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!
I should have done this yesterday but I was part of a mad house, getting ready for Ben’s birthday ‘jelly and ice cream’ do with family and a few friends, so I’m a day late. Ho hum.
It’s a been a good week. I got a lot of positive comments about the last blog entry, for which many thanks – it’s nice to know that what I’m writing here isn’t just cluttering up the ether pointlessly. Cluttering it up but being read I can cope with; it’s being friendless and alone that bothers me! Additionally, I’ve finished two stories (well, finished them to first draft stage anyway). Both still need work, but I’m pleased with them. They have specific homes (i.e. anthologies) in mind, which has been good because it’s meant I’ve been able to carry on targeting my writing towards specific rules/remits, which is a skill I’m keen to develop. Both stories deal with things I’ve not really written about before (specifically, aggressive sex and marauding beasts), which has been good fun too. It’s been odd to realise that I’m entirely comfortable describing people getting their heads ripped off, but less comfortable describing a blow job; I’m convinced that says something very telling about me, but at this point I think I’ll ignore it and pretend that it’s totally normal! I have no idea if either story’ll be good enough to be accepted or not, but it’s been fun doing them. With luck, you may be able to read them one day.
The meeting about the novel was … interesting. It was a really positive experience, and although they don’t want it, I can understand why. What was gratifying was that the problems they pointed out with what I’d written were partly things I (secretly of course) knew they were there and partly things that made perfect sense when they were explained to me. At the end of a very positive half hour (during which time my novel was, gently, strangled and placed into the unmarked grave of interesting ideas with flawed execution) I was asked if I had ‘any other ideas’. Well, yeah! I pitched something I’d been thinking about a while, they seemed excited and the upshot is they want to see chapters as soon as possible. So, a novel may still be on the cards if I can write something that ticks their boxes. Here’s hoping…
My plan is to leave the two stories for a week or so, get some distance from them (and maybe show them to one or two trusted critics, who’ll be firm but fair and not too vicious) and concentrate on the novel. I know how everything starts, and where I want to take it, and what I’m aiming for (I’m not telling, so don’t ask!), and I’m looking forward to the new challenge. It’s all a bit vague, isn’t it? Sorry, but I don’t want to jinx things by talking about them in any more detail than this. You’ll just have to wait!
And now for something a bit more concrete: review time!
Main one this week is Let The Right One In – a pretty good vampire novel. This is atmospheric, smart, moving and intuitive about people, their emotions and the things that drive them but…but…but…it wasn’t quite what I expected, and I ended up slightly disappointed. This is probably because (at least in part) I heard really good things about this book and was looking forward to it a lot, but there also seem to be a couple of problems with it (SPOILER ALERT). One is that, for me, it doesn’t quite find the right balance between the social comment/decaying lives stuff and the bloodthirsty vampire stuff. What’s there of both is excellent, there’s just a little too much of one and not enough of the other. The other problem I had is with the ending (or rather, with the unsaid parts of the ending). I think that, since becoming a parent, I’m far more aware of the impact of what happens not just on the person/people involved but also on the people that care for them. In LTROI, I couldn’t help but feel really sorry for Oskar’s mum, who’s just abandoned at the end without so much as a reference. Surely Oskar would miss his mum a bit? Surely she deserves at least reference or a comment, as she wasn’t a villain in the book? This seems to illustrate (albeit mildly) a problem I have with some horror stories: they don’t consider the wider emotional implications of what’s happening. Action and sex yes, but emotional bleakness? Well, sometimes, but often only in passing or not in enough detail, which is a shame because I’m strongly of the opinion that the most affecting things are located there. Or maybe that’s just me thinking too much about this stuff… Anyway, this is still a good read and worth hunting out, and I’m interested in seeing what they do with the movie of it.
Not watched any movies this week, been working and writing too much. Maybe I’ll manage it this week. Also, keep an eye out – in the next few weeks I’ll be reviewing the second novels from both Bill Hussey and Joseph De Lacey (The Absence and Garbage Man respectively).
That’s it. I’m done. Get on with your lives.