Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Things Of The Week: 16th January 2021 (Horrified Magazine, Nine Ghosts and A Different Kind Of Light)

The main event of the last week has been my first appearance in Horrified Magazine! 'In The City In The Smog', a dark and hallucinatory tale inspired by the 1952 London Smog Disaster, was published last week. You can read it here.

I'm going to have two new books out this year, both from Black Shuck: another novella, A Different Kind Kind Of Light, and a mini-collection called Nine Ghosts.

Nine Ghosts won't be out till nearer the end of the year, so I'll say more about that closer to the time, but A Different Kind Of Light will see print in February. I won't say anything about A Different Kind Of Light just yet, but I will leave you with a quote from the novelist Sarah Lotz, who very kindly agreed to read the novella and provide a blurb:

"Compulsively readable, original and chilling. Simon Bestwick's witty, engaging tone effortlessly and brilliantly amplifies its edge-of-your-seat atmosphere of creeping dread. I'll be sleeping with the lights on."

More details to follow: stay tuned....

Friday, 15 January 2021

What's New? with... Jonathan Oliver

Jon's the one in the middle.
Jonathan Oliver is an award winning editor and writer. Once a former 2000 AD droid, he is best known as the former commissioning editor for Solaris and Abaddon Books. He lives in Oxford with his family and fixes words for money.

1) So, what’s new from you?

Well, apart from continuing to heal from two years of a deeply damaging office job, after deciding to leave genre publishing for a bit (great decision, Jon!), I’ve just about managed to pull myself together in 2020 – with slight sanity wobbles due to, you know, a global pandemic – and that lovely chap at Black Shuck Books, Steve Shaw, agreed to publish my debut collection, The Language of Beasts.

2) How did it come about?

The collection comprises around 10 years of short stories, most of them previously published. I’ve been writing for a lot longer than that, but these tales feel to me like the strongest I’ve written to date. Originally the collection was picked up by ChiZine, but then… you know, things happened, and I had to get my rights back. Thankfully that wasn’t too big an issue. I remember Steve saying to me at Fantasycon in Glasgow that he would have been pleased to have published the collection, so I offered it to him, and we were back in business. Steve is wonderful to work with and hugely accommodating, especially as I chose the cover design. I used to hate it as a commissioning editor when authors would say, “I have this mate who’s great at covers…” Fortunately my mate is Simon Parr who used to be Head of Design at Rebellion, so I knew he would knock it out of the park.

3) Tell us about the process of how you created it.

It got to the point where I realised I had enough for a collection, and that some of it was good enough for a collection. So, I looked at the stories on my PC and winnowed it down to the best ones. Then I put them together, got the brilliant Sarah Lotz to write an intro, managed to gather brilliant blurbs from authors I loved, and then sent it out and waited... and waited… It took about 3 years for it to finally find a publisher. Then that publisher had its… issues, and then Black Shuck came along, and I couldn’t be more delighted to be in such fine company.

4) What was your favourite part of the process?

I’ve never found writing easy. I always have to drag myself away from life’s distractions, and then it’s a fairly drawn-out process. I’m terribly undisciplined. My favourite part is having written and having something I’m pleased with. Also, seeing the finished book in your hand is a big thrill. Getting Simon to design the cover and the ease of working with Steve made the publishing aspect all rather easy and agreeable.


5) What was the toughest part of it?

The self-doubt, the anxiety – all the usual author quibbles. The deal with ChiZine turning sour was a bit of a bugger to say the least, especially as so many good friends were wrapped up in the messy fallout. Choosing a running order is a bit of an art too, I think, and took a while. Really, though, I have very little to complain about.

6) Is there a theme running through it?

Those who know me well will be fairly unsurprised that religion, issues of faith, and vicars crop up more than once. It’s hard to pick apart what the major themes are, though, as I don’t analyse myself to that extent. That’s the readers’ job.

7) If you had to sum this story up in three words, what would they be?

Strange dark stories.

8) Where can/will we be able to get hold of it?

You can get the lovely hardback from Black Shuck Books, and in all the usual online book retail venues (which don’t have to include Amazon).

Friday, 8 January 2021

Things Of The Week: 8th January 2021 (Horrified Magazine, Jay Whittle, Ian Duff, Pen of Horror and Ross Warren)

Well, here we are, a week into 2021, and the world's slide into madness has
continued unabated. But, at least in the strictly personal sphere
, there've been a few positive developments.

