Author and Scriptwriter

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

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Lowdown with... Stephen Bacon

Stephen Bacon lives with his wife and two sons in South Yorkshire, UK. His fiction has been published in magazines and anthologies such as Black Static, Shadows & Tall Trees, Cemetery Dance, Crimewave, and Postscripts. Several of his stories have been selected by Ellen Datlow for her Best Horror of the Year series. His debut collection, Peel Back the Sky, was published by Gray Friar Press in 2012. By day he works in an office, where he smiles at his co-workers and imagines very dark things happening to them. His website is here.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
Three things about me? Well, here goes - the first thing is that I love football. I'm actually a Nottingham Forest fan. I know a couple of other Forest fans who write horror (Richard Farren Barber and Danny Rhodes) so make of that what you will. The club's woes for the past 20-odd years probably speaks a language that horror lovers can understand.

The second thing is that, whilst I love horror and fantasy literature, I'm not a huge fan of the genre in film. I can probably count on one hand the number of horror or fantasy films I love. Actually, probably make that two hands. But compared to films from other genres (science fiction and crime and comedy) horror and fantasy fair pretty poorly. Books, however, are a different matter.

The third thing I need to tell you about me is this – once I finish my existing writing commitments I'm going to have a crack at writing the ubiquitous novel. I know, I know - that's what we all say. Well it feels like that might be the next phase of my writing path. So I'll be percolating ideas and making notes for the next few months (probably years) because it feels like the novel is an itch I'm about ready to scratch. Watch this space.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
The first thing I ever had published was a short story called 'Webbed Fingers', which appeared online in a webzine called Dark Fire Fiction. Not long afterwards a story of mine called 'The Motive' was published in an American magazine called Aoife's Kiss.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
My favourite story from my own work is probably either 'Cuckoo Spit' or 'None So Blind'. The first was published in Black Static and the second appeared in Shadows & Tall Trees. Both stories were received pretty well, and they felt like milestones in my writing path. 'None So Blind' was also the first story of mine that was selected for Best Horror of the Year rather than just making the honourable mention list.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
Many of my earliest stories are incredibly overwritten, and not half as subtle as I thought they were when I first wrote them. But I suppose the evolution of a writer means that your path is visible for all to see. As long as your writing is improving, you can't argue too much...

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I work a full-time day job so my writing has to happen around that. I always have the weekends off too, which makes me sound incredibly lax. So I write weekdays in an evening, usually from around 7.30 pm onwards (until very late). During my lunch-break at work I tend to write longhand in my notepad, and then revise it when I type it up in the evening. I'm definitely the kind of writer who prefers having written rather than actually writing. I also read a lot which sometimes does make it difficult to spend as much time writing as I'd like, however I think it's essential to read extensively (inside and outside your chosen genre) in order to be able to write to a suitable standard to contribute. The way I work is that every time I write, I read through the previous bit and edit as I go along. That way my productivity is a bit slower, but hopefully I catch the time back by not needing quite as much in the subsequent drafts. I'm also the type who adds to the original draft rather than cutting bits out to streamline it. I prefer a leaner framework on which to hang my meat. I should also say that if you're reading this and your harbour a desire to write, the one thing I would definitely recommend would be to attend the odd convention here or there (Fantasycon and Edge-Lit are my preferred two) because you won't regret it. Just mixing with creative types is the most immersive and inspiring thing you can ever do. Some of my closest friends were people that I met at conventions. What can be better than chatting with likeminded souls until the early hours, all the while being surrounded by people selling books? If such a thing as Heaven exists, it'll look like a combined version of the dealers' room and the bar at a writers' convention. Trust me on that one.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
Probably Peel Back the Sky, which is my debut short story collection. It is a snapshot of my writing from the first 5 or 6 years since I sold my first story. It was nominated for a British Fantasy award. It's due out very soon in a shiny new electronic version. However, at the moment I'm looking for a publisher for my second collection. This feels like it's more representative of how my writing has progressed in the last few years. There'll be stories from publications like Black Static and Postscripts and Shadows & Tall Trees and Crimewave and Cemetery Dance. Even a few that made Best Horror of the Year. And, of course, a few original pieces. I'll keep you posted once I find a willing publisher.

