Friday 29 January 2010

Another exit

Heard on the radio yesterday that J D Salinger has died, aged 91. I've read two of his books, the novel and "Franny & Zooey" and neither of them for the best part of 20 years, but the man had a big impact on me.

I first read "The Catcher In The Rye" when I was 17 - Ian Murie, who I sat next to at my first job, suggested I should give it a go and it was a major revelation for me. I loved it and was disturbed by it and wanted to be able to write like it - it changed the way I looked at 'literary' fiction and that shift has stayed with me.

Salinger didn't allow anything else to be published, but apparently has a big backlog of material, which will now more than likely see the light of day. I'll be interested to see what comes out.

- - -
And following on from my post about Robert B Parker, I read "The Judas Goat" last week and loved it and this week I'm reading "The Godwulf Manuscript", which is brilliantly hardboiled. Superb stuff. Next up for me is an unpublished manuscript, which I'm critiquing for my chum Gary McMahon.

Thursday 28 January 2010

Life Once Lived, a chapbook

I received my contributor copies of my new chapbook, “Life Once Lived”, yesterday and it’s a very nice beast. It features two of my short stories and has an excellent cover by Neil Jackson. As I did with “A Quiet Weekend Away”, I thought it might be interesting (even if only to me) to include some backgrounds to the stories, as a kind of electronic afterword.

Risen Wife

Paul Kane emailed me, asking if I had a story for an anthology he was co-editing, that would see publication first in Germany and then in the UK. I agreed, though at the time I was working on what would become “Conjure” and I owed my co-writer, T M Gray, an edit on our joint novel “White Meat”. The only stipulations Paul had were that it should be about 3k words and not OTT gory and I noted at the time “I don’t want to write about gore - I want to write a love story where one of the protagonists is dead and rotting.”

The concept of a zombie partner is one I’d had knocking around for a while and finding my original first line - “Jenny came back today” - really kicked it off. That tied in with a lot of horrible feelings I’d had, revolving around people “understanding how I felt” following the passing of my sister. Most of that venom was written out as the drafts went on, but it was very therapeutic writing it down in the first place.

The story is set in Gaffney, using the same cemetery as the one in my novel “In The Rain With The Dead” and although the story didn’t lend itself to flippancy, there is a little in-joke - my best friend Nick borrowed my copy of “Night Shift” and read it in the bath and it did, indeed, swell up to the size of a phone book.

The book - Albions Alpträume: Zombies - was published in 2006 and was a very nice edition, but it never appeared in the UK. Hence, this is the first English language publication.

A Stirring

I got word, through an Internet group I belonged to, that an anthology was being produced that would feature classic monsters. I was working on my novel at the time, so I didn’t think too much about it, until we went on holiday to Wales a few weeks later. Whilst there, we saw an old church in the middle of nowhere and that got the creative juices flowing (along with nagging thoughts of zombies, the only classic monster I have any real enthusiasm for, other than werewolves).

It took a few drafts to get this around, though most of the story came out as I went along - I worked from the barest of frameworks and had little idea of how it would end. Canuris, obviously, isn’t real but this is set around Snowdonia and, more specifically, the town of Bedgelert (where there is a very nice pizza place that does excellent garlic bread).

This was originally published in Darkness Rising 7, in July 2003 and I had some terrific editorial input from Mick Sims.

The chapbook, published by Ghostwriter Publications, can be ordered
from the publisher at this link

Friday 22 January 2010

Free Fiction - Toes

I've decided to add a little free fiction page to the site. At the moment, there's only one story on-line - a gruesome little black comedy, so be warned! - but if people quite like the idea, I'll add a few more.
This is “Toes", which was written and originally published in 1999.

A Quiet Weekend Away

I received my contributor copy of “The 4th Book Of Terror Tales” yesterday, where my story “A Quiet Weekend Away” nestles in with tales by such genre luminaries as Peter James, Neil Gaiman, Kim Newman, Simon Clark, Peter Crowther and Tony Richards. I’m very chuffed with it.

