YA Dystopian Book Survey 2018 – Reader opinions matter

YA Dystopian book survey – Your opinions matter

Most of you will know me as a YA paranormal author. However, I’ve recently been expanding my genre interests and am now in the process of putting together a YA Dystopian novel. I love reading books set in dystopian worlds; the first book I picked up was Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Disturbing and brilliant, it hooked me with its injustice, and surprised me with its bleak yet believable new world.

Later, I picked up on YA dystopia. I read The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins; emotional and evocative, this book made an impression on our generation as it was made into a massive Hollywood movie series and the books are still talked about today. We’ve since had lots more books that are as rich in political subtext and teen angst, all taking different views of how wrong our future could be.

As an author I seek out and devour reader reviews, they give me guidance as to whether I’m hitting the mark with my audience if I’m writing something that excites and entertains while highlighting an underlying positive message. With this in mind, I’m looking for YA Dystopia readers to spend a few minutes of their time to fill out a short questionnaire about what they like to read. There’s no personal data collection; I do not want your name, age or even email address, just your opinions. Your opinions as a reader matter, that’s why book reviews are so critical.

If you have a few moments, please click here to be taken to the Google Form and share your honest opinions on the YA Dystopia you would want to read. Also feel free to post more specific comments below.

Thank you.

Nicky Peacock

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The five Ts of being a writer

Being a writer is a claim that many make, but few put the time and effort into. I know this is very skeptical of me, and even a little sad, but it’s true. I’ve met a lot of people in my time who have said they are writers and they want to write a book, but I’ve known very few who have done it.

In my time as a writer, and a leader of a writers’ group, I’ve discovered there are five distinct traits that successful writers (those that evolve into published authors) tend to have. So, in no particular order, here they are…

Talent
Yes, you need the talent to write. Not so much for the technical side, that can learnt, and we will discuss that in a moment, but you really need to have the imagination and mind of a real writer. You can have the best grammar and writing skills in the world, but if your story is lacklustre, your theme is non-existent, and the concept of the story is cliche and stale, well, no one is going to want to read it. There are ways of igniting that creativity in you. However, I genuinely believe you need at least a seed of it to begin with. This is a skill that can not be taught, but can be nurtured with the right mind-set.

Technical skills
Grammar, spelling and the basics of writing a decent sentence is a must for anyone looking to publish their work and have it read by others. But, my advice is, don’t get too hung up on it until you start drafting. I’m a firm believer in learning while you do and if you try to write your first draft while learning the basics of English language, you’ll find it jerky and frustrating – it’s the quickest way to destroy creativity and turn a budding author off the career altogether. Yes, technical skills are incredibly necessary, need I remind you of ‘Let’s eat Grandma‘ but make sure you bring them in at the right time of the process, to me that’s in the drafting and editing stages.

I also want to point out here, you have to know the rules before you break the rules. Many new writers think that their work will stand out if they consider themselves above the rules of the English language, they are not, and yes their work will stand out, but for all the wrong reasons.

Tenacity
You have to keep writing and submitting. It can be devastating to have your hard work denied time and again by publishers, but if it were easy, then everyone would do it. You can’t give it. The only difference between a writer and a published author is that the author didn’t give up. Yes, there are those once in a blue moon stories of the lucky who get a massive publishing deal straight off the bat, but these are rare and often don’t do the writer justice as it can foster complacency with their success. Earn your stripes, keep writing, keep submitting, work hard and never lose faith that you can get where you want to be if you put the time and effort into it.

I am published. I have two YA book series with a publisher and also have had over 40 short stories published in anthologies all over the world, but I’m still rejected by publishers and still can’t earn enough to live as a full-time author – this is most authors’ stories, but that can change with just one book and the right publisher; but, if you stop writing you’ll never get that deal, and that’s why I won’t stop writing and submitting my work. I want to write full time which brings me on to…

True Love
You have to love writing. It has to be your ambition and mistress. It takes an inordinate amount of time to write a book, then to edit, draft and then to submit. So you need to go into it with your eyes open. You will need to sacrifice things in your life to accommodate this. We all get 24 hours a day; you need to look at what you do, who you spend time with and decide what you need to give up to make enough time for your writing. I’m not saying that you need to become some crazy hermit in a log cabin with a laptop and broadband, but you do need hermit style sessions to get the job done. Take a long hard look at your life and trim away the things and people who are not supporting you and your dreams. This sounds harsh, but it’s the only way to ensure you not still writing that first novel twenty years after you started it.