I'm delighted to announce I've had two short stories accepted for publication in Horrified Magazine. 'In The City In The Smog' and 'In The Service Of The Queen' will appear in the near future. Further details will follow when I have them.

In addition, as a few final 'Best of 2020' lists surfaced in the first week of the New Year, I was delighted to find myself name-checked in a few of them.


Over on Twitter, I made Pen of Horror's list of writers who'd made 2020 their 'best year's reading in a long while', alongside Josh Malerman, Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Tremblay, my own awesome Cate Gardner and many others, while Ian Duff's '10 Books I Really Enjoyed In 2020' listed Wolf's Hill alongside Ramsey Campbell's The Wise Friend, C.J. Tudor's The Other People and Nick Cutter's The Troop, to name but three.

On Facebook, meanwhile, Ross Warren listed his highlights of the year,
which included Roth-Steyr.

And last but far from least, Jay Whittle published his Four Star Plus Club 2020 - all the books he read last year that he rated as four or more stars out of five. Only one title gets five stars: my Dark Minds Press collection A Love Like Blood.


"Both stories are typically bold in subject matter, with relentlessly ramped up foreboding which pays off in cathartic, climactic closing scenes. The first sets such an impossibly high bar that the next seems certain to be a disappointment, only for the second to match or even surpass it. Either would have been worth five stars on their own."

That last one means a great deal. A Love Like Blood was a title that really seemed to have sunk without trace, but I'm incredibly proud of both the stories in it.

None of these are big awards shortlists, or 'Best Of' lists published by major genre magazines or websites. They're just the opinions of people who read. Some of them write, or edit, or publish as well. But most of all, people who read.

And it means one hell of a lot.

It means there are people out there who like what I do, and would be happy to see more of it.   

I've spent a lot of time in the past year focusing on the big goals: getting a new agent, breaking into a wider readership and all the rest of it. And I'll still be striving for that. But I'm also going to remember how precious it is to be published at all, to have any readers at all. To know I've made a connection with somebody, and that I'm not just screaming into the void.

Anyway, have a good weekend.

As for me, I've writing to do.

Apparently there are actually people out there who like what I do, and would like more.

It would be rude not to oblige them. 


Thursday, 31 December 2020

Ending The Year On A High

I've already shared this on Facebook, but there was no way I couldn't commemorate it on my
blog also - another review for Roth-Steyr!

It's received a belting review from Rachel Verkade over at The Future Fire. Rachel also has her criticisms of it, but to me that just makes the praise all the sweeter and more honest! Check out Rachel's blog Diagnosed As An Adult - it's well worth reading.

"Roth-Steyr is most definitely an odd story. It features Viennese aristocrats turned into immortal soldiers that can only be killed with magic pistols, a mystical gate to another (and very disturbing) dimension, assassinations, early 20th century European politics, a mad scientist, and a jaded lesbian anti-heroine. It’s a bizarre mixture of Highlander, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and the brutal teacher and ruthless training sequences from Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. And, quite frankly, there’s a lot in there to love.

I wish this book was twice as long as it is, and perhaps that’s one of the greatest compliments one can give to a story."

It's a great write-up - honest, perceptive and eloquent - and better still, I know for a fact that at least one person bought a copy of the novella on the strength of it!

Big thanks to Rachel and all at The Future Fire, along with Thomas Joyce and This Is Horror and Matt and Runalong The Shelves, for helping spread the word about this little book.

Thanks, too, to all those who've given their time, kindness and support over the past year. You know who you are.

See you all in 2021.  

   

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Hunker in the Bunker: 2020 in review.

2020 has been, I think we can all agree, a bloody weird year.

I'm not even going to try to summarise all the weird shit - the political shit, the pandemical shit, the insane screeching on social media shit, the stupid conspiracist shit - that went on. Or to list the number of people - writers, actors, artists, musicians, not to mention, in many cases, friends - that we lost this year.

It's been a fucker. But at least Trump's finished. That's one thing.

