Book Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

Book Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

Happy Sunday readers, I hope you had a wonderful weekend!  For tonight’s blog post, I will be reviewing Birdbox by Josh Malerman.  I think I might be the only person who hasn’t watched the Netflix original adaptation of this, but I really wanted to read the book first (plus I have a rather demanding Toddler so very limited TV time that doesn’t involve cartoon princesses and singalongs).  I will hopefully get watching it this week, but if it is even half as good as this book then I know I am in for a treat.

birdboxFor those of you unfamiliar with Birdbox (have you been living under a rock or something?) the premise is this: A phenomenon is sweeping across the globe where people are going crazy, killing themselves and sometimes others too.  No one knows what is causing this, just that the victims always saw something before it happened. The book moves between the very pregnant Malorie and a rag tag group of survivors in the past, to the present where her and her two children battle their way upriver in the hopes of finding safety from these unknown creatures, the wild animals which have now inherited the earth from man and worse, the crazed people driven homicidally mad by what they have seen.  Sounds awesome right?

I absolutely loved this book, I really did.  The premise is fantastic, the characters are all well developed and believable and the tension and horror is very real.  I love that we as the reader never really find out what’s going on.  Are these creatures from another world or dimension?  Do they mean to cause us harm or are they inadvertently causing this carnage?  There are a few theories shared within the book, my favourite being that these creatures are so unfathomably different from ourselves that our tiny human brains simply cannot comprehend it and promptly go nuts at the slightest glimpse.  Whatever is happening, the creatures are never described which means that whatever they are is left entirely to our own imagination (in mine, they are like a creature shaped void of nothingness, walking black holes in our world, but that’s just me).  But the creatures are by no means the scariest part of this book, as it’s the reaction of the humans to the phenomena that offers the books creepiest moments.  Remember, our characters are literally blind folded, so the mere crack of a tree branch is enough to cause total panic.  Then there are the characters who are driven a different kind of mad by the creatures and the situation at large.  They don’t flip out and immediately kill themselves like most, but slowly go insane, hurting their fellow survivors.  I don’t want to have any spoilers but when things go bad, they really go South fast and it is here we see this maniacal, creepy lunacy played out in full bloody horror.

I really enjoyed the movement from past to present, it kept me hooked, maintained the tension throughout and made me desperate to find out what happened.  I had one of those ‘just one more chapter’ moments resulting in me staying up way past my bed time and suffering for it the following day (it was totally worth it though).

I love Malorie.  As a mother, I recognise that need to keep your children safe at all costs, that guttural feeling inside that says above all else, to protect.  At it’s core, this book is about survival.  It is about the good side and the bad side of humanity when faced with unimaginable horror.  It is about a mother determined to protect her children.  It is about man kind clinging to a world that is no longer theirs, refusing to lie down and give up despite insurmountable odds.  It’s pretty inspiring actually and has had me thinking at length about what I would do if, God forbid, such a thing ever happened for real.  I can’t imagine I would last too long, but I know I would do whatever I could to protect my own daughter, just like our protagonist.

It’s a slow burner, dotted with enough moments of peril and action to pull you along at a good pace to that big and bloody finale.  It’s a tense read and one that I enjoyed thoroughly.  I have to give this one full marks with five stars out of five!

Unboxing: Books that Matter Book Box, the feminist book subscription box.

Unboxing: Books that Matter Book Box, the feminist book subscription box.

booksmatter1Happy Sunday everyone, I hope you had a wonderful weekend.  For this evening’s post, I have an unboxing which I am particularly excited about.  I had never heard of the ‘Books that Matter‘ books subscription box until the founder Molly contacted me and Kindly offered to gift me this month’s box.  After checking out their website and reading about their philosophy, I jumped at the chance! You see, this isn’t your average book subscription box, this is a box with a mission.  This is a woman ran book box who is determined to not only promote great female identifying writers and artists, but seriously marginalised ones such as women of colour, transgender authors, less able women and queer women.  Each box contains a book chosen in order to enlighten the reader on themes of gender, race, culture, class, ethnicity, ability, sexuality, politics, or history, alongside at least two gifts by independent female-identifying or non-binary artists. In short, this is the ultimate feminist book box!  I am so excited by this ethos.  In a world which seems to be filled with so much hate, bigotry, discrimination and marginalisation, it is wonderful to find a company which is determined to promote those voices which are heard less and writers and artists who are all too often overlooked.  I was practically giddy when my box arrived and I saw how wonderful it is, living up to my very lofty expectations.  In fact, I was so impressed, I asked Molly if I could interview her for a future blog post and collaborate again soon with a giveaway (HELL YEAH) and on guest blog posts, so keep an eye out!  But the best bit?  This book subscription box is the cheapest I have ever come across.  At only £13 for the box it is serious value for money and as if things couldn’t get any better, Molly is offering 10% off your first box with discount code MARIE10, so you have no excuse not to immediately buy one!

