Monday, 6 July 2015


A black cloud gathered under the water like an incoming storm around Emily’s flamingo legs. She yelped  and leapt onto the grass, brushing down her shins with snatched up dock leaves as though stung by nettles.

“What are those monsters?” She cried kicking the last few from her toes. The creatures splashed back into the water.

“There're just newts silly,” Spencer laughed wading through the drifting cloud, scooping them up and spinning them through his fingers like a TV magician. “Half tadpole, half frog.”

“Nothing can be two things at once.” Emily said wrapping herself in a shabby towel.

“My uncle Roy says people are two things all the time,” Spencer shouted above the stream. “In one of his whiskey talks, he said all people live two lives. One they show the world and one they keep hidden.”
“Is that right?” Emily asked me.
“I don't know.”  I watched a pair of magpies squawking at each other in a crack willow along the stream. One flew from its friend and made it sorrow.  I sighed. “What I do know is I'm starving. Let's head back.”
 Warm grass flattened under our bare feet as we walked through the woods. A thrum of cellos rattled the leaves ahead of us and shook teasel heads like woodland piƱatas. The breeze was cold and out of place. Emily traipsed at the back making daisy chain bracelets while I thought about dad. He'd been quiet lately. I'd asked mum, and she’d said things weren't going well at work but I wasn't to worry. “He’s not himself at the moment.” So who was himself? Maybe we are two people then. And maybe sometimes they get mixed up.
“When did your dad say the barbecue would be ready?” Spencer asked as though reading my mind.
“Five on the dot.”
“Where's the dot?” Emily asked. A poppy field blossomed across her cheeks when me and Spencer burst into giggles.
We walked a while through the woods. Finches swooped between bluebirds like Technicolor fairies, frogs hopped inside pampas grass and dry sticks snapped like firecrackers underfoot. Emily tied the daisy chain around her tiny wrist and stopped. She snapped a dandelion clock between her finger and thumb. It was a gentle and precise movement, careful not to shake the head off the flower. The hollow stem in the soil breathed out, bleeding a milky tear as though grieving its loss. 
She blew the seeds gently four times leaving most of the feathery spores intact. Emily was cheating, she always did with dandelions. She took in a large breath and blew the rest into the air making sure it would tell us five o'clock. As the tiny white umbrellas drifted in front of us they transformed into snowflakes.
We stood for moment. Transfixed with the magic. All three of us museum statues. A chorus of crickets disturbed the silence.
Emily was the first to speak.
“It's snowing.”
“In June? It doesn't snow in June.” Spencer said, his words laden with doubt. But the snow fell heavy and fast. By the time we reached the apple orchard near home the woodland floor was white where pink blossom had been a few weeks earlier. The early red apples looked like tiny rubies encased in mother of pearl. Emily snapped off a low hanging fruit and bit.
“Ooh it's cold, like an apple flavoured ice lolly.”
Me and Spencer each took an apple. Both competing to reach higher to prove who the biggest boy was. A game I still see every day as an adult. The fruit was fresh but tart, the bitterness spread across the tongue making my taste buds flower.
“This is just making me more hungry and cold. Come on.” I said leading out of the orchard. Behind us half eaten apples dropped with near muted thuds into the thickening carpet of snow.
“Ah the adventurers return for their hearty feast.” My dad bellowed, raising a beer bottle with one hand and a thick steak on a fork like a Viking in the other. The snowfall was dying, but it still fell hard around him. Flakes caught in the pocket of his ‘Do Not Disturb the Chef’ apron me and Emmy had bought him last Father's Day. They melted on the hairs of his legs below the line of his Bermuda shorts. 
He turned the meat and returned it to the grill. “Get it while it's hot.” The smell of searing beef made the inside of my cheeks tingle. My tummy grumbled then as saliva filled the cavities from a childhood of sweets and fizzy drinks.
“He thinks he's Henry the Eight.” Emily said.
