldn't need the added "scare" of the killer being a crazy guy. We can talk about the abnormal psychology that might lead someone to become a serial killer, for sure, but there are always exceptions to the generally accepted "signs." I'm not here to say serial killers are not mentally ill, though. I'm here to say mentally ill people are not destined to become serial killers, and that the conflation of "mentally ill" with "dangerous" is itself a damaging stereotype. And it's so prevalent in the news, in literature, and even in old spoopy urban legends, that it feels worth reiterating as often as possible. Psychotic is not psychopathic. Depressed is not dangerous. Hooks are not good murder weapons.

*Even though this is categorically not a ghost story, Rick, you moron. I'm glad someone knocked you out.

**And don't tell me he could have got the hook after escaping. Where's an escaped asylum inmate going to find a hook? Like, how much effort is that kind of person going to put into find a hook they can attached to their wrist and use to kill people? There are easier ways to kill people, that's all I'm saying. 

***Even if Karen is super annoying.

****That was sarcasm, by the way.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Retro Reading - Spoopy Edition!

Well, t'is the season, right? I figured October was a good excuse to ramp up the retro reading with some Halloweeny pulp horror, starting with one of my top five Point Horror books, The Cemetery!

Also known as The Ripper, apparently? I guess that was the American edition.

Also also known as Le Griffes Meurtrieres, which is French for "The Griffes Murders," which is admittedly not as catchy as The Ripper or the Cemetery, and also has nothing to do with the plot barring murder.

Anyway! The short version of the plot is that a bunch of edgy teens have a party in a cemetery on Halloween, raise the dead or a demon or a vampire or possibly Jack the Ripper, and murder ensues. There's more to it than that, with sibling rivalry, class warfare, broken hearts, and old whaling journals all featuring, but that's the quick and dirty take, which I could have given you from heart, because I must have re-read this book hundreds of times. I remember it as being really sharp and witty, and there are lines that have stuck with me all my life, like this one:

Teenage me thought that comeback was the height of sophistication. Every character always has something clever or pithy to say no matter how terrifying things are getting. I suppose it's sort of Whedon-esque, which normally I'm not keen on, but I read this book long before I ever heard of Joss Whedon, so it passes.

I want to get to the characters, though, because I kinda love them all? Except Foy, I guess. Here's a quick breakdown of our players:

Cyndi: the rich bitch hostess of the Halloween party. Cyndi is a bad girl with an abrasive personality, tons of money, and bags of attitude. She organises the party at Point Cemetery that kicks off our slasheriffic story. Cyndi is great.

Dade: Cyndi's sort-of-boyfriend, although he's not really that into her:

Dade likes to party and possibly owns a gun. He owns an old Chevy, which isn't important at all, but for some reason I developed the impression from this book that Chevys are ultra-hip cars and I still believe that to this day even though I know nothing about cars at all.

Wills: Cyndi's ex, now dating her best friend, Lara. Wills thinks Jack the Ripper is an admirable sort of guy. Apparently his break-up with Cyndi was brutal, which leads many to suspect she set up the Halloween party to murder him in revenge. (Oh yeah, Wills gets murdered).

Lara: Lara's family owns a garden centre. She nopes out of the book after Wills dies, to be honest, because she thinks she saw the killer and sensibly decides to hide in her room until the whole thing blows over.

Jane: Jane is rich and a good girl. She's embarrassed by how nice she is, but comes out of her shell by hooking up with Dade even though he's sort-of-dating Cyndi, because these kids are just buckets of hormones.

Foy: Foy is rich and Jane's best friend. That's all I've got on him. He doesn't really contribute anything to the book.

Rick: Rick is not rich. His dad is the town mortician. Rick makes inappropriate jokes to hide his fear of dying. He seems to hang out with Foy a lot, but I don't know why. In retrospect I wondered if they were dating, but neither of them are remotely dateable, so probably not (and I also don't think Cyndi would invite guys she couldn't hook up with to her party).

Charity: Charity is awesome. She takes no shit and turns out to be the heroine of the book in a roundabout way. She hates Cyndi and is best friends with Jane.

Jones: Basically Van Helsing. Wears a cowboy hat.

Georgie: Georgie is poor. Her dad makes vodka out of potatoes, which she steals. She hates Cyndi and crashes the Halloween party with Cyndi's older brother. She performs the seance which probably raises the demon-ripper.

Dorian: Cyndi's older brother. He hates Cyndi and may have tried to kill her as a child. She definitely tried to kill him later. He's dating Georgie in the most casual sense of the word.

