John C Adams


I'm a nonbinary author and critic of fantasy and horror. Nonbinary tends to means different things for different people, and every path is valid for that individual and their family. Luckily, mine are incredibly supportive. I use the gender neutral pronouns they/them professionally as John C Adams, but to the kids I'm still 'Mum'. It's a question of what works for you. My decision to be nonbinary is a journey for all of us.

I review for Schlock! Webzine, the British Fantasy Society and Horror Tree, as well as placing reviews and articles across a wide range of blogs and magazines.

I have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University. I've been a Contributing Editor for Albedo One Magazine and the Aeon Award since 2016. Before that, I was a Submissions Reader with them.

My debut horror novel, 'Souls for the Master' (Ivy Spires Book One), and its sequel 'Blackacre Rising' (Ivy Spires Book Two) are both here on Smashwords retailers. Likewise, my debut fantasy novel, 'Aspatria' (Gortah van Murkar Book One), and its sequel 'Dagmar of the Northlands' (Gortah van Murkar Book Two), are out now on Smashwords retailers.

Although I write mostly long fiction, since 2015 I have had stories published in anthologies from Horrified Press, Lycan Valley Press, Fantasia Divinity and Jersey Pines Ink. My short stories have also been published in the Horror Zine, Swords & Sorcery, Sirens Call, Blood Moon Rising, Lovecraftiana and various other magazines.

Every emerging writer needs plenty of encouragement right at the start, and entering lots of competitions early on made a real difference to my confidence to press on with writing longer fiction and think about submitting short fiction to magazines and anthologies in due course. In 2012, I was longlisted for the International Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest for 'The Visitors' and again in 2013 for 'We Can Finish Your Baby's Brain For You'. My writing was also recognised by the Enrico Charles Literary Award (runner up in 2012) and by the University of Winchester Writers' Conference in both 2012 and 2013, including a Commendation in the First Three Pages of a Novel category, and other nominations in poetry and short fiction.

I read PPE at Somerville College, and I am a non-practising solicitor. I live in rural Northumberland, UK, and I combine my career as an author and critic with raising my kids and caring for a severely disabled relative. I'm always busy!

Smashwords Interview

For readers who haven't read 'Souls For The Master' before trying 'Blackacre Rising', how would you describe the situation when the sequel opens?
Ivy and Don were an integral part of the resistance to the Master's cruel power, and they manipulated Gerald, a trainee surgeon whose father was a senator in the regime, into helping them. When he learned more about what they were trying to achieve in the face of the Master's plans for humanity, Gerald's natural decency convinced him to join their cause and stand up to his powerful father Ian Flint. Just as they ousted the authorities, they were betrayed and the resistance crumbled. They're fleeing north to Blackacre, where Gerald's cousin Brett lives, to seek refuge until they can work out how to fight back against their new enemy, Janus Fidens.
What is the key theme of 'Blackacre Rising', and why is it important to you?
Most of the main characters are grappling with the consequences of being manipulated to fulfil someone else's agenda. That's a pretty uncomfortable and unpleasant. They've totally lost control over their lives, and it's terrifying. In 'Souls For The Master', Don and Ivy were ruthless in doing this to Gerald in the interest of helping the resistance succeed, but now they're finding out what it is like to be on the receiving end of that sort of treatment.

Ivy is sent to assassinate Dr Honigbaum, only to find out that he knows precisely who she is and has plans for her that revolve around bringing him closer to Don, his estranged son. Don is also given a mission by The Seven, but they are fundamentally untrustworthy and he's very reticent about what they're asking him to do. He has to use his own moral compass to find a way to achieve good without risking his actions being subverted by a group he knows little about and can't rely upon. Gerald is the most vulnerable. He embraced Don and Ivy's cause, but now that he's a prisoner of the regime, Sinistra and Hendra are tearing him apart in their power play.

This matters to me because we all know how horrible it feels to lose control, and how hard the battle to regain it can be. In essence, that is the basis of every horror story ever told. Sometimes, the horror becomes reality. In 2003, my husband suffered a near-fatal heart attack when I was seven months pregnant (I'm nonbinary, remember) and was severely brain damaged as a result. Our family has been fighting to get back control of our lives ever since.
Read more of this interview.


