Author and Scriptwriter

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

Sunday 31 December 2017

2017: The Roundup

At least I didn't quack up.
Writing wise, 2017 was what Aliya Whiteley has called a 'Duck in the Mist' year - an awful lot of paddling going on beneath the surface, but not that much activity above it. I wrote quite a lot, and there'll be more about that in 2018, but comparatively little activity on the publication front. So here's the year that was.


I wrote the final drafts of Wolf's Hill and the entirety of a new novel, The Mancunian Candidate.

I didn't sell any novels in 2017, but there may be news on that front soon. Or not, of course. Such is the business....

The paperback of Devil's Highway was published in February. (It first appeared as a hardback in December 2016, however, so would be ineligible for any awards for 2017, assuming anyone was daft enough to nominate it. For anyone daft enough to want to read it, the ebook's still only £1.99)

Novelettes and Short Stories

Finished the first draft of a novelette, Breakwater, and redrafted to completion.
Also wrote first drafts of four novelette-length (I think) stories. Redrafts ongoing.
Wrote and completed two other stories, currently making the rounds.

Short story 'Deadwater' accepted for publication in Ellen Datlow's anthology, Devil and the Deep.
Breakwater accepted for publication by in 2018.

Short fiction published this year:
'The Adventure of the Orkney Shark' in Sherlock Holmes' School of Detection.
'The Tarn' in The Beauty of Death 2: Death by Water.

Monday 18 December 2017

When You Hit The Wall

It happens to every writer sooner or later, at one time or another. Bad or good, male or female, old or young: sooner or later, on one project or another, you hit the wall.

The words just won't seem to come.

The characters are cardboard.

The writing is stilted and thin.

The story seems flimsy and superficial, with nothing of substance or originality to it. Derivative and second-rate. Nothing to say, and it doesn't even say it interestingly. Even to you, the author, it's boring.

Sometimes, the thing to do is track back through what you've done, to the last place where it felt as though things were going right: figure out where you took a wrong turn, and start from there.

Sometimes, you need to think through the stuff that underpins your story in greater depth: the characters, the setting, the relationships and power-games that underlie it all.

Sometimes, it's just a case of having temporarily written yourself out. The batteries are flat, because you've barely spent a minute away from your computer or notepad in the outside world, letting the details of people and places and things wash over you and fill you up with all those tiny sense-impressions, quirks and turns of phrase that funnel onto the page. There was a giant in Greek myth, Antaeus, who drew his strength from the Earth itself. As long as he was touching the ground, he was invincible. Herakles killed him by holding him aloft, so he became as weak as a kitten, then crushing him in a bear-hug. It's like that for writers - this one, anyway - and the outside world.

And sometimes, it's because the project itself is a dud. Or at least, it isn't the right time yet for you to write it.

Sometimes, too, the cause isn't easy to unravel. Could be that you'll struggle with anything else you try to do next. One derailed project can make getting back on the horse a struggle, can create a series of false starts and aborted novels or stories.

And what can you do?

Sometimes, you need a day or two off - but that can make getting back on the horse all the harder.

Sometimes, you need to get out of the house and get those batteries recharged.

Sometimes, you need to fix the work in progress.

Sometimes, you need to write something different.

(Like a blog post, maybe, especially when your blog's been so disused lately it's got cobwebs on it.)

In the end, though, you just don't give up. Mostly because you can't, no matter how much you feel like it. The writing won't let go of you that easily.

Sooner or later, you'll reach the other side of the wall. You'll climb over, or dig under, or go around. Or just bang your head against it so often that it falls down.

Like everything else, it'll pass.

And in the future, there'll be other walls, and you'll have to work out how get around or over or under or through them.

But the bits between one wall and the next?

They're what make it all worthwhile.

None of that helps, though, when you're banging your head against the wall and thinking that this is the last one and that there's no way through.

Wednesday 13 September 2017

My Fantasycon Schedule (Updated!)

In other news, here I am with an adorable dog.
ETA: I'm actually on three panels now!

So, despite the fact that some people are claiming that anyone who attends Fantasycon this year is a nazi-loving c**t because the Don Estelle of the far right is on a single panel there, I'm going. Mainly because I'm neither a nazi-loving c**t nor the kind of idiotic arse who thinks [NAME REDACTED] is a credible source of information. Astonishingly, it's possible to be both.

*Breathes out*


I'm having a busier year than I have in a while; I'm on two panels this year, as well as doing a reading. So here goes:

Panel: Writing Fighting!
7.30 pm, Panel Room Two
With David Tallerman (mod), Anna Smith Spark, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Simon Bestwick and Stewart Hotston.
"Whether you're writing a combat scene on a spaceship, in a vampires tomb, or amidst a desperate battle, you want your readers to care about the outcome, right? Our panel will discuss the fine balance between action accuracy and communicating seat of the pants sensation. "

Panel: Creative Writing In Education
2.30 pm, Panel Room Three
With Ginger Lee Thomason (mod), Terry Grimwood, Tiffani Angus, Joely Black, Simon Bestwick and Terry Jackman.
"University degrees, Masters courses, Ph. D's and the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE). Our panel discuss how their experiences and work in higher education has helped them as writers and how it can be beneficial to others."

Panel: Writing Dystopias
10.30 pm, Panel Room Two
With Guy Adams (mod), Simon Bestwick, Duncan Bradshaw, Thomas N. Toner
"The world is broken. What broke it? Can it be fixed? Dystopian Fiction has become incredibly popular in the last decade. Join our panel of doommongers as they discuss the different ways the world can be made worse and how different dystopias reflect aspects of our own society."