7. What are you working on now?
I am working on three projects at the minute. The first is called Laudanum Nights, which is a novella of fantastical dark crime set in a pseudo-Victorian city populated by insane toy-makers, immortal recluses and monstrous insects. It is due to be published at Fantasycon in September by Hersham Horror Books. [NB: AND IT WAS, AND YOU CAN BUY IT HERE] The second is a short story called 'Fear of the Music', which is inspired by notes from the much-missed writer, Joel Lane, who sadly passed away in 2014. Joel and I corresponded several times over the years and he was very encouraging and supportive about my writing - even being kind enough to provide a blurb for Peel Back the Sky - so this story feels incredibly important to me. My story will appear in the tribute anthology, Something Remains, [NB: OUT NOW] the profits of which benefit Diabetes UK, a condition from which Joel suffered. The third project is a novella called Cockatrice which I am writing for a US publisher. It's a multi-viewpoint tale concerning a young boy who lives with his parents in an apartment block by the seaside. Neglected by his parents, who have troubles of their own, the young boy comes to believe that the mysterious tenant from the top-floor flat might be some kind of monster. I hope to be able to announce details of this one very soon.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Joel Lane, Three Years On: Black Is The Mourning, White Is The Wand

Today is the third anniversary of Joel Lane's death at the ridiculously early age of fifty. He's still loved and greatly missed - now, perhaps, more than ever. I wish we had his intelligence and insight right now.

A couple of years ago, around the first anniversary of his death, I wrote a flash fiction piece called 'Black Is The Mourning, White Is The Wand.' I haven't been able to find a home for it, so I decided to use it as part of a tribute video. So, here it is.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Things of the Last Couple of Weeks: 21st November 2016

Yep, I've used this one before, but it still applies.
I haven't really done Things of the Week for a while, because the most recent Things of the Week have been, well, horrible. Donald Fucking Trump for Christ's sake. We also lost Leonard Cohen, yet another in the non-stop roll call of great minds and talents 2016 has taken from us.

I'm not going to make jokes about it. I have POC friends, LGBT friends - not to mention pretty much any US friends who aren't complete douches - who are quite rightly terrified right now. An actual fascist is going to be the next US President. His White House will be run by an avowed White Supremacist. His Vice President has vowed to roll back not only same sex marriage, but every law preventing discrimination against LGBT people. (And despite all the right-wing jeering about PC culture, 'safe spaces' and 'special snowflakes', the new US strongman flies into a world-class tizzy when the cast of a musical dare to speak out to that Vice-President and call on him to, you know, not to be a bigot.)

But the Right are hypocrites. The same people demanding everyone now unite behind Trump are the ones who burned Obama in effigy and vowed to make him a 'one term President' (although their utter incompetence in that regard might at least be heartening.) They'll scream and shout over the cast of Hamilton calling out Mike Pence (as they did over the Dixie Chicks when they criticised Bush and the Iraq Invasion) but will scream about FREE SPEECH when it's their right to spew venom. There's no playing nice with them; they exploit the liberal idea that one should see both points of view, be reasonable, play by the rules - while refusing to do any of those things themselves.

The ones in the UK are no better. Anyone believe for a moment that Farage and the rest of the Leave campaign would have shut up and walked away if the June Referendum had gone to Remain by 52% to 48%? Like hell they would. But now that four per cent margin is a club to try and beat their critics into silence. Meanwhile, hate crimes have rocketed since the Brexit vote, and our new Prime Minister, who has openly stated that she wants to abandon the European Convention on Human Rights and who has now instituted the most intrusive mass surveillance in British history, has practically adopted UKIP's political agenda.

I've said for years we've been sliding into fascism; it's one of the recurrent themes in so much of my work.

Now we're pretty much there.

But despair is an ally to the enemy. Margaret Corvid has written an excellent piece on practical things Brits can do to combat Trump and what he represents. This article by Masha Gessen, who fled a similar brand of fascism in Putin's Russia, also makes for sobering but essential reading.

To my American friends: contrary to what some people claim, the horror community in the UK is not made up of fascist sympathisers, appeasers or collaborationists. (A certain individual is still spreading that claim, because everything has to be about themselves and their personal feuds - it's not only a lie, but now it's a pernicious one because it sows discord between people who should be on the same side.) Let me, let us, know what we in the UK can do to help. For what little it may be worth, if anyone's looking for a place to guest-blog about what's going on, to get what they want to say out there, consider this blog of mine a platform, yours for the asking.

