This last couple of weeks has been a bit of greatness and a bit a crap, if I’m honest.
We’ll do the crap first: I won’t go into any details here, but I’ve been involved in discussions with Ghostwriter Publications regarding what I see as outstanding items owed to me, and the discussions have left a somewhat unpleasant taste in my mouth. I’m sad to say that they haven’t been particularly fruitful from my point of view and whilst I’m relatively sanguine about it all, it has confirmed that my decision to stop working with GWP, and it’s director Neil Jackson, was entirely the right one. It came to the point where I had to make a simple decision: do I chase GWP through the courts, or do I let it go? Do I have the time or, indeed, the inclination? And even if I have the time , is my time worth wasting in having to carry on dealing with someone I can longer trust. And the answer is no; the situation, apart from being mostly boring, isn’t worth the effort it’ll take, not really, because I have more exciting things to do. I’ll take what Neil has agreed he owes me (assuming it arrives soon) and then I can walk away from this whole sorry mess. So, the final thing I’ll say about it all is this: I appreciate that the situation is specific to Neil and me, and I hope that his relationship and dealings with his other authors don’t turn out like mine and his did, but to anyone thinking of getting involved with GWP I would advise great caution.
On to bigger and brighter things: the cover artist for my Ash Tree Press collection has been confirmed as Jason van Hollander! Jason is a World Fantasy Award-winning artist whose covers have graced a number of other Ash Tree books – his covers for their anthologies are simply stunning. Jason’s website is here: http://www.jasonvanhollander.com/index.html - go and be astounded. At this point I have no idea what Jason will do for Lost Places but I’m absolutely sure it’ll be superb. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to make suggestions, because (let’s face it) when you have an artist the calibre of Jason van Hollander doing your cover, you just basically say “Whatever you want to do. Sir.” I can’t wait to see what he comes up with, and if Jason says he want to draw a picture of a daffodil wearing a trilby, who am I to argue? Hope he doesn’t, though…
Other news: I’ve rewritten the novel chapters and submitted them and I’m much, much happier with them. I editing them down by around 20%, and then slotted in some new supernatural gubbins, and the finished piece flows far better and faster. Clearly, I have no idea if they’re what the publisher’s looking for, but I can hope! I know I’m not going to hear back about them for a while, so I may well carry on with the next chapters, or spend some time with a new story I want to write about a plague of swearing. Watch this space.
The first review this week is of the GWP anthology Creature Feature. Now, the first thing to say is that I’m a little biased about Creature Feature because a) I’m in it but b) my relationship with GWP isn’t great. In the interests of fairness, I’ll state straight up that the stories in this anthology are mostly wonderful, smart pulp creature stories that deserve to be read by as many people as possible, the cover’s eyecatching (although it’s slightly grainier than it looked in pictures posted of it on facebook and the GWP website) and it seems well bound. Creature Feature’s big problem is that whoever proofread it did a very poor job – it’s got quite a few basic typographical errors in it. The most glaring example occurs in Neil’s introduction, when he talks about Willie Meikle and Guy N Smith and then says that “These three gentlemen…” One might almost imagine that a third person was removed from the intro at the last minute but that no one bothered to read the rest of it to correct it for errors… It’s a shame because these kind of little things can affect the reading of the stories and can be taken to show, I think, a lack of respect for both the paying customer and the authors involved. Still, overall, it’s a good book and I’d certainly recommend it.
Full review next week, but I’m also reading Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which I’m enjoying hugely. Of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that Chabon and I are soon to be ‘bookmates’, as we both have stories in the forthcoming Lovecraft Unbound anthology…
Black Dogs and Lost Places is no more.
This is a strange blog to write, because for the first time I have little positive news and a fairly hefty piece of sad news. Now, that may please those of you who were getting a bit teeth-grindingly tired of how chirpy I can be, and of how positive and light most of what I write in this blog is, so to you I say: stick with it, here’s your darkness!