Reading Slot: Fantasy
10.00 am., Sandringham Room
With David Tallerman and Joely Black.
David Tallerman is an all-round good egg and author of fantasy fiction whose forays into horror fiction were collected last year in The Sign In The Moonlight; Joely Black's the gifted author of the self-published Amnar series, and a good friend who's attending her first FCon. And me? I hear you cry. You're a horror author, Bestwick, what are you doing here? Well, I'll be delivering a sneak preview of the latest work in progress, which is definitely edging into the realms of urban fantasy. Closer to the world of Angels of the Silences or The Feast Of All Souls than the out and out horror of Tide Of Souls and The Faceless, or the post-apocalyptic battleground of the Black Road books. Come on down for a sneak preview!

Monday 4 September 2017

Saturday 17 June 2017

Nice Things of the Week! 17th June 2017 (Part Three)

Me, for the last week.








Did I mention I sold something to


I did?

Okay, then.

As you were.


Nice Things of the Week Saturday 17th June Part Two: First Anniversary, Death By Water and

And on a more personal note...

Last month, the ever-reignng Cate and I celebrated our first year of marriage. My anniversary present to her was a weekend away in Barmouth, in a lovely 17th century cottage. The other night my parents came over and Dad got talking about his childhood in Barmouth. We showed him a picture of the place where we stayed... and it only turned out to be my great-grandparents' old home.

Also, a couple of sales.

My short story 'The Tarn' will be published in The Beauty of Death 2: Death By Water, due out from Independent Legions Publishing this autumn. The TOC is still being finalised, but thus far includes Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Adam Nevill, Lucy Snyder and many more.

Last and MOST DEFINITELY NOT least... (can we have a drum roll and maybe a fanfare please, maestro...)

My novelette Breakwater has been acquired by the mighty Ellen Datlow for and will be published in 2018!


There are really no words to describe how delighted I am about this.

Many thanks (again!) to Ellen, and to all at Tor.

Nice Things of the Week! 17th June 2017 (Part One): Jeremy Corbyn

The election in a nutshell.
Welp, the blog's been a tad quiet for a while, I know. I've struggled a bit with workload over the past couple of months, what with the new job and all, which slowed down the rewrites on Wolf's Hill markedly, to say nothing of trying to lay the groundwork for The Next Novel. Which part of this caused my old friend the Black Dog to resurface, I don't know, but it did. The past few weeks have been particularly tough, but (touch wood) I think I've turned a corner now. I hope so.

Good things have been in evidence over recent weeks. We had a snap general election here in the UK, in which it was widely predicted that the ruling Evil Bastard Conservative Party would wipe the floor with the left-wing Labour Party - even by Labour Party supporters. I have to admit I was afraid they were right: in terms of policies and vision I'd always felt Jeremy Corbyn was the best thing Labour had had for ages, but it was looking increasingly as though he was incapable of actually leading the party. When the election cycle started, the Spawn of Satan Conservatives were 22 points ahead of Labour. Not just defeat, but annihilation was prophesied.

And yet... over the six weeks leading up to the election, Corbyn showed what he was made of, supported by thousands of dedicated party activists like Matt Dent (to name but one.) The poll gap closed over the weeks, leading to a final result of a hung parliament. It isn't a Labour victory, but considering where things were, it's extraordinary. With Brexit, Trump and so much else it was easy to give in and decide everything was fucked. The French election, when the far-right Marine Le Pen was soundly defeated, was the first indication things weren't necessarily in an irreversible slide. This was the second. It really feels as though not only the Loathsome Shower of  C Tories' Government, but the hateful and divisive politics that's been the dominant discourse in Britain for so long, is crumbling. Well, a boy can dream.

Not that there hasn't been horrific shit as well, such as the terrorist attacks in my home city, Manchester, and in London, plus the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower. But even there, we saw what people can be like at their best - stepping up to the plate to help those caught up in the destruction. We were reminded that there is still good.

Maybe even some cause for hope.

Thursday 11 May 2017

The Lowdown with... Emily Cataneo

Emily B. Cataneo is a writer and journalist currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from magazines such as Nightmare, Interzone, Lackington's, Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts, and The Dark. She was long-listed for John Joseph Adams’ Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, and her debut fiction collection, Speaking to Skull Kings, is forthcoming on May 19 from JournalStone. She is a graduate of both the Clarion Writers Workshop in San Diego and the Odyssey Writing Workshop in New Hampshire. She likes hats, dogs, crafts, and historical research.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 

--I didn't study creative writing in school, instead opting for a journalism degree. I've spent the bulk of my professional life working in that field, writing for papers like the Boston Globe and Financial Times. Working as a reporter actually changed my personality. I was a very shy person for the first twenty years of my life, terrified to make phone calls or approach people, but journalism jolted me out of that. Once you've stormed into a city police station with a stack of court documents demanding confirmation that one of the officers there committed a crime, it becomes much easier to telephone a pizza place and order takeout.
--For several years in my early twenties, I dreamed of moving to Berlin, Germany, although the logistics of moving to Europe seemed like an impenetrable mystery. Finally, when I was 25, I decided to just go there and see if I could make it work. And so I flew across the ocean with no job, no visa, no German skills, and few friends in the city. Looking back this was a rather large gamble, but I managed to find a writing job, get a visa, learn German, and write my first novel while there. I ended up living in Berlin for two years, and I actually met my now-husband there too.
--Last fall, I moved into a new apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and didn't realize for several weeks that I had subconsciously organized my bookshelf into "Favorite Novels," "Favorite Short Story Collections," and "Victorian Gothic Literature." If a book has a haunting on the moors or a creepily overbearing housekeeper in a spooky manor, then I will probably (re: definitely) read it.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
My first published story was "The Desert Cold Oasis and Spa," which appeared in the online journal "The Colored Lens" in 2013. The story was inspired by a road trip my best friend and I took through Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington in 2012. One evening during that trip, we wandered into Zzyzx, an abandoned mineral springs and health spa in the Mojave Desert that was started by a radio evangelist in the mid-twentieth century and eventually shut down due to tax evasion. I'm always on the lookout for atmospheric locales that might inspire my writing, and this place had more than enough atmosphere: abandoned rowboats listing in the sands, peeling decayed signs from the failed spa, fan palms and Joshua trees and other vegetation that appeared alien to a New England girl who'd never set foot in the desert before. I knew I had to set a story there.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
Of my published writing, I'm proudest of "Evangeline and the Forbidden Lighthouse," which appears in Interzone this month. This story takes place on the New England coast--a place where I've spent much of my life--and tells the story of an intense friendship between two girls, one of them a vacationer to a seaside community, the other one a year-round resident. It's about the ocean and fate and class and female friendship, and I put a lot of myself into writing and crafting it. I hope everyone likes it as much as I do!

