Author and Scriptwriter

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

Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween Everybody

Have a lovely time and stay safe.

Me, I'm staying in and having a bit of a movie marathon, I reckon. Just had a bit of a shopping spree in Manchester and seem to have accidentally bought From Beyond The Grave on DVD, along with John Carpenter's The Ward and, indeed, a John Carpenter box set.

If you're looking for some suitable reading matter for Halloween, of course, allow me to point you in the direction of Estronomicon's Halloween issue, which is now up on t'internet and includes my story 'The Psalm'.

And my first movie tonight, will, I think, be... this one.

Goodnight out there... whatever you are. :)

Saturday, 29 October 2011

All A Bit Random: Halloween, Books and Stuff, Estronomicon, Love for The Moraine and Where The Chuff Is That New Website Of Yours?

Hello again... just a few odds and sods this time.

Last night was Twisted Tales night up in Liverpool, with Nicholas Royle, Lisa Tuttle and Adam Nevill all reading; I got to sip latte alongside The Awesomeness That Is Cate Gardner and stuff my face with tapas afterwards. Also bagged myself a copy of House Of Fear, Jonathan Oliver's new anthology from Solaris Books. I've read four of the stories so far, all of which have been very high quality indeed.

I was hoping to be getting the new website up and running over this weekend, but my lovely friends Mike and Rachel (who got me the domain as a late birthday present, bless 'em both) are laid up with horrible colds, so I didn't get to see them for the planned tutorial. Sorry. But the new site will arise in the near(ish) future.

In the meantime... Halloween is fast approaching, so how better to fill the days than by catching up on some horror reading? Just finished Gary McMahon's new Gray Friar collection It Knows Where You Live (bleak and brilliant, as you'd expect); before that it was Simon Kurt Unsworth's superb Quiet Houses. And now I'm back to randomly dipping in and out of the aforementioned House Of Fear, and Terror Tales Of The Lake District.

Speaking of which- Anthony Watson over at Dark Musings has posted a review of it, in which he says of 'The Moraine': 'It's tense, scary and exciting, another excellent story from one of my current favourite authors.' Funnily enough, Anthony's one of my current favourite reviewers. :)

Meanwhile, if you're looking for some spooky reading matter, you could do far worse than to pop over to the Screaming Dreams website on Halloween, when the latest issue of Steve Upham's e-zine Estronomicon becomes available. Among its delights will be a story of mine called 'The Psalm', set in the Lancashire countryside.

Anyway, if I don't blog again before Halloween, have a wonderfully spooky time!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Lessons, Liverpool, Loss of Face and Learning to Cope

Well, I finally finished work on The Faceless on the morning of Saturday 15th October- completing the last few edits with virtually minutes to spare before scooting off to Barmouth for a week of unwinding, as well as visiting my late gran's grave to pay my respects. Nearly five ruddy months of rewriting... but we'll come back to that.

Here's a funny thing. Part of the plot of The Faceless is based on the story of the Accrington Pals, who were wiped out on the first day of the Battle of the Somme: 1st July, 1916. As you can imagine, this and related subjects have been on my mind a lot over the course of the year as I pulled this monster together. But at last, so I thought, I could forget all about it.

The second day of my hols, I climbed Dinas Oleu, the range of hills overlooking Barmouth, but went in a different direction from my usual route, climbing a peak I hadn't gone for before. The main thing that marked it out was the Welsh flag flapping atop it.

After a couple of hours of climbing, I reached the summit....

To find this, and set into it...

...was this plaque.

Some subjects have a habit of following you around.

Anyway; the break was very welcome, but it's fair to say I hadn't expected the work of writing the damn book to go on quite this long. I made a hell of a lot of excess work for myself on The Faceless; it was a pretty big, complicated tale with a lot going on and I outlined the novel only sketchily. Result? A first draft of 160,000 words and a HUGE amount of rewriting to turn the whole mess into something readable.

So for the next one, I'm going to remember the lessons learned earlier this year from writing The Sight and The Children Of Moloch; outlining each story in advance resulted in a first draft that was very close to the finished product and needed very little work. Outlining each chapter as if it were a story might have the same effect on the next book. Hope so anyway: an ounce of preparation, with any luck, should beat a pound of rewriting. We'll see.

