Author and Scriptwriter

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

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Well, It's Been A While: On Health (Physical and Otherwise), Awards, FCon, StokerCon, Pantsing and Publishers

Hi, everyone.

It's been months since I last posted here, and plenty's happened in the interim. So stand by for a long, rambling and self-indulgent wall of text...

2019 has been (thus far - there's still a few weeks of it left) a funny sort of year. I've had a number of health issues, both physical and mental, which have impacted, among other things, our finances. Which was why we couldn't make Fantasycon this year, much to our disappointment. (And to the relief of many others, I'm sure!)

FCon has long been one of the milestones in our year, where we meet a lot of our closest friends in the writing world. Luckily, we still got to catch up with some of them, most notably at Edge-Lit in July, although we had to miss the Derby Ghost Story Festival (as Sledge-Lit has now morphed into) last month. I did joke that, since this was the one year we couldn't make FCon, it would be the year I finally won an award. (It wasn't, but what the hell; what's the point of winning an award if you can't have your very own Gwyneth Paltrow moment in front of a live audience?) Congratulations to Aliette de Bodard for The Tea Master And The Detective, which won Best Novella, and to Catriona Ward, who won Best Horror Novel for her superb Little Eve. I'm proud to have been listed alongside them.

It's been an interesting year on the writing front, especially in respect of novels. I reached a point last year where I found myself looking at the novel I'd been trying to write and returning again to why I became a writer in the first place. I asked myself the question 'If you could only write one more book, what would it be?' and found the answer transformed the work in progress, and my approach to it. I've been highly focused on writing as a career in recent years, trying to reach a level of commercial success closer to the mainstream. And don't get me wrong, I still want that if I can have it, but there's no point unless I'm able to write the stories I want to write. So my priorities, and my focus, have shifted: I've spent 2019 writing exactly the kind of things I want, without driving myself crazy contemplating the market or what's 'in' now. And I've been a lot happier with the work as a result. And more content.

Another thing that's changed is how I write. For years I've felt unable to write a novel without plotting it out in advance - sometimes in intricate detail (the outline for Devil's Highway was over 30,000 words long.) I always envied those writers who could begin with only the vaguest of ideas and basically wing it all the way through, but thought I'd accepted I couldn't be one of them. I was a planner, not a pantser. And yet, this year, that changed. With only the broadest concept of the story I was telling, I wrote the opening scene of a novel; by the time that was over, I knew roughly what would happen over the next few chapters. As I continued, I began to see a little further ahead, and then a little further, and could rough out a handful of notes. I believe this is known as the 'headlight' or 'flashlight' method.

Well, that novel is two-thirds finished, with over 100,000 words written. I've been fixing a bunch of notes I made on it along the way, and while I've been doing that I've been roughing out the opening chapters of another novel that I dived into with even less idea of what I was doing. It can be frustrating at times, even scary - but it's also exhilarating. It's a real delight when, as a writer, you actually manage to surprise yourself. Pantsing a novel is a lot harder to measure and predict, but it's also a lot more fun.

On a slightly less cheerful note...

My fourth full-length story collection, And Cannot Come Again, saw print this year from Canada's ChiZine Press, complete with stunning artwork by Eric Mohr. Unfortunately, within a couple of months of the release, the stories about ChiZine started coming out. Initially, it was a couple of authors complaining about the publishers' failure to pay them on time. My first reaction was dismay, when review sites announced they'd be boycotting CZP's publications, and a desire to wait until I'd heard both sides of the story. But then more stories started coming out; worse stories. Too many to dismiss or ignore. As a result I had to request reversion of my rights as an author from ChiZine, and to ask readers not to buy the collection (which, as you can imagine, kind of goes against the grain for an author.) The grim ChiZine saga, for anyone who missed it, can be read in more detail here.

On a much happier note...

I'm delighted to announce that And Cannot Come Again has a new publisher! My profound thanks to Graeme Reynolds at Horrific Tales, who's acquired the book to be relaunched at StokerCon in Scarborough next year. More details will follow in due course. The new edition will retain Ramsey Campbell's introduction, and may include some new material too!

So, that's where we are now. The year isn't over, and nor are the upheavals - there are other changes in the works, which I'll be able to talk about at a later stage - but I'm still here, and I'm still writing. I don't know how to do much else, after all. Thank you to all the friends and family - and most of all to Cate - for their support over what's been an often tough twelvemonth.

