Author and Scriptwriter

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

Monday 29 August 2016

The Lowdown with... Adrian Tchaikovsky

Adrian Tchaikovsky is the author of the acclaimed Shadows of the Apt fantasy series, from the first volume, Empire In Black and Gold in 2008 to the final book, Seal of the Worm, in 2014, with a new series and a standalone science fiction novel scheduled for 2015. He has been nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Award and a British Fantasy Society Award. In civilian life he is a lawyer, gamer and amateur entomologist. Last week, Adrian won the Arthur C Clarke Award for his novel Children Of Time.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.

- I’ve had 14 novels out in 8 years, plus novellas and short stories. In my own head I am absolutely still “the new guy”. Sometimes people I meet at conventions are apologetic about not having read anything I’ve written. In truth I’m still surprised when someone has. Imposter syndrome is alive and well.
- When I was at primary school I used to bring insects, reptiles and other ‘undesirables’ into everything. I would doodle them in the margins in maths and try to twist any topic whatsoever so that I could bring in some sort of creepy crawly. My teachers repeatedly told me that this would get me nowhere.
- I’m a lawyer in my day job because of a bizarre series of coincidences. My first job was in a recruitment agency dealing solely with the building trade – so imagine a 22 year old with a degree in zoo/psych and no interest in football trying to be pally with middle-aged brickies and plumbers. That went about as well as you’d expect. Looking for a new job, the only place hiring was the Legal Aid Board which at that time was desperately trying to clear its backlog because of the incipient Woolf Reforms. That introduced me to the legal world through the back door, and because there was no ready career progression at the LAB, I got a job as a legal secretary because my writing had given me a decent typing speed. From there I trained as a legal executive.

2. What was the first thing you had published?
Back in the mid 90’s there was a tiny magazine called Xenos which published (unpaid) short stories. They did a handful of mine, and then I actually won their annual competition around I think 1996, and the mag promptly folded before they could publish the winning story. Because of course. That was a bit of a blow, and it was a decade before I got anything else in print. The first story of mine they published was ‘The Greatest Warrior in the World” which has not been seen since. The winning story – which is the first thing I wrote that I think was of properly professional quality, was ‘The Roar of the Crowd’ which can be found in Newcon’s Feast and Famine collection.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
Aside from the abovementioned ‘The Roar of the Crowd’, which I’m still damn proud of, it’s hard to choose between any of the novels. Shadows of the Apt is probably always going to be my magnum opus, if only because I’m never going to write anything as magnum as that ever again. Guns of the Dawn has perhaps the most satisfactory self-contained story arc. However, Children of Time is the stand-out, because I was going outside my comfort zone as a fantasy writer to bring it about, and because I put him a hell of a lot of time trying to get the science at least vaguely plausible.

4. …and which makes you cringe?
Because of the abovementioned imposter syndrome, it’s hard to start picking holes in my own stuff. I do look back on my earlier books and know that I’d write them better today. Empire in Black and Gold was very well received, but it definitely has issues, not least that there’s a metric crapton of exposition delivered in the first few chapters, in a setting that is relatively high-concept, and so entry to the setting and the series could definitely have been easier.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
Irregular. I still have a part-time day job, so most of my writing gets done late evening – thankfully that’s always been my natural routine. However I now get a day and a half of additional writing time, and usually I try to get out of the house and away from distractions for that – a coffee house and a playlist of film score music make up my usual daytime writing environment.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
Entirely depends what they like. For the novels I’d say Guns of the Dawn is by far the lowest-concept and most accessible as a fantasy work, but Children of Time for people who prefer SF. For those looking for something shorter, then aside from the aforementioned Feast and Famine shorts collection, I’d single out maybe ‘Fragile Creations’ from Fox Spirit’s Tales of Eve or ‘Family Business’ from the Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic. A new Shadows of the Apt collection, Spoils of War, also from Newcon, came out in July, and that’s going to be a very good introduction to my most well known setting. 

7. What are you working on now? 
I’m currently writing the third and last volume of the Echoes of the Fall series that began with The Tiger and the Wolf, whislt simultaneously editing the second volume (to be released early 2017). At the same time I have a number of projects that will see fruition this year. There’s Spoils of War mentioned above, and hopefully Alchemy will be bringing out a Lovecraftian story collection, The Private Life of Elder Things, late in the year, which I’ve written with Keris McDonald and Adam Gauntlett. In August released a standalone novel, Spiderlight, which is deconstructionist fantasy quest novel (!). Beyond that, I have various other projects, from drawing board through to complete manuscripts, which are still looking to find a home.