But that'll have to wait, as today the book came back from Jon Oliver at Solaris, with various edits. There's work to be done, and in the next week I'll be embarking on the next wave of rewrites... but on the whole, da boss is pleased. Which is nice.

It's been a funny few months. Since mid-August, I've been signed off work (in a call centre) with stress. One day I just couldn't seem to hack dealing with the customers. Looking back, there were a few days' warning of it, but on the whole it seemed very sudden. I always thought of this as something that affected other people, and of course when you hear someone's off with stress there's a tendency to wonder if they're swinging the lead. I'm less likely to do that now. Thanks to all the friends who sent kind words and thoughts, or lent me their ear. It's been appreciated. Had my first counselling session today, and I think it went well; I'm hoping to be back to work in the next month, but the whole episode's made me stop and think and take stock. There may well be some changes in the not too distant future...

Speaking of changes, a proper websitey thing is being put together, which means this blog's days are likely numbered. Thanks to all of you nice folks for reading it over the past three years; I'll still blog, of course, on the website when it's up.

Tomorrow I'm off to Liverpool to attend a Twisted Tales event at Waterstone's Liverpool One, and for coffee with the ever-reigning Cate (TM). So, onwards and upwards...

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Me & An American Biohazard...

Gardner Goldsmith of Liberty Conspiracy interviewed me for his podcast back at Fantasycon in Brighton, earlier this month. Here's that interview now- I start gabbing at around 6 minute 30 seconds and finally shut up around the 42 minute mark... When not cackling insanely or gabbling too fast for anyone to understand, I can be heard talking about various things I've written ('Dermot', Angels Of The Silences, Tide Of Souls and The Faceless) and stuff that's influenced me along the way (can't believe I forgot to mention Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson...)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Facing It

Well, The Faceless is at last complete and has winged its way to Jon Oliver over at Solaris Books. Meanwhile, I'm here in Barmouth, North Wales, trying to relax a little and rest up...

In the meantime, though, that nice Mark West fellow has made a teaser trailer for the novel. Whet your appetites here...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Fantasycon 2011: Brighton Rocked

Be warned: this will be a huge blog post. Once I started, I honestly didn't know where to stop... So ensure you have a stiff one to hand (or even a drink.)

I’ll be totally honest here; when I first heard the 2011 Fantasycon was happening in Brighton, I was not a happy bunny. It was fun for World Horror, but that was a big international event. Say what you like about the Britannia Hotel in Nottingham (and many have), at least it was central. Brighton is a looooooooooong way to go if you’re a Manc. Even when Sarah Pinborough pointed out that publishers and agents wouldn’t make the trek to Nottingham, but would to Brighton, I wasn’t convinced.

So, was my mind changed?

Read on…

It went something like this:

Thursday 29th September. The Con doesn’t start till tomorrow, but see that thing above about it being a looooooooooong way to go. So- the epic journey commences- Swinton to Manchester by bus, Manchester to London Euston by train, Euston to Victoria by Tube and finally a train to Victoria to Brighton. After a brief spell of giddiness at the sheer frenetic vastness that is the capitol, it was pretty plain sailing. Arrive at Brighton, decide to walk from the train station to the hotel. A cab would be a silly extravagance, after all.

Did I mention that the Con managed to coincide with a fairly sizzling mini-heatwave? Well, I have now. Am also humping a well-stuffed backpack and a shoulderbag. And am wearing dark clothes. Feel free to quote the words ‘Serious Tactical Error’ at any time, people…

Arrive (approximately one stone lighter and quite possibly in the early stages of dehydration) at the Strawberry Fields guesthouse, a nice and highly-recommended little place if you’re ever visiting Brighton. Not only do they do breakfast in your room, but they have these seriously cute pillows:

Yes, I was tempted to nick one. No, I didn’t. Yes, Evil Me wishes I had.

