This last couple of weeks has been a bit of greatness and a bit a crap, if I’m honest.
We’ll do the crap first: I won’t go into any details here, but I’ve been involved in discussions with Ghostwriter Publications regarding what I see as outstanding items owed to me, and the discussions have left a somewhat unpleasant taste in my mouth. I’m sad to say that they haven’t been particularly fruitful from my point of view and whilst I’m relatively sanguine about it all, it has confirmed that my decision to stop working with GWP, and it’s director Neil Jackson, was entirely the right one. It came to the point where I had to make a simple decision: do I chase GWP through the courts, or do I let it go? Do I have the time or, indeed, the inclination? And even if I have the time , is my time worth wasting in having to carry on dealing with someone I can longer trust. And the answer is no; the situation, apart from being mostly boring, isn’t worth the effort it’ll take, not really, because I have more exciting things to do. I’ll take what Neil has agreed he owes me (assuming it arrives soon) and then I can walk away from this whole sorry mess. So, the final thing I’ll say about it all is this: I appreciate that the situation is specific to Neil and me, and I hope that his relationship and dealings with his other authors don’t turn out like mine and his did, but to anyone thinking of getting involved with GWP I would advise great caution.
On to bigger and brighter things: the cover artist for my Ash Tree Press collection has been confirmed as Jason van Hollander! Jason is a World Fantasy Award-winning artist whose covers have graced a number of other Ash Tree books – his covers for their anthologies are simply stunning. Jason’s website is here: http://www.jasonvanhollander.com/index.html – go and be astounded. At this point I have no idea what Jason will do for Lost Places but I’m absolutely sure it’ll be superb. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to make suggestions, because (let’s face it) when you have an artist the calibre of Jason van Hollander doing your cover, you just basically say “Whatever you want to do. Sir.” I can’t wait to see what he comes up with, and if Jason says he want to draw a picture of a daffodil wearing a trilby, who am I to argue? Hope he doesn’t, though…
Other news: I’ve rewritten the novel chapters and submitted them and I’m much, much happier with them. I editing them down by around 20%, and then slotted in some new supernatural gubbins, and the finished piece flows far better and faster. Clearly, I have no idea if they’re what the publisher’s looking for, but I can hope! I know I’m not going to hear back about them for a while, so I may well carry on with the next chapters, or spend some time with a new story I want to write about a plague of swearing. Watch this space.
The first review this week is of the GWP anthology Creature Feature. Now, the first thing to say is that I’m a little biased about Creature Feature because a) I’m in it but b) my relationship with GWP isn’t great. In the interests of fairness, I’ll state straight up that the stories in this anthology are mostly wonderful, smart pulp creature stories that deserve to be read by as many people as possible, the cover’s eyecatching (although it’s slightly grainier than it looked in pictures posted of it on facebook and the GWP website) and it seems well bound. Creature Feature’s big problem is that whoever proofread it did a very poor job – it’s got quite a few basic typographical errors in it. The most glaring example occurs in Neil’s introduction, when he talks about Willie Meikle and Guy N Smith and then says that “These three gentlemen…” One might almost imagine that a third person was removed from the intro at the last minute but that no one bothered to read the rest of it to correct it for errors… It’s a shame because these kind of little things can affect the reading of the stories and can be taken to show, I think, a lack of respect for both the paying customer and the authors involved. Still, overall, it’s a good book and I’d certainly recommend it.
Full review next week, but I’m also reading Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which I’m enjoying hugely. Of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that Chabon and I are soon to be ‘bookmates’, as we both have stories in the forthcoming Lovecraft Unbound anthology…
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:
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:
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!
It’s been a hell of a year. I found out in August 2008 that The Church on the Island had been nominated for a World Fantasy Award for best short story, and things haven’t stopped since then. I got a publishing company interested in doing a collection of my work (and then more than interested, in that they agreed to do it) I went out to Calgary for the World Fantasy Convention (where i met some excellent people and made friends with some folk whom I’m hoping I’ll know for a long time yet, even if I didn’t win the award), I’ve had 6 stories accepted for publication in different anthologies and I’ve submitted a novel proposal to a major publishing house. So, where does that leave me?
Well, Church on the Island was included in the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #19, which is pretty good, and I did my first signing sat next to an author whose work I love, Christopher Fowler (at FCon, if you’re interested). I was on a high for days afterwards!
Creature Feature (as you may or may not be aware, but if you’ve read this blog before you will be aware!) comes out in the next couple of weeks and contains 3 of my stories (Day Ten, Last Option and Peek A Boo), as well as 18 other tales of giant, wild creatures and other pulp delights.
Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales Of Sherlock Holmes, containing my story The Hand Delivered Letter is scheduled to come out in November of this year – this is a particularly gratifying acceptance for me, as it was the first time that I’ve written using someone else’s world and/or characters (in this case, Conan Doyle’s
Sherlock Holmes). It was a huge test for me as a writer, I think, both in terms of how to do it and also, could I do it at all? When you read the story, you’ll see that I’ve not written a ‘traditional’ Holmes story, because I felt I didn’t know the originals well enough to do them justice, but I’m hoping that what iIhave produced doesn’t let the side down.