Timing
Makinbg sure you hit deadlines is crucial when you’re a writer. I’ve spent my whole career in sales and marketing so hitting deadlines and targets are ingrained in me, but most people don’t have this discipline. My advice? Take baby steps and be realistic about what you can do. Having lofty goals is great, but if you set the bar too high you’ll never reach it, and so you’ll be more likely to quit. Decide what you are writing and roughly how long you want it to be, then set word counts each day. Smaller ones to begin with, and then build up. Make your time count and make sure you get your work into publishers by their deadline.

Being a writer/ author is one of the few dreams that does not ask you to be a certain age, race or gender. It doesn’t care if you have a disability and what your sexual orientation is. Anyone can set themselves on this path; just remember the 5 Ts and you’ll soon be on your way.

2018 is the 200th Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

200 years ago, Mary Shelley penned a horror story that would not only last the test of time but would also make us think about the nature of monsters – not an easy task.

I first read Frankenstein at school. When you’re young, its easy to be afraid of monsters, to shy away and not dig any deeper than the skin they wear and the acts they commit. It wasn’t until I was much older that I saw Frankenstein’s creation for what it was, the product of yet another monster.

I hope I’m not spoiling the book/ movies for anyone by saying this… although the monster commits atrocious acts, his creator perhaps is the bigger monster of the two. Lead by arrogance and selfishness; he achieves his dream of creating life, only to shun the life he has created. This can happen to many people, to be driven and passionate about something, only to get it and feel the energy that has been sustaining you for so long begin to ebb and die.

The monster, although grotesque and made up of a mish-mash of criminal parts, doesn’t start off evil. He actually does some good, that is, before he’s shunned yet again; this time by society. Dr Frankenstein has created something that simply does not belong and, as the psychologist, Maslow pointed out in his Hierarchy of Needs, to feel you belong is central to anyone’s well-being, even a creature whose every limb sports pot-luck DNA.

It makes me wonder if Mary Shelley knew the impact of her book, which it wouldn’t be just the terrifying tale of a dark and stormy night if she would have written it differently. Perhaps give it a happy ending so that readers can go away feeling that there is some good in the world? Probably not. Most horrors end, well horribly. Happy endings are reserved for fictional romance and children’s books. As an author myself, I can’t help but consider the impact of the story if Dr Frankenstein had realised what he had done and attended as the monster had asked. Or even better, he hadn’t run from the creature at first sight, but instead had loved and cared for it?

In the UK, Sky Atlantic had a series called Penny Dreadful. The premise was that monsters and myths were alive and well and living in Victorian London. Although the series, by the end, dropped a little of it’s entertainment value, it boasted a Dr Victor Frankenstein and his monster as part of the cast and explored their relationship after what would have been the end of Shelley’s book. If you haven’t seen this series, I’d highly recommend digging into the box sets; there’s more than just Frankenstein and his monster to get your teeth into.

What are your thoughts on this literary classic? Let me know below…

The Assassin of Oz – The Twisted and The Brave #2 – Out Now!

The Assassin of Oz – The Twisted and The Brave #2

The Assassin of Oz – The Twisted and The Brave #2

Monsters and madmen and murderers, oh my!

A club of serial killers calling themselves Oz is stalking the streets of London. Alone and desperate, 17-year-old Halo finds herself drawn into the middle of their blood-soaked storm of murders. Struggling to survive, Halo must contend with both known and unknown killers, put her trust in the most unlikely of devilish places, and play by a new set of rules if she is to become the Assassin of Oz.

