Blog Tour: Parasite by Ridley Harker

A review, a giveaway, and a special excerpt!

Today, I’m taking part in a blog tour for the launch of Parasite by fabulous new horror author, Ridley Harker. As part of the launch celebrations Ridley is giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card: keep reading to find out how to enter!

I had the pleasure of receiving a review copy of this book and I am so thrilled to introduce it to you. Parasite is a horror-romance novel – and if that sounds like a difficult combo to nail, you’d be right. So understand the full weight of my enthusiasm when I say that this book nails it.

Jack Ives, a trans teenager with a very troubled home life, finds his world changed for both better and worse with the arrival of Lucien, a charming, yet off-putting stranger to his island. I was fully invested in the characters and the romance itself, while also remaining gloriously uneasy about the sinister aspects lurking in the shadows around them. Jack made for an interesting and complex main character, while Lucien’s behavioural quirks had me paying close attention every time he was on the page. (One of my favourite scenes is the two boys discussing what scares them, and Lucien answers, clipped and blunt: “Vivisection.”)

All the secondary characters also felt well-rounded, and I enjoyed seeing multiple character arcs develop: Mitch became a quick sympathetic favourite, while I am still intrigued by the emotional complexity to Spencer that I absolutely wasn’t expecting to be smacked in the face with near the end. (Not that the author does any smacking here – everything is subtly implied through small words and actions that kept me hooked, looking for more.)

Harker is brilliant at layering subtle clues through the story, and the true nature of the central horror is revealed in deliciously small doses during the first half of the book, building into a thrilling climax that lasts most of the second half, with all gory secrets revealed. A note on gore, for the squeamish: while there is some body-horror and plenty of blood in this book, I personally didn’t find it too extreme or gratuitous, and always perfectly fit the mood and character motives at the time.

As for setting, Eldrick Isle is a character all by itself. The entire story takes place on this remote and gloomy island, and that sense of gloom pervades Harker’s writing perfectly. Jack feels trapped there, and with such a small, close-knit and close-minded community, it’s not hard to find everyday horror in the situation Jack finds himself in even before Lucien arrives. By the end of the book, this characterisation of the island as a prison takes on a whole new meaning, and the murky grey atmosphere is a perfect reflection of the shades-of-grey morality within the overarching narrative. (SO many questions raised here about consent, conscience, control, and morale judgement.) True to this, romance lovers can expect a morally grey happy ending – rest assured that the story does not finish on a tragic note.

If I have one complaint, it’s that I wish there were just a couple more pages at the end to dwell on the fate of Eldrick Isle, and particularly the state of Jack’s relationships with the people there. However, the story is still wrapped up very well, and is tantalisingly full of opportunity for a sequel. So, Ridley Harker, if you’re reading this . . . I am desperately hoping for a sequel. 😉

Seventeen-year-old Jack Ives is used to being unlucky. His only friend has just moved away to college, his parents are alcoholics, and he’s relentlessly bullied by the town psychopath. All that begins to change with the arrival of a handsome but quirky new student, Lucien, who wants to be more than friends.

Their newfound happiness doesn’t last, however, as a strange new illness strikes the island. Fishermen go missing, and the villagers left behind aren’t themselves anymore. When Lucien is suspected to be the cause of the outbreak, can Jack overcome his teenage hormones and save Eldrick Isle? Will he even want to?

Warnings: Abuse, alcoholism, animal death, bullying, graphic violence/gore, guns, homophobia, misgendering

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads

Giveaway

Ridley is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour. To enter, just click on this Rafflecopter link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47259/

Keep reading for a special excerpt from the book. 👇


Excerpt

Lucien wanted to hit something. He wanted to lash out and make himself feel better by making someone else feel worse—Spencer, preferably, but Lucien was too upset even to fantasize. Something scuttled under the floorboards beneath him. Tiny claws on warped wood. A nearby hole in the floorboards… Vermin would have to do.

