Review: Dying Embers by M.R. Cosby

It’s review time again!! And in light of my previous post, I’ll write it any damn way I please! Huzzah! So let’s try doing this one a little differently. Why? Well… why not?

Imagine if you will that I’m a rather portly town crier who loves the sound of my own mead-thickened voice. Gold brocade hangs by a thread from my dirty red coat and wilted plumage sprouts from my tricorne hat. *burps* S’cuse me. My breeches are more grey than white, and my scuffed boots are in desperate need of a shoemaker and some elves.

The bell tolls… “Hear ye, hear ye! The first book review for 2015 is that of Dying Embers by MR Cosby!”

As I duck the throw of rotten fruit and sidestep the splash from chamber pots being emptied from second-storey windows, I remove the heavily-stained parchment from my back pocket… Where’d I put my bell?

“Disclaimer! Said reviewer has met Martin Cosby once at his book signing. She arrived late and all the wine had been guzzled! She’ll know better next time. She and Martin interact on Facebook, usually in the form of deriding their cock-up of a prime minister and the embarrassment that is their government! Onwards to review!”

Dying Embers

Dying Embers is the debut collection from MR Cosby, published through Australian small press, Satalyte Publishing. Comprised of ten short stories, Dying Embers is the first I’ve read of Cosby’s work and it is fine storytelling indeed.

The horror genre encompasses such a diverse range, and more often than not Cosby’s stories sit well on the side of psychological horror. And he delivers this well.

We begin with The Next Terrace, and this sets the tone for most of the stories within. Here we meet the very staid Robert and his friend, Terry the risk-taker. It’s on a visit to Robert’s grandparent’s home that things take a weird little turn. As with most young boys, a hole in the wall that leads to the adjacent terrace is too difficult an adventure to refuse. That night, Terry cajoles Robert into following him through, but Robert takes a step or two then freezes. It’s what happens afterwards to the two boys that has the reader wondering. Cosby doesn’t quite come right out and tell you what’s going on, but rather leads you through a maze of clues to the denouement (spoiler-free!). I quite liked this story, and it set me up to the style of storytelling Cosby employs.

It’s the use of denouement through Cosby’s stories that work well… but I’m not a fan of it for every story. I, too, have used it, and it’s a great storytelling tool, but it doesn’t work for all stories, and I believe (note: my opinion) that it shouldn’t be for all stories within a collection.

The thing is, the storytelling is bloody good. Cosby either tempts you into the story, or drags you in, but either way you’re living the world of those of his characters. I found this to be especially the case with La Tarasque and Abraham’s Bosom, both of which paint the landscape and surrounds of the story beautifully and works wonderfully as a juxtaposition to the horror.

Both of those stories were in my favourites of the collection, as was In Transit. This story, about a businessman who values his travelling time and expenses as not only a deserved luxury, but a way to spend some time away from his family; not that he dislikes them, mind, it’s just… hey, we all need a break, right? But things, just small things really, start to seem a little off to Pendleton. The demeanour of other passengers, travelling ‘economy’, and a gate that doesn’t exist… but does it? It’s this slow build of tension via the reveal of these little anomalies that had me list this as a fave.

Another favourite was Building Bridges, but this was also tinged with a bit of disappointment. It would have been my pick of the collection had it not been for the denouement. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Brentwood is a man trying to connect with his family (especially his children) after suffering a debilitating illness. A trip to the museum to see the dinosaur exhibit seems a good place to start, but after losing track of his family, or rather being accosted by an odd homeless man, he spends his time chasing after them. But Brentwood finds himself in an altogether different place; there are dinosaurs sure, but not quite like he expected. Cosby works the off-page building of tension here very well, and I was racing along the darkened corridors with Brentwood. And even I knew (like Brentwood) that the “dinosaur expert” he encountered was a little… off. As was the “dinosaur” the expert was waxing lyrical about.

It’s the chase though, toward the end of the story that really had me racing through the words – a sure-fire sign that the tension is done extremely well. And as the monster closes in… ZAP! We’re in denouement. Noooo! I wanted to see that final confrontation, to feel the fear, the terror as it closed in and got all nasty on Brentwood’s arse. Now don’t get me wrong, the denouement works to finalise the story, it just didn’t work for me. Especially after the terrific build.


And that’s where, for me, the collection didn’t quite pack the punch I was after. As a friend of mine said: “It didn’t hit you in the feels.” Thing is, the stories are extremely well told, and the tension and horror of the situation is conveyed with a lot more skill than others I’ve read. Cosby knows how to tell a tale. For me, though, it’s the visceral side of the horror genre that has its claws sunk into my heart.  Again, this is personal taste, and mine runs to the bloody side of things.

