My venture into historical fiction begins

I have a little announcement, and I’m feeling awfully nervous.
For the past few weeks I’ve been throwing obstacles in the path of this. I’m beginning the demanding task of turning my doctoral thesis into a novel. Well, sort of.
My thesis concerns a corpus, a body of obscure texts. My novel will attempt to embody the life of the author. Her name is Alice Bailey. She’s a highly controversial figure nobody outside New Age and conspiracy theory circles has heard of. Yet her writing has been enormously influential on the world stage and it is easy to show how. Her life is colourful and interesting too, with themes many will relate to, including domestic violence, elitism and exclusion, jealousy and malice.
What is challenging is that I am treading the controversial path of ‘faction’ – inspired by ‘Heather Rose’ The Museum of Modern Love, and Melissa Ashley’s The Birdman’s Wife, both prize winning books. I am indebted to the authors for tamping down the grass on this narrow rocky path, impressing us all with the results of their hard labours. I’ve reviewed both works and I have become so enthusiastic in my praises, the authors might be wondering ‘who is this nut who keeps liking my short-list announcements with “told you so” comments?’
In reviewing these works, it appears I’ve been set a high bar.
My story will be structured differently. There will be echoes of The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey, for mine is a frame story. I have chosen this approach as I want to tell a little of Alice Bailey’s legacy. Creating a narrative frame set in the present seems to me the only way to achieve this.
I have the title.
I’ve conjured a protagonist to put in the frame. I already love her to bits.
I’ve completed my research on the life of Alice Bailey. I have it all written up in a submittable draft, what I thought was a submit-able draft.
I’ve story boarded the chapters
I am about to invoke the voice of Alice Bailey.
Nothing in my literary journey to date has been more daunting and more compelling than this project.
Will I pull it off? If I do, will anyone, other than me, be interested in this mysterious woman whose story has gone untold for many decades?
So here I go, bathers donned despite the cold, facing the choppy waters of historical fiction. Already, there’s a storm on the horizon.

How I started writing horror

A year ago today I shared my review of Liam Brown’s Wild Life, after being invited by Legend Press to be part of the author’s blog tour. (Read my review here)

Liam Brown Wild Life released by Legend Press

Wild Life is a disturbing read, dark, gothic, raw. It falls into that tradition of dark fiction the British do so well, one that includes Iain Bank’s debut novel, The Wasp Factory, a book I read shortly after it was published in the 1980s.

By the time I was reviewing Wild Life, I had just finished writing my first work dark fiction. I was yet to enter the realm of horror in any real sense. I didn’t identify as a horror fiction author. I still had my head up in the literary smog, born of my own pretensions.

The descent has been slow, necessary, painful and illuminating all at once.

Now I’m completing my second work of dark fiction. Unlike the first, it sits more firmly inside the genre, fulfilling the expectations of horror fans. I have my first short story that I have labelled horror, out there in two competitions. I realise I can identify another two of my short stories as horror, along with many others that are certainly dark. They are both published in my collection, All Because of YouWhen I wrote them, I didn’t think of them as horror. I didn’t get what dark fiction meant.

My muse did. She knew where she was heading. For years I’ve been struggling to label what I write as falling into this genre or that. Is it a thriller, a mystery, maybe suspense as that seems to be a catch all? And there she was, stirring her grim brews in the dungeon of my mind, claiming all of my ideas as though they were nothing more than seasoning.

Dark themes enter all my work. There’s nothing light and airy about what I do, even when I venture into other genres. It’s why I’m drawn to authors like Ever Dundas and her smashing debut Goblinwhy every so often I think I ought to move to somewhere cool and dank and dim.


Author Interview – James Watts


I am delighted to welcome author James Watts, whose debut horror novel Them was released by Fear Front publishing on 15 May 2017.

Tell me a little about yourself James. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?

I grew up in the small town of West Jefferson, Alabama. Born in Birmingham, Alabama on March 17, 1976.  A few years after high school I moved to Panama City, Fl for around 10 years. I moved back to Alabama 5 years ago and currently live in my old home town of West Jefferson.

At what age did you realise your fascination with horror?

It was pretty early on, around the age of 6 or 7. My older sisters and brother were always watching horror films. Especially my sister Tammy. She introduced me to Nightmare on Elm Street. And my sister Eugenia and her boyfriend, now husband, took me to a drive-in to see Friday the 13th.

When did you start writing?

