TwentyFourth Time

August 18, 2009 at 7:02 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

It’s funny, how life turns itself around, isn’t it?

NOTE: I warn you now that there’s good news coming, so everyone who enjoyed the relative solemnity of last week’s blog and was hoping for another week of non-chirpiness, turn away now. There’s a huge wave of good cheer coming, it’s top foaming white. Depressives are surfing it’s tubular length – look, one just fell in and drowned! Should we worry? No, fuck them, let’s get on!

So, anyway, good news: I am to have an Ash Tree Press collection! An ASH TREE PRESS collection! YEAH!

What happened was this: I was already in conversation with ATP (see how easy I slip into the jargon? I’m almost a natural) about pitching them a second collection – I had several stories ready to go, some that I thought I could work into shape and some ideas that I hoped they’d like. Barbara and Chris and I met at World Fantasy 2009 in Calgary and got on well, so most of the conversations had been more along friendly lines rather than anything formal, but things looked hopeful in the sense that they were at least happy for me to pitch. After making my decision about Ghostwriter (and thanks for all the messages of support that came in about that, by the way – much appreciated), Barbara and I had a chat about the newly free stories. I didn’t think they’d be interested, they said they were, and Bob’s your aunty’s live-in lover, suddenly I have a viable pitch. I sent along the new stories, plus some that had been intended for the GWP mini-collection we’d planned for Christmas, and a few days later ATP got back in touch to formally offer me a collection. The full listing for this masterpiece (I’m nothing if not slightly egotistical and very hopeful), which we’re calling Lost Places, is:

Haunting Marley
The Animal Game
A Meeting of Gemmologists
The Baking of Cakes
Station Waiting Room
The Pennine Tower Restaurant
A Different Morecambe
The Lemon in the Pool
Where Cats Go
Stevie’s Duck
The Church on the Island
When the World Goes Quiet
Old Man’s Pantry
The Derwentwater Shark
Flappy the Bat
Scucca
Forest Lodge
An Afternoon With Danny
 
We haven’t sorted out the order yet and one story needed revising (which I’ve done), so now I need to redo the acknowledgements and story notes, but the plan is to have the collection out in time for World Horror 2010! How cool is that? I’m enormously excited by this development. ATP, as well as giving me my publishing break, are one of my favourite small presses (and certainly are the one most in tune with my personal preferences for reading material), and I always hoped that one day I might get an ATP collection of my own. It’s still a disappointment the way Ghostwriter turned out, but this more than makes up for it. In fact, I genuinely couldn’t hope for a better result. My own hardback ATP collection, with a title I like (I know it’s similar to the planned Ghostwriter title, but I came up with that and always liked it – especially the Lost Places part, which seems to sum up my fiction best of all. It’s all about lost places, and finding them even if you don’t want to…). As you might have noticed, we’ve dropped 2 stories from the Ghostwriter collection and added in 10 more, including some of my most recent writing and a couple of older pieces of which I’m hugely proud (well, okay, I’m proud of all of them, but there are some things you particularly want to see in print for entirely personal reasons, and a number of stories in Lost Places fit into that category).
 
Should I stop going on now?
 
No? Okay. Well, the other piece of news this week is that Gollancz ‘aren’t grabbed’ by the novel chapters I sent them. Now, this may on the face of it seem to be bad news but it’s not, because when i reread the chapters, you know what I found? They’re right. The chapters are dull. Turgid, even. What’s good, though (before you badnewsniks get all excited) is that they’ve given me some feedback and a chance to rewrite them. So, now I’m in serious Chop and Change mode, and trying to remember my new golden adage: Stop Trying To Impress With Your Writerly Skills And Get On With The Story!
 
Did I mention, by the way, that I have an Ash Tree Press collection of my stories out in time for March 2010? I did. Good. Wouldn’t want that news to slip by unnoticed!
 
Right. Time to do some work…
 
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Twentysecond Time

July 25, 2009 at 7:03 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

And we continue apace…

This week, Ghostwriter Publications head honcho Neil J sent me a proposed cover for the collection, Black Dogs and Lost PLaces, which (after some back and forth tinkering) I like very much. It incorporates everything I asked for (nothing too gothic, a doorhandle and lock, creepy overtones without being overtly horrific or too pulp – I’ve said before and stand by the fact that I love pulp writing, but I’m not sure I write pulp so I didn’t want a pulp cover). The end result is, I think you’ll agree, really rather special:

Black Dogs and Lost Places

Black Dogs and Lost Places

I’m getting all tingly again just looking at it… Spurred on by the arrival of my cover, I also finished proofing the galley, which is now done. Acknowledgements, Barbara Roden’s introduction, the stories themselves and the afterword are all now proofed and in the post back to Neil.

I’d just tlike to point out, if you hadn’t already noticed, that I have a rather lovely blurb by Stephen Volk. BAFTA award-winning Stephen Volk. Ghostwatch and Afterlife author Stephen Volk. How cool is that?

Did I mention it was Stephen Volk? I did. Oh. Never mind. Stephen Volk! Fantastic!

Anyway, work on the collection is progressing nicely, and as I get more news about its appearance, I’ll blog about it here and on facebook (probably at nauseating length, boring everyone senseless, but you know what? I don’t care. It’s my first collection and I’ll bore you about it if I want to).

