Author and Scriptwriter

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

Thursday, 29 July 2021

The News From Castle Bestwick (30th July 2021): Railroad Tales, Nemesis Of Wire and Black Mountain

Cate started her chemotherapy this week, which made for a scary time at first; we were both worried what side-effects the treatment might have, but so far (touch wood) they've been few and mild. She's feeling a lot better about the treatment than she did (she's been in better mental health than me all week, in fact.)

Railroad Tales, which includes my story 'And You Heard The Rattling Death Train,' is out now from Midnight Street and available on Amazon.   

Here's the full table of contents:

THE TRACKS THROUGH THE FOREST  John Kiste

AWAYDAYS  Allen Ashley

THE HOOSAC TUNNEL LEGACY  Norm Vigeant

RAILWAY MUTTON CURRY  Nidheesh Samant

THE NUMBER NINE  James E. Coplin

GHOST-WALKER  Andrew Darlington

SPARROW'S FLIGHT  Nancy Brewka-Clark

HARBERRY CLOSE  C. M. Saunders


GEISTERBAHNHOF  Saoirse Ni Chiaragáin

THE ANNIVERSARY  David Penn

ACROSS THE VALE  Catherine Pugh

WHERE THE TRAIN STOPS  Susan York

THE NIBBLER  Gayle Fidler

SHORT PLATFORM  Gary Couzens

WILSHIRE STATION  Caitlin Marceau

AND YOU HEARD THE RATTLING DEATH TRAIN  Simon Bestwick

NOT ALL TRAINS CRASH  Steven Pirie

BALLYSHANNON JUNCTION  Jim Mountfield

CABOOSE  Andrew Hook

THE TRACKS  Michael Gore

THE DEVIL RIDES THE NIGHT TRAIN  Curtis James McConnell

THE PIER STATION  George Jacobs

THE SAMOVAR  A. J. Lewis


This week also brought another story acceptance, from Phantasmagoria magazine, for my story 'Nemesis Of Wire.' (The title's something of a homage to Algernon Blackwood.) That will be published later this year.

The reissue of Black Mountain from Independent Legions (which I'm still over the moon about!) is slated for September. More information on this, and a reveal of the new cover art, in the near future.

Have a good weekend, everybody, and thanks, as ever, to everyone for their kindness and support.

Simon x  

Friday, 23 July 2021

Tiny Bookcases and Black Mountains

Just a quick post with the latest news from Castle Bestwick:

Firstly, Part Two of my interview at The Tiny Bookcase is now up, and you can amuse yourselves listening to further witterings from me, including my attempt at a Northern Irish accent, favourite quotes about writing, and what little advice I can give to those just starting out. (Because I'm such a great advert for being enormously successful.)

Secondly, I'm delighted to announce that my novel Black Mountain has found a new home!

Black Mountain was first published as an ebook serial by Spectral Press in 2014. It's been unavailable for several years, but Mynydd Du, the strange and terrible mountain at the centre of the Bala Triangle, will finally rise again in a new revised edition from Italy's Independent Legions Publishing. It's been a long road, but I'm over the moon.

The new edition will be published in both print and ebook form, which will be the first time the novel has appeared in print.

Immense gratitude to Independent Legions' Alessandro Manzetti.

More news to follow soon. 

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, 16 July 2021

Latest News from Castle Bestwick: Post-op treatments, Devils Of London Cover Reveal and The Tiny Bookcase Podcast...

Many thanks to all the wonderful people - both before the last blogpost and since - to send messages of support to Cate. She's now almost completely recovered from her surgery. This week we've found out about the post-op treatment: four chemotherapy sessions, followed by radiotherapy and then brachiotherapy. We'd initially expected the treatment would only involve radiotherapy, or as an outside possibly chemo instead. It does mean it's going to be more physically gruelling than originally hoped, which among other things has meant we've had to cancelled our planned holiday in October. Fortunately the venue, where we've stayed before, has very kindly returned our deposit. 

Cate was more than a little shaken by the news - we both were - but with any luck, at least, it'll make sure that any traces of the cancer will be destroyed and things will be back to (ab)normal sooner rather than later.