Anyway! On to the Royal Albion Hotel, home of the Con. Boozing follows with the likes of Gary McMahon, Rio Youers, Mark Morris, Steve Jones, Mandy Slater and Sarah Pinborough. (Bit dizzying to find myself in such exalted company. :D ) Everyone else goes to freshen up. Potter round and end up helping the host of organisers fill up the last few goody bags. A drink or two with TTA Press’s Roy Gray, plus Paul and Audrey Campbell. Then further boozing- alcohol blurs the recollection here, but I get to meet Sandra Norval, who’s on her first Con. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s lucky- this will be one to remember.

Anyway, a good time is had by all. And so to bed.

Five hours’ sleep.

Friday 30th September
Up bright and early. Breakfast in bed arrives at 8.00 am. Virtuously decide on a brisk hour-long walk- sweat those toxins out! Better still- a walk on the beach! Why not?

Well, as I discover the beach a) appears to have been built on a 45 degree slope and b) is made entirely of loose pebbles which swallow the unwary walker’s feet up to the ankles. Bollocks to that. Scramble back to terra firma. It ends up being a half-hour walk, but ah well. At least some exercise was taken.

Head to the Albion feeling virtuous. Nose around the dealer’s room in the basement although it’s not officially open yet. Am lassooed by Pete Crowther, proprietor of PS Publishing, and given a stack of cover-sheets to sign for the limited edition of Gutshot. Scribble industriously. Escape to the ground floor and find my way to the first panel on ‘Small Press Publishing’. Had planned to stay for the next two- ‘Maintaining Your Web Presence’, chaired by the lovely Adele Wearing, and one on ‘Making A Living As A Writer’- but have almost been boiled to death by the end of the first panel. Apologise to Adele with much batting of eyelashes and seek out something cold and wet. Catch up, among others, with the equally lovely Anna Taborska, writer and film-maker (and maker of the forthcoming book-trailer for The Faceless.)

Later: attend Rio Youers’ reading and finally get to hear some of the boy’s prose. Oh, he’s good, folks; he’s very very good. Read him! Then on to the PS launch, which includes Gutshot. Sit between Pete Atkins and Conrad Williams sweating like Gary Glitter on a schoolbus and quenching a burning thirst with glasses of white wine. Am vaguely aware this may not be a good idea. Am pathetically grateful when a carafe of water appears. Find myself giving Graham Joyce an autograph. Dazedly think that this should be the other way round. Join Mark West, post-signing, in singing the praises of Graham’s novel The Silent Land. (Which is, like pretty much everything Graham Joyce writes, exceptionally good.) Graham takes the praise with his customary grace and good humour.

Curry with Sandra Norval, Jonathan Green and another chap whose name I shamefully can’t remember.

Back upstairs to the reading room for a succession of readings: Simon Kurt Unsworth, Gary McMahon, Joel Lane and (Lord) John Llewellyn Probert. In temperatures approaching that of the sunward side of Mercury. Morituri te salutant.

Somehow survive. To the bar. Further debauchery, the memory of which is mercifully blurred.

Four hours’ sleep.

Saturday 1st October
White rabbits!

No walk today. My morning exercise consists of intensive groaning and high-speed coffee consumption. Totter to hotel later than intended but sadly miss Reggie Oliver’s reading. Potter round the dealer’s room and am surprised to find I seem to own some new books by the end of it. However did that happen?

Solaris are giving away free books! But before I can join the queue, I bump into the ebullient (and insanely tall) Gardner Goldsmith, singing the praises of ‘Dermot’ in Black Static 24. By the time I remember the Solaris book giveaway, there’s almost nothing left. An object lesson on the price of vanity…

Shortly thereafter sleep deprivation starts to take its toll. Veg out on the sofa, much to the amusement of Gary Cole-Wilkin, John Travis and Soozy Marjoram, who swiftly immortalises the event on camera and posts it on Facebook.

Back to the hotel for a couple of hours’ unconsciousness. Rise and walk, feeling hungry. However, back at the Albion, nearly everyone I know has already decamped in search of an eatery.