Whilst I could gush about this box all day, perhaps I should get around to the all booksmatter4important unboxing!  So what did my fabulous feminist box contain?  First up, the all important piece of literature.  This month’s book is Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys. Now anyone who follows me on Instagram will know that I am OBSESSED with penguin classics and that I have an ever growing and very beloved collection of the vintage beauties, so I was so very happy to find this stunner in my box.  So let’s take a look at that all important blurb to get a feel for this 1939 modernist classic:

In 1930s Paris, where one cheap hotel room is very like another, a young woman is teaching herself indifference. She has escaped personal tragedy and has come to France to find courage and seek independence. She tells herself to expect nothing, especially not kindness, least of all from men. Tomorrow, she resolves, she will dye her hair blonde. Jean Rhys was a talent before her time with an impressive ability to express the anguish of young, single women. In Good Morning, Midnight Rhys created the powerfully modern portrait of Sophia Jansen, whose emancipation is far more painful and complicated than she could expect, but whose confession is flecked with triumph and elation. One of the most honest and distinctive British novelists of the twentieth century, Jean Rhys wrote about women with perception and sensitivity in an innovative and often controversial way.

This novel sounds truly inspirational and as a lover of classic literature, I am very excited to read it.  I have read a little about the author and she found her fame with a book depicting an account of Jane Eyre‘s Bertha Rochester and since Jane Eyre is my favourite book, this has gone straight to the top of my wish list, so the box was a total success as far as I’m concerned- I discovered a new writer to get to know!

booksmatter3Along with the book, I got three gorgeous bookish items.  First up, is a sew on patch by Karen from ‘A Rose Cast.’  I am already familiar with this artist and I’m a big fan, because she is a Belfast Lass like me!  The quotation is an Emily Dickinson quote about searching for one’s true self amidst the darkness of life.  It reads, “I am out with lanterns looking for myself.”  I love Karen’s fonts and this black and gold patch is just lovely!  I just have to decide what to sew it onto now.  There was also a super cute bookmark which celebrates mental health awareness month and as someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I appreciate that the ladies of the ‘Books that Matter’ box stand in solidarity with ladies such as myself who find themselves struggling sometimes.  It’s also an important reminder of self care- remember, if you find yourself struggling, don’t do so alone!  Speak to someone, seek help and remember, you are stronger than you know!

The second item is an enamel pin, which I was very impressed with given how expensivebooksmatter2 they can be!  The pin is by the ‘Books that Matter’ in house artist Kate, an obviously very talented woman, which says, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”  A simple but important message for us all, and something I often need to remind myself.

On a minor side note, I love the box itself, with the very cool illustrations of female bookworms on it- I felt very special receiving it in the post and it immediately brightened my day when it arrived.

So there you have it guys, a feminist book subscription box that promotes female identifying and marginalised writers that contains an awesome book and beautiful bookish goodies by independent artists and which is super good value for money to boot!! Perfection!  Don’t forget to use MARIE10 for 10% off at the checkout and keep an eye out for the interview with the fabulous Molly Masters, the box’s creator…in fact, why not subscribe to my blog so you never miss out on my unboxing, book reviews and pieces of original writing!  For now, have a wonderful day and happy reading!

 

Book Review: Decorating a Room of One’s Own by Susan Harlan.

Book Review: Decorating a Room of One’s Own by Susan Harlan.

Happy Sunday readers! For tonight’s blog post I will be reviewing Decorating a Room of One’s Own by Susan Harlan, who Kindly gifted me a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review after seeing my love for classic literature on my Instagram! The basic premise of this book is so original and charming, I’m genuinely obsessed with it.  Imagine an interior design book, where instead of interviewing designers or celebrities about their home style inspiration, it features interviews with some classic literary characters.  People such as Dracula, Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett open the doors of their homes and castles and give the reader insight into their interior design choices, where they get their inspiration from and what their favourite features of their homes are.  It includes tours of famous literary residents such as Pemberley, Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory and Jay Gatsby’s swinging pad, all the while littered with references and quotes from the books and insight into the characters featured.