He brought his index finger to his mouth and bit down, worrying at the skin with his teeth until it broke. He tasted blood. The takeout bag sat beside him so he picked up a fry and, after seasoning it with blood, tossed it toward the hole. And then he waited.

A whiskered nose appeared first, followed by a furry brown face and black, beady eyes. A rat. The animal snatched the fry and disappeared back into the darkness. Lucien smirked and licked his finger clean. He absently probed the torn skin with his tongue until it was smooth again. Then he paused, momentarily forgetting about the rat. Something on his fingers tasted off.

Foreign.

Salty.

Some sort of grease.

He glanced dubiously down at the soggy french fries, holding his breath and waiting for disaster to strike. Nothing happened. His stomach rumbled. He licked his lips again. The scent of greasy, fried potatoes became too tantalizing to resist, and he reached into the bag and pulled out a fat, golden fry. He shouldn’t—years of lectures told him he shouldn’t—but a rebellion brewed deep inside him. He sniffed, and his stomach gurgled in approval.

Lucien popped the french fry into his mouth. It was cold. The texture was strange: crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. He had to chew before he could swallow. Grease coated his tongue.

His nutrient shakes were garbage.

Lucien scarfed down the entire bag of fries and then licked his fingers clean. Jack had left his milkshake behind, and Lucien drank that as well. The shake had a familiar texture, but the flavors… What would hamburgers taste like? He was going to find out.

An ear-piercing squeal erupted from beneath the floorboards. Lucien smirked into his straw and waited, listening. Judging from the sounds, more than one creature had taken his bait. The rat dragged itself out from the crevice. Little clawed toes curled in on themselves, and beady black eyes bulged out from their sockets. The bald tail became discolored, patchy and waxen. It flopped onto its side, its chest heaving madly as it labored to breathe. A black substance leaked out from its jaws, followed by a tiny, purpled tongue. It shuddered violently, and then it lay still.

Lucien didn’t notice. The paper cup crumpled in his grasp, and the remains of the strawberry shake dripped down his wrist. Behind his dry, irritating contact lenses, his pupils dilated. Lucien clutched at his belly, smearing milkshake across Jack’s borrowed shirt. It was like having shards of glass in his stomach, stabbing into his intestines. Ripping. Tearing. Sweat soaked his skin. He staggered to his feet and gagged. Waves of nausea threatened to bring him to his knees. His throat burned, and his stomach lurched.

He was going to be sick. Sick in the middle of Jack’s private sanctuary. Lucien clamped a hand over his mouth and stumbled toward the guest room. The door’s hinges screamed in protest when he fell against it. He landed heavily on his knees. The floorboards were wet and slimy, blackened with rot. They sloped toward the center of the room, where he saw the stony lip of the well peeking out from amidst the wreckage. The house was strange, but he had no time to explore, not when his stomach lining was burning its way up his esophagus.

Lucien dug his fingers into the moldering floorboards and dragged himself forward. Up close, the well stank. The putrid fumes of fetid water rising up to meet him suggested something had fallen in recently. Lucien leaned over the well’s side and vomited. The remains of french fries and strawberry milkshake hit the water below with a liquid slap. Strings of shredded tissue and dark, brackish blood soon followed.

Unbidden tears streamed down Lucien’s cheeks. He choked on a sob and then choked again as something elseslithered its way up his throat. The edge of the rotten boards gave beneath his clenched fingers, turning to splintery pulp. He tried to clamp a hand over his mouth, tried to keep it inside, but it was too late. Lucien curled in on himself, his mouth opened wide in a silent scream. His eyes rolled back behind his lids, and the world went dark.

It splattered onto the floor. It resembled a fattened leach, pulsating and slimy, and was the size of a large rat. It wriggled about, leaving behind a trail of black sludge. An alien kudzu sprung from the mess and cemented itself to the floor. Lucien opened his eyes, watching as the thing squirmed away from him. He felt a muted sense of alarm as it neared the edge. His head was foggy. He should grab it. Before it was too late, if it wasn’t too late already.