Wander the streets of Brighton in search of a Chinese restaurant, or maybe that nice Indonesian restaurant we went to at World Horror last year… after half an hour, on the brink of giving up and heading or Harry Ramsden’s I find myself outside the Indonesian place. (It’s called Warung Tujuh, if you’re ever in Brighton.) Which goes to show something or other, I’m not sure what…

Back to the hotel to read from The Faceless and Angels of the Silences. Pretty good turnout considering it’s 9.30 pm. on a Saturday.

Then on to the Regency Lounge to witness Lord and Lady Probert’s ‘Teatro Proberto’ presenting Blood On Satan’s Claw- The Panto, followed by a reprise of their 20-minute version of the Peter Cushing classic(?!) Corruption.

Then follows the burlesque. Attractive young lady with not much on alternately conceals and reveals her curves with a big black pair of feathery things (my descriptive powers are getting taxed here.) Not sure how well it fits in with the Con as a whole, but hey. Then a fairly terrifying male performer appears in an act that culminates in him disembowelling and eating a (toy) rabbit (with very realistic internal organs) onstage. And garlanding himself with rabbit innards. Before collapsing, apparently dead, and being dragged off to the strains of Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel. (Another childhood memory desecrated.) The crazy train leaves from ‘O….K,’ passes through ‘What the…’ and ends its journey at ‘Sod this for a game of conkers, I’ll be in the bar.’

It takes a couple of stiff drinks and a pint or two of Diet Coke with Sandra N. to get over that one. As a result I miss the panel on 'How To Scare Your Readers' (a description of that bloody burlesque would’ve done it.) Get up to go to Ramsey Campbell’s midnight reading, then discover the chap I’m squeezing past is Stephen Gallagher. Who’s actually heard of me. Chit-chat follows. Midnight reading also missed. Bugger.

Ah well- on to the disco!

This is a new development, but one of the highlights of the convention. FCon’s excellent Mistress of Ceremonies, Sarah ‘Potty Mouth’ Pinborough, intros our DJs, Rio Youers and Guy Adams, and the games begin. It’s actually enormous fun; only sorry not to have caught Year’s Best Horror editor Steve Jones getting down on the dancefloor, or Gary McMahon’s rendition of the funky chicken, on camera, but here’s Joel Lane boogying away with Lord and Lady Probert. This may be the first time I’ve seen Lord P with his tie loosened…

The disco ends amid much cheering and rejoicing. Sarah reminds the congregation that ‘What happens at the Fantasycon disco… stays on the Fantasycon disco.’ Surely she means ‘…ends up all over Facebook come Sunday afternoon’?

Three and a half hours sleep.

Sunday 2nd October
Awake, pack, head back to the Albion for the last time, this time early enough to catch the day’s first reading, from the lovely Ali Littlewood. Interviewed by Gardner Goldsmith for his podcast- Lord alone knows what they’ll make of that across the Pond. A last raid on the dealer’s room. The rest is hugs and goodbyes.

The odyssey back to the rainy North begins. A cab to the station this time; not making the same mistake twice. Sit next to a pleasant Norwegian student on the train home and the weekend gets rounded off with a chat about the brilliant Norwegian horror film Cold Prey.

All in all, it is, truly, the best Fantasycon I’ve been to, ever. Full stop. However…

I left before the British Fantasy Awards were presented. There’s already been a lot said about it and I wasn’t there, so I’ll direct interested parties to Steve Jones’ comment on the whole business here. There are questions to answer and be addressed.

I’ll put my hands in the air and freely admit I was utterly, utterly wrong about the location for this year’s Con. It played a big part in its record turnout of over five hundred people, plus representation from the big publishers, which I haven’t seen at FCon in a while. We need more conventions like this year’s.

I’ve heard that some have said the Awards debacle soured the whole Con for them. I really hope that’s not true. It was a truly brilliant weekend on so many levels.

I’d love to list all the ace and funky people I met for the first time or got to catch up with, but I’d end up missing someone out. You all know who you are.

Finally, a big shout-out to those brave, busy, red-shirted folks who helped organise everything and ran about making everything else happen on the ground: Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane, Martin Roberts, Helen Hopley, Jenny Barber, Pixie Pants and anyone else I’ve left out.