Monday 22 August 2016

The Lowdown with... Rosanne Rabinowitz

Rosanne Rabinowitz lives in South London where she engages in a variety of occupations including freelance editing, copywriting and care work. Her novella Helen's Story was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist in 2014, and her stories have appeared in a variety of anthologies. She takes part in anti-austerity campaigns and also contributes non-fiction to union, community and campaign websites.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
1. I like whisky. A lot.
2. I am definitely not the sporty type, but I did play on the girls' basketball team at school. While I loved shooting baskets, I was a lazy person who
hated all that running around. So I cultivated a good hook shot, took up a position just under the basket and waited for people to pass the ball to me. Being tall helped too.
3. I believe I tested the first home computers in a temp job in 1981. The computers were brought into the testing room on a gurney, hidden by a tarp. It was all top secret! We would insert the disks and the machine went through a series of noisy operations, scrolls of code would appear and when the indicator blinked 'finished' at the bottom we took the disks out. The computers often broke down so we’d end up doing overtime, which involved reading and listening to music while waiting for the techies to tweak the machines. It wasn’t a bad gig. For years I thought we were testing Amstrads because of the thick disks we were used, but it's possible the computers were Commodores.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
First, I'll tell you about the very first thing that was accepted for publication. It would have been in an anthology of London-based lesbian and gay writers published by a now-defunct independent called Brilliance Books. The editor who accepted it was Jeanette Winterson. Despite her previous reputation to the contrary, I found her very pleasant when we spoke on the phone. I was paid £30 for the story. Then the anthology was cancelled because of a political dispute among the contributors – some wouldn’t appear in a book with certain other contributors. This was the ‘80s, remember. The publisher told me I could keep my £30, though. This happened many times – stories accepted, but the anthologies didn’t happen. One time I wrote to a US-based editor after six months' silence: “What happened? Has the publisher gone bust?” "Not quite. He was busted… for transporting fire arms over state lines". As for the first time a story saw the light of day, “Maza Zoftig” was published in The Slow Mirror: New Fiction by Jewish Writers (Five Leaves Press) in 1996. That’s the earliest publication listed on my website. OK, I've had a few stories published before that. See "What makes you cringe". And if you're talking about 'things' rather than 'fiction', I did publish a lot of non-fiction in a radical women's 'zine called Bad Attitude around the early to mid-1990s, and before that I was involved with a little 'zine called Feminaxe.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 

While I like most of my published stories, the ones I take the most pride in are those that took a lot of work, research and thought. They're stories that bring disparate strands of history and time together. Such tales can be a hard slog to create, but once it's done I'm very pleased. I'd say that my novella Helen’s Story (PS Publishing) is in that category. A 2009 novelette In the Pines, in Extended Play (Elastic Press) meant a lot to me too. However, some technical aspects of a ‘near future’ section set in 2015 is now somewhat slightly cringifying. I'd like to get this story reprinted in some form, but I'll have to get my gadgets right in the last section! More recent stories I’m very fond of are "Bells of the Harelle" in Tales from the Vatican Vaults, "The Matter of Meroz" in Jews Vs Aliens, and "The Lady in the Yard" in Soliloquy for Pan. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I was recently pleased to produce a 2000-word story about Universal Credit, quantum computing and multiversal weirdness, which appeared in a charity anthology We Need to Talk. This was a first for me – a proper short short story, when many of my stories tend to be in the 10,000+ range. I think using Twitter must have trained me – who knows? Maybe I'll try some flash fiction just for the hell of it.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
Some of the stuff I wrote in the 80s and early 90s. Maybe it wasn't really that bad, but I can't face rereading those pieces to find out.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?
I initially spend some time drinking coffee, reading, kind of preparing myself... and trying to not get too distracted by the internet. As for what happens later, it depends a lot on deadlines and we’re I’m at with a project. I do write at night as well, often while I’m watching a film or IPlayer. I like to have background noise and something to look at while I mull a plot point or image over. I also do social media work for a campaign group, so I try to combine the two in a writing day. When I'm on a job where I go out to work, I usually make notes or do some editing in the evening… unless I go out to get 'inspired' somewhere.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
Going for a shorter piece of around 5000 words, I’d suggest "Survivor’s Guilt", [reviewed here by Peter Tennant] published in Black Static and reprinted in the Never Again anthology. This story grew out of many of my historical concerns and themes, and its Central European atmosphere is an element in much of my writing too.