I think it’s obvious from my introduction that I just adored this book.  It has such adecorating 1 wonderful sense of humour, one of my favourite moments being Miss Havisham from Bleak House, who when referring to the author who wrote her such a depressing storyline stated, “He really put the ‘Dick’ in ‘Dickens.'”  It is littered with little ‘inside’ jokes between the reader and the characters which had me literally laughing out loud.  Every ‘tour’ and ‘interview’ was a little trip down memory lane as I remembered the books I have read and loved in the past, some of which I haven’t picked up in far too long.  It renewed my love of classic literature and as a direct result, there are now multiple re-reads on my TBR pile.  Indeed, there are some classics referred to in the book which I have never taken the time to read but after reading this book, I definitely plan on doing so.

The book is divided into chapters covering specific types of domiciles, everything from ‘Ancestral Estates’ and ‘Crazy Castles’ to ‘Cottages, Cabins and Hovels.’ Whether you live in a big house or a flat, or even castles, ships or wardrobes- there is style inspiration for everyone.  Dotted amongst these main chapters are little funny interludes, like the witch from Hansel and Gretel discussing decorating with the Mama Bear from Goldilocks and the Three Bears.   Whatever your favourite books are, Susan has it covered.

decorating 2It is beautifully illustrated by Becca Stadtlander (I mean check out that drool worthy cover), with images from each resident adorably featured in each interview.  Highlights include paintings of Dracula’s coffin, the Gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel, the wardrobe from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and a full page illustration of Pemberley.  I love the classic style of the images, which for perfectly with the books theme.

Susan Harlan is a great writer and it’s clear how much time and research she put into each character and each interview.  She obviously re-read every single book featured as each interview perfectly captures that particular book and character, whilst giving it a humorous, modern and light hearted twist.

Randomly, I also want to note how beautiful the book actually looks as well as the fact that it is of a really high quality.  It is a hard back, which I love, but also the actual pages are of a really thick and high grade paper.  It’s the type of book you would have sitting on your coffee table for people to peruse.  It makes me sound so old saying something like that, but I genuinely appreciated the weight and appearance of it.  It felt grown up and expensive!

Overall this is a fun, light hearted book which would be perfect for any fan of classic literature and as a side note, it would make a really lovely gift! Definitely 4.5 stars out of 5!

Blood Bath Literary Magazine: A Review of Issue 1 & an Interview with the Editor.

Blood Bath Literary Magazine: A Review of Issue 1 & an Interview with the Editor.

There are some awesome literary magazines on the market out there.  They offer readers a chance to read pieces and styles they might not normally explore, from authors they are yet to discover and they are a great way for indie writers such as myself to get your writing out there.  I love a good literary magazine, so when I discovered that a new Horror based literary magazine was coming out of Edinburgh (one of my favourite places in the world) called Blood Bath, I was beyond excited.  And when I found out their first issue was based around the theme of Bodies and I saw that epic cover art by Jo Ruessmann, I knew I would have to buy a copy then and there.  Read to the end for my full review of the first issue (spoilers- I loved it!).  I was honoured to interview the Editor of the magazine about her love of Horror and why she decided the world needed a little more of it.

