Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday, 20 November 2020

Things Of The Week: Winter Tales, The First Roth-Steyr Reviews, breaking 150k and more...

Nearly three weeks since the last blog post, and things are looking up, at least for the US, who are (fingers crossed) getting rid of their current National Embarrassment. Here in the UK, sadly, ours remains firmly behind the wheel...

Still, there have been Things, and not all of them bad. At least here at Castle Bestwick.

One of them has been the appearance of the first two reviews for Roth-Steyr. The first, by Thomas Joyce over at This Is Horror, who says:

"Bestwick’s exploration of his heroine’s complicated past and conflicted feelings about duty and love is brilliant. From the first mention of her brother and what happened on that frozen lake when they were children, we are immediately invested in their relationship, such intriguing characters they make. Valerie’s reminisces of her former comrades, especially Tibor, are also very touching. The recollections of past battles and confrontations with the Black Eagles, especially the scene in a war-torn Berlin, are very well done. And the scene at the Gate, complete with sinister doctor Sindelar and his dark and mysterious 'assistants' adds just a hint of cosmic horror."

The second review comes from Matt at Runalong The Shelves, and is another very positive one:

"The tale feels like a slow-motion car crash that Valerie has to desperately get out of the way of and this makes the reading compulsive. A dark tale but also one with a key message on those who love the fight above all else.

I really enjoyed this novella. It took me back in time and made me think about where we may now be heading. Bestwick delivers a fascinating lead character who over the tale we get to know quite intimately and fully behind a battle for survival. Well worth your time!"   

Many grateful thanks to both Thomas and Matt for their reviews. 

This year has been a productive one, at least in terms of work completed. In February I finished the first draft of the novel I began in the last quarter of 2019; since then I've redrafted it and sent it out to agents, completed the first draft of another book and am currently in sight (I think) of the ending on a third. Whether any of them are any good, or find a home, remains to be seen; right now I'm finding a lot of pleasure and fulfilment in the process of writing. The weird thing is that the rule 'less is more' really seems to hold with me, as far as word count's concerned; committing to a much shorter daily than was the case for years has actually enabled me to write more, as well as (I hope) better. The current WIP cracked the 150,000 word mark last week; with luck it'll be finished before the end of the year, and something new begun.

Finally, I'm involved in something really cool, that's coming up early next month.

The Christmas season is on its way, and - as Lynda E. Rucker's ever-excellent column over in this issue of Black Static reminds us - is the perfect time for the tale of terror. My old friend Joe Freeman decided to put together an online ghost-story reading called Winter Tales, including such authors as Ramsey Campbell and Mark Morris. Benjamin Langley, another of the authors, I'm less familiar with, but I'm looking forward to acquainting myself with his work. Joe also invited me to participate, and there I am, reading my tale In The Shelter, taken from the new Horrific Tales edition of And Cannot Come Again.

Winter Tales will be available to watch from Saturday 5th December at 1pm Greenwich Mean Time, on Joe's YouTube Channel. Here's a trailer for the event:


Saturday, 31 October 2020

Roth-Steyr Launch Day: This Is Halloween!

In the words of Dr Frank-N-Furter: "Tonight is the night that my beautiful creature is destined to be born!"

Or at least, downloaded and/or ordered.

Yes, today's the day - Roth-Steyr is released at last!

You can buy or order it here.

If you're still stuck for suitable seasonal reading matter, then Keris McDonald came up with a list of recommendations a few years ago, and I managed one or two myself. Ginger Nuts Of Horror has some longer-length recommendations here. (It's pure coincidence that it happens to include another book of mine!)

Thank you to every one who's helped share and signal boost over the past weeks, and a huge thank-you to Steve Shaw at Black Shuck Books for giving this story a home.

Have a wonderful Samhain, folks! 


Friday, 30 October 2020

Roth-Steyr Countdown Day Five: The Lockdown with... Gemma Files

Formerly a film critic, journalist, screenwriter and teacher, Gemma Files has been an award-winning horror author since 1999. She has published four collections of short work, three chap-books of speculative poetry, a Weird Western trilogy, a story-cycle and a stand-alone novel (Experimental Film, which won the 2016 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel and the 2016 Sunburst award for Best Adult Novel). She has two new story collections upcoming, one from Grimscribe Press (In That Endlessness Our End, February 2021) and one from Cemetery Dance (Dark Is Better).

1. Tell us three things about yourself. (If you’ve done this previously, ideally tell us three different things than last time!)

Fairly recently, I found out that the half of my family I thought was Dutch was in fact German, or—given the etymology (Hoover/Hober/Haber)—possibly Bohemian Ashkenazi Jewish, as represented by a man who emigrated to Canada and married a full Cree lady, which is how one of my cousins on that side got a tribal status card. Similarly, the journey I've gone on while parenting my son, who is on the Autism Spectrum, has led me to accept the fact that if psychiatrists had been looking for girls with ASD back when I was ten or so (the height of my bullied-and-a-bully years) then I might have gotten my own diagnosis, as opposed to almost getting treated for early-onset schizophrenia; thanks, Mom, for totally rejecting that option. Oh hey, and remember how I said last time that I sang in a choir? Turns out, choirs are perfect breeding pools for COVID-19, who I guess means those days are over. For how long, we just don't know.