“Kings don't cook their own food.” Spencer replied treading burrows in the snow to reach the warmth of the grill.
“Maybe some kings do when we can't see them. Maybe they’re two things like your newt. Who knows what kings and queens do when they're just being people?” Emily smiled when she saw the confusion in Spencer's eyes. Her argument laid eggs of doubt in the black nests of his pupils.
“Your mum went in when it started snowing. Says I'm mad for staying out here.” Dad said brushing golden corn with butter that melted onto the red coals with a hiss. “Maybe she's right. But you know what I think Bud?” He said passing me a corncob, now tiger striped from the barbecue.
“What dad?”
“Well Bud I think it never snows in June. And it maybe never will again. So I say let’s experience it because we'll never forget this day.”
I took a bite, the butter dripping down the side of my corncob smile. I knew he was right.
Emily opted for burgers, ‘Plenty of ketchup so I can't taste the meat dad’ and Spencer had sausages hidden under a tidal wave of mustard. My dad sat in his deckchair placing a new bottle of beer in a volcano of snow he'd scooped up on the floor. We sat eating in silence for a few minutes, enjoying the moment. The cold, the heat of the food, the smoke and ash clinging to our skin, the aromas and flavours of the cooking. Two magpies landed on the roof spilling snow onto the patio flags.
“Two’s for joy.” Dad said saluting the birds with his beer.
I looked around and noticed three more in the cherry tree and another pair huddled together under the shed canopy. ‘Seven for a secret never to be told’ I thought.
“Hey Bud go fetch your mum.”  Dad said now standing back at the grill, lifting another well done sirloin above his head. “Tell her the steaks are high.” Emily giggled at the joke. Me and Spencer rolled our eyes at each other.
Mum was sitting at the counter rolling a glass of white wine and turning the pages of a magazine like they’d been bitching about her behind her back. I knew she was reading the words written in her mind though.  Throwing stones on a chalk pavement of worries back there. Hoping she'd land on an even number for once.
 I remembered the time I overheard her talking to her friend Kitty. She'd said my dad had newspaper eyes. Kitty laughed saying, ‘What black and white with a dash of colour?’ I peeked around the door jamb to see my mum looking into the space over Kitty’s head. ‘No. His eyes are easy to read but you can never tell if he's giving you the whole truth. I'm constantly worried about what stories those eyes are holding from me.’ her voice flat and full of withheld sighs.
The sound of the magazine tearing snapped me from my thoughts. I told her dad wanted her. She turned to look in the garden then joined him without speaking a word. I stood there and watched through the patio doors as she rested her head against his shoulder. 
Then they kissed. I’d never seen my parents kiss before. Sure she’d give him a peck on the cheek before he left for work, or a brushed on his lips if he brought the groceries back for her without being asked, that sort of thing. But this was a black and white movie kiss. I watched Spencer trying to muffle a giggle into his crumpled napkin. Emily just stood and watched them like me. Two frozen kids, not by the unprecedented snow but by that strange display of love between our parents.
Emily broke and ran at them, her towel falling behind her. She grabbed each of them by a leg and hugged until all three lost their balance and fell into the snow like the half eaten apples in the orchard.
I learnt something important that day watching them all.  We do live two lives. We hide things to protect the ones we love, maybe even to protect ourselves at times. But I learnt something even more valuable from my dad as I watched my family through the glass doors, as they laughed and kissed while the flakes fell around them. 
We keep parts of us out of sight that's true. But every now and again we need to mix it up and show everybody what we've been keeping down. We have to shake life like a snow globe and wait until everything settles so we can see things clearly again. In the end I guess we’re all newts, submerged and dry at the same time. My dad was right about another thing too. I never have forgot that day and don't think I ever will.  

