Author and Scriptwriter

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

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Devil's Highway: Paperback Launch


The paperback of Devil's Highway, the second book in the Black Road quartet, is released today.

You can buy direct from the publishers, or from Amazon.

In the haunted desolation of post-nuclear Britain, the Catchman walks. Spawned from the nightmare of Project Tindalos, it doesn’t tire, stop, or die. It exists for one purpose only: to find and kill Helen Damnation, leader of the growing revolt against the tyrannical Reapers and their Commander, Tereus Winterborn.

Meanwhile, Helen is threatened from both without and within. Her nightmares of the Black Road have returned, and the ghosts of her murdered family demand vengeance, in the form of either Winterborn’s death or her own. And close behind the Catchman, a massive Reaper assault, led by Helen’s nemesis, Colonel Jarrett, is nearing the rebels’ base.

Killing Helen has become Jarrett’s obsession: only one of them can emerge from this conflict alive.

And in others news, today I finished the first draft of the third Black Road novel, Wolf's Hill, which will be published in 2018.

Please share far and wide! Like an idiot (well, partly because juggling the new job with the writing in knackering me out) I completely forgot to do much to signal boost this one, and it's a book I'm very proud of. I hope you'll enjoy it too.

Basically, just imagine this as the theme music:


Monday, 30 January 2017

The Lowdown with... Michael Wehunt

Michael Wehunt lives in Atlanta, Georgia. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, The Dark, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction, The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, and Year's Best Weird Fiction, among others. His debut fiction collection, Greener Pastures, was published in 2016 by Shock Totem Publications.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
i. I was born in Georgia, just south of the Appalachian Mountains, and while I ended up 60 miles away in Atlanta, many years later I have not figured out how to leave the South yet.

ii. I once attempted stand-up comedy…three times. I’m still not sure why, but it was a lot of fun and it did a world of good for my mild stage fright. It also greatly helped my more general fear of “performing.” I’m putting that word in quotation marks to broaden it, and because I really believe getting up there and doing that was the first step toward allowing myself to try writing fiction.

iii. There are Prohibition moonshiners in my family tree in north Georgia. Following a police raid and the destruction of a family distillery in 1916, some equipment and a great deal of whiskey ended up in a nearby well. My great-grandfather died trying to rescue his son and his cousin, who had both tried to recover equipment from the well. All three, one at a time, were overtaken by powerful fumes. It’s a tragic piece of local lore in the area.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
My short story “Notrees” was published in Innsmouth Free Press in June of 2012. A piece of trivia about this story: It’s very, very obviously Lovecraftian, but I had yet to read a single thing by Lovecraft. That tells you how pervasive cosmic horror has been in recent years and how well others play in it. I would never publish it again, but I’m proud of the fact that I haven’t yet had a particularly strong urge to remove the link to “Notrees” from my website’s bibliography page. But now that I’m mentioning it here, I find myself wanting to reread it with a critical eye…

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
My story “The Devil Under the Maison Blue” (originally published in The Dark in 2015) might come out on top. I tried to look at several difficult things at once using only 4,000 words, and somehow it all came together. It also has been made by others into my proudest moment. It was chosen for Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2016 by Paula Guran, Year’s Best Weird Fiction 3 by Simon Strantzas, and it was how my agent found me. So it will always have a special place in my dark writer heart.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
My third published story, “The Anything Cloak.” I haven’t read it in quite some time and would probably be mostly okay with it. It’s a little clumsy but not embarrassingly so. But not long after I wrote it, I read Joe Hill’s “The Cape” and realized the central conceit and theme (while somewhat different) had been done a lot better already.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
If it’s a really great writing day, I’m able to take half an hour during my lunch and peck away at something. But a normal day is just me sitting down for one hour in the evening. My rule is five evenings a week and hopefully a good bit more on Saturday. No writing on Sundays. The crucial thing for me is routine. I put on a record (field recordings, ambient or drone, some unobtrusive classical) and try not to hear the ticking clock.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
I have to go with “October Film Haunt: Under the House,” which is original to my collection, Greener Pastures. (I would pick one exclusive to the book, wouldn’t I?) Although it’s more intense weird horror and less character-driven, I feel extra-safe choosing that one. I had a lot of fun taking risks with the concept of horror fandom and the “found footage” genre, and of all the stories in the book, it’s been singled out most often as the favorite of readers.

7. What are you working on now? 
I’ve basically shoved everything off my desk in order to write a novel for the first time. Someone told me that you learn a lot about yourself while writing a novel, and now that I’m around the 30% point, I can already agree with that. At any rate, I’m past the point of no return and still nervous and excited to see how it all plays out.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Lowdown with... Carrie Laben

Welcome to the first Lowdown of 2017! Bit of a belated start, I know - having started a day job towards the end of last year, it's thrown some of my normal daytime scheduling out. Nonetheless, now it's back, so please welcome 2017's first guest - U.S. author Carrie Laben.

