Friday 30 July 2010

It's the 100th post!

This is the 100th post here on the main section of the blog (plenty of posts in the other parts, folks) and I thought it might be nice to mark the occasion.

Since I started here, back in September 2009, quite a bit has happened (more than I’d thought, actually, writing this up though some appearances are long overdue). We’ve seen the publication of “Conjure” (which, thankfully, was a hit with those who found it and read it), my story “A Quiet Weekend Away” appeared in Terror Tales, the chapbook “Life Once Lived” showcased “Risen Wife” and “A Stirring” and, just recently, “The City In The Rain” appeared in “Where The Heart Is”, from Grey Friar Press.

On the writing front, ZoQuNo is definitely still on (and Matthew occasionally asks about the zombie story which has a hero called Matty) but another project has just sneaked in front of it. In conjunction with another writer whose work I like a lot, I’m involved in a “collaboration that isn’t” and I’m currently well into the noting process on that lost film novella idea I had a while back. Things are progressing well on it, I have some locations in mind and just this morning I made myself cringe at something one of the characters is going to do to himself. Lovely.

So there we have it, 100 posts young! And here’s the Dude, celebrating with an ice cream…

"All That Mullarkey" is brilliant

I’ve just finished “All That Mullarkey”, by Sue Moorcroft and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is my review, which I published at

Cleo is a free spirit, a wonderfully realised character in a gripping, thoroughly entertaining novel of modern life. Told in two parts, the first sees her splitting from controlling husband Gav and then falling pregnant during a one-night stand with Justin. The second part sees Cleo coping with being a single mum to Shona, the return of Justin (he went abroad), who then suffers a dreadful hate campaign and also the return of Gav, who doesn’t quite get the message that things are over.
As with all of Sue Moorcroft’s books, this is told in a light, airy style that belies the technique (and tackles some difficult subjects with deceptive ease), the narrative racing along and never keeping the reader less than gripped. All of the characters are well rounded and clearly defined (Cleo was my definite favourite, whilst little Shona shines through), the locations are nicely realised (and shared with “Starting Over”, some of whose characters cameo in this, especially Ratty - he & Tess got married!) and there’s plenty of Moorcroft’s wry, throwaway humour to help things along.
An absolute stormer of a book, very highly recommended.

As a point of interest, I not only know Sue but I was lucky enough to be asked to critique this for her, when we were both involved with Kettering Writers Group (back in the late 90s/early 00s). I loved it then - to the extent that it’s the novel Beth Hammond takes on holiday with her in “Conjure” - and I loved it this time too - though Clive, Cleo’s potential suitor who’s nice and softly spoken but writes horror for small press magazines, is still a bit too Barry Gibb for me.

Great job, Sue.

Monday 26 July 2010

Architecture strikes again!

We went to Leicester on Saturday and used the old Silver Arcade to cut through from the market to Dominoes toy shop. The Arcade, Victorian terraced with glass bricks on the metal walkways, is now pretty much dormant - all of the upper tiers are closed off, with shops only occupying the ground floor area. I remember when Black Cat Books were in there, top floor, far corner - it was a cracking shop, full of old books and toys and other treasures, which fitted perfectly with the architecture around it. BC Books moved out a long while ago (and have now shut down, sadly, but still have an online service) and the shops dwindled until there were virtually none left. Apparently, the people who own the Arcade are planning to do it up and attract new shops, but we’ll see.

Anyway, as we walked through and I looked up and the sun caught the skylights and the glass bricks and Dude said “Wow”, it suddenly occurred to me that this could be the location for a set piece in my new novella. I don’t know how yet (though I do know at least one thing that will happen), but it feels good that things are starting to fall into place (as architecture, you see, inspires a lot of things in my writing).

And this is a picture I took, looking back towards the market.

Friday 23 July 2010

True lost films

I am currently in the midst of researching lost films for a new project (which is quite exciting, since I’m in league with someone else on it and that means my chances of letting it drift quietly away have been seriously reduced) and, quite by accident, I came across a site called Found Films.

I don’t know who runs the site, but they find and buy old cameras, then develop the films if they find any in them. The pictures are then published to the website.