Best wishes, everyone. This year has been a grim and scary one in so many ways, and it isn't over yet. 2017 isn't looking particularly promising. But the Trumps, the Farages, people like that can ultimately only destroy. Their end will come. In the meantine, let's focus on making their time in power as short as possible, stopping them doing as much damage as we can, and making sure as many of us as possible are still here when the morning comes. Because there will be a morning. There will be, if we can believe in it.

Rosanne Rabinowitz shared this one of Leonard Cohen's recently. It seems pretty apt right now.

Simon x

The Lowdown with... Steven Savile

Steven Savile has written for Doctor Who, Torchwood, Primeval, Stargate, Warhammer, Slaine, Fireborn, Pathfinder, Arkham Horror, Rogue Angel, and other popular game and comic worlds. His novels have been published in eight languages to date, including the Italian bestseller L’eridita. He won the International Media Association of Tie-In Writers award for his Primeval novel, SHADOW OF THE JAGUAR, published by Titan, in 2010, and The inaugural Lifeboat to the Stars award for TAU CETI (co-authored with International Bestselling novelist Kevin J. Anderson). Writing as Matt Langley his Young Adult novel BLACK FLAG, published by Cambridge University Press, was a finalist for the People’s Book Prize 2015. SILVER, his debut thriller was one of the Top 30 bestselling ebooks of 2011 (The Bookseller). He wrote the story for the massive bestselling computer game BATTLEFIELD 3 and has collaborated with HipHop legend Prodigy of Mobb Deep on HNIC. His latest books include: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE MURDER AT SORROWS CROWN, published by Titan in September 2016; SUNFAIL, an apocalyptic thriller published in the US by Akashic Books, and STELLARIS: INFINITE FRONTIERS published by Paradox Interactive in April 2016. 2017 sees the release of PARALLEL LINES, a brand new crime novel coming from Titan and GLASS TOWN, a hardcover original from St Martin’s Press in the US.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 

a. I’m a Northumbrian lad living in exile. I went on holiday to Sweden in 1997 and never came home again. Literally. Phoned my mum who was supposed to pick me up at the airport and told her I wasn’t getting on the plane. It was the least planned emigration of all time.
b. I signed the Official Secrets Act – it’s not as exciting as it sounds, though my last few minutes covered under it did include being escorted at gunpoint which was almost James Bondy…
c. I’ve been struck by lightning. More than once. First time was when I was 19. Raging storms. Folks away. The guys coming around to play an all nighter session of Call of Cthulhu. They got lost. I went out into the storm, not thinking, using one of those stupid golfing umbrellas. It was ripped out of my hand, burned and buckled, and I was thrown about ten feet back across the street. What people don’t tell you is if it happens once, odds are it’ll happen twice. You become a bit of a lightning attractor. I swear, I’ve been knocked off my feet outside the parliament buildings in Stockholm, I’ve been on a jumbo jet over Florida that’s been hit (and seen the lightning go sizzling down the centre aisle). I was at a friend’s place once in a lightning storm and they didn’t believe me so I went into the garden in the rain and sat down. Within maybe two minutes a tree no more than fifty feet away was struck. I went right back inside, pronto.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
It was a short story in a long forgotten small press mag in the UK called Exuberance. I was in the DF Lewis Special, a story called 'Coming For to Carry You Home'. That must have been 1991. Just saying that makes me feel old.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
GLASS TOWN. It’s not out yet, but it’s the book I’ve always thought I had inside me. The one time I can look at the file and say you know what, I did it, I got it out as it was in my head, and it’s lovely. It’s not just that it’s my best novel, though I think it is, it’s that it was written in adversity. I had to write the final 70k in the months my father was dying, post terminal diagnosis, and then after his funeral. It was the hardest writing I’ve ever had to do, too, because for so long I thought I was never going to write again.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
That’s harder than it should be to answer, but in retrospect I think it’s got to be the Stargate novel. That thing was cursed. It started out as a back-in-time adventure to a POW camp during the liberation, and posed the problems of not allowing themselves to get involved in history, and it was a pretty good story – then about a week before it went to print MGM shit the bed and came back ‘oh my god we can’t do a book about the Nazis! Make them aliens…’ which was a terrible terrible decision. It killed the book. I had a week to make the changes. Now… I was sprucing up my website tonight and actually thought hmm should I just make that one disappear… it’s tempting.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I write full time. It’s been my day job for 12 years this year. Once upon a time I was a ‘get up at 9, write from 10-12, have lunch, write from 1-5, hanging out with the wife, write from 10-1… now I’m more like wake up at 10, watch last night’s tv, take the dog for a walk, putter around, oh look it’s 2pm… better go write, and I put in about 1000-1500 words a day. I don’t push myself beyond that because honestly I think the quality drops if I try to do 3k days, storylines rush, things don’t get time to breathe. BUT and this is a massive caveat, the couple of hours I’m walking Buster every day, I’m thinking about the plot, I’m wrestling scenes or threads or coming up with details. I spend 3-4 hours every day thinking about the stuff I’m going to do that day or in the week or so beyond. It’s vital time.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
 Ideally it’d be GLASS TOWN or PARALLEL LINES but neither of those are out ywt, so it’d have to be SILVER, it’s the one that’s sold by far and away the most copies of anything I’ve ever done, and has generated the most fan-and-hate mail with the ‘Where’s GOLD?’ cry (it’s coming, Snowbooks, 2017… I promise) but it is absolutely the book where I finally became comfortable with myself and confident in my storytelling. So it’s the one I give away to people when I meet them or they come to the house.