4. …and which makes you cringe? 

Luckily none of my published work makes me cringe, but there are definitely some documents on my hard-drive that I'm quite grateful never saw the light of day.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
My writing schedule recently changed a lot. From 2014 through 2016, I was working as a freelance nonfiction writer and journalist. This allowed me to structure my days as I saw fit, although there always seemed to be myriad distractions and temptations taking me away from my desk ("I MUST have Halloween spider lights for my porch! Now!" was a typical thought). Now, though, I'm working fulltime at a wonderful online feminist historical archive, so I've had to become a lot more strategic about structuring my writing time. I typically wake up early so that I can write for two hours before work (no mean feat for a sleep addict such as myself!) and try to spend at least one weekend day writing with two friends of mine in a cafe somewhere in Cambridge. Having accountability partners really helps.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
I would suggest "The Lily Rose," which appeared in The Dark in February 2017. It features spooky New England, a group of girls, ghostly events, characters grappling with loss, and Russian royalty--all common motifs in my stories.

7. What are you working on now? 

Right now, my big project is working on the fourth draft of my aforementioned first novel, The Elephant Girl Gang, which takes place in Germany during World War 1 and follows the story of four teenage girls who accidentally unleash a death omen curse and must destroy it before it destroys them. It has castles and female friendship and the Great War and socialism and smoky dance halls and messy magic and visits to the land of the dead and spiritualism and-- and you can see, I'm very excited about it, and can't wait to share it with the world. I'm also working on various short stories; collaborating on a novelette with the author Gwendolyn Kiste; and gearing up for the release of my collection, Speaking to Skull Kings, which I am also quite excited to share with the world!

Friday 7 April 2017

The Lowdown with... Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy is a writer and musician. He also runs a halfway home for injured or ill feral cats and dogs as well as abandoned domestic pets. He lives in Bangalore, India. His chapbook, A VOLUME OF SLEEP, will be release by Dunhams Manor Press later this year.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
I’m a left-hander. When I first learned to play guitar I used to play a right-handed guitar upside down, without the strings changed.
My paternal grandfather and my father were both voracious readers. Although we never talked about him, interestingly each of us read Algernon Blackwood at some point, so I have editions of some of Blackwood’s works from the 1940s, the 1970s and more recently. Is this the curse of the Satyamurthys?
My father ran a bookshop in the ‘80s. This helped me read a lot of great stuff, including issues of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run and that remarkable all-text issue of Howard The Duck.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
Fiction? A very, very short piece called ‘stone rider’ for an issue of ‘Bust Down The Door And Eat All The Chickens’, a bizzaro magazine, even though my story wasn’t bizzaro.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
There is a story in my second chapbook for Dunhams Manor Press, out later this year, called ‘a place in the sun’ that I think is my best thing yet.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
Nothing, yet. Ask me again when I’m really old.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I usually get most of my writing done in half hour bursts between the hours of 7 AM and 4 PM.
That’s when I am writing at all. I don’t write everyday, only when I have a story idea that seems worth pursuing. If a story isn’t shaping up after three days of work I usually put it aside. At my best, I’ve written a 6000-word story in a single day in two or three sittings. I love it when that happens. I find that the less I have to struggle the better the story comes out. If I’m still rolling a rock uphill after 2000 words, it’s not going to work out. At least not in this particular form.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
I think the easiest way to check my way out is online - look for the story The Ouroboros Apocrypha on the Lovecraft eZine website. But ideally, try and get a copy of my first chapbook, Weird Tales Of A Bangalorean, because that will give you a deeper dive into my fiction.

7. What are you working on now?
Trying to get my mojo working again. It’s been 4 months since I last completed a story and longer since I wrote something I really liked.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Things of the Week 5th April 2017: Interview by Louisa Rhodes, New The Feast Of All Souls review, The Adventure of the Orkney Shark

Photo by Vicky Morris.
A few things to announce this week...

First up, there's this really cool interview done last month, after my half of the Hive Writer's Day Workshop with the brilliant K.T. Davies. Louisa Rhodes, one of Hive's young writers, fed me questions about horror, writing and spaghetti, typed up my rambling responses and made them look reasonably intelligent. So here's the result. Louisa did a fantastic job, and was a pleasure to talk to.

The Feast Of All Souls has a new review, over at RisingShadow, in which Seregil of Rhiminee describes it as "one of the best horror novels I've read in recent years... entertaining, thrilling... ambitious and well-written. Excellent British horror fiction!"

Many thanks to RisingShadow, and to Seregil!

And finally... Simon Clark's anthology Sherlock Holmes's School For Detection is out now.

