Author and Scriptwriter

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

Monday 30 December 2019

That Inevitable Year-In-Review/Horn-Blowing/Awards Eligibility Post

I'm never keen on blowing my own horn, and according to one fellow on Facebook, even a single post about what I've published in a year that would be eligible for award nominations represents an unacceptable level of log-rolling. (I did try to see his point of view, but nearly put my back out trying to fit my head up my arse, so I abandoned the attempt.)

Anyway, here is my one-off post on what I've had published this year.

And Cannot Come Again (ChiZine Press - to be reissued by Horrific Tales next year)
A Love Like Blood (Dark Minds Press)

Short fiction: (not including material published on Patreon)
'Comfort Your Dead' (in And Cannot Come Again)
'As The Crow Flies' (on Ginger Nuts of Horror - you can read it here, or hear me read it in YouTube.)
'Below' (in Terror Tales of North West England)

'Burns The Witchfire, Upon The Hill' (in A Love Like Blood)
'Fitton's Ghost' (in A Love Like Blood)

'And Cannot Come Again' (in And Cannot Come Again)

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Boris the Fridge-Hider

In honour of our Prime Minister's latest exploit (avoiding the press by shutting himself in a fridge) I've composed a little song, sung to a well-known tune by The Who. Do feel free to share and sing along...

Look who's scurrying across the floor
Blond and hairy, has no balls
In the polls he was ahead
Now he's hanging by a thread
Boris the fridge-hider
Boris the fridge-hider
He can tell nothing but lies
Has no issue with Russian bribes
Reporters cause him indigestion
(They might ask him some hard questions)
Boris the fridge-hider
Boris the fridge-hider
Creepy Tory, Creepy Tory,
Creepy Creepy Tory Tory Creepy Creepy Tory Tory
Creepy Creepy Tory Tory Creepy Creepy Tory Tory
Screws anything that's in a skirt
(And anyone who trusts his word)
Bellowing: "Get Brexit Done!"
Then hides away 'mid the gammon
Boris the fridge-hider
Boris the fridge-hider
But tomorrow is Election Day
So give a Christmas gift to the whole UK
Kick him out of Number 10
And bring the Tories' reign to a sticky end
Boris the fridge-hider
Boris the fridge-hider

Well, It's Been A While: On Health (Physical and Otherwise), Awards, FCon, StokerCon, Pantsing and Publishers

Hi, everyone.

It's been months since I last posted here, and plenty's happened in the interim. So stand by for a long, rambling and self-indulgent wall of text...

2019 has been (thus far - there's still a few weeks of it left) a funny sort of year. I've had a number of health issues, both physical and mental, which have impacted, among other things, our finances. Which was why we couldn't make Fantasycon this year, much to our disappointment. (And to the relief of many others, I'm sure!)

FCon has long been one of the milestones in our year, where we meet a lot of our closest friends in the writing world. Luckily, we still got to catch up with some of them, most notably at Edge-Lit in July, although we had to miss the Derby Ghost Story Festival (as Sledge-Lit has now morphed into) last month. I did joke that, since this was the one year we couldn't make FCon, it would be the year I finally won an award. (It wasn't, but what the hell; what's the point of winning an award if you can't have your very own Gwyneth Paltrow moment in front of a live audience?) Congratulations to Aliette de Bodard for The Tea Master And The Detective, which won Best Novella, and to Catriona Ward, who won Best Horror Novel for her superb Little Eve. I'm proud to have been listed alongside them.

It's been an interesting year on the writing front, especially in respect of novels. I reached a point last year where I found myself looking at the novel I'd been trying to write and returning again to why I became a writer in the first place. I asked myself the question 'If you could only write one more book, what would it be?' and found the answer transformed the work in progress, and my approach to it. I've been highly focused on writing as a career in recent years, trying to reach a level of commercial success closer to the mainstream. And don't get me wrong, I still want that if I can have it, but there's no point unless I'm able to write the stories I want to write. So my priorities, and my focus, have shifted: I've spent 2019 writing exactly the kind of things I want, without driving myself crazy contemplating the market or what's 'in' now. And I've been a lot happier with the work as a result. And more content.

Another thing that's changed is how I write. For years I've felt unable to write a novel without plotting it out in advance - sometimes in intricate detail (the outline for Devil's Highway was over 30,000 words long.) I always envied those writers who could begin with only the vaguest of ideas and basically wing it all the way through, but thought I'd accepted I couldn't be one of them. I was a planner, not a pantser. And yet, this year, that changed. With only the broadest concept of the story I was telling, I wrote the opening scene of a novel; by the time that was over, I knew roughly what would happen over the next few chapters. As I continued, I began to see a little further ahead, and then a little further, and could rough out a handful of notes. I believe this is known as the 'headlight' or 'flashlight' method.

Well, that novel is two-thirds finished, with over 100,000 words written. I've been fixing a bunch of notes I made on it along the way, and while I've been doing that I've been roughing out the opening chapters of another novel that I dived into with even less idea of what I was doing. It can be frustrating at times, even scary - but it's also exhilarating. It's a real delight when, as a writer, you actually manage to surprise yourself. Pantsing a novel is a lot harder to measure and predict, but it's also a lot more fun.

On a slightly less cheerful note...

My fourth full-length story collection, And Cannot Come Again, saw print this year from Canada's ChiZine Press, complete with stunning artwork by Eric Mohr. Unfortunately, within a couple of months of the release, the stories about ChiZine started coming out. Initially, it was a couple of authors complaining about the publishers' failure to pay them on time. My first reaction was dismay, when review sites announced they'd be boycotting CZP's publications, and a desire to wait until I'd heard both sides of the story. But then more stories started coming out; worse stories. Too many to dismiss or ignore. As a result I had to request reversion of my rights as an author from ChiZine, and to ask readers not to buy the collection (which, as you can imagine, kind of goes against the grain for an author.) The grim ChiZine saga, for anyone who missed it, can be read in more detail here.