  1. Tell us a little about you, the person behind Blood Bath zine.
katy at bloodbathHi!! My name’s Katy, I’m editrix of Blood Bath! I live in Edinburgh, Scotland. I’m also a genre
fiction writer, mostly sci-fi, horror and weird fiction. I’ve been running BB since April
2018.
2. What Inspired you to start the magazine?
I wanted to start BB because I was struggling to find a local horror publication that I wanted to send my work to. I like sharing my work through local publishers, and I was constantly finding that most horror publications were American or Canadian. I thought with Edinburgh being Gothic, haunted and one of the weirdest cities in the world, it was strange that we didn’t really have a cool, genre specific, weird, spooky publisher. I also know loads of horror writers who are writing great stuff, but no-one wants to take it. So, I decided to make my own space for them.
I came into some money when my Dad passed away in January 2017, and he always encouraged my love of horror, so it seemed appropriate to use the money to start BB. When I was a teenager and just getting into weird stuff he would give me serial killer books, horror novels and movies and even (accidentally! He didn’t realise what it was, and neither did I until I got to a certain point!) a soft core porn novel about Elizabeth Báthory, the Bloody Countess who (legend has it) bathed in the blood of her victims. So the first issue is dedicated to him, and we’re also hosting the next issue’s launch party on his birthday! We’ll be announcing the date very soon.
3. Why Horror?  What about the genre fascinates you?
I think everyone is into horror! Even if you say you can’t watch horror movies, everyone secretly wants to look. It reflects so much of what is inside us, the things we don’t like thinking about, but we’re frequently forced into looking at. Life is horrifying and awful, and horror has always shown that, unflinchingly, and made it beautiful or poignant or just illicit an emotion in you, which I think is cool. Horror and sci fi and fantasy occupy such a special place because we can look at ourselves stretched to the extreme, or in a different world. It lets us attack, deconstruct or challenge the world around us. Also I just think horror stories are about better things. Genre fiction as a whole is just more fun and exciting to read than regular fiction, for me at least.
4. What do you look for in the pieces you include?
I always look for something I haven’t seen before. So much of horror is the same, people cover bloodbathre-hash ideas all the time, which is not a problem! You can do something that’s been done before, but just twist something essential about it. You can do a werewolf story, but go and read and watch all the werewolf stories you can. See what’s out there. Find out what perspective or message or theme is being overlooked, and do your own version of it, or subvert the pieces that are already there. Originality weighs in much more than a perfectly polished and edited story I’ve read a million times before.
I think when someone knows the purpose of their piece, when they know what they want you to do as a reader, that just lets you enjoy the world or the cool ideas they have to show you! So knowing your piece and what you want it to do also helps. As I’ve already mentioned, being socially aware and subversive is important for me in choosing a piece. But being in this gatekeeper position is very subjective, and I will pick pieces that appeal to me specifically. That’s why it’s important to keep trying until you find a home for your writing.
5. Do you have any tips or advice for new writers out there, keen to be published?
First, the guidelines are not loose guidelines they are rules! Follow them! The publisher has written them for a reason.
Just be nice!
Keep trying! Just because you don’t get into one publication, doesn’t mean your work wouldn’t be perfect for another.
There’s no need to put on a show in your cover email, your work should speak for itself. Just list your top 3 or 4 publications if you have any, some people send a full list of every publication they’ve ever had. It just doesn’t really add anything to your submission, and it’s a little annoying to scroll through to get to the end of your email. Keep it concise.
Write a lot and edit more! Editing is less fun than writing for me, but it always improves my work when I do a lot of careful, considered editing.
I haven’t given much writing advice, but I think it’s better to just develop your work in your own way, only you can figure out what kind of writer you are and what kind of work you want to create.
Lastly, look after yourself. It’s easy to be overcome by rejections or writing that’s not working. It’s a tough and highly emotional job, make sure you make time for self care, whatever that looks like.
6. How does someone submit their writing to you?
They can submit via email, bloodbathlitzine@hotmail.com. But read the guidelines on our website first!
7. What does the future hold for the magazine?
I’m not quite sure! And that’s exciting! I’m working with some people I really admire to create the second issue, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out! DEMONS will be launching in early May, with an incredible launch party in Edinburgh. I wish I could share more details with you, but it’s going to be a great night! It will definitely be demonic and debaucherous.
We’re going to a few more small press fairs and zine fests, as well as publishing conferences and literary events. I want BB to just keep growing, as there’s so much writing and art I want to share with the world. I do want to expand to publishing books, short story collections, and some weirder stuff. I’m very excited to see what the future holds!
My Review of Issue 1: Bodies.
bloodbathzineThe human body can bring about a mix of emotions, everything from lust to fear.  They fascinate and disgust us and they are discussed and picked over constantly, whether by our own harsh assessments of how our own body measures up to modern beauty standards, to the constant media attention they receive.  I have read countless horror novels and seen dozens of movies where human bodies are subverted and twisted into something which haunts us, hence why they make the perfect theme for the debut of Blood Bath.  The Magazine contains 13 pieces of writing, all with this common thread and all with a dark and macabre edge to them.
We start with Miss West’s Requisitions by Ever Dundas, a depiction of a truly disgruntled employee and perhaps, if we are honest with ourselves, a version of those horrible little dark thoughts we have in the back of our mind when someone irritates or upsets us at work.  It’s a great story, with a humorous side and a fab start to the magazine.  Petrified by Felicity Anderson-Nathan depicts someone’s hand, then arm, becoming petrified.  It’s short but impactful and leaves you feeling very sorry for its protagonist.  Feed Them by Mary Crosbie is one of my favourites featured in the magazine, depicting a woman who is willing to go to incredible lengths in order to stay thin.  It’s a chilling indictment of the pressures put on women to conform to modern beauty standards and to maintain a skinny, size zero body….is it weird that reading it made me hungry?  Probably says more about me than I would care to admit.  Next up, we have The Sea Witch by Angie Spoto, is a much darker version of that classic mermaid with a human lover trope.  It’s gory and gross, in a good way.  Family Pool by Scott Clark is my favourite of the contributions and tells the tale of a family and their very hungry, utterly terrifying swimming pool.  This one really stayed with me and even sent a little shudder up my spine.  Maleficae by Tiffany Morris is a vampiric poem, short but beautifully written.  Ghosted by Kristy Falconer describes one Hell of a bad break up.  I liked this story.  It was filled with melancholy and Falconer has a particularly beautiful way with words.  A Terrible Meat Eating God by Holly Lyn Walrath, a piece of flash fiction, is all about consumption and is again, beautifully written and very poetic.  The Unrecalled by Rita Hynes, depicts a teenage girl and her morbid fascination with the things happening to her body.  This one made me feel a little nauseous! If any story manages to have a physical affect on you, you know it’s a good one. The Eye that Offends you by Alys Earl is a dark and haunting twist on the traditional fairy tales we loved as a child.  I really loved this one, it was just perfect.  Cleaver by Jelle Cauwenberghs features a girl haunted by the ghosts of the past as well as a future threat she must be ready to face.  This is another of the stories with wonderful language and I loved the snippets of past memories dusted throughout.  Witch Ridden by Katie Bootland, is based on the tale of the blacksmith’s wife of Yarrowford and is short but beautiful. Finally, Enclosed in clothes by Laura Dehaan, the final contribution and the third of the poems is a wonderful end to the collection of tales.
Overall, I loved this magazine.  The stories and poems are all so unusual and well written and perfectly chosen for the issue’s theme.  I love the cover art so much and I look forward to issue 2: Demons, coming soon.  Definitely a 5 stars out of 5 from me!!
Katy is accepting submissions for the Demons issue until February 14th, head to their website to find out what she is looking for.  You can also buy prints of the fantastic cover art by Jo Ruessman on the Blood Bath website, but hurry because there is a limited amount and they’re selling fast.