7. What are you working on now? 
I’m working on a new novel for St Martins, COLDFALL WOOD, which is a very British mythological story, think Mythago Wood filtered through the lens of Clive Barker…

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Lowdown (Mrs & Mrs Edition) Part 2: with Kelly Robson

Kelly Robson’s novella “Waters of Versailles” won the 2016 Aurora Award, and this year she was a finalist for the Nebula Award, World Fantasy Award, Theodore Sturgeon Award and Sunburst Award. Her Gothic Horror novelette “A Human Stain” is forthcoming at in January. Kelly lives in Toronto with her wife, fellow SF writer A.M. Dellamonica.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
I grew up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, just a few kilometers east of Jasper National Park.
When I was a teenager, I competed in rodeos. I was crowed Rodeo Princess when I was just 14 years old, but despite all that teenage outdoorsy-ness, reading has always been my first love.
Alyx Dellamonica and I have been married for nearly 30 years.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
My first publication was “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill” in the February 2015 Clarkesworld. Neil Clarke accepted it in December, and by that time I’d already sold several stories. None of them had been published yet, but one was coming out in an anthology in March. Editors love to get the first publication scoop for a new writer, so Neil Clarke squeezed me into the February issue.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
That’s such a difficult question. It’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child! All of my stories a really different from each other. I guess I’m most proud of “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill,” which was a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Award. The reason why I’m most proud of it is that when I was drafting it, I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve (i.e., make people very upset) -- and I did it.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
Absolutely nothing. No regrets. Well, that’s not exactly true. Here in Toronto we have a monthly SF reading series, which Alyx and I try to never miss. Last August, instead of a regular reading we did a “Mortified Reading” fundraiser where a bunch of pros read from their childhood or teenage writing. Almost everyone else read horror stories (Gemma Files’ in particular was fantastic) but mine was a horse story I’d written when I was ten years old. I’m not embarrassed of it – managed to read it with hardly any cringing, and it got several good laughs, but I’m afraid it doesn’t reflect admirably on my childhood psychology.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I work from 8:00 to 4:00. We live in downtown Toronto and Alyx works at home so supper is usually over by 5:00. I’m usually writing by 5:30, and go until 7:30 or 8:00. Then we’ll watch and hour of TV, and asleep by 10:00. I’m not a fast writer, so to make decent progress, I have to put in at least two and a half hours five or six days a week (and preferably more, and much more when revising). I don’t write every day because for me, that’s a recipe for burnout. However, if I don’t write more days that not, the word count stagnates.

Cover: Waters of Versalles
 6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
My novella “Waters of Versailles” gets a lot of love, and it’s one of my favorite pieces. It’s a glittering historical fantasy set in Louis XV’s Versailles, with a surprise emotional sucker punch.