It's 1890. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson return to Baker Street after a night pursuing a vicious criminal. Inspector Lestrade is waiting for Holmes with a proposition of national importance.
Lestrade tells Holmes that a school of detection has been formed to train a new breed of modern investigators that will serve in Great Britain and the Empire. Most students will become police officers. Some, however, will become bodyguards and spies. Holmes begins instructing his decidedly curious assortment of students from home and abroad. He does so with his customary gusto and inventiveness.
Scotland Yard, in the main, allocates crimes to solve and Holmes mentors his students. Occasionally, he shadows them in disguise in order to assess or even directly test their abilities with creative scenarios he devises. Certain crimes investigated by the students might appear trivial, such as the re-positioning of an ornament atop a garden wall, yet it will transpire an assassin has moved the ornament to create good sightlines in order to commit murder with a sniper's rifle.
Other mysteries are considered outside the domain of the police. For example, the inexplicable disappearance of a stone gargoyle, which is linked to an ancient family curse. Or a man suffering from amnesia who discovers that not only has he acquired a secret life but also gained an implacable enemy, too. Holmes, with the ever- trustworthy Doctor Watson in his wake, is kept busy with his students' cases, ranging from minor to serious, sometimes rectifying their mistakes and saving them from a variety of disasters.
These eleven wonderful new adventures and intrigues include tales such as 'The Gargoyles of Killfellen House', 'Sherlock Holmes and the Four Kings of Sweden' and 'The Case of the Cannibal Club'.

The anthology also features my story The Adventure Of The Orkney Shark. Other contributors include Cate Garder, Paul Finch, Alison Littlewood, Carole Johnstone... and many, many more.

The Adventure of the Orkney Shark is set in 1927. Lieutenant-Commander Noel Atherstone, recalled from retirement in Australia for the Imperial Airship Scheme, is given a top-secret mission: to assist Sherlock Holmes in investigating the mysterious disappearance of ships in the North Sea. Fishermen blame the gigantic and voracious Orkney Shark - but as Atherstone, Holmes and Holmes' reluctantly-acquired pupil Mr Blacksmith search the seas in airship R.36, they discover a threat far deadlier than any sea monster...

There,” said Blacksmith, pointing from an open starboard window.
Where?” Holmes and I ran to his side, peering out – but we had already passed over the spot.
Reduce speed,” I told Church. “Mr Potter, bring us around. Mr Hunt, maintain altitude.”
Slowly the airship turned. It wasn’t a quick process; R.36 was six hundred and seventy-five feet long from nose to tail, and almost eighty wide. But in the end, she cruised back the way she had come, at a more sedate pace.
What did you see, and where?” demanded Holmes. Blacksmith pointed to an area of swirling water between two flat, tabular skerries.
There,” he said. “It does not move.”
I see nothing,” said Holmes.
Nor I,” I said. “Just rock, weed, barnacles…”
Barnacles, yes. There are none elsewhere on these shoals.”
He was right, now I considered: for whatever reason, the tiny shellfish didn’t appear on any visible part of the rocks and skerries. They lay only in this one area, in a long wide cluster. As we drew closer, I saw its outline was distorted by the water’s churning, but there was something about the shape – a regularity, a symmetry.
The barnacles had not grown here; they had grown somewhere – or on something – else. Something that had spent a great deal of time in other parts of the sea, more conducive to their survival.
Blacksmith was right: I saw it now. A great mass, encrusted in barnacles and weed, in the shape of a huge fish – a long teardrop body, but with fins, almost like wings, jutting out from its sides, and another, a thin sharp triangle, rising from its back. But it was larger than any fish – four hundred feet, if it was an inch...

You can buy the anthology here.

Sunday 26 March 2017

The Lowdown with... James A. Moore

JAMES A. MOORE is the author of over forty novels, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, Blood Harvest, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley) Cherry Hill, Alien: Sea of Sorrows and the Seven Forges series of novels. He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President. Never one to stay in one genre for too long, James has recently written epic fantasy novels in the series SEVEN FORGES (Seven Forges, The Blasted Lands, City of Wonders and The Silent Army). He is working on a new series called The Tides Of War. The first book in the series, The Last Sacrifice, is due out in January. Pending novels also include A Hell Within (a Griffin & Price Novel) co-written with Charles R. Rutledge and an apocalyptic Sci-Fi novel tentatively called Spores. Why be normal?

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
I’m a prolific writer. On a good day I break 4,000-5,000 words. My best single day was 11,700 words, edited twice, in 8 hours.
I’m a widower.
I am an exceedingly violent pacifist, which is probably at least half of the reason I write.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
The first professional sale was a comic book script for Clive Barker’s Hellraiser issue number 15, a story called “of Love, Cats & Curiosity. The first thing ever published was a review of White Wolf Games’ entire World of Darkness (at that point about seven books in the Vampire: The Masquerade game) for Game Shop News.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 

Dude, that like asking which of your children you love best. I did a story called “Spirits,” for a book called Four Ghosts, that came out from Cemetery Dance Publications. It’s a ghost story with no ghosts, I wrote it very, very quickly and it actually worked out the way I wanted it to, which makes me very happy. My other answer is, whatever I just finished, but that part tends to fade.

 4. …and which makes you cringe? 
Of my writing? The very first novel printed was called Vampire: The Eternal Struggle: House of Secrets. I haven’t even read it since I wrote it. I’ve heard it’s actually okay, but I just can’t do it. I have no idea why, seriously. Also, when I was fourteen I wrote 472 pages of a fantasy novel with absolutely no plot and the most pretentious writing ever. The evidence has long since been destroyed.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 

I work a full time (sometimes part time)job as a barista, so first there’s the day job and heavy levels of caffeine, then I take a break for about an hour. Then 3-4 hours of writing, a break for dinner and TV, then back to writing for a few hours That also includes handling correspondence, phone calls, and social media.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
 I’m going to go with SEVEN FORGES, which I’ve had several people tell me is some of my best work.

7. What are you working on now? 
I just had THE LAST SACRIFICE come out in January and that’s the first in a new series called TIDES OF WAR. I’m about two thirds of the way through the first draft of the sequel, called FALLEN GODS. I’m just reaching the cackle stage, which is when I’ve set everything up and I can get to some serious reactions and carnage.

Monday 20 March 2017

Things of the Week 20th March 2017: Popping Up For Air

[singing] "We all bang together..."
Hello, everybody.

