FiftyFirst Time

April 4, 2010 at 8:06 am (Uncategorized)

And I’m back! It’s been two weeks, but my word, what a two weeks it’s been! I have much news, all of it good! So, in order:

In the week before WHC, I found out that my story ‘Mami Wata’ (from Exotic Gothic 3) had been selected by editor of distinction Ellen Datlow for one of the 20 honourable mentions in her Year’s Best Horror 2 – not as good as actually having a story in there, admittedly, but an improvement on last year, when I was an Honourable Mention (Longlist; Electronic). Now I just have to get in a future volume and I’ve got the set!

I also found out that my story ‘A Man of Ice and Sorrow’ has been accepted for publication in Black Static! Editor Andy Cox was incredibly nice about the story in his acceptance email, and tells me that he wants to get the story into print as soon as he can – I assume he means in issue 17. I’m really pleased about this acceptance, as Black Static is an excellent magazine, and the story is the first one I completed after my writing break, so having it accepted feels a little like external confirmation that my mojo is well and truly back. In a related note, posters to the Black Static forum have been discussing my story ‘The Knitted Child’, mostly very positively, which is also nice. I mean, at some level or other, you have to have some confidence in your work to ever risk sending it out to editors and publishers, but it’s really good when people respond well to it! Needy, me? Well, maybe a bit…

And then came WHC…

WHC, as you may well know, was the single most important event for the horror dude in the uK in 2010, and I’ve had my ticket since September 2008 (!), and on Thursday 25th it finally arrived. Wendy and I set off at 9, stopping off on the journey to pick up some bloke called Steve Duffy – we found him loitering outside Warrington train station in need of a lift. Now, Steve and I have been chatting on facebook for ages, and did meet briefly at FCon last year, but this was the first time we’d spent any real time together, and we might have hated each other…but I’m happy to say the entire journey passed in a blur of gossip, writery nerdiness, jokes and scurrilous rumour-mongering. It was a relatively trouble-free drive (especially for me, as I sat in the back while Wendy took control of the car!), and we got to Brighton in good time.  At the hotel, we found that we’d been upgraded from a suite to an apartment, so the weekend got off to a really good start!

Lost Places - dog-eared after only a few minutes...

After a fast shower and changing into the requisite flowery shirt, we went over to the bar where the first person I saw was Barbara Roden, who introduced me for the first time to my new book, Lost PLaces. This was a really proud moment for me – my stories, in a proper book. After all the hassles of the last year, in particular dealing with Jackson at Ghostwriter Publications, and to a certain extent Dan Ghetu at Ex Occidente, to have a proper company produce my book so nicely was just fab (a note: I’ve checked the book out pretty thoroughly now, and have found no typos – Jackson, take note!). In the bar, I also had time with Chris Roden, and met up again with my friend Larry Connolly and his wife Ginnie, as well as Kris and Charles Prepolec, Paul Finch and his wife Kath, Gary McMahon and Emily, Allyson Bird – basically, I was in a room full of my peers and people whose work I really admire, and I was in hog heaven! And then, after a couple of hours, I found myself on my first panel…

The panel was on New Blood in Horror (I’m new blood, apparently – Steve Volk says we should have had a panel for New Blood and Old Farts, which I think is a great idea and I’m going to recommend it to the FCon 2010 organisers!), and was moderated by Steve Duffy – other panelists included Gary McMahon, Rio Youers, Lynda Rucker and Michael something (sorry, have a real blindspot for Michael’s second name!). Rio and Michael were natural panelists, and talked entertainingly about their work and their experiences, and I think the rest of us acquitted ourselves fairly well – I a felt a little outclassed, as all the rest of the panelists had books out and at the

View from a panel - note Steve Volk and Rob Shearman's rapt interest in what I'm saying...

 time of the panel, I’d only had 8 original stories published. I know that at one point I was talking about why being chased by a giant carrot wasn’t really scary unless you actually experienced it, so I must have been doing something right… After the panel, it was off for a curry with about 30 other people, highlights of which were: Wendy giving half her naan bread to F. Paul Wilson, meeting Steve Lockley (another Ghostwriter, chatting with Ally Bird for a decent length of time and the food itself, which was excellent – thanks to Charles Rudkin for arranging it, and to Gary M for planting the seeds of the idea via a facebook status! Then much drinking ensued, and the evening deteriorates into a blur, although I do remember Charles Prepolec taking the worst photo of me ever at some point – check out my facebook profile picture if you don’t believe me.

