Author and Scriptwriter

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

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….!