Book Review: Dead of Winter by Kealan Patrick Burke.

Book Review: Dead of Winter by Kealan Patrick Burke.

I was recently introduced to Kealan Patrick Burke by a fellow bookstagrammer and horror enthusiast, the fabulous Sadie Hartmann (aka Mother Horror) and I am so glad I did.  Dead of Winter, a collection of Burke’s short stories and his latest release, felt like a good place to start, plus the cover is epic.

dead winter2The collection starts of with Snowmen, a tale told from the perspective of a young boy haunted by shadowy figures in his backyard.  This story is perfectly creepy, staying with you long after you finish the final word and it is not only the perfect start to this collection but it’s also my personal favourite.  From there, it takes a festive twist and of course, I use that term in an ironic way.  Story number two is Doomsday Father Christmas, a truly depressing take on our consumer driven Christmas and the with that you are dragged further into the cold, dead winter by Burke.  Next up, we have Black Static, a short, sharp punch to the gut from the perspective of a man resentful of having to care for his father through deteriorating mental and physical health.  This is followed by Visitation rights, a story about a divorced father during a resentment filled visitation with his two daughters.  This is one of those stories you end up reading again immediately after finishing because you can’t quite believe what happened.  Home depicts a panicked father, worried when his wife and daughter do not return during a particularly harsh winter’s day.  This one is genuinely emotional and honestly a little heart breaking.  The Quiet depicts a now paraplegic man contemplating his life and the tragic events which led him to that point.  This story really demonstrates Burke’s writing ability and is quite frankly, short story perfection.  It’s another tear jerker, touching on some truly emotive topics.  Last up, They Know and wow, what a finale.  This is horror at its best and you will continue thinking about it long after you close the book.  It’s one of those stories which takes you one way before dragging you screaming the other way.  It reminds me of the movie Phantoms (if you haven’t seen it, watch it immediately) and is just as creepy!

Overall, this is a truly chilling Collection of stories which makes me want to read more of Burke’s writing.  I’m giving this one 4 stars out of 5!!

Interview with the Night Worms.

Interview with the Night Worms.

There are plenty of book subscription boxes available these days.  You can get them to suit any age and any taste, featuring every genre from Fantasy to Young Adult, Crime to Horror.  But every now and then, a box comes along that genuinely causes a buzz and in this case, even starts a whole movement!  The Night Worms started off as a group of Horror enthusiasts, determined to promote and review horror, a social media based book club for true horror enthusiasts, before two of its members decided to kick things up a notch and create their own Horror subscription box.  But the Night Worms don’t do things like every one else.  Instead of seeing the other Horror Book subscription boxes available on the market as merely competition, they decided to corroborate with them and create the #promotehorror movement on Instagram and Twitter.  After two very successful boxes, with a third on the way, I chat with the lovely ladies behind the box to get some insight into its creation as well as what is to come…

1) Tell us about the people behind Night worms.

nightwormThe people behind Night Worms are two female horror lovers, Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann and Ashley Saywers. I review horror for Scream Magazine and Cemetery
Dance Online. I’ve been married for 22 years to my best friend and we have three children. Our whole family recently moved from Northern California to the Pacific North West.

