Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday, 2 April 2021

Things Of The Week 2nd April 2021: Best Horror Of The Year #13, Nine Ghosts Launch Video, Out Of The Darkness, Body Shocks Advance Review

So, two nights ago I got an email from Ellen Datlow, about a short story of mine called 'A Treat For Your Last Day,' letting me know she wanted to publish it in The Best Horror of the Year #13.

Anything like that is always great news, but this was particularly great for two reasons: firstly because it'll mark the first time I've appeared in Best Horror of the Year for two years running - it only seems like last week that I received my contributor's copy of Best Horror of the Year #12, the incredibly cool Reiko Murakami of which is pictured on the left - and secondly because 'A Treat For Your Last Day' was first published on my Patreon page.

I've had a Patreon account for a couple of years now, and my biggest challenge has been making it both something I can sustain and something that's worth looking at. I'll talk a bit more about my Patreon in another post some time. For now, I'll just say that I post new work there every fortnight and that you can read it for as little as a dollar a month. So there we go. 

In other news, the Kickstarter for Unsung Stories' Out Of The Darkness anthology still has five days to run, although it's already massively outstripped its original target of £2500. I'm one of a host of authors - including Laura Mauro, Aliya Whiteley, Georgina Bruce, Gary Budden, Tim Major - who've contributed horror and dark fantasy fiction inspired by the theme of mental illness. All author fees and royalties will be donated to Together For Mental Wellbeing.

Having hit its first stretch target of £5000, the anthology will now include an additional story by Malcolm Devlin; if it hits its second stretch target of £7000, a further story by Gareth E. Rees will be added to the table of contents. The total amount pledged currently stands at £6840, so things are looking pretty healthy there.

Ginger Nuts Of Horror has been hosting a series of articles in which the anthology's contributors talk about their own inspirations and experiences. Contributors Aliya Whiteley, Tim Major and Anna Vaught disucss their stories here; Alison Moore, Verity Holloway and Eugen Bacon talk about theirs here, and you can find Sam Thompson, Richard V Hirst and myself on our own contributions here

The first advance review of another Ellen Datlow anthology, Body Shocks - which includes my story 'Welcome To Mengele's' - is now up at HellNotes, and seems to be a rave. Hopefully the first of many for this book. 

Finally, Nine Ghosts, my new mini-collection from Black Shuck Books, was released on March 25th, and March 26th saw a live-streamed launch via YouTube

See! A fat beardy man wittering on!  

Hear! The two lucky winners of free copies of the book!

And tremble! At readings of two of the stories from the collection, 'The Cage' and 'Dab and Sole.'

If you missed (or if you didn't, and for some insane reason actually want to put yourself through that again,) here it is.


Have a good weekend, folks.

Simon. 


Monday, 22 March 2021

Nine Ghosts

I have a new mini-collection coming out from Black Shuck Books.

It's called Nine Ghosts.

There are nine stories.

There are nine ghosts.

Two of the stories have never been published before.

Two others have only appeared on my Patreton.

You can find more details here.

I meant to do a live launch on Facebook, as I did for A Different Kind Of Light. Unfortunately Facebook has currently blocked me from livestreaming. I have no idea why.

Luckily I can livestream through my YouTube channel. So that's what I'll be doing at 7.00 pm GMT on Friday 26th March.

There'll be a live reading, a Q&A and a chance to win a couple of copies.

So be there or be square.

The nine ghosts await you. 

(PS: I've invited as many people to the event via Facebook as I can, but I was only able to send a limited number of invites. So do please spread the word if you possibly can, or if you know anyone you think might enjoy this.)

Friday, 12 March 2021

Things of the Week 12th March 2021: Breaking the Hundred, Redwater, Contributor Copies and Out of the Darkness

I've had an up-and-down couple of weeks in mental health terms, which hasn't been much fun, but I've managed to keep writing throughout, although at times it's been a case of grinding it out. Nonetheless, stuff has got done, and stuff has happened.