On a much happier note...

I'm delighted to announce that And Cannot Come Again has a new publisher! My profound thanks to Graeme Reynolds at Horrific Tales, who's acquired the book to be relaunched at StokerCon in Scarborough next year. More details will follow in due course. The new edition will retain Ramsey Campbell's introduction, and may include some new material too!

So, that's where we are now. The year isn't over, and nor are the upheavals - there are other changes in the works, which I'll be able to talk about at a later stage - but I'm still here, and I'm still writing. I don't know how to do much else, after all. Thank you to all the friends and family - and most of all to Cate - for their support over what's been an often tough twelvemonth.

Here's to the hope of better days ahead, for us all. Including, please God, a change of government. (Nearly got through this post without mentioning politics or the upcoming General Election. #VoteLabour)

Friday 26 July 2019

Wolf's Hill and Breakwater nominated for British Fantasy Awards

The shortlists for the British Fantasy Awards were announced on Tuesday, and I'm stunned to have made the running for not one, but two awards.

Wolf's Hill has been shortlisted for the August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel, alongside Little Eve by Catriona Ward, The Cabin At The End of The World by Paul Tremblay and The Way of The Worm by Ramsey Campbell.

To be sharing a shortlist with those three authors, those three novels, to be included in the same category, feels like an award in itself. I'd be happy to lose to any of them.

It's also particularly poignant because the Black Road novels mean a lot to me, and there've been times when I wonder if anyone's even reading them. In guess some people are, and enjoying them too.

Breakwater, meanwhile, has been shortlisted for Best Novella, alongside 'Binti: The Night Masquerade' by Nnedi Okorafor, 'The Land Of Somewhere Safe' by Hal Duncan, 'The Last Temptation Of Dr Valentine' by John Llewellyn Probert, 'The Only Harmless Great Thing' by Brooke Bolander and 'The Tea Master And The Detective' by Aliette de Bodard. Again, a storming list of names.

The winners will be announced at FantasyCon in Glasgow on 20th October.

Here are the BFA nominations in full:

Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award)
The Bitter Twins, by Jen Williams (Headline)
Empire of Sand, by Tasha Suri (Orbit)
Foundryside, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Jo Fletcher Books)
The Green Man’s Heir, by Juliet E McKenna (Wizard’s Tower Press)
The Loosening Skin, by Aliya Whiteley (Unsung Stories)
Priest of Bones, by Peter McLean (Jo Fletcher Books)
Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award)
The Cabin at the End of the World, by Paul Tremblay (Titan Books)
Little Eve, by Catriona Ward (W&N)
The Way of the Worm, by Ramsey Campbell (PS Publishing)
Wolf’s Hill, by Simon Bestwick (Snowbooks)
Best Newcomer (the Sydney J Bounds Award)
Tomi Adeyemi, for The Children of Blood and Bone (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Cameron Johnston, for The Traitor God (Angry Robot)
RF Kuang, for The Poppy War (HarperVoyager)
Tasha Suri, for Empire of Sand (Orbit)
Marian Womack, for Lost Objects (Luna Press Publishing)
Micah Yongo, for Lost Gods (Angry Robot)
Best Novella
Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor (
Breakwater, by Simon Bestwick (Tor Books)
The Land of Somewhere Safe, by Hal Duncan (NewCon Press)
The Last Temptation of Dr Valentine, by John Llewellyn Probert (Black Shuck Books)
The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander (
The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press)
Best Short Fiction 
Down Where Sound Comes Blunt, by GV Anderson (F&SF March/April 2018)
Her Blood the Apples, Her Bones the Trees, by Georgina Bruce (The Silent Garden: A Journal of Esoteric Fabulism)
In the Gallery of Silent Screams, by Carole Johnstone & Chris Kelso (Black Static #65)
A Son of the Sea, by Priya Sharma (All the Fabulous Beasts)
Telling Stories, by Ruth EJ Booth (The Dark #43)
Thumbsucker, by Robert Shearman (New Fears 2)
Best Anthology
The Devil and the Deep: Horror Stories of the Sea, ed. Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books)
Humanagerie, ed. Sarah Doyle & Allen Ashley (Eibonvale Press)
New Fears 2, ed. Mark Morris (Titan Books)
This Dreaming Isle, ed. Dan Coxon (Unsung Stories)
Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5, ed. Robert Shearman & Michael Kelly (Undertow Publications)
Best Collection
All the Fabulous Beasts, by Priya Sharma (Undertow Publications)
The Future is Blue, by Catherynne M Valente (Subterranean Press)
How Long ‘til Black Future Month?, by NK Jemisin (Orbit)
Lost Objects, by Marian Womack (Luna Press Publishing)
Octoberland, by Thana Niveau (PS Publishing)
Resonance & Revolt, by Rosanne Rabinowitz (Eibonvale Press)
Best Non-Fiction
The Evolution of African Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Francesca T Barbini (Luna Press Publishing)
The Full Lid, by Alasdair Stuart (
Ginger Nuts of Horror (
Les Vampires, by Tim Major (PS Publishing)
Noise and Sparks, by Ruth EJ Booth (Shoreline of Infinity)
Best Independent Press
Fox Spirit Books
Luna Press Publishing
NewCon Press
Unsung Stories
Best Magazine / Periodical
Black Static
Gingernuts of Horror
Shoreline of Infinity
Uncanny Magazine
Best Audio
Bedtime Stories for the End of the World (
Blood on Satan’s Claw, by Mark Morris (Bafflegab)
Breaking the Glass Slipper (
PodCastle (
PsuedoPod (
Best Comic / Graphic Novel
100 Demon Dialogues, by Lucy Bellwood (Toonhound Studios)
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, Vol. 1, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis, Tyler Crook & Dave Stewart (Dark Horse)
Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories, Vol. 1, by Mike Mignola and others (Dark Horse)
The Prisoner, by Robert S Malan & John Cockshaw (Luna Press Publishing)
Saga #49-54, by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Widdershins, Vol. 7, by Kate Ashwin
Best Artist
Vince Haig
David Rix
Daniele Serra
Sophie E Tallis
Best Film / Television Production
Annihilation, Alex Garland
Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Black Panther, Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole
The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan
Inside No. 9, series 4, Steve Pemberton & Reece Shearsmith
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Phil Lord & Rodney Rothman
Congratulations to my fellow nominees!

