It’s not been a good week this week – i just thought I’d reassure you of that before we go any further, so I won’t be nauseatingly over-happy in this post and you can read on. Reassured? Good, then we’ll wander forth. It’s not been a bad week by any means, but it’s not been a good one either. Good news and bad, frustrations and movement.
Bad news first: the story i mentioned had been accepted for a good-sounding anthology that wasn’t Creature Feature (well, okay, crowed about and showed off a bit)? It’s been bumped! Well, what actually happened was that, despite a number of lengthy conversations between the editor and me, we simply couldn’t get it to work. The story itself (tweaks required aside) is fine (actually, it’s pretty good I think), but it simply wasn’t fitting into the anthology in the way we’d hoped. It’s a shame, because I think it’s going to be a good anthology and it would have been good to be a part of it, but that’s how these things go. I’m disappointed, obviously, but not too disappointed. In fact, in an odd way, there’s a part of me that’s quite pleased. The story was beginning to mutate into something that, although i still liked it, it didn’t feel entirely mine. The editor has done a fantastic job of pointing out the story’s stylistic and plot faults, most of which I’ll certainly remedy, but some of them didn’t actually feel like faults at all. to me To get it to fit into the anthology’s structure, and into the editor’s vision of how the story should function, we were starting to add chunks that didn’t feel wholly mine (sentences, paragraphs, ideas). I was beginning to wonder if I should award the editor a co-credit! Don’t get me wrong, the edits suggested are all valid, it was simply that the story was moving away from my original vision for it. Anyway, my plan now is to take back complete ownership of the story (obviously, by incorporating all of the suggested edits I like but pretending I they were my idea in the first place) and use it as the final story in my forthcoming collection. The story’s called The Hotel Guest, by the way
So, the good news: by using the now-free Hotel Guest, I’ve essentially completed the collection! There’s been lots of movement on the collection this week generally: we’ve had title changes, cover discussions and now a completed lineup of contents! Black Dogs and Lost Places (as it’s now called) is till due in September, and I can’t wait. The title change came about because, secretly, I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with Black Dogs and Lost Art. I came up with that title after a night of trying out different things, none of which worked. Finally, in a fit of irritation with myself (I’m rubbish at titles generally and it’s really frustrating – it can take me as long to find a title as it can to write the damned story!) I thought, ‘Well, what’s it about? I’ve got some dog stories in there and some about various aspects of art. Sod it, Black Dogs and Lost Art it is’. A couple of days later I thought of Black Dogs and Lost Places but by then the ball seemed to be rolling so I didn’t ask for it to be changed despite some misgivings – people might think (thought i) that I was implying that writing good stories was a lost art (which it isn’t – a quick look through the links below will reveal a mass of hugely talented authors whose short stories are brilliant). It’s not that Lost Art is a problem – I do like the Lost Art idea, and am working on a story about that very thing – but I didn’t want to come across as arrogant. Consequently, when we discussed the title again this week, I said that I prefered Lost PLaces and Hey Presto! It’s changed! One person has already told me they prefer the Lost Lost Art title, but never mind. I like the idea of lost places and what happens when we find them…
I’ve also had some more thoughts about the collection’s cover this week, and had some good discussions with the Ghostwriter head honcho (the tolerant, enthusiastic and patient Neil Jackson) about it. Upshot is, we’re abandoning the cover we currently have and developing a new one. I hope to have some really exciting news about that in a few more weeks. Until then, all must remain secret… The foreword (by an author I admire and like) is in development, and we have some good ideas for a launch event and publicity to go alongside it. And a gratufying number of authors whose work I really like have said they’ll take a read of the stories and see if they can write me some form of blurb, hopefully saying nice things about me. Exciting times!