So, anyway, this week I took the difficult decision to withdraw my work from Ghostwriter Publications. This was far from a pleasant thing to do, and I spent a long time considering it and my other options and studying my contract before deciding to go ahead, but I honestly felt that I had reached the point where I had little choice. Ghostwriter is a new firm, and it has signed some excellent, talented and nice writers (some of whom I’m happy to be able to call, if not friends exactly then certainly friendly acquaintances who aren’t friends yet simply because I’ve not actually managed to get inside a room with them), but I was struggling more and more with how it was going about doing business. Ultimately, it boiled down to a simple clash of philosophies, with a very clear set of differing priorities developing between us. In the end, I came to the conclusion that our relationship was simply not viable, because I didn’t feel I could work with them effectively, and I’m sure Neil had started to think of me as an ego-driven diva (for the record, I’m not. Well, not much, although I am finally confident enough in the quality of my writing to be clear about what I want and how I expect it to be treated, and clear enough about how I expect people I’m working in partnership with to act). Practically, what this means is that Black Dogs and Lost Places is no more, and the other proposed work (the Strange Gateways mini collection and the possible novel next year) won’t come out either, which is a shame. And I won’t get to use the cover Neil came up with, or have my launch and signing at FCon, but that does mean I can go along to that particular weekend and not worry about anything. So, beer and insanity for the whole 48 hours it is then… Of course, I’m still linked in to Ghostwriter because of my stories in Creature Feature, although Neil tells me he’ll remove them from any new print runs which isn’t particularly what I wanted but is, of course, his right as editor and overall boss of Ghostwriter. I hope to receive my contributor copies of Creature Feature this weekend, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I hope that Ghostwriter sorts itself out, because it would be a huge shame if it didn’t, and I wish the company and especially all the authors still involved it all the best with their future endeavours.
So, now I’m considering my options. I’ve spent so long (just shy of a year – okay, it’s not that long but it’s still quite a chunk of time) considering and working on Black Dogs that it feels very odd to think it no longer exists even in potentia. Its definitely sad, but it’s not entirely bad news. Clearly, I hope that I can interest another company in working with me on a collection and whatever I produce can include some of the more recent stuff that I’ve been doing, but honestly, at this point, I think I’m going to sit back and take a breather for a few days. A lot’s happening for me at the moment (new jobs, rapidly growing children, just life generally) that I’m going to enjoy just writing for writing’s sake again. I’ll concentrate just on enjoying the stories for a bit – after all, its what got me into this game in the first place.
Having said all that, I did manage to complete one story in draft, the long-delayed animals tale that I originally wrote longhand on holiday and which has been lurking in my notebook and daring me to type it up ever since. I had a couple of train journeys this week, so used them to get that particular joy sorted, and the result is pretty good I think – certainly, initial feedback is positive, anyway. It still needs a polish, and I want to add some detail about scorpions and spiders (Wikipedia here I come! fuck accuracy, I like simple user interfaces!) but then it should be ready to unleash it on the big, wide world. Watch this space…
No reviews. Still too lazy and been a bit distracted with sorting the Ghostwriter stuff out. Promise I’ll do some soon. Honest.
Okay, Lords and Ladies, that;s your lot. Go back to whatever you were doing, there’s nothing more to see here…
Aw, my blog is twenty posts old – if it gets to 21, do I have to buy it a car or something?
Two pieces of news this week. The first I’ve been sitting on for ages but haven’t been able to post about at the editor’s request. However, he’s put details on his site, so I figure it must be okay to shout about it. I’m incredibly pleased to announce that Church on the Island has been picked for Steve Jones’ Very Best of Best New Horror . This is being released in a limited edition hardback signed by all the contributors, and then a normal paperback (out in 2010, I think). This is a huge honour, especially when you look at the full contents:
|INTRODUCTION: BETTERING THE BEST||Ramsey Campbell|
|NO SHARKS IN THE MED||Brian Lumley|
|THE MAN WHO DREW CATS||Michael Marshall Smith|