That's our team! The story begins with Cyndi's Halloween party at Point Cemetery. Lots of bitchy one-liners are exchanged, because basically everybody is just hear to snipe at each other and hook up with someone's ex if they can. After Georgie shows up and performs a seance, Cyndi decides they should play a game of hide-and-seek. Charity, sensing something is amiss after the seance, legs it. Everyone else hides/seeks.

We cut back and forth to different view points a lot in this book, often with no breaks to indicate it's happening, and whilst the head-hopping can be confusing, it's done well in this early section to create tension. We know something is out in the cemetery with the kids, we know it's going after someone...But who? The changes in perspective keep us guessing - is that Cyndi about to leap out on Dade, or the Ripper? Is Lara about to stumble upon Wills, or something else entirely? Who or what is Charity running from? We're kept guessing - until the screaming starts.

Wills is the first to go, which is great, because he's frankly been a dick the whole party. Our heroes, being relatively sensible as characters in horror stories go, get the fuck out of the cemetery and go straight to the police.

Cyndi is a suspect because of her nasty break-up with Wills, but despite some initial wild accusations (nobody died before Jones came to town!), everyone is quick to agree that something supernatural is at play. Charity, being down-to-earth and also open to new ideas, goes researching the history of the cemetery and finds this:

I mean, that's basically Dracula's arrival in Whitby, right? It also touches on the theory that Jack the Ripper fled to America at some point. Based on the American version of this book being called The Ripper, I assume the parallel is deliberate. We do also get some confirmation from the Ripper itself that it took the form of Jack to kill Wills (what with Wills being a big fan), but I don't really know if we're supposed to think that A) this is Jack and B) Jack is therefore a supernatural being. I don't think it matters; it's just an interesting thread in the book.

Anyway! While Charity is researching and Cyndi is driving madly around town and everyone else is making out with someone or whatever, Georgie and Dorian go back to the cemetery because Georgie thinks it'll be neat to check out a real-live murder scene, and Georgie gets murdered. Dorian abandons her to her fate, because he's a fucking asshole, and drives home to cower in the garage. After a confrontation with Cyndi, Dorian finds himself face-to-face with the Ripper, who has taken Georgie's form to fuck with him. Trouble ensues, and a fire breaks out.

I have to mention this, purely because of Dade. Up til now, Dade has been a fandom Draco Malfoy type, all smooth lines and handsomely evil, hooking up with Jane behind Cyndi's back and dismissing Wills's death as no big deal. But from this point on, Dade is the MVP of this book behind Charity. He's making out with Jane when they realise there's a fire at Cyndi's house, because of course he fucking is, and he drives over there like a bat out of hell and rescues Cyndi from the burning house by himself even though there are already firemen on the scene. Later, when a heavily-medicated Cyndi takes off for the cemetery to find the thing that killed her brother, Dade goes after her, chases her down (even though she could be the killer) and basically saves her from either tripping over a headstone in the dark and breaking her neck, or probably getting murderised by the Ripper.

Guys. I mean, he's still a cheating jerk-face who judges girls for not putting out, and I cannot emphasize that enough, but Dade steps up when the stakes are high. Maybe it's because he (possibly) owns a gun.

However, Dade is not the true hero of The Cemetery. That title goes to Charity, who actually defeats the Ripper. Sort of. I mean...this is part of the book that really confused me as a kid. Our surviving teens take off to the cemetery after Cyndi. It's dark. The Ripper is out there. Everyone is holding hands for safety, until Cyndi emerges from the dark and starts taunting them. We know by now that the Ripper can shapeshift, it Cyndi? Either way, Dade takes off after her, and Jane follows him, and someone punches Rick and Foy is also there, not really contributing. And Jones and Charity, who have both read up on this shit, are left to confront the Ripper.

There are some beautifully creepy touches of ocean folklore in this book. Not nearly enough for my tastes, but hints at pacts with demons, ghosts ships, and suicides are woven together to bring the book to its climax. Its...super-confusing climax. Basically, Charity is possessed by the spirit of a woman from the 19th century who defeated the Ripper before, when it first came to town. The onto the Ripper while it shifts into different forms, and...that...banishes it? It's Tam Lin, basically, except much less romantic. Charity just...hangs on, until the Ripper is like, "FINE THEN! NO MORE MURDER!" and that's that.

It's confusing. It confused me at fifteen and it confuses me at thirty-four, because it's not really a resolution. I don't know why this woman's spirit can defeat the Ripper. It's hinted that she might have been a witch (and since Charity was dressed as a witch for Halloween and they have the same name, this seems to be why she chooses Charity as her vessel), but that's me extrapolating. The book pretty much ends with Charity hugging the Ripper into oblivion, then cuts to her and Jones making out. After she's asked him if he's some kind of Van Helsing and he avoids the question, which basically means yes, anyway.

