Thursday 12 October 2023

Horror Anthology: Cameron Trost

The Black Beacon Book of Horror will be released on Friday the 13th of October; the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99 and you can add the anthology to your Goodreads list today. To get you in the mood for a particularly spooky Halloween this year, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. The first Black Beacon Book of Horror is bound to give you the creeps!

Hi Cameron,

Why do you write horror?

I don't write horror exclusively. In fact, most of my fiction is probably better described as suspense or mystery. What drives me is the idea that I'm keeping the reader guessing and that I've set up a shock or two along the way. Before reading the last word in the story, the reader will be lead down a winding path, and finding his way back home won't come easy. 

Is there a story behind your story in this anthology?

I mean, it's fiction... and it's important I make that clear. I live in Brittany and the contrast between summer and winter is quite dramatic here. Wealthy Parisians flock to their holiday homes along the coast in the summer and enjoy afternoons sunbathing followed by cocktail soirĂ©es. But their grand homes are soon abandoned. They lie dark and empty during the stormy winter months. I wanted to explore the idea of a Parisian coming to Brittany during the off-season, feeling lost, and receiving a hostile welcome. This is a classic folk horror scenario and this corner of the world is perfect for it. My horror stories tend to have an ambiguous ending and this one is no different. I find the uncertainty more disturbing, and it allows the reader to decide precisely want happened. 

Do you have an all-time favourite horror tale?

The easy answer is "No, there are just too many", but I'll play along. One story that probably isn't often cited as an outstanding horror story is The Snail Watcher by Patricia Highsmith. Have you read it? You really should.

What books did you grow up reading?

Where to start? Well, I devoured the Doctor Who novelisations as a kid because I loved the BBC series, and I soon became obsessed with Sherlock Holmes. Before long, I was hunting down all the gothic and ghostly classics, from Edgar Allan Poe to M.R. James.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not really. I like to be alone, preferably with a storm raging outside and a glass of decent whisky within easy reach. 

Where can we find you online? 

Thanks for answering our questions.

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Horror Anthology: Micah Castle

The Black Beacon Book of Horror will be released on Friday the 13th of October; the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99 and you can add the anthology to your Goodreads list today. To get you in the mood for a particularly spooky Halloween this year, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. The first Black Beacon Book of Horror is bound to give you the creeps!

Hi Micah,

Why do you write horror?

I don’t really know. It's just always been the most interesting and enjoyable to write.

Is there a story behind your story in this anthology?

I just had this image of a little girl with a violin standing in front of a lake at night that wouldn’t leave my mind. I also don’t write too many sea horror stories, so I didn’t want to put the idea aside like other story ideas.

Do you have an all-time favourite horror tale?

It’s hard to choose just one, but it’s probably The Picture of Dorian Gray.

What books did you grow up reading?

I wasn’t a huge reader growing up, but like most kids in the 90s, I read exclusively Goosebumps. I didn’t really get into reading until my late teens and early twenties.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not exactly a ritual, but a schedule. About an hour and a half to three hours in the morning every day. On weekdays, I’ll write for about an hour or so in the afternoon, and at night, for another thirty minutes to an hour. I’m privileged to be able to write as much as I do.

Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know yet?

I run the underground metal website/page/etc. Pig Squeals And Breakdowns. Not as much as I used to, though.

Where can we find you online?

I can found found on my website,, Twitter,, and Facebook,

Thanks for answering our questions.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Horror Anthology: Greg Chapman

The Black Beacon Book of Horror will be released on Friday the 13th of October; the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99 and you can add the anthology to your Goodreads list today. To get you in the mood for a particularly spooky Halloween this year, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. The first Black Beacon Book of Horror is bound to give you the creeps!

Hi Greg,

Why do you write horror?

Because I have to. There’s an inherent instinct where I wonder about the dark side of the world, the darkness in ourselves and as a writer I find that fascinating.

Is there a story behind your story in this anthology?

I’ve always been curious about reincarnation and the idea of the souls of serial killers. The concept of them being born rather than made was too good to pass on.

Do you have an all-time favourite horror tale?

All-time favourite? That’s hard to narrow down, but my favourite collection of tales would have to be The Books of Blood by Clive Barker. In the Hills, The Cities is an astounding piece of literature. 

What books did you grow up reading?

Mostly comic books, and children’s books like The Big Friendly Giant by Roald Dahl and the like. I didn’t discover horror books and films until much later. 

Do you have any writing rituals?