My story Vernon, Driving is being published in the Ellen Datlow anthology Lovecraft Unbound, due for publication in October.
When I tell you that this was the 4th story I submitted to Ellen for this particular anthology, the first three having been rejected, you’ll maybe have some inkling of how proud I am to have finally made the cut. The other contributors to Lovecraft Unbound are a high-powered and well-regarded bunch, and you might ask yourself the question, what am I doing in there? Keeping my head down! is the answer, and hoping no one notices the interloper…
And, lastly on the anthlogies front, it is my huge pleasure to announce that the Zambia story (Mami Wata) has been accepted for inclusion in the forthcoming Ash Tree Press anthology Exotic Gothic 3. Again, having seen the lineup of other authors involved, you might wonder how the hell I got in there. Me, too, folks, me too! I’m not complaining, though…
As for other works, the collection Black Dogs and Lost Places is still set for a September release (we’ve had confirmation that we can launch at the British Fantasy Convention, so although this isn’t arranged yet, my hope is that this will happen and I’ll see you there!). It contains 10 stories, of which 6 are new and 4 reprints, and advance word via the blurbs I’ve had are simply astounding. Mark Morris has described it as “emotionally devasting” and the work of a “powerful new voice in horror”, Stephen Volk has said the stories are “creepy and impressive”, Lawrence Connolly that it is “the most impressive debut [he’s read] for a long time”, Rob Shearman that the stories are “deceptively amiable, but creepy as hell” and Gary McMahon that I’m a “writer who knows the value of [his] craft”. Jesus! I thought maybe people would like them, but this kind of feedback is simply beyond what I ever expected. It’s enormously gratifying, slightly scary and makes me think that Black Dogs is something I can be very proud of and that people may actually like it. We’ll see…
Strange Gateways, the mini collection (5 new stories) I’ve decided to put back until December, to give me chance to concentrate on Black Dogs, but it will definitely come out, and will be a limited edition of 100 numbered, signed paperbacks. It’ll probably be available for pre-order from about August. In addition to this, Ghostwriter Publications have also released two chapbooks by me, Button and Marley’s Haunting, both of which will also be available as audios soon and will also be included in an audio collection due later in the year. There may also be audios of Strange Gateways and Black Dogs, if you’re very lucky!
The novel I don’t know about yet. I’m still waiting…
It’s not been a year without it’s downsides (although, if I’m honest, not many) – I’ve been rejected from a few anthologies that I wanted to get into, and one major piece of work seems to have fallen through (or at least, gone very quiet), which is a shame. My personal circumstances have changed which might affect the writing in the future if I’m not careful – having to get a proper job is never pleasant, but the one I got is excellent and will still hopefully leave me time to write each week. Mostly, though, this year has been incredibly successful. As well as the writing, I’ve set up this blog and have managed to update it regularly, I’ve got a presence on facebook (fun) and twitter (sorta pointless as far as I can see!) and have purchased the domain name www.simonkurtunsworth.com – I’ll set the site itself up during the coming months. So, I’ve been efficient, written a huge amount, and am starting to feel like a real author now (whatever one of those buggers is!). But you know the most important thing?
I’m having fun. No more, no less, this is the most fun I’ve had for ages, and I hope to carry on like this for the forseeable future!
See you after the holiday, when I shall be refreshed, relaxed and full of new ideas. I hope…
A quiet week, all told. Most of the time, I’ve been tied up with non-writing stuff, so that main focus has been getting the Zambia story sorted. The original draft (once again expertly critiqued by the messers Duffy, Thorley, Worgan, et al) was submitted to Danel Olsen, who seemed to like it but had suggestions to make to improve it. Danel is a great editor, who makes really tight, smart comments about the text and explains why he’s making them (and, perhaps even more importantly, wasn’t pissy when I camended his comments to something I liked better or ignored them completely), so we spent a few days batting around various drafts before we came to an agreement on the absolute last, final verion of the tale that we both liked. It’s been fun, watching my story evolve further than I thought it would. Along the way, the name of the story has changed (from Copperbelt to Mami Wata) and it’s tightened up a good deal. Mami Wata is now a really good story, I think, and although I’m still not sure if it’s made it into Exotic Gothic 3, I’m really rather proud of it.