Carrie Laben grew up in western New York on a small dairy farm. After stints in Ithaca and Brooklyn, New York, she earned her MFA at the University of Montana in scenic Missoula. She now lives in Queens.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
- The first thing that most people learn about me is that I'm an avid birdwatcher, and I'm very interested in environmental issues generally. Back when I considered it impractical to want to be a writer, I got a B.S. in natural resource management. The most I've ever used that degree for is helping my friends with birds that accidentally got inside. So much for practical.
- I'm the oldest of seven children. Relationships between siblings play a major role in my work for some reason.
- My favorite place I've ever lived is Missoula Montana, despite the fact that I didn't have a car the whole time I lived there. I've never had a car or a driver's license.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 

 My first pro publication was "Something in the Mermaid Way" at Clarkesworld Magazine back in 2007. Nick Mamatas, who was editing at the time, called me creepy, and that was about the best thing I could think of. Then that story got nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award and picked up by Rich Horton for Fantasy: The Best of the Year. It all gave me a rather skewed perception of how things were going to go from then on!

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
 Tough call, but the one I wish more people had read was "And Neither Have I Wings to Fly", which was in Bewere the Night, an anthology of shapeshifter stories. I got to do some fun stuff with POV in "The Fledglings of Time" in Zombies: Shambling Throught the Ages. My most recent story, "Postcards from Natalie", I think has an emotional depth that I hadn't ever quite gotten to before. Like I said, tough call.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
"Cringe" is a strong word but "A Shot of Fireball" in the anthology Handsome Devil was composed with the idea that it would eventually be part of a larger work, and when I look at it now all I can see are the loose ends.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?
I'm a night owl. On a good day I get up at eight or nine, have coffee and do some yoga before I get my butt in the chair, and work on my nonfiction freelancing gigs until I break for lunch at one or two pm. Then there's an interval of putzing around and taking care of correspondance and invoicing and errands and whatnot. My most productive time for fiction is after dinner until midnight or so.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
"Something in the Mermaid Way" at Clarkesworld or "Postcards from Natalie" at The Dark. Both are available online and between them they span my career to date.

7. What are you working on now? 
I'm finishing up a new draft of my novel, which is about a pair of sisters - surprise! - with psychic powers on a post-jailbreak road trip to the heart of their family's history of abuse and deceit. Also to Minnesota.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Things of 2017 so far: Reviews for The Feast Of All Souls and Devil's Highway, Hayley Stevens Interview, Derek M. Fox

Reviews have continued to come in for The Feast Of All Souls, from both Fantasy Book Review, who really liked it -

I finished The Feast of All Souls in short order, always a good sign that I enjoyed a book, in fact enjoying it every bit as much as the Herbert and King novels I read in my teen years and... the [Adam] Nevill books I have read in recent years. I turned the last page both satisfied and impressed... an author I would not hesitate to read again.

- and from SFX, who weren't so keen:

There's a lot going on in this novel: hauntings aside, there's time travel, torture, grief, and even a bit of Arthurian Grail lore. The interesting stuff comes in fits and starts, though... it's infuriating, especially because Alice is such a horrible character to spend time with... The reason behind the . haunting, when it's revealed, is inventively grotesque, and the various strands of nastiness weave together satisfyingly enough. Still, there probably needs to be an epilogue where Alice apologises to literally every other character in the book.

Actually, I kind of like that idea. I might write it and post it here... :)

[Just FYI: there's no link to the SFX review as I haven't been able to find it online, not because I'm sulking over it!]

Hayley Stevens
As part of the promotion for The Feast Of All Souls, I interviewed one of the people who helped me Hayley Stevens. Originally a fervent believer in all things paranormal, now she's a rationalist and skeptic who applies scientific method to find the explanation for weird phenomena. John Revell's approaches in The Feast Of All Souls owe a lot to her.
in my research for it - real-life paranormal investigator

Not that everything Hayley's encountered has had a wholly rational explanation... but you'll have to read the interview, here and here, to find out about that. And to find out more, check out her website.

Devil's Highway is also garnering good notices, with rave reviews from both This Is Horror and Ginger Nuts of Horror.

Thomas Joyce at This Is Horror calls Devil's Highway:

An excellent cross-genre blend which shall appeal to horror, military, and action fans alike... a thrilling tour-de-force novel full of military grade action sequences and complex characters, but also moments of intense emotion and the lightest touches of romance which combine to deliver a compelling story that pulls you in and refuses to let go, adding Bestwick handles the conclusion of the story with the touch of an expert storyteller while also setting up the story to continue into book three with a new threat. It is clear that he has more in store for fans of ‘The Black Road’ series and we will not be disappointed.

Over at Ginger Nuts Of Horror meanwhile, Laura Mauro says: In many ways Devil’s Highway is a high-octane action movie of a book: the Mad Max: Fury Road of genre novels, only with more dialogue. And this is not a bad thing.