The only one would be that I usually write a story longhand in a notebook every time and it has to be a black pen.

Where can we find you online? 

Thanks for answering our questions.

Sunday 8 October 2023

Horror Anthology: C.C. Adams

The Black Beacon Book of Horror will be released on Friday the 13th of October; the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99 and you can add the anthology to your Goodreads list today. To get you in the mood for a particularly spooky Halloween this year, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. The first Black Beacon Book of Horror is bound to give you the creeps!

Hi C.C.

Why do you write horror?

Villainy. I love the idea of "villainy" in a story - sure, you might get a protagonist with a dark past, or one that's somewhat flawed, but it’s the antagonist - the villain of the piece - that makes for a truly engaging narrative. What makes them so villainous, how do they tax the hero, etc. Think of a U-certificate film, like The Lion King. Arguably made with an audience of children in mind – but that doesn't stop Scar from murdering his own brother. Horror is where you take villainy to truly dark and insidious places. The appearance of the monster is only skin deep. What the monster does, how they do it, and what that does to the protagonist(s)? There’s your horror - all that good stuff; and more. It’s gratifying, humbling and cool to engage your audience. Wow them. And maybe scare the shit outta them.

Is there a story behind your story in this anthology?

Good question! - a couple, in fact. One; when I’d written this story, it was to be very nuanced and menacing - which is my wheelhouse. There’s a nod in this tale to a short story written over 100 years ago (if memory serves) that appears in Aidan Chambers' Book of Ghosts and Hauntings. This is a book I got when leaving primary school, aged 11, and this is important, because this book is the gateway drug that got me into enjoying – and writing – horror. Along with films like Phantasm, Halloween, and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Two; when I’d entered this in a Midnight Echo competition several years ; you were VP of the AHWA (Australian Horror Writers Association) back then. And while the story didn’t win, it got an honourable mention. Fitting, I guess, that after how many years and how many submissions, it should finally land here.

Do you have an all-time favourite horror tale?

Not possible. There are some noteworthy tales though: Incubus by Joe Donnelly is a favourite; to date it’s the only book that made my skin crawl when reading it. Plus it’s got one of the illest taglines: “What kind of baby steals a mother?” Props are also given to Rare Breeds by Erik Hofstatter, which is truly macabre, twisted – and captures the essence of things going horribly wrong in a way that so many other works would like to. Thor by Wayne Smith, The Rising by Brian Keene, Pet Semetary by Stephen King, etc. No way can I pick just one.

What books did you grow up reading?

A variety. Wildlife encyclopaedias. Horror novels; Alien, The Thing, Incubus (the Ray Russell version), Salem's Lot, to name a few. I guess there were some books where I'd taken in the screen iteration first: Jaws, Piranha, Enter The Dragon, Oh Heavenly Dog. Martin Caidin’s Cyborg; the source material for The Six Million Dollar Man – what’s the latest on the reboot? Asterix books. Spider-Man comics. Books on martial arts, weight training, IQ. And some books aimed more at children. The Adventures Of A Two-Minute Werewolf. The Demon Headmaster. Mog And The Rectifier. I took in a whole variety. I probably read more as a kid; one, because kids were encouraged to do so and two, as a grown man, I don’t get that much time to read now.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Sure do. I guess the most elaborate one is that before I start writing a new story (which is usually long fiction) is that I’ll toast the muse and the work to be with a glass of Jack & Coke. To be specific, it’s the honey blend of Jack Daniel’s, Diet Coke – and served in a whisky glass engraved with ‘Get Shit Done.’ I got that glass from a couple of Canadian friends (who I love to bits), because they know what I’m like when it’s time to put in work. I keep meaning to get an additional glass engraved with ‘Got Shit Done’, but I haven’t gotten around to it. So for now, it’s the same glass used to toast the beginning and the end of each story. The usual rituals are less elaborate; it may be listening to a film/TV score beforehand to get me in the zone. The piano theme from Phantasm, for example. Opening credit theme from The Evil Dead, by Joseph LoDuca. I can’t write to music, but it gets me into that zone of creativity and flow. I need quiet and solitude to not just write, but to truly craft something. Doing so at night – when the house and the neighbourhood are still – is when the nuances really stir, creeping to life. Make no mistake, I’m writing to engage, disturb and unsettle the reader. Isn’t that what you came for?

Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know yet?

