As you may have spotted, things have been a bit quiet on the blog lately – well, I’m delighted to say I’ve moved everything over to my new site, do drop by and say hello!
Okay, so it’s been a year. I’ve been busy. No, really, I have. I’ve been made redundant, written a novel (more on that in future posts), lost some weight (a lot of weight actually), started to wear waistcoats and bolo ties and rediscovered my love of weird teas. I’ve applied for jobs, got very few (read: one!) interviews, done another Halloween reading (more later!), had a few more stories published, started a monthly column for the Impossible Podcast called The Bellows (why don’t you subscribe?) and generally tried to keep my head above water. And not written my blog. At all. However, my friend Stephen Volk nominated my as one of his Next Big Thing authors, and that seemed like a good way of restarting the blog… So, first of all you can see Steve’s answers here, and mine are pretty much….here:
1. What’s the working title of your next book?
The next one is called Strange Gateways – it’s a short story collection and it’s out from PS Publishing some time later this year. I delivered the final manuscript to PS just over a month ago, and the cover is being done by the great Jason van Hollander. Strange Gateways consists of eleven stories, four of which are new, plus story notes and afterword.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
Because it’s a short story collection, it came from lots of different places – mostly from the things and people and places I saw (and still see) on a regular basis in my daily life. It’s about the tiny fears and fragilities of life, magnified through the lenses of monsters and ghosts and poetry and commuting communities.
3. What genre does the book fall under?
Horror. Although it’s maybe a less straightforward horror overall that Lost Places or Quiet Houses. There’s certainly some pulp terrors between Strange Gateways’ pages, but there’s some odder stuff going on as well…
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Again, as it’s a short story collection, this is a difficult question to answer, although I can give you some ideas. I think Eddie Marsan might be good as the lead character (Thorley) in the story ‘Mami Wata’, and I think Johnny Vegas (no, really) would be great as the lead character in ‘The Drunk’s Totem’.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
It’s a collection of horror stories about the point where everyday life becomes some twisted and terrible and lethal.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It’s being published by PS Publishing, the UK’s leading small press. I don’t have an agent as yet, because there’s no real mainstream market for short stories, but I hope to have one in place for when my novel is finished.
7. How long did it take you to write a first draft of the manuscript?
It probably took about twelve months all in – the stories went through various drafts and rewrites. The longer period of time was between selling the complete collection to PS in March 2010 and it being published, such is the sheer deluge of great stuff that PS puts out…
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I wouldn’t, my stuff is unique…well, okay, there are hints (I think) of Fritz Leiber and TED Klein in there (both key influences on me) as well as Lovecraft and MR James. I’m not claiming to be in the same league as them you understand, merely that I’ve stolen their clothes and wear them with pride…
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Life. Frailty. Fear. My family. My friends. Self doubt and arrogance. Same old, same old, really.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Erm….it’s by me, and I’m great! Seriously, I think these stories are some of the best ones I’ve written, and they show me trying to expand where I look and how I address horror. The cover will be beautiful, as is all of Jason’s work, and any book by PS is a thing of gorgeousness in its own right. One of the stories, ‘Mami Wata’, was good enough to be reprinted in Stephen Jones Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 22, and I kill various members of my social circle in the stories. One of the people it’s dedicated to is Mike Harding, until recently of Radio Two’s folk show. Why? Buy it and see.
And finally: A reminder…
The people I’m going to tag might look like weird choices, but they’re not. I’m going to pick people who aren’t established or up and coming in the horror genre, partly because most of the authors I know are already tagged to do this by other people but also because I think it might be good to see how new writers are developing and what writers in other fields are doing: my choices (if they’ll do it!) are Norman Hadley, Mollie Baxter, Rosie L. Seymour, Dan Howarth and Dave Hutchinson. Over to you, guys…
Addendum: I mentioned my third annual Halloween reading, on behalf of Cancer Research, earlier on. As always, I’ve made some single story chapbooks to sell to support the charity, and there are two new ones this year: ‘The Pyramid Spider’ and ‘Photographs of Boden’. There are also copies of last year’s ‘Left Behind’ and the 2010 extended version (featuring new material) of the ‘The Pennine Tower Restaurant’. Each chapbook is £3.50 including postage and packing to the UK, with at least £1 from each chapbook sold going to Cancer Research UK, and if you buy all 4 I’ll discount them to £13 the lot. International postage is more, please message for details. The chapbooks were reviewed here.