The last novel I completed in first draft, Tatterskin, was finished on 24th November. Since then I've been trying to complete the next novel. I've started two and ended up having to lay both aside as I ran into blocks and problems. Hopefully I'll be able to go back to them, figure out where I was going wrong and pick up the thread again at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, though, the new book is coming along. I have no idea what it's about, or if it's any good, but I'm doing my best not to think about that and just write the next right thing in the story. I recently broke the hundred-page mark, which always feels like a milestone. But I've got that far before with at least one of the projects I've laid aside by now, so I'm trying not to be overconfident. So, we'll see.

I'm taking a break from the novel in any case, for a couple of weeks, as there a couple of short stories I want to get written. With any luck, it'll still be there when I get back.

Other news: well, I'm delighted to say that my story 'Redwater' has been accepted for The Alchemy Press Book Of Horrors 3: A Miscellany Of Monsters. More information on this anthology when I have it.   

Also, I was delighted to receive my contributor's copy of The Best Horror Of The Year #12, which includes my story 'Below' from Terror Tales of North West England. Many thanks to Ellen Datlow, and to Jason Katzman at Skyhorse Publishing. It's got stories from amazing writers like Catriona Ward, Joe Lansdale, Laura 'Bricklauncher' Mauro and Gemma Files (with 'The Puppet Motel', which also appears in her storming collection In That Endlessness, Our End.) Along eith many more. I've only savoured a couple of the stories so far, but I'm looking forward to reading the rest.

Finally, I'm glad to finially be able to announce my involvement in Out Of The Darkness, edited by the most excellent Dan Coxon and published by Unsung Stories. In one way or another, all the stories in the anthology tackle themes of mental health, and are written by authors with experience of those issues. One additional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a massive spike in mental health problems: all author fees and royalties will be donated to Together For Mental Wellbeing.  

I've never made any secret of my own experiences with anxiety and depression, so I was proud to be asked to contribute. My story 'The Hungry Dark' will appear alongside contributions by authors including Laura Mauro, Nicholas Royle, Tim Major, Aliya Whiteley and many more. 

The anthology has already met its initial Kickstarter goals, but it's now chasing new targets, hoping to add more authors to the anthology. If you'd like to support Out Of The Darkness, you can still contribute to the Kickstarter here

You can read more here, at Ginger Nuts Of Horror, where Dan talks about the background to the anthology.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Simon x.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Things Of The Last Week Or So 2nd March 2021: Lots of stuff!

Normally, I try to list the various things (hopefully nice ones) that the week has had in store, but this week-and-a-bit (various things popped up on Friday and over the weekend that stopped me blogging earlier) has actually been pretty packed, and in the best of ways.

So here's the latest.

The launch party for A Different Kind Of Light ran into a few technical hitches, and in the end it ended up just being me reading and presenting (big thanks to Laura Mauro and Keris McDonald, who were to have read on the night), but ended up being a great laugh and getting a few people to rush out and buy a copy. It's the closest thing I've come to hanging out with many of my friends on the horror scene in a very long time, so that was great as well.

The first reviews for A Different Kind Of Light have also appeared. Over at Marc's Books, Marc Francis sums it up with "Well worth spending your hard-earned cash on," which is, after all, what every writer wants to hear people say! And at Ginger Nuts Of Horror, Tony Jones' verdict is: "A terrific novella which sits nicely amongst the best work Simon Bestwick has written and Black Shuck have published. Outstanding and highly recommended."  

You can buy A Different Kind Of Light here

In other news, Nine Ghosts, my upcoming mini-collection (from Black Shuck Books, again, because they rock!), originally slated for an October release, will in fact be out later this month. I have some proofs to check this week. More details to follow.

Way back when I was starting out as a writer in the late 1990s, I published a number of stories with a great little magazine called Nasty Piece Of Work, edited by the wonderful David A. Green. David was open to stories that were both gruesome or extreme on the one hand, and cerebral and intelligent on the other. I did some of my best work from that period of my career for Nasty, some of which might not only never have found a home without it, but never have been conceived.