In other news, and on a happier note, the ebook of Devils Of London, my upcoming novella from Hersham Horror, is now available for pre-order, courtesy of that fine gentleman Mr Peter Mark May. Which means Neil Williams' fantastic cover art can now at last be revealed! As you can probably guess from the cover, Devils Of London is a far less gentle tale than my last two novellas, Roth-Steyr and A Different Kind Of Light.

"Devils wear many faces.

Britain, in the not too distant future. A new Great Fire Of London breaks out, engulfing the city. Amid the terror and confusion, people look for someone to blame. John is one of a group of undocumented workers, living in a derelict part of the city, who find themselves being scapegoated for the disaster.

Being chased through the burning streets by the vicious ‘yellow-scarves’ is bad enough. But when they pass a burning church, a terrifying figure bursts out of the building. Something ancient and monstrous, free at last after centuries of sleep. And for John and the others, the question may now be which of London’s monsters – human or demonic – gets to claim their souls…"

Devils Of London will be published on 24th September.

Meanwhile, I did an interview earlier this month for The Tiny Bookcase Podcast and its hilarious hosts Ben and Nico. You can hear me talk bollocks - including the phrase 'Ash Bukkake' - at length here. In addition, each of us wrote a short piece of prose inspired by the title 'Under The Crust,' all with different and entertaining results. You can listen to me read my contribution on the podcast, or if you'd rather read it you can do so over on my Patreon.

Nico also creates a cartoon drawing of each guest, and I rather like the one he's done of me. It's got more hair for a start... 


Anyway, that's the state of play at Castle Bestwick for now. See you again soon, and take care. Thanks, once more, to everyone who's sent kind words or other messages or gestures of support to us. 

Friday, 2 July 2021

Hello Again: The Latest News From Castle Bestwick

Hi everybody,

Well, it's been a while, and for good reason. As some of you will know - those who follow me on Facebook - Cate underwent surgery earlier this month, having been diagnosed with womb cancer in April. Luckily it was diagnosed at an early stage, and Cate's recovering well, I'm glad to say. I'm squeezing in bits of writing (including this) in between the demands of my new life as her personal butler. There are worse fates. :) 

Many thanks to all the friends and family who sent kind messages of support, advice, hugs, or books over the past few difficult months. We're hoping the worst is past. 

On a brighter note, I've been able to carry on not only writing but submitting, and June's seen a total of three story acceptances.

The first one is for James Aquilone's Classic Monsters Unleashed, in which my story 'Mummy Calls' will appear alongside works by Ramsey Campbell, Mercedes M. Yardley, F. Paul Wilson, Joe R. Lansdale, Seanan McGuire, Lucy A. Snyder, Richard Christian Matheson, Lisa Morton, Monique Snyman, Owl Goingback, Gary A. Braunbeck, Rena Mason, John Palisano, Maurice Broaddus, Linda Addison, Tim Waggoner, Jonathan Maberry, Alessandro Manzetti, Dacre Stoker & Leverett Butts, and more.

The list of authors above was announced before the call for unsolicited submissions, which will take up about 25% of the anthology, so there was a lot of competition for those slots. I'm enormously proud to have made the cut.

Classic Monsters Unleashed, featuring new riffs and takes on archetypal horrors such as Dracula, The Wolfman, Dr Moreau, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde and M.R. James' Count Magnus, will be released by Crystal Lake Publishing in October.   

Secondly, my story 'And You Heard The Rattling Death Train' will see publication in Trevor Denyer's anthology Railroad Tales, out from Midnight Street Press later this month. It's one of an ongoing series of stories set on Bone Street, a strange inner city street that doesn't appear on any city's map. For a taste of the place, check out 'Bone Street Blues,' which is currently free over on my Patreon. The anthology also features stories by Gary Couzens, Allen Ashley, Caitlin Marceau, Susan York and many more.

My third acceptance is for Phantasmagoria, one of those rare and wonderful beasts, a regular, non-themed horror magazine and edited by the steady hand of Trevor Kennedy. Phantasmagoria is already 18 issues strong, and my story 'Night Closures' will feature in either issue 19 or 20.