Firstly, Quiet Houses is now out and making its way in the world. It’s selling well, and getting genuinely excellent feedback. Des Lewis real-time reviewed it here:
I love Des’ reviews, partly because he likes my stuff but mostly because I tend to understand one word in three, and he finds things in my work that I never knew was there!! It’s also been sent to Dread Central and Fangoria in the hope that they’ll review it – links for any feedback in due course… Reader feedback remains really strong. One reader has said “…absolutely fantastic. the first two stories are amongst the strongest, scariest and most exciting ones that i have read in the past few years”, and another said “…compelling and utterly wonderful…”. I’m happy!
Quiet Houses is also now available for Kindle via Amazon in the UK and US: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Quiet-Houses-ebook/dp/B005WO87RW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319360436&sr=8-1 Why not download a copy and be scared in an ebook format???
Other news: the reading for Cancer Research is definitely going ahead on October 27th, from 7pm until 9pm. I’ll be reading a new, longer story, ‘Left Behind’, written specially for the event. ‘Left Behind’ will also be available as a chapbook for purchase on the night for £3, with some of the money going to Cancer Research. There will also be some Pennine Tower 2010 update chapbooks available (also £3), a raffle for a copy of Quiet Houses, a chance to buy stock from the shop (which has been stockpiling horror and scifi stuff for a while now). It’d be great to see you there, but if you can’t attend and you’d like a chapbook, you can order them direct from me – postage will probably be £1 in the UK. Contact me direct and we’ll sort something out. I’ll also be selling some little Quiet Houses bookmarks (laminated, and signed with a sharpie!), probably for £1 (again, with money from each one sold going to Cancer Research). Want one? You know how to sort that…
Yet more news: I’m definitely doing a session for the Chorlton Book Festival on Sunday November 13th at 2pm in Chorlton Library. This will probably be three stories (dunno what yet!) and I’ll have Quiet Houses and maybe some other stuff for sale. Again, it’s be great to see you there… Full details here: http://manchesterlitlist.blogspot.com/2011/10/chorlton-book-festival-is-back.html
Anything else? Only that I do still have some signed copies of Quiet Houses left to sell, although not many. If you want one (and why wouldn’t you?), it’s £10 plus P&P – £2.50 in the UK, £6 elsewhere. Contact me direct and I’ll tell you how to get your hands on a copy.
Right, I can’t be bothered writing any more this morning. That’s your lot, Lords and Ladies, back to your real lives.
Part 1: Before
I’m writing this sitting on a train to Brighton, and I don’t want to be.
It’s a strange feeling, this negativity, because I ought to be excited; I’m going to Brighton because that’s where the British Fantasy Convention is being held, and FCon is an event at which I always have fun. I eat too much, drink too much and catch up with people who I don’t see often enough, who I admire and whose friendship is a pleasure to me. More importantly, FCon is where my second book, Quiet Houses, is being launched, and I’m very very proud indeed of Quiet Houses and can’t wait for it to be available. I’ve put a lot of work into it, and early reviews have been extremely positive, and I’m excited about it. I’m also involved in the launch of the 22nd volume of Stephen Jones’ Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and set to do a reading in support of the Spectral Press, both things I like doing immensely. Practically, the train journey is a good time to catch up on some writing; I have to proof my story ‘Q is for Qiqirn’ for Dean Drinkel’s Phobias anthology and I have a new scene to write for the opening chapters of my novel in the hope that an editor I’m meeting this weekend will like it and take me on as a client. So, why don’t I want to be here?
There are a few reasons, I suppose. The first is money – I haven’t got much, and I don’t enjoy being somewhere and worrying about whether I can afford another drink or whether the meal I’m eating is going to be more than the cash I have in my pocket. Perhaps worse, FCon might as well be subtitled ‘Temptation Alley’ because of the sheer amount of things for sale all of which I want! Books, DVDs, artwork, possibly people’s souls, all are available in the nooks and crannies of the hotel if only you know where to look and have the means of purchase. Which I don’t.
The second reason is that I’m not feeling particularly well. For the first time in ten years (except for planned absences for hospital stays), I’ve been off work for a couple of weeks; it’s nothing I can put my finger on, nothing serious, I’m simply weary, absolutely exhausted for some reason, and find myself unable to concentrate or do anything without feeling dreadful afterwards (although, secretly, I’m also terribly excited that my doctor’s sick note reads ‘Lethargy – Viral?’ in the ‘nature of illness’ section. Lethargy! Marvellous!!). Travelling, tiresome at the best of times, seems all the harder now and getting to the station this morning was hard work despite the unexpected and unseasonal sun and warmth.