7. What are you working on now? 
I’m revising a long time travel novella called “The Last Landing of the Lucky Peach.” The story is set several hundred years in the future, and involves mass extinction events, a coming of age story where the person who comes of age is 85 years old, intergenerational conflict, and the question of whether ancient kings really believed they had supernatural powers, which is a really interesting question to me. And because my story, it also has a lot of water in it. Seems like stories are always really wet!

The Lowdown: (Mrs & Mrs Edition) Part 1: Alyx Dellamonica

A.M. DELLAMONICA is the author of Indigo Springs, which won the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, Sci-Fiction and Strange Horizons, and in numerous anthologies; her 2005 alternate-history Joan of Arc story, “A Key to the Illuminated Heretic,” was shortlisted for the Sideways Award and the Nebula Award. Dellamonica lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.  
1. I am a Toronto, Ontario writer with four books to my name, a fifth novel coming out this December, and forty short stories in print. My work has been translated into Polish, Hebrew, and (I hope to announce soon) Italian! My first novel, INDIGO SPRINGS, won the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic and my most recent, A DAUGHTER OF NO NATION, won the 2015 Prix Aurora for best novel, in the same year that my wife, Kelly Robson, won the Aurora for short fiction for her outstanding novella "Waters of Versailles."

2. I have never learned to enjoy the process of shopping for shoes.
3. My biggest problem in life right now is deciding if I can wait on an an amazing local tattoo artist, to work with me on the poppies I want to put on my right shoulder, in celebration of the incredible year I've had. She's booked through to the end of 2016. I’m keen in part because I feel it is always important to notice when things are going so well that your greatest source of angst is over when and how you're going to get your next bit of celebratory body art. If you don't pay attention when things are good, you run the risk of seeing your life as a vale of tears.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
Excluding student newspaper-type publications and contests wins, my first fantasy story appeared in Crank! Magazine in 1991 and was called "Lucre's Egg."

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
My Hidden Sea Tales trilogy is wrapping up this December with THE NATURE OF A PIRATE, the follow-up to A DAUGHTER OF NO NATION. It is an ambitious project, set on a world with over 250 island nations, each with their own microclimate and proprietary magic system. The books are funny, romantic, adventurous crime stories. I bit off a lot with them, but I think--perhaps for the first time--it was never quite more than I could chew. I love the world, Stormwrack, that they're set in and I hope to write many more things set in that realm, using those characters and countries.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
I'm not sure there's anything that makes me cringe, precisely. I'm not sorry that I started publishing stories before the days when everything was electronically archived. I'm so much better now that I'm not entirely unhappy that my freshman efforts, like "Lucre's Egg," are a little more difficult to access. That said, they represented the best writing I could produce at the time, and even if 2016 Alyx looks at them askance, that doesn't mean they're without value. If you aren't a little appalled by your work of two decades ago, it may mean you aren't getting better.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
At 6:30 every morning I sit down to do a little teaching and correspondence, to wake up and clear my mind and schedule. By 8:00 a.m., I am in a cafe near my home, drinking coffee and writing fiction. Depending on how that goes, I segue into exercise and errands between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00. My afternoons are more flexible: sometimes I work on revising fiction, sometimes I need to do more teaching, sometimes I have administrative work, non-fiction to work on, or I have appearances to prep for--convention panels I'm moderating, lectures I'm giving, etc. This phase of the day bleeds into dinnertime and, sometimes, afterward into the evening.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 

That really depends on what kind of fiction they're looking for, but it's hard to go wrong with one of my stories, which are all free to read at their site and handily gathered here.  If you like urban fantasy, there's my baby werewolf has two mommies story, "The Cage." If you want to sample Stormwrack there are three prequels to the Hidden Sea Tales books: "Among the Silvering Herd," "The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti," and "The Glass Galago" respectively. If you're curious about my previous series, The Books of Chantment, "Wild Things" is a tie-in to that. Or there's a horror stand-alone, "The Color of Paradox."

7. What are you working on now? 
I am simultaneously working on two related works. One is a novella set forty years from now, in a Toronto weathering the early years of a climate crisis known as the Setback. The other is a novel set a generation later, during a period of (what's hoped to be) ecological recovery. They're near-future greenpunk, with a heavy emphasis on the future of social media, and the latter is also a first contact book. The novella, "Of Things," is very dark, but the novel, GLORY DAYS, is more optimistic.

