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.
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.