Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday, 19 August 2016

Things of the Week: 19th August 2016

Six weeks to Fantasycon!

Nine weeks to Devil's Highway's release!

Sixteen weeks to The Feast Of All Souls' release!

Big, big thanks to everyone who pre-ordered Highway and Feast, by the way. According to Amazon, they're actually my top-selling titles right now.

*tries not to think about how this probably actually means that the already published stuff isn't selling at all*


*thinks about how this probably actually means that the already published stuff isn't selling
at all*



Um, where was I?

Seriously, folks - if you did pre-order either title, thank you. That's lovely of you, and I hope you enjoy the books when they arrive.

Books are wonderful, aren't they? I hate to admit it, but I haven't been reading as regularly as often as I should have - that's Facebook for you. Since I started keeping myself off FB during the week, though, that's begun to change - and I've been reading some particularly cool stuff over the last couple of weeks.

Cate and I went to a couple of author events at Waterstones in Liverpool - our old friends Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan were there with Barbie Wilde on the 4th, promoting Paul's new novel Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell and Barbie's collection Voices Of The Damned.

The night before, US children's author V.E. Schwab was in conversation about her new novel, This Savage Song. I hadn't realised - colour me slow on the uptake - that it was the same Victoria Schwab who wrote this blog I shared a while back. Victoria's funny andf interesting, and since she's published by Titan, PR whizz Lydia Gittins was there. (Last time I saw Lydia, at Eastercon, she told me that if she wasn't wearing her pink coat, people didn't recognise her. She wasn't, and I didn't.)

Anyway: This Savage Song is urban fantasy, and YA fiction - but it never talks down to its audience
or is anything less than satisfying to a reader of any age.

This Savage Song tells the story of two teens in a broken world, where violent acts start breeding actual monsters. Some are shadows with teeth that feed on flesh and bone. Some are corpses that feed on blood. And some can pass for human. Those rare creatures feed on souls.

It’s the story of Kate Harker, the only daughter of a crime boss, and August Flynn, the son of a man trying to hold his city together. Kate is a human who wants to be a monster, and August a monster who wishes he were human.

It's that simple, and that good. Half crime-thriller, half low fantasy, with vivid characters, sharp prose and an absorbing narrative. The story is due to conclude in a second volume: I'll be picking it up.

Along with anything else I can lay hands on by Mercedes Murdock Yardley, after reading her novel Pretty Little Dead Girls earlier this week:

“Run, Star Girl.”

Bryony Adams is destined to be murdered, but fortunately Fate has terrible marksmanship. In order to survive, she must run as far and as fast as she can. After arriving in Seattle, Bryony befriends a tortured musician, a market fish-thrower, and a starry-eyed hero who is secretly a serial killer bent on fulfilling Bryony’s dark destiny.

Schwab's book is a tough and streetwise: Yardley's is fey, whimsical, wide-eyed and wry, but with a sinister edge. It has an almost fairy-tale feel - but is most definitely not for kids. It's funny, charming, and dark. You'll laugh... but don't get too comfortable.

And that brings me to the third read of the week: Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song.

The first things to shift were the doll's eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swivelled, until their gaze was resting on Triss's face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak.

'What are you doing here?' It was uttered in tones of outrage and surprise, and in a voice as cold and musical as the clinking of cups. 'Who do you think you are? This is my family.'

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family - before it's too late . . .

I'm loving this one. More urban fantasy for young adults, this one set in the fictional city of Ellchester between the wars. It features a cunning twist on the changeling myth, and some great characters. Cate has a copy of Hardinge's latest book, The Lie Tree, which won the British Fantasy Award last year. My main memory of Hardinge's acceptance speech is of her standing at the lectern in her customary black fedora, describing a typical pitch to publishers: "Now, this might sound a little bit mad..."

And I realised the other night I was once in a magazine with her! Her first short story, 'Shining Man', appeared in issue 8 of Paul Bradshaw's The Dream Zone way back in 2001, alongside a bit of fluff by yours truly called 'The Flower And The Labyrinth.'

Katie Norris and Sinead Parker continue to conquer the world, or at least Edinburgh, chalking up another review, this time in the Guardian. Hopefully they'll be touring after this - hope so, and that I can get to see them.

One review compared them to another comedy gem I recently discovered: Phoebe Waller-Bridge's  bleak, filthy, hilarious series Fleabag. It manages to showcase a bunch of wonderfully unlikeable characters and make you give a damn about them (well, except for Olivia Colman as Fleabag's saccharinely hateful stepmother.) Fleabag herself is self-loathing and self-destructive; pathos and sadness are never far from the surface. It manages to be touching when you least expect it; the highlight of one episode is an incredibly tender and beautiful monologue from Hugh Dennis (not an actor you necessarily associate with that kind of performance.) Really worth checking out, if you haven't discovered it already.

And finally, another advance review of Ellen Datlow's Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror, from Paul St John Mackintosh:

You couldn’t wish for better evidence for the contention that weird horror is the representative genre of our time. Unreservedly recommended.

I'll take that!

Have a good weekend, everybody.

Be excellent to one another.

May Monday be a long time coming...

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