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Lowdown with... Tade Thompson

Tade Thompson is the author of the award-winning novel MAKING WOLF, the upcoming ROSEWATER, and a number of short stories and novellas. His background is in medicine and social anthropology. He lives and works in the south of England.

 1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
-In Wimbledon, during the hot summer of 1976, I got sunburnt for the first and only time. I also kissed a girl on the playground for the first and only time.
-I am a lapsed martial artist with training in Taekwondo, Shotokan Karate and hapkido.
-In the Star Wars franchise I only like A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The rest leaves me cold.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
My first accepted story was a short piece of general fiction called 'Foster's Run' in a defunct magazine called Carillion, paid in contributors copies. This would have been maybe 2002. My first paid story was in another defunct online venue, Neverary, in 2003, for a slipstream story called 'Sidetracked'. I received the princely sum of five bucks American I think. My lesson from this sale was always look at the edits. I did not, and the published story did not reflect my vision, but that's entirely my fault and not the editor's. My first semi-pro sale was to Ideomancer (now defunct! I had nothing to do with this, I swear. I realise this is making me seem like a serial destroyer of venues that buy my fiction). I sold a story called 'The McMahon Institute for Unquiet Minds'. This was 2005 and my first reviewed story-basically, Tangent Online liked it, which felt good.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
Agh! Okay, I'm one of those people who is never happy with work that I've published. The moment it's gone I think of a hundred things I could have done differently. It's a tie. I guess I'm most proud of my sci-fi novel ROSEWATER (Apex Books, 2016) which I think said exactly what I wanted it to say, and my horror novella GNAW (Solaris, 2016) which is a ghost story that I researched to the point of death. They're both coming out later this year and who knows how they'll be received?

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
The story 'Sidetracked' that I mentioned above. I'm kinda glad the webzine no longer exists (sorry, Lon!) The edits included adding bowler hats and unrealistic dialogue. I hated it.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I wake up early and write new material for an hour. I write longhand with a gel ink pen in a nondescript notebook. In the evening when my family's gone to sleep I transcribe the morning's work, then I revise some older writing (I have dates on a calendar for draft revision). Then I read for two hours, beta-reading or fiction, then non-fiction. I rarely go to bed before midnight. I time-box, using a modified Pomodoro. This routine is not inflexible. Sometimes I get engrossed in one particular thing (usually a good book, or art or something).

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 

Short stories: Slip Road, The Monkey House,  'One Hundred And Twenty Days Of Sunlight' In the African Monsters Anthology.  There is, of course, my debut alt history crime novel MAKING WOLF which won the Golden Tentacle Award at the Kitschies.

7. What are you working on now? 
Two things: A novella called 'The Murders of Molly Southbourne' which is...dark speculative fiction. This is in the revision stage and I hope to have news regarding a market soon. The second thing is a contemporary fantasy novel called LABOURS which is basically the 12 labours of Heracles meets The Warriors and it's kicking my arse. My first drafts usually go in starts and stops, with much wastage. No change here. I hoped to be further along by now, but getting it right is more important than speed.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Things Of The Week: 4th November 2016

Me, Nightmares, and early morning bed hair
Well, Offline October wasn’t as offline as I intended – social media’s a definite addiction of mine, and one I need to address as it’s been eating into my writing too much. I was worried that I might have writer’s block, but once I unplugged the wireless router (downstairs), fired up the laptop (upstairs) and made myself write I found the prose still came easily enough. So, basically, it was simple laziness.

I’m still not underway on the first draft of Wolf’s Hill, and that needs fixing – I’m hoping to get rolling in the next week or two, and try and finish the first draft, at least, by year’s end. At the moment I’m working on a couple of short stories; once those are gone, it’ll be the book’s turn. The Lowdown will resume next week: meanwhile, here are some things that have been going on.

The first piece of news is a sad one: the sudden and unexpected passing of literary agent Carole Blake. Although I never met Carole personally, many other writers have spoken of her with great warmth and affection in both professional and personal terms. Along with Julian Friedmann, she co-founded the agency that represents me; she also wrote 29 Ways Not To Submit To An Agent, which was handy (although I was relieved to note that I didn’t do most of them anyway) and I know that her book, From Pitch To Publication, was a big help to many writers. My thoughts go to her family and to her friends and colleagues at Blake-Friedmann.