I also wrote a piece of flash fiction this week for a competition – a 500 word story. Now, any of you who’ve read my stuff will know that 500 words isn’t usually enough for me to get out of the starting blocks, because I am a windy bugger, but I did manage it. Honest. It probably helped that I only found out about the competition a day before the closing date, so I didn’t have time to worry – just blasted the piece out on a train to London, and editing on the train back 4 hours later. It’s been submitted, but I haven’t heard back yet, but even if it doesn’t place (a distinct possibility!), it was fun to do and I might be able to expand the it later. The two characters I created, Cheshire and Poe, have started something sparking in my brain and I might try to flesh out them and their universe at some point. They join an ever-growing group of demons and nightmares that I’m gathering together ( take a bow, Mr Kobe and Mr Twomouth!) who are standing in the wings. Dunno what I’ll do with them yet, but their time is coming…
Not much else to tell, really. I’ve been editing the stories for Strange Gateways, which continues to develop nicely – more news as I get it. Got some more really good advance feedback on the stories in Black Dogs and Lost Places from World Fantasy Award-winning (and Doctor Who scriptwriter) Rob Shearman and the excellent horror author Mark Morris, so that was really positive. I’m really beginning to think that Black Dogs might be a critical (and hopefully commercial!) success. I’ve also had it confirmed that we can launch it at the British Fantasy Convention in September, so if all goes to plan I’ll do some kind of launch/signing there – the weekend of the 19th – 21st September, folks! Put it in your diary…
Oh, yeah, don’t forget, Creature Feature is out on Monday and should ship from Ghostwriter this week some time. 21 tales of creature both large and small, but all ( I would imagine!) deeply vicious. Includes three of my tales, so worth a look in anyone’s book. If you still aren’t convinced, I’d urge you to watch the excellent trailer on youtube (where you can also find trailers for other Ghostwriter Publications forthcoming releases, including my own Black Dogs and Lost Places collection, due September 2009. Did I mention that already? Did I?).
Okay, that’s enough. Don’t want to overload you.
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…
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.
Good week bad week.
I had two rejections this week, both from the same anthology. Damn. The reasons for the rejections were, on first sight, slightly odd: that my stories were good but ‘too commercial’ and that the horror in my stories was ‘too overt’. Surely commercial is good? Well, no, in this case, it’s not! When I look at the other anthologies that the press have produced, the comments makes sense (and it’s reassuring that, despite not wanting them, the editor thought my stories were good and competently written) – there’s a subtlety to the stories in earlier anthologies and a strangeness that I haven’t quite mastered yet. I need, for this anthology, to let go of some of my more ‘concrete’ notions and try to think about those more delicate, less horrific incidents in life that are, nonetheless, creepy or in some way disturbing. And then I need to write about them… I’m hopful that I’ll be able to pull something together before the closing date that the editor will like. It’ll be a challenge to create something more emphemeral, so clearly I need to put my subtle head on…
Better news: I have another story in Creature Feature! That’s makes three stories, which I’m very excited about. I’m not going to say much about the content of the stories, as I don’t want to give anything away, except to say that the third story is currently labouring under the title In the Kitchen, Hiding and that I’m enormously proud of the creature I created and I really, really wouldn’t want to meet it in a dark alleyway. Or in a well-lit street. Or, indeed, anywhere. The anthology is shaping up to be a really good one, with stories in from a range of excellent authors, so I’m looking forward to reading it. June the 1st is release day, and it’s only weeks away. Hurrah!
My other writing news is also pretty exciting: I’m still finalising the details, but it looks like there’s going to be a very limited edition mini-collection of my stories coming out in June or July. The collection will be another Ghostwriter Publications release (I’m getting on well with Ghostwriter – can you tell?). It’ll be hardback and slipcased, contain 5 new stories and its working title is Strange Gateways. Neil J and I are still discussing it to agree the final look, content, etc, but the likely ToC is:
- Where Cats Go
- The Station Waiting Room
- A Meeting of Gemmologists
- The Drunks’ Totem
- A Different Morecambe
This is a really cool development as far as I’m concerned – the stories in it are ones I’m proud of but that didn’t quite fit into Black Dogs and Lost Places so knowing they’ve found a good home is really gratifying. It does mean I only have one ‘unplaced’ story, Stevie’s Duck – a weird little thing about suburban nightmares and a giant duck. I may put it into Stange Gateways yet, as it’s a story I’m really very attached to that’s a bit different from my normal stuff. I’m sure I’ll find a home for it soon, so don’t feel too sorry for it! I feel a little naked with a stash of stories to draw on, though, so I need to write some more to get my reserves back up soon. More news as I get it…
Reviews: Putting the Pieces in Places by Ray Russell. Now I’ll admit a little amount of bias, as Ray is a friend of mine, but this 5 story collection from the Ex Occidente Press is an excellent read. Ray’s stories are far, far subtler and more delicate than mine, often refusing to some to any hard and fast conclusions and making the reader work for their conlusions. Are there any supernatural experiences going on here? Maybe, but you’ll need to think hard about what they are and what they mean. Are there ghosts? Possibly. Are there flawed and confused human beings, struggling to make sense of a world that’s shifting around them? Oh, yeah! The stories are uniformly excellently written, and this beautifully bound and presented book is a definite recommendation. Enjoy.
Haven’t quite finished Garbage Man yet, although I’m not far off and I’m definitely enjoying it so far. I did read Guy N Smith’s Bats Out of Hell which was fun but not his best, and I watched … nothing. No films or TV at all this week.
More later, folks. Life calls.
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.
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