Around the age of 11. I was using the library more and more around the 4th grade and discovered the Hardy Boys. Loved those books. And not long after I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s “The Stand”, and knew after that I wanted to write. Between my love of comics and novels, I eventually tried my own hand at it. And it was terrible, but I kept going.

Who are your favourite authors to read? Who inspires you in your writing?

My son Bailey is my inspiration to keep pushing on. My favourite authors include Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, John Saul, Anne Rice, Peter Straub, Edgar Allan Poe, and Richard Matheson.

Tell me a little about your latest book?

Them is a horror narrative set in the small Alabama town of Maple Grove and took a little over a year to finish, mainly because I was working in security at the time and was constantly working.

The fictional town of Maple Grove is actually located around five miles from my hometown of West Jefferson. By knowing the area so well, it was easier to tell my story. It doesn’t end with familiar surroundings either. There is a lot of me in this book, different smaller parts of me in every character. For instance, the protagonist Ray Sanders moved to Florida to escape the pain of betrayal. I did the same thing. Although, our reasons for returning are different. Now as for Ray’s childhood, it was pulled from my own to a certain extent.

The story itself focuses on Ray overcoming his insecurities and to be the man he must be in order to destroy the evil that has hovered over Maple Grove for over a hundred years, and to break the hold it has over his bloodline. Mind control, creepy animals, and vividly eerie dreams make this task almost insurmountable.


“In the small town of Maple Grove, Alabama, an ancient evil resurfaces to claim its right to life and the human race be damned. When Ray Sanders returned to Maple Grove to attend his mother’s funeral, he never planned to have to overcome all of his insecurities in order to save the town from an evil as old as time itself. For over a hundred years, the town of Maple Grove has suffered from the deranged minds and unquenchable hunger of parasitic creatures not of our Earth. Once before in a sacrifice of blood, the forces from beyond were locked away presumably forever. Now they have returned, hungering for their chance to evolve. It will be up to Ray Sanders, his cousin Roy, and a woman either them recall to stop this evolution and prevent the reign of these ageless creatures before their evil can spread.”

Thanks for the interview James, and all the very best with your book, Them, which very very creepy.

You can buy a copy of James Watt’s book on Amazon

You can find James on Facebook at

Twitter @james2go34




Who is the presidential candidate?

The man called Donald Trump

Is he the champion of the people?

Or is he a bully and a chump

Is he the only person?

That can save us from ourselves

Is he a snake oil salesman?

Trying to convince us that there are elves

He is a walking slogan

He is a person and he is a brand

Can we afford to take the chance?

By putting him in command

Will Donald use diplomacy?

Use graciousness or aplomb

We must remember that the president

Has the release code to the bomb

Do people really believe?

Everything that he says

Does it correlate?

To what’s going on in their heads

He says that a wall on the border

Is   an effective solution

There’s not one word about Global warming

Or reducing industrial pollution

If Donald Trump is elected

Will it trigger a violent revolution?

The people who are listening to him

Say   they are sick and they’re tired

The system is not working for them

And they want somebody fired


Is excluding all migrants

Really a sensible idea

Or is it simply politicised hatred

Generating resentment and fear

Is ending dialog with other nations

Really the right way to go?

When you need them and ask for their help

Don’t be surprised when they say No

He says he is the only person

That will stop Mexican migration

Are his supporters star struck by him

Or is it curious fascination

He says only he has all the answers

To the problems that don’t even exist

He has stated on many occasions

His methods are a check book or his fist

Is being forceful and uncompromising

When it comes to law and order

Really effective or even achievable

Remember streets don’t have any borders

Is Donald Trump serious?

Is Donald Trump for real?

What is he prepared to take away from us?

To make sure he seals the deal

He says that he is a winner

That he does not know how to lose

He says that he’s already got this race won

But that is your privilege to choose


Written by

Nick Calloway

Walk with one shoe – 3

Its dark, the roads wet, glistening a misty rain lightly coats my face as i walk the city streets. Nomads, hoods drawn wrestle with shadows known only to themselves argue with the unseen as they scurry by. Makeshift beds litter the shopfront doorways all the marks have gone. Cabs collect the suits shimmering in the headlights. I make my way home, catching sight only for a moment my reflection, eyes old. My lungs ache from too many casual life stories, it never amazes me how, given the chance a complete stranger will disperse all kinds of secret files on their mischievous relationships, I suppose I’ll never see them again anyway, well nearly all of them.