Monday 8 July 2019

Edge-Lit 8

This weekend the lovely Cate and I will be in Derby for the 8th Edge-Lit convention.

Edge-Lit is one of the two cons I always attend every year (the other, of course, being Fantasycon, although this year we might have to give it a miss.) A one-day event organised by the most excellent Alex Davis, it's always well-attended and a great chance to catch up with old friends.

Among this year's luminaries are:

Confirmed Guests of Honour:
Aliette De Bodard, multi-award winning fantasy and science-fiction author
Anne Charnock, Arthur C Clarke Award winning author of Dreams Before the Start of Time
Christopher Golden, New York Times Bestselling Author of Ararat and The Pandora Room - joining us from the US!
Neil Spring, bestselling author of The Ghost Hunters, The Watchers, The Lost Village and The Burning House
Sarah Lotz, acclaimed horror and thriller author (The Three)
Tim Lebbon, popular dark fantasy and horror novelist (The Silence)
Special Guest:
Stephen Volk, author and scriptwriter (TV's Ghostwatch, Afterlife, Midwinter of the Spirit)
Speakers and Panellists:
Simon Bestwick, acclaimed horror novelist and short story writer (*waves*)
Jan Edwards, award-winning crime and horror author
Robin Triggs, author of Night Shift
David Mark, author of the DS Aector McAvoy crime series
Sarah Pinborough, Bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes and Cross Her Heart
Alex Reeve, writer of the Leo Stanhope series
Zen Cho, acclaimed fantasy author and editor
Adrian Tchaikovsky, Arthur C Clarke Award winning SF and fantasy novelist
Dominic Dulley, author of Morhelion and Shattermoon
Matt Hill, science-fiction author of Zero Bomb
Anna Stephens, fantasy author of the Godblind trilogy
Jen Williams, fantasy author of the Copper Cat and Winnowing Flame series
Genevieve Cogman, author of the Invisible Library series
Tim Major, SF and horror writer
KK Perez, YA author of the Sweet Black Waves series
Adam Christopher, acclaimed novelist, comics and tie-in fiction writer
Jodi Taylor, author of the Chronicles of St Mary series
Daniel Godfrey, author of The Synapse Sequence and New Pompeii
Ruth De Haas, fantasy author and blogger
Danie Ware, Warhammer 40k novelist and author of Children of Artifice
Dan Coxon, award-winning author and editor
AC Clarke, children's and YA fantasy author

It's also great for panels and workshops, both of which I'll be involved with this year. There'll also be readings of work, too, which I think is new.

Here's my itinerary, for those interested (or wanting to know which parts of Derby Quad to avoid!)

10.00 am. Panel:
Short Cuts: Does a Background in Short Fiction Help You Build a Career as a Novelist? (Sponsored by Fox Spirit Books)
Simon Bestwick, Zen Cho (Chair), Jan Edwards, Tim Lebbon, Tim Major.

2.00 pm. Workshop:
Simon Bestwick:Writing Your Novel

4.00 pm. Multi-Publisher Horror Book Launch:
Dark Minds Press launches A LOVE LIKE BLOOD by Simon Bestwick.

Hersham Horror Books launches THE WOODS: PENTANTH 6, with stories by Cate Gardner, James Everington, Mark West, Penny Jones and Phil Sloman.

Sinister Horror Company launches CANNIBAL NUNS FROM OUTER SPACE by Duncan P. Bradshaw.

Wine and nibbles available.

5.00 pm. Reading: 
Simon Bestwick and Robin Triggs.

As you can see, I'm a glutton for punishment. :)

Looking forward to this weekend. And I hope I'll see you there. 

Friday 14 June 2019

Things of the Week 14th June 2019: The Rewrite That Will Not Die, Paul Darrow, And Cannot Come Again, and Stuff I Cannot Talk About Right Now

Hi everyone.

Sorry it's been a quiet week on the blog and elsewhere. I've been struggling with a few things, principally anxiety, fatigue and The Rewrite That Will Not Die - of which more in a moment. Hoping to restore normal service next week, or something like it.

June has brought more sad news, with the passing of the actor Paul Darrow. He was best known for playing Kerr Avon in Blake's 7: a complex, ruthless character who managed to be somehow likeable in spite of it all, locked in a love-hate relationship with Gareth Thomas' Roj Blake. Blake's 7 was a huge influence on the Black Road novels - there's some of Avon in Gevaudan Shoal, and there's also a character called Darrow. By all accounts a funny and genuinely nice guy; I'm sorry I never got a chance to meet him in person.

Nearly ten years ago now, I wrote the first draft of a novel. It was the biggest, most ambitious work I'd ever attempted. I began it right after finishing my first novel, Tide Of Souls, and it soon became clear that I wasn't equal to the task. But at the same time I couldn't stop, and ended up with a first draft of about 170,000 words that had more things wrong with it than I could count, and which neither of the publishers I had a foot in the door with were interested in.

So I put it aside and went to work on something else. But I kept coming back to it, and eventually started listing everything wrong with the damned thing, then correcting it. Eventually there was a second draft, this one nearly 250,000 words long.