His fingertips scrabbled against the wood, mold and sludge filling the spaces beneath his nails, but his arms wouldn’t obey. He managed to brush the spongy tail of the creature before it tumbled over the edge and into the darkness below. It hit the water with a faint, echoing splash.

Lucien struggled to catch his breath. Empty and frail, his chest felt like a cage of papier-mâché. He rolled onto his back, panting. His eyes fluttered shut. Something moist crawled across his arms, up his ankles, under his jeans. It slithered through his hair. He was too tired to object. He wanted to sleep. He didn’t want to think about what could have happened if he had eaten in front of Jack. Or worse, if they had been in the middle of the crowded diner.

Inky blackness rose up to meet him, and Lucien didn’t resist.


Ridley Harker is an up-and-coming horror author who delights in all things gay and spooky. Influenced by Billy Martin (Poppy Z. Brite), Clive Barker, and Gemma Files, his favorite books are those with enemies to lovers, great villains, and queer main characters. Horror-romance is his favorite genre. He lives in the Middle of Nowhere with his two dogs, a grumpy old snake, and a host of pet tarantulas. Ridley is currently working on his MFA.

Find out of more on his website: https://www.ridleyharker.com

Follow Ridley Harker on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HarkerRidley

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RidleyHarker

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16649258.Ridley_Harker

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/ridley_harker

Dark Folklore… Coming Soon

Dark Folklore: A Short Story Series

Dark Folklore is a new short story series inspired by myths and monsters from around the world.

I love discovering folklore in all its flavors… from elusive beasties that stalk the aging forests to twisting fates in fairytales told from the shadows of a campfire. The more obscure and sinister the tale, the better.

Dark Folklore is a series to indulge this love. Each installment is inspired by a folk legend from a different country, reimagined in a modern setting with new twists and themes. More than just a retelling: each short story is a new, original tale. Expect some spooky vibes and a few unhappy endings… but also the odd uplifting one as well.

The first installment of Dark Folklore releases on Tuesday 3rd May: a story called Beyond Thundering Waters. With a lush Norwegian setting surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, this story draws on a menacing interpretation of the huldra (one of my favourite folkloric creatures). Ida, a young girl still grieving the loss of her mother, must race against time to save her Pappa from the clutches of her own wild valley and the huldra who would keep them apart.

This story is already live for preorder on all the usual storefronts. Stay tuned for a special Launch Day Giveaway: I’ll be handing out TEN free copies of Beyond Thundering Waters via my blog, and even more copies via social media and my newsletter!

So remember to hit the Follow button on my website, and check out my socials on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Subscribe to my newsletter (and receive another free short story) by clicking here.

For even MORE folklore content and chances to win, you can also join my Reader Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/aninspiredmess


Are you excited for this series? Let me know if you’ve picked up Beyond Thundering Waters already, or are joining us on 3rd May for the Giveaway!

‘Ecstatic Birth’ – Free Audio Horror Story!

The NoSleep Podcast banner image

Do you like dark vibes, spooky tales and Twilight Zone-esque anthologies? Then I’ve got the podcast – and the story – for you!

The NoSleep Podcast releases weekly episodes with their curated selection of the best short horror stories, brilliantly adapted to audio for your listening pleasure. The first half of each episode is FREE to enjoy on their website. (And unlocking the rest is a paltry $2, or $25 for all 25 episodes in a season.)

I’m beyond proud to tell you that one of my stories, Ecstatic Birth, was featured in Episode 18 (Season 17) of The NoSleep Podcast earlier this month. Even better, my story appears in the free portion of the episode, so you can check it out whenever you feel like it! You can find the intro to the story at roughly 00:19:55 in the recording. [Content warning for underlying themes of traumatic birth and postnatal depression: this is darker than other stuff you may have read from me and I don’t wish you to be caught off-guard.] Click here to go listen to it on the NoSleep website.