Blackacre Rising
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 80,430. Language: English. Published: September 24, 2020. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Crime, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
From Horror Tree reviewer and double Aeon Award Longlister John C Adams comes a disturbing tale of scientific experimentation and sadistic cruelty. The sequel to 'Souls For The Master', 'Blackacre Rising' features a stunning cover by Fiona Jayde Media.
Dagmar of the Northlands
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 203,030. Language: English. Published: September 26, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Fantasy, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
From British Fantasy Society Reviewer and double Aeon Award Longlister John C Adams comes a delightful fantasy romance featuring brand new heroine Dagmar Strongarm of the Northlands. 'Dagmar of the Northlands' is edited by professional editor E S Wynn-Rubsam and features a powerfully evocative cover from Fiona Jayde Media. Join Dagmar as she raids the Island of Orkna and falls in love too.
Souls For The Master
Price: Free! Words: 84,220. Language: English. Published: May 5, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General, Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
(4.00 from 2 reviews)
From Horror Tree Reviewer and double Aeon Award Longlister John C Adams comes a disturbing futuristic horror novel set in a dark world where inequalities of income and power appear insurmountable. "When I first read In The Fortune-Teller's Tent, I knew John C Adams had a talent to be reckoned with." Bruce Memblatt, Kindle Coordinator of The Horror Zine
The Red Dawn And Other Stories
Price: Free! Words: 52,790. Language: English. Published: April 25, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
The Red Dawn and Other Stories is a thirty thousand word short-story anthology featuring some of horror author John C Adams' favourite characters, and introducing new friends in both genres. What horrors does the Earl of Darkwater serve to his guests at dinner? What bloodthirsty foe lingers inside the Red Dawn? How will Gortah van Murkar celebrate his coming of age, and with whom?
Price: Free! Words: 209,560. Language: English. Published: December 6, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Fantasy, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
(4.25 from 4 reviews)
From British Fantasy Society Reviewer and double Aeon Award Longlister John C Adams comes a heartwarming fantasy tale, as love triumphs in the aftermath of carnage on the field of battle and blossoms into a delightful royal romance. "As a writer of horror, fantasy and science fiction, John C Adams excels!" Gavin Chappell, Editor-in-Chief, Schlock! Webzine

Smashwords book reviews by John C Adams

  • Shadow of the Sun on July 15, 2019

    In my reading experience, novels with well-developed back stories tend to offer greater potential for character development grounded in the emotional or psychological journey to set alongside the plot and action, giving the material greater depth, so the fact that the opening chapters of this novel delved into the heroine's childhood and mysterious origins was very welcome. I think that can be particularly important when the work concerned is part of a series, where substantial inner growth in the point of view characters is essential to keep the reader engaged emotionally over the course of many novels. I enjoyed this book very much.
  • Altar of Fallen Gods on July 27, 2019

    The first few pages are awash with historical details and the background of this rich fantasy universe, but pushing past that and staying focussed on Agmar, the point of view character, the tone soon becomes more personal and the action gets underway nice and promptly. This is the gritty end of epic fantasy and reminded me a little of the awesome Joe Abercrombie. 'The day I forget my homeland dogs will stop licking their balls,' is a stand out phrase for any work of fiction. I don't often read books as grimy as this, but it always does me good even if I'm more prone to enjoy fantasy romance, which tends to have a rather different tone. I always love it when I do, a sort of guilty pleasure, and I was soon chuckling away at phrases such as 'He always did have a taste for shit' and 'the fine art of kissing arse'. It's a smelly, soiled world in the Celtic environment after all, and it's a good thing when novelists remind us of that. Roll on the TV adaptation. But seriously, the writer handled an epic cast of princes, lords and warriors with confidence. You need that in epic fantasy and these were evidently much loved characters. Reading book two in the series made me want to read the first one, too, which is always a good sign. Unlike a number of times when I have jumped straight into the second in a series (the peril of the regular reviewer in my experience) only to find the story inexplicable, this was well introduced and constructed to provide a self-contained and satisfying story.
  • Warrior Mage (Chains of Honor, Book 1) on Aug. 09, 2019