Ashley also lives in Washington with her husband and their son. She loves horror too! Both of us repped for a horror subscription box company and several other bookish companies-developing a really close friendship and working relationship before we ever decided to go into business together.

We love that we live so close to each other and we can travel back and forth to each other’s houses.

2) What inspired you to create the box?

Ashley and I became friends on Instagram through our dedicated #bookstagram accounts. During the course of a few years, our taste in books became more closely aligned. We realized we were reading all the same books. We decided to combine our efforts to read, review and promote horror through a book club with five other horror loving friends of ours. Night Worms was born.

After about eight months or so, Ashley and I decided to expand our Night Worms brand to a book club subscription package so that more people could read, review and promote horror with us. We are different in that we put the primary emphasis on the books and less of a thrust on the promotional merchandise. We find that lots of the bookish merchandise is either extra filler/clutter or sometimes infringing on the author’s intellectual property. Everything we include beyond books is just to promote horror book collecting, a book collector’s lifestyle or an enhancement of their reading experience through a one-time use consumable–that way there’s nothing leftover that needs to be stuck in a drawer somewhere gathering dust. We collect books-not things.

3) What is it about horror that you love so much?  

We love that horror is so diverse and that it’s a niche community of people who are very passionate about it.

4) If readers are new or unsure about the genre, but looking for a book to start off their horror journey with, which one would you recommend? What would your horror book for beginners recommendation be?

A lot of horror authors can write in very different sub-genres so if a reader was unsurenightworms 2 because they didn’t want to be scared, horror author Robert McCammon has a few books that teeter on the edge of horror but never cross over like, BOY’S LIFE or THE LISTENER. Stephen King also transcends the horror genre and wrote books like, 11/22/63 which is not traditional horror but more like a time travel, thriller. I would also recommend his newest release, THE OUTSIDER which is like a crime thriller. Paul Tremblay has a book called, THE DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK which has horror undertones but definitely a bit lighter than his book, A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS which is pretty full-on

Grady Hendrix is also a great place to start with his clever, light and sometimes humorous stories in the horror genre. A book like MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM is a great place to start.

5) How do you pick the books and items you feature in your boxes?

Ashley and I hear about a lot of new releases through authors and publishers and sometimes we see a theme or a common thread between certain books so we build a theme around those releases

 

6) Tell us about the #promotehorror movement?  What inspired you to start it?

nightworms 3Basically, horror is a neglected genre in the grand scheme of things. It’s largely ignored for big literature awards due to the fact that people assume it has to be scary or gory to be good and many people aren’t interested in being scared. Many readers of horror actually do a disservice to horror sometimes by rating quality written books lower than they deserve just because they weren’t “scary”. We promote all aspect of the horror genre to help snuff out some of the stereotypes and misinformation out there about horror so that our favourite genre can continue to see an uptick in success.

7) What’s next for the Night Worms?

We have some BIG months coming up. Our February package sold out and it’s going to be a spectacular offering so we are very excited about the unpackagings to go out on social media. April is our Kealan Patrick Burke exclusive package which is generating a lot of buzz and then we have even more signed books and exciting themes coming up for the whole year!

8) How do readers become a part of the Night worm family?

Simply visit our website and click on the most recent, available listing. Add to cart as a one time purchase or click “full details” to subscribe. Join our horror movement on social media: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Thank you so much to Sadie and Ashley for taking the time to answer my questions and agreeing to be featured on my little old blog.  Whilst this box is currently unavailable outside of the US, the team are hoping to expand to an international audience down the line, so fingers crossed people, because I am DYING to get my hands on one!  Go on to their social media and check them out, particularly Instagram, so you can discover some new horror books and authors and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all the latest reviews, collaborations and articles.

 

A Guide to Instagram: My How to Guide on Taking Pictures & Building a Profile.

A Guide to Instagram: My How to Guide on Taking Pictures & Building a Profile.

Happy New Year! It’s my very first post of 2019 and I am really excited for the year ahead…so many books to read, stories to write and people to meet!  I decided to start the year with my personal ‘How To’ guide to Instagram.  I have been asked so many times what filters and applications I use for my images, how I have built my profile etc, so I thought the simplest and easiest thing to do would be to create this blog post with all the bits and pieces you need to know to get started, or to improve the profile you already have.  Let me caveat this by saying I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, nor am I the biggest account out there with millions of followers.  What I have done however, is organically grow my account to over 10,000 followers in less that two years.  I have created a profile which I am proud of (check it out here).  Every Instagrammer has their own techniques and tricks of the trade, and these are simply mine, imparted to you in the hopes that you may find them useful.  I would also like to say, that even after 20 months, I am still learning myself so feel free to comment with your own tips for the benefit of myself and my readers.