|THE SAME IN ANY LANGUAGE||Ramsey Campbell|
|NORMAN WISDOM AND THE ANGEL OF DEATH||Christopher Fowler|
|MEFISTO IN ONYX||Harlan Ellison|
|THE TEMPTATION OF DR STEIN||Paul J. McAuley|
|QUEEN OF KNIVES||Neil Gaiman|
|THE BREAK||Terry Lamsley|
|EMPTINESS SPOKE ELOQUENT||Caitlín R Kiernan|
|MR. CLUBB AND MR. CUFF||Peter Straub|
|THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT: ANNO DRACULA, 1981||Kim Newman|
|CLEOPATRA BRIMSTONE||Elizabeth Hand|
|20TH CENTURY GHOST||Joe Hill|
|THE WHITE HANDS||Mark Samuels|
|MY DEATH||Lisa Tuttle|
|HAECKEL’S TALE||Clive Barker|
|DEVIL’S SMILE||Glen Hirshberg|
|THE CHURCH ON THE ISLAND||Simon Kurt Unsworth|
|THE NEW YORK TIMES AT SPECIAL BARGAIN RATES||Stephen King|
I mean, Holy GOD! I’m in an anthology with Clive Barker, Peter Straub and Stephen King! STEPHEN KING! Details of the antho can be found on the second page of the Coming Soon section of Stephen Jones’ website (link below). To be considered the author of one of the best 20 stories from a collection that has printed something like 250 stories over the years is really quite fantastic, and means my head has swelled even more than normal…
The other news this week is that the final contents list for the excellent-looking Gaslight Grotesque anthology has been released. There’s some people I don’t know in there, which is really good, but also contributions from Barbara Roden, Mark Morris, Stephen Volk, Willie Miekle, Jeff Campbell and GWP editor Neil Jackson (in his first story sale – way to go Neil!) The full listing is:
Foreword: Tales of Terror & Mystery by Leslie S. Klinger
Introduction by Charles V. Prepolec
Hounded by Stephen Volk
The Death Lantern by Lawrence C. Connolly
The Quality of Mercy by William Meikle
Emily’s Kiss by James A. Moore
The Tragic Case of the Child Prodigy by William Patrick Maynard
The Last Windigo by Hayden Trenholm
Celeste by Neil Jackson
The Best Laid Plans by Robert Lauderdale
Exalted Are the Forces of Darkness by Leigh Blackmore
The Affair of the Heart by Mark Morris
The Hand Delivered Letter by Simon K. Unsworth
Of the Origin of the Hound of the Baskervilles by Barbara Roden
Mr. Other’s Children by J.R. Campbell
Gaslight Grotesque is available to preorder from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (and, as an aside, Creature Feature is also available through amazon.co.uk).
Okay, that’s pretty much it for today. May have reviews next week, or news on new writing – the mysterious fruit story stalled this week (as did all writing-related stuff because, basically, I couldn’t be bothered) but will hopefully be done by the end of the week. I’m also aiming to type up/redraft the ‘people into animals’ story, plus I have ideas for a new tale or two I want to start on. Soon, Lords and Ladies. Soon.
It’s been a hell of a year. I found out in August 2008 that The Church on the Island had been nominated for a World Fantasy Award for best short story, and things haven’t stopped since then. I got a publishing company interested in doing a collection of my work (and then more than interested, in that they agreed to do it) I went out to Calgary for the World Fantasy Convention (where i met some excellent people and made friends with some folk whom I’m hoping I’ll know for a long time yet, even if I didn’t win the award), I’ve had 6 stories accepted for publication in different anthologies and I’ve submitted a novel proposal to a major publishing house. So, where does that leave me?
Well, Church on the Island was included in the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #19, which is pretty good, and I did my first signing sat next to an author whose work I love, Christopher Fowler (at FCon, if you’re interested). I was on a high for days afterwards!
Creature Feature (as you may or may not be aware, but if you’ve read this blog before you will be aware!) comes out in the next couple of weeks and contains 3 of my stories (Day Ten, Last Option and Peek A Boo), as well as 18 other tales of giant, wild creatures and other pulp delights.
Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales Of Sherlock Holmes, containing my story The Hand Delivered Letter is scheduled to come out in November of this year – this is a particularly gratifying acceptance for me, as it was the first time that I’ve written using someone else’s world and/or characters (in this case, Conan Doyle’s
Sherlock Holmes). It was a huge test for me as a writer, I think, both in terms of how to do it and also, could I do it at all? When you read the story, you’ll see that I’ve not written a ‘traditional’ Holmes story, because I felt I didn’t know the originals well enough to do them justice, but I’m hoping that what iIhave produced doesn’t let the side down.
My story Vernon, Driving is being published in the Ellen Datlow anthology Lovecraft Unbound, due for publication in October.
