Tiny tales of horror, the perils of book reviews & getting over COVID-19

So I’m a little late to the party in promoting this (for reasons I’ll get to) but ‘666’, a Dark Drabbles anthology by Black Hare Press was released at the end of August. Lurking amongst the pages is my story ‘Mourning Son’ (yes, I did borrow the title from a Neph track). It’s available from that evil Amazon place or direct from the publisher. Inside you’ll find hundreds of tiny but perfectly-formed tales of horror, and myself, my fellow authors and the publishers would all be delighted should you wish to make a purchase.

Shameless self-promotion over with, what else have I been up to? Unwittingly upsetting other authors, apparently. Oh, and catching Covid, which was all kinds of fun.

I tend to leave book reviews on about 95% of the books I read, since I know authors, agents and publishers are keen for readers to leave them as it helps with book sales, bumps books into special promotional areas of Amazon etc. The 5% I don’t leave reviews for are usually books I DNF or persevere with despite not enjoying them because…

Anyhow, I was scrolling absentmindedly through Twatter (not a typo) the other evening and came across a Tweet that a publisher I follow had liked. The Tweeter (Twitterer???) in question was an author. I wish I could show you a screen-grab but after what transpired she deleted said Tweet and so I’m working from memory. It was something along the lines of how she wished readers would understand that characters’ opinions don’t reflect those of the author, whilst bemoaning a review she had read whereby the reviewer complained about ‘goths of all things!’ This was complete with a face-palm emoji and was accompanied by dozens of comments by fellow authors giving her some shoulder pats and telling her how utterly stupid this moron was.

It was very clear to me that the review in question was the one that I had left some months before. I toddled off to Goodreads just to refresh my memory and found that whilst I hadn’t really enjoyed the book (I’d only bought it to support an indie press), I had stated very clearly at the start of my review that there was some great writing there and the author had a real talent (she’d somehow failed to Tweet about that though). Further down my review, I did have a bit of a rant about the mention of a ‘doom-obsessed goth’ and went on to point out that this is a very annoying stereotype and that we’re mostly really happy people despite all the black clothes and melancholy music.

She clearly had a very valid point though. There was no reason for my having said this in a review, since this had come from the mouth of a character and not the author. I didn’t realise at the time of leaving the review that I’d been triggered by this phrase and went somewhat off-piste when I used it as a reason to deduct a star from my rating. I absolutely hold my paws up to this. My bad, and I will be wise to this in future. The author could have also chosen to contact me directly and privately via Goodreads to discuss the matter with me, instead of publicly airing her views on social media, but maybe, like me on the day I left the review, she was having a particularly difficult day.

Anyhow, I couldn’t not respond, so I politely informed her this was clearly me she was referring to and that whilst I apologised for the goth-related comments I mistakenly made, that I had also left some very positive comments on her writing that she’d failed to communicate to her audience (I chose not to include a face-palm emoji here). I signed off by apologising if I’d upset her and left it at that. A short period of silence followed. Then, about twenty minutes later, I got a response.

She said that I hadn’t upset her (I think I clearly had as she’d taken to Twitter to rant about it) but reiterated that authors weren’t their characters and that ‘she used to be a goth once too’. I responded by stating that, as I’d been writing for over 20 years myself, I was saddened that she felt the need to explain that to me (and boy was I annoyed with myself for even doing it). Just as I hit send, I got a message saying the Tweet was no longer available. Then she Tweeted a short while later that she had deleted the last one as she thought it made her come across like a bit of a bitch (not her words but I forget what she actually wrote) and that was very much not like her at all. I suspect if I’d not replied to her original Tweet, she would’ve happily left it up there, along with all the pointing-and-mocking of her fellow authors. She has certainly since shared similar tweets from other authors about readers confusing authors’ views with those of their characters.

Anyhow, I’ve since deleted my entire review of her novel along with my ill-judged comment, and I will certainly be thinking very carefully before writing any future reviews of anyone’s work!

In other news, guess who caught Covid?

After 18 months of working through the pandemic, shopping as normal, going out to pubs and clubs when they were open, going on holiday and generally trying to carry on as usual whilst socially-distancing and wearing muzzles when required, me and the other half were convinced we must have had asymptomatic cases and were just two of the lucky ones. Also, we were both double-jabbed so we’d done all we could to protect ourselves and others.

Then Myk came home from work with a cough and sore throat. He didn’t think it was that bad but I made him do a lateral flow test, which was positive. We did a second. Also positive. I had no symptoms at this point but we isolated and off he went to get a PCR test the next day, which confirmed he had Covid. A day later and my nose began to run. I kept testing negative on the lateral flows but I got a PCR and that too was positive.

Long story short, we both got through it OK and only had what we considered mild symptoms. Myk had a cough and a slight temperature for a few hours, and I had a runny nose and sneezing. My resting heart rate went up dramatically for a few days but then came back down, and now I’m unusually fatigued and keep falling asleep like a person of advanced years in a staring window. I also lost my sense of smell and taste for a few days but those are both coming back now. We still don’t know where we caught it from as all of our contacts tested negative, so it’s just going to be another one of life’s endless mysteries.