Early morning sitting by the garage door, light streams through the leaves of the old elm tree all majestic it towers over the house, the leaves lush and plentiful, children with their mothers walk past up the hill to the local school. The Indian sits in the doorway of the garage half hanging out, two years in the making it is nearly finished. I remember when i was young I would see those old movies of the 40’s and 50’s where the main guy would ride around on these big old bikes changing gears on the tank all leathered up riding down the highway. Motorcycles truly a tool for the soul, a mass of early morning coffees, long drives, secondhand parts and the amount of patience that would test any saint has finally seen the end of a vision. I sit back bellows of smoke leave my mouth like a steam train early morn, Bloomfield echoing out from the back of the garage. Grazed hands cradle a coffee, as the smell of the new day permeates air.

My phone rings, “hello”, “hey can you do a show tonight?” “sure” I say “where abouts?” “down the coast, I’ll come and pick you up about 6”, we discuss the details laughing about the slave labour pay, working musicians the most under paid professionals, I was making the same pay twenty years ago putting up with the same bullshit just from different publicans, gees if I was working in a sweat shop for the pay I get at least there would be no real overheads, punters come up and suggest how better you can perform, tell you what songs would be better the swan off to their little group all proud of themselves while we, the musicians try and be polite “Yes maybe we should try that song, (now go fuck yourself you piece of shit)”. Publicans are the same, expect a capacity crowd without advertising playing some god awful music prior to the band starting then complaining that we didn’t attract enough of a crowd while paying us fifty dollars a piece for our time getting there at 7 and finishing at 1 in the morning, that’s six hours plus travelling time for fifty dollars roll on the good times, does anybody care? no of course not the general public who go out wouldn’t have a clue but we keep on playing anyway why?, well that’s the 9 dollar an hour question.

Back home its early morning the house creeks in the silence. Its a great time of the day, I’ve always liked the crispness of the air and the quiet time where you can just sit and reflect on the previous days ups and downs, the show went well, the crowd weren’t too bad considering and my gear didn’t break down so all’s well in the land of milk and honey. The t.v evangelist, all love thy neighbour fleeces their flock of riches, their Cheshire smiles evil prey on the weak just a small donation is all we need they say while Facebook retaliations of eastern faiths declare war on the infidels. Fear mongering on both sides, doomsday prepares itself for another time in history. I drift off to a land where there are no boundaries, where no-one is persecuted because of the colour of their skin or their beliefs in what comes there after.

My neck aches as I awake another night dissolved on the couch, I’ve got to stop falling asleep in front of the TV even though it’s a futile thought. “Fall asleep on the couch again did we?” she says filling the kettle “do you want a coffee?”, her voice drifting from the kitchen, the dog looks up weary in anticipation then falls back in comfort. “How did you go last night?” “not bad” I say my throat grinding, my eyes blurry. Outside rain hard pelts the earth, the skies vengeance cleans the nights events from the holy roads. The night draws curtains on the sun as I head out, guitar slung over my shoulder back to the bar where time stands still, where the regular crew struggles to maintain perspective on the outside world. Third level safe house emits laughter as I climb the stairs, there’s a spider on the wall, the moon shining, making the tea while Frank sifts through a pile of verses. There’s a dancer all legs and smiles a parading banshee, she floats bleeding lines of adventures to no one in particular, party turns up “hey whats going on?” the banshee screams the walls rattle and bleed. The rest of the motley crew arrive we nestle around the table another family meeting entails, people come and go the phone rings Frank grumbles and heads downstairs for another foley of difficult opinions the banshee cartwheeling around the room stumbles careering into one of the chairs we all laugh uncontrollably just another night. It’s quiet on the streets in the city tonight even the street urchins have fled the scene. There’s a few buskers on the corner, bucket and pan rhythms echoing down Chinatown, me and Party share observations, drink coffee and generally just take in the nights progression the billboard across the street displays the latest designer street wear spewing on the sidewalk as the romeos hold back their hair hoping for early morning penetrations.

Walk with one shoe – Part 2.

Dean James walk with one shoe
Dean James walk with one shoe
Dean James walk with one shoe


When all else evades the honour of giving, reason prevails. Hero on the arm, tortured by faith in compassion she defies traceable actions of kindness, exhumes what little faith she has left in the day to humour discontent. The night draws closer the yellow of distant lights echo down the alley as we prepare to play. A rush of smoke exhaled upstairs as the jagged banter cuts the unweary in the room. Stragglers loud defiant display the valour of kings and queens oblivious of mere mortals, while outside the distant lands cringe under the blood of the night sky, children run like savages devoid of human touch they scream in their minds eye forever tortured by fate. “Hello ladies and gentlemen we’re the band!” grinding first world flavours of careless thighs amusing the handcuffed businessman barfly.
Traces of newborn affairs filter through the night, the air suckling the tit of anticipation raises the expectation of loose favours. Its never a winning hand of consistency however and we all just go home.