When I tell you that this was the 4th story I submitted to Ellen for this particular anthology, the first three having been rejected, you’ll maybe have some inkling of how proud I am to have finally made the cut. The other contributors to Lovecraft Unbound are a high-powered and well-regarded bunch, and you might ask yourself the question, what am I doing in there? Keeping my head down! is the answer, and hoping no one notices the interloper…
And, lastly on the anthlogies front, it is my huge pleasure to announce that the Zambia story (Mami Wata) has been accepted for inclusion in the forthcoming Ash Tree Press anthology Exotic Gothic 3. Again, having seen the lineup of other authors involved, you might wonder how the hell I got in there. Me, too, folks, me too! I’m not complaining, though…
As for other works, the collection Black Dogs and Lost Places is still set for a September release (we’ve had confirmation that we can launch at the British Fantasy Convention, so although this isn’t arranged yet, my hope is that this will happen and I’ll see you there!). It contains 10 stories, of which 6 are new and 4 reprints, and advance word via the blurbs I’ve had are simply astounding. Mark Morris has described it as “emotionally devasting” and the work of a “powerful new voice in horror”, Stephen Volk has said the stories are “creepy and impressive”, Lawrence Connolly that it is “the most impressive debut [he's read] for a long time”, Rob Shearman that the stories are “deceptively amiable, but creepy as hell” and Gary McMahon that I’m a “writer who knows the value of [his] craft”. Jesus! I thought maybe people would like them, but this kind of feedback is simply beyond what I ever expected. It’s enormously gratifying, slightly scary and makes me think that Black Dogs is something I can be very proud of and that people may actually like it. We’ll see…
Strange Gateways, the mini collection (5 new stories) I’ve decided to put back until December, to give me chance to concentrate on Black Dogs, but it will definitely come out, and will be a limited edition of 100 numbered, signed paperbacks. It’ll probably be available for pre-order from about August. In addition to this, Ghostwriter Publications have also released two chapbooks by me, Button and Marley’s Haunting, both of which will also be available as audios soon and will also be included in an audio collection due later in the year. There may also be audios of Strange Gateways and Black Dogs, if you’re very lucky!
The novel I don’t know about yet. I’m still waiting…
It’s not been a year without it’s downsides (although, if I’m honest, not many) – I’ve been rejected from a few anthologies that I wanted to get into, and one major piece of work seems to have fallen through (or at least, gone very quiet), which is a shame. My personal circumstances have changed which might affect the writing in the future if I’m not careful – having to get a proper job is never pleasant, but the one I got is excellent and will still hopefully leave me time to write each week. Mostly, though, this year has been incredibly successful. As well as the writing, I’ve set up this blog and have managed to update it regularly, I’ve got a presence on facebook (fun) and twitter (sorta pointless as far as I can see!) and have purchased the domain name www.simonkurtunsworth.com – I’ll set the site itself up during the coming months. So, I’ve been efficient, written a huge amount, and am starting to feel like a real author now (whatever one of those buggers is!). But you know the most important thing?
I’m having fun. No more, no less, this is the most fun I’ve had for ages, and I hope to carry on like this for the forseeable future!
See you after the holiday, when I shall be refreshed, relaxed and full of new ideas. I hope…
A quiet week, all told. Most of the time, I’ve been tied up with non-writing stuff, so that main focus has been getting the Zambia story sorted. The original draft (once again expertly critiqued by the messers Duffy, Thorley, Worgan, et al) was submitted to Danel Olsen, who seemed to like it but had suggestions to make to improve it. Danel is a great editor, who makes really tight, smart comments about the text and explains why he’s making them (and, perhaps even more importantly, wasn’t pissy when I camended his comments to something I liked better or ignored them completely), so we spent a few days batting around various drafts before we came to an agreement on the absolute last, final verion of the tale that we both liked. It’s been fun, watching my story evolve further than I thought it would. Along the way, the name of the story has changed (from Copperbelt to Mami Wata) and it’s tightened up a good deal. Mami Wata is now a really good story, I think, and although I’m still not sure if it’s made it into Exotic Gothic 3, I’m really rather proud of it.
I also wrote a piece of flash fiction this week for a competition – a 500 word story. Now, any of you who’ve read my stuff will know that 500 words isn’t usually enough for me to get out of the starting blocks, because I am a windy bugger, but I did manage it. Honest. It probably helped that I only found out about the competition a day before the closing date, so I didn’t have time to worry – just blasted the piece out on a train to London, and editing on the train back 4 hours later. It’s been submitted, but I haven’t heard back yet, but even if it doesn’t place (a distinct possibility!), it was fun to do and I might be able to expand the it later. The two characters I created, Cheshire and Poe, have started something sparking in my brain and I might try to flesh out them and their universe at some point. They join an ever-growing group of demons and nightmares that I’m gathering together ( take a bow, Mr Kobe and Mr Twomouth!) who are standing in the wings. Dunno what I’ll do with them yet, but their time is coming…
Not much else to tell, really. I’ve been editing the stories for Strange Gateways, which continues to develop nicely – more news as I get it. Got some more really good advance feedback on the stories in Black Dogs and Lost Places from World Fantasy Award-winning (and Doctor Who scriptwriter) Rob Shearman and the excellent horror author Mark Morris, so that was really positive. I’m really beginning to think that Black Dogs might be a critical (and hopefully commercial!) success. I’ve also had it confirmed that we can launch it at the British Fantasy Convention in September, so if all goes to plan I’ll do some kind of launch/signing there – the weekend of the 19th – 21st September, folks! Put it in your diary…
Oh, yeah, don’t forget, Creature Feature is out on Monday and should ship from Ghostwriter this week some time. 21 tales of creature both large and small, but all ( I would imagine!) deeply vicious. Includes three of my tales, so worth a look in anyone’s book. If you still aren’t convinced, I’d urge you to watch the excellent trailer on youtube (where you can also find trailers for other Ghostwriter Publications forthcoming releases, including my own Black Dogs and Lost Places collection, due September 2009. Did I mention that already? Did I?).