Here's to the hope of better days ahead, for us all. Including, please God, a change of government. (Nearly got through this post without mentioning politics or the upcoming General Election. #VoteLabour)

Friday, 26 July 2019

Wolf's Hill and Breakwater nominated for British Fantasy Awards

The shortlists for the British Fantasy Awards were announced on Tuesday, and I'm stunned to have made the running for not one, but two awards.

Wolf's Hill has been shortlisted for the August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel, alongside Little Eve by Catriona Ward, The Cabin At The End of The World by Paul Tremblay and The Way of The Worm by Ramsey Campbell.

To be sharing a shortlist with those three authors, those three novels, to be included in the same category, feels like an award in itself. I'd be happy to lose to any of them.

It's also particularly poignant because the Black Road novels mean a lot to me, and there've been times when I wonder if anyone's even reading them. In guess some people are, and enjoying them too.

Breakwater, meanwhile, has been shortlisted for Best Novella, alongside 'Binti: The Night Masquerade' by Nnedi Okorafor, 'The Land Of Somewhere Safe' by Hal Duncan, 'The Last Temptation Of Dr Valentine' by John Llewellyn Probert, 'The Only Harmless Great Thing' by Brooke Bolander and 'The Tea Master And The Detective' by Aliette de Bodard. Again, a storming list of names.

The winners will be announced at FantasyCon in Glasgow on 20th October.

Here are the BFA nominations in full:

Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award)
The Bitter Twins, by Jen Williams (Headline)
Empire of Sand, by Tasha Suri (Orbit)
Foundryside, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Jo Fletcher Books)
The Green Man’s Heir, by Juliet E McKenna (Wizard’s Tower Press)
The Loosening Skin, by Aliya Whiteley (Unsung Stories)
Priest of Bones, by Peter McLean (Jo Fletcher Books)
Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award)
The Cabin at the End of the World, by Paul Tremblay (Titan Books)
Little Eve, by Catriona Ward (W&N)
The Way of the Worm, by Ramsey Campbell (PS Publishing)
Wolf’s Hill, by Simon Bestwick (Snowbooks)
Best Newcomer (the Sydney J Bounds Award)
Tomi Adeyemi, for The Children of Blood and Bone (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Cameron Johnston, for The Traitor God (Angry Robot)
RF Kuang, for The Poppy War (HarperVoyager)
Tasha Suri, for Empire of Sand (Orbit)
Marian Womack, for Lost Objects (Luna Press Publishing)
Micah Yongo, for Lost Gods (Angry Robot)
Best Novella
Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
Breakwater, by Simon Bestwick (Tor Books)
The Land of Somewhere Safe, by Hal Duncan (NewCon Press)
The Last Temptation of Dr Valentine, by John Llewellyn Probert (Black Shuck Books)
The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com)
The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press)
Best Short Fiction 
Down Where Sound Comes Blunt, by GV Anderson (F&SF March/April 2018)
Her Blood the Apples, Her Bones the Trees, by Georgina Bruce (The Silent Garden: A Journal of Esoteric Fabulism)
In the Gallery of Silent Screams, by Carole Johnstone & Chris Kelso (Black Static #65)
A Son of the Sea, by Priya Sharma (All the Fabulous Beasts)
Telling Stories, by Ruth EJ Booth (The Dark #43)
Thumbsucker, by Robert Shearman (New Fears 2)
Best Anthology
The Devil and the Deep: Horror Stories of the Sea, ed. Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books)
Humanagerie, ed. Sarah Doyle & Allen Ashley (Eibonvale Press)
New Fears 2, ed. Mark Morris (Titan Books)
This Dreaming Isle, ed. Dan Coxon (Unsung Stories)
Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5, ed. Robert Shearman & Michael Kelly (Undertow Publications)
Best Collection
All the Fabulous Beasts, by Priya Sharma (Undertow Publications)
The Future is Blue, by Catherynne M Valente (Subterranean Press)
How Long ‘til Black Future Month?, by NK Jemisin (Orbit)
Lost Objects, by Marian Womack (Luna Press Publishing)
Octoberland, by Thana Niveau (PS Publishing)
Resonance & Revolt, by Rosanne Rabinowitz (Eibonvale Press)
Best Non-Fiction
The Evolution of African Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Francesca T Barbini (Luna Press Publishing)
The Full Lid, by Alasdair Stuart (alasdairstuart.com/the-full-lid)
Ginger Nuts of Horror (www.gingernutsofhorror.com)
Les Vampires, by Tim Major (PS Publishing)
Noise and Sparks, by Ruth EJ Booth (Shoreline of Infinity)
Best Independent Press
Fox Spirit Books
Luna Press Publishing
NewCon Press
Unsung Stories
Best Magazine / Periodical
Black Static
Gingernuts of Horror
Interzone
Shoreline of Infinity
Uncanny Magazine
Best Audio
Bedtime Stories for the End of the World (endoftheworldpodcast.com)
Blood on Satan’s Claw, by Mark Morris (Bafflegab)
Breaking the Glass Slipper (www.breakingtheglassslipper.com)
PodCastle (podcastle.org)
PsuedoPod (pseudopod.org)
Best Comic / Graphic Novel
100 Demon Dialogues, by Lucy Bellwood (Toonhound Studios)
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, Vol. 1, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis, Tyler Crook & Dave Stewart (Dark Horse)
Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories, Vol. 1, by Mike Mignola and others (Dark Horse)
The Prisoner, by Robert S Malan & John Cockshaw (Luna Press Publishing)
Saga #49-54, by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Widdershins, Vol. 7, by Kate Ashwin
Best Artist
Vince Haig
David Rix
Daniele Serra
Sophie E Tallis
Best Film / Television Production
Annihilation, Alex Garland
Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Black Panther, Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole
The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan
Inside No. 9, series 4, Steve Pemberton & Reece Shearsmith
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Phil Lord & Rodney Rothman
Congratulations to my fellow nominees!