Episode credits for S17E18 of The NoSleep Podcast
So excited to be in these credits!

The cast did a brilliant job, and I’m especially in awe of Jessica McEvoy’s performance as the lead. Her wonderfully deranged portrayal of Mandy took the story to new heights and conveyed such a sinister aura that it stayed with me for a long time after listening. The NoSleep crew are topnotch at what they do, and I highly recommend following and supporting their work.

If you listened to my story or the rest of the episode, let me know what you thought of it in the comments!


Book Launch & Giveaways! The Jack Hansard Series: Season Two

This week I’m celebrating the launch of my latest book, The Jack Hansard Series: Season Two!

It me!

The paperback looks and feels fabulous and I adore the cover illustration by Dominique Lane. In Jack and Ang’s latest misadventures, we get to wrap up the mystery of Ang’s missing coblynau and finally find out what lies behind the ominous names of Baines and Grayle. Quiet Eyes makes another appearance, and the phoenix eggs stolen at the end of the first book have a large part to play as well. Lots of mysteries solved… and a few more to be opened.

For Jack Hansard, Purveyor of Occult Goods, things are looking up. With the coblyn Ang as his new business partner, he has a solid friend to back him up in every dangerous situation. Together the pair face shapeshifters, piskies, and ancient magics in their quest to track down Ang’s missing kin. A new lead means the trail is about to get a whole lot hotter.

But when an old enemy presents Jack with an offer he can’t refuse, will he risk Ang’s trust to see it through?

Intrigued? Come and join the virtual Launch Party!

I’m running giveaways all week to celebrate this book release. Join us over on Facebook for a chance to win some Jack Hansard swag, free book codes, and a $10 Amazon gift card! (The gift card giveaway has just opened!)

If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, you’ll get an extra chance to win a separate $5 gift card later this week~

I recommend grabbing your copy of Season Two soon as I’ve kept it discounted to $2.99 as a special release offer for this week only. From next week it will go to full price: $4.99

If you’re after the paperback, it’s currently filtering into stores and should be available from a wide range of retailers soon. 😊

Thanks for helping me celebrate my book launch! Maybe I’ll see you at the party later. 🥳

Celebrating a Year in Print!

Jack Hansard book with birthday cake

Today is Jack Hansard’s book birthday!

A year ago today I hit publish on The Jack Hansard Series: Season One, the genre-bending episodic fantasy I’d first conceptualised five years before. The exploits of this occult salesman and his cantankerous coblyn sidekick have become very close to my heart.

It has taken considerably less time to produce the book’s sequel, bolstered in no small part by the confidence I gained in finally getting the first one ‘out there’. So it’s with a great deal of pleasure that I can announce The Jack Hansard Series: Season Two is now available for pre-order everywhere ebooks are sold!

The paperback version will become available for pre-order some time in December, once the book cover design has been finalised. Follow me on social media or my newsletter to receive updates and sneak previews of the cover art as it develops.

I’m also running a flash sale to celebrate this milestone

For a limited time only you can pick up The Jack Hansard Series: Season One for just 99p. Grab your copy here!

My short story The Hub is also FREE to download from most retailers for a very short time. Find it here.

Thank you for your support over the past twelve months, and here’s to more exciting times ahead!

Book Birthday! The Jack Hansard Series: Season One ebook cover

The Hub: a supernatural sci-fi story

Photo by Phil Goulson on Pexels.com

When an app developer accidentally creates a maliciously benevolent social media network, only her girlfriend can save her from what she’s brought to life…


Happy days! I was incredibly pleased to release my short story The Hub as an ebook last week. This story was first published by the wonderful folks at Thunderbird Studios in their anthology The San Cicaro Experience – a weird and dark anthology exploring the titular urban fantasy location.

The Hub ended up straddling the line between sci-fi and urban fantasy with its technological menace, but ultimately it’s a story about love and compromise.