One such story was Welcome To Mengele's, a story about a brothel where you can make your sexual fantasies - whatever they are - a reality... for a price. It was reprinted in my second collection, Pictures Of The Dark, but has been out of print for a long time. I'm delighted to announce it'll be appearing in Ellen Datlow's upcoming body horror anthology Body Shocks, alongside stories by Ray Cluley, Gemma Files, Livia Llewellyn, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Priya Sharma, Tananarive Due, Tom Johnstone and many, many more wonderful authors. Hugely proud to be included.

Paula Guran, editor of The Year's Best Dark Fantasy And Horror, has published her recommended reading list from the first volume online, and I get name-checked twice, for the title novella from my collection And Cannot Come Again and for my Terror Tales Of North West England story 'Below', which went on to be reprinted in The Best Horror Of The Year #12. Cate is also listed for her Terror Tales Of North West England story 'The Mute Swan.'

Finally, I'm over the moon to announce that my novella Devils Of London has found a home at Hersham Horror, courtesy of that excellent gentleman Peter Mark May, and should be out later this year. All being well, quite a bit of my stuff should be seeing print...

So that's what's been going down, anyway.

Hope you're all well, and see you soon. Keep safe.

Simon.


Friday, 26 February 2021

New Gemma Files Collection: In That Endlessness, Our End

Gemma Files is an amazing writer.

If you know anything about horror, you should already know this.

If you didn't know, then now you do.

She has a new collection out. 

It will be very good. 

Because it's by Gemma Files.

You can buy it here.

And you should.

So now you know. 

COME CLOSER, FRIEND.

LET ME TELL YOU A STORY.

Heard the one about the Airbnb that eats your dreams, or the iron-crowned king who preys on his own bloodline from the air, still smoldering centuries after being burnt alive? How about the cloudy antique bottle you can wish your excess rage inside, or that crooked alley down which something waits to replace your disappointing child with a far more pleasant facsimile? We all know the truth, especially in times like these—in an anxiety-ridden, sleepless world such as ours, it’s only ever our very worst dreams that come true.

Here streets empty out and people pull themselves apart like amoebas, breeding murderous doppelgangers from their own flesh; houses haunt, ideas possess and a cold and alien moon stares down, whispering that it’s time to spawn. New myths rise and ancient evils descend. From the seemingly mundane terrors of a city just like yours to all the most dark and distant places of a truly terrible universe, nothing is as it seems…not even that dimly-recalled cinematic memory you’ve been chasing all these years, the one you think might be just something you stumbled upon while flipping through channels after midnight. The one that still disturbs you enough to raise a cold sweat all over your body, whenever you try to will its details clear.


Hot on the heels of her This Is Horror Award-winning short story collection Spectral Evidence, critically horror author Gemma Files compiles fifteen more of her most startling recent nightmares—a creepily seductive downward spiral of dark poetry and existential dread, entirely suitable to the slow apocalypse going on all around us. So take your mind off your troubles and send it somewhere the rules still operate, if only to punish those who violate them.


Table of Contents

This is How It Goes

Bulb

The Puppet Motel

Come Closer

Cut Frame

Sleep Hygiene

Always After Three

Thin Cold Hands

Venio

Look Up

The Church in the Mountains

Distant Dark Places

Worm Moon

Halloo

Cuckoo

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Guest Blog by Ashley Lister - The Cursed Blog Tour: Day Three

Ashley Lister is a prolific author of fiction, having written more than fifty full length novels and over a hundred short stories. Aside from regularly blogging about poetry and writing in general, Ashley also teaches creative writing, language and literature in Lancashire, England.

(This is part of the blog tour to promote Ashley's latest release, Cursed. Now read on...) 

I’d like to begin by thanking Simon for letting me visit here today and share this. This is an extract from my latest novella, Cursed. Cursed is the third in an ongoing series of novellas, all loosely related by the location in which they’re set, Innsmouth, and it’s going to be released on March 1st, 2021. This chapter occurs halfway through the story.