And finally, I'm delighted to announce that After Sundown, Mark Morris' horror anthology for Flame Tree Press, in which my story 'We All Come Home' appeared, has been shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Award.

Going back to the stories, though, I wanted to say a few words about acceptance and rejection, because they - or rather one of them, rejection - is a problem for all writers. And I mean all. Literally the day before the first of these acceptances, I had four rejections in one twenty-four period. (Ouch.) When I mentioned this on Facebook, another writer said something along the lines of (humblebrag alert) "What chance do the rest of us have, when someone like you gets rejected?"

While it's always an ego boost to realise that certain people think you're Somebody (if only because you've been around for so long,) but the plain fact is that for most of us there's never a point at which you stop getting rejections, unless you're someone like Neil Gaiman or Stephen King. (Ramsey Campbell, who's  been getting published since before I was born and has won more awards for horror fiction than any other living, dead or undead writer, popped up in the same comments to announce "We all still get them!")

To put it in perspective: with 'Night Closures,' I've had eight short fiction acceptances this year. I've not been as good at keeping track of the rejections, but the other day I attempted a rough tally. Counting the one I got this morning, I make it nineteen. So that's an acceptance rate of slightly worse than one in three.

Editors have, usually, a pretty clear idea of what they want and what they don't. A rejection, or even several, don't necessary mean that a story isn't any good. Classic Monsters Unleashed had something like 600 submissions; Maxim Jakubowski's Femmes Fatales anthology about 175. In both cases, the odds against being one of the lucky few to be selected seem very high, but somebody has to be one of them. By the same token, another market I subbed to had around 70 submissions - much lower odds - but I didn't get in. It's partly quality, and it's partly how well whatever you've written matches what the editor wants. Or how similar to something they've already accepted - that can get a perfectly good story bounced as well.

Keeping your work out on submission is key - when it comes back to you, send it somewhere else. Most of the stories I've written this year have been for specific anthology calls: that, like it or not, seems to be where most of the opportunities for publication are right now when it comes to short horror fiction. There are regular general horror fiction markets (like Phantasmagoria above), but not as many as we'd all like. 

Some markets pay professional rates that'll net you a couple of hundred pounds for a story (give or take.) Others will give you a fiver. In some cases, you'll just get a contributor copy or the satisfaction of seeing your work in print - or alternatively you could self-publish the story on Patreon or as an ebook or sock it into that collection you're trying to put together. 

My own feeling - having held too many stories back in search of a higher-paying market so that they just languish on my hard drive - is the story is better off out there in the world where people can read it. The more work you have out there to be read - which will hopefully encourage people to read more of your stuff - the better. The story of mine that'll be appearing in Best Horror of the Year #13 got multiply rejected, and was finally published on my Patreon. 

So, here's the approach that's been working for me so far this year. It may stop working at any moment, as conditions change again. It may not work for you. On the other hand, it might. Either way, if you're trying to work out how to get your work out there, this might be of help:

Since themed anthologies seem to be currently where it's at, keeping abreast of upcoming ones is key. I keep a spreadsheet of submission calls, broken down by the month the deadline expires, including information like word count, specifics of what they're looking for, and what (if anything) they pay. Keep additional sheets to list general open markets (i.e. magazines that are open all year round), publications that accept reprints, and those currently closed to subs (you can check them every couple of weeks to a month to see if they've reopened.)

A few resources:  

General paying horror fiction markets include The Dark, Apex Magazine, F&SF, Phantasmagoria and The Deadlands. For other stuff:

The Submission Grinder and The Horror Tree are both excellent and giving an overview of who's looking for fiction in this area. Another great resource is this Facebook page here. In addition, the superb Gwendolyn Kiste (Read her! Read her!) does a monthly round-up of open submission calls on her blog, while Hailey Piper regularly signal boosts calls via her Twitter (and you might also want to subscribe to her mailing list. Also, read her novella The Worm And His Kings - it's magnificent.)   

I'm going to try and start following their example and update the blog regularly with any info on markets that comes my way. So if you know of a good one - an open call, a new magazine - don't keep it to yourself. Let me know and I'll share it here. 