Gavin, a young US homicide detective, has moved to the UK to catch the serial killers, Tin Man, Lion, Scarecrow, and The Munchkin Masher but soon finds himself two steps behind the headline-grabbing murderers and one step behind vigilante group, Wonderland.

Stalked by death and danger, both Halo and Gavin are going to need all the brains, heart, and courage they can muster to take down Oz.

You can buy it here:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia 

Direct at the Publishers

You can see it on GoodReads here…

Excerpt:

Cameras flash, journalists whisper, and the television crews quickly check their equipment. An odd hush then smothers the noise as a tall man wearing a dark suit and a graying white shirt steps onto the podium before them. His head hangs down somewhere between guilt and shame.

He scans the crowd and finds a mix of the usual faces, who will inevitably ask the usual questions, make the usual accusations, and of course never agree with his decision—whichever one he has chosen. He will give them the usual responses, the usual arguments, and defend himself, in the same manner he usually does. Yet this self-fulfilling prophecy gives him no comfort or confidence. What he is about to do will affect not just his life, but the lives of the whole country for which he is responsible. Even though he finds it easy to foresee his next few minutes with uncanny accuracy, his foresight cannot predict the years that will follow this speech.

He watches for the signal from his press officer and then drops his stare to the blank pages in front of him, surrendering his auto cue. With a sigh, he takes off his glasses and slowly opens his dry, pursed lips to speak.

“I cannot express to you the great sadness that grips my heart this day. As a man who has dealt with war, famine, and crises born of nature’s wrath, I can honestly say I have always tried to see the good in my fellow man, but today I … I stand in front of you in doubt. I have tried to pinpoint one single event that has brought me here. One particular crime that has been the catalyst to today, but alas there have been so many, they are now a bloody blur to me, leaving stains of faceless ambivalence.”

A murmur ripples through the crowd and the photographers steal the opportunity to take a few more choice shots for the morning news. The man squints at the barrage of flashes, shakes his head, and grips the podium tighter.

“It has been estimated there are now at least five murders occurring every week in London alone, with the bulk of these murders being attributed to at least seven different serial killers that are freely roaming our streets. We have drafted in police from across the globe to combat this alarming crime spree, but alas, I feel, as your Prime Minister, that this is still not enough to keep the innocent people of this country safe. And so it is with a reluctant and heavy heart that, as of this day, I reinstate the death penalty to be carried out no less than one week after a conviction of murder has been secured for anyone who is over the age of sixteen. From this day, if you willingly, and knowingly, take an innocent life for pleasure or gain, you will forfeit your own.”

The murmur rises to a roar as some reporters cheer, and others cry out angry questions.

“Prime Minister, how can this be justified? There has been no vote in Parliament?” one reporter yells.

“Why haven’t these killers been stopped by now?” asks another.

“Sixteen is too young!” cries another.

“What about the ongoing cases? Will this sentence be given to those already on trial?”

He recognizes the last voice, Levi Goodman, a sleazy reporter from a popular TV channel who’s been drumming up panic since the UK descended into this blood-soaked mess.

“Yes, this will apply to any conviction from today onwards,” he replies, his eyes downcast.

“How can that be justified?” Levi asks.

The rest of the reporters burst into a spasm of questions, comments, and more outrage.

The Prime Minister looks through the throng of animated journalists. He moves to step down, but pauses and then turns back to them and says, “May God have mercy on our souls, and may The Devil have room enough in Hell. There will be no answers to your questions. There were none to mine.”

The writer’s New Year resolutions

I can’t believe that another new year is on our doorsteps again. It doesn’t seem that long ago when I was sat in front of my computer and listing all the things I wanted to achieve in 2017. Did I achieve them? Yes, I think I did get my grubby mits on some, but not as much as I would have liked. Are you thinking the same thing? If you are, I’ve come up with a few ideas that might help you finish that novel, get published or even merely feel just in calling yourself a writer.