Coffee and cigars flavour the room, it’s early morning the sky clearing to the sounds of comfortable beds along the street. I already miss the low rumble of the city, forever a murmur in every dark corner wear the beats all look for a warm place to hold up until morning light. I sleep. Tortured by my dreams I awake the eyes on the wall.
They leer at my yearning, cold the just deserving nothing, no explanation to whats to come. I filter my gaze from a spiders eyes, the nest of conflict on all sides anticipates the new dawn. Clouds, still in the moment permeate the smell of morning dew. Another day exists, closer to a new world order, where the haves decree normality to those who can’t see trees in the forest, who wade the endless tide of existence, enduring the swells of day to day conditioning. The meek shall inherit the earth, the earth insistent on prenuptial clauses of limited lifespans of the naked.

The bus ride seems quiet, a handful of pressed shirts scattered amongst perfumed smiles whisk away the morning commute. A crow flies eagerly awaiting my arrival onto the windswept streets, another day in paradise. Makeshift bedrooms clutter the sidewalk, leaves dance, waltz to the lurid waves of discontented shuffling feet. I light a cigar, the sun strikes my face with a warmth then dissipates as quickly as it appears. The wind clutches my spine I shiver quickly wrapping my coat around me smoke billows. I pull the keys from my pocket and head upstairs all quiet on the western front. The stains of comic relief on the floor, wet with a desire to lose sight of the profanities of well constructed news briefs tempered by the ruling elite. Suddenly the door slams downstairs the silence broken “how ya going mate,” “fancy a cuppa,,” last night drawn on his face, he seems weary but content his shirt half tucked in “lets go upstairs”. Pictures adorn the walls all with their own story to tell. The arched door opens to the sickly smell of last nights delivery bins full, a cars horn drowns my eyes torment “good night last night” he says in passing “didn’t get out of here ‘till 4 this morning”, “oh yeah, regular crowd of misfits?” I say swallowing a small amount of vomit, “The moon and party rocked up after the shows then all these amusing types with their pre written one liners filled the room gagging on self importance came in defying all logic of what amusing entails. The moon in waning left bemused by all the left wing bin chickens while party cornered the weakest of the heard in an attempt to sway judgement. We head out for food, Florentino’s sidewalk conversations of the night before lost to the wind, customers peer out behind glass fortresses, waiters half smile, trams swallow shadows all too willing.

Back at the bar it’s a quarter to 7, its always a quarter to 7 here, it’s only when you leave that time changes. Murf rolls in, terry towelling hat adorns fine hair, a sly grin pino appears on the table “so whats with the shirt, a bit gay,” any excuse to anchor reality we all laugh not that there is anything wrong with that. Plumes of smoke inhaled, the weekend is near when all the suited barlies enter a whirlwind romance based on the affluent mixture of alcohol and cheap promises, guarded crossed legs slowly open like hibiscus on a sunny day. Scholarly bartenders quietly spoken arrive for the nights swarray. The room fills with sweaty desire, young turks work the room as the less beautiful follow the swarm, queen bee flutters her wings surrounded by her entourage the black swan hangs back ready to pounce knife ready and eager to plunge into the queen. Dapper dressed shoe salesman scotch in hand, hangs his bag and coat well worn hellos and banter quaffed hair he sits. Left wing high heels with husband in tow, a well mannered man of quiet strengths shakes my hand. Frank holds court bellowing laughter resonating self assured, greeting the ladder climbers of the night they grind and sway together animated puppetry, pinstriped pants green and white float on the dance floor with regimented grace and purpose. Its still a quarter to 7.

The Drago Tree for a travelling book junkie

The world of book blogging is an amazing place sometimes. You just never know what might be happening in that vast tribe of dedicated book lovers, who give hours of every day to supporting authors and readers alike. Where would we be if we had to rely exclusively on print media and high end literary reviews? Only the select few works, those tipped for prizes maybe, would get attention.

So it was amazing to receive a message on Facebook this morning from a dedicated book blogging soul, informing me that my novel, The Drago Tree, appears in a list of works set in the Canary Islands.