I thought it might be interesting (perhaps only to me) to include some of the background to the story, since there’s no ‘afterword’ in the book.

The story was written during October 2002 and originally sold to Durant Haire’s anthology “Beyond The Dust” which had a quite frankly stellar TOC but died when the publisher did. I knew I wanted to do something with ghosts and, at the time, there was a mobile phone ad on TV, where leaves and rain drops created faces and it struck me as quite a scary image. For some reason, that linked in with people being menaced by something they couldn’t see and plague pits (my mind works in mysterious ways). Once I had that, everything seemed to fall into the place with the final piece being a comment by my friend David Roberts (who often reads my stuff in draft, focussing on the folk-lore and medical aspects) about the nursery rhyme “Ring A Roses”. He also sent me a PDF of plague info, so as a thank you, I named the village Berstor, an anagram of Roberts. Sue Moorcroft, my critiquing partner, also helped me out, picking up a couple of bits I’d missed.

The research on York was from mine and Alison’s visits and also the Internet and the garage and its environs are based on the one just outside of Rothwell on the A14. The bit about the beggar in the park is real - it happened to me, on my first solo trip to London and has been sitting there for the best part of 16 years, waiting to fit into a story.

I'm thrilled it's finally found a home and in such a handsome volume too! Viva Rainfall Books!

Wednesday 20 January 2010

"A Cottage By The Sea"

I'm really pleased to report that my short story "A Cottage By The Sea" will appear in Dead Lines issue 3, sometime in early February, alongside such writers as Nate Kenyon, John Everson, Wrath James White, John R. Little, Gord Rollo and Tim Waggoner.
Dead Lines is a great zine and I'm really chuffed that my story is getting a new outing - it originally appeared in a Cyber-Pulp anthology called 'Hauntings', so perhaps three other people have read it before.
I'll be sure to post a link here when it appears.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

A writer leaves...

In the mid-80s, for reasons that now escape me, I picked up Robert B Parker’s “Promised Land” from Smiths in Kettering and really enjoyed it, so much so that I picked up as many of the Spenser books as I could find. They were cracking novels, full of terse, well-pitched dialogue, minimal descriptive passages and superb characterisations (and the use of Boston as a location). I also enjoyed the Robert Urich starring series, especially Avery Brooks’ “Spen-sah”, the phraseology of which I still use today!

I went off the books during the late-90s, as they became more dialogue-driven and there was a lot of ‘white space’, but last year I decided to go back and started with “Promised Land” - I’d forgotten what a wonderful book it really is. In the end, I read 4 Spenser novels last year and really got a taste for hard-boiled mysteries again.

I found out that Robert B Parker died today, aged 77, “sitting at his desk” (which is a pretty good way for a writer to go, I suppose). He was still writing - up to three novels a year, in diverse genres - and I never expected this.

I didn’t know Robert B Parker, nor did I ever meet him, but he brought me a lot of enjoyment as a reader and taught me a lot about dialogue as a writer. RIP, good sir.

Congratulations are in order

Congratulations to my writing friend and occasional editor, Gary McMahon, who has just signed a 2-book-deal with Angry Robot (through Harper Collins).

Thursday 14 January 2010

Coming soon...

Terror Tales 4 features my story "A Quiet Weekend Away"Life Once Lived is a chapbook featuring two of my short stories - "A Stirring" and "Risen Wife" (first English-language publication)

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you.

So, that was 2009 and all-in-all, it was a good year. Writing-wise, 2010 is hopefully going to be as good. I have a story due in Terror Tales 4 (which should be out soon), my chapbook should also be out soon and I’m going to start work on a new novel. Yes, I’ve decided to go with the Zombie-Quest-Novel, so if you hear me mention ZoQuNo, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I’ll keep you posted with updates on my progress.

I’ve also posted a (very) thorough afterword for “Conjure” (it comes in at some 2,600 words), which obviously contains spoilers, so don’t read that before you read the novel. If you do read it though, I’d be interested in your thoughts.