It...I...I don't know? I love this book. I still love this book, but I still don't fucking know how and why Charity beat the Ripper.The answer is clearly tied to Jones. He's the new kid in town. Nobody knows anything about him. He hints at a mysterious past and clearly knows straight away that the Ripper is inhuman and can only be defeated through supernatural means. But he never tells anyone anything outright, and instead pulls the strings from behind the scenes. Who he is and what he does isn't really of interest to the author, it seems. He's just there to be silent and intriguing and guide Charity toward the answers. I feel like you could easily have Jones popping up in other books to slip you an ancient diary that explains your haunted house problem, or to leave you the mysterious locket that will help you summon the dead, idk. Jones has seen some shit. Jones knows things, man. And in the end, Jones isn't any more explained to us than the Ripper.

And nobody died before Jones came to town.


Friday, 6 October 2017

Flashback Friday

It's that time once again, folks! Friday is upon us, the end is in sight, we've all worked hard and we all deserve two days of relaxation. Or maybe you don't want to relax. Maybe you want to be all hot and bothered. Either way, Lynn Burke is here to help with THIRD WHEEL, the first book in her Elite Escorts series! Be warned - this one's smoking hot...

Third Wheel
Elite Escorts #1
By Lynn Burke
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Art Work: Jay Aheer, Simply Defined Art
Release Date: May 18, 2017
Keywords: Erotic, Romance, Contemporary, BDSM, single parent, stalking
*Warning: Multiple Partners, Anal Play, Anal Sex, Spanking
Carpenter by day, man whore extraordinaire by night, Reid Sullivan lives every man’s dream. But, Elite Escort’s hottest third wheel longs for something more than casual sex with clients. 

Jessica Lindy's testimony helped put her ex-husband behind bars, but she can't escape his vows of revenge. A jaded single mom, she guards her heart and daughter’s life against any man. 

One fateful night with Reid, the temptation for Jessica to allow another man into their lives becomes too hard to resist. But when her past collides with the present, lives--and love--will be lost unless Jessica learns how to lower her defenses. Can the professional escort convince the wary young mom that he can be a different sort of third wheel--the one she can trust?  

Purchase Links:


“Go into the bedroom and take your clothes off,” he said, stepping back, hands releasing their hold on me. “There are towels in the adjoining bathroom. Wrap one around yourself and get comfy on that big ass bed, belly down.”

Uh … oh yeah. Massage. Right.

Unable to find my voice, I nodded and tried to walk away. Damn heels near sent me sprawling on the floor.

“Here. Let me.” Reid dropped to his knees and lifted one of my feet to unbuckle the black heels Christine had insisted on.

I grabbed hold of his shoulder to keep from falling over, my gaze locked on the dark head inches away from my throbbing clit. Thoughts of him lifting my dress’s hem with his teeth brought a moan to my throat, but I bit down on the inside of my lip to keep from letting it out.

His large hand slid up my calf and back down before making short work of the clasp. My foot slid free, and he ran his hand up my other leg, catching my breath.

Get a grip, Jessica. The barest touch on my skin—hotter than any sex I could remember. My body craved more. One little lick, one little pinch on my clit, and I’d be screaming my release for the world to hear.

“Go on,” Reid said, standing and stepping back, my heels dangling from his hand.

With another thoughtless, dumb nod, I managed to make my feet move. I eyed the massive bed while making my way across the bedroom to the open bathroom door. Images of Reid’s ass clenching with each thrust into my writhing body beneath his flashed across my mind.

“G-good God,” I whispered.

Hands shaking, I all but ripped off my tight dress and restricting bra, but paused to consider my panties. A full body massage…

Another few seconds of indecision and I slid the soaked bit of silk down my legs. Just in case he wanted to knead my ass cheeks. And, nothing more than that, I told myself while wrapping a white fluffy towel around me. A peek into the bedroom revealed it empty, so I scooted to the bed, pulled back the comforter and top sheet, and lay face down a little ways from the edge, eyes clenched shut, pulse pounding through every cell of my body.

Closer than a hair to hyperventilation, I focused on slowing my breathing. Relaxed my muscles as soft instrumental music floated through the closed door.

“Jessica?” Reid’s low voice raised what little hair I had on my body. “Can I come in?”

I squeaked a reply but had to clear my throat and try again. “Yes.”

Yes. Please come … I mean, come in. Touch me. Make me come.


About Lynn Burke

Lynn Burke is a full time mother, voracious gardener, and scribbler of spicy romance stories. A country bumpkin turned Bay Stater, she enjoys her chowdah and Dunkin Donuts when not trying to escape the reality of city life.