7. What are you working on now? 

I have several stories on the go. I’ve also been working on a novel Heretics, which I keep putting aside when I have short story deadlines. It’s about a woman leader of a heretical sect in 15th-century Bohemia, which was big on sexual liberation and class warfare. "Bells of the Harelle", mentioned above, is actually a 'prequel' to this.

Meanwhile, other novel ideas keep popping up. One takes off from a few short stories I've already written, set in the changing landscape of North Lambeth (Arthur Machen was very disparaging about South London, but he was wrong about that). I'm also working on a piece – which could become part of a novel – that takes place in an alternate world where the German revolution of 1919 had more success, the Nazis never came to power and large swathes of people live in a libertarian socialist society of sorts. Perhaps this book will explore similar contradictions to Ursula LeGuin’s The Disposessed, but it will take place on a recognisable Earth.

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...

Monday 15 August 2016

Things Of Last Week: 15th August 2016

No things of the week on Friday, for the simple reason that we were having guests around for dinner and the day turned into one long blurred round of cooking and cleaning for yours truly. (Yes, Cate actually has me house-trained. Sort of.)

A few nice things have come along. First up, you can now pre-order both Devil's Highway and The Feast Of All Souls from Amazon. Devil's Highway is released on 17th October (still - despite my handing in the MS three weeks late) and The Feast Of All Souls will be out on 6th December. Two very different novels, both of which I'm very proud of. So go on, do your bit for my flagging self-esteem. Pretty please? I have neither pride nor shame...

Fear Magazine has risen from its grave: issue 37 includes stuff from Ramsey Campbell, Gary McMahon... and me, in 'Paintings,' collaboration with Johnny Mains. You can buy it here.

The first advance reviews for Ellen Datlow's Nightmares: A New Decade Of Modern Horror are out, from Irene Cole: "...the most groundbreaking horror of the new millennium" and The Book Lover's Boudoir: "Datlow offers another impressive, diverse and hugely enjoyable collection of short fiction... a great collection of horror fiction. I’d highly recommend it."

The anthology includes my story 'Hushabye', alongside work by Mark Samuels, Gene Wolfe, Brian Hodge, Kaaron Warren, Lisa Tuttle, Gemma Files, Nicholas Royle, Margo Lanagan, Steve Duffy, Laird Barron, Stephen Graham Jones, Reggie Oliver, Ray Cluley, M. Rickert, John Langan, Anna Taborska, Livia Llewellyn, Dan Chaon, Robert Shearman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Garth Nix, Nathan Ballingrud and Richard Kadrey.

Speaking of Livia Llewellyn, she's written a great guest column for Nightmare magazine's 'The H Word', The Mountains, The City, The Void:

"The woman who moved to this tenement building ten years ago, a woman with a different job, a different body, a different name, is gone. The actress who lived in a sprawling Inwood block apartment sixteen years ago, who stood on a subway platform in complete silence with ten thousand other New Yorkers, all of us smelling of smoke and ash, has vanished. The seamstress who spent a summer in a small New Jersey town in the early nineties, sewing costumes for Shakespearean actors by day and constructing conjure circles and sex magic rituals in the old growth forests by night has been left far behind in the night, so far I cannot see her anymore. And there are other, older permutations of myself, whole years that are little more than dark smudges in my mind, layers of geologic strata that are now so alien to me that I would not know these women if they were to appear in front of me this second. And all the people who once knew me, friends and relatives and lovers, are gone. No one who knew those versions of myself exists anymore. My life is a Frankensteinian patchwork of lost moments and experiences. The joys, the triumphs, the silences, the assaults, the love, the violence, the shame, the struggles, the pleasures, the pain, the beauty, the monstrosities: the act of working my way through life toward death has erased it all, year by methodical year. I know nothing.

Except when I write."

You can read the whole thing here.