Just in case anyone’s missed it, I don’t watch horror any more. I get the irony of that, but as much as I was raised on a diet of Rabid, Poltergeist, Salem’s Lot, The Evil Dead, Phantasm, et al, there’s no pleasure I get in experiencing that pulse-pounding dread; it’s unpleasant. That tension before someone goes yellow-eyed with a mouthful of fangs, a little girl with an inhumanly deep voice, a rotting face jibbering and grinning at you. You know, I had to work up courage to watch Werewolf By Night (the Marvel short film from a year or so ago) and watch the transformation scene frame by frame to make sure it wouldn’t rattle me? Ditto for when I first watched Lucifer (the TV show with Tom Ellis). And I have no shame in saying this; I can read this stuff, I can write it – but it’s generally unpleasant/disturbing/etc. to watch. There are exceptions though – slasher films, maybe a zombie film or two. I love Shaun Of The Dead; very clever. Dawn Of The Dead (with Ving Rhames) was decent. Scream VI is one I saw recently; was impressed by that for the subway scene alone.

Where can we find you online?

Website is . On Facebook at and Twitter at But definitely hit me up to talk this, that and the third on the genre; that’s always cool.

Thanks for answering our questions.

Friday 6 October 2023

Fortitude and Courage - Announcement and Interview - Part Two

Hello there, avid reader. You've read part one of the Fortitude and Courage announcement and you're back for the next round of steampunk tennis between Karen Bayly and Cameron Trost. Glad you could make it. Just give us a minute to warm up a little first... Okay, are you ready, Karen? Great! Let's play! 

C: What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?

K: I do a basic plot, so I know what plot points to hit to reach the end. After that, I’m a pantser. If I were to plot every little thing, I would never write a novel. I can get too tied up in the details and end up strangling the story. I also find that within the plot, the interaction of the characters drives some aspects of the story. Artemis and Nathaniel are the perfect examples. How they end up is not what I planned.

K: What’s your editing process?

C: I get the book formatted the way I want it first so that it’s print-ready, then I do a quick edit on the laptop, fixing up typos, punctuation mistakes, and aiming for consistency. The idea is to remove simple errors that will distract me from diving into the book. Once it looks fairly clean, I order a print copy, grab a red pen, and make myself comfortable so I can scribble away, adding notes and scratching out words or entire sentences that need to be removed or rewritten. The final step in editing an anthology is usually adding the page numbers, because this is what inevitably changes until everything is in the right place, and no editor wants a reader to point out that the story supposed to start on page twenty-seven actually starts on page twenty-eight!

C: What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused? 

K: Quiet. 

K: What keeps you focused on editing?

C: Quiet or music of my choosing. I love editing, so as long as I have no external distractions or disturbances, I’m in the zone.

C: How do you celebrate when you finish your book? 

K: I don’t! I probably should. I’m partial to good peaty whisky. And champagne. Or a fine red wine.

K: How do you celebrate when you publish a book? 

C: By plastering posts all over social media! Then the peaty whisky. ;)

C: What is your kryptonite as a writer?

K: Self-doubt. It can be crippling.

K: What frustrates Black Beacon Books as a publisher?

C: What annoys me is when I receive a submission from an author and it’s immediately clear the guidelines haven’t been followed. It’s rude and it dramatically reduces your chances of getting an acceptance. But more than that, what really frustrates me is not selling hundreds of books each week—or even each month! We publish books for people to read, and we want as many readers as we can get!

C: Are you active on social media? How do you use it?

K: I’m relatively active. I share upcoming publications and posts from valued authors and publishers. When I have a long enough lead time, I share my writing process for a story and snippets of what inspired me.

K: What’s your social media strategy?

C: I try to repeat what I notice works and I try to post regularly with the aim of making our loyal fans feel appreciated while at the same time reaching new potential fans. I lean more heavily towards Facebook and Instagram, because they seem to work, and I promote Goodreads page as it’s a book-specific platform. We’re still on Twitter for the moment but it looks like Bluesky might be slowly gaining ground. There’s no big strategy. The idea is to have fun and include others in our adventure. We publish a lot of dark fiction but I try to keep our social media interactions positive and engaging. That’s what readers seem to want.

C: Do you play music while you write—and, if so, what’s your favourite?

K: No, I find music distracting as I tend to listen to it rather than write. The exception is Philip Glass’s Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra 2nd Movement, which always evoked a strong sense of the Fortitudo and Nathaniel and Artemis’s troubled relationship.