Finally I sent the thing to my agent; I'd spent a couple of years meaning to go through it again, but by now I was half-convinced the thing was a white elephant nobody would be interested in. Better to send it off and find out if there was any point.

My agent decided that there was, and sent back a long list of things to be fixed, and so began The
Rewrite That Will Not Die. I've been working on it since last year; I'm not done yet, but (inshallah) I'll be finished this month, and can then gear up to starting a new novel.

I finished with the copy-edits of And Cannot Come Again last week, and I'm just waiting on the final proofs. (Review copies are available, to any reviewers or book-bloggers out there.) The release date has edged back slightly - July for North America, August for the UK.

I've had some very exciting news in the last week, but annoyingly, I can't actually say anything about it right now. Watch this space for more.

Paul Darrow's Avon was known for his sardonic sense of humour and put-downs, so I'll leave you with a compilation of some of his best moments. RIP, Mr Darrow, and may the Liberator carry you safely home.

Wednesday 5 June 2019

What's New? with Yvy DeLuca

Yvy DeLuca describes herself as a delicious Yvycake made of up an assortment of ingredients designed to stimulate the mind, as well as satisfy a hunger for self-expression. As a proud Indian transgender woman, Yvy uses written and video blogs to talk about trans issues by using #LetsTalkAboutTrans and uses her social media to spread awareness and support for the LGBTQ community. Yvy grew up in Blackburn and currently resides in Salford, Greater Manchester, with her husband and their cats, Nyssa and Pirlo.

1. So, what’s new from you?
My debut book, Tainted Beauty, which is currently in it's final stages of proofreading before I get a release date!

2. How did it come about?
I decided that I wanted to tell my story as an Indian transgender woman and what I experienced going through my transition. I felt like I needed to tell my story because there are a lot of questions that society are afraid to ask, and in my book the reader will come away with more answers than questions...and one hell of a fabulous read!

3. Tell us about the process of how you created it.
I started writing my book during a time when I became very ill and was housebound. It gave me buckets of time to really process my life into a story and build a wonderful narrative that was heartfelt and unapologetic but also showcased my fun loving personality.

4. What was your favourite part of the process?
Watching my husband's reaction when he got the opportunity to really learn about what I have been through.

5. What was the toughest part of it?
Having to not only relive some of the darkest moments in my life, but then having to write them down in detail. It really drained my emotions to relive those memories.

6. Is there a theme running through it?
Be your authentic self and and respect others for who they are.

7. If you had to sum this book up in three words, what would they be?

8. Where can/will we be able to get hold of it?
When released, it will be available at Amazon, WH Smiths, Waterstones and Barnes and Noble!

Tuesday 4 June 2019

Terie Garrison

I've just heard that my old friend Terie Garrison passed away this morning from cancer.

We'd lost touch and hadn't spoken for a number of years, but Terie was someone to whom I still owe a huge debt of thanks. For about six years I regularly attended the South Manchester Writer's Group; Terie was the first person I knew from the group.

An American expatriate, Terie had been brought up an evangelical Christian, but had been excommunicated and was now a Wiccan (if I recall correctly.) She had an official letter of excommunication from her church, which she took some pride in; she occasionally joked about providing copies of the same letter to her friends (with their names in place of hers, of course) to be framed and hung about her home.

She could be quick to take offence at times, but she was funny and, more to the point, a good friend. It was Terie who administered a dose of tough love and hard-headed advice to me when I was at a difficult and painful point in my life. It was also Terie who helped get me out of a prolonged and miserable creative rut by introducing me to the works of Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg, through which I rediscovered the sheer pleasure of writing. My first collection, A Hazy Shade Of Winter, was dedicated to her.

Terie made her living as a technical writer, and also penned a number of YA books, including Changing Gears and the DragonSpawn quartet. I don't know too much about her life over the last decade; I drifted away from the writer's group and lost touch with all but a few of the people there. I got a call a few weeks ago to say that Terie was very ill; the hope was to arrange one last gathering of her friends for a sort of 'living wake.' Unfortunately, Terie was too ill for this to be arranged.

She passed away, as I said, this morning, and although I hadn't seen her in years I miss her already. Very much.

Farewell, Terie. If there's anything else after this life, may it be full of joy and peace.

Monday 3 June 2019

Things Of The Week 3rd June 2019: Dennis Etchison, Kirkus Reviews, Weirdbook and The Harrowing

Dennis Etchison. Photograph by Lisa Morton.
There was sad news this last week, with the passing of Dennis Etchison, one of the finest short story writers the weird fiction field has ever produced. I've been rereading his short story collection The Dark Country over the past few days, and remembering why, with stories such as 'The Dead Line', 'You Can Go Now', 'Sitting In The Corner, Whimpering Quietly' and 'Daughter Of The Golden West.'
I didn't know Etchison at all personally, and met him very briefly once, at World Horror Con in Brighton in 2010. I'd meant to sign up for his Kaffeeklatsch, but left it too late. I had a copy of The Dark Country that I'd picked up in a Brighton charity shop for about 50p, but I'd forgotten to bring it with me to be signed. I found a copy for sale at the convention and bought that instead - the same edition, but it cost £10! He came into the bar at one point, looking for a carrier bag with some items of his in it. I found it, and asked him to sign my book. He did...

....And that's my Etchison story, unfortunately. But I'd read and loved many of his stories, and he was one of the great writers in our field. Lisa Morton knew him considerably better, and has some words here.

On a happier note, it's been an eventful week here at Castle Bestwick.

And Cannot Come Again is a Kirkus Reviews pick for June, alongside Georgina Bruce's This House Of Wounds and Songs For The Unravelling Of The World by Brian Evenson.

And, after a looong drought on the acceptance front, I finally sold a story this year! 'Whitsun' will appear in Weirdbook #46, released in mid-2020. Many thanks to Douglas Draa for giving it a home.