Laura particularly rates the portrayal of Helen Damnation: In the hands of another writer, Helen might have become a dull caricature of a ‘strong female character’. Here, though, her flaws and failings are put under a narrative microscope and viewed alongside her strengths and triumphs: she is a brave warrior, a survivor, a leader of men. She is also weak and selfish and dangerously impulsive. She is imperfect, and all the more interesting a character for it.

I did chuckle over this bit, admittedly: There is a particular moment of loss which hit me especially hard, and I think it speaks of Bestwick’s skill as a writer that he is able to make me care so much about a relatively minor character. Mainly because I remember an email from Laura that read "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU KILLED [DELETED] YOU UTTER BASTARD." There can be few higher compliments for a writer...

The review concludes: A potent mix of grim, dystopian sci-fi and visceral horror, combined with a vibrant imagination, lift a standard ‘Good vs Evil’ narrative and have turned it into something quite special indeed.

So all this has been much-needed good news, among the general gloom and doom of world affairs and other matters of a more personal nature.

Derek M. Fox
We're off for dinner with friends tonight, which is good as this week began on something of a sad

Back in the 1890s 1990s, when I was starting out as a writer, I used to attend the Terror Scribes meetings, where UK horror authors (usually based in the North or Midlands) gathered together for alcohol and curry. I still remember the one where I decided that pints of Stella Artois followed by Lambs Navy Rum chasers were a good idea... actually, 'remember' probably isn't the right word. They were started off by Chesterfield author John B. Ford, who invited a bunch of writers he knew to join and Simon Clark in a Sheffield pub in order to generally get drunk and shoot the breeze; the whole thing was that much fun, it became a semi-regular thing for several years.

One of the stalwarts of the Terror Scribes (and of the UK horror small press in the '90s) was Derek M. Fox, who died shortly before Christmas last year. Author and creative writing tutor, much-loved by his family and with a wicked sense of humour, Derek was a good guy and will be very much missed. I hadn't been greatly in touch with him for many years, but even though I was aware he'd been in ill-health for some time it was a shock to hear of his passing.

The funeral service was on Tuesday, and a few of us from the old days - Paul Kane, Marie O'Regan, Rob Rowntree, Lisa Negus and me - were there to pay our respects. Much love to Derek's wife Kath, and to his extended family.

RIP Derek. Get us all a round in, wherever you are.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Goodbye, 2016...

Well, this bit was good...
...and don't let the door hit your arse on the way out.

As Dave Allen once said "Annus horribilis? I'd have called it annus anus - an arsehole of a year." 2016 was the year of Brexit, Trump and a roll-call of deaths among the great and the good (the genuinely so, in the sense of actors, artists, writers and others who enriched the world and made it a better place) while truly vile individuals gained ever higher levels of power and adulation. For an awful lot of reasons, that means that when it comes to wishing people a Happy New Year for 2017, I'm setting the bar for what actually constitutes a Happy New Year pretty low. As in 'we don't all die, our countries don't turn into fascist dictatorships or post-apocalyptic hell-holes, we don't see our neighbours or ourselves dragged away and locked up or kicked to death in the middle of the night for something we said and we don't end up with World War Three'. You know, that kind of level.

Hopefully not how Liverpool looks next year.

There were good things too.

Pandas came off the endangered species list, for instance. A vaccine against Ebola was discovered. There's more, too. I'm struggling to remember what they all are, right now, but they were there. This interview with Steven Pinker suggests some of them (although whether those trends will continue is matter of opinion.) We shouldn't be starry-eyed and utopian - but nor should we give in and assume it's all fucked.

And on a personal level, it was a pretty good year.

My agent sold the audiobook rights to last year's crime novel. I placed a new story collection (contractual stuff ongoing; details to follow when possible.) I had two novels published. I had stories podcast with Pseudopod, and sold five reprints to Great Jones Street.

Better still, Cate and I celebrated four years as an item and two years living together. Oh, and...

We got married.

That was pretty fucking awesome, especially thanks to all the wonderful friends and family who came along to make it such a special day. (My Mum said: "I didn't realise how popular you were!" Um, thanks Mum. I think.)

I did end up back in a day job, at least for now. The hours are tough, but weirdly I've actually got more productive, which has included not only writing the new novel (Wolf's Hill, the third Black Road book) in the mornings, but jotting down a short story longhand during the day in between times. Two projects at the same time, which is something I've never managed to do before.

I just finished that first short story today. It appears to have turned into a novelette or novella. I think
I can deal with that.

So, for 2017: let's hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and try not to despair. No, that won't prevent bad shit from happening in the coming year. It may not even prevent the worst possible shit from happening. False optimism is pointless. But giving up hope is the one sure way to ensure all the worst possible shit will definitely happen this year.

So, let's crack on, and hope that this time next year we're all still here to celebrate better days to come. And if not, let's count our blessings and try to maintain the same mindset.

Best I can come up, really.

So: Happy New Year.

Simon x