Some years ago, when I was working in a call centre, (shudders) I became friends with Sinead Parker, who left to study Drama at Manchester Met University. She emerged three years later with a degree and a partner in crime called Katie Norris, with whom she started writing and performing songs and sketches that were chock full of black comedy and absolute filth.

Norris and Parker's first show was All Our Friends Are Dead, and was screamingly funny. Their second show, See You At The Gallows, is currently on at the Edinburgh Fringe until 28th August and has been getting a succession of rave reviews, so if you're in the neighbourhood it's worth checking out. And watch out for Norris and Parker, because they are going to be huge.

The Lowdown with... Tej Turner

Tej Turner is a writer of fantasy, horror and speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Janus Cycle, has been published by Elsewhen Press and he has also had short stories featured in a few anthologies, including Impossible Spaces (Hic Dragones Press) and The Bestiarum Vocabulum (Western Legends). His parents moved around a bit while he was growing up so he doesn’t have any particular place he calls “home”, but for a large part of his youth he dwelled in the West Country of England. He went on to Trinity College in Carmarthen to study Film and Creative Writing and later to complete an MA at The University of Wales, Lampeter, where he minored in ancient history but mostly focused on sharpening his writing skills. A childhood of being on the move obviously rubbed off on him because he often gets itchy feet and flies off on adventures to trek around jungles, forests and canyons, and explore temples, reefs and cities.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.
1) I love castles and megalithic sites. It is one of the reasons I live in Wales.
2) Most of the music I listen to is from the 80s.
3) I have spent almost two years of my life backpacking around Asia and I documented much of it in a travelblog which can be found here.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
A short story called “Bruises”, which appeared in the anthology Impossible Spaces, (edited by Hannah Kate). It is an anthology I am sure you will remember well, Simon, as you were also in it ;) It took me a few years to get anything published... but once I achieved that initial step it all happened very fast. Within a year I had another two stories accepted in other anthologies and Elsewhen Press offered to publish my first novel.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
I currently only have one novel, so it would have to be that; The Janus Cycle. It was released just over a year ago and the response I have received for it so far has been fantastic.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
I did a short stint writing erotica under commission when I first returned to the UK and I was a bit strapped for cash. The pseudonym it was published under is a secret I am going to take to my GRAVE.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I have created nice workspace for myself in the corner of my room – a large spacious desk dedicated just to writing – and the wall behind it is covered with notes, charts, maps of the worlds I have created, and other ideas. I find it helps keep me focussed. I am usually at my desk by 9am – and I will typically spend most of the morning tapping away at my keyboard while downing cups of green tea and puffing away at my e-cigarette. After that, I have a break for lunch while watching something (usually whatever sci-fi series I am currently in the middle of), and then I will do another couple of hours of writing just before I head to work (I moonlight as a chef to help with the bills).

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

It is still quite early days for me as a published writer, so I don’t have a massive back catalogue to call upon as yet. The story I had published in The Bestiarum Vocabulum (edited by Dean M Drinkel) is one that I am rather proud of. It is about a succubus liberating a Magdalene Asylum, and people have often commented about the exciting twist at the end.

7. What are you working on now? 
I currently have two WIPs. One is an epic fantasy series which I am hoping to get off the ground in the next couple of years. It is quite different to everything I have had published so far, so I am looking forward to it being unleashed upon the world. I am also working on an indirect sequel for The Janus Cycle, which is currently under the working title of “Dinnusos Rises”. It should be available sometime in 2017.