Both of those are irritants, though, not enough to stop me looking forward to the coming weekend, so what, you might legitimately ask, is my problem? Simple: this is one of those rare moments I’m able to share some element of writing and what it leads to with other people, and the person I want to share it with isn’t here. Let me explain: writing, contrary to what some authors say, is not hard work. It’s difficult, to be sure, can be complex and tiring and frustrating and time-consuming, but it’s not physically damaging (unless you accidentally stab yourself in the eye with a pencil) or dangerous (unless you write something unpleasant an author who’s bigger than you. People’s lives do not depend on what we write, yet some authors talk about writing as though it’s akin to brain surgery or mining or bare knuckle fighting, and you know what? It’s not, and they need to get a sense of perspective about what they’re doing. It is, though, a mostly solitary occupation; not lonely, exactly, but internal and closed in. I spend more time inside my own head than anywhere else, in places that no one else can follow me, and you know what? That’s fine. Honestly.
What that means, though, is that on the rare occasions when I can share the experiences, it feels important to do it with the person who probably most deserves to be there. My wife, Wendy, puts up with my moods, with my clattering around the house muttering to myself about story details, with my swearing and with pimping my good reviews upon her, so it seems only fair that she gets to join in the few good bits that are available to her. She puts up with me, supports me and keeps me sane. She comes to my readings, and was at the launch of my first book, Lost Places. Hell, she took the cover photograph that Jason van Hollander then used to create his startling, beautiful cover image. Those of you who were there will remember the cake she made to celebrate the launch; those of you who weren’t will have to settle for imagination and jealousy. My second book is a big deal for me and I wish I could share its emergence into the world with Wendy, because she’s been, in lots of ways, as important in its creation as I have. However, finances and childcare have prevented her coming with me.
So, I’m not in the best frame of mind for Brighton, not really. Right now, it feels like a chore rather than something to be excited about. Oh, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it when I get there, and that it’ll all go smoothly, but at this point I feel old and tired and I miss my wife and son. I know, I know; I should stop moaning, think positively and basically cheer the fuck up, but I’m can’t. Well, okay, I won’t; for now, I’m going to wallow, in the hope that all my sourness is wallowed out by the time I hit Brighton. Call it gathering myself, if you want to put a more positive spin on it; call it whatever you like, but it’s something I need to do. FCon is fun, yes, but it’s also work, a public performance lasting two days or so, where I represent my writing and Dark Continents Publishing, and I need to be able to give a good account of myself. I have to have my game face on every time I leave my room.
We’re approaching London, and then it’s an hour to Brighton. Enough time to drag myself together? I think so. I know myself well enough to know that these moods tends to be short-lived, and that they’re curable with good company and beer and pizza, all of which I know FCon can provide. Already, I can feel a little bead of excitement, twisting and turning and growing inside me. Do I wish Wendy was here, that I had more money, that I felt better? Yes. Will I enjoy this, be able to feel pride at what I’m achieving with my writing? I hope so. Watch this space.
Part 2: After
So, it’s all over. I’m on a train back from Brighton, and the first question is, do I feel any better? And the answer is, Yes and No.
No because I’m still feeling lousy, although not as lousy as I did. The weariness is still with me, so much so that I thought I might fall asleep before my reading on Friday night, and I had to go for a sleep on Saturday afternoon – and no, it wasn’t alcohol assisted. I have missed my wife and son, and still wish they could both have been with me, and I’m looking forward to seeing them later. There’s wine chilling and I’m looking forward to slumping on the sofa and having a drink and a hug.
It’s Yes, of course, because I have had an absolute whale of a time, despite my initial misgivings. I think I always knew I would, and yes yes yes I know I was being a moaning arse on the way down, but there’s always that worry, isn’t there? Would my mood not lift? Would I feel too ill to really enjoy it? Would anyone buy the damned the book or come to the damned reading? These little uncertainties come with me everywhere I go, as much a part of me as my breathing or my taste in shirts or my grouchiness. This might be horrible, this might the time that it all goes to shit. Well, it might.