Monday, 8 July 2019

Edge-Lit 8

This weekend the lovely Cate and I will be in Derby for the 8th Edge-Lit convention.

Edge-Lit is one of the two cons I always attend every year (the other, of course, being Fantasycon, although this year we might have to give it a miss.) A one-day event organised by the most excellent Alex Davis, it's always well-attended and a great chance to catch up with old friends.

Among this year's luminaries are:

Confirmed Guests of Honour:
Aliette De Bodard, multi-award winning fantasy and science-fiction author
Anne Charnock, Arthur C Clarke Award winning author of Dreams Before the Start of Time
Christopher Golden, New York Times Bestselling Author of Ararat and The Pandora Room - joining us from the US!
Neil Spring, bestselling author of The Ghost Hunters, The Watchers, The Lost Village and The Burning House
Sarah Lotz, acclaimed horror and thriller author (The Three)
Tim Lebbon, popular dark fantasy and horror novelist (The Silence)
Special Guest:
Stephen Volk, author and scriptwriter (TV's Ghostwatch, Afterlife, Midwinter of the Spirit)
Speakers and Panellists:
Simon Bestwick, acclaimed horror novelist and short story writer (*waves*)
Jan Edwards, award-winning crime and horror author
Robin Triggs, author of Night Shift
David Mark, author of the DS Aector McAvoy crime series
Sarah Pinborough, Bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes and Cross Her Heart
Alex Reeve, writer of the Leo Stanhope series
Zen Cho, acclaimed fantasy author and editor
Adrian Tchaikovsky, Arthur C Clarke Award winning SF and fantasy novelist
Dominic Dulley, author of Morhelion and Shattermoon
Matt Hill, science-fiction author of Zero Bomb
Anna Stephens, fantasy author of the Godblind trilogy
Jen Williams, fantasy author of the Copper Cat and Winnowing Flame series
Genevieve Cogman, author of the Invisible Library series
Tim Major, SF and horror writer
KK Perez, YA author of the Sweet Black Waves series
Adam Christopher, acclaimed novelist, comics and tie-in fiction writer
Jodi Taylor, author of the Chronicles of St Mary series
Daniel Godfrey, author of The Synapse Sequence and New Pompeii
Ruth De Haas, fantasy author and blogger
Danie Ware, Warhammer 40k novelist and author of Children of Artifice
Dan Coxon, award-winning author and editor
AC Clarke, children's and YA fantasy author

It's also great for panels and workshops, both of which I'll be involved with this year. There'll also be readings of work, too, which I think is new.

Here's my itinerary, for those interested (or wanting to know which parts of Derby Quad to avoid!)