Let’s start with how to build your profile then at the end I will give you the specifics on how I create my own images including the apps I use etc.

  1. Find your Niche.

Instagram has something for everyone.  Whether you are a fitness freak or a book worm, how to 2a traveller or a fashionista, there is an account out there for you.  I, as a writer and avid reader, naturally gravitated towards the Bookstagram community.  The trick is to base your profile around something you are passionate about.  There are some accounts out there which have a little of everything too, but I have found the ones which cater to specific hobbies or interests are the most successful.  Create images and captions about the things your loves and interests, and your passion will shine through.  Finally, I would suggest choosing a profile name which clearly demonstrates what the account contains, so people can easily identify it as one containing their hobby or interest.  For example, my name is @bookishmarie, clearly identifying mine as a book based profile.

2. Find your style.

I learned early on how important it is to have your own style on Instagram and to stickhow to 5 to it.  However, I also learned very quickly just how hard that can be.  My moods and tastes change so often and my photos can often reflect that.  If you go to my profile and swipe through from the beginning to now, you will see my style has changed dramatically over 20 months.  It took me a good while and hundreds of pictures to discover my own personal style and even now, that continues to evolve.  It’s ok if you aren’t sure what you want your style to be, you can experiment until you get it right.  Again, just like picking your theme, this will involve looking at your loves, your hates and your interests.  I love all things vintage, so my profile was always going to have a retro vibe to it.  Perhaps you love all things vibrant and bright or maybe you are all about tasteful monochrome.  Start with what makes you happy and work from there.  The most successful profiles have clear styles.  You can identify a picture as belonging to them from one quick glance- that’s the aim!

Once you settle on a style you like, stick to it!  The more successful profiles not only have a distinct style but their style is also consistent.  An easy way to do this is to have a colour scheme, for example my page is mostly muted autumnal tones.  You will find your style will naturally lead to a colour scheme anyway.

3. Make the Effort with your images.

I work very hard on each and every one of my images, placing every item carefully, how to 3moving and shifting until it’s just so.  If I’m not 100% happy with an image, I won’t post it.  It’s clear to anyone swiping through the millions of images on Instagram when a photo has been half assed.  Why in that case would they bother to read the caption, like it or follow you?  Instagramming can be quite time consuming so it’s not for everyone, but if you really want to build a profile then you’ll have to work at it.  But as with everything, practice makes perfect.  Most importantly, have fun with it and create the type of images you want to see.

4. Interact with your fellow Instagrammers.

It sounds obvious, but a lot of Instagrammers simply post images without interacting with their fellow users.  The best way to organically grow a following and to get people to visit your page, is to find other users with similar tastes, interests and styles and to interact with them.  For clarification, when I say interact with them, I mean in a genuine way.  Don’t just copy and paste ‘nice photo’ under countless images.  If you see an outfit on a fashion page you really like, then tell them.  If you see a beautiful creature with perfectly applied makeup, let them know how great they look.  Ask questions, discuss common interests and most importantly be kind- no one will follow you if you are a critical jerk leaving snide comments under their pictures.  It’s a great way to make new friends and to in turn, have people check out your profile who maybe wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. I also find engaging under your own pictures is a great way to meet new people and grow your profile. Don’t just post an image and leave it at that, ask a question, start a discussion or present an idea. Give people a reason to comment and to continue coming back to your page

5. Hashtags.

Whilst only around 10% of visits to my images are from hashtags, they are still a great how to 4way to promote your post and to drive traffic to your page.  The best way to find the hashtags that will work for you, is to find accounts similar in theme and topic to yours and check out what hashtags they are using on their images.  Instagram will allow you to use up to 30 hashtags per image.  I advise taking note of the amount of images related to each hashtag and using a mixture of more popular hashtags and less used or newer hashtags.  For example, #bookworm has 13.1 million pictures using it as I type this blog post.  That is a lot of images and whilst that makes it popular for people to search by, it also means your image could easily become lost amongst the millions of others.  The hashtag #bookishgirl on the other hand only has 104,000 images at this stage, so it is more likely your image will be spotted and your page visited.  I also recommend participating in photo challenges, as they are not only a great source of inspiration for your images, but a great way for people, mainly the others participating in that challenge, to see your page.  There are also feature accounts on Instagrams.  These are literally accounts which feature the best of a particular theme or topic.  In order to get featured, you more often than not need to use a certain hashtag.  Some of these accounts have HUGE followings and it’s a great way to get noticed by users who otherwise wouldn’t have encountered your image.  Finally, searching relevant hashtags is also a great way to do research and to see what’s out there, what is working and what’s not.  Instagram gives you the option to follow certain hashtags and I recommend doing so in order to get regular inspiration.

