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.
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.
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.