…but it’s never like that, not at FCon anyway, and it starts before I even get there because I met with the impressively tattooed Simon Marshall-Jones and his wife, the equally impressively tattooed Liz, on the train out of London. Simon is the brains behind the relatively new Spectral Press, and is publishing my chapbook ‘Rough Music’ next year and a full collection of my stories in 2013, so it was good to catch up with him. Within minutes of the getting to the hotel, I’d met up with Sarah Pinborough, Mark Morris, Rob Shearman, Gary and Emily McMahon, DCP’s Adrian Chamberlain (and, it has to be said, sneaked in to the dealers room and checked out Quiet Houses, but more on that later!), Ray Russell and too many other people to mention. What it’s easy to forget (or, perhaps more accurately, what I sometimes forget) when you only see them once a year is that this is a community of people who are, in general, incredibly supportive, smart, witty and fundamentally damned nice. Going to FCon feels, in a weird way that I’ve not been able to completely pin down, like going to a second home, finding myself in a space where I feel safe and trusted and welcomed and wanted. Lovely.
Friday was the harder of the days, because my reading (shared with Gary McMahon and introduced by Simon Marshall-Jones) wasn’t until half ten in the evening, so I had to stay awake and sober for that, which I did. Before then, I was interviewed by Peter bell for the Impossible Podcast, which was fun (note to self: don’t bother moving your hands about when being interviewed for radio or podcast, no one can see you and they just be confused by the sound of your shirtsleeves flapping). In a surprisingly full room, Gary read part of his new novel, and it’s as bleak and brilliant as his work always is, and then (assisted by the guest voice of Emily McMahon) I read my story ‘Borough Station’. We had a good crowd, who laughed and groaned in all the right places, and it all seemed to go down well. I signed a copy of Lost Places that someone had bought along specially, which was really nice, and then it was off to the bar and then a relatively early night and sleep.
The first thing I had to do ‘officially’ on Saturday was the signing for the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 22, but before then I sold the very first copy of Quiet Houses at just after 10 in the morning! Quiet Houses has turned better than I could have hoped; it’s a really nice looking book, and the cover certainly seems to be catching people’s eyes and going down well. I managed to spend some time with Mistress of Ceremonies Sarah Pinborough (the sweariest woman I’ve ever met, which is saying something, but entirely lovely as well as being a great Mistress of Ceremonies), Adam Neville (who was being very nice about my writing without me prompting him) and loads of others. FCon is a continual blur, wandering from room to room and knowing people everywhere; here a Mark West, there a Simon Bestwick, here a Roy Gray, there a Steve Volk, and Oh look, there’s Rob Shearman and Tim Lebbon. It’s impossible to keep track of who you’ve spoken to or what you’ve said, and I know I’ll get home later and wish I’d had more time with this person or that, but it’s fun anyway pinballing from friend to friend and knowing that, just for one weekend everyone’s in the same boat.
The Mammoth signing was as much fun as they always are; we’re fed wine and sign books – what more can we ask for? I was wedged between Thana Niveau and Vinnie Chong, a spit away from Joel Lane and Ramsey Campbell, in the same line as Kim Newman, Mark Morris, Rob Shearman and the great Stephen Jones (who also gave me cheques). What’s not to like?
And then we come to the launch.
We always knew we had a hard job, as we were up against the launch of Jo Fletcher’s new imprint for Quercus, but despite that, we did pretty well I think. People came, and they bought. The free wine was pretty rough, the cake was good and we made a good impression of ourselves, I think. Dave Jeffrey (who’s small and slight in real life, and a really nice guy) and I both introduced our books briefly, and then we sat and tried to look like we knew what we were doing, and mostly I’m pretty sure we got away with it. Peter Mark May’s Alt.Dead launched alongside us and that seemed to sell well, so we were all happy by the end. I have two books out now; it’s official, and I like it.
Afterwards, I had the enormous pleasure of watching the world-shatteringly good Teattro Proberto (Lord and Lady Probert’s theatrical company) perform the entirety of the 1970s horror movie Blood on Satan’s Claw as a pantomime and, a little later, their take on the 1960s movie Corruption. I laughed so hard that it made my eyes hurt, and I may never be the same again. John Probert is a man whose sartorial elegance runs ahead of my own, and was one of the first people I spoke to at my first FCon 3 years ago; he and Ray Russell and Reggie Oliver were my FCon welcoming committee in 2008, and I genuinely can’t imagine a nicer group of men or a better way to start my FCon life than drinking in a bar with them. I didn’t watch much of the burlesque, although I may never forget the look of joy on Graham Joyce’s face as he intoned the words, “Contra-directional tassel rotation! Amazing!”