So, overall, this is a very well-written collection of psychological horror that sits well within its genre. If you’re looking to tease someone into the wonders of horror without the splatterpunk most associate with horror, then this is the collection to get them started on their journey of horror-love. For those who like some blood and gore with their horror, this probably isn’t the collection for you, HOWEVER, there are some damn fine tales within that are well worth the look.

On a Goodreads scale I give this a four-star for the art of storytelling.   

4 stars


It’s My Review and I’ll Write What I Want

Yesterday I was directed to a blog post written by a newish author (who shall remain unnamed) who was having a bit of a whinge about reviews and reviewers. This author had provided a (misnumbered) list of how they thought reviewers should go about writing reviews, especially reviews of said author’s work. Yes, you read that right.

Oh, but it gets better. This particular author loved five-star reviews (fair call; who doesn’t?), and was happy to accept a four-star review, but when it came to anything lower than that, well, things got a little creepy. If a reviewer wanted to give this author’s work a three, two or one-star review they wanted the reviewer to get in touch before posting the review so they could chat about the raising that little star-rating to an acceptable four or five-star.

The author’s reasoning? Well, once you weeded out all the ‘woe-is-me’ bullshit, it was pretty much… woe is me. It affected sales, it was mean, they don’t understand the book (ie the reader is stupid), it was mean, it hurt my feelings, it was mean, it was mean, it was mean!


If that wasn’t bad enough, the author went on to say that those reviewers who’d received ARCs should always post positive reviews, regardless of whether they’d been asked for an honest review. You see, if they give you a free book, you must write a good review. Right? Right?


As someone who reviews the books I read, my back went up. Who are you to tell me or anyone else how to review a book? Not that I ever plan on reading anything this writer offers. And that’s not just based on the cluster-fuck of the blog post, but on the blurb of said book that was garnering those meany-mean-mean reviews. It was awful, that blurb, truly awful. Long-winded, confusing, and so poorly written it gave me enough insight into what lay inside.

It’s clear the author didn’t employ an editor to look over their work, but has rather written the book then chucked it up on Amazon wanting to make some quick cash. That is not a writer. A writer labours over their words, each and every one of them; a writer ensures the plot works and that the characters are more than clichéd cardboard cut-outs. From the reviews I’ve read of this book, there’s a whole lot of wrong with it and not a lot of right.

It would be these reviews that had the author throw a hissy-fit – a lot of which were removed by Goodreads, it seems. Poor form by the author and equally poor form by Goodreads.

What the author failed to understand is that reviews are opinions of readers, and no book is going to appeal to everyone. The author believed there was an implied contract: read the book and love it or don’t say anything at all. Sorry, kiddo, time you entered the real world where people can form opinions that differ from yours.

This writer appears to be relatively new to the game, and a blog such as theirs could be career suicide. Readers remember, as do publishers. There were some scathing comments, and word had spread quickly about the pomposity of the post, but the author kept defending their position, digging that ugly hole deeper and deeper.

just stop

Most authors aren’t like the one that garnered this post. They’re thankful for anyone who takes the time to review their work – good or bad. But there are those out there whose sense of entitlement eclipses good sense. You wrote a book, but you’re not alone in that endeavour. You sold a book? That’s great! You got a sucky review? Thems the breaks.

I review books for other readers, not the author. The author gets my review as a by-product only. I’m honest, hopefully amusing, and deal with the story and characters and the writing. I take my time with them – and there’s the kicker: MY time. No author has the right to demand anything from me. I paid for your book; be happy about that. If I don’t like it, then I’m the one out of pocket. You? Well you’ve still got my cash. I think you’ve got the better deal here, no?

Oh, and if you don’t like my review, you could always return the cash…

Addendum: It seems the author has seen the error of that ridiculously self-important post and removed it.

Addendum to the addendum: The author has since issued an apology for said post. 

Writers and the ‘Real’ World

Writers, by and large, are a solitary folk. We live in our heads as much (if not more) as we do the ‘real’ world. Even when venturing into the gathering places of other humans, a part of our mind is ticking over with story plots, envisioning (and having conversations with) characters, trekking through worlds of our own creation. We function as other non-writerly folk do, but part of us is always lost in our words and our worlds.


The advent of social media has brought us solitary creatures together, given us a sense of community and understanding. Still, we continued to sit before our screens and ‘interact’ with other like-minded beings, and the sometime sense of isolation drew back a little. However, the thought of interacting face-to-face can often be an altogether different beast. A terrifying thing wrought with insecurity and panic. Our created worlds are safe havens, places we know and love that offer security and acceptance.