And then (oh lord!), it was Friday- the big day. My first job on Friday was at noon, when I was part of the signing session for the Mammoth Book of the Very Best of Best New Horror. To say that this was an honour is an understatement – sitting between Lisa Tuttle and Tim Lebbon, and part of a line that includes Kim Newman, Christopher Fowler, Ramsey Campbell

Mammoth signing - Simon prays he gets this chance again!

 and the great Steve Jones was just fantastic. We sold all the books (which were late arriving, but what’s life without a little chaos!), and I also swiped a couple of the posters advertising the books because yes, I am that sad! After the signing, I had about half an hour’s breathing space, and then it was launch time…

After an introduction by Barbara Roden for each of the authors (and a couple of minutes of introduction by the authors themselves, in which we were all outclassed by the great Larry Connolly, who’s just a natural at these things), we all of us went and sat behind a table and waited, and hoped that people would buy our books… and, thank God, they did! It was just fantastic, to be sitting behind a table with 4 people who I like and whose work I think’s great, and to know that my

5 authors in hope of a paying public...

book was one of the ones being sold along with theirs – life doesn’t offer many opportunities like that, I don’t think, and I’m enormously grateful that it did to me. If it never happens again, I can at least say I did it once.

The launch felt like it was over very quickly, but I didn’t have much time to rest as at 4, I was part of the signing/launch of The Black Book of Horror 6, along with my friends Ray Russell and John Probert as well as about 10 other writers who I didn’t know. Yet more fun…

…and it didn’t stop there! After a meal with Wendy, we went to the mass signing, were Gary M and I simply sat and waited and (rather gratifyingly) did actually have people coming and asking for our autographs. Steve Duffy and I ended up throwing little balls of paper at each other, which was both childish yet strangely, great fun… During the signing, Steve Jones announced that the party on Brighton Pier would have a free bar, so Steve Volk and I were greatly cheered up that our readings clashed with it, honest. My reading was at 9.30, and seemed to go down well – I read ‘Marley’s Haunting’ to around 14 people (not a bad crowd, seeing as there was free booze available not 500 yards away), and then stayed on for Steve Volk’s reading, which I enjoyed hugely. After, I went to see Robert Lloyd Parry’s one man show of A Warning to the Curious, which I had seen before but Wendy hadn’t (it made her jump!), which was simply spectacular, and then to bed.

Saturday: did very little, ‘cos I was too knackered! I met with an agent for a drink and was told ‘get me something saleable and I’ll represent you’, which was good, but I attended no panels or discussions. I did go to Rob Shearman’s reading (which was as funny and moving as all of Rob’s readings are), and then Wendy and I went out for a meal with the Ash Tree mob – the Rodens, the Prepolecs, Steve D, the Connollys and Jason Zerillo. At one point, I looked around and thought, These people are my friends – and you know what? It’s a good feeling. Saturday finished with a screening of Steve V’s Ghostwatch, still my favourite piece of modern supernatural television, and still with the power to unnerve after all these years. Steve introduced it and then buggered off to the bar (clever!), which seems like a smart way of doing these things.

Sunday was a short day, as we had to leave at lunchtime, but I did manage to catch Larry’s reading (with music! he’s set the bar high for my reading at FCon…) and then say my goodbyes and vanish. WHC was, for lots of reasons, a wonderful experience – the signings, the launch, the meals, the fun! Thanks need to be extended to the organisers, Steve Jones, Amanda Froubisher, Michael Marshall Smith and the others – nice one! But, good, as WHC was, it would have been terrible if I hadn’t been able to share it with the people that matter to me. There are too many to mention, but special nods to Wendy, Steve Duffy, Steve Volk, the Rodens, Laryy and Ginnie Connolly, Kris and Charles Prepolec, Gary and Emily McMahon, Paul and Kath Finch, Ray Russell, Rob Shearman, Tim Lebbon, Johnny Mains, Allyson Bird and everyone else who I managed to ignore, miss, only chat to for 5 minutes. FCon? I’m booked, let’s do beer!

So, it’s post-con comedown time now, and I have to think about What next? Well, I have enough stories to pitch a second collection, so that’s on the plan, and I’ve also started the novel The Sorrowful. I’m aiming to find its rhythm and then do a minimum of 1000 first draft words a day – I didn’t manage that this week, but I have done about 900 so far, which is a start…

Right, Lords and Ladies, that’s your lot. Off you go, have your life back – I have about 25 new books (most of them signed to me!!) to read. Wish me luck – I may be some time…

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