K: What does Black Beacon Books need to get down to the business of publishing?

C: I guess this question can be understood a number of ways. Keeping in mind that Black Beacon Books is essentially me—Cameron Trost—running the show from my cottage in Brittany in my free time. At the nuts-and-bolts level, I need time alone to run things—that includes keeping the website and social media platforms updated, reading submissions, editing and formatting books, choosing cover artists or designing covers in-house, and much more. Beyond my laptop, however, Black Beacon Books becomes a team effort. Our aim is to sell copies so we can keep publishing more books, and we need our contributing authors to help us. We expect them to play an active role in promoting our titles so that we can succeed together. 

C: What books did you grow up reading?

K: The classics – Dickens, Austen, the Brontes, Lewis Carrol, Kenneth Grahame, lots of horse stories (!), fairy tales (I have an excellent book of fairy tales which is over 80 years old and passed down from my mother), and Greek and Norse mythology. I moved into science fiction and horror in my teens – starting with “The Chrysalids”, which we read in the first year of high school and progressing to the Pan Books of Horror. There are still stories from that series that haunt me - The Copper Bowl, The Emissary, Man Skin {shiver}.

K: What books have influenced Black Beacon Books in the development of its catalogue?

C: A tough question. None specifically and countless books more generally. Our anthologies are designed to intrigue, entertain, and thrill. If you take the Pan Books of Horror and mash them up with the Alfred Hitchcock anthologies, you’ll get an idea of the foundations we’re built on.

C: Have you ever tried to write a novel for a genre you rarely or never read? 

K: I haven’t written whole novels, but I’ve written short stories in genres I rarely read. Apparently, I can write decent romance and erotica, which is weird because I have zero interest in either. However, people like that stuff, so I work elements of both into my novels when appropriate.

K: What genres would you never publish?

C: It’s important to think about brand—I know, uncool business concept as opposed to cool artist term, but it’s not going to help us if we spread ourselves too thin. Our bread and butter—well, we’re stilling working on the butter—is suspenseful fiction and all the genres it encompasses. While a hint of romance and a dash of eroticism can spice up a gripping tale, we’re not interested in giving Mills & Boon (they still around?) a run for their money, and “50 Grades of Shay”...well, no comment. We’re not planning on branching out into high fantasy or hard sci-fi either. 

C: What book (or books) are you currently reading? 

K: This changes every five days or so, so it will be outdated by the time anyone reads this. I’ve just finished Dervla McTiernan’s “The Murder Rule” and am now reading Sylvain Neuvel’s “A History of What Comes Next”.

K: What are the top five books in your To Be Read list?

C: I have two lists of books to read; one mostly made up of print books I’ve ordered (living in rural Brittany means my books in English are ordered online) and the other made up of ebooks I’ve been asked to review by fellow authors. Of the latter, my priorities are reviewing “A Vindication of Monsters”, edited by Claire Fitzpatrick, and “Cretaceous Canyon” by Deborah Sheldon. Of the former, well, I’m currently reading “Charlotte Sometimes” by Penelope Farmer, which is the book one of my favourite songs is based on, then there’s “Consider Her Ways and Others” by John Wyndham, “L’Affaire Saint-Fiacre” by Georges Simenon, “The Last Man” by Mary Shelley, and short stories by M.R. James, Ian Rankin, and Val McDermid. Of course, most of my time is spent reading submissions and editing our future publications. 

C: What’s the trickiest thing about writing characters of the opposite gender?

K: Making my male characters appealing to men! I don’t think I write the type of men that men are impressed by. However, one of my more geeky characters has proved popular with male readers.

K: Do your publications appeal to all genders, or do you find your sales are skewed?

C: We have no way of knowing the gender of people buying our books, but our typical social media follower is a female in her forties. Since women are known to be far more discerning than men, I take this as a huge thumbs-up. The question remains, is it the quality of our books they love, or the sexiness of the man publishing likes to think a little from column A and a little from column B! ;) A terrible sense of humour is sexy, right? (K: Umm…) In any case, we aim to please readers regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. All you need to love our books is fantastic taste!

C: What do the words “literary success” mean to you? How do you picture it?

K: When I first started writing, it meant being well-known by readers, well-regarded by peers, and making a living from my work. Nowadays, I consider myself a literary success if I get paid for something I’ve written. That’s not meant to sound like I’m devaluing my writing. But it is tough to get noticed, so adjusting your expectations helps you stay hopeful as you inch your way up the literary ladder.