Innsmouth University's Explorers Club meet once a month to share stories of the supernatural. They meet in empty houses, abandoned buildings and derelict churches. They meet in the dead of night. They tell stories of the impossible, the unbelievable and the most terrible. And now, it appears, their meetings have been cursed.

There were shadows at the base of the clocktower. At this time on a winter’s evening, with the first of the ten o’clock chimes ringing out through Innsmouth’s empty town centre, shadows were not unexpected. But, for anyone paying close attention, anyone watching the dark shapes that came and went of their own volition, the shadows would have seemed darker around the base of the clocktower on this occasion.

Derek Brown, lost in his own thoughts as he took Horatio on his evening constitutional, had not noticed the shadows. It was a cold night and, not for the first time, the threat of rain made him wish to Christ his wife’s French Bulldog would hurry up and do its business so he could get back home. Horatio was not the brightest dog he’d ever encountered and this nightly walk was always made tiresomely protracted because Horatio needed to sniff every lamppost, piddle at least three hundred times, and take one shit that was slightly larger than the turds that Derek could produce. On top of that, with Horatio being a chunky little bastard, who waddled more than he walked, the nightly constitutional took forever.

Is this what my life’s come to?” he wondered, glaring down at the dog.

Horatio had paused to take his last shit of the day and it was never a pleasant experience to watch. With his bulging eyes, which always seemed to bulge further when he was straining to squeeze one out, Horatio reminded Derek of his wife. The idea that a pet could look like its owner was never truer than when Horatio was standing on a street corner with his fat arse trembling, his eyes bulging like chapel hat pegs and an expression of stupid surprise on his tubby face as though he didn’t know what was happening. Derek had often thought it was like having his wife with him on the walk, except with less inane chatter and slightly more outdoor defecating. He repeatedly told himself he’d take a picture of this moment when it occurred so that he could post it on FaceBook, alongside a picture of her, and ask his friends to spot the difference.

And this evening, to his surprise, Horatio was providing him with the perfect moment. It was almost as though the fat, simple dog had decided to pose for the shot.

Derek snatched the mobile from his jacket pocket and opened the camera app. It was set on selfies when the screen opened and he found his own pudgy, gammon-coloured features being displayed on the screen. Recoiling only a little, he pressed the button to turn the camera around and found himself staring down at Horatio as the dog stared up at him.

With the eyes bulging, the tongue lolling out over a double-chin, and a facial expression that looked like it had found three consecutive answers on a word search puzzle and was bursting to boast about the achievement, the shitting Horatio could have been his wife’s twin. Admittedly, one of them had a little more facial hair than the other, but Derek thought that was such a small distinction it was close to being negligible.

He snapped three pictures in short succession, chuckling softly to himself as he anticipated the repercussions of sharing this picture with friends. Horatio, clearly unimpressed with being photographed in the middle of a relatively private act, shied away from Derek. It was an abrupt lurch that caught Derek by surprise. One moment he was taking pictures of a shitting dog whilst holding its leash and chuckling to himself. The next moment the leash had been pulled from his hand, Horatio was waddling toward the clocktower, and Derek watched his phone, fall from his fingers and land on the freshly laid turd that Horatio had deposited.

Bloody hell,” Derek complained. “Horatio,” he called. “Come back here.”

He reached for his phone, picking it up gingerly between thumb and forefinger, and realised Horatio’s sticky turd had adhered to the screen. Derek sneered in disgust, sure the dog had done this deliberately and he scanned the empty street looking for his wife’s French Bulldog.

Horatio,” he called. “Where are you?”

Innsmouth seemed surprisingly quiet this evening. On the positive side, that meant there had been no one around to witness him dropping his phone on top of a warm and steaming dog turd. On the negative side, the silence unsettled him and there was no one around to tell him where his wife’s stupid dog had gone. A mist of drizzle hung in the air. The night seemed chillier than it should have been and, for the first time, he noticed that quite a few streetlamps seemed to have stopped working. The night was darker than it had any right to be and the subsequent shiver that tickled down his spine had nothing to do with Innsmouth’s low temperature.