I’ve been thinking a lot about the writing generally this week. I finished another story (which is either a complete piece of junk or really quite good, I can’t work it out), and I have several plans that I’m going to start work on in the next few months. None of them are specific enough for me to blog about yet, but rest assured when they are, I will! I have decided one thing, however: given that there are currently no specific anthologies for me to write/submit to, so this might be a good time to start work on the long-discussed novel. Ages ago, I submitted the first few chapters of a novel to a mainstream publisher for consideration and although I haven’t heard back from them yet, I reread the chapters and have decided that I like them a lot. So, my decision is to start seriously writing the novel. I’m certainly not stopping writing the short stories – I enjoy them too much to leave them alone, and suspect that they act as something of a safety valve for me, but I’d like to get my teeth into something more substantial now. Of course, if I get requests to submit to specific anthologies, I’ll still do it (partly because I love writing the shorts, but also because being in multi-author anthologies is fun and it’s always nice to be in company!), and I’ll certainly want to put out another collection of stories at some point if I can, but now it’s novel time. Time to imperil the world, I think…

Only other news is that I have someone building a website for me – at last! My friend Andrew has been putting something together and we’ve spent the past week sending photos to each other, discussing colours and fonts and arcane computer progams, searching out copyright free images that we can use, etc. Anyone know a good site for old woodcuts that are copyright free incidentally? I have some but I want more!! We’re hoping to get the site ready to launch in the next few weeks, so watch this space…

Still no reviews. I’m being lazy.

Right, off again. Later, one and all!

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Fifteenth Time

May 30, 2009 at 12:20 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I finally finished the story for submission to Charles Prepolec’s Gaslight Grotesque anthology. At the moment it’s in draft, but the feedback from the critical circle has been pretty good (better than anticipated) so I’m hopeful that Charles (and Jeff Campbell, the other editor and also a thoroughly nice fellow) will like it. The feedback has picked up on one or two things that need fixing with the story (nothing major), so the plan is to make the fixes this week and submit it by Friday if not earlier. Fingers crossed…

The other writing this week has been the story for submission to Danel Olsen’s Exotic Gothic III – a gothic story but not set in the traditional home of the gothic (the UK, Germany, Italy, France – basically western Europe!). I’ve been struggling with this for some time, trying to find a central peg to hang the story on. I knew what I wanted to do, sort of, but not quite how to do it, so this week I did a fun thing: I freewheeled through google. A while ago, I found a small document online about Zambian myths and cultures (I’m setting the story in Zambia for no reason other than an old family friend lives there and it’s certainly exotic in Gothic terms and i wanted to write a completely sunlit horror story )so I used one Zambian word from it to search and read what came up, took one Zambian term from one of the search results and searched for that, etc, and disappeared into Google’s merry depths. I ended up with an academic paper about a particular myth, a travel blog about a sort of beer made from corn and a weird little ‘my God’s better than your God’ blog by a kid in Africa, and somewhere in the middle of that, the story appeared. It’s not fully formed yet, but I have an opening couple of sentences that seem to work, an idea of where it’s going and a series of what feel to me like good, creepy images to incorporate. It’s working title is Copperbelt and I hope to have it written in draft during next week. Then it’s off to the critical circle and the nervous ‘awaiting comments’ period. I need it done in final version and submitted by June 20th, so I’ve left this one a bit late. Oops…

Creature Feature - June 1st approaches!

Creature Feature - June 1st approaches!

Final news this week: the full contents for Creature Feature have been released! The list is an exciting one, especially for me as three stories of mine are in there!

Guy N Smith – The Fish Thing
Guy N Smith – The Beast in the Mist
William Meikle – Rickmans’ Plasma
William Meikle – Stingers
Simon Kurt Unsworth – Day Ten
Simon Kurt Unsworth – Last Option
Simon Kurt Unsworth – Peek-a-Boo
Maxwell Dowie – Late Shift
Ian Faulkner – Sun
Barry J. House – Opening Night
David Jeffery – It Lives In Dark Places
Steve Jensen – The Devil Of Mons
Rakie Keig – The Moths That Ate New Jersey
Steven Lockley – The Flies
Kevin Lumley – Le Carcajou
Peter Mark May – Wookey Hole
David McAfee – Lakeside
Robert Morrish – Each Step I Take Is In Darkness
Stuart Neild – Old Slippery
Daniel I. Russell – Belvedere
Brooke Vaughn – Creeper

Details of how to order, cost, etc, can be found by following the link to the Ghostwriter Blog in the blogroll at the side of this page.

My other Ghostwriter projects are progressing well. Black Dogs and Lost Places  is pretty much in the bag. Barbara R is nearly through reading the stories and tells me she’s enjoying them so far (thank God!), so the intro is on its way. I need to chase the outstanding blurbs, but that’s no hassle really. The mini, limited collection, Strange Gateways, is on track as well. I have to do final edits on the stories and order them, but that should be easy enough and will only take a day or two. It’s definitely looking like a July release, and it will be a numbered paperback limited to 100 copies. Start saving those pennies now…

Reviews: The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom. Oh. Dear. Me. Not a bad book, exactly, but not good. It’s one of those iritating books that presents itself as a haunted house book, but then never really commits to the supernatural and bounces around the ‘is it maybe the main character’s madness’ motif as a story driver. It’s mostly well written, although the characterisation is poor and the characters mostly unbelievable, and the ending veers dangerously close to cliche. One to get out of the library, but not to buy.

I also watched the older movie The Woman in Black, based on the book by Susan Hill and written for the screen by Nigel Kneale (of Quatermass fame). This is a great movie, both creepy and upsetting, and it’s an object lesson in how to make creepy imagery without a massive budget or special effects. The sight of the woman in the abandoned graveyard will send shivers down your spine! Copies still turn up on ebay, so I’d urge you to track one down if you can.

Okay, there’s writing to be done and tasks to be completed. Until next week, Lords and Ladies, goodbye.

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Tenth Time

April 25, 2009 at 12:45 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A good week, all told.

Creature Feature keyring - sure to be a bargain at £1 a shot!

Creature Feature keyring - sure to be a bargain at £1 a shot!

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.

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