The latest instalment of my mediaeval horror story The Harrowing is up on my Patreon page. I'm making Book One of the serial free to readers for June as well - feel free to check it out, and if you enjoy it and want to follow Godric's journey across the devastated North, you can do so for only a dollar a month.

What's New? with Laura Mauro

Laura Mauro started writing short fiction in 2012 and hasn't stopped since. Born in London, England, her stories have appeared in Black Static, Interzone, Shadows & Tall Trees, The Dark and a variety of anthologies. Her debut novella 'Naming the Bones' was published in 2017. Her short story "Sun Dogs" was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and "Looking for Laika" won the 2018 British Fantasy Award in Short Fiction. She loves Finnish folklore, Japanese wrestling and Russian space-dogs. She tweets at @lauranmauro

1) So, what’s new from you?So you might have heard in passing that I’ve got a little book coming out soon. My debut short story collection Sing Your Sadness Deep is being published by Undertow Publications, which is incredibly exciting. I’m especially thrilled about it because Undertow were actually the ones who published my first ever short story back in 2012 (‘Red Rabbit’) so it feels like something of a homecoming for me. The collection includes two completely new stories, titled ‘The Pain-Eater’s Daughter’ and ‘In the City of Bones’. The latter is the most recent story I’ve written, and like many of my other stories it’s about one of my weird obsessions – this time, about number stations.

2) How did it come about?
For ‘In The City of Bones’ - I’ve had an image in my head for a long time: a woman in some kind of cabin or shack, completely alone, as in apocalyptically alone – nobody else for miles around. It’s pitch dark, and it’s snowing. As she looks out of the window, she can see a shadowy figure approaching her, walking through an abandoned children’s playground. The number stations came later, largely because visualising this scene gave me the creeps, and number stations also give me the creeps. So I figured that if you smush two creepy things together they accumulate an even greater creepiness. Hopefully my maths is sound.

3) Tell us about the process of how you created it.
It sort of happened organically. I spent a lot of time listening to number stations and wondering what kind of utility they might have outside the popular explanation (it’s thought that they are coded messages used to communicate with spies in the field). Once I’d figured out the purpose they serve in the story, I then built up the rest of it. I found a suitably empty, apocalyptic location (Kadykchan, an abandoned city in far east Siberia). It turns out that this place already comes with its own horrific lore – it’s built on the Kolyma Highway, which was built by prisoners from Stalin’s gulags. Forced to work in terrible conditions – east Siberian winters are extremely harsh – a great many prisoners died, and because it was impractical to dig graves in the permafrost their bodies were interred into the road itself. Because of this, the Kolyma Highway is known as the Road of Bones. From that point on, the story basically wrote itself.

4) What was your favourite part of the process?
There was a lot of miscellaneous research on subjects I found fascinating. Researching Kadykchan was fascinating – you can find lots of photographs from people who’ve been bold enough to explore the region and drive the Road of Bones between Yakutsk and Magadan. One of the coolest things was finding a photo of someone’s abandoned home, still full of their belongings, and working the title of one of their books into the story. It was quite uncanny in a way, as I’d pictured the children’s playground in my original vision, and photos of Kadykchan tend to feature an abandoned playground quite prominently. Researching Siberian climate and fauna was really interesting as well. It’s the kind of landscape you can be quite poetic about.

5) What was the toughest part of it?
The protagonist is living with a congenital skin condition called Harlequin Ichthyosis, which is something I came across during my years in an antenatal clinic – no actual cases as it’s very rare, but plenty of literature. It’s quite a shocking condition when you first encounter it – google with caution as the pictures can be intense. Babies born with this condition have incredibly thick skin, almost like plate armour, which tends to split and crack painfully – the word ‘Harlequin’ refers to the appearance of the cracked skin, like a jester’s motley. There was a time when Harlequin Ichthyosis was a death sentence, and afflicted babies rarely lived beyond a year. These days, as we gain more and more understanding of the condition there are more and more cases of sufferers surviving into adulthood. The protagonist is one of these adult survivors. It was really important to me to make sure I got the facts right regarding living with this condition, so the research was far more intense.

6) Is there a theme running through it?
I think the overall theme is about people who don’t fit into the world, and how those people often find one another. To be honest, that might be the accidental theme of my entire collection. It’s a subject I know a lot about.

7) If you had to sum this story up in three words, what would they be?
“They’re coming home”

8) Where can/will we be able to get hold of it?
“Sing your Sadness Deep” is available to pre-order here in both paperback and hardcover, and eBook will soon be available too. It’s going to be released around July, so very soon! I hope people will like it….!

Thursday 30 May 2019

What's New? with Priya Sharma

Priya Sharma’s fiction has appeared venues such as Interzone, Black Static, Nightmare, The Dark and Tor. She’s been anthologised in several of Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year series, Paula Guran’s Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror series, Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014, Steve Haynes’ Best British Fantasy 2014 and Johnny Main’s Best British Horror 2015. She’s also been on many Locus’ Recommended Reading Lists. “Fabulous Beasts” was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist and won a British Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. She is a Grand Judge for the Aeon Award, an annual writing competition run by Albedo One, Ireland’s magazine of the Fantastic.

She is a Shirley Jackson finalist and Locus Award finalist for “All the Fabulous Beasts”, a collection of her some of her work, which is available from Undertow Publications.

1) So, what’s new from you?
A short story called “Feral”.

2) How did it come about?
It’s my twisted version of the old “raised by wolves” story. The idea has been bothering me for a long time. I can’t elaborate too much for fear of spoilers. It’s a love story, of sorts. I also wanted to explore our perception of choice about how we live.