    This free series starter features the same world as the much-loved Emperor's Edge books but on a new continent and featuring a new hero, eighteen-year-old Yanko. I found it very endearing that Yanko hopes to go to Stargrind but is incredibly nervous about the exam to gain entry. It's an elite educational institution, so perhaps he's right to be wary about whether he'll get to be a wizard. The selection process is tough and imaginative, but there are only ten places going. Yanko's sympathetic backstory, with the loss of his mother when he's too young to remember her. It spoke to this particular stepparent, and I found myself feeling quite protective of the young hero. I love a good coming of age story but this novel appeals well beyond the defined boundaries of the young adult market and more general readers would be well advised to give it a go. The novel was an enjoyable read for many reasons, not least of all because there was plenty of action and vivid descriptions without too much dialogue getting in the way. I don't really like novels that tell the story almost entirely through speech. I liked the gritty tone, which reminded me quite a bit of Django Wexler.
  • The Last Necromancer on Aug. 26, 2019

    I selected this novel in part because it is set in London in the summer of 1889. It's around that time that my great grandmother and great grandfather married in the East End. They raised ten children, including my grandmother who was the youngest. I've got some wonderful sepia photographs of their lives, courtesy of one of my great aunts, who was a keen amateur photographer. This includes a portrait of my great grandfather in his fireman's dress uniform, and also other photos of him tending their allotment. I liked that this novel picked up the simultaneous glamour and down-in-the-dirt feel of London rich and poor all crowded in together, their lives forced into proximity through strange and unlikely events. It had something of Dickens or H Rider Haggard about it - the grim stench of the capital's slum tenements down by the river. The prison scenes had something of Little Dorrit about them. The better off characters reminded me of Thackeray as the rich drive past in their carriages. The careful use of London geography was much appreciated, especially as the locations stretched north of the river to places like Highgate where I've lived in the past. I loved the addition of magic and the supernatural into this environment. It was very dark at times. This book had a little of everything, confidently handled - urban fantasy, history, magic and crime. A fabulous mash up and a deft homage to the penny dreadful, too.
  • The Sea on Aug. 30, 2019

    Twenty-seven-year-old Louise Richards is a literature professor who falls in love with one of her students. She is mesmerised by the young woman's green eyes and is unable to rid her thoughts of them. This is a very sympathetic portrayal of the terrible consequences of obsession - the spiralling sense of lost identity and the destruction of the personal moral compass. I was reminded of The Girl With The Hungry Eyes by Fritz Leiber, although in Hughes' story the manipulation is more softly developed and of course there's a cheeky twist in this vampire tale. At thirty-six pages, this is really a long short story. I enjoyed it and hope to see more of the characters in the future.
  • Desolate, Book I of the Immortal Rose Trilogy on Sep. 12, 2019

    My first thought on diving in was that this novel is written in the present tense. We're so conditioned to expect prose in the past tense that we take it for granted, but it really packs a powerful punch when we read something fictional written in the present tense. I'll say from the get go that I'm not a fan of fiction in the present tense, as I usually find it sounds contrived. However, I was so intrigued by the premise of the novel, that Roseline loses everything and everyone she cares about in a single night and ends up married to a cruel abuser, that I was determined to plough on. I'm really glad that I did. The first person point of view was essential for this heart wrenching but life-affirming tale of personal resilience and survival. Roseline was an inspiration. I even embraced the use of the present tense, understanding as I pressed on that it was an absolutely necessary reflection of the immediacy of the danger that Roseline finds herself in. The descriptions were very graphic and the trigger warning that begins this novel was a good move bearing in mind it is suggested for teens as well as adults. Emotionally there was a sadness there that stayed with me even after I'd finished when I thought about everything that the heroine goes through. I really came to care about Roseline as I was reading this novel and hope she finds happiness and contentment as the series progresses. She deserves to! This was an excellent novel, and I applaud the author was addressing real and serious issues via the medium of thoughtfully written fiction with tact and humanity.
  • Devil's Bargain by Andi Marquette on Sep. 22, 2019