Well, it's been a while since I've blogged (other than the Lowdown), so I thought I'd just stick my head above water long enough for a quick status report (for those of you who give a monkey's! Get over yourself, Bestwick...)

The new job is... well... not too bad, actually. The people I work with are okay, the job itself is fairly undemanding, and it pays enough that I can contribute to cost of living here at Castle Bestwick while keeping some pocket money. (Not that I have any objection to being a kept man, but Cate probably would.)

The only downside are the hours - lengthy shifts that can include weekend working. I have today off after having had shifts on Saturday and Sunday, and this is the first day off where I've remembered/been sufficiently compos mentis (as opposed to compost mentis) enough to say anything much.

Things are happening, anyway. I've managed to settle into a new working schedule which means I can usually get work done on whatever the main project is (currently the second draft of Wolf's Hill), and if the shift starts later, can work on other stuff too. This involves getting up at 4 am, something I'd have filed in the 'You Must Be Joking' category till not so long ago.

Another fringe benefit of the job is that employees are allowed to have loose paper and pen at their desk between calls. I've never, in the past, been able to write two projects concurrently. Never. Write one while editing another, yes. But working on a novel, say, and then working on a short story alongside it? Like the whole 4 o'clock thing, I would have told you, a few months ago, that it was impossible; to write a new story, I'd have to take a break from the novel-writing. And yet now? What started out as writing notes for a story turned into writing the thing itself. I'm only rewriting Wolf's Hill now, but wrote the first drafts of two new stories while completing the first draft of the novel.

So the weirdest thing about going back into employment after being a full-time writer is... I'm actually more productive.

Trouble is, according to Cate, this means I should work full time for the rest of my life so she can quit her job and I can support us both single-handed. I remain deeply unconvinced by this argument, and any assistance in refuting it would be gratefully received.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that my blogging has ended up taking a backseat, even the Lowdown became a bit fitful. So I'm now back to running two a week: once the current crop of interviews (plus a few last ones I'm soliciting) are exhausted, I may have to put it on hiatus for a spell. Hopefully not too long.

Elsewhere - life is good, married life is great, Wolf's Hill might actually not be utter pants and a couple of cool things are bubbling under, which I'll hopefully be in a position to say more about before too much longer.

In other news, I pottered home through the park near our house on the way back from an early shift the other day, to find a full-scale frog orgy in progress. Spring, I guess, has sprung. Weirdest thing is, the little beggars sounded like a motorbike starting several streets away. Luckily, Rupert the Bear was nowhere in sight. ;) (Thanks to Tracy, aka The Seamstress, for providing photographic evidence...)

So anyway, have a good week. I'm off work today, as I said, but I'm usually not, so it only seems fair to end the post with this song...

Thursday 16 March 2017

The Lowdown with... Joolz Denby

Joolz Denby in her own words: "Professional writer, artist and tattooist. I write poetry and novels, paint, illustrate and design to commission, and am a fully trained tattooist with my own deluxe custom art tattoo studio, Studio Bijoux in Bradford UK."

1. Tell us three things about yourself.  
Three? Only three? Shit. Er. I can't sleep because a giant cat keeps jumping in my chest at night: that's actually true. Um. My day job is tattooing at my own studio. Argh....I can swear in at least 6 languages at least one of which is dead.

2. What was the first thing you had published?
Oh that was in the school magazine - I was at Belmont-Birklands Independent High School For Young Ladies - it was a four page epic poem about the fall of Atlantis and contained the word 'harlot' twice. I thought it meant the type of girl who smokes in the street. There were a number of complaints from parents. However via my English teacher, who was a friend of his, Ted Hughes critiqued my poetry. I was eleven. No pressure.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?  

Billie Morgan. It also has the benefit of getting up the most peoples' noses for being 'harsh'. They miss the funny bits because they're too busy being outraged. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize but rumour had it the organisers were so horrified at me - tattooed, Northern, loose cannon in their eyes - they privately insisted I didn't win lest I bring the Prize into disrepute... and I didn't despite being the Bookie's Favourite. Cheap bastards didn't even give us authors a new phone. Shockin'.

4. …and which makes you cringe?  
A poem I wrote aged 15 - I was taking a lot of Valium but it's no excuse - comparing my heartbreak at being ignored by a boy I fancied in the Montmatre Café to my new Biba nail varnish: 'The reflection of my tears in my blue nail polish'. Indeed. No excuse for that.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?  
Get out of bed at 10.30 am. Put on huge black fleece dressing gown. Feed Giant Cat and his adopted uncle. Make toast & tea. Take it back to bed with laptop. Type furiously for two hours. Bathroom. Coffee. Edit. Type furiously for another two hours. Coffee. Get dressed. Eat. Draw. Watch telly. Drink tea. 1.00am - go back to bed. Pretend to 'just check' writing. Type furiously for an hour. Fall asleep.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?  
Billie Morgan. Or they could listen to one of my albums - Crow is the latest. Henning Nugel did the music. It's all very Game Of Thrones. Crows, glitter, death and God.

7. What are you working on now?  
Midnight At the Rat And Roses. A modern version of the Orpheus myth involving the Russian mafia, a dead artist and karma. It will never be published.

If you enjoyed this Lowdown, you might want to check out a longer interview I did with Joolz for This Is Horror in 2013. One of my prouder moments! Part One is here; here's Part Two.

Sunday 12 March 2017

The Lowdown with... Stephen Hargadon

Born in London, Stephen Hargadon now lives and works in the north of England.
His short stories have been published in a number of places, including Black Static, Structo and Popshot magazines, the Irish Post, and on the LossLit website. His non-fiction has appeared on (including a well-received article on the joys of secondhand bookshops).