6. Tag People.

how to 6I am not advocating tagging dozens of random people in every post you put up, but tagging relevant people can be a great way to get your account noticed.  Being a bookstagrammer, I most often tag authors, publishers and businesses which sell bookish merchandise.  This has lead to large businesses re-posting my image of their product, ensuring it’s seen by thousands of new potential followers.  Publishing houses, publicists and authors who I have tagged have approached me to review and feature their books.  It also helps spread the word and promote small businesses to a wider audience and provides them with lovely images for their own page or stories, so it’s win win for everyone.  Don’t get me wrong though, if you are going on Instagram just to get free stuff, you’re joining for the wrong reasons.  This is mostly about community spirit and mutual promotion and while free stuff is great, it shouldn’t be the driving force behind your account.  The beauty about Instagram is that it creates a way to connect with individuals and businesses you otherwise would never have discovered.

7. Be Patient.

how to 8This is the most important piece of advice I can give you.  Instagram can be a fickle place.  People will follow you just to unfollow you a day later.  I have had 10 new followers and been very pleased, just to check my phone a few hours later to find my follower count down by 15….one step forwards, two steps back.  It can be frustrating and confusing and on more than one occasion, I wanted to pack it in.  I didn’t explode overnight or go viral, gaining thousands of followers in a matter of weeks and whilst that is possible and I’m not saying it can’t happen to you (well done if it does), it’s more likely that you will gradually grow and build a following over time.  Like I said, it took me 20 months to gain 10,000 followers and I am so grateful for every last one!  You can of course buy followers but frankly I don’t understand why you would.  To me, that’s like ‘winning’ the marathon by taking a short cut…it’s a hollow victory.  Just persevere and keep doing what you do, and you will get there in the end.  Remember what Instagram is really about. It’s about community and friendship and discovery. The follower count doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. The most important thing to do is to have fun with it.  If you aren’t enjoying it, then why bother in the first place?

 

So How do I take my images?

Equipment: All of my pictures are just taken on my Samsung Galaxy phone.  On a sidehow to 1 note, one of the things I love about smart phones is that you can have a high quality camera everywhere you go now, so it’s easier than ever to take up photography.  Whilst specialist equipment isn’t needed, I do use a photo box for my flat lay images.  For those of you unfamiliar with these, they are basically like a small portable photo studio in a box, with bright lights on the inside and a black out fabric covering complete with little magnetic openings of various shapes and sizes at various points around the box to allow you to take a picture from various angles whilst maintaining consistent lighting.  They aren’t overly expensive (I think mine was around £80) and are available on Amazon.  But you don’t need to buy one of these to get consistent lighting.  You can buy small photographic lights now fairly cheap or you can simply the area in your house which gets the most light and work out what time of days is best to take your images so as to get maximum lighting.

Apart from my phone and photo box, my other essential items of equipment are my many and varied props.  My antique typewriter is one particular prop which features very frequently in my images, but I have a vast collection of random knick knacks and thingamabobs which I have gathered over the years.  I find the right prop can really bring a photograph to life and give it real depth and interest.  You don’t have to spend a fortune either.  The vast majority of mine came from charity shops and literally cost pennies.  Alternatively, you can use things you already have lying about the house or even find them in nature, for example another of my most frequently used props is my collection of dried autumn leaves and pine cones I collected from my local park.

Boostagram 2Applications and Filters: I personally don’t use the filters on Instagram.  I prefer to use the application Snapseed to do the basic editing of my images, such as cropping and rotating.  I like it because it’s super easy to use and features lots of great ways to tweak the image, like the ‘healing’ option allowing you to effectively erase small parts of the image and cover it over with a sort of ‘mirror’ of the surrounding area which I use regularly to fine tune my images.  I then use good old VSCO to add filters.  The best way to find the style you want to use is to play around and see what you like best.  If you change your mind, that’s ok.  Every now and then, I change the filters etc I use as do many of the largest accounts out there, so you can evolve and learn over time…practice makes perfect.

As I said in the beginning, I’m no expert but this is my attempt to impart a little experience with all of my lovely readers and I really hope you find it useful, even in some small way.  If you have any tips or advice of your own, I would love to hear them!  Just leave me a comment.  If you have Instagram but we have never had the good fortune to cross paths, or if you start a new account, please give me a little follow (@bookishmarie) so we can stay in touch!  Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all my latest posts and book reviews.  Happy Instagramming!!