And then there was the disco. Now, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m not really a dancer – I tend to dance like a goth with its arse on fire, a situation made worse by the fact that I wear cowboy boots, which aren’t what you’d call boogying shoes. However, within minutes of getting in there, Sarah Pinborough (who’s small and blond but impossible to refuse to when she’s decided something needs to happen) had dragged me onto the dance floor and, if I’m honest, I stayed there most of the evening. I can honestly say I’ve not danced that much in years, mostly because every time I tried to slope off to the side for a quiet drink, some bugger would drag me back onto the floor. I finally quit at about 2, but I’m told it went on until after 3. Rio Youers, spinning the wheels of steel alongside Guy Adams, was a cheesily impressive DJ, and I can only hope that FCon turns the disco into a tradition because it massive fun.
And now it’s back home, and I’m a bit down about that because I know it’s at least a year before it all happens again (in Corby, if you’re interested; I’m hoping to go because I think my PS collection my launch there and besides, it’ll be fun, and I think curiously important for me to be there, because there’s a weird sort of grounding to be had at places like FCon). I’ll miss the sheer cheerful chaos of it all, of being able to walk from one room to another and see 10 people on the journey that you know and another 10 that you don’t and speak to all of them, of being, for just a couple of days, in a place where you can share the stupidities and irritations and joys of writing with people who not only understand but live them as well, of being among friends, able to share their good news and successes and commiserate their frustrations and share your own. Would I want to do FCon every weekend? No, but once a year is good, a healthy shucking off of our responsibilities and real lives for a weekend, a place to recharge and vent and grin and stagger and eat and like and love and sell and buy and sign and boast and let the guards down. And drink, let’s not forget drink.
So, after all of my grousing and worrying on the way down, was it worth it? Yes, absolutely; I met old friends that I don’t see often enough and made new ones that I want to see again, I’ve sold books and signed books, bought a few books (not many, though, I promise), won some books in the raffle, eaten fish and chips, danced until I was breathless, talked to an agent, shaken the hand of the man who wrote and then directed Oktober, been asked to contribute to an anthology and attend a ghost story telling weekend, been complimented and given out compliments, drunk beer and overpriced coke, slept in, told stories, heard stories. This is FCon in all its mad glory and you know what? I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Another longer gap between blogs than I anticipated, but what can you do when your bones are essentially lazy? Anyway, I have news!
The first thing is that my story ‘SpinBot’ has been accepted for inclusion in IDW’s Zombies vs Robots anthology. Zombies vs Robots is a series of graphic novels about (guess!) a world overrun by zombies where robots are used to combat the threat, and it’s great to be included. My story is set in the UK and is far more mayhem-ish that my normal stuff, and I’m really pleased with it. Here’s the actual ZvR press release:
HIT GRAPHIC NOVELS GET LITERARY TREATMENT
IDW Unleashes Prose Program for Breakout Comic Series:
ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS
35 Writers Explore, Expand and Remix ZvR World
San Diego, CA (September 6, 2011)—IDW’s gleefully subversive ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS comic book series from creators Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood will soon be eating readers’ brains from the inside via a series of short stories, novellas and more. As announced at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con in July, the company plans for an ambitious slate of original prose stories set at different points in this epic adventure of a zombie apocalypse. In ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS, the clanking robots are built to fight the shambling braineaters, in a desperate attempt to save Earth’s dwindling population.
“It’s gratifying to see that ZvR has taken on an unlife of its own,” asserts Ryall, series co-creator and Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief for IDW. “Expanding from comics into prose is a logical progression, though as the heretofore sole writer of the series I must admit that letting other writers into our subversive little world was at first troubling. But now I’m fine with it. Really. Mostly. Especially since editor Jeff Conner has corralled such a talented array of writers to tackle some really bizarre and creative prose stories. As long as no one expects me to let them write ZvR comics, too…”
A lurching cohort of writers—including such notable talents as John Shirley, Nancy A. Collins, Rio Youers, Brea Grant, Steve Rasnic Tem, Amber Benson, James A. Moore, Rachel Swirsky, Norman Prentiss, and John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow, led by Ryall himself—has been assembled to pen original stories of life during wartime in the ZVR world. “It’s our biggest project so far,” states Conner, the IDW contributing editor helming the ZVR prose program. “In a way it’s a follow-up to our Classics Mutilated release, at least in terms of its anything goes spirit. The results so far have been—um, riveting.”