9781922200365-Cover (1)

“Sometimes, even the fictional works which loosely base a storyline on a location can inspire wanderlust in a person far more than any editorial piece could.  Perhaps it is the in-depth descriptions that entice people to book a flight – I know for a fact, that I have been known to book a trip off the back of a book I have read. ” –

Thank you so much for thinking of my book!!!

You can buy a copy of The Drago Tree on Amazon

A Perfect Square reviewed by Kate Braithwaite

I am delighted to share this warm, 5 star review of my novel, A Perfect Square, from Kate Braithwaite, author of Charlatan.

A perfect square

A Perfect Square is a clever, thoughtful literary novel which also manages to have a cracking plot and complex characters.

This is a book that grew and grew on me. I’ll admit to a false start the first time I picked it up. I felt there was a lot of moving around in the characters’ heads to the recent past, the far past and then back to the present. But when I sat down with a proper amount of time to dig into the story it was an absolute pleasure. Blackthorn has a great plot and lots of writing talent. Her descriptions are wonderful – both of people and places – and there was lots of fabulous language to enjoy. I loved the two parallel mother/daughter stories and was impressed by the way they intersected. It was also great to read so much about the creative process and to consider the challenges of creativity and motherhood.

I will certainly look to read Blackthorn’s other work. A Perfect Square is a clever, thoughtful literary novel which still manages to have a cracking plot and complex characters. It should appeal to lovers of psychological thrillers too – think artistic Gone Girl.” – – quoted from Goodreads

A Spanish edition of The Drago Tree is on its way!

I’m thrilled to announce I’ve just signed the contract for a Spanish edition of The Drago Tree, to be released in 2017!

¡Estoy entusiasmada de anunciar que he firmado el contrato por una edición española de la novela, El Árbol Drago!

9781922200365-Cover (1)

It’s an auspicious moment. I wrote the story with Pedro Almodovar’s movies running through my mind. I also had the rich history of Lanzarote and its incredible landscapes ever present inside me. I wanted to gift something to the island that had given something to me, a sense of place like no other I have experienced. The volcanos, the lava, the cuboid buildings, the sapphire ocean, the astonishing views, Lanzarote is an island to be treasured.


I’m not the only one to think so. Sections of the local government have pitted themselves against their Spanish counterparts on environmental issues, not least the drilling for oil off the island’s pristine coast. A David and Goliath battle, but when it came to drilling rights, the local authorities won, thanks to the efforts of activists and tourists alike, and the Spanish government backed down.

Seeing my words in another language brings a thrill of excitement. Now at last The Drago Tree will be available to a whole cohort of Spanish readers. I so hope they like it!


Frank Howson and Cathie Maney
Frank Howson and Cathie Maney
There is a toll for every virtue
There is a tax for hearts like yours
You didn't deserve your crazy childhood
Or the loss of the brother you loved
Cut down by animals in the night
Those are scars that don't wash away
No matter how many tears you cry
When I'll think of you I'll see your smile
And think of the battles you fought to be
Let down by so many, we're only human, baby
And both had rocky roads to bear
You tried so hard to stand beside me
You tried so hard to hold me close
But you had too many ghosts to haunt you
And they all got in our path
In those hours after midnight
When I knew I couldn't stay
We were both two orphans
We used to laugh and say
But you got away, baby
But why did it have to be this way?
You were always such a loyal friend
And you loved me to a fault
Looking back you may've believed in me more than anyone
And loved me more than I deserved
But why did you have to prove your point like this?
Gone, and taking all the laughter
Gone, and taking all the kindness
Gone, and taking all tomorrows
And what may've been for you and yours
The trouble with you was you cared for everyone
Like a child in search of her own
But too many things cluttered our space
And we lost ourselves
Too many things leave us alone
Perhaps you got carried away by a foolish idea
That all romantics exit like this
But did you think of the pain you leave us? 
Did you want us to hurt so we'd understand yours?
Too many questions without answers
Just like those nights we'd argue until dawn
I tried so hard to help you
To make sense of what you'd been through
But you couldn't understand me
Your hurt was too deep to be cured
Now every evening at sunset
I'll look at that blazing sun and think of you 
It's going to take a lot to forgive
The hurt you have bestowed us with
So many took advantage
So many manipulated behind the scenes
They didn't realize how fragile you were
Or perhaps they did
And if so, they have blood on their hands
I'll remember you pretty as a picture
And a smile that'd light up a room
With the excited joy of a child
And those mad conversations that made no sense
That ended in laughter or tears
If you wanted part of my heart you have it
But this was no way to take it
It could've been yours for free

(c) Frank Howson 2017