3) Tell us about the process of how you created it.
I do a lot of research for my stories, most of which doesn’t make the final version of the piece. I like the journey that it takes me on- it opens up new avenues within the narrative and adds texture to world building. A tiny detail can make the lie that is fiction seem more real. For “Feral”, I read about wolves, wild children and looked at photos of minimalist houses.

4) What was your favourite part of the process?
My favourite part of any story is when I’m at the peak of the proverbial hill. I can look back at what I’ve written and forward to see how the rest of it needs to fit together, but there’s still room to explore. Something new might happen that will surprise me. It’s also easier to reverse engineer from here, before things are complete, putting in strands and connections that add another level of depth.

5) What was the toughest part of it?
At the peak of the proverbial hill, when I’m worried that it’s all rubbish! That’s when I need to hold my nerve. For me, it’s never the situation, it’s always about where I am mentally. I make my own hell and paradise with so many things.

And re-edits. When I’ve done so many that I can’t see the story clearly and just have to trust it.

6) Is there a theme running through it?
Freedom, or lack of it. Also, love. Pesky love.

7) If you had to sum this book up in three words, what would they be?
“Run, sister. Run.”

8) Where can/will we be able to get hold of it?
It's in “The Porcupine Boy and other Anthological Oddities”, edited by Christopher Jones. It’s out at some point soon from Crossroads Press. Chris has kindly given me permission to talk about it here.

Monday 27 May 2019

Nearing The Halfway Point

Current mood.
We're almost at the end of May (both the month and the Prime Minister.) Not halfway through the
year yet, but getting there. So, not a bad time to take stock of where things are.

Healthwise, it's not been the best year. I spent the first couple of months of it virtually bedbound with agonising knee pain (and with codeine medication for it leaving me wiped out half the time and with my sleeping patterns completely banjaxed), and been off work with anxiety for the last week. As a result, I've piled on a lot of the weight I lost last year. Next month, I'm heading back to Slimming World, where I'll start to put the damage right.

Not been a great year story submissions wise either - in fact, I haven't had a single acceptance all year, with stories I was very pleased with repeatedly knocked back. But that has had the effect of making me reflect on what I write and why, and made me determined to strive for excellence in my work. The last couple of years have also reminded me, very strongly, that I do what I do because I love it. And if I don't love what I'm doing, I shouldn't be doing it.

I hit a crisis point last year, where I realised I'd lost all sense of direction in terms of novel writing - the old, perennial trouble of trying to write what I thought was popular instead of what I needed to write. Two things helped me resolve it. One was realising that the projects of mine my agent was the most excited about were the ones I'd written out of sheer love and passion - the ones I'd thought no-one would be interested in. The second was asking myself one very simple question:

"If you could only write one more novel, what would it be?"

As it turned out, the answer was the novel that I'd been writing - but very differently from how I planned it. What was to have been a bog-standard psychological thriller became something else - a ghost story, a love story, a horror story... it's very rough at the moment (and not even fully typed up from Dictaphone notes) but it's something different.

I've written two novellas this year, as well, while also working on The Song Of The Sibyl, the huge
quarter-million word epic. There has been a shedload of work to do on that (two novels' worth, effectively!) but it's close to being finished and sent off to The Agent.

In addition, my Patreon is running and bringing in a stream (well, trickle) of income, featuring the ongoing serial The Harrowing.

One thing I was determined to do in 2019 was to write a screenplay; I've been working on something, a little bit of a time, in between work on the novel; slow going, but it's taking shape.

So, a lot of work, that will hopefully pay off in the future.

But there are also good things happening this year.

The big one, of course, is And Cannot Come Again, due out from ChiZine Press soon, complete with an Introduction by Ramsey
Campbell and blurbs from Angela Slatter, Reggie Oliver, Gemma Files and many, many more. The paperback will be released on the 11th July; if you can't wait that long, the ebook version will be available from the 18th June.

July will also see the release of A Love Like Blood, consisting of my novelettes Fitton's Ghost and Burns The Witchfire, Upon The Hill. It'll be launched at Edge-Lit in July - and who knows, there may be some copies of And Cannot Come Again available too.

Another good thing happened a couple of weeks ago, when Ellen Datlow's anthology The Devil And The Deep, featuring my story 'Deadwater', won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in an Anthology. Congratulations to Ellen and the other contributors!

Well, that's all the news that's fit to print so far. Now on with the rest of the year.

What's New? with Damien Angelica Walters

DamienAngelica Walters is the author of the forthcoming The Dead Girls Club, Cry Your Way Home, Paper Tigers, and Sing Me Your Scars, winner of This is Horror’s Short Story Collection of the Year. Her short fiction has been nominated twice for a Bram Stoker Award, reprinted in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and published in various anthologies and magazines, including the Shirley Jackson Award Finalists Autumn Cthulhu and The Madness of Dr. Caligari, World Fantasy Award Finalist Cassilda’s Song, Nightmare Magazine, Black Static, and Apex Magazine. Until the magazine’s closing in 2013, she was an Associate Editor of the Hugo Award-winning Electric Velocipede. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescued pit bulls and is represented by Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency.

1) So, what’s new from you?
My forthcoming novel, The Dead Girls Club. The official cover copy from the publisher:

Red Lady, Red Lady, show us your face...

In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that, until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real--and she could prove it.

That belief got Becca killed.

It's been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night--that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She's done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn't seen since the night Becca died.

The night Heather killed her.

Now, someone else knows what she did...and they're determined to make Heather pay.

2) How did it come about?
I had an image of a woman receiving a half-heart necklace in the mail, a necklace she knew no one could’ve possibly sent to her. And from there, I saw four girls sitting in a dark basement, telling scary stories. It didn’t take long to realize that it was a more mainstream novel, something with a psychological suspense backbone.

3) Tell us about the process of how you created it.
The novel has two timelines – now and 1991. I wrote the opening scene as described above, which takes place now, and then wrote the entire past timeline. When that was finished, I returned to the present.