It’s now available for just $0.99 from all the main retailers: Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Apple, etc. Universal shop link below. 😄

The Hub: a speculative short story

In sunny San Cicaro, a new app is dominating the city’s streets – and its people.

Max loves her city, and believes everyone deserves to enjoy its hidden treasures. So when she launches the SC Hub, a new social app to connect people and places, she couldn’t be happier with its blazing overnight success. But her reclusive girlfriend, Ellie, can’t help but worry about the magnetic pull the app is having on its creator, and the strange occurrences in town that seem linked to it.

Are people driving the app… or the other way round?

A Wyrd and Wonderful Occasion

Wyrd and Wonder fantasy banner

Earlier this week I stumbled across a blog post about ‘Wyrd and Wonder’ : a month-long online event celebrating fantasy in all its forms. Hosted by the folks at onemore.org, the Wyrd and Wonder party straddles social media channels with blogs, reviews, streams, games, and a shared love of all things fantasy!

Regular readers know I need a bit of a butt-kicking to update my blog (I’m normally a ‘one post a month’ kinda gal) but this is exactly the kind of motivational event I can get behind. So I’ve joined the Wyrd and Wonder party and planned a few (small) activities of my own to take part throughout the month of May. My list is definitely small fry compared to others (how do you all keep up with your TBRs?!) but I’m excited to have some goals to aim for!


My Quest Log:

  • Finish reading The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett. I started this book at the beginning of the year and was halfway through when… I put it down. For some reason. Maybe a few tiring nights from kiddo had sapped my energy, or I just had to get on with other stuff that evening. These days, unfinished books are like my forgotten cups of tea scattered around the house – not for lack of wanting to finish them. Something else just gets in the way. So I’m looking forward to finishing this final instalment in the Tiffany Aching series, and when I’ve completed it I’ll also have finally read every single Discworld novel. I’m still sad that there won’t be any more.
  • Read Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s been on my TBR list for a loooong while. This month I’d like to read (and finish!!) the first book in this urban fantasy series and then maybe write a review post afterwards!
  • Buy a new indie fantasy book. I’ll pop this as a thread over on Twitter where peeps can pitch their own (or their favourite) fantasy book by an indie author, and I’ll pick at least one to buy and read for myself. I’m grateful to others who’ve posted these writers’ lifts/book lifts in the past and I’d love to try my own. If I’ve got time, I want to post my review of the chosen indie book this month as well.
  • Offers and such? I’m involved in some group fantasy book promotions this month. I’d like to support my writing community and help readers find new fantasy authors to fall in love with – I’ve put the current ones below as it doesn’t seem right to make them a separate post. There are some giveaways which start later in May as well. Would people be interested in a post just about free fantasy books…? They’ll be on Twitter, anyway. 😆
  • And of course, getting involved! I’ll read and follow as many Wyrd and Wonder posts as I can manage. I’d like to try answering some of the Challenge Prompts via Twitter or Instagram. The community looks really friendly and I’m excited to dip my toes in and meet you all.


Not gonna lie, I’m hoping this will jumpstart my reading habit again. Aiming for two and half books in a month is pitiful compared to what I used to go through, but at least it’s something. 😂

Then afterwards maybe I can justify splashing out on a few more recent releases… The Once and Future Witches and The City We Became keep catching my eye.

If you’re looking for something new to read yourself, check out these fantasy book sales for ideas. 👇

Books with magic in this promotion
Funny fantasy books on sale
Fantasy books promotion

Time to dive in!

You can find out more about Wyrd and Wonder here, follow the hosts on Twitter here, and find posts on Instagram and elsewhere with the #WyrdandWonder hashtag. (Also check out this fab book bingo game they’ve created!)

If you’ve got plans for Wyrd and Wonder, or even just some cool fantasy titles on your TBR list, let us know below! 😊

Wyrd and Wonder Pegasus Banner
Pegasus images by Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com