Because if there is one thing I've learned over the last couple of months, it's how much kindness and community there is in horror. And how the more we help each other out, share information and support one another, the better off we'll all be.  


ETA: It's now 20 rejections (I think.) Just had another one. :) 

Monday, 17 May 2021

Things Of The Past Few Weeks


It's been... eventful since I last blogged. Not all of it is stuff I can talk about publicly right now, and not all of it's good. Things should be okay in the long run, but there have been some tough times.

However, there've also been some good things, so I wanted to talk about those here.

First of all, there've been more reviews for A Different Kind Of Light, and they've been excellent ones. At The Future Fire, Rachel Verkade says:

I loved this book. I read it in the space of a couple of hours because I literally could not put it down. The story is compelling and moves at a swift and natural pace, the characters are compelling, and the descriptions of the disaster are haunting. It is a thematic cousin to stories like Revival and Hell House, stories about our fascination with death and our questions about what lies beyond… and whether we really want those questions to be answered. 

While over on Horrified, Ally Wilkes describes the novella as:

A delightfully short and scary little book... makes for compulsive reading. I found myself extremely creeped out as the daylight slipped away and the shadows on the hallway stairs became more prominent.... genuinely dread-inducing.

Many thanks to both reviewers!

I've been focusing on short fiction over the past couple of months, and one of the markets I submitted to was Maxim Jakubowski's Book Of Femmes Fatales And Dangerous Women Stories. I didn't think I stood a chance, but was delighted to learn yesterday that my story 'Bait' has been chosen for the anthology - one of 18 stories out of 170 submissions, which is pretty cool! Also sharing the TOC are Eric Brown, Susi Holliday, Keith Brooke, Joseph S. Walker, Robert Lopresti, Michael A.Gonzales, Lavie Tidhar, Rhys Hughes, Ali Seay, Ashley Lister, Bernie Crosthwaite, Rose Biggin, O'Neil De Noux, Bev Vincent, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Claude Lalumiere and Ana Teresa Pereira.

Some of these are writers I've read or worked with before, while others are new to me, but I look forward to appearing in print with them.

So those are the latest developments. I'll try and blog again soon.

One last request before I go: if you've read my work and enjoyed it, please consider leaving a review (even a few words will do) or rating at Amazon for any works you've liked. The more reviews it gets, the more visible it becomes to other customers, and the wider an audience it reaches.



Friday, 2 April 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See! A fat beardy man wittering on!  

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

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

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


Have a good weekend, folks.

Simon. 


Monday, 22 March 2021

Nine Ghosts

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

It's called Nine Ghosts.

There are nine stories.

There are nine ghosts.

Two of the stories have never been published before.

Two others have only appeared on my Patreton.

You can find more details here.

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

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

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

So be there or be square.

The nine ghosts await you. 

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

Friday, 12 March 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good weekend, folks.

Simon x.

Monday, 1 March 2021

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

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

So here's the latest.

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

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

You can buy A Different Kind Of Light here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simon.


Friday, 26 February 2021

New Gemma Files Collection: In That Endlessness, Our End

Gemma Files is an amazing writer.

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

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

She has a new collection out. 

It will be very good. 

Because it's by Gemma Files.

You can buy it here.

And you should.

So now you know. 

COME CLOSER, FRIEND.

LET ME TELL YOU A STORY.

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

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


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


Table of Contents

This is How It Goes

Bulb

The Puppet Motel

Come Closer

Cut Frame

Sleep Hygiene

Always After Three

Thin Cold Hands

Venio

Look Up

The Church in the Mountains

Distant Dark Places

Worm Moon

Halloo

Cuckoo

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horatio,” he called. “Where are you?”

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

Ashley writes:

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

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

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

Monday, 22 February 2021

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

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

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

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

Overnight

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

You need to help me.

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

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

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

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

Running a Household

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

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

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

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

Finding the Time

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

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

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

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

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

Dani on Facebook

Dani on Twitter

Dani on Instagram

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

Dani on Amazon USA 

Dani on Amazon UK 

Sunday, 21 February 2021

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

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

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

Yes, it would. And does. So here it is.)