The rest of the ZVR writer roster includes: Dale Bailey, Amelia Beamer, Jesse Bullington, Simon Clark, Lincoln Crisler, Stephen Dedman, Rain Graves, Rhodi Hawk, Robert Hood, Stephen Graham Jones, Nicholas Kaufmann, Steven Lockley, Nick Mamatas, Jonathan McGoran, Joe McKinney, Gary McMahon, Mark Morris, Bobby Nash, Yvonne Navarro, Hank Schwaeble, Ekaterina Sedia, Sean Taylor, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Kaaron Warren, and Don Webb.A film version of ZVR is currently in development through Sony Pictures, with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes as producer.
Sounds pretty good, huh? And I’m in there…
Other news: Quiet Houses is done and printed! Stocks have arrived, and the launch is ready for 8pm on the Saturday night at FCon, being held alongside my friend Dave Jeffreys’ Campfire Chillers and the Hersham Horror anthology Alt.Dead. Marvellous. My other work at FCon includes a reading at 10.30 on the Friday night (shared with Gary McMahon, so it’s short – it’s a Spectral Press reading, so hosted by Simon Marshall-Jones) and a signing for The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 22 on Saturday afternoon. At some point, I’m being interviewed for Peter Bell’s Impossible Podcast (he’s also reviewed Quiet Houses, and the review is out soon, so fingers crossed he likes it or it’s going to be an uncomfortable interview!!). I’m, as ever, looking forward to catching up with everyone at FCon, especially the friends I don’t see often enough – Steve Volk, Gary McMahon and the rest of the assorted miscreants that I call my chums. I’ll post pictures and a review and (possibly) any apologies I owe after I get back…
Quiet Houses has had another excellent review, incidentally! It’s been reviewed at Shock Room Horror, and the review can be read here:
One last thing about Quiet Houses: it can now be pre-ordered at the Dark Continents’ website (www.darkcontinents.com). Alternatively, if you want a signed copy, you can buy directly from me – message me direct and I’ll give you details. It’ll be £12.50 Uk and £16 the rest of the world (inc. P&P) if you buy from me, but hurry – over half of the copies I’ve ordered have been reserved or already paid for. Move fast, lords and ladies, they’re going fast…
One last thing: a date for your diaries. On October 27th, I’m doing another Horror at Halloween reading for the Morecambe Cancer Research Shop. I’ll be reading three stories, including the world premier of my latest story, written especially for the event and set in the shop itself (or at least, an off-kilter version of it). As with last year, I’ll be producing and selling chapbooks of various stories as well as copies of the Spectrum Collection and Quiet Houses and the shop will make money on each copy that I sell. Refreshments will be available (including cupcakes make by my better half), you can browse and purchase the shop’s stock of DVDs, books and music, and there’ll be a raffle for prizes yet to be determined but which will be pretty darn good! It promises to be another great night, so please come along if you can. Oh, and it’s free entry!
Right, on with the novel. Back to your lives, folks, I’m finished.
So: what’s been happening?
Well, we’re into the boring phase of publishing. I’m currently checking (with an eagle-eyed, fine toothed comb) the manuscript for Quiet Houses, picking out where the software conversion has buggered the layout, where my poor typing and struggling brain have led to misspellings, etc – the intention is to have this done in the next week and then I genuinely think that we’re done and it can be sent off. The launch event is shaping up well, and we’ll definitely have free wine available! Rather nicely, Quiet Houses has already garnered three really positive advance reviews, from the award-winning Ginger Nuts of Horror blog, David Longhorn of the highly respected Supernatural Tales and Sean Smith at his blog. The reviews can be seen here:
Also, my ebook, Uneasy Tales has received a nice review here:
Remember, Uneasy Tales can be purchased from Amazon or Smashwords! And Quiet Houses can be ordered from http://www.darkcontinents.com, or from me direct if you want a signed copy. Well? What are you waiting for?