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Science-fiction and horror – the perfect blend?

A guest post from Alex Davis.

I've been wondering a great deal to myself lately about the correlation between SF and horror, which I think is in part due to having an SF book out but still actively writing horror 'on the side' of that main trilogy. I'm a big fan of both genres, although I would have to say that SF is done well far more often that horror is on the big screen. Finding a good SF film isn't a terribly rare occurrence, but finding a truly great horror film can be truly hard work. However one of the things that particularly floats my boat are those occasions where SF and horror combine, which is a genre blend for me that simply doesn't get done enough. So here's my top five examples of the subgenre...

1)      Event Horizon. For me, personally, the daddy of them all. Fantastic performances, claustrophobic atmosphere and brilliant use of any number of horror tropes and some you don't tend to see as well. Genuinely twisted in places, and Sam Neill is on absolutely leading form here.

2)      Alien. Yes, it is extremely good, and probably the obvious starting point for the genre. HR Giger's brilliant creations and some stunning good use of sound and visuals make this film genuinely edge of your seat stuff, and for me, a far superior film to the gung-ho action of the often-preferred Aliens. It's become so iconic with good reason.

3)      Splice. For me personally this is a very under-rated movie, and stars a genuinely great actor in the shape of Adrien Brody. Looking at the dangers of genetic engineering, this film has a very strange and unsettling quality to it and a really human story at its heart. Well worth a look.

4)      Existenz. By one of my favourite directors, David Cronenberg, this is another film that kind of went by without getting the credit it deserved. With echoes of Videodrome, this dark movie exploring the lines between reality and gaming, and features fine central performances all round.

5)      Pandorum. Probably the darkest film on the list, this deep-space nightmare is a mind-bending tale of horror with elements of both the monster movie and psychological horror. A bit messy in places, but this one has a wonderful finale that really lifts this one for me.

To find out more about my debut novel, The Last War, visit

Find other guest posts from this blog-swap here- Alex Davis

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Nasty Snips Project from Pendragon Press

Pendragon Press are a great independent publisher. I love the dedication to the work they produce. That dedication is evident in the quality of books they release, the writers they have published and the sublime artwork of their covers.

So I was thrilled when Pendragon owner Christopher Teague asked me to write a theme for a book trailer for the upcoming anthology, The Nasty Snips Project. This was an ideal request for a horror fan and musician. I spent some time working out exactly what to do. After I sent a piece to Chris with a few examples he pointed out what he liked, disliked and the route I should take. This advice, with the inspiration of the brilliant cover by Neil Williams, and my own love of soundtracks took me on a very experimental musical journey.

Each time I thought I had it nailed I felt something was missing. I cut bits, removed instruments, added new instruments, layered sampled sounds and messed about. It was great fun

Eventually settling on a part from the original example theme, adding guitars, strings and some crazy analogue synthesisers and manipulating samples of somebody saying 'nasty' I hit the right notes. Oh accidental pun. Anyway here's the finished trailer. Be sure to buy the book and share this as much as you like. :)

Friday, 3 April 2015

My reply to Mark's Blog challenge.

I've been challenged by my friend Mark West to join in the Lovely Blog Hop to talk about some of the things that have shaped my life and my writing.

At the end of this post, you’ll find links to some blogs and writers I like. The writers have all agreed to participate in and continue this Lovely Blog Hop.

First memory.

It was around the time of my second birthday and I was sitting on a tricycle. One of those old heavy ones, so heavy I couldn't pedal it. The red and white rusting frame stood out against the concrete garden of the tenement square like a faded rainbow in an overcast sky. I remember being excited and happy climbing on the trike; though I have no idea if it was mine or if it belonged to one of the kids from the flats on the ground floor. Just sitting on it, unable to move its weight was a joy. I remember smiling and thinking it was the best day of my life- I have no idea if this is accurate as I can’t remember any other days before it.

Then out of the corner of my eye I see a kid approaching below the fluttering ghosts drying in the breeze from the upstairs balconies. He was older than me and scruffy like he’d just rolled off the back off the rag and bone man’s cart. I know I liked him, that he’d been a friendly face. But then he shouted at me, called me names I can’t remember and began hitting me hard in the arm. I wouldn't move though; couldn't make a quick getaway anyway and I had no intention of leaving the trike. I remember looking up at him through teary eyes and hoping he’d just wipe his nose. Looking at his sleeve I realised he had no more room.

Then I felt a smack. A flash of pain and the blue August sky became black. When I finally opened my eyes I saw a kid far too big for a trike pedalling off laughing and calling me a baby for crying. Then he rose up like he’d been summoned on his own personal Rapture. I too found my feet by invisible hands. My big brother had lifted me up, brushed me down, the bully’s mother had done the same to him, smacking his uncombed head as he flew inside the slamming door of the tenement flat.

I have flashes of memory around that time. Dark stairwells up to our neighbour’s flats above. Twisting and black, smelling of horrible things. A shadow of a cowboy approaching on my bedroom wall.  An iron gate that creaked an entrance to a foreboding tenements on the hill above on us. They’re are all just glimpses, moments. Maybe I remember the trike as was that the first time I realised not all people were nice.  A year later we moved far away into our own big house with gardens of grass rather than concrete. That's a more pleasant childhood memory. Moving day, sitting inside the footwell of a big truck approaching a new world with new adventures.