Ashley writes:

This story is built on my fascination with the way people share their personal ghost stories. To celebrate this fact, on Monday March 1st, I’ll be hosting an online book launch/virtual event where I (and some friends and fellow writers) will be sharing our own personal ghost stories. If you fancy joining us, either to share a ghost story or simply to listen, please drop me an email at me@ashleylister.co.uk and I’ll happily send you an invite.

And, to find out what happens in the remainder of this novella, you can pre-order a copy of Cursed on Amazon.

You can also buy the previous novellas in the series, Unearthed and Fearless

Monday, 22 February 2021

Women In Horror Month: Dani Brown on Time Vampires and the Illusion of Support (Part Two)

Suitably labelled “The Queen of Filth”, extremist author Dani Brown’s style of dark and twisted writing and deeply disturbing stories has amassed a worrying sized cult following featuring horrifying tales such as “Becoming,” “56 Seconds”, “Sparky the Spunky Robot” and the hugely popular “Ketamine Addicted Pandas”. Merging eroticism with horror, torture and other areas that most authors wouldn’t dare, each of Dani’s titles will crawl under your skin, burrow inside you, and make you question why you are coming back for more.

("I don’t think I’ve ever touched on finding the time to write when you’re a women and so much else is demanded of you," Dani told me when I invited her to write a guest blog for WIHM. "Would that work as a topic?"

Yes, it would. And does. So here's the concluding part of it.)

Overnight

I doubt this is a specific to women or transwomen issue, but there are some people that seem to think I write a novel overnight. There was this one creep/weirdo who wouldn’t leave me alone when I first moved to this city. He told me a “great” idea he had. I said, “oh I already wrote that”. He came to bother me the next day and I had that novel out and he tried to take credit for the idea. I can’t remember the exact word count, it was long, somewhere between 70-80k, but even for someone who writes a lot very quickly when I’m in the right flow that is impossible.

You need to help me.

This is a very specific incident that happened sometime between January and June 2018. I can’t remember the exact month as I was either recovering from post traumatic stress disorder, writing 56 Seconds and Becoming (according to readers, these are two of the best things I’ve ever written, Sparky the Spunky Robot remains my favourite), or dealing with creeps who thought five months single was long enough (it really wasn’t).

This weirdo was associating with my group of friends briefly. I had a lot of books released during the first half of 2018, with two more to follow in July and August of that year. Each one of those books had to be promoted as well. This weirdo demanded my help in writing a book. He basically wanted me to write a book for him then he’d put his name on it and get all the money (which doesn’t really exist for a first book). Apparently it was my social obligation to help him (or write for him) because he cranked up the emotional manipulation. For all those years I couldn’t report emotional manipulation, I am well tuned to it and have no tolerance for it. I explain that I’m a single mother, I have to write my own books, I have chores to do, bills to pay, a day job and a vague resemblance of a social life. I don’t have the time. Again, he turns up the emotional manipulation.

I eventually posted a status on Facebook stating what I have to do each day and why I’m not available to help anyone and how I get no help. A family member jumps on stating, “your sister lives there” (half my family live in the USA). My sister lives two and a half hours away by car. Why on earth should my sister jump in her car to come wash dishes I’m perfectly capable of washing myself if I don’t help this person emotionally manipulating me? Even if she lived next door, that is an unreasonable demand. She has her own life.

I have a pretty set schedule to ensure I get through what I need to do each day. Plus my son was still in primary school and having a really rough time of it between the terrible teachers and bullying, mixed messages from pretty much everyone about how his mother wastes her life trying to have a career. My son’s mental health is a priority for me, not someone who thinks he’s entitled to my time because he can emotionally manipulate. If I don’t do the household chores to cater to other people’s demands instead, I’m only going to end up in the same situation I was in a few years ago – living in squalor with more people demanding my time and attention as my life falls apart around me. I can’t even often help people I’m more inclined to help or people I’m physically and mentally capable of helping due to my lack of time.