10.00 am. Panel:
Short Cuts: Does a Background in Short Fiction Help You Build a Career as a Novelist? (Sponsored by Fox Spirit Books)
Simon Bestwick, Zen Cho (Chair), Jan Edwards, Tim Lebbon, Tim Major.

2.00 pm. Workshop:
Simon Bestwick:Writing Your Novel

4.00 pm. Multi-Publisher Horror Book Launch:
Dark Minds Press launches A LOVE LIKE BLOOD by Simon Bestwick.

Hersham Horror Books launches THE WOODS: PENTANTH 6, with stories by Cate Gardner, James Everington, Mark West, Penny Jones and Phil Sloman.

Sinister Horror Company launches CANNIBAL NUNS FROM OUTER SPACE by Duncan P. Bradshaw.

Wine and nibbles available.

5.00 pm. Reading: 
Simon Bestwick and Robin Triggs.

As you can see, I'm a glutton for punishment. :)

Looking forward to this weekend. And I hope I'll see you there. 

Friday, 14 June 2019

Things of the Week 14th June 2019: The Rewrite That Will Not Die, Paul Darrow, And Cannot Come Again, and Stuff I Cannot Talk About Right Now

Hi everyone.

Sorry it's been a quiet week on the blog and elsewhere. I've been struggling with a few things, principally anxiety, fatigue and The Rewrite That Will Not Die - of which more in a moment. Hoping to restore normal service next week, or something like it.

June has brought more sad news, with the passing of the actor Paul Darrow. He was best known for playing Kerr Avon in Blake's 7: a complex, ruthless character who managed to be somehow likeable in spite of it all, locked in a love-hate relationship with Gareth Thomas' Roj Blake. Blake's 7 was a huge influence on the Black Road novels - there's some of Avon in Gevaudan Shoal, and there's also a character called Darrow. By all accounts a funny and genuinely nice guy; I'm sorry I never got a chance to meet him in person.

Nearly ten years ago now, I wrote the first draft of a novel. It was the biggest, most ambitious work I'd ever attempted. I began it right after finishing my first novel, Tide Of Souls, and it soon became clear that I wasn't equal to the task. But at the same time I couldn't stop, and ended up with a first draft of about 170,000 words that had more things wrong with it than I could count, and which neither of the publishers I had a foot in the door with were interested in.

So I put it aside and went to work on something else. But I kept coming back to it, and eventually started listing everything wrong with the damned thing, then correcting it. Eventually there was a second draft, this one nearly 250,000 words long.

Finally I sent the thing to my agent; I'd spent a couple of years meaning to go through it again, but by now I was half-convinced the thing was a white elephant nobody would be interested in. Better to send it off and find out if there was any point.

My agent decided that there was, and sent back a long list of things to be fixed, and so began The
Rewrite That Will Not Die. I've been working on it since last year; I'm not done yet, but (inshallah) I'll be finished this month, and can then gear up to starting a new novel.

I finished with the copy-edits of And Cannot Come Again last week, and I'm just waiting on the final proofs. (Review copies are available, to any reviewers or book-bloggers out there.) The release date has edged back slightly - July for North America, August for the UK.

I've had some very exciting news in the last week, but annoyingly, I can't actually say anything about it right now. Watch this space for more.

Paul Darrow's Avon was known for his sardonic sense of humour and put-downs, so I'll leave you with a compilation of some of his best moments. RIP, Mr Darrow, and may the Liberator carry you safely home.


Wednesday, 5 June 2019

What's New? with Yvy DeLuca


Yvy DeLuca describes herself as a delicious Yvycake made of up an assortment of ingredients designed to stimulate the mind, as well as satisfy a hunger for self-expression. As a proud Indian transgender woman, Yvy uses written and video blogs to talk about trans issues by using #LetsTalkAboutTrans and uses her social media to spread awareness and support for the LGBTQ community. Yvy grew up in Blackburn and currently resides in Salford, Greater Manchester, with her husband and their cats, Nyssa and Pirlo.


1. So, what’s new from you?
My debut book, Tainted Beauty, which is currently in it's final stages of proofreading before I get a release date!



2. How did it come about?
I decided that I wanted to tell my story as an Indian transgender woman and what I experienced going through my transition. I felt like I needed to tell my story because there are a lot of questions that society are afraid to ask, and in my book the reader will come away with more answers than questions...and one hell of a fabulous read!