So, other news. Some of you may know that I’m the chair of a small charity providing support to people who help care for their ill or disabled relatives or friends. Well, the charity (Lonsdale District Carers) has just lost most of its funding so we’re looking at other ways of raising money, and one way is that I’m going to edit an ebook anthology with all the profits made going to the organisation. So far, having abused my friendships something rotten, the following people have agreed to be involved (in no particular order):
Mathew F Riley
Daniel I Russell
Jason van Hollander
Oh, and some bloke called Simon Kurt Unsworth will write something for it as well
Some line-up, huh? And we’re hoping for more yet! It’s going to be a big project, and I’m really pleased to say that Simon Marshall-Jones from Spectral Press has come on board as co-editor. Although it’ll initially be an ebook, we’re looking at possibly producing limited numbers of a treebook version, but first we’ll see what the response to the ebook is… The title is The Unsung, and it won’t be a book of stories about carers, although some of the tales will touch on illness, disability and the emotional responses we go though. It’ll be mostly reprints, but there will be new some stuff in there – and it won’t just be stories! No, we’ll have poetry, some artwork, and each author will hopefully write a ‘when it all went wrong’ or ‘when it worked out well’ paragraph for us as well. Initial thoughts is to have this out at the beginning of December, and it’ll be available from all the usual places plus directly from me and Simon. Of course, if you can’t wait until then to support this great cause, contact me direct and I’ll tell you how to donate to Lonsdale District Carers directly…
I’m writing again, incidentally: I’m most of the way through the story for the Cancer Research reading, and it’s going well so far. The reading, on October 27th, is also shaping up nicely: I have a good idea of which 3 stories I’m reading, and have decided already which stories I’ll produce as chapbooks to sell on the night. Wendy is definitely making cupcakes to sell, and the shop is already putting aside appropriate stock – horror and scifi novels and DVDs, etc.
Right, enough self-aggrandising and self-promotion! Back to your lives, Lords and Ladies, there’s nothing more to see here…
Okay, so, more news!
Firstly, the Quiet Houses launch has been formally confirmed as taking place on Saturday 1st October at 8pm, in the Bar Rogue of the Royal Albion Hotel, during FantasyCon! Huzzah! The launch will be shared with DCP stablemate Dave Jeffrey’s Campfire Chillers and the Hersham Horrors anthology Alt-Dead. So, as well as being able to get my book you’ll be able to pick up those two fine tomes as well. And, of course (just to encourage you to come in the room), there’ll be free wine. Yes, that’s right, FREE wine. I’ll also be wearing a lovely garish shirt (I’ve not yet decided which one yet…watch this space!) and I promise to stay sober and write nice things in your book (unless you want me to write something unpleasant?). So, what’s stopping you?
Well, okay, you might not actually be going to FCon (and if you’re not, that’s a shame – why don’t you change your mind and come along?). If you’re not, but you want a signed copy, fear not! I’ll be selling signed copies via here (and my new website, to be launched later this month I think) as soon as I get back from Brighton. If anyone wants to pre-order a copy now, that would be great – no money up front, but if you want a copy and can let me know now, I can make sure I order enough. I think it’s going to cost £10 a copy plus £2.50 P&P if you buy it direct from me, and I’ll sign and personalise copies. And, while we’re talking about Quiet Houses, here’s the final cover
Other news: I got some good feedback on a story I submitted, and have rewritten it as a result of the editor’s comments. I can’t say much more about this, as I’ve been asked not to by the editor, but I’m excited about both the story and the anthology. I will say this, however: zombies. More news as I’m allowed to release it.
I think that’s about it. Back to your lives, lords and ladies, and let’s get those pre-orders rolling in!
A good week. Well, okay, a good fortnight or so since my last post, if you’re being picky. Still, better than the months-long gap I sometimes leave. You’ve got to admit, I’m getting better…
Right, so what’s been going on? Well, the most important thing is that Quiet Houses is completed! Completely! On Thursday of this week, I placed the acknowledgement and notes sections into the manuscript and then sent it all off to John Prescott, my handler at Dark Continents Publications. Julia, the editor from DCP, has done a great job is curtailing some of my longer sentences and pointing out my wilder grammatical inaccuracies, and I’m really, really pleased with the final text. All that remains is for John and me to have a discussion about the internal layout of the book, and then my work is genuinely done. After that, it’s just a case of talking Quiet Houses up, launching it, selling it, generating reviews and good word of mouth and it becoming a bestseller. Easy. Marvellous.