For the most part - and speaking as someone who loves photography and the memories that pictures keep - this is a beautiful site, full of people that I’ll never know, who might be long-since-gone or just a lot older now, doing stuff that made them happy. It’s also quite sad too - sad that people whose ancestors these are - grandparents (perhaps even great-etc), long-lost uncles and aunties, cousins and the like - don’t have this record of them and I only hope that they find the site themselves and find their relatives.

I found these two pictures particularly heartbreaking - look at the love in the adults faces and the joyful innocence in those of the kids. Where are these children now - are they alive, how old are they, what did they do with their lives? And the adults, what’s their story?

photographs are © Found Films

Tuesday 20 July 2010

An old friend - and INXS

I’m meeting up with an old friend tonight and we’re going out for a drink, to catch up and find out how life has been treating us. I last saw Steve Jacklin in 1993, though we corresponded for a year or so after that, when he moved back to the north from Kettering (and went to Uni). I’ve tried to find him since then, as he was an avowed techie back in the day but he found me in the end, through this website, as he doesn’t maintain an on-line presence himself (not even Facebook!).

He is currently working on a project in Leicester and was walking through the town and passed HMV and thought of me. In 1993, INXS launched a worldwide tour called “Get Out Of The House”, playing small venues in smaller cities - the dates were announced well ahead of time, the venues on the day before the gig (and on local radio - the Internet wasn’t about then, certainly not to common plebs like us). All we knew was that they were playing in Leicester on July 13th (it ended up at the DeMontfort Hall) and that the tickets would be sold at the local HMV - no phone booking, you had to go and queue. Alison couldn’t get time off work and other friends were interested in going, so we had a bit of a problem.

Steve had just been made redundant and was at a bit of loose end and when he heard of our situation, he volunteered to come with me - he didn’t particularly like INXS, had no intention of going to the gig, but was more than happy to get up at 4am and come with me. So I took him up on the offer. I’ll never forget rolling up outside his door in darkness and him coming to the car, a sleeping bag wrapped around him (which he sat in, once he was in the car). We got to Leicester in record time (watching the sunrise as we drove) and were 74/75th in the queue. It was a great atmosphere, with plenty of laughing amongst the “70’s” of the queue and the enterprising manager of a nearby McDonalds offered free tea to everyone who was going for a breakfast afterwards.

We got the tickets and the gig was fantastic, easily one of the best I’ve ever been too. Steve moved back home shortly afterwards and, once he’d settled at Uni later in the year, we corresponded for a while. But, as is often the way, life moves on and some things get left behind and that was our addresses, in this case.

But we’re in touch and we’re meeting up tonight and I’m looking forward to it. All I know is that he’s married, has a son and works for himself. All he knows about me comes from this website. It should be a fun evening.

I'm in a pack, apparently

I was just checking something on the TTA Press site and decided to have a look at Pete Tennant’s case notes. In talking about another writer, he terms “Where the Heart Is from Gray Friar Press” as a “Brit-pack anthology”. Brit-pack!
I’m easily pleased sometimes, it appears.

Monday 19 July 2010

Terror Scribes Gathering Leicester 2010

Terror Scribes Gathering
The Lansdowne - Leicester - 17th July 2010

Off to the Lansdowne once more, for a gathering organised by Sue & Morgan Philips. After struggling with a parking meter at DeMontfort Hall that somehow charged me twice, I made my way to the pub and ‘The Pits’, where we normally meet. Already there were the Bradshaws, Sue & Morgan and Simon Marshall-Jones. It was good to see Sue & Morgan again and brilliant to meet Simon in the flesh - we’ve corresponded a lot over the Net, the past few months and critiqued each others work, but this was our first meeting.

Realising we were both hungry, we went across the road for a cob lunch and sat on some steps in the afternoon sun, watching the world go by and talking all things horror. Fantastic twenty minutes and then we went back into the pub, where Jay Eales & Selina Lock had arrived. Two other newcomers were also there, folk who’d seen the event listed in Ansible and decided to come along. The man - John, I think - took the first reading slot with a (clearly) unrehearsed ramble about how science feeds the horror genre (I think). After he finished, I read an excerpt from “Risen Wife” and then put the “Life Once Lived” chapbook into the raffle (from which I managed a couple of wins and picked up some of Jay & Selina’s comics, which are seriously good fun), Simon did a blog reading and Sue did a reading.