Book-wise, I’m currently reading my 60th book of the year, which will complete my Goodreads challenge with 3 months to spare (it’s been that kind of year, right?). I recently discovered John Bude via the British Library Crime Classics series, whose 1930s detective stories I really enjoyed, and am now working my way through this little pile of beauties that I picked up on my first trip out post-quarantine to a local charity shop. ‘Ghostly Companions’ by Vivien Alcock is a masterclass in short story writing.

And that’s about all folks. I’m off to have a nap before I get up to eat my mostly-tasteless dinner and then I might have another nap before I go to bed.

Thanks for reading and stay safe all!

Kate Lowe is a speculative fiction author from Leicestershire, UK. Her short fiction has won first place in two competitions & has appeared in various zines, magazines & anthologies. Her story The Wolf Runs in the Barley received an Honourable Mention in The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, edited by Ellen Datlow. Kate is a goth, a keen Fortean and a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club and Leicester Tigers Rugby. Her favourite band is Fields of the Nephilim, she loves silver jewellery, hunting for antiques and is usually to be found with a book in her hand. You can find her online at www.kateloweauthor.co.uk

Grief, little folk and 2020: a brief history so far

At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, I remember saying that the new year couldn’t be any worse than the last.

Ha bloody ha. If only I had known, eh?

So the bad stuff first:

Just a month after my last blog post, and almost a year to the day since losing my Mum, we lost my beautiful Nan to pneumonia.

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She’d been ill for months and her quality of life was non-existent, reliant on carers to do everything for her – I know that she absolutely hated it. The last time I saw her was a few weeks before she passed, as we had been instructed to shield the vulnerable at that point, and the only contact we had with her after that was via telephone. She was taken into Leicester Royal Infirmary on the Sunday afternoon and died a few hours later, with no family by her side as Covid restrictions meant no-one could go with her. It took almost two weeks for the death certificate to be issued, with a doctor apologetically informing me via telephone that Covid-19 was being put on the certificate, even though she never had symptoms and tested negative for it at the hospital (don’t get me started).

As per my experience when Mum died, those who could have assisted chose not to, and I was left to administer the estate and organise the funeral on my own. We were only allowed to have ten people at her funeral, which was a bizarre socially-distanced affair at the local crematorium. I can only imagine what she’d have thought of it!

Meanwhile, in the world of the day job, myself and my only remaining colleague were dismantling the fixtures and fittings & closing accounts ahead of the company’s relocation two hundred miles north. We had been made aware of the move around Christmas but it all got very real when colleagues I had worked with for years found new jobs and the building started emptying around me. All this during lockdown too (we’re classed as an essential service). What fun, eh?

Along came June and another blow: my beloved cat Welford, who had been poorly for some time, became so ill that I took him to the vet for the very last time. Blood tests suggested leukemia and the vet advised it would be the kindest thing to let him go (oh man, I’m crying as I write this!) He went to sleep on June 18th and is buried in the garden beneath a plaque that bears his name.

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I go out to see him every day and say hello, and I still haven’t stopped expecting to see him when I get up in a morning. Maybe I never will. Love you Mr Man! Until we meet again.

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July arrives. We hand over the keys to the office building and I am now officially working from home on a permanent basis. It has its pros and cons but I’m making the most of it. Meanwhile, my other cat Voldemort (Mort, Mortus Tortoise, Morty-Fa-Torty, Fatty, Fat Bum, Fluff Mort, Grump Mort, Pasty Cat – she is a cat of many names but answers to none lol) had been losing weight for no obvious reason. Blood tests diagnosed an overactive thyroid, which we’re managing now with medication and she’s back to her roly-poly self, if not quite so hyperactive!

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August brought us more awful news. My better half’s sister-in-law passed away after a brief battle with cancer. We then discovered that his brother in the US had contracted Covid, although I’m glad to say he appears to be over the worst of it, if not thoroughly exhausted.

Oh, and I qualified as an Achology Counselling Practitioner at some point in all of this!

So that’s my year so far. I’ve somehow managed to keep on writing through it, editing / revising / rewriting the WIP when the mind and body would allow. I’ve tried to write a couple of short stories in between but I’m sorry to say I didn’t get very far. Thanks to the lockdown, I went without my maintenance massage for my dodgy neck / shoulder for nearly five months and ended up in permanent pain again. Life has gotten back to some semblance of normal, and two treatments in I’m getting better and am able to spend more time at the laptop.

According to Goodreads I’ve read nearly 50 books this year so far! I’ve recently been reading up on Leicestershire folklore and legend. I’ve just finished Stephen King’s Elevation (still not sure what to make of it tbh), with The Institute and If It Bleeds to follow. Bill Bryson’s The Body is also on my TBR pile, along with a couple of occult titles on spells and witchcraft.

Speaking of esoterica, there was a wonderful article in a recent copy of the Fortean Times on the pixie-hunting videos of Edwin Saunders. Nobody knows who Edwin is, why he made the videos or where he is now, but they’re utterly fascinating and I can’t urge you enough to watch them! Here’s a link to the first one. Enjoy!

Keep on keeping on, folks, and remember: don’t look back because you’re not going that way.

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