Sunday 7 August 2016

The Lowdown with... Danie Ware

Danie Ware runs the social media profile of cult retailer Forbidden Planet, and has organised their signings and events for more than a decade. When not at work, she remains geek and gamer, warrior Mum, outward-bound cyclist and fitness freak. She went to an all-boys' school (yes really), studied English Lit at UEA in Norwich, then joined a Viking re-enactment group and spent her twenties fighting, writing, and rolling certain multi-sided dice. At thirty, she made an attempt to grow up and didn't like it much; at forty, she spends her time with her son, in the the gym, or making up for missing the battlefield by writing epic stories about it.  She tweets here and blogs there.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
 Since the ‘all-boys school’ thing is getting Old Hat, as well as Old School Tie… ‘Hi, my name is Danie and I’m a crisp-aholic’. Seriously, I have a problem. I can take or leave cakes, sweeties, chocolate of all kinds – but leave me in a room with a packet of Twiglets and I’ll do the lot in twelve minutes flat and come back, all stained and filthy fingers, looking for more. I haven’t quite got to the point of hoarding Quavers about the house, but if I get any worse, I really might have to find a Crisp Stuffers Anonymous… I still love Eighties music, all the gloriously big noise and fabulous costume and big hair that I went to school with. If I’m at home by myself (or just don’t care) I’ll be dancing round the house to Adam Ant, the Eurythmics, A-ha... The neighbours are getting up a petition. I think the crisps might contribute to this erroneous and disturbed behaviour, I honestly don’t know. On the quiet, I’ve become a bit of an Anime freak. I might be twenty years too old, but, aside from not caring, I’ve got very into Attack on Titan, FullMetal Alchemist and am currently getting eaten alive by Death Note. Not quite to the point of considering cosplay, but stranger things have happened in the world of SFF.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
 My first ever piece of published fiction was a story called 'Cure', which you can find on The Hub. There is another one, called 'The Mumbling Man' (courtesy of a nutjob on a train journey) on the same site. Or you can go have a nose over at Geek Native, for 'The Tale of the Laughing Shih', a cheeky bit of Kindred of the East gaming fiction.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
 It’d be a big fib if I said anything else – the Ecko trilogy was a huge achievement, the fulfilment of an ambition I’ve had since my early twenties. Its first paragraphs were written in my then-boyfriend’s front room, in Ashford in Kent in 1991 – and the journey has been immensely exciting. In part, because it was an ambition I’d given up on – and picking up a dream that you’ve long since left behind is a really amazing feeling. Finishing it was huge, a story I’d always wanted to write – and I’m really pleased with the way it turned out, and the fact that I managed to do what I set out to do, if that makes sense. I’m very pleased with how well it’s doing, as well, and with the gloriously gleeful excitement of the people who have really ‘got it’.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
In our twenties, we did a lot of gaming. And, inevitably, we wrote a lot of fiction around our creativity– we wrote our own fan-fiction, pretty much. The concepts were great – mad, unrestrained and off-the-wall, as these things are supposed to be - but going back and reading some of it now, it really does make me shudder. Thank the Gods it will never see the light of day!

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I’m a working single mother – ‘writing days’ are pure luxury, and not something I get very often. Even at weekends, there’s always a small person and a couple of cats to cause trouble. As my son gets older, though, and he gains more independence and goes out with his mates, I get more free time to put fingers to keyboard. On a good day, I might get a gap of 500 words or so, usually first thing in the morning (if I get up early enough). And sometimes, on those rare days when I’m not at work and Isaac is off out on adventures, I can clock up anything up to four or five thousand, and it always feels like a dam going. If I still smoked, I’d need a cigarette afterwards.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
Pick up Kristell Ink’s Fight Like A Girl, or Fox Spirit Books’ Things In the Dark -  both excellent small press anthologies full of stories by all sorts of interesting authors – and I’m in there as well. Lots of jumping in (or is it jumping off?) points and great stuff to discover!

7. What are you working on now? 
A new thing, completely unlike anything I’ve written before – new setting, new characters, new content, the works. It carries a working title of ‘Children of Artifice’ and it’s an industrial fantasy, I suppose - a bit of metallurgy, a bit of chemistry, a bit of detective work… and a bit of a love-story. Starting again from Square One has been an interesting learning experience. I’ve been sort of world-building as I go along (not recommended, don’t try it at home), and it’s been a real eye-opener as to how much work it really is. Having said that though, starting again has a whole reality of new possibilities opening out to play with, new concepts and relationships and interactions, new character changes to encompass and embrace. I’m very excited about finishing it, and showing the world something completely new!

Friday 5 August 2016

Something Remains

I've talked about this elsewhere, but with the book coming out next month I felt it deserved a blog of its own.

When my friend, the author and poet Joel Lane, died in November 2013 at the ridiculously early age of fifty, he left a great deal undone. There'd been a planned monograph on 20th century horror fiction, which would have been up there with Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror In Literature as an overview of the field; he'd also spoken of writing a crime or horror novel.

And there were his notes for short stories - dozens of them. Some were a paragraph or two, others more detailed. And so Joel's old friend Pete Coleborn, proprietor of the Alchemy Press, approached a number of writers with a proposal: to take a set of Joel's notes and use them as the basis for a new story of their own, to be collected in a tribute anthology.