K: What are Black Beacon Books’ ambitions for the future?

C: Our modest ambition is to keep putting out a handful of books per year, gain new readers every month, and keep breaking even. Let’s be more ambitious now so you have an exciting answer to your question—I’d say, somewhere between breaking even and eating a Penguin burger. I’d love to do this full-time and be able to pay our contributing authors and cover artists a better rate. That would be great. We’re a talented bunch who deserves to live from our passion and receive shiploads of letters and underwear from fans and stalkers. Not there just yet. NB. Clean underwear only, please! 

K: No underwear from fans or stalkers for me. Just putting that out there.

C: Who has been the biggest supporter of your writing?

K: Me. And a handful of friends (they know who they are).

K: What is the biggest difficulty you face as an indie publisher?

C: Getting people to put their money where their mouths are and buy our books. As simple as that. Do it! ;)

C: Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know yet?

K: I used to be an actor and a musician.

K: And would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know yet?

C: No. Oops, I mean—yes, of course! Well, I’m not sure we have any dark secrets beyond the ones in our books, but readers may not be aware that Halloween 2023 marks our tenth anniversary as a publisher, and this means that there will be plenty of celebrations taking place as we head into the month of October. In fact, they’ve already kicked off! Follow us all over the interwebs: 

More news coming soon, including the cover reveals! In the meantime, you can find Karen online here:

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Horror Anthology: Jeff Wood

The Black Beacon Book of Horror will be released on Friday the 13th of October; the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99 and you can add the anthology to your Goodreads list today. To get you in the mood for a particularly spooky Halloween this year, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. The first Black Beacon Book of Horror is bound to give you the creeps!

Hi Jeff,

Why do you write horror?

I’ve written in several genres, and horror may be the most elastic. It allows me to shape a story to fit any number of traumas and tropes. I can write about my life and the world around me, and grapple with my own fears and desires within the context of fiction.

Is there a story behind your story in this anthology?

I was raised Southern Baptist, but my family left the church when I was a kid. What I was left with was a conflict between a desire for religion and a deep distrust of it. The story comes from that ongoing battle. I was also raised in the Midwestern US in the 60s and 70s, when there was a casual cruelty toward animals, and insects in particular. That easy way of guiltlessly snuffing out the lives of other living things is an influence on the story as well.

Do you have an all-time favourite horror tale?

I remember two stories as being particularly influential. My sister brought home Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery" after school one day, and made me sit down and read it immediately. My memory is of sitting on her bed, cross-legged, realizing for the first time that somebody wrote this. Meaning, it wasn’t just a story, there was a sensibility behind the story. Someone had thought about what story they wanted to tell, and the best way to tell it, and then wrote it. I had a similar reaction to Bradbury’s "A Sound of Thunder", and the description of the T. Rex specifically. Somebody wrote this. They wanted to tell the reader this story, and figured out the best way to present it.

What books did you grow up reading?

I loved Bradbury and Jackson, as I have mentioned. I also devoured H.G. Wells (I got a hardback collection of his sci-fi novels as a kid) and those goofy Tom Swift Jr. books (“Tom Swift and His Atomic Earth Blaster”!). There was a short story called “Wide O–” that had a huge impact, and I thought about it all the time.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I really don’t. I write 1000 words nearly every day, but it can be anywhere, any time, regardless of what chaos might be surrounding me. The only ritual is the writing itself.

Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know yet?

I hitchhiked from Iowa to New York City twice, once by way of Canada. The second time I hitchhiked to NYC, I stayed there for 12 years.

Where can we find you online?

Thanks for answering our questions.

Fortitude and Courage - Announcement and Interview - Part One

Breaking news of the steampunk kind! Or should that be—Extra, extra! Read all about it? Either way, Black Beacon Books is jolly well thrilled to announce that Karen Bayly (you'll remember her from Murder and Machinery and Tales from the Ruins) has signed with us for a double-release. In February 2024, we’ll be publishing both Fortitude, her fantastic steampunk adventure which was originally published by Mary Celeste Press, and Courage, the splendiferous sequel, going to print for the first time. To celebrate, we’re playing not one, but two, games of tennis. Yes, you heard us! Our editor-in-chief, Cameron Trost, will ask Karen a question, and after answering it, she’ll hit one right back at us. Ready for the first match? Let’s play!

C: Why do you write steampunk?