For the past few days I’ve been trying to clean up the beginning of a novel. This is during a lockdown so I can’t even go outside and therefore, I’m not being roped into any dramas or being told what to do by people convinced they are helping me fix my life that wasn’t broken until people started inflicting help on me. Every time I sat down to clean it up I found myself being called to do something else. It had me thinking of all the times people expected me to somehow stretch the hours in the day and make it longer.

If it was really that important, you’d find the time.”

An ex of mine had a favourite saying. “If it was really that important, you’d find the time.” And eventually I would find the time and then he’d come up with some crazy scheme, usually involving me going online and Facebook chatting to people I don’t know and don’t want in my life, or dragging me along somewhere, or shouldering his emotional weight. So it wasn’t my found time to begin with. He’d claim it. If I put up an objection, it would descend into a time consuming argument and I would end up even more stressed than I was already, with less time. Then he’d start to pick on me for not having any money. I’d explain that money needs to be earned, it doesn’t just magically appear. I’d then go through the effort of explaining to him with evidence of what I was doing to earn money and how I can’t keep getting roped into doing things that I don’t want to do in the first place. Then he’d sit there and respond with “we need to find out where all this stress is coming from” after I had literally explained it to him. I had taken my time to dig out evidence of what I was doing and go through point by point of what I was doing or trying to do if I wasn’t dealing with all this other stuff that was not necessary to my life.

To be honest, that ex is like a lot of people who all demand a piece of time and if they don’t get it, they will go to get lengths to cause maximum stress and then say, “see I told you that you couldn’t do it”. People do not like a single mother with boundaries and career that brings her happiness. I speak to other women in the creative industries and they all have these stories.

By this point I was waking up at 5AM every week day to have an hour and a half to write before I would have to get my son up for school and trek via one bus and one train to a day job on the other side of the city that left me feeling suicidal.

I would also use my time on public transport to write. I ended up sticking a letter to my laptop stating I was writing a novel, have a publisher and already know about self-publishing, please leave me alone because people would see it fit to ask what I was doing. It wasn’t any of their business to begin with. These minor distractions all add up. Each time I was taken away from my story it would take at least two minutes to get back into the flow of things, depending on how long the distraction lasted and how mentally taxing it was. During this time, I couldn’t write the experimental pieces where my heart was. A lot of the short stories were just written to say, “see I’m trying”. I did turn out some gems in this time, but some of the stuff I wrote then, I’m embarrassed that it was published.

Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Not only am I expected to stretch the day to make extra hours magically appear I also I have to somehow alter space and the laws of the land while getting people to conform to my will. It doesn’t happen. And if my relationships fail, it is entirely my fault because if there’s a will to not be single, then there’s a way and the man’s happiness is entirely dependent upon me (finding the time for stuff that’s important to me) and women can’t be single (please notice my sarcasm here).

It isn’t just family that drive me crazy and take my time with this one. When my son was in primary school and his father alive I was expected to get my son’s father to behave in a functional way. Attempts to control people are a) abusive and b) more stress than it is worth. That’s people who do not have an underlying issue. In my son’s father’s case, he had borderline personality disorder (amongst other problems that no one wishes to disclose to me). So somehow, that became my responsibility too, while trying to write books and maybe generate some freelance work so I can quit the day job that left me feeling suicidal, shouldering the weight of my ex’s emotions, catering to the needs of his friends while loosing contact with mine, managing an increasingly worse health problem that wasn’t taken seriously by the NHS until about two years ago (now medicated but still no diagnosis, I think it is a biopsy next, but COVID), trying to earn enough money to just get by and handling what had turned into post traumatic stress disorder and raising a child with no access to child care. I already went through this same cycle with my mother, minus having a child of my own and I didn’t have PTSD back, but did suffer from the impact of chronic stress. I didn’t want to go through it again.

That shouldn’t happen.

This is one I hear quite frequently. No, that shouldn’t happen, but it does. Dismissing something because it shouldn’t happen only sweeps it under the rug, leaving the person dealing with whatever it is with more stress and less time.

I have talked extensively about sexual harassment on my social media, website and in person. That shouldn’t happen, but it does. Ignoring for a minute the mental impact of dealing with some creep who feels a one-sided connection, breaking away from the aforementioned creep is time consuming. It can also be physically dangerous so it has to be done in a careful manner. Each creep takes time to deal with.