2. Many writers have said the COVID-19 outbreak and the lockdown have made it harder for them to create. Have you found this? Has the outbreak affected you as a writer and if so, how?

A) Oh hells yes. B) Well...

My husband works from home, and my son has been out of school since the end of February. Neither of them are going back anytime before maybe October for Steve, next February for Cal. Which means that I spend a lot of my time doing quotidian make-work, laundry, shopping, cooking. I run errands for my Mom, who's been in full lockdown since before we started self-isolating. I also look after Cal, which as of September includes essentially being his Educational Assistant for stuff like “distance learning” schoolwork, music lessons and drama classes, all conducted over Zoom. I'm not trained for this, aside from loving him and understanding how he communicates, and it really knocks me out. But Mom has finally accepted him as part of her “pod,” which means she's okay taking him for a couple of hours so I can get 500-1000 words in here and there, and that's how I'm a few scenes into a whole new story. And after almost eight months of finishing very little except notes and poetry, that's no small thing.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?

Still Experimental Film, I think. If that ends up being what I'm best-known for, I'll be content.

4. …and which makes you cringe?

I don't really hate anything I've written, at least not to that extent. Maybe that's because I started selling stories when I was already a “professional” writer? My parents are actors, and I grew up with freelance culture running through my veins; as long as you actually got paid something—even, say, five bucks U.S. and a copy of a magazine run off on a machine in someone's basement—then you're doing okay, by those standards.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?

Even when I don't get concentrated time to write, I'm still always writing. This is something I've come to both accept and depend on. I steal moments here and there, scribble stuff down in notebooks or on my phone (then email the files to myself), bookmark things I post on Facebook for transcription later on. Assemblage starts with making the components, right? So even just saving a new file, copy-pasting stuff into it and then moving those blurty little bits around until they start to make a kind of narrative sense are all part of the process. And when you can't concentrate enough to write you can still consume, which helps keep the juices flowing...hopefully, anyhow.;)

6. What work of yours would you recommend for people on lockdown and in need of a good book?

I have a new collection coming out in February that I'm pretty proud of (InThat Endlessness Our End, from Grimscribe Press), and I know that Jon Padgett is looking for people to review it in exchange for ARCs. Also, all the stuff I previously published through ChiZine Publications is finally available again, this time through Open Road Media. And then there's the two Trepidatio collections, Spectral Evidence and Drawn Up From Deep Places; the latter, in particular, could really use some love. Otherwise, if you've read Experimental Film then try out the Hexslinger Trilogy if you haven't already, and if you've read all of those try out We Will All Go Down Together. Plus, if you're broke, I do still “publish” fanfiction at Archive of Our Own under the handle handful_ofdust, like the fool that I am.

7. What are you working on now?

Right at this moment, I have a bunch of impending anthology requests I need to fill, so I'm working hard on that. In general, however, I'm plotting out a new novel...not the one I've been working on for the last three years, but something as physically far away from the slow apocalypse we're currently living through as humanly possible. It's called In Red Company, and it's set in 998 AD, Northumbria, England. The basic pitch is Midsommar meets The Devils. Plague-threatened nuns and visionary anchoresses and sexy relic-stealing bishops and old dead goddesses, oh my. No idea when it'll be finished, but it keeps me amused. 

Hope you enjoyed the interview with Gemma. Tomorrow is the launch date for Roth-Steyr, and I'm very excited about it. Today's your last chance to pre-order it, which you can do here.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Roth-Steyr Countdown Day Four: In The Service Of The Queen

I meant to write a ghost story especially for the occasion, to help promote Roth-Steyr, but then again Roth-Steyr is the new story I have coming out on Halloween! 

What I have done, though, is make one of the stories previously only available to my Patrons publicly available. In The Service Of The Queen is a ghost story of sorts... with a difference.

You can read it here.

You can pre-order Roth-Steyr here.

The title came from a line in a song about something completely different. You can listen to that song here:

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Roth-Steyr Countdown Day Three: Ginger Nuts and Irn Bru

*Sings*: "It's beginning to feel a lot like Halloween..."

Roth-Steyr goes on sale on Saturday, around the same time as the rest of us hunker down with huge tubs of munchies (for the trick or treaters, even though there probably won't be any this year: leaving aside the social distancing concerns, our government will probably ban it for fear that some hungry children might actually get to eat something.) In the meantime, as if yesterday's interview at Kendall Reviews wasn't enough, here I am wittering on again...

Jim McLeod of Ginger Nuts of Horror is a truly magnificent chap: the site is a real labour of love, dedicated to reviewing and promoting the contemporary horror scene in all its terrible glory. He does an amazing job and is a lovely person, but the man has one terrible flaw:

He doesn't like Irn Bru. 

(American readers may not know what this is. I mourn for your loss, but the video below will help!)

It's very sad, but one day, we hope to get Jim the help he needs. ;-) 

(Just kidding Jim, you're perfect as you are and we all love you.)