K: *I’m fascinated by the ‘what if ?’ premise the genre proposes. What if steam and analogue could deliver everything petrol and digital could as well or better? What if we never went down the petrol / digital path? What alternate steampunk worlds can I create? Although it is usually thought of as belonging to the Victorian era, steampunk set in Edwardian and other eras has allowed a move from restrictive Victorian ideals to more exciting interpretations.

K: Why do you publish steampunk?

C: For those unfamiliar with the Black Beacon Books range, we have published or are in the process of publishing books in the genres of mystery, suspense, adventure, horror, ghost stories, post-apocalyptic, and steampunk. To that, you could even add a touch of sci-fi and historical fiction. Quite a broad range perhaps, but in a way, the three overriding genres of mystery, suspense, and horror cover the others. Steampunk isn’t so much a genre as a setting. It provides a canvas for tales of all different kinds, with eccentric characters, spectacular styles, and mindboggling technology. Having grown up reading Victorian classics like the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells, the prospect of contemporary fiction taking the rich cultural and technological features of this period and applying them to an endless world of possibility based on the idea that the twentieth century took a different route is so compelling. This is what makes steampunk so fascinating... so tantalising.

C: What Victorian characteristics do you find in yourself?

K: I’m interested in science and technology and fascinated by death (although memento mori photography is a step too far). The era also spawned several ground-breaking women, for example, the female private detectives Kate Warne (a Pinkerton!) and Kate West. Emmeline Pankhurst started her suffragette crusade in the late Victorian era. In Australia, Viva Goldstein pioneered the women’s suffrage movement. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Constance Stone became the first women to practice medicine in the UK and Australia, respectively. These women were rebellious in positive ways. I’ve been called rebellious, and I’d like to think I’ve done so in a positive way.

K: Which Victorian author would you publish?

C: I like to think my role as editor at Black Beacon Books is to bring talent that may otherwise have been overlooked to as broad a readership as possible. So, if I’d been alive in the Victorian era and not condemned to working in a factory or coal mine, I would have loved to publish the work of unknown writers. I sometimes wonder if there are wonderful manuscripts out there from the period that the world never got to discover. But to answer your question with a name everybody knows—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Imagine that—Black Beacon Books presents The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes! 

C: What is it about airships that fascinates you?

K: Their elegance and grace. Except when they exploded. But that is where steampunk comes to the rescue. No exploding airships, thank you very much.

K: If you owned an airship, what would you name it?

C: Living in Brittany, and in a steampunk world in which Breton had remained the dominant language over French, I’d have to choose a dark but graceful name evoking both the air and the sea. Give me a minute... okay, I’d go with Morvran Du... Black Cormorant. 

K: I love that name SO much!

C: Tell the readers out there who have never read steampunk why they should.

K: It’s a fun genre ranging from humorous to dystopian and everything in between. Nothing is sacred. Anything goes as long as you have the basic elements of steam, contraptions, a retro feel in fashion and style, and a sense of nostalgia (even if that nostalgia is for something that never existed).

K: What about steampunk attracts Black Beacon Books?

C: As mentioned above, steampunk goes hand in glove with our main genres of mystery, suspense, horror, and post-apocalyptic. There are different ways to consider fiction genres and how they overlap. In a way, mystery is really a genre in the strongest sense of the word, with clear plot elements, character stereotypes, and a handful of hard and fast rules. There has to be a puzzle to be solved, a leading character—typically a detective—we can rely on to eventually provide (confirm) the solution, and there needs to be at least one culprit. The other genres we published are more atmospheres or settings. Both suspense and horror are really about the atmosphere, with a great deal of plot diversity and an almost endless array of settings available to the author, from a mediaeval village to a space station in another galaxy, even if they’re both (particularly suspense) more commonly associated with familiar settings—urban, suburban, or rural. Where then does steampunk fit in? Well, almost anywhere, really. Like post-apocalyptic, steampunk requires neither specific plot elements nor a specific feel. Both are based almost entirely on setting and they are both particularly speculative in nature. While both steampunk and post-apocalyptic fiction are generally considered subgenres of science-fiction, they can in fact overlap with just about any genre. Can you imagine a steampunk story without a heavy dose of suspense? Not really. Are there elements of horror in steampunk? Almost invariably. What about mystery? Not, perhaps, in the strictest sense, but there’s usually a puzzle or two in a steampunk story. In your novels, Karen, we definitely have bucketloads of mystery, suspense, and horror. This is what attracts us to steampunk. There’s so much freedom in terms of worldbuilding and the author can explore storylines that wouldn’t be plausible in the world we know today. 