Edited by Pete and by Pauline E. Dungate, the result is Something Remains - a deeply Joelesque title. It includes, among many other (and probably better) tales, my story 'And Ashes In Her Hair.'

Something Remains will be released at Fantasycon By The Sea in Scarborough. The official launch will take place on Saturday 24th September 2016 between noon and 1.00 pm.

John Grant, Rosanne Rabinowitz and Lynda E. Rucker have also blogged about their involvement in the anthology.

Here's the full TOC:
  • Foreword by Peter Coleborn
  • Introduction by Pauline E. Dungate
  • Joel by Chris Morgan (Verse)
  • Not Dispossessed:  A Few Words on Joel Lane’s Early Published Works by David A. Sutton (Essay)
  • Everybody Hates a Tourist by Tim Lebbon
  • The Missing by John Llewellyn Probert
  • Charmed Life by Simon Avery
  • Antithesis by Alison Littlewood
  • Dark Furnaces by Chris Morgan
  • The Inner Ear by Marion Pitman (Verse)
  • Broken Eye by Gary McMahon
  • Stained Glass by John Grant
  • Threadbare by Jan Edwards
  • The Dark above the Fair by Terry Grimwood
  • Grey Children by David A. Sutton
  • The Twin by James Brogden
  • Lost by Pauline Morgan (Verse)
  • Through the Floor [1] by Gary Couzens
  • Through the Floor [2] by Stephen Bacon
  • Bad Faith by Thana Niveau
  • Window Shopping by David Mathew
  • Clan Festor by Liam Garriock
  • Sweet Sixteen by Adam Millard
  • Buried Stars by Simon Macculloch
  • And Ashes in Her Hair by Simon Bestwick
  • The Pleasure Garden by Rosanne Rabinowitz
  • Joel Lane, Poet by Chris Morgan (Essay)
  • The Reach of Children by Mike Chinn
  • The Men Cast by Shadows by Mat Joiner
  • The Winter Garden by Pauline E. Dungate
  • Natural History by Allen Ashley
  • The Second Death by Ian Hunter
  • The Bright Exit by Sarah Doyle (Verse)
  • Blanche by Andrew Hook
  • The Body Static by Tom Johnstone
  • You Give Me Fever by Paul Edwards
  • The Other Side by Lynda E. Rucker
  • Of Loss and of Life: Joel Lane’s Essays on the Fantastic by Mark Valentine (Essay)
  • Shadows by Joe X Young
  • I Need Somewhere to Hide by Steven Savile
  • Coming to Life by John Howard
  • The Enemy Within by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • Afterword: The Whole of Joel by Ramsey Campbell (Essay) 

Things of the Week: 5th August 2016

The main event of the week took place when Ellen Datlow published her longlist of Honourable Mentions for last year. (You can read its three parts here, here and here.) Among the tales listed no fewer than ten from The Second Spectral Book of Horror Stories:
'Mary, Mary' by Ray Cluley
'Marrowvale' by Kurt Fawver
'Who Will Stop Me Now?' by Cliff McNish
'Beyond The Wall' by Thana Niveau
'The Veils' by Ian Rogers
'The Larder' by Nicholas Royle
'Lump In Your Throat' by Robert Shearman
'Little Traveller' by Simon Kurt Unsworth
'Wrong' by Stephen Volk

and, last but not least...

'Horn of the Hunter' by Simon Bestwick.

*beams, skips and dances*

Congrats to all the writers, and to editor Mark Morris for putting the antho together.

Other than that, there's the Joel Lane tribute antho Something Remains - but I'll blog about that elsewhere. Meanwhile, here are a few bits and pieces that caught my eye in the past week.

Laura Mauro, an excellent writer, wrote this piece in the last week - something which struck a chord with me and probably will with most writers. Yup, it's about that old friend of yours and mine, impostor syndrome...

It was luck, it was a fluke.And even if it wasn’t – even if that award nomination/sale/good review was legit – it doesn’t matter, because you’ll never produce anything of that quality ever again. The future is one failure after another. You’ll be the literary equivalent of that person who turns up to parties – the one nobody really likes but entertains anyway because they all feel a bit sorry for them. You know the one.