Running a Household

As much as I wished self-cleaning houses exist, they don’t. Plus there’s budgeting, sometimes with very little money. The less money there is, the more mentally taxing and time consuming it becomes. Then the cooking. This isn’t even considering parenting. These are the basic things that need to be done every single day. Every time I was in a relationship, the weight of these things fell on me. The weight of these things often falls on women. It is a lot easier since being single.

Congratulations if you have a partner who is helping you out with all of these things so you can write. I don’t have that. I have never had that. I don’t get the support with these things that people seem to think I have. And they all need to be done. I can’t leave dishes to pile up on the counter tops. For a start they go a bit crusty and become harder to wash, but eventually I’d run out of dishes and in the summer they’d attract insects. It isn’t exactly hygienic either. Floors need to be washed for the same reasons. Don’t get me started on having a filthy bathroom. I have no one to do these things for me. My son helps out to an extent but it is unfair to expect him to do everything.

I’ve let the dusting slip these past few weeks to sort out this novel, plus one I’m self publishing and the next novel and to see if I can sell some of these unpublished short stories on my laptop. I haven’t been trying to replace a lost to post traumatic stress freelance client who proved very lucrative to focus on getting these things done but that does create extra budgeting as my money supply dwindles (rather obviously, I haven’t been able to build up any savings with all these demands on my time from people who think they know best). I know in the long term, these things will have a better pay out than freelance and dusting. My son seems unbothered by the lack of dusting and that is something he can do if he really wants.

There’s a much higher mental pay out too, both while I’m working on it and in the future when I don’t have to do as much freelance to try to make up for time lost to the people mentioned above. Time lost is money lost. It is life lost. It is friendships lost. Dreams lost.

Finding the Time

Even in lockdown, I have found it difficult to find the time to sort out the beginning of this novel. I eventually did it between the hours of midnight and four in the morning. It wasn’t something I could break into fifteen minute chunks like the rest of the novel. It needed to be done in one sitting with a clear and rested mind. Every time I would sit there to see to it, I would then have to do something else, like cook dinner.

The health problem I mentioned a few times is one of those that keeps me awake with discomfort at night. It has been playing up lately. With it being lockdown I’ve been making up for lost sleeping and sleeping well into the afternoon. Although my life is specifically arranged for me being a late riser, this is ridiculous even by my standards. I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier, but the middle of the night was the only time I could find where I’d get a good chunk of peace. A decent amount of sleep is all part of self-care. I sacrificed it once before, I’m not doing that again. I’m still feeling the effects of those 5AM starts now and probably won’t fully recover.

My son is lost to the Playstation Network, especially right now as it is half term so all the children will be online all week. This is the only way they can socialise and play with each right now. It would be nice to watch a film with him when the schoolwork starts coming in again. Time with my son is never time wasted. That is something all these other people that demand my time need to understand. My son is a priority. It isn’t his fault these people come along and feel they are entitled to my time. He understands that rent needs to be paid and if I don’t get the work done, we won’t have a place to live. It is something the adults around us fail to comprehend. He has witnessed first hand people claiming to love him or look out for him swallowing my time so it comes down to choice between paying the rent or spending time with him.

So I’m hoping to make a significant impact on this novel this week while my child is busy socialising. That should be easier now the beginning is done enough to move on. I’m a quick writer. 56 Seconds took two-three weeks to write. While I was writing that, I wrote notes for Becoming and it took five weeks to form those into a narrative that made sense (it isn’t a traditional one). I learned how to be speedy while trapped in the bulk of time-consuming people inflicting help on me. Sometimes my books require a lot of concentration to make sense. Becoming certainly did and this book I’m writing now requires just as much concentration even if the narrative is more on the traditional side.

And now it is time to cook dinner again. At least it is leftovers tonight. That’s easier than prying the Playstation controller away from my son’s hand.  

Dani on Facebook

Dani on Twitter

Dani on Instagram

Unfortunately, Dani Brown has yet to find the time to set up a TikTok account or sort out YouTube, let alone anymore obscure social media.

Dani on Amazon USA 

Dani on Amazon UK