C: What is the most difficult part of your writing process? 

K: Time. I juggle a couple of jobs requiring a lot of problem-solving and technical details and find that my brain is fried by the end of the day. But in the morning, my time is limited. I’ve learned to write in short bursts.

K: What is your process for picking stories for an anthology?

C: This is top-secret stuff, Karen—how dare you ask! ;) Okay, I’ll bite. It’s pretty simple at first; I put out a call, read the stories as they come in, and put each story into a folder named “under consideration”. Stories that don’t follow the guidelines (far too many) or simply won’t make the cut are either immediately rejected or end up going into a folder named “to be rejected”. Once submissions have closed, I’ll do a double-check—in theory, a story sent to the rejected folder can do a Lazarus, but it’s highly unusual. I’ll typically have thirty or so stories that make the initial short list. I’ll then go through all the stories under consideration and send the ones I intend to accept into a file named “to be accepted”. This is where what is generally the toughest part of the process begins (as you know, Karen) because there are some great stories that don’t quite fit the way the anthology is starting to shape up. These stories will have to be rejected. In the rejection email to these authors, I say the story made the final short list and that the decision not to accept the story was a tough one. While submissions are open to all writers, we want these ones especially to submit again in the future. These are serious writers who have talent, have followed the guidelines, and have thoroughly edited their work as best they can. These are writers who have a strong chance of making it next time around. These writers often work at developing and maintaining a strong social media presence as well, and while I aim to choose a story solely on its merit, when it comes down to choosing between two equally strong submissions, I’ll often look at the author’s social media presence. Publishing is a partnership and we need authors we can work with before and long after an anthology is published. We want people to read our books, and we want authors who want that too, and will work with us to that end. 

C: What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

K: A solid grasp of grammar and spelling, an understanding of story structure and character arcs, thoughtful world-building, and a desire to weave a spell that draws a reader into the story.

K: And what, to Black Beacon Books, are the most important elements of good writing?

C: What you said, Karen. Good writing entertains and engages the reader, and it respects the reader. We want to publish great stories, and great stories require great writing. You can’t have one without the other. A ripping tale that’s poorly written is of no interest to the reader, just as perfect grammar and spelling without a story that holds the reader’s interest is of no interest. We want the whole package. I would add to that, a touch of originality. We want a surprise or two for our readers, whether it be a clever twist at the end or a new take on an old trope. Rearranging words isn’t enough. We need to know that a particular story belongs to a particular author. We want to know, for example, that this is Karen Bayly’s story even without seeing her name printed on the cover—although we’ll do that too, of course!   

C: How do you develop your plot and characters?

K: I usually follow a standard three-act, nine-point structure, which I put into Scrivener. I’ve tried other formats like the Hero’s Journey and various plotting software, but these tend to tie me in knots. I create character sheets for my characters but keep these basic as I find they change as I write. I also plot an arc for characters. Who are they when they start? Who will they be when this is finished?

K: What types of plots and characters intrigue Black Beacon Books?

C: Like I said, we love originality. Admittedly, that’s easier said than done. In terms of the standard plot types, we love a combination of the ‘overcoming the monster’, ‘quest’, and ‘voyage and return’. These are extremely general plot types that can be shaken up and even turned on their heads. Take the first one, for example. Plenty of great horror novels—the scariest ones—have the monster win at the end, and a really engaging mystery can have the reader sympathising with the culprit when the motive is revealed. As for characters, we want them to be believable, which means that they can be stereotypes, but they still need a quirk or two. The hero needs to have a flaw or two—or at least an annoying habit—and we need a glimpse at the antagonist’s backstory—we need to understand what motivates the character. 

C: How did you come up with the title for your books?

K: Both titles tell the theme that links the characters. In “Fortitude”, every character demonstrates their brand of fortitude. In “Courage”, every character faces challenges which lead to change and, you guessed it, reveals their brand of courage.

K: What’s your all-time favourite book title?