Okay, that’s enough. Don’t want to overload you.
A good week.
After pulling together a final version of the story for submission to Gaslight Grotesque (now entitled The Hand Delivered Letter, by the way), I sent it to Charles Prepolec and Jeff Campbell and then sat back to wait. Thankfully, Charles and Jeff had time to read it fairly quickly and let me know within a couple of days that they liked the story and that they’re talking it for inclusion in the anthology! Hurrah! Full details of Gaslight Grotesque aren’t available yet, but the book is available on Amazon.com for pre-order here:
Looks good, doesn’t it? Charles and Jeff will presumably have some line edits to suggest, so my story may yet need some tweaks, but a good result all round I think. My critical circle, in particular, deserve some thanks for this one, for acting above and beyond the call of duty and getting me comments back under a tight (and entirely self-imposed!) timeframe. So, Messrs Duffy, Thorley, Worgan, Hadley, Marsh and Ms Inger-Monk, many thanks!
And talking of tight timeframes… My plan after submitting The Hand Delivered Letter was to spend a couple of weeks writing and redrafting my planned for submission for Danel Olsen’s Exotic Gothic 3 but, as ever, the best laid plans gang aft aglay, as it were. Danel got in touch to say that, due to circumstances beyond his control, the deadline for submissions had been brought forward. To this Monday.
I have never written so much so fast! The story (still with a working title of Copperbelt, incidentally) was completed across the following 6 days, written mostly in the evening or early morning. It’s out for comment with the critical circle as I write this, so as long as they don’t pick it apart completely, I can do final edits on Monday morning and get it to Danel before the deadline. I might have news on this next week – fingers crossed…
Next on the agenda is sorting out the final edits of the stories for Strange Gateways, which I’ll have done by the end of the week. And don’t forget, Creature Feature is now available for pre-order! One of my friends has definitely ordered himself a copy, so what are the rest of you waiting for?
Reviews: Finally! At last! The long-awaited review of Joseph D’Lacey’s Garbage Man. And I’m sure the question you asked yourself right about now is, has it been worth the wait? Well, i don’t know about the review, but the answer about the book is an unequivocal ‘Yes’. Garbage Man is a well written, smart horror story about waste and wastage. D’Lacey sets up a vast, complex story and manages (for the most part) to control his characters well, giving them realistic and well-defined characters and although the central message (that mankind’s time on this planet may be nearing an end, and that we’re likely to in some way author our own demise) is a well-trodden one, it is delivered with enough style and panache to be original and engaging. D’Lacey doesn’t shy away from some genuinely shocking imagery (the stuff with the baby, in particular, is upsettingly grim). Essentially, this is the story of Mason Brand and some very, very irritable garbage, and it is to D’Lacey’s credit that what could have come across as silly never seems to be anything other than deadly serious and mostly believable. It’s not without its problems, though: there’s a shift in gear towards the end, leading to an apocalyptical climax, comes a little out of the blue, and then disappears just as quickly (which is a shame, as the scenes as the town under siege were among my favourite in the novel and I could have cheerfully read more). The actual end of the book does make sense, and is impressively bleak, but it does seem to happen very fast and seems almost an afterthought, which is a shame given the strength of what had come before. Plus, I hated the term Necrolith for the main garbage beast, as it felt just a little too author-smart for me, but that could just be a personal opinion! Overall, highly recommended.
Good week bad week.