This really was the year of 'Hunker in the Bunker' for me. Anxiety and depression kept me off work and confined to the house for most of the year, so the first lockdown didn't really come as much of a change. Plus which, after the General Election last December, my attitude was basically 'we're fucked and there's not much point trying to change anything for the better because the UK, at least, is locked into an insane death spiral largely of its own making, so I'm just going to stay home, read, watch Netflix and snuggle with my beloved.'

Well - that, and write.

Which seems absurd, I know. But at least it kept me sane. Well, sort of.

This quote from Natalie Goldberg's wonderful book Writing Down The Bones kind of summarises it for me: "Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the centre of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write."

So yeah. That.

1000 words a day. 

There's a great video where someone's talking to Idris Elba, and he has two pieces of advice: don't be afraid to fail, and keep your head down. The second one, in particular, strikes a chord with me at this time of the year, when I try to look back and take stock. Elba talks about when he's swimming, trying to do 25 laps a day - there's always the temptation to look up and see how you're doing, to be constantly checking your progress. And if you do that, you're never as far along as you'd have hoped, and the work lasts longer and feels harder. But if you keep your head down and focus on just doing what you need to do, moment to moment, getting into the rhythm of your work, before you know it you're almost there.

I did my best, this year, just to do that. Hunker in the bunker, and keep my head down, and work.

So what do I have to show for it?

Well:

Novels

I was past the 100,000 word mark on The Teardrop Girl at the end of 2019. I finished the first draft - 170,000 words all told - at the end of February this year. And then started a new book.

Following The Teardrop Girl I've completed not one, but two new novels in first draft this year, and am (touch wood) 36,000 words into another. The Teardrop Girl has been redrafted and sent out to agents, and I'm at work on the others.

Stories

I've written sixteen pieces of short fiction this year (seventeen if you count my previous blog post!) Some of them very short. Finding homes for most of them proved harder: a lot of them are over on my Patreon. But some saw the light in other places.

Published This Year:

And Cannot Come Again was rereleased, in a gorgeous new edition from Horrific Tales, courtesy of the excellent Graeme Reynolds. It contained two previously unpublished stories. 

Also reprinted was my story 'Below', from Paul Finch's Terror Tales of North West England, in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year #12.

Stories

Not counting stuff that appeared for the first time on Patreon, four stories were published for the first time this year:

'In The Shelter', in new edition of And Cannot Come Again

'Black Is The Mourning, White Is The Wand' in new edition of And Cannot Come Again

'Kanaida' (on the Unsung Stories website, ed. Dan Coxon)

'We All Come Home' in After Sundown, ed. Mark Morris

Novella

Roth-Steyr, Black Shuck Books. 

Patreon

The following stories were published for the first time on my Patreon this year. Those marked with an asterisk were written this year 

 A Story Of Two And A Bit Halves *

A Treat for your Last Day *

Hell Is Children *

I Am The Man The Very Fat Man *

In The Service Of The Queen *

The Book Of Shadows *

The Book Of Spiders *

The Garden *

Truth And Consequences 

Winter Fruit 

Childermass Grove 

Slatcher’s Little Mates 

The Forest You Once Called Home

The Cabinet of Dr Jarvis

Hooded.


On top of all that, I stayed alive, stayed married and managed to get back to work at my day job.

So that was 2020. I didn't take the world by storm, but I'm still here and I'm still writing.

That's good enough for me.

Have the best New Year's you can under the circumstances. Be safe, and take care. Next year looks as though it may be another tough one; let's hold together, keep our heads down, and get through it. 

Monday, 7 December 2020

Memo found on an abandoned smartphone

Typing this into phone as no other way. Am trapped and no other means to leave message before it gets me. Have to warn people. Only one problem. If you’re reading this, it’s already too late.

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Winter Tales is now live!

Joseph Freeman's seasonal ghost story extravaganza, Winter Tales, is now live on his YouTube channel. It features readings by Ramsey Campbell, Joe himself, Benjamin Langley, Mark Morris and your humble servant.

Ramsey Campbell: Excerpt from The Wise Friend.

Benjamin Langley: 'The Hands That Do The Devil's Work.'

Joseph Freeman: 'The Waiting Room.'

Mark Morris: 'A Girl, Sitting.'

Simon Bestwick: 'In The Shelter.'

Go treat yourself now (or wait until it's dark!) And why not make Joe's day while you're there, and subscribe to his channel?