4) What was your favourite part of the process?
When the pieces of the two timelines fell into place, fitting together like a puzzle.

5) What was the toughest part of it?
The past timeline was fairly easy to write, inasmuch as any writing is easy, but the present timeline was another matter. Figuring out who was behind the central mystery and why was difficult, and then it ended up changing because it didn’t quite work. Even after that was sorted, getting all the clues and red herrings in place was tricky.
I ended up rereading many of my Agatha Christie novels during the process, taking note of how she hid things, both true and false, within the narrative.
And lastly, because of the story changes and the subsequent revisions, making sure nothing was left that referenced anything that was ultimately changed or deleted. (And never mind that I’ve gone through it with a fine-toothed comb, I’m still terrified that I missed something.)

6) Is there a theme running through it?
Indeed, but I’ll leave that for a reader to uncover.

7) If you had to sum this book up in three words, what would they be?
Every truth lies.

8) Where can/will we be able to get hold of it?
It will be released in hardcover and ebook on December 10, 2019 and is up for preorder now at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. And if you’re a NetGalley reviewer, it’s available for request.

Friday 24 May 2019

What's New? with Ray Cluley

Ray Cluley is a British Fantasy Award winner with stories published in various magazines and anthologies. Some of these have been republished in ‘best of’ volumes, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year series and Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror, as well as Steve Berman’s Wilde Stories: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction, and Benoît Domis’s Ténèbres. He has been translated into French, Polish, Hungarian, and Chinese. Water for Drowning was short-listed for a British Fantasy Award for Best Novella and is also currently available as an audiobook. Probably Monsters, his debut collection, was short-listed for a British Fantasy Award for Best Collection and is available from ChiZine Publications.

1) So, what’s new from you?
There are a few things.
One of them, 6/6, a limited-edition chapbook from Black Shuck Books, is due out in June. As much as I’d love to talk about that, the nature of the story and the details of its presentation are hush-hush at the moment. Let’s say it’s a sort of found-footage story and leave it at that. You can pre-order it here.
I have a second collection out there under consideration, but I don’t want to jinx it by saying much more. Fingers are crossed. It’s a quieter, more subtle collection than Probably Monsters, with thirteen stories in all.
My most recent story ‘Adrenaline Junkies’, should be appearing later this year in an anthology I’m quite excited about, and I can talk about that one. The anthology goes by the wonderful title of Porcupine Boy and other Anthological Oddities.

2) How did it come about?
Christopher Jones invited me to submit a story via Facebook Messenger. He’d recently suffered a terrible near-death experience that brought life into perspective and as he’d always wanted to edit an anthology, he made it a new priority. I was fully onboard with that as a reason to produce a story.

3) Tell us about the process of how you created it.
Well, considering how the anthology came about, I wanted to write something using a near-death experience. Using a sequence of flashbacks, and a mix of past and present tense, I wanted to tell two stories – one is the here and now of the horror the story, the other, the flashback stuff, addresses the idea of your whole life flashing before you before you die. For the narrator, the best of that life was the time spent with her lover. So I essentially write two stories, one about skydiving and monsters, the other about a beautiful relationship and loss. The former required a great deal of research, the latter merely meant imaging the worst and writing it down.

4) What was your favourite part of the process?
Usually, the answer for this would always be ‘the writing part’. I love it. But this proved to be a very tricky story to get down in the end, and in the end I spent much longer editing and redrafting than I did any of the writing. What I do always enjoy, though – and this story was no exception – is the research part. I loved researching skydiving and other extreme sports, as well as Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula. And the monster stuff is always fun.

5) What was the toughest part of it?
The writing was tough due to the mix of past and present, and for a short while at the beginning of the process, settling for an appropriate narrative perspective. Writing two different stories was fine but finding a suitable way to splice them together proved a bit of a challenge, particularly coming up with transitions that allowed for a cohesive, believable structure. That took way more time than it should have. Christopher was very patient with me – I’m very grateful that he gave me the time to produce a story I’m happy with instead of one ‘that’ll do’.

6) Is there a theme running through it?
The anthology is unthemed, but as noted above, using a near-death experience felt appropriate to me for my contribution, and although it’s very much a horror story, I also wanted something with a ‘seize the day’ mentality (in fact, its working title for a while was ‘Carpe the Fucking Diem’). I thought of all the things on my own bucket list and went from there, creating a story about a group of adrenaline junkies. For one of them, each death-defying rush is a coping mechanism regarding her cancer, her attempt to seize the day and seize it often, while she still can. For the narrator it’s about maintaining a link with her lost lover. As a result of this loss she’s reluctant to start a new relationship, so her carpe diem moment focusses on that, the idea of moving on after grief. For all the nasty stuff in the story, I’m hoping there’s a very positive message, too.

7) If you had to sum up this story in three words, what would they be?
Seize the day. (If I’d had four words, they would’ve been carpe the fucking diem!)

8) Where can/will we be able to get hold of it?
I’m not sure of the publisher yet – it may even be that Christopher is going it alone with this project, considering the personal nature of it – but no doubt I’ll shout about the where and when and how much via social media nearer the time. I’ve seen a few of the names involved, though, and can safely say there will be plenty of reasons why people will want Porcupine Boy and other Anthological Oddities in their lives…

Monday 20 May 2019

What's New? with Penny Jones

Penny Jones currently lives in Leicestershire with her long suffering husband and patron of the arts Simon (although they do spend any free moments they have plotting to leave the landlocked county and get closer to the sea).

Penny knew she was a writer when she started to talk about herself in the third person – Her family apparently knew when she was little and Santa bought her a typewriter for Christmas (honestly who buys a three year old a typewriter?)