He has recently finished a novel.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.

i) These are the objects on my desk: a watch with a black face and orange hands; a brown leather wallet; a white notebook containing a short story set in Stockport and the beginnings, perhaps, of a novel; a tape dispenser in the shape of an audio cassette (must buy some tape); a lamp; a small black notebook (unused); an ovoid paperweight with purple spiral motif, bought from an antique shop in King’s Lynn, a pleasingly chaotic warren of a place, overseen by two old ladies, where I also found an attractive edition of Angus Wilson’s The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot (as yet unread); a passport; scissors; coffee stains; two memory sticks; a wooden cigarette box incised with geometric patterns; a paperclip; a twenty pence piece; a white pen.

ii) I like watching films. Who doesn’t? I’m not quite as hardcore a cineaste as Marshall Tito who, I believe, watched a film every night. I used to like finding films by accident on TV. I saw The London Nobody Knows as a child. It quite gripped me – James Mason was an attractively menacing presence – and I wanted the film to go on forever: the filth and decay, the street drinkers swigging purple meths, the men ruined during the Depression, the grotty yards where the Ripper performed his foul operations, all this lingered in my memory (although for some reason I mistakenly rechristened the film The Secret Places of London). Later in life, the glib omnipotence of the internet led me from the film itself to the books and drawings of Geoffrey Snowcroft Fletcher. (His atmospherically illustrated works, including Pearly Kingdom, London After Dark and his masterpiece, Down Among the Meths Men, are well worth reading.)

One of the increasingly rare pleasures of watching TV is to stumble on an old film, a film you’d never seen before, an oddity, a treasure. I remember seeing an American film, The Baby, late one night on the BBC – perhaps the last thing before the screen was plunged into darkness. Such a bizarre, creepy film – with a sickening twist. It stayed with me. I’d look at the listings for years, hoping that The Baby would reappear, if only to convince myself that it hadn’t been a ghastly, half-drunken hallucination. Of course, it wasn’t. And I now own the film on DVD. You can look up everything on the internet. Instant information. Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush – a kooky 1960s coming-of-age drama set in Stevenage – was another film that thrilled me when I first saw it by accident on late night TV. The second time I watched it, a few years later, I couldn’t see what had occasioned my excitement. It was just another vaguely zany 1960s romp, albeit one with an alluringly mundane setting. I now have the DVD, of course. I can watch it whenever I want, which is hardly ever. There’s a good scene in it where Denholm Elliot’s character is describing wine at a dinner party. He’s plastered. He sloshes the liquid around his gob, then says: ‘It greets the palate like an old friend …’

iii) At the moment I’m reading August is a Wicked Month by Edna O’Brien. It the first time I’ve read O’Brien. I think I’m in for a treat. The opening chapter is a perfect thing – it could stand alone as a short story, ambiguous, funny, sharp. I’m looking forward to the rest of the book.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 

‘World of Trevor’ in Black Static 40.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
 I can’t say that I’m particularly proud of any one piece over another. Yes, I have a residual affection, perhaps, for certain stories. But I don’t feel pride. I very rarely re-read my stuff once it’s found a home: I tend to see faults and blemishes, wrong turnings, botched gambits, although occasionally I’m surprised by a phrase or image, as if it’s been put there by someone else. I have a soft spot for old Trev because it was the first thing of mine to appear in print: a thrill, for sure. I wrote successive drafts in longhand. Then I typed it up, revising, refining. ‘Through the Flowers’ (published in Popshot Magazine, issue 14, with a brilliant illustration by Kate O’Hara) is another story for which I have a certain fondness – at least that’s how I think of it in the cosy saloon bar of my memory. Should I be forced to read it again right now I might well shake my head in dismay, or at least flinch every second sentence. And there’s ‘Just Browsing’, an essay on second-hand bookshops, which was my first venture into non-fiction, a mode I’ll certainly explore in future.

For me, the finished thing, the completed text, is not as interesting as the act, the process of writing, the way in which words spark more words. Once it’s done, it’s time to move on. I can only hope that the reader enjoys what I’ve produced, that he or she experiences the same strange, complex thrill that I’ve feel when reading a good book, a kind of yesness. I suppose my deepest loyalty is always to the last thing I’ve written or to the thing I’m working on at any given time. The important thing is to finish the wretched thing before it becomes a bore to write (and probably to read).

4. … and which makes you cringe? 
All of it and none of it.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I spend many days in an office, among voices and computers. It’s not too bad. I suppose I’m always writing. There’s always a section of the brain working on something. Everything is material. Every moment, every sensation: floating spores of thought, the pollen of memory. (Careful, look out for that lamp-post.) I carry around a small notebook (it bears the logo of the Monk Bridge Iron and Steel Co Ltd, Leeds, 1922) and the slimmest pen imaginable, a Japanese marvel, thinner than a matchstick. The problem with notebooks is that I have so many of them. They multiply. They hide in bags and pockets. They lurk on shelves like awkward, scruffy adolescents among proper books, books with the author’s name on the spine, books that were perhaps once notebooks themselves. My notebooks refuse to give up their secrets when I need them most. They contain odd lines, quickly caught, my handwriting stretched and loosened to the point of indecipherability, flattened by the speed of thought. There are snatches of dialogue, obscure epiphanies, many dark doodles, emphatic squiggles and underlinings, sinuous arrows pointing at words that mean nothing to me now. In some respects I’m not very organised. But it’s worth making notes: sometimes, when I skim through my notes and can’t find what I think I need, I’ll find something else that I’d forgotten about, a bright fragment, a useful quip, a callous aside. I’m not too fussy about where and how I write. I started a recent story on the morning train next to a fat businessman who was scrolling through inanities on his phone. The first line just came to me on the platform, in the milky blue of a suburban dawn. I didn’t know if the line would turn into a story. I still don’t – it’s not finished. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of catching the voice. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. A writing day is nothing special. You sit down and write. You get on with it.