1) Just write something – I’ve said it time, and again, if you want to call yourself a writer, you need to start writing. You’d be shocked at how many people out there will tell you that they want to write a book, but then never sit down and string a sentence together. Let me be blunt…you will never write the perfect sentence straight off the bat, you just won’t. First drafts are just that, first drafts. No writer anywhere has had a first draft published. We all write the first draft and then edit till we’re blue in the face and sick to death of our own words. This is how excellent prose is made. So just write, anything, everything whatever you like, just start doing something. You need a draft to edit, and elves don’t hack your computer at night and write them for you! Although, it’d be cool if they did!

2) Make a space for your writing – I mean this both physically and mentally. Create a physical space for yourself to write in, This might be a shed by your house (like Roald Dahl), or it could be a desk in your study or somewhere else entirely. Have laptop, will travel. Pick a nice pub or coffee shop and just burrow down with a great drink and some tasty grub and get on with it. I always find the first 10 minutes hard work, but once I pass this marker, I love every minute of it. Top tip, turn your internet connection off. As well-meaning as it might be to have access to online research, believe me when I say that it’s a temptation that just isn’t worth it.

3) Treat your writing like a best friend – you want to spend time with your best friend, right? We all have them, and we all love chilling and gossiping with them. So treat your writing like a friend. Plan to spend time with it. Put it in your diary that you are meeting. You’ll find your attitude to it will change. You don’t want to let your friends down do you? So you’ll turn up for your writing. Call it a name if you need to, Bob, Mr Write, Lady Cornerwinkle, it doesn’t matter. If your writing is important to you, make an effort to spend serious time with it.

4) Keeping it safe – cybersecurity has never been so important, so ensure that you have backed-up your work. Losing something you’ve spent months or even years on is not an option. You’re advised to change your passwords at least every couple of months or so, so do it. Take it one step further and use your book title as your password, every time you punch it in it’ll reinforce what you should be writing on, and before you all try to access my accounts, I also use random numbers in my passwords too!

5) Read – read often, read well and read some more. Books are a writer’s bread and butter. If you don’t know what’s already out there, then that 100,000 word novel about a sexy S&M addicted businessman and an unfortunately annoying virgin girlfriend might prove a massive waste of your time. Read books in your genre, and out of it. If you’re a writer, then odds on you’ll love reading too anyway, but not make an effort to check out Goodreads and Amazon once in a while and buy something to entice and tickle your imagination and more…

So there you have it, 5 top tips for writing in the New Year, because you know what? A year from now, you’ll wish you’d have started writing your novel today.

Now, I’m off to the pub with Lady Cornerwinkle.

 

The Ghosts of Christmas

I love a good ghost story. The UK has such profound and dark historical roots that tales of the paranormal are everywhere. From the headless horseman that rides out on Halloween, to the White Lady that appears whenever disaster is near, their stories are spine chilling and engrossing. You might be forgiven for thinking that Halloween is the best time for such supernatural frights, but in the UK there is a strong tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas.

Author, M R James would write a different story every year to be read out at his Christmas Eve party. In my imagination, it was between eggnog and charades (but I’m only guessing!) and of course, let’s not forget the classic Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol that boasted four ghosts all going above and beyond to teach Scrooge a valuable lesson.

So, why don’t you indulge a little ghostly Christmas chills and either read or watch something a little less festive, but with a bit more spirit:

Read a little of Susan Hill. This author has scared me silly in the past. Her story The Little Hand still makes me shudder!

Joe Hill’s (wait, I’m sensing a pattern…) Heart Shaped Box is another tale that will have you blowing out the atmospheric candles and running for the light switch.

Graham Masterton’s collection of stories, Figures of Fear will make you lock all the doors and not open them to a single carol singer.

Watch the new Annabelle Creation movie. Dolls are pretty scary on their own but are so much worse when they’re inhabited by a demon.

My personal favourite, The League of Gentleman’s Christmas Special, aired in 2000, many stories all dripping in dark humour and a dash of festive frights.

So, forget the turkey and the presents, curl up on the couch and get yourself a dash ghostly goodness to see you through the Christmas period.

