Review of Tales from the Shadow Booth Volume 2 Edited By Dan Coxon Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Synopsis 

The booth juts at an angle from the sand, the canvas taut beneath the weight of the drifting dunes. Janet almost passes it by. But it’s the sign that snags her attention. Painted in rust-red onto three pieces of driftwood, the sun-bleached planks lashed together with lengths of twisted blond twine, it looks surprisingly fresh. Enter the Shadow Booth, it says, and you will never be the same again.
The Shadow Booth, a journal of weird and eerie fiction, returns for Volume 2! Drawing its inspiration from the likes of Thomas Ligotti and Robert Aickman, The Shadow Booth explores that dark, murky hinterland between mainstream horror and literary fiction.
Volume 2 contains new stories by: 

Chikodili Emelumadu
Dan Grace
Kirsty Logan
Johnny Mains
Ralph Robert Moore
Mark Morris
Gareth E. Rees
Giovanna Repetto
George Sandison
Anna Vaught
Aliya Whiteley

Enter the Shadow Booth, and you will never be the same again…

This collection of dark and eerie tales from several contemporary and diverse writers is a readers dream. Once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. Every story has its own uniqueness that draws you in and forces you to keep reading with each one seeming to build upon the last.

Three stories from the collection that stood out for me were:

We Are the Disease by Gareth Rees. An eerie tale set abroad a ship trapped in the Arctic ice. As more crew members become effected by their isolation they begin to see and witness strange creatures and behaviours. Throughout the story Gareth had me on the edge of my seat making me wonder is this real, or is it the crew giving into their basic fears, which is making them create these sightings. Throughout the entire story your never quite sure what is the disease? Gareth’s voice and writing style is simply gripping. I could almost feel my fingers burning as I turned pages racing to finish.

The next was My Father’s Face by Giovanna Repetto. A tale about a man who has lost his memory and how he fights to get it back. As the story unfolds however we begin to question is this person trustworthy, and what are they hiding. It moves at a neck-breaking speed and makes you question everything you thought you knew about family. It was my favourite story in the collection. The voice is so unique. I want to read more by this author I loved it.

The final story was Feasting;Fasting by Anna Vaught. A story featuring elements of tradition horror and supernatural. A strange house, an unusual family, and a small village with a story to tell at no point does Anna give away who they are, what they are, and why they are there. She allows you as a reader to draw your own conclusions, and decide for yourself who these people are, and what their story is. It is a totally different take on the haunted house narrative.

This book has something for everyone. Unique writing styles, cultures, and author voices that make it stand out from the crowd. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the weird and wonderful. The three stories I selected are only glimpse of what awaits. Go and check it out. It gets four stars. It is a highly polished read.

I received a copy from the publisher for an honest review this doesn’t effect my views.

To Outline or Not to Outline that is the Question? By Daniel Stubbings

Recently I been lucky enough to meet a number of writers at events and festivals, and I can honestly say I have had a different answer off each of them when I have asked about outlining. From it is essential you must plot your scenes or you lose sight of your goal, to just write and see where your pen takes you, to never outline it halts your flexibility and creativity.

As an aspiring writer I found myself torn. Should I listen to the published author who outlines every page, scene, and dialogue to the last inch or just write and see what I come up with like the other writer I respect.

I wrestled with this question for a number of weeks. Continuing to write my stories, character profiles, and story arches, crossing out whole pages or pressing the delete key more times than I could count. I even began to write a brief outline for where I knew I wanted to end up. However in the end I just torn it up and went what is the point my scenes just didn’t have the effect I was looking for.

I watched every videos I could find on outlining. The positives and negatives of each from debut authors, to international bestselling ones. Stephen King is one of my favourite all time authors, and if like me you have watched his writing tip videos, his big thing is never outline, and whatever you do don’t write ideas in a notebook. In his words that is where ideas go to die.

So there I was once again thinking what should I do. Should I write down every idea that pops into my head and reflect on them later or just do what Stephen says and let the good stuff stay and just write what comes.

Well after the last event I kind of came to a weird conclusion. I thought to myself both those authors got published. They didn’t use the same method but they got published. I mean lets be honest we all like our eggs done differently, our coffee brewed a certain way. So why cant it be like that when we are writing. I mean don’t get me wrong you need to respect the writing craft, but we all have our own ways of telling stories.

I am not ashamed to say I am nearly two years into writing a novel, and I just finished a second draft. I would say after I came to this conclusion, I have sort of combine the two, from the advice I have been given first hand, and the videos I have watched. I plan my big scenes, where I know this has to happen or my character is just pointless. However I also like to have some freedom, kind of like a road trip you pick a destination and plot your route but there is no harm in stopping off for a walk on the way to explore your own curiosity. As long as you come back to to the road you wanted to go down eventually. Getting lost is part of the fun, and you never know what you might find plus every great story needs interesting subplots.

Outlining  so what is my view?  I guess it is do what feels best for you. If you like to know every scene, and character interaction before you write then go for it grab a piece of A3 paper and get these scenes drawn out. However if your like me and need a combination of both to keep you moving forward then that is fine to. Or if your totally wild like Mr King and discover it as you go then who am I to judge. That is the beauty of storytelling no way is the wrong way, as long as the story means something to you.

So going back to the question at the top of the page. Outlining for me is like everything else in life, do what works for you and if you find you need to make a change then do so. You will hear arguments for and against, but I  finally realised something when I left the last event the authors words still ringing in my ears. Create your own method and stop second guessing yourself.