I need peace and quiet if I’m editing or re-writing. It depends. Sometimes I listen to music but mostly I prefer the sound of the world around me, its creaks and sighs. There’s no routine. A mug of tea or coffee. I switch between keyboard and longhand. The change can freshen things up. I try to write something every day. I always start a new piece with pen and paper. It’s the only way. Often, it’ll be a snatch of dialogue that sets me off, less often an image. I don’t tend to plan things in minute detail. No graphs. No spreadsheets. No diagrams or intricately engineered story arcs. I need room for things to develop. That’s part of the fun. The words spark and fizz as you write. For me, there is no other way. Sometimes a story can die in my brain once I know the ending. If I don’t finish the thing while it’s still fresh and new, I could lose interest, I’ll roll off and fart. After I’ve put a fair amount of ink on paper I switch to the screen. I work on a basic laptop. I don’t use anything like Scrivener. I am a one-fingered percussionist. I bash the keys. I’ve got it down to an art, I can go at a decent speed. I don’t have a daily word target, although I keep an eye on how much I’m churning out. I might aim to get to the end of a chapter or to work out a scene. But I’ll stop when the writing becomes sluggish, when the connections don’t quite work: that’s when I’m tired. I write during the day. I don’t burn the midnight oil. Although sometimes I wake up and jot down a thought or two.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
Well, I suppose the best place to start is to find anything that’s been published, online or in print. There’s not exactly tons of stuff out there: my published works are not likely to buckle your shelves. Go to my website: you’ll find a few stories there. Most of my published stories have appeared in Black Static, so that’s a pretty good place to start. People seem to like ‘The Bury Line’ (Black Static 42) and ‘The Visitors’ (Black Static 45). I like ‘The Mouse’ in Structo 15.

7. What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a novel. Now I need to find a home for it, which is a job in itself. I’ve a couple of stories on the go – I’ve always got a story on the go – while others haven’t yet found an outlet. In fact, my notebooks contain about 20 stories in various states of disrepair. A novel is stirring. It is set in Manchester. I’ve written a few sections. It’s like tuning a radio. There is feedback and interference. The neighbours are making a racket. But mostly the new novel remains a possible world of certain images and unresolved dialogue. At this stage, it’s no more than a flavour, a smell, a feeling, a dream, a portly man with desire in his eyes, a man who sits next to you on the train. There will be dirty carpets and brick walls. There will be pale faces and whorled turds, chicken sandwiches and an impossible love affair. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to work.

Saturday 11 March 2017

The Lowdown with... Cassandra Khaw

Cassandra Khaw is the business developer for Singaporean video games publisher Ysbryd Games. She also writes for Ars Technica UK whenever possible. When not doing either of those things, she practices muay thai, tries to find time to dance, and reads voraciously. She also writes a variety of fiction, and has a novella entitled RUPERT WONG, CANNIBAL CHEF out with Abaddon Books, and another, HAMMERS ON BONE, from Tor.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 

I don’t go anywhere without a plush bunny named Judy. (Yes, named for the Zootopia character.) There’s an unhappy story tied to that, but that is not here or now.

I practice Muay Thai. Not very often and certainly not at the expertise level that I’d like. But I enjoy the martial arts and the excuse at working out incessantly.

My favourite thing to do in the United Kingdom is gallivanting about, telling people nice things about their attire, and otherwise terrorising the Brits with undue flattery. Some day, this is going to get me arrested.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
What the Highway Prefers’ which Lackington’s published. I have the acceptance letter printed somewhere.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
Oh. Oh, my god. Like I said in another interview, it always feels like I’m playing favorites when someone makes me pick. (Because it literally is, but let’s ignore that.) If I had to choose, it’d probably be ‘In The Rustle of Pages’ that came out in 2015. It was my first story to have a strong emotional impact on readers.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
We do not speak ill of the dead and buried.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
Roll out of bed, shamble towards the nearest available source of coffee, eat breakfast, drink coffee, prod at Twitter. At some point after morning ablutions, open up a document and haphazardly smack at the keyboard until words fall out. Writing might be a more elegant affair for everyone else, but for me, it isn’t. Then again, I’ve never feigned being an elegant human being. So there’s that.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
I want to say Rupert Wong just because he was the first thing I really wrote, the first thing to give me confidence I could do something with my fiction. But Rupert is also a Character, if you know what I mean, and of all my works, his stories are possibly the goriest of them all. Still. Demon babies seeking to unionise.

7. What are you working on now? 
Right at this very second? I’m switching between this and typing out a manuscript for a tie-in novella. The boys at Signal from Tolva gave me licenses to go crazy with their world, and I’m not ashamed to say I have. Expect queer women cyborgs of every variety, 3D-printed scientists, parasite complexes, and plenty of body horror.

Sunday 5 March 2017

The Lowdown with... Paul StJohn Mackintosh

Paul StJohn Mackintosh is a British poet, weird/dark fiction writer, and journalist/media pro. Born in 1961, he was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, has lived and worked in Asia and Central Europe, and currently is based in Hungary. He has published two collections of poetry, as well as several co-translations from Japanese, done with his ex-wife Maki Sugiyama. His first collection of dark/weird/transgressive fiction, Black Propaganda, appeared from H. Harksen Productions in May 2016. Paul is Associate Editor of the US books, publishing and literary site, and has been rated #1 of "The 12 Publishing Shakers You Should Be Following" by The Independent Publishing Magazine. He has produced award-winning short films with his ex-wife, the Hungarian filmmaker Lilla Bán.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 

I'm an active member of the BDSM community, an advocate for sexual rights, a sometime member of Torture Garden, and an occasional contributor to Skin Two. All of that feeds into my writing. I find dark fantastic erotic fiction to be one of the best ways of probing the existential dilemmas of human agency and identity that fascinate me most.