But,  I will leave you with my favourite (clean) Christmas joke:

How did Scrooge win the football game?
The ghost of Christmas passed.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good write!

Women in Horror Annual 2 out now!

Women in Horror Annual 2 is out now and includes one of my short stories, Backseat Driver.

The Women in Horror Annual 2 is the second volume of an anthology of horror fiction and nonfiction written by women. WHA promotes and celebrates female voices in horror, and the stories and papers contained within represent a diverse group of writers, each with their own unique vision. Ranging from supernatural tales of horror to quotidian terror, and touching on themes of empowerment, insanity, and freedom, the stories herein run the gamut from melancholic to darkly humorous. As was the case with the first volume, WHA 2 is further proof that horror has something for everyone.

 

Contents:

Rumspringa by Melissa Burkley

The Coffin Builder by Caroline Katz

Eyes like Kali by Tanya Smith

Behind the Music by Madison McSweeney

The Girl in the Stairwell by Victoria Dalpe

Backseat Driver by Nicky Peacock

Taphonomy by Melanie Wanghorne

Red by Kathleen Danielson

Mother Love by Alyson Rhodes

Revenge of the Combine Killer by Lesa Pescaris Smith

We’re the Weirdos, Female Empowerment in the Craft by Horrorella

All Our Rooms are Ensuite by Tracy Fahey

Inside Out by Ruschelle Dillon

The Fiddlers by Pam Farley

 

Buy the book in the UK on Amazon here…

 

What’s up with clowns?

What’s up with clowns?

I recently watched the new IT movie and loved IT. I was a big fan of the 1990s mini TV adaptation, but in my opinion, this new film blindingly outshone it. Not just because of the better effects, but also it was wisely pulled forward in time to the 1980s which made me feel nostalgic and quickly bonded me to the characters. I’m not sure whether Stephen King’s book started the ‘creepy clown’ mindset or merely tapped into something that was already there, but few people can talk about clowns without mentioning IT.

The fear of clowns is called Coulrophobia, and I’m not that scared of them to consider this a personal problem for me, but I certainly wouldn’t choose to be in the same room with one; God forbid, get trapped in an elevator with one. Weird, underneath that white pancake make-up and exaggerated black and red features is just an average person, right? Hmmm, I guess that’s a dangerous assumption. It’s a fact that masks and costumes can change a person. Some actors can’t get into character until they are in their costumes, some people are more willing to commit immoral acts while wearing a mask and assuring their anonymity – but does the mask give that person license to do what they want? Or does it go deeper? When you put on a persona, can it alter your personality?

I work on an industrial estate that can sometimes get clogged with traffic. One night I was sat in a traffic jam when I absent-mindedly looked in the rearview mirror and saw that there was a clown in the car behind me. It was a weird thing to see, but I quickly assured myself that he was probably on the way to a party or perhaps on his way home. But, even with this logic, I found it hard to take my eyes off him. What if he did something weird? What if he pulled out some pins and started to juggle awkwardly behind the wheel? What if he got out of the car? And then he waved at me.

I did two things. I waved back with one hand and then locked my car’s doors with the other. I’m polite, but not stupid. As a horror writer, my mind suddenly began to swim with images of him bounding over to my car, cheap silky costume billowing behind him, breaking my windows with his chubby gloved hands, and then dragging me out and into the nearby shrubbery… but he didn’t do anything else. He just waited patiently for traffic to move, just like everyone else. But I was creeped out beyond belief. Maybe he meant it as a friendly gesture? But do any strangers wave at fellow drivers on the road? I’ve never had it before and not had it since. Was being dressed as a clown a factor in this friendly yet odd behaviour? I’ll never really know. I do know though, that what we wear affects how we act, just ask any business or school that enforces a uniform. Does dressing like a clown permit you to indulge a comical yet dark side that would usually remain hidden? I am guessing a lot of you are yelling the name of the famous serial killer John Wayne Gacy at the screen now, but arguably there have been more serial killers that haven’t dressed as clowns than ones that were. Or maybe, they just haven’t been caught yet.