Simon Morden - another excellent writer - also shared a great piece here: Change is inevitable and
there's nothing you can do about it. The title sums it all up:

Change is inevitable. Resisting change is perhaps noble but ultimately futile. Managing change is wise, but even then, change – the abrupt collapse of the Roman Empire, the Norman invasion, the break-up of the abbey estates, the Enclosures Act, the arrival of the railway – can be disruptive and unexpected. That something else will come over the horizon to break down the walls is a certain: less certain is what that’ll actually be.

It's well worth a read.

And, as some of you may remember, I blogged a while back about the lost village of Tyneham. I found some more stuff relating to the place recently, so I blogged again here.

Tyneham II

A while back, I blogged about the abandoned Dorset village of Tyneham, aka 'the village that died for England.'

As I've said elsewhere, lost and abandoned places fascinate me - and others, too. Tyneham's no exception. I found a couple of pieces about the place on YouTube that variously moved or intrigued me, so I thought I'd share them.

First up, here's Remembering Tyneham, a short (four and a half minute) documentary about the village and including an interview with Arthur Grant, one of the last surviving villagers. A sweet old man; I ended up wanting to give him a hug after watching this, but as anyone will tell you, I'm a big softy.

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And here's some drone footage of the village - really stunning stuff. Haunting and beautiful.


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If anyone else has footage or info about Tyenham, feel free to get in touch and I'll share it on the blog.

Monday 1 August 2016

The Lowdown with... Steve Duffy

Steve Duffy’s work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies in Europe and North America. His most recent collection of weird short stories, The Moment Of Panic, was published in 2013, and includes the International Horror Guild award-winning short story, “The Rag-and-Bone Men”. More recently, Steve's story "Even Clean Hands Can Do Damage" won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novelette last month! He lives in North Wales.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
Let’s see. I began my showbiz career alongside Carol Vorderman, when we both appeared on radio’s Top Of The Form in the 1970s. Sadly, she decided to go her own way afterwards, and I often wonder what became of her. I’ve met and spoken with two of North Wales’ most notorious murderers: child-killer Howard Hughes, who I used to forcibly remove from the premises of the training centre at which I worked roughly once every six months, and serial killer Peter Moore, outside whose corner shop I used to wait for a lift home when working in Rhyl. Finally, I share 98% of my DNA with gorillas.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 

That would be a story in Ghosts & Scholars magazine, sent more or less on a whim: I’d written it as a Christmas present for friends. You could have knocked me down with the proverbial feather when Rosemary Pardoe accepted it. Mind you, I actually sent her two stories, one of which she knocked back while accepting the other, so that was a useful reality check right there.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
It changes, honestly, whenever I go back and look at stuff – which is not all that often. It’s a cruel thing, how writers write the stories they want to read, but in the process of writing them lose sight of any conceivable pleasure that might had in reading them back. (I’m assuming that’s not just me?) So I’d have to say, I’m most pleased whenever I reread something of mine and I can’t remember having written it in the first place. The more often that happens over the course of a story, the happier I’ll be with it.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
Ooh, far too many examples to list. I suspect there’s always a gulf between the original idea, all shiny and perfect in your mind, and what you eventually manage to get down on paper. Specifically, though, catching myself out in the act of overwriting will always make me curl up like a salted slug. That’s a fault well worth eradicating.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I prefer to write either at the very beginning of the day, or at the very end. At my most prolific, I used to wake up at ridiculous o’clock and get a thousand or so words under my belt before the day had properly begun. Once I got properly plugged in to the story, it would just flow like automatic writing. The end of the day would be a good time to revise and rewrite (which you should always do when stuff flows like automatic writing, by the way). An annoying thing is that I can’t write with distractions in the background. I really envy those people who can pull out the notebook or the laptop anywhere, anytime, get to work and just tune out the rest of the world. I’m far too delicate a snowflake to be able to do that.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
Well, if people are trying to keep within budgets, I think a good place to start would be the Kindle edition of my collection Tragic Life Stories, on sale at a highly reasonable £4.61 / $5.99. If you like that, then you ought to try my latest collection The Moment Of Panic, available in a sturdy and durable hardback.

7. What are you working on now? 
I’ve enclosed a screencap of my Work In Progress folder: all these stories are in various stages of construction, some completed to first draft stage and awaiting revision, some barely begun, most somewhere in between. By the middle of the year I’m hoping there will be enough finished to start pitching a new collection to publishers.