The other fun this this week was that I made my third appearance at Lancaster’s spoken word and music night, Spotlight. As ever, I struggled to find a story to fit into the fairly short time frame (15 minutes), as my best stuff is longer than that, and I don’t like doing sections but prefer instead to do full pieces. Also, I’m beginning to realise that what I consider my best written work is not necessarily the best spoken work: the stories that work best out loud tend to be the ones that I call my ‘twilight zone’ stories, less emotional horror and more pulpy. ‘N is for Noodle’ and ‘Borough Station’, both of which I consider to to be good but essentially slight, work really well as spoken pieces whereas something like Baking of Cakes I don’t think would work at all. It’s partly, I think, because reading the emotional stuff is hard and listening to it is harder: it’s slow, and internalised and not plot-driven, whereas the actions in the pulpier stories are quick, external and therefore have a better flow. They’re exciting. Interestingly, people laugh at key points in the stories, which I’d never realised they would do – it’s a good laugh, incidentally, one to break tension rather than because of any any unintentional comedy on my part. Well, I hope so, anyway… For this Spotlight, I decided on an older story, ‘Button’. I spent the week rewriting it to make it better for performance, adding and removing and generally buggering about with it, until I had it in a version I was happy with and that I felt I had the measure of, and on Friday night at about 9.45 I got up on stage and read it. Did it work? See for yourself!
If the link doesn’t work, go to Youtube and type in Simon Kurt Unsworth! While you’re there, check out the other performers from the night: the ace Norman Hadley, whose poetry tends to leave me wishing I could write that well, and the fab Mollie Baxter, who was airing some of her new songs, which are as superb as her old ones. There was also some great short poetry from Rowena Ward and performance poetry from Mihkel Hassan. Headline act were the grammy award nominated The Low Countries, and they were also excellent. Check it out, lords and ladies, you won’t be disappointed!
So, what next? Well, I’m getting back into the novel. I’ve reread what I’ve written so far and have tentatively started to add to it, and will be plotting and carrying on with the rest of it soon. I also have the additional stories for the Spectral Signature Edition to do, and will no doubt feel like writing some stories just for the hell of it. I’m wondering about another Spotlight appearance, have this year’s Halloween Cancer Research appearance to sort out and am going to look at trying to arrange other events in support of Quiet Houses‘ launch (including, possibly, one with Dave Jeffries, whose Young Adult collection Campfire Chillers is being released by DCP at the same time as Quiet Houses). Should be a busy, fun few months!
Right, that’s your lot. Back about your business, lords and ladies, and I’ll see you soon.
More news on Quiet Houses! Here’s the full blurb for this forthcoming collection…:
“Quietly impressive, quietly ambitious and loudly terrifying.” – Gary McMahon
THE HOUSES ARE QUIET. IT IS THEIR RESIDENTS WHO ARE SCREAMING…
“No-one could be that unhappy and be alive…” A chambermaid’s seemingly innocent request is granted, an act of kindness that has dire consequences for a guest at THE ELMS, MORECAMBE…
“I wish I had been right; I wish that it had been a man, or death alone, that had found her…” An unearthly light in an abandoned bungalow resolves the mystery of a missing child, but no human force has taken her. An entity that fishes for children is in THE MERRY HOUSE, SCALE HALL..
“Go beyond the graves, and they will come to you.” An invitation to a clifftop graveyard leads to a harrowing chase by things that remain unseen, their hunger unknown and never satisfied, BEYOND ST PATRICK’S CHAPEL.
“The great delight in being part of the Save Our Shit crew was that sometimes they could persuade those designers of the present and the future to save or incorporate the past into their designs.” In THE OCEAN GRAND hotel, work is underway to upgrade the building but something is stalking the workers…
“Something white came out. Something white, screaming and screaming…” Jobs fit for heroes, they were promised after the Great War. They were given something else in THE TEMPLE OF RELIEF AND EASE.
There is a hidden agenda to paranormal researcher Richard Nakata’s investigations into these houses. A commission that witnesses cattle lowing in the cowsheds of STACK’S FARM long after they’ve been slaughtered, and a reckoning in the showhouse of 24 GLASSHOUSE, as he and his colleagues pay the price for creating their own ghost…
Simon Kurt Unsworth reinvents the classic English ghost story with a portmanteau collection that takes the haunted house genre and makes it scream…quietly.
Because the most terrifying screams are the silent ones.
“A major new talent in the horror genre.” – Pete Tennant