With the run-up to Halloween, it seemed a good time to catch up on horror movies (as per my recent posts. I have a tendency to buy books and DVDs which then sit around for months or even years before I finally get round to watching or reading them, and I caught up with a few titles in October. In the book stakes there was Ramsey Campbell’s The Seven Days Of Cain (great title!)*, while in the realm of movies there were two corkers: Oculus and The Babadook.

Oculus centres around a mirror with demonic properties. By controlling the perceptions of those who own it, it drives them to suicide. Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) lost their parents to it, and Tim was incarcerated in a mental institution for years; now, Kaylie has tracked the mirror down and sets out to prove there’s a genuine supernatural force present. The narrative cuts back and forth between the events of their childhood and the present day; if it has a weakness, it’s that this format means the parents’ psychological deterioration feels as though it happens a little too quickly. Cate and I found this seriously unsettling: there are a few jump scares, but that’s not where it’s at.

The Babadook: wow. Amelia (Essie Davis) was widowed in a car crash the night her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) was born. Now, her son is plagued by nightmares of a monster coming for him, building weapons to fight it; as his behavioural problems place Amelia under ever-increasing strain, she finds a pop-up book called The Babadook, after the shadowy monster it centres on. Soon, the creature from the book begins to invade their lives, and Amelia’s own sanity begins to crumble. Original and very, very disturbing.

We’ve also started watching the new E4/Netflix series Crazyhead, starring Cara Theobald and Susan Wokoma. The trailer looked as though it could be good or terrible; we only needed to watch about five minutes to know we liked it. Amy (Theobald) has just stopped taking anti-psychotic medication to suppress the hallucinations she keeps having. Except that they aren’t hallucinations: she’s one of a tiny number of people who can see those possessed by demons. One of them nearly kills her till she’s rescued by Raquel (Wokoma), another ex-mental patient with the same gift. Crazyhead manages to be both genuinely funny and full of genuine scares, and has real heart, especially in the relationship between the two leads. There’s also a strong supporting cast – Amy’s flatmate and best friend Suzanne (Riann Steele), her amorous work colleague Jake (Lewis Reeves), Raquel’s brother Tyler (Arinze Kene) and head demon Callum (Tony Curran) – plus a willingness to bump off supporting characters that helps ramp up the tension among the humour. Crazyhead’s only downside is that, being a British series, it’s only six episodes. Here’s hoping it gets a second series.

Three really nice things happened this week.

Nice Thing No. 1: My contributor’s copy of Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror arrived. Nightmares has been very well received, with a host of excellent reviews appearing, including a starred review in Publishers’ Weekly. Not many of them mention my own tale, ‘Hushabye’, but I can live with that – I’m happy to be published in that company!
Me with The Feast Of All Souls, plus yet more bed hair.
Ellen Datlow’s latest anthology collates stories from between 2005 and 2015 that have had a ‘lasting impact’ on her. Authors such as Mark Samuels, Laird Barron, Livia Llewellyn, John Langan, Gene Wolfe, Margo Lanagan and many more appear within; I’m proud and delighted to see ‘Hushabye’ included.

Nice Thing No.2: My author copies of The Feast Of All Souls, published next month by Solaris, turned up too. Complete with that beautiful cover art by Ben Baldwin. Please get in touch if you’d like to review the book. Which brings me on to…

Nice Thing No.3: Gill O’Rourke recently started reading my stuff, starting with Tide Of Souls, which she raves about on her blog here. She also co-presents the radio show Lifestyle MK, where she continues the rave-age, and solicits a few words with me on reviews. You can listen to me blather on here. Many thanks, Gill!

So, about that:

One thing I’ve become very aware of recently is the importance of reviews in driving book sales. The algorithms on Amazon (and let’s face it, this is where a lot of people are buying their books now) give you more visibility if you’ve had more reviews. 50 is usually the magic number that means you show up near the top of the search results in your chosen category.

So, if you’ve read my stuff and liked it, please leave a review. Or just leave a review (honest ones are better any day of the week!) I’ve certainly decided to start doing this more with books I’ve read and liked. It’s a simple and direct way to show your appreciate for a writer, and something concrete you can do to help them out.

* ETA: And yes, I'll be writing an Amazon review!