I had two rejections this week, both from the same anthology. Damn. The reasons for the rejections were, on first sight, slightly odd: that my stories were good but ‘too commercial’ and that the horror in my stories was ‘too overt’. Surely commercial is good? Well, no, in this case, it’s not! When I look at the other anthologies that the press have produced, the comments makes sense (and it’s reassuring that, despite not wanting them, the editor thought my stories were good and competently written) – there’s a subtlety to the stories in earlier anthologies and a strangeness that I haven’t quite mastered yet. I need, for this anthology, to let go of some of my more ‘concrete’ notions and try to think about those more delicate, less horrific incidents in life that are, nonetheless, creepy or in some way disturbing. And then I need to write about them… I’m hopful that I’ll be able to pull something together before the closing date that the editor will like. It’ll be a challenge to create something more emphemeral, so clearly I need to put my subtle head on…
Better news: I have another story in Creature Feature! That’s makes three stories, which I’m very excited about. I’m not going to say much about the content of the stories, as I don’t want to give anything away, except to say that the third story is currently labouring under the title In the Kitchen, Hiding and that I’m enormously proud of the creature I created and I really, really wouldn’t want to meet it in a dark alleyway. Or in a well-lit street. Or, indeed, anywhere. The anthology is shaping up to be a really good one, with stories in from a range of excellent authors, so I’m looking forward to reading it. June the 1st is release day, and it’s only weeks away. Hurrah!
My other writing news is also pretty exciting: I’m still finalising the details, but it looks like there’s going to be a very limited edition mini-collection of my stories coming out in June or July. The collection will be another Ghostwriter Publications release (I’m getting on well with Ghostwriter – can you tell?). It’ll be hardback and slipcased, contain 5 new stories and its working title is Strange Gateways. Neil J and I are still discussing it to agree the final look, content, etc, but the likely ToC is:
- Where Cats Go
- The Station Waiting Room
- A Meeting of Gemmologists
- The Drunks’ Totem
- A Different Morecambe
This is a really cool development as far as I’m concerned - the stories in it are ones I’m proud of but that didn’t quite fit into Black Dogs and Lost Places so knowing they’ve found a good home is really gratifying. It does mean I only have one ‘unplaced’ story, Stevie’s Duck – a weird little thing about suburban nightmares and a giant duck. I may put it into Stange Gateways yet, as it’s a story I’m really very attached to that’s a bit different from my normal stuff. I’m sure I’ll find a home for it soon, so don’t feel too sorry for it! I feel a little naked with a stash of stories to draw on, though, so I need to write some more to get my reserves back up soon. More news as I get it…
Reviews: Putting the Pieces in Places by Ray Russell. Now I’ll admit a little amount of bias, as Ray is a friend of mine, but this 5 story collection from the Ex Occidente Press is an excellent read. Ray’s stories are far, far subtler and more delicate than mine, often refusing to some to any hard and fast conclusions and making the reader work for their conlusions. Are there any supernatural experiences going on here? Maybe, but you’ll need to think hard about what they are and what they mean. Are there ghosts? Possibly. Are there flawed and confused human beings, struggling to make sense of a world that’s shifting around them? Oh, yeah! The stories are uniformly excellently written, and this beautifully bound and presented book is a definite recommendation. Enjoy.
Haven’t quite finished Garbage Man yet, although I’m not far off and I’m definitely enjoying it so far. I did read Guy N Smith’s Bats Out of Hell which was fun but not his best, and I watched … nothing. No films or TV at all this week.
More later, folks. Life calls.
A great week.
The first thing is, I got another story into Creature Feature, the highly anticipated anthology from Ghostwriter Publications. This is my second story in the antho, and it’s something new for me (specifically, it’s far shorter than my normal weighty tomes, clocking in at a stripped back, healthy 1500 words). I don’t want to say too much about either of the stories I’ve written for the book, except to say that they’re called Morris Expedition, Days Nine and Ten and Implementing the Least Desirable Solution, and I hope you’ll enjoy them. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the stories in the anthology as well – roll on June 1st, I say!