You can read my interview with Ginger Nuts Of Horror here.

And you can pre-order Roth-Steyr here.   

In the meantime, for your amusement and Jim McLeod's education, here's a handy top 15 of Irn Bru's best ads...


Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Roth-Steyr Countdown Day Two: Drawing The Reader In At Kendall Reviews, and the Roth-Steyr in action...

Another day dawns, and we're another night closer to Halloween and the launch of Roth-Steyr. And so here I am, yattering away to those nice people at Kendall Reviews, who were probably wondering if I'd ever shut up....

A Roth-Steyr is an early twentieth-century pistol, adopted by the army of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1907. It's a wonderfully odd-looking weapon, so I thought I'd whet your appetite with some footage of it.

If you ever need to research a firearm, Ian McCollum's channel Forgotten Weapons is a brilliant resource. Unlike some US YouTubers on this topic, there's no insane right-wing ranting, and Ian's both knowledgeable and funny. Not to mention a pretty good shot, as this footage shows. Fellow writers, take note: if you ever need to research a gun for something you're working on, Forgotten Weapons is the place to go, whether you need a technical breakdown or just to get an idea of what the thing looks and behaves like in the wild. 

See you tomorrow, when I'll be doing another interview. I just won't shut up, will I...? :)


Monday, 26 October 2020

Roth-Steyr Countdown Day One: A Book for Halloween

Saturday brings both the best night of the year, and the launch of my novella Roth-Steyr from Black Shuck Books! My skull-shaped goblet of blood runneth over...

So, in the coming week, I'll be posting a series of (hopefully) cool and groovy links and articles. Expect interviews, real-life mysteries, and more besides...

To kick it all off, here's a recommendation for some suitably spooky reading matter.

Horror fiction is often at its best in the short form. Novel-length stuff is hard to do really well, but there are those who manage it (Ramsey Campbell springs very much to mind.) Today's blog is about one novel I always think deserves more love: The Matrix by the ever-underrated Jonathan Aycliffe.

Jonathan Aycliffe is a pseudonym of Irish author Denis MacEoin, who's also written a series of dark, intelligent and atmospheric thrillers as Daniel Easterman. (I particularly recommend the 1990s novel Name Of The Beast, an all too prescient and plausible tale of Islamic fundamentalism, backed by an unholy alliance with European fascists, rising to power in Egypt under the leadership of a former Catholic priest who may be in fact the Antichrist. It may be a political thriller, but it also runs along the edge of horror too.) His first novel under the Aycliffe byline was 1991's chilling Naomi's Room, which is a superb book in its own right - and, with its Christmas setting, an excellent pick for another time of year. This was followed by Whispers In The Dark and The Vanishment, with The Matrix appearing in 1994. There have been more since - The Lost, The Talisman, A Shadow On The Wall, A Garden Lost In Time and The Silence Of Ghosts - and his infrequent short stories are also well worth seeking out. I was very proud to publish one of them, 'The Christmas Present', way back in 1998.

So, onto The Matrix.

I once described The Matrix (no, nothing to do with the Keanu Reeves films) as the kind of book Dennis Wheatley might have written if he'd been able to write. A slim, beautifully concise novel, it's a tale of Black Magic, and reaches heights of terror M.R. James would have wholly approved of.

Following the death of his young wife from cancer, Andrew MacLeod, a young academic, takes on a research post at Edinburgh University, studying occult and religious groups. Initially, it's only a professional interest, but he's drawn into a world of crystal-gazers and Theosophists, he finds a kind of solace in their rituals. But then, in the library of one of the occult groups, he finds a very old book, called the Matrix Aeternitatis - the Matrix of Eternal Life. In it is a woodcut so horrible he almost shuts the book at once... and yet his attention is compelled. But as he studies the book, something begins to move on the floor above him and descend the stairs. And Andrew is alone in the building...

That's only the beginning, though. Soon Andrew encounters Duncan Mylne, an influential advocate (Scottish legal representative) who has a knowledge of the occult that the people Andrew has previously encountered can only dream of. As his professional and personal life fall apart, Andrew is drawn into Mylne's tutelage. When he finally realises the kind of man he's become involved with, he attempts to break away from Mylne's control - but it may be too late. Because Mylne has a very specific purpose in mind for Andrew, and Andrew alone...

What makes The Matrix work so well? Part of it is Aycliffe's precise, elegant, even beautiful prose.

Terror is conjured by hints and shadows and glimpses, memorable images sketched in the reader's mind with enviable deftness and economy that linger and grow. There's very little physical horror here, and what there is is usually glimpsed from the corner of the eye. The novel's tone remains level and restrained no matter how dreadful the events, which only makes its eerie atmosphere and brooding dread stronger.

The Matrix is a slim, concise book, as I said earlier, which makes it a novel that can be read in a couple of days. Or even one. Maybe even a single night. Maybe not if you're on your own in the house, though. 

You can buy The Matrix here - the ebook is a mere £1.99! 

And you can pre-order Roth-Steyr here.

Pop back tomorrow for the next stage of the countdown...