I wasn't really a big reader as a child. I remember going to get my first library card with my primary school class and watching the bookshelves elongate like a pull focus when I looked at them. I was intimidated right there. I remember my school teacher shouting at me because I was the only one who hadn't selected a book. So I picked up one that had a picture of a dog called the Westminster Abbey Mystery or something like that. I spent a lot of time in London as a kid because my uncle owned a pub outside the Houses of Parliament. So I recognised the place in the title. I’d not long come back from the Abbey on a trip with my parents too. 

Outside The Westminster Arms as a child. Loved pubs even then.

I never read that book. I hid it under a sofa cushion when I got home like it was a dirty secret. Many months later after moving it around various hiding spots it was discovered by my mum. I confessed and cried that it was overdue. I had to take it back to school and owned up. I didn't, I hid it again and said I’d returned it. And the guilt layered up.  That put me off reading for a long time.

Then one summer I found some books in my brother’s room. He was doing a summer job working on a bin lorry. He brought home lots of treasures that my mum usually threw out. But these books were like gold from the muck. Pan Books of Horror, Fontana, and Arrow all manner of scary paperbacks with their terrifying covers struck something deep inside of me as they did him. It was as though something woke up inside of me. I’d hidden books from my mum because I never wanted to read them, yet he’d hidden them from her because he did.  I only scanned the pages as I was terrified of discovering what happened to all those poor people on the blood soaked covers, also in case my brother came in. Or even worse my mum. But I slowly found out similar stories. But it wasn't until a couple of years into high school that I really began reading novels for pleasure. The delights of To Kill a Mockingbird was like finding home for me. After that I read everything I could find. I flew through English Literature classes and read the whole list once it was given every September; always having to pretend the books were new when we came to them in class.

This cover always terrified me.

Since then I've loved books. I've loved words and I look back at the Mystery of Westminster Abbey under that cushion and think of the huge waste of my childhood life without books. All because libraries and books were made to feel intimidating to me at an impressionable age. Something I've tried to avoid with my own children who thankfully both love books as much as I do. Yet I still feel like I'm an outsider in libraries even though I think of them as places of sanctuary from a hectic and pixel painted world.

What’s your passion?

My daughters are everything to me. Beside my family and writing I love music. I play piano and write songs in my spare time. I played in various bands in my younger days and loved every minute of it. The gigging, the studios and being part of a gang. Now music is something that I do alone so the brotherhood aspect is no longer there but the passion for writing music is stronger. When I'm in front of a piano or a keyboard I feel at home.

Me kids keep on  rolling.

I have a home studio which is my real passion. Recording music. I once had my own recording studio and started building up a good client base in the mid to late 1990s. My dream came true after so much hard work. This was everything I’d wanted since being 13. Then I started to be ill a lot of the time and being in a band and starting a company wasn't ideal with that. I quit the band hoping I could still build on my work of trying to be a producer. But just as things took off and I got investment I got really ill. After a year of tests and deteriorating health I had to close my studio. You can’t let artists down and I was doing it more and more. I went off music for years after that. Eventually I couldn't move my fingers enough to play. I gave up. I had my kids and my life. Music had hurt me. Until it healed me in some ways years later. Now it is a real passion and in its own way a healer.


I'm an accidental writer if a writer at all. I wrote my first story when I was 9 about a spacecraft that needed a special key to get home but the only other key was buried inside an Egyptian stone in the British Museum. My next was many years later after a Twilight Zone marathon. Me and my two best friends decided have a competition. We had to come up with a twist tale by the next morning. Mine was weak, my other mate‘s was terrible and the lad who suggested it had a great one.

But I caught the bug. My mum even bought me a second hand typewriter. I wrote in spurts now and again and wasted so much paper.

It wasn't until much later in my life that I found a voice in writing. I also found horror. It was right under my nose all along. You see I thought to be a writer I had to be ‘serious’. I joined an adult learning class for beginner writers. It was heavily focused on literature and that’s all I wrote for a long time. Until one day the tutor wrote a note on the bottom of one of my stories,

“Everything you write leans toward the supernatural or horror. You do it well. Go with it.”