My American Nightmare – Women in Horror Anthology

Coming Soon! 

My American Nightmare – Women in Horror Anthology

Includes my short story She Looked Like Krystal Sparkle. A modern, twisted take on the fairy tale The Enchanted Canary.

For Fans of American Horror Story, Stephen King, Joe Hill, and Danielle Vega

America, land of the free, land of the brave, land of nightmares? A group of female authors come together in this collection of creepy tales and psychological horror stories to bring you chills and disturbing images that won’t leave you long after you are done reading. From zombies to rural small towns, to the foggy New England to the glamour of Hollywood, each story focuses on a diverse aspect of living in America and the horror found in bullying, being the “new girl,” starting your first job, and navigating the murky waters of adolescence and all the terrifying changes that come with it. Bold and haunting, My American Nightmare encompasses daring stories from new voices in the horror genre. This collection will unsettle your nerves and linger in your mind, demonstrating that women can show you a nuance of horror that isn’t always evident from the male perspective.

Author Line -up

Angela Sylvaine – Ballad of Sorrow and Lila

Amelia Kibbie –  We Kill The Skullman

A. Goli – Mr. Buttons’ Tea Party

Jamie Kahn –  The Poison & The Ivy

Rachel Bolton-  The Girl & The Yellow Wallpaper

Hillary Lyon – Boys’ Night Out

Nicky Peacock –  She Looked Like Krystal Sparkle

Spinster Eskie – Angie’s Change

Sheri Kreitner – The Pickman Sisters of Salem

Sierra Ryan –  Volunteer

Kara Nelson – The Eye

E.F. Schraeder – Night Moves

Andrea Teare – 39 Days

Heather Miller – The Stars

Marnie Azzarelli – When Evacuating Pennsylvania

Erica Ruhe – Perle

Phoebe Jane Johnson – Ruby

Azzurra Nox – Whatever Happened to Peyton Rose?

Kara Dennison – Billson

Released Oct 31st 2017

For further information:

The Blog Tour

Good Reads

Amazon

Video Trailer 

 

Book Review: 21st Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories.

Imogene is young and beautiful. She kisses like a movie star and knows everything about every film ever made. She’s also dead and waiting in the Rosebud Theater for Alec Sheldon one afternoon in 1945….

Arthur Roth is a lonely kid with big ideas and a gift for attracting abuse. It isn’t easy to make friends when you’re the only inflatable boy in town….

Francis is unhappy. Francis was human once, but that was then. Now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing….

John Finney is locked in a basement that’s stained with the blood of half a dozen other murdered children. In the cellar with him is an antique telephone, long since disconnected, but which rings at night with calls from the dead….

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past…

My Review:

I love a good anthology, although one compiled by a single author usually defeats the purpose for me; I read anthologies to discover new authors to add to my ever growing reading list. However, I was recommended Joe Hill’s 21st Century Ghosts by a friend and thought the collection sounded interesting…and it was.

The stories are varied and creepy, covering a myriad of horror tropes. Some were scary, some were gross, and some were surprisingly poignant and heartbreaking; I particularly enjoyed ‘Pop Art’.

I must admit that as a horror writer myself I approached Joe Hill with a dubious sense of dread. As King of Horror Stephen King’s son, you’d be forgiven for thinking he has simply waltzed into a major publishing contract as a legacy author, something that could leave an old penny taste in the mouth of other writers that have struggled and fought for their place in the literary world. But I was pleasantly surprised. He’s talented and tells each story with expertise and flair; he deserves the hype (something that happens less and less these days)

The front cover is eye catching and has an expensive look to it, which is good as the cover is something that can go horribly wrong in this genre giving amazing books a cheap impression. Although, I’d expect nothing less from a major publisher such as Harper Collins.

Overall I’d give 21st Century Ghosts 4 out of 5 stars. If you’re already looking for a Halloween, read (I know I am, Halloween comes just once a year and preparation is key to wringing out every drop of wonderful creepiness) then look no further.

Find 21st Century Ghosts on GoodReads…