The second thing is, I finished a story that’s been hanging around and poking at me for ages. I have a particular anthology in mind for it, but have been struggling to make the damn thing work. This week, however, I broke its back and made it behave. Sweet. The story, A Meeting of Gemmologists, is another departure for me, as I’vetried to approach a ‘classic’ form of horror story from a (for me) new direction, and it contains my first attempt at a (slightly) twist ending. I’m really happy with the finished item, and I’ve sent it to my normal circle of critics, naysayers and fanboy friends – those of them who’ve fed back seem to like it (and have made several suggestions, now incorporated, that improve the story no end). My wife is upstairs in bed reading it as I type this – ever my sternest critic, I await her feedback with a certain amount of nervous tension.. Assuming that she doesn’t pick it to pices, it’ll go off before the weekend is done and then I just have to wait the editor’s decision. Who’d be a writer? Well, me actually…
…and this is why. By far the best thing to happen to me this week was that I started to get some feedback on Black Dogs and Lost Places. I sent the pdf to 5 authors whose work I admire greatly, and I’ve now had 2 of them pass comment. Both of them have been astonishingly nice and positive about what they’ve read (including comparing me favourably to MR James and Ramsay Campbell! Holy God!). There’s something terrifying about waiting for your peers and contemporaries (people established and well-regarded in a world you’re only just breaking into) to comment on stuff you’ve produced, so it’s incredibly reassuring to find that they seem to like what I’m doing. I won’t say too much about the specific comments as yet (I’ll save that for when we’ve sorted out an advertising strategy for the book, nearer the time), but to have two people whose opinions is importnat to me (a BAFTA award-winning screenwriter and creator of one of my favourite TV shows ever , and an author who’s had stories in the past 2 Mammoth Book of Best New Horrors), say that they like my stuff is just beyond wonderful. If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be in this position, I’d have laughed and told you to bugger off; now, I’ll laugh and say ‘Hurrah!’.
Reviews: Still not much, I’m afraid. I’m still enjoying D’Lacey’s Garbage Man, but haven’t finished it – I promise I’ll finish it and review it soon. Honest. I did finish watching Neverwhere, though, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Now, I’ll admit it’s a little dated and its low budget shows through on countless occasions, but this is still one of my favourite Neil Gaiman works. It’s well acted (especially by Hywel Bennet and Paterson Joseph), smartly thought out, and (in Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar) has two of the best villains ever commited to screen. Hywel Bennet, in particular, imbues Mr Croup with such oily, creepy unpleasantness that he dominates the screen whenever he’s on. Its vision of two Londons, one above and one below, and its use of tube station names as key story elements (who is the Angel in Islington? who are the the black friars? why, exactly, do we need to mind the Gap?) is imagination at its best, twisting the world into new and weird shapes, and I love it. One of the things people remember about Neverwhere, I suspect (and which probably puts them off from rewatching it now), is that it was filmed on video (rather than film) and looked flat and dull when it was first shown, but oddly that’s not so much of an issue now. In these days of HiDef TVs and DVDs that have to be upscaled (and often still end up looking flat and depthless), Neverwhere is looking better than it ever has before. You can still see its TV origins, of course, but they’re far less noticeable than when it was initially aired. Not perfect, but well worth checking out.
Right. Back to the writing. Until next week, goodbye.
A good week, all told.
First that that happened was that I got my Creature Feature keyrings from Neil J (Ghostwriter Publications head honcho), and a thing of greatness they are too! As a piece of promo material, they’re the best fun item I’ve seen in a long while. And, if you squint your eyes really really tight and strain, you can just make out my name. Obviously, on a full size book cover, it’ll be lovely and readable, but on a one inch keyring I’m not overly noticeable. Still, I know I’m there and that’s what matters. I’m told that the collection will have about 20 stories in, and I can’t wait to read it. Interest in this anthology seems high, so hopefully it’ll generate some good reviews and sales. Roll on June 1st, I say!
Now, the keyring was exciting but far more exciting is this: I can finally reveal some details about my collection! Imagine a drumroll please, and fireworks bursting somewhere nearby… So, it’s officially called (after many permutations and suggestions, some good and some simply preposterous) Black Dogs and Lost Places, it will consist of 10 (count ‘em!) stories and be about 65000 words in total. Four of the stories will be reprints, 6 new, you lucky things! The table of contents is:
Introduction by Barbara Roden
Old Man’s Pantry (first published in the AshTree Press anthology Shades of Darkness)
Dog (new story)
Derwentwater Shark (new story)
Flappy the Bat (new story)
Scucca (previously published in the BBC online anthology A Passion for the Art of Taxidermy)
When the World Goes Quiet (new story)
An Afternoon with Danny (due for publication in All Hallows #44)
Hotel Guest (new story)
Forest Lodge (new story)
Church on the Island (previously published in the AshTree Press anthology At Ease with the Dead)
Afterword and story notes by yours truly.
I hope to have a cover or two to put up in the next few weeks as well!
I’m excited by this. You too? What’s really nice is that, when Neil and I came to put together the final list of stories for inclusion, we realised that I had too many stories so we chopped 5 from the running list (including the true ghost story that had been causing me so much trouble!) and still have what I believe is a great collection. The stories included are, i think, a good representation of the work I’m producing at the moment, and range from classical ghost stories (there are 2 in there) to some slightly more left-field delights. There’s very little to laugh at in there, though. Oh well, I might work on jokes for the next batch of stories. Or maybe not.