So it was with much trepidation (and a little fear, truth be told) that a couple of years ago a small bunch of Sydney horror writers who’d interacted online finally decided a meet was something we should try. You know, in person, face-to-face with conversation and all that jazz. And beer, let’s not forget the beer.

Jo and Cat Me, Tracy and Jase

And so the Sydney SHADOWS was born. That first get-together was a little daunting I have to say, but it soon grew into a core group of about ten who now can’t wait to meet up and talk shop and shenanigans. You see, no one understands a writer like another writer – they get that excitement of a new story/idea, the joy of publication and the suckiness of rejections. They know you live in alternate universes that are as real as the one our bodies inhabit. Among us there’s a wealth of experience and information we readily share with one another, but more than that we’re letting our hair down (well, those of us with hair), swearing up a storm, and acting silly as only writers can. Sure, we get strange looks from those at other tables, but we’re writers – even out in the world we bring our own worlds with us… while creating fantastical places in a hubbub of shouted ideas. (Cake drones! Ahem…)

Rob and Alan Me and Tracy  Jo and Rob Alan and Rob

Three or four years ago if this opportunity had come up, I’m not sure I’d have taken the leap, but now I can’t imagine not meeting up with this lot. We drink, we talk shit, bond over hats, and boy do we laugh. It’s a letting off of steam, of the build-up of all that we carry around in our heads, which can sometimes be very dark stuff.

There are times when my husband will ask: “When are you getting together with your people?” That’s his not-so-subtle way of telling me he can’t help me with the writing stuff that’s driving me crazy, and/or I need to get out of the house (and stop wearing my pyjamas all day).

Alan and Tracy Tracy and Me

Being (physically) around other authors brings a normalcy to what most of us experience when we tell other humans we’re writers (especially a horror writer) – a frown of distaste, a look of incredulity, a gasp followed by ‘but why?’. And meeting up with like-minded specimens is damn inspiring, no doubt about it.

So yes, writers are, by and large, a solitary folk, but when we get together it’s a celebration of what we do and who we are – warts and all. And for writers, there’s not a lot better than that.

Me, Alan, Jason  cat

(If you’re looking for fantastic writers and great reads, check out some of the work from Sydney SHADOWS members: Joanne Anderton, Catriona Sparks, Alan Baxter, Robert Hood, Andrew J McKeirnan, Marty Young, and Jason Crowe – you can’t go wrong!)

(All pics courtesy of the wonderful Cat Sparks, who can take a photo like no other!)

2015? We Need to Talk…

Aah, 2015, how’d you arrive so quickly? Well you’re here now, so let’s get one thing straight, I have some damn high expectations forthcoming, so if you could not rush through this year as you did the last, that’d be great. Not that 2014 sucked by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve set goals (note: that’s goals not resolutions) that I will reach, and strict regulations on my family/work/writing time management.

2014 was very business-oriented, with most of my time taken up with editing – don’t get me wrong, I love what I do; working with other authors… there’s not a lot that beats that!. This year, however, I will be much stricter with my working hours and my ‘no working weekends’ policy.  Still, business is good, and the authors I worked with last year were most inspiring. Writers rock!

I also had the pleasure of being a co-editor on the SNAFU series with Geoff Brown, the owner and editor in chief of Cohesion Press. SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror, and SNAFU: Heroes have both been released to strong sales, but more importantly, kick-arse reviews. SNAFU: Wolves at the Door, will be released this month, and as with the other SNAFU anthos, there are some truly amazing stories within, both from established writers such as James A Moore, and some new writers you definitely need to keep an eye on.

SNAFU Wolves

As for last year’s reading (I’m talking for pleasure, here, not work), I kicked 2013’s arse. Twelve novels and two short story collections, which I plan to beat this year as well. I’ve a review coming for the last collection I read, and am already well into the first novel for this year.

Writing wise… well, this had to take a bit of back-seat. I finished the script for for my comic, ‘The Road’, and the uber-talented Monty Borror has finished the art – I can’t begin to put into words how Monty has captured my vision for the comic, only to say that I am extraordinarily humbled as well as mind-blown by the man’s work. Lettering will begin soon, and the comic will be launched at Melbourne ComicCon in June through Cohesion Comics. (Watch out Melbourne, here I come! Ahem…)

road page 29

I wrote one short story last year, which was short-listed for a pro-paying market (that’s a win for me), but most of my writing was taken up with the first draft of my novel. Things there are progressing a lot slower than I’d like, but I have plan, and six weeks to get it done. And get it done I will. Then it’s rewrite time! I’ve also set a short story goal of four for the year, all to be subbed to pro markets. (See 2015? Goal-motivated  – don’t be screwing with me and start messing with time.)

So 2015, I’m taking no prisoners and you’d better be on board. Don’t make me get all stabby with you.