3. Tell us about the process of how you created it.
I started writing my book during a time when I became very ill and was housebound. It gave me buckets of time to really process my life into a story and build a wonderful narrative that was heartfelt and unapologetic but also showcased my fun loving personality.



4. What was your favourite part of the process?
Watching my husband's reaction when he got the opportunity to really learn about what I have been through.



5. What was the toughest part of it?
Having to not only relive some of the darkest moments in my life, but then having to write them down in detail. It really drained my emotions to relive those memories.



6. Is there a theme running through it?
Be your authentic self and and respect others for who they are.



7. If you had to sum this book up in three words, what would they be?
ONE. ICONIC. STORY.



8. Where can/will we be able to get hold of it?
When released, it will be available at Amazon, WH Smiths, Waterstones and Barnes and Noble!

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Terie Garrison

I've just heard that my old friend Terie Garrison passed away this morning from cancer.

We'd lost touch and hadn't spoken for a number of years, but Terie was someone to whom I still owe a huge debt of thanks. For about six years I regularly attended the South Manchester Writer's Group; Terie was the first person I knew from the group.

An American expatriate, Terie had been brought up an evangelical Christian, but had been excommunicated and was now a Wiccan (if I recall correctly.) She had an official letter of excommunication from her church, which she took some pride in; she occasionally joked about providing copies of the same letter to her friends (with their names in place of hers, of course) to be framed and hung about her home.

She could be quick to take offence at times, but she was funny and, more to the point, a good friend. It was Terie who administered a dose of tough love and hard-headed advice to me when I was at a difficult and painful point in my life. It was also Terie who helped get me out of a prolonged and miserable creative rut by introducing me to the works of Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg, through which I rediscovered the sheer pleasure of writing. My first collection, A Hazy Shade Of Winter, was dedicated to her.

Terie made her living as a technical writer, and also penned a number of YA books, including Changing Gears and the DragonSpawn quartet. I don't know too much about her life over the last decade; I drifted away from the writer's group and lost touch with all but a few of the people there. I got a call a few weeks ago to say that Terie was very ill; the hope was to arrange one last gathering of her friends for a sort of 'living wake.' Unfortunately, Terie was too ill for this to be arranged.

She passed away, as I said, this morning, and although I hadn't seen her in years I miss her already. Very much.

Farewell, Terie. If there's anything else after this life, may it be full of joy and peace.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Things Of The Week 3rd June 2019: Dennis Etchison, Kirkus Reviews, Weirdbook and The Harrowing

Dennis Etchison. Photograph by Lisa Morton.
There was sad news this last week, with the passing of Dennis Etchison, one of the finest short story writers the weird fiction field has ever produced. I've been rereading his short story collection The Dark Country over the past few days, and remembering why, with stories such as 'The Dead Line', 'You Can Go Now', 'Sitting In The Corner, Whimpering Quietly' and 'Daughter Of The Golden West.'
I didn't know Etchison at all personally, and met him very briefly once, at World Horror Con in Brighton in 2010. I'd meant to sign up for his Kaffeeklatsch, but left it too late. I had a copy of The Dark Country that I'd picked up in a Brighton charity shop for about 50p, but I'd forgotten to bring it with me to be signed. I found a copy for sale at the convention and bought that instead - the same edition, but it cost £10! He came into the bar at one point, looking for a carrier bag with some items of his in it. I found it, and asked him to sign my book. He did...

....And that's my Etchison story, unfortunately. But I'd read and loved many of his stories, and he was one of the great writers in our field. Lisa Morton knew him considerably better, and has some words here.

On a happier note, it's been an eventful week here at Castle Bestwick.

And Cannot Come Again is a Kirkus Reviews pick for June, alongside Georgina Bruce's This House Of Wounds and Songs For The Unravelling Of The World by Brian Evenson.

And, after a looong drought on the acceptance front, I finally sold a story this year! 'Whitsun' will appear in Weirdbook #46, released in mid-2020. Many thanks to Douglas Draa for giving it a home.

The latest instalment of my mediaeval horror story The Harrowing is up on my Patreon page. I'm making Book One of the serial free to readers for June as well - feel free to check it out, and if you enjoy it and want to follow Godric's journey across the devastated North, you can do so for only a dollar a month.