That was all the encouragement I needed. Since then I've slowly built up a small body of published work.  But I still feel like an accidental writer that walked through the wrong door.

Monday, 5 January 2015

King For A Year: The Shining, reviewed by Anthony Cowin

King For A Year: The Shining, reviewed by Anthony Cowin: The Bad Thing In Room 217: Stephen King’s The Shining “Wendy is an extraordinary woman.” “And your son is also extraordinary?” That t...

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Horror News.

Well it's been a long lonely time since I've been here. I've been riding a locomotive coupled with carriages of a busy life and actually being productive. So much so that I've had a good flow of publications in the past couple of months.

First to report on is a short story called 'The Television Made Me Do It' published in Dark Eclipse volume 34. The monthly e-mag from Dark Moon Books. With so many news stories pointing fingers at television and video games to conveniently explain away violence I wondered what if it was real. What if televisions did start telling people to go out an kill? I had so much fun writing the story, which in turn raised many questions, that I may revisit the theme in a longer format later on.

Next up I had the lovely surprise at being announced as the winner of the Summer Flash contest from Massacre Magazine. My story 'Black is the Brightest Colour' took top spot. As well as a monetary prize the story is also printed as the first feature in the print and e-mag of Massacre Magazine Issue #3. You can also read my winning story online here- Black is the Brightest Colour.

The next piece of news is difficult to report on at the moment as I don't have a release date. But it's a big one. My first single author published work will be available soon. It's a chapbook from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing's One Night Stand series. It's called The Brittle Birds. It's a story that mixes many forms of folklore and myth from the Huxwhukw cannibal birds of native Canada to Norse trolls, right through to western superstitions and ghosts. It's essentially the story of the last day of a man that lived a life plagued with monsters both internally and externally.

I'll post updates and buying links when I'm given a release date by the publisher. As always keep up with my horror fiction reviews at The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog here- Anthony Cowin Horror Reviews.

Until next time, take care and keep scared.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Writing on the Brain.

I'm always intrigued about psychology behind the practice and communication of writing. How does our brain process the written word? How do we translate that into thoughts and ideas? Here's a smart infographic that goes a small way toward answering some of those questions.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Unquiet House by Alison Littlewood

Alison Littlewood has taken a risk in using a type of fractured tandem structure for her haunted house story. Supernatural tales are usually best left to a straightforward narrative that drives the reader along. But this isn’t a normal ghost story. This is a story of how ghosts are created and more importantly how they change the living world around them. The author took a risk and it paid off in spades.

The novel starts in present day. Nothing too unfamiliar here. A large country place called Mire House left in a will to Emma, a protagonist battling her own internal ghosts, a mystery surround the house and Charlie an uninvited relative from her childhood. While this territory may be familiar what follows is anything but.

The present is used like a framing device for two strands set in the past. The writing in the first part is haunting and beautifully written. It’s the kind of opening to a book that power companies love, as it’ll keep bedroom lights on all night across the country. Spectral visions, mysterious relatives showing up unannounced and terrifying events build to a horrifying crescendo. Then we’re swiftly transported back to the 1970s and meet a group of young boys daring each other to enter Mire House.

This is where we follow the path of the dark woman who haunts the house and the adjoining cemetery. Alison Littlewood never allows you enjoy the exploits of these young scamps for too long without reminding you of the ghosts that lurk and the dangers they pose.

Read the full review here- The Unquiet House by Alison Littlewood

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Whitstable by Stephen Volk

This understanding and the empathy it evokes in Cushing is the catalyst for the dark thriller that follows. Volk places enough doubt in the reader’s mind to empathise with Cushing while worrying he may be making a huge and damaging mistake. This tension suffuses each page with a nervous energy in the first half of the book.

This spiraling of uncertainty locked together with threats and lies had me turning the pages with real enthusiasm and anticipation

Friday, 3 January 2014

Children of the Night

Here's a short and spooky horror theme I composed. It's not for anything in particular but to experiment with atmospheric horror music. Imagine a camera swooping over dark farmlands as the music plays. Car headlights dip and shine through twisting country roads in the distance. As the camera pulls up on a large house with dark windows the car also pulls into the driveway. As the headlights are switched off and the family step from the car we see a swing and a roundabout moving with no children nearby.

These are the Children of the Night.

Paws: The Revenge.