The other thing that has finally started moving this week is the novel. I’m currently trying to revise/edit the first 5 chapters so that the publisher can see what I’m aiming for, and there’s been something not working that’s been frustrating me. I finally worked out what the problems are and how to resolve them, I think. I need to completely redo the prologue, and to add a couple of scenes of deeply supernatural horror, and I’ve managed to think through some plotholes and worked out solutions for them. I’ve also come up with a ‘theme’ for the supernatural happenings, and a visual signature for them to evolve around, so instead of editing I’m actually writing again to put these in. Hurrah! More on that front as and when it happens.
Review time: and I’m going to start this with a flag raised in the interests of fairness. Last week, I reviewed the movie Bad Biology negatively. However, my friend Gary McMahon has an entirely different opinion of the film, so if you want an alternative view of whether it’s any good or not, head over to Gary’s site (link below) and follow the links to his review. I personally still think it was crap! This week, I watched the film Shrooms, which was mostly a disappointment. Well made, certainly, and nice looking but poorly scripted and acted and with a very odd view of Ireland and the Irish. Plus, I’m getting entirely bored of movies that set out their supernatural stall only to reveal at the end that it’s actually a madness or drugs-related story (The Devil’s Chair, take a big, lazy bow). It just strikes me that when filmmakers do that, it’s often so that they can have the best of both worlds (“We’ll attract the ghost crowd! And the stalking-demon lovers! Then we’ll sucker in the slasher flick mob! Result!”) and they normally end up with something that’s just mediocre in all camps. Shrooms wasn’t bad, exactly, it just wasn’t good. Pah. If you want to watch a good Irish horror movie, watch the impressively bleak and muddy Isolation. Never have cows been so scary…
I’ve finished Bill Hussey’s The Absence, which I liked a lot. This is a smart, literate piece of horror fiction with some strong, vivd scenes. His characters are mostly believable, and his evil force both clearly drawn, internally logical and at times damned creepy! In some ways, this is a ‘traditional’ horror story (family struggling with tragedy inherits old building, goes there, gets attacked by dark and mysterious forces) but it has good modern spin. Hussey’s evils might be old, but his protagonists’ reaction to it are entirely believable and of today’s world; this is a place where mobile phones (mostly) work, radios play songs from new groups and yet people still die. It’s also, for the most part, well written (there were some stylistic tics I wasn’t keen on – Hussey sometimes overuses capitalisastion, as though he doesn’t quite trust his readers to notice how important something is, and characters make speeches that sound like speeches as opposed to naturalistic dialogue) and easy to read. However, he’s good at characterisation (especially incidental characters – the lawyer, Cuttle, is a particular delight) and generally has his characters act in believable ways. It’s gratifying to see horror novels like this getting fairly widespread, mainstream exposure. Recommended.
One last recommendation – the HP Lovecraft Historical Society’s radio dramatisation of The Shadow Out of Time. Like all their addaptations (done as though they were broadcasts from the 1930s or earlier), this is just great. Well made, intelligent versions of Lovecraft’s stories that capture just the right tone of cosmic horror, personal terror and worlds tilting sideways. This one is my second favourite of the 4 dramas (best is At the Mountains of Madness, as it doesn’t need any kind of narrator – all the characters are reporting anyway) and like all the others, it comes packed with extras. These are dramas made with love, care and attention and I can’t receommend them highly enough. www.cthulhulives.org
So here we are; fifth time in and I ought to be getting good at this by now. Am I? God only knows.