I'm an inveterate clubber and dance music fan - especially house music, techno and d&b. I go clubbing on average at least two nights a week.

I'm a Scottish nationalist. I grew up in Edinburgh and Dundee, and cleave closest to the Scottish side of my heritage. Out of respect for the feisty underdog; out of disgust at the gimcrack, failing "British constitution" and querulous, murderous modern English nationalism; out of love for a wholly distinct culture and tradition in Britain; out of love for the Scottish landscape; and simply out of hope for change for the better. I'm also official clan poet of Clan Mackintosh. That said, I love living in other countries and cultures, and can't recommend the experience enough.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
The first thing I had published that I really took pride in was a poem, "An Expressionist Passion," inspired by Die Weiße Rose, the German pacifist anti-Nazi student resistance group. That basically kicked me off as a serious writer.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
The semi-autobiographical story "The Princess and the Dragon," based on my experiences in Singapore, in my new collection, Black Propaganda. It's the oldest story in the book, and the one I thought most about revising, and revised least. Even though it has plenty of faults, it also has all the raw passion I could ever wish for.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
There's a 200-page first novel I wrote in my early twenties stashed in a ring binder back at my parents' place. I'm terrified that some day someone is going to disinter it and actually read it.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 

I tend to write in spurts rather than to a regular disciplined timetable, but when I do get a rush on, I closet myself and buckle down for several hours. Otherwise, I try to get up to an hour in the early morning, to put things down while my mind is freshest. I also tend to do a lot of writing in cafes - using handwriting recognition on a tablet. I find it helps keep things spontaneous, enables me to incorporate research straight off the internet into what I'm writing, and tempers the aching solitude of the writing life.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
I'd be tempted to say "The Princess and the Dragon," except that in some ways it's not representative. Maybe they should start with "Coma Berenice," also in Black Propaganda - a weird tale of bizarre paraphilia, obsessive love, and emotional vampirism.

7. What are you working on now? 
I've got any number of short stories on the chocks at any one time, as well as full-length works either under way or awaiting revision. I'm working on an apocalyptic cli-fi novel about environmental stress driving humanity into an epigenetic phase shift, as well as some occult historical tales and war stories.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Janine Ashbless: Blood And Stones

Today I've invited the awesome Janine Ashbless (aka Keris McDonald) to guest-blog about her major new novel In Bonds Of The Earth. So now I'll get out of the way and let her do the talking...

When I started writing In Bonds of the Earth, I knew I’d have to go to Ethiopia.
Well, to be precise, I knew my characters would. In Bonds of the Earth is the second in my trilogy The Book of the Watchers, an erotic supernatural thriller about fallen angels. My primary sources for the fallen angels and their offspring the Nephilim was The Book of Enoch, a truly hallucinatory text written in the 3rdt century BCE, quoted in the New Testament Epistles, but then excised altogether from the official canon of Biblical literature. For thousands of years it disappeared from Western Christianity.

But Ethiopia kept the Book of Enoch alive. Ethiopia has been, extraordinarily, a Christian nation since the 4th century—way before anywhere in the West become officially Christian. It’s a unique, heavily Jewish form of Orthodoxy, perhaps the closest imaginable to that of the Early Church (they don’t eat pork for example, they segregate the sexes during services, and the Holy of Holies in every church is focused not on a crucifix but a copy of the Ark of the Covenant). And they do include the Book of Enoch in their canon.


So at the end of the first book in the series, Cover Him With Darkness, Azazel has been freed from his imprisonment and vows to release all his brother Fallen Angels and wage war on Heaven.
I knew I had to take him to Ethiopia to find the first of his comrades. And I knew that that had to be Penemuel, Angel of the Written Word, just because I was so amused by this quote from Enoch:
And he instructed mankind in writing with ink and paper, and thereby many sinned from eternity to eternity and until this day. For men were not created for such a purpose, to give confirmation to their good faith with pen and ink.”
So I booked a twenty-day tour, which was eye-opening and awesome, even if it did result in terrible food-poisoning. Hey, it’s not every author who has literally bled for their book. Rectally.

Appalling mental images aside, I found the perfect location for Penemuel’s imprisonment; the subterranean rock-cut churches of Lalibela:
I have learnt my lesson. For Bk 3 in the series I’m using nice gentle locations … like the Norwegian mountains. In the middle of winter…
(BTW, there are more photos of Ethiopia, its amazing historical legacy and its wild Church art, on my blog)

Would you defy God, for love?

Broad at the shoulders and lean at the hips, six foot-and-then-something of ropey muscle, he looks like a Spartan god who got lost in a thrift store. He moves like ink through water. And his eyes, when you get a good look at them, are silver. Not gray. Silver. You might take their inhuman shine for fancy contact lenses. Youd be wrong.

Janine Ashbless is back with the second in her paranormal erotic romance Book of the Watchers trilogy: In Bonds of the Earth.

Unafraid to tackle the more complex issues surrounding good and evil in mainstream religion, Janine has created a thought-provoking and immersive novel which sets a new standard for paranormal erotic romance. The first in the series, Cover Him With Darkness, was released in 2014 by Cleis Press and received outstanding reviews.

In Bonds of the Earth is published by Sinful Press and is due for release on March 1st, 2017.

Monday 20 February 2017

Devil's Highway is unleashed!

Today, at last, the paperback edition of Devil's Highway is properly in stock! As you may remember, it was originally slated for release on 1st February, but Snowbooks had so many advance orders they ended up switching publishers for a bigger run! So, at last, it's loose now.

Also, Snowbooks are now doing a special offer on ebooks: all their ebooks are now available at a reduced rate. That includes Devil's Highway, and Hell's Ditch too! For the full list of Snowbooks e-titles, go here! (The Devil's Highway ebook doesn't seem to be on Amazon just now, so you'll have to get it from the site, here.

And just to round it all off, here's that third book trailer...