    Pirates and vampires? Count me in! I'm not sure whether it's because we've just been watching Poldark here in the UK, or whether it's because my late mother's family come from Devon, or perhaps it's the sight of Arya Stark heading off on the ocean wave this year, but I can't get enough of pirates right now. And I always love a good strong vampire tale. In some ways, the two groups are quite similar. Both live by their own rules, are shunned or misunderstood by the majority world and spend most of their time away the middle of nowhere where they feel most at home (on land or on the waves) until circumstances force them back into a closer contact with urban environments such as the bustling quays of a fishing port or the teeming streets of London. I'd say marrying the two groups together has alot to recommend it and present a fertile opportunity for fiction. Sarah's the sort of heroine you know from the off is going to be able to hold her own in a physically challenging environment. I loved that the plucky lass out taking on ship's captains and hoping for a command of her own was actually Lady Sarah Churchill travelling incognito and giving up a life of privilege to make her own way. The details of her turning were well presented within the context of an emerging romantic relationship. My only disappointment here was that this story is so short. I was only just getting into my stride as to how much I liked Sarah and wanted to find out more about her travels in the future. We definitely need more fiction with this heroine!
  • When Women Were Warriors Book I: The Warrior's Path on Oct. 19, 2019

    I loved this book. There's nothing like a confident heroine to inspire the reader, and Tamra was so likeable for her resilience and determination to overcome her many challenges. The writing reminded me a little of authors like Storm Constantine, Melanie Rawn and Cinda Williams Chima. There's an emerging tradition of empowered young women featuring as central characters in fantasy literature. It's long past time. I loved the presence of legends of old told around the fireside by countless generations in this book. Whenever these are present, they enrich fantasy novels immeasurably by providing a heritage for the invented universe. In this case, supporting the theme that women have ruled effectively and ably before and will do again. It was great to see Tamra sharing them with a new generation.
  • Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves & Other Monsters Of The Night Halloween Special Edition Collection #1 on Nov. 08, 2019

    The first story kicks off with a talking spider, so I was quickly hooked since I just can't get enough of the bizarre in horror. Kids are mean, as the subsequent action amply proves, and this story featured the kind of veracity that only a tale of childhood can provide. Nothing is ever so vivid again as our experiences of being young, and we remember and experience them in a way that remains powerful and evocative even when we are much older. I love it when horror is used as a venue for serious issues, in this case the absurd and offensive notion that some human beings are inherently worth more than others. The author dealt with this topic in a way that was mature and reflective, and at the same time very subtle. The second story (there are two novellas in this volume) features the same characters. I'd become fond of Kein so it was good to stay in the same universe. It's the sort of scenario where anything goes, including the arrival of Dr Jekyll and the presence of a werewolf pub. I love tales like this where you never know who'll be coming through the door next!
  • Out Of The Dark on Nov. 21, 2019

    I'm pretty strong stomached when it comes to horror, in some cases the juicier and bloodier the action the better, but I always appreciate a good trigger warning at the start of a book. It tells you that the author has taken their professional obligations seriously by considering what material to include and most importantly by being appropriately aware of the likely effect on their readership. That establishes a relationship of trust between author and reader from the outset. Notwithstanding that the trigger warnings for self-harm and abuse were reasonable, the heroine is strong and resilient. Challenges come both from within, following the earlier strains of life, and from without in the form of the perpetrators of several attempted murders in the locality. This variety provided ample narrative drive and action, and I was engrossed to the end. Above all, I appreciated that Alexa was 'taking back control' because, after abuse and self-harm, taking back control is absolutely the key to feeling stronger and happier again. I enjoyed the potent combination of bloodthirstiness with empowerment, and of self-growth with the imminent threat to safety. Excellent!
  • Way of the Djinn on Dec. 09, 2019