In Black Dogs and Lost Places, you’ll find a full cast of ghosts, demons, sharks, fragile human beings, strange places, a hotel inspired by the Nottingham Brittania and a very strange children’s play area, all vying for your attention and trying to please you. I hope to send out a pdf of the book to those nice people who’ve agreed to read it and consider saying something nice about me in the next week (those lucky recipients include Steve Volk, Rob Shearman, John Probert and Gary McMahon, fact fans, although if they decide they can’t say nice things about the damn thing, I want it on record that i never really liked them! whichever of them it was!)
A little extra treat is that I now have the start of another collection (or a mini collection) to play with, because the stories we chopped were done so solely for length and not for reasons of quality (one of the stories, A Different Morecambe, is one of my favourite stories by me, it just didn’t fit properly in Black Dogs), so I’m hoping they’ll definitely appear somewhere soon. Some time in the next week, I’ll start having a think about these remaining stories and maybe touting them about a bit – we’ll see. This is feeling very real all of a sudden! September is still our launching time, so only 5 months to wait! Enjoy, friends.
No book reviews still, although I will say that I’m enjoying Joseph D’Lacey’s (whose name I have been misspelling for weeks – sorry Joseph!) Garbage Man a lot so far. I’ll hopefully finish it this week and review it fully next week. I did watch a movie called Splinter, which I thought was excellent – well made and literate, fast moving, smart, well drawn and likeable characters, echoes of lots of other good movies (The Thing in particular) but with enough personality of its own to not feel like a rip-off. Recommended.
Right, that’s enough for now.
Good week bad week.
The listing for Stephen Jones Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #20 was released this week, and I didn’t make the cut. Honestly, I didn’t expect to because I’d only had one story published in 2008 (Old Man’s Pantry in Shades of Darkness) but it’s still disappointing to find out I’m right! However, a whole bunch of my friends and acquaintances made it in there (take a bow Simon Strantzas, Gary McMahon, Steve Duffy, Sarah Pinborough!), and against that sort of competition my chances were always slim. Well done to everyone who did make it in, and if there’s a signing at FCon this year I’m going to be on the other side of the table being all fanboy and getting signatures. Maybe I’ll make it into next year’s volume, when I’ll have had about 16 stories published. We’ll see…
Ah yes, 2009. Shaping up well so far! This week, I put the finishing touches to the last story for the collection (the true story that was causing me a couple of ‘how to write it properly’ problems’), and sent it off to Neil J. Apart from maybe a tweak or two here and there, the story content is now officially finished. Hurrah! Barbara Roden has been sent all the stories and I’m sure is writing up a storm for my introduction. I’ve decided not to do an introduction of my own, just some ‘thank you’s’ at the beginning and then a longer afterword and story notes at the end. My next job is to work with Neil on the story order, and then getting some nice blurb comments organised for the cover/publicity purposes. I’ll apparently have a cover to look at in the next couple of weeks, so things are coming together nicely now. I hit the world in September, remember! Along with my stories in Ellen Datlow’s Lovecraft Unbound (a relatively -for me- short tale I’m really proud of called Vernon, Driving) and Neil J’s Creature Feature (called Implementing the Least Desirable Solution), I’m aiming to flood the market this year. You’ll all be sick of me by 2010…
Bit more good news: Shades of Darkness, the latest AshTree antho (including the aforementioned not-in-Mammoth-20 Old Man’s Pantry) has been nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award, which is excellent news. Well done, Barbara and Chris Roden (editors extraordinaire) for this and also for their Exotic Gothic 2 anthology (edited by Danel Olsen) which was also nominated.
My inbox: I have a story to do for Charles Prepolec’s next anthology (Gaslight Grotesque),something to complete for submission to the next Tartarus Press anthology (Strange Tales 3) and then a story for Danel’s Exotic Gothic 3. I may also have work on a novel to do (No news yet, incidentally, other than a message that the chapters turned up okay and that it’s going to be a while ’til I hear anything back about them.) I’m going to be a busy boy!
Review Time: nothin’. Nada. Not finished anything this week (well, I did: Mike Carey’s Thicker Than Water, the 4th Felix Castor novel, which was excellent and, like the rest of the series, comes highly recommended). I’m into Joseph de Lacey’s Garbage man which I’m enjoying so far, and rewatching Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which I still love. Expect full reviews for them soon.
Ah well. I have a short creature feature story to complete (1500 words, just a little something extra for Neil J). Away to the keyboard!