Penny loves reading and will read pretty much anything you put in front of her, but her favourite authors are Stephen King, Shirley Jackson and John Wyndham. Her whole family are avid readers, meaning that they have had to move three times just to fit in their book collections. In fact Penny only got into writing to buy books, when she realised that there wasn’t that much money in writing she stayed for the cake.

As with all writers Penny has crippling impostor syndrome so if you would like to be her friend you can send her a request at Facebook.

Or you can follow her on Twitter, although she does still find it freaky that on-line stalking is now a thing.

1) So, what’s new from you?
This month I’ve finished a short story for an upcoming anthology from Hersham Horror called “The Woods” which is being released at EdgeLit. I’ve also finished work on my debut collection “Suffer Little Children” which is being released on 16th May as part of the Black Shuck Books “Shadows” series.

2) How did it come about?
The anthology story was an invite, which is always nice. The editor had read one of my stories in another anthology, liked it, and asked me if I’d like to do a piece for Hersham Horror. The theme was around woods and forests, and I’d had an idea about growth rings rattling round in my head for ages, and that developed into my story “Dendrochronology”.

The collection came in an entirely different manner, I was approached by the publisher when I was at a writing convention last year, I may have had one drink too many and completely forgot about it. It was only months later when I was looking through some of the stories that I had written, and was trying to work out how I was going to sell several short stories around the theme of children (they really scare me), that I remember that Steve Shaw the owner of Black Shuck Books had asked me for a themed collection.

3) Tell us about the process of how you created it.
It always starts with an image for me. I tend to be quite a visual person, I prefer to see or read something, rather than have it verbally explained to me. I just find that I process information better that way. Once I have that image in my head I will study it, I’ll look at the minute details of why that image is in my mind, of what makes it interesting or disturbing, what emotions does it evoke in me. I’ll then almost pan out until I can see what is around the image, how does it affect its environment, how does its environment affect it? Then the image will start to move, like a film in my mind. What has happened to get to this point? What will happen next? By the point I actually sit down to write I’ll usually know most of the story, then it’s just a matter of finding out its secrets and getting the right words down on the page.

4) What was your favourite part of the process?
The initial idea is always my favourite part. I tend to find writing quite difficult and I never feel that the words on the page at the end do justice to the story in my mind. I’m looking forward to the day when I can just do a direct cranial transfer of the story.

5) What was the toughest part of it?
Commas. My punctuation is horrendous.

6) Is there a theme running through it?
I’m a psychiatric nurse by profession, and mental health does tend to be a theme throughout all my work. I’m very much of the opinion that mental health needs impact on everybody to some extent or another, and it is just the severity of it which differs. My collection also has a running theme with children being either the antagonist, victim or both. I’ve always found children creepy, I always say I don’t really like them very much, and that even as a child I didn’t. Also when I was little I had a phobia of injections which my dad tried to cure me of, by telling me about all the injections and blood tests you had to have when you became pregnant. It didn’t help at all with my phobia of needles, but it did install an even deeper fear of pregnancy. One of my major concerns is that if there was ever an apocalypse I would be forced to help repopulate the planet (it happens in every apocalyptic novel I’ve ever read). But the family planning nurses tell me that isn’t reason enough to get my tubes tied.

7) If you had to sum this book up in three words, what would they be?
Creepy, freaky, children.

8) Where can/will we be able to get hold of it?
“The Woods” will be available at EdgeLit, once released it will also be available from Hersham Horror Books.

“Suffer Little Children” is available for pre-order from Black Shuck Books.

Friday 17 May 2019

What's New? with Joely Black

Joely Black is an author and academic specialising in magic and ritual practices in the Ancient World.
She has a PhD in Geography and is now studying for a second in Classics and Ancient History. She lives in Manchester with her partner and cat, and enjoys running, travelling, and learning dead languages. Her work is available on Amazon Kindle under the titles Amnar and Five Empires.

1) So, what’s new from you?

Since nobody knows who I am, I should start at the beginning. Way back in the mists of time, I wrote a fantasy series called Amnar. About five years ago, I started working on what turned out to be a prequel. I’ve been working on the first book of that for a while. The elevator pitch introduction is that an orphaned girl is thrown into a machine that turns her into a god. She has had her memory stolen and was intended to be a weapon of war. She decides to take revenge on the people who did this to her, and build a new, better world. She has a twin sister, which adds to the complication: her sister is horrified by what she can do so she has to wrestle with whether she should use her new abilities at all.

2) How did it come about?

About five years ago, I was involved in a Dungeons and Dragons game with friends, and developed a character I really liked. She was an assassin with some really unique abilities, so I decided to make a world where I could write stories about her. Somehow, the world got tacked on to the world I usually write in as a civilisation that existed before Amnar. Some of its characters are involved in establishing what becomes Amnar later.

3) Tell us about the process of how you created it.

The whole process of one civilisation collapsing and another rising up from the ashes really interested me – since I’m a Classicist, this is my bread and butter – so the books have been spawned from a combination of me working on a PhD in Classics and playing Dungeons and Dragons a lot. I’ve been working on aspects of religious practice in Greco-Roman Egypt, which inspired a lot of the background to the world.

4) What was your favourite part of the process?

All of it. I’m in the middle of writing now, and that is fairly tough. I am juggling PhD writing, learning ancient languages, and occasionally teaching as well as writing, but that’s really the bit I enjoy the most. I do miss playing Dungeons and Dragons, though, as I haven’t had the chance in a really long time!

5) What was the toughest part of it?

Finding the time and the energy. I suffer from severe depression and anxiety, and there are so many things you have to do as a PhD student, plus language learning, a lot of the work is finding time. You have to learn to streamline, so you have to decide what’s most important and miss out on the rest.

6) Is there a theme running through it?

This is very much about the dangers of humans having a lot of power and not knowing how to handle it.

7) If you had to sum this book up in three words, what would they be?

Gods, Power, Sisters.