Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday, 20 May 2016

Things of the Last Two Weeks (Part Two)
The last few days have seen me trying to get back into the groove of writing. It's been a bit weird, not least since the laptop I've had for the better part of ten years - my trusty E-System, a Christmas present from my parents in 2007! - finally appears to be dying. As laptops go, it's had a pretty good run, so I can't complain, but I'm trying to work on the purple Acer laptop I bought last year.

See, the E-System's one flaw - or its biggest advantage, from my point of view - is that it's rubbish at connecting to the internet, meaning that I can work on it pretty easily without being distracted by Facebook. The Acer is great at connecting to the internet. That wasn't so bad in Barmouth, where there was no wifi in our flat, but now we're home again.

And yes, I've installed Freedom. Thing is that, unlike the version I've used in the past where you just downloaded a programme onto the machine, Freedom is now some weird cloud-based thing. And even when I've switched it on, the damn thing still connects to the internet. So once again, the wacky world of IT has delivered an updated, upgraded, 'improved' version of something that's about as useful as a pork pie at a bar mitzvah.

Even so, my short story mojo continues unabated. I wrote another story the day after my wedding, and two more on the honeymoon with another underway. That's a total of eight short stories so far this year, most of them in the past month.

That said, I need to get back on the Devil's Highway; there's still a lot of work to do before the deadline at the end of June. It's been nice, though, to work on some again.

Writers can be divided up any number of ways - and probably shouldn't be divided up at all, but that's another story - but one of the most interesting is the old question of whether you're a Planner or a Pantser. That is, do you plan out what you write before getting started, or wing it and make it up as you go? It's more of a spectrum than an either/or thing - much like sexual orientation, which gives me something of a segue to this blog post by Janine Ashbless, also known as Keris McDonald. One of the UK's foremost erotica writers, Janine is a confirmed Pantser. (And when she gets the time, she writes some superb ghost/horror fiction under her Keris McDonald byline - highly recommended if you can track some down! You can find out more in her Lowdown.)

Until recently, I'd have described myself as a dyed-in-the-wool Planner. That's certainly how my novels have been written - with more and more detailed planning, in fact, before I set pen to paper. A few years ago, I extended the practice to short stories, as I was finding hardly any time to do them. For the past couple of years, in fact, I've hardly written any stories that weren't to commission.

And I was feeling dissatisfied.

The short fiction I did write was feeling stale, repetitive, done before. There was a time when what I'd written had come both easily and from somewhere deep in me. I believed in it and felt proud of it, and many people had liked it a lot. All without planning. I wanted to get back there.

The last few short stories have all had that quality, or some of it. I think I'm some way to go before I'm getting the same thrill from what I do as before, but I'm on the way. It'll have to be fitted in around the novels, but that's not necessarily a bad thing - and among many other things, short stories can be great playgrounds and testbeds for ideas and settings and characters you may want to do more with.

So all of that's been nice.
Less happy was yesterday's news that the YA science fiction author Nicholas Fisk had passed away, albeit at the good age of 92. I grew up reading his science fiction - along with Dr Who novelisations, books like Time Trap, Antigrav, Space Hostages, Trillions and the classic Grinny (an odd sort of alien invasion novel that's also damned creepy) were some of the first SF I read as a boy. His story collection Sweets From A Stranger was superb too. He wrote intelligent, thought-provoking and entertaining stories and novels for young readers that still hold up today (and are worth a read by adults too.)

In other news, Laura Mauro, a very fine writer, wrote this excellent piece on magical thinking and OCD. I suspect a lot of writers have MH issues of one kind or another, if only in the form of depression caused by banging one's head repeatedly against the brick wall known as reality.

There was also this fascinating article on bodies of strange creatures allegedly found in a London basement. In fact, they're the work of writer, illustrator and sculptor Alex CF, which is going to be of great appeal to anyone who enjoys the outre, the macabre or the just plain weird. I've included two images from his collection here; go to Alex's website and see the rest.

Two final items. First, my old friend Rob Kemp, who readers of the 1990s small press may remember as r.j. krijnen-kemp, author of a small but perfectly-formed body of weird stories, wrote this article on a bit of Shropshire folklore. Which reminded me of something else.

The late Joel Lane's first novel, From Blue To Black, told the story of a fictional '90s rock band; the book included the titles and even some lyrics of the band's songs. I got very into folk music in the late 2000s, and one of the titles, 'Still And Moving Water', caught my imagination, as did a line from the fictive song. I asked Joel if I could turn it into a song of my own; he agreed, as long as he got a co-credit, and my friend Iain Mackness recorded a very rough demo of it. Working on the recent tribute anthology to Joel ended up inspiring me to make a YouTube video for the song, and I was reminded of it again by Rachel Verkade's touching and perceptive review of Joel's posthumous story collection, Scar City, over at The Future Fire. So here it is.

Have a good weekend, everybody!

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