It’s been another good week (I’m wary of this turning into the Simon’s Good News Show, but if that’s life then that’s life!) on the writing front. I spent a very long time on the phone on Monday night with an editor discussing one of my stories that needs some work before it gets to a publishable state. It was a really interesting couple of hours, getting a detailed perspective on how someone else reacts ‘professionally’ to one of my stories. I’m lucky, I think, in that so far no editor has said anything that I rabidly disagree with, and this was another case in point – lots of positive feedback and critique that I can use to improve the piece. It’s particularly heartening to realise that most of the critique was stuff I already suspected (I use far, far too many semi-colons; far too many; no really, I do; it’s just too much). I spent part of the week revising the story in light of the comments and have sent it off. It’s a tighter piece as a result – I’m not sure that I prefer the newest version, exactly, as I liked the earlier version as well (we parents are proud and uncritical!) but it’s certainly sharper and more in line with the criteria for the anthology. Reading this (third) version of the tale feels a bit like looking at a picture of the back of my head – interesting and…no, I’ve lost that metaphor, sorry. I think I was going to say that it’s something I know well but don’t see often, and it’s good to see it from a new perspective, but honestly I’m not sure. Oh well. Anyway, it’s another fingers crossed time, I’m afraid…
More good news of a more concrete nature: remember the creature feature story? Well, the first draft was good enough for the editor to accept it despite the story’s shortcomings (it needs to be longer, especially the climax, which is something I’ve heard before although I’m not saying in what context). Since then (and as is usually the case with the estimable Ghostwriter Publications), things have moved incredibly quickly and I’ve already got a copy of the proposed cover, which has appeared (as if by magic) at the top of this blog. It’s a good looking, eyecatching piece of art, isn’t it? It’s certainly garnered some positive feedback, anyway. And lo! What’s that? Look at the third name down! Marvellous! The book should be available on June 1st (that’s the plan, I think) from Ghostwriter Publications – there’s a link to their website at the side of my page – and I have to say, I’m enormously excited by it. I’ve never been named on a cover before, especially one that looks as fine as this. I’m beginning to feel like a real writer (whatever one of them is), and that this whole writing thing might actually be something I can do for a while. Weird. But fun. Definitely,
The novel work is going well, and that’s about all I’m going to say about that for now except for the fact that I was awake at 5 this morning bothered about a plot point and panicking because I realised my creepy intro chapter was, in fact, a plot barrier. Damn! Anyway, I’ll post more about this as and when I can. Me and Forrest like our secrets…
Actually, that’s about it for the writing. It’s all been rewrites and edits this week, which might be a metaphor for life if I could be bothered to stretch it. So, review time:
The promised review of Bill Hussey’s The Absence will be next week – I’ve been so knackered this week that I’m only half way through it. I will say that I’m certainly enjoying it so far, so unless Mr Hussey shoots himself in the foot in the second half, I think we’re on to a winner. It’s out now so can be purchased places.
I’ve just heard that my friend John Probert’s new book is out, so I’ll investigate and get back to you on that, although I think I can say on the evidence of his previous work that it’ll be a worthwhile and satisfying purchase.
Don’t watch: Bad Biology. This is Frank Henenlotter’s new movie, and it’s awful. Now, I’ll say here that I’m normally a big fan of Henenlotter’s and that Brain Damage is one of my favourite B movies because it’s smart, literate, well made, shocking, funny and sad. Bad Biology, however, is just stupid, lazy film-making, poorly acted and with entirely questionable sexual politics (and if you’re reading Mr Henenlotter, though I doubt you are, having a female lead character espouse cod-feminist philosophilcal ideas about women’s position in society as sex objects for men doesn’t then excuse you from treating women as sex objects throughout the rest of the movie – it’s not post-ironic, it’s just blokes objectifying women whilst and assuming that they all they secretly need is a good shag from a well-endowed bloke to make their lives complete!). This movie was a huge disappointment, and was (surprisingly, for a movie so full of nudity and sex) as unerotic as a bowl of porridge (don’t. don’t say it. if you find porridge erotic, keep it to yourself). Avoid.
The only other thing I’ve watched this week is my son’s new Postman Pat Special Delivery Service DVD. Well animated, certainly, but hyper and bright and simply too busy, and a poor comparison to the earlier series. Not only have the got a different guy doing Pat’s voice (sacrilege!) but it’s lost the thing that made the earlier series so good: peaceful, tranquil viewing that showed kids that calm was okay! A sad deterioration… Or maybe I’m just getting old?
Rant definitely over now. Honestly. Promise. And on that note, goodbye.