These are men that feel they are entitled to a woman’s time. I could be simply going about my day, thinking of what task I have to do next before I can write and then boom, some creep appears as if he is God’s gift to women and empty sex.

I can’t complain about what physical impact these creeps have on my life before the mental effects because “you shouldn’t equate sex and money” (yes that was actually said to me), even if the creep is certainly not getting any from me and if I don’t do the writing or sell the books or generate the freelance work, I’m not paying the rent. If I’m not paying the rent, then me and my son are homeless. It is as simple as that.

Speaking of paying the rent, there have been an awful lot of people in my life that think money magically appears out of thin air and I’m setting a bad example for my son by working and having a career. Instead of leaving me alone to live my life and make things better for me and my son, they let their feelings known. These people all need to be dealt with, often with kid gloves like the creeps. It wasn’t until three years ago that I could phone the police on them as that only led to more very time consuming and stressful problems, especially from people that are well versed in both emotional manipulation and knowing how to manipulate the system. Dealing with this is more time lost.

Do you still write those little stories?

Yes, yes I do. Those little stories have paid the rent or a bill or put food in my fridge on more than one occasion. Freelance writing and lately visual art picks up the slack. I was hardly breaking even with a more traditional job, one that left me suicidal, stressed and the health problem worse.

I don’t have the time, even now, or the energy to argue with this. Speaking to other women, women authors write “little stories” while men write “epic novels” and should be congratulated for the effort they put in and all the sacrifices they make.

I still have two day job clients left for those times I can’t generate the freelance or my post traumatic stress disorder is so bad I can’t fill an order and end up loosing a freelance client. One of them takes it upon herself to continuously blow up my phone. Turns out it is illegal to hack the phone of someone who insisted a day job would fix my life and make me feel good about myself despite my protests so they can receive the messages instead. Those messages, even when I ignore them, take time away from when I could be writing. They also push my stress levels right up, even though she knows I reported her to the council for them. The time devoted to calming down with my phone insistently beeping is more lost writing.

Even now, three years after I proved that writing and art is the only way to improve my life, I get people telling me to go back into health care. Not what I specifically trained in either, but nursing. These are more people that need to be dealt with, taking time away from when I could be improving my life or improving my writing. And if it is not nursing, it is fifty million other things that would take time to train in and time to then work my way up in that world leaving me back at square one and further into my overdraft. Absolutely nothing pays off instantly. Every single job there is out there takes time to train in and work up in.

And I do not want to. I like writing. I like visual art. I have a half finished circuit bending project on my dinning room table that needs my time and attention so I can slowly expand into sound effects. Why should I change my career again to satisfy other people? Nothing I do will ever be good enough, so why not just leave me alone to be not good enough? At least I’m happy being not good enough. Being not good enough alone doesn’t suck away my time.

But, I guess, women and creative industries is an unbelievable combination or attention seeking. I get those two pretty often. Random people laugh when I excuse myself because I’m writing a book and then say, “you will let me know when this book of yours is out”. I respond with “check out my other books, they’re all on amazon” and bring up my amazon author page on my phone. They’re speechless after. This takes less time than explaining the writing and publishing process. The people who think women creatives are attention seeking or doing it to get laid are harder to deal with. I still haven’t found an effective way beyond telling them that I’ll report them to the police for harassment if they don’t let me get on with my day (pretty difficult when it was my son’s primary school doing it, but it sometimes works on others and if not, then I have to go through the time consuming process of filing a report with the police).

I don’t have “bank of mom and dad” sponsoring me. Even if my father was in a position to pay my way, why should he? I’m in my mid-30s now. I’m not a teenager anymore. I have a degree, which he partially paid for. Now is the time to work in the field I’m qualified in and pay my own way. It has been the time since I handed in my final assignment for my degree way back in 2008.

The concluding part of Dani's article appears on this blog tomorrow. 

Dani on Facebook

Dani on Twitter

Dani on Instagram

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

Dani on Amazon USA 

Dani on Amazon UK