    This is Book Two of 'Angelos and the Dragon Wars'. When I dive into a series part way I'm always looking for the story to be satisfying in itself, even as I know that plenty of exciting events have taken place before and will do in the rest of the series. I don't want it to be inexplicable just because I haven't read the first one, nor do I want every plot strand to be left only partially resolved (or worst of all just getting started) as the author retains the most interesting parts for the next books in the series. I thought it less likely this would happen here as the first book in the series was located in a different culture entirely. There's an art to crafting each book in a series so that it is complete enough to satisfy without shutting down too many of the avenues that could be interesting in future stories. I haven't read Book One 'Valour of the Spirit People', so I was pleased that the Byzantine historical location was quickly established and that the key motivations for the main characters were thoughtfully laid out in a way that told me, as a new reader, exactly what I needed to know without ruining any of the preceding action of Book One for me. As a reader, I was told just what I needed to know to get started with the story but no more, and that's precisely how it should be. I tend to read more straight fantasy of the epic swords and sorcery variety rather than historical epics, but I enjoy writers such as David Gemmell who do both so I did like this book. It's always good to go off into new genres and try something different, and this left me keen to explore more works by the same author. The historical detail was well presented all the way through.
  • Dark Mirror on Jan. 04, 2020

    I loved how deftly this short novel kicked off - the flash forward to a point of real dramatic tension to hook the reader worked and I was instantly drawn into what had happened to Jack at the party and why he was being pursued by the witch. I love it when drama starts this way, with a swift return to the present for the action to begin, explaining how the protagonist got to this point in the first place. I always enjoy a story where magic is invested in a portrait, from books as diverse as Greenwitch by Susan Cooper, when the man from the Dark paints the spells onto his canvass, to other old favourites like Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (where the magic that goes into the portrait is merely hinted at). Here, Brianna's Aunt Aggie is crafting a portrait that will suck the soul right out of Jack's body. I was immediately intrigued by the fact that Aggie was one of the main point of view characters. I haven't ready anything by this author before, but I liked the tone and the fairy tale feel was very well integrated into a modern setting.
  • Dezirah Volume 1 on Jan. 10, 2020

    I love a good dystopian novel and when the cause of the breakdown in the everyday social order of things is supernatural in origin, you can count me in. Each book in this trilogy is told from the point of view of a different character, an idea I liked very much. I always appreciate fiction that focuses in on specific character's emotional challenges as well as following a narrative arc with plenty of action. Here, it's Alexa who's torn between her vampire boyfriend and loyalty to humankind. Love makes you throw aside all other considerations and the conflict was very tense, in addition to the challenges of surviving in a post-apocalyptic universe. The book is told in the first person, which is always a brave choice when there's a long and complex story to be told, but it works here and the benefit is the emotional intimacy the reader receives from Alexa telling her own story. It's also told in the present tense, which I don't always go for in a novel but here it worked because it added a sense of immediacy to the narrative, appropriate in a novel with plenty of action.
  • Warlord on Jan. 10, 2020

    There's nothing better than a doorstep epic fantasy novel that kicks off a seven-volume series. You know there's going to be plenty to get your teeth into. This was a long book so there was plenty of space for the plot and characterisation to unfold quite naturally. It had a very easy style, which I liked very much. The writing was very strong. I also enjoyed the vibrancy of the universe. There was alot of back detail and it made the whole experience of reading it vivid and realistic. Fantasy novels depend on that to help the reader leap into the invented world, and this was achieved very successfully here, as well as setting a successful foundation for the remaining books in the sequence.
  • The Sorcerer's Sword - Part 1 on Jan. 10, 2020

    The writing was very rich and vivid, with plenty of attention paid to detail in the world building. There was plenty of action, and the main plot thread began with a long scene devoted to one-to-one combat. I soon came to appreciate Djeen and Rahin, the hero and heroine, and found myself rooting for them. Their separate lives are far from easy, but they are brave and determined in the face of adversity; in the sort of bloodthirsty universe that the author has created here, those attributes can take you a long way. It's the sort of environment where life is valued little or not at all, or where the difference between surviving to sundown and dying in the gutter can be something as simple as knowing when to look the other way. That kept the narrative pretty goddamn tense! This book had a very polished style, and it was evident that it had been thoroughly edited and prepared before publication. As a series starter, it impressed me considerably.
  • The Emperor's Edge on May 11, 2020

    A friend raved about it so I downloaded my own copy because I wanted to read it and see what the fuss was all about. I was hooked! Loved this.
  • Wolf's Bane: Moon Marked Book 1 on May 20, 2020

    Enjoyed this very much!
  • The Lightning Conjurer: The Awakening on June 05, 2020

    Loved it!