C: That’s a really good question. For the sake of fairness, I’ll limit myself to the title of a book I’ve actually read. I recently read and absolutely loved “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane, and while it’s a simple title, I think it evokes the suspenseful setting perfectly. That, however, is not my answer. Let’s see... Here’s the short list: Le Fanu’s “In a Glass Darkly”, James Henry’s “The Turn of the Screw”, Richard Matheson’s “A Stir of Echoes”—though I thought the film was far better than the book, “The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks, “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess, “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, “Piranha to Scurfy and Other Stories” by Ruth Rendell (her titles are as amazing as her books—“The Crocodile Bird”, “Master of the Moor”, “To Fear a Painted Devil”), “Switch Bitch” by Roald Dahl—so snappy, “When the World Screamed” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “They Do It With Mirrors” by Agatha Christie, “The House on the Borderland” by William Hope Hodgson, “Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village” by Maureen Johnson, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway. It’s so hard to choose just one—do I really have to?—I think “A Clockwork Orange” might take the cake. It’s so ambiguous and incongruous at first, but once you read the book, you come to understand how the clockwork orange is in fact so symbolic of the book’s central theme.

Who won, Karen? Looks like 6-6! Let's take a break and then come back for the tiebreak...

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Horror Anthology: David Schembri

The Black Beacon Book of Horror will be released on Friday the 13th of October; the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99 and you can add the anthology to your Goodreads list today. To get you in the mood for a particularly spooky Halloween this year, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. The first Black Beacon Book of Horror is bound to give you the creeps!

Hi David,

Why do you write horror?

It’s all about having my own voice in the genre. I do love reading horror more than watching it on screen. When I read the genre, I have fun when it’s a captivating tale that provides goosebumps, and I enjoy taking on the challenge in the hope that others have that same experience when reading my work. We are all unique and have something to share, and my mind is always ticking away at, ‘how could I tell that story with my own spin?’. Horror has always been a genre I love reading, so in turn, I love writing it.

Is there a story behind your story in this anthology?

When I choose to take up the task of creating a short story, my mind goes into ‘gather mode’. What this means to me, is that I hunt for something, be it a spark, a light, a trumpet noise in my ear. Something that instantly grabs my interest and puts up in lights, ‘You’ve never written about this before, it’s new to you. This will be fun so let’s dive in !’ Such an instance happened to me during my son’s 14th birthday. We’d taken a trip for the weekend to Phillip Island. Whilst there, we visited the Amaze’n Things Theme Park. This was a glorious place, and I’m a kid at heart, so I was having a ball with all of the mazes and puzzles. After lunch, we ventured further into the park, when suddenly, after walking into the Illusions at Magic Manor, it hit me. I wanted to write about an illusionist. I was so inspired by the old style posters of Kellar and Thurston that I grabbed the first opportunity I got when I returned home to get stuck into reading about that period. This also weaved me through old movies of the 1940s, showcasing Illusionists and magicians of the time. This also lead me down the path of pursuing another untouched subject : The Gangsters of New York, and how I could combine the two worlds into the story. How demons, cults and dogs came into the mix, well, just put that down to my weird, creative lunacy, and there you have it : My story behind the story.

Do you have an all-time favourite horror tale?

Misery by Stephen King, hands down, that book scared me silly, and I’d read it again.

What books did you grow up reading?

I wasn’t much of reader when I was young. I was too obsessed with playing with toys and creating my own scenarios with my figurines. The Choose Your Own Adventure Series was a favourite, as this enabled me to contribute something to the direction of the story. I know I wasn’t the writer, but those books did empower me with some sort of control upon my own destiny when reading them. As a young and developing creative, it took me some time to surrender myself fully to reading a book, rather than creating tales of my own, and I quickly discovered, that reading was something I was missing dearly. Reading opened the floodgates that would’ve remained closed had I’d not taken the plunge, and I had never looked back. This all came under the advice of my English teacher. He’d read a lot of my writing and noticed that I lacked inspiration. He directed me the library and said, ‘Read what interests you, not only what the school wants you to read.’ That’s when I walked around the shelves, picked up a Richard Laymon book, and couldn’t put it down.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Oh yes. It’s all about keeping quiet for me. If there is music playing, then it needs to be instrumental and carry the ambience of the story I am attempting to write. In the case of The Great Invacation, I had old, instrumental, Broadway Theatre music playing, which helped me remain in the period. As long as I’m comfortable, my research with me and my characters profiled, I can write away and see what unfolds.

Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know yet?

I enjoy keeping up my fitness. It’s great for the soul and mental health. With the common challenges that life can through at you, there is nothing like doing a good exercise session to do your body and mind some good. I always have a great writing session after knowing that in the morning, I’d been active.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me online at, or look me up on my author page on Facebook. Tap me a message and share what you think of my work, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for answering our questions.