Me, just about to launch into "Risen Wife", as Morgan Philips looks on
Then it was time for nattering and, amongst many other topics, we got onto reviewing and I regaled them with some of the dross that I’ve had to sit through for VideoVista - it certainly kept them amused. We had curry at the Agra again, very nice as always and then it was time to head home. Simon, who comes from MK, was facing a 3+ hour wait so I offered to drive him home (without fully working out the ramifications of such a venture) and we kept up our chat all the way back to that city.

It was late when I got in, but it’d been a great gathering, even though the turnout (due to holidays and illnesses) was low (though as Selina said, at least we all got a chance to talk to each other, which doesn’t always happen). Great fun and over way too quickly, as always. Roll on FCon!

At the Agra - me, Simon Marshall-Jones, Sue Philips, Morgan Philips, The Bradshaws, Selina Lock, Jay Eales
(thanks for Selina Lock for the photographs)

Wednesday 14 July 2010

The Terror Scribes Are Gathering

Terror Scribes Gathering
The Lansdowne, 121-123 London Road, Leicester
Saturday 17th July, 1pm to 8pm
Free Entry

Yes, the Terror Scribes are gathering once one. There’ll be plenty of the usual stuff going on - talks, readings, eating, drinking, plenty of chat - plus the raffle, which this time is going to the EDGE charity (which works to help species which are evolutionarily distinct and on the verge of extinction). As always, attendees are encouraged to bring items of their own work along for the raffle, which has always proved very popular in the past.

I’ll be doing a reading, probably from my “Life Once Lived” chapbook (which will then go into the raffle) and Simon Marshall-Jones (who I’ll get to meet face-to-face for the first time, having been an online chum now for some time) will also be getting up to face the public.

As always, come evening time, we’ll retire to a local curry house (as advised by Leicester locals Jay Eales & Selina Locke) and then, for those with sturdy constitutions, a trip to the nightspots of the city.

This year, unfortunately, David Price won’t be able to attend (he’s suffering with some health problems at the moment -
why not pop along to his blog and wish him all the best?) and that’ll be a real blow for me - seeing Dave’s beaming face and dulcet tones and terrible jokes are always a gathering (and FCon) highlight for me.

Anyway, to further tempt you, this link will take you to some con reports I wrote about previous gatherings.

I hope to see you there.

Saturday 10 July 2010

More "Conjure" goodness

I got an email today, from Andrew Murray, a very nice chap from Australia who read "Conjure" (in what must be a record time) and had this to say:

I loved it, an excellent, very well written supernatural thriller that had me hooked from the start [with] real three dimensional characters I cared for & whose relationship was honestly felt and one creepy little bastard like Steve who really got under my skin! Sequences...were quite disturbing & distressing at times [and] the intense ending had me reading at breakneck speed. A slow burn, realistic start with creepy macabre touches (Kathys suicide, crows nailed to a windmill!) is why i really love the supernatural/horror genre.

How cool is this? Thanks, Andrew!

Thursday 8 July 2010

My artwork page

Which sounds, perhaps, a little grander than it actually is!

I’ve started a new “page” on the website, where I’m going to gather all of the bits and pieces of artwork I’ve produced. Mostly, it’ll be book and CD covers, but there might also be some jokey little pieces.

Just follow “Artwork” from the “Pages” section on the right or, alternatively,
click here for the direct link.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Sad News

Before I met Alison, way back in 1992, I spent a year in a relationship with a lady called Liz, who had a daughter Emma, who was about 2. When Liz and I split, it was amicable and we still speak when we meet up and I’m proud of that. A downside, obviously, was that I didn’t see much of Emma any more.

When “Conjure” came out, I corresponded with Emma briefly through Facebook – Liz is apparently a Luddite, who hadn’t joined up – and by then, she was looking ahead to the future, planning on working at an outdoors activity centre in Scotland. I wished her well, she wished me well, we said goodbye.

I got an email today from Sue Moorcroft, my writing chum who – unbeknownst to us when we first met – was a mutual friend with Liz. The email was titled “Sad News” and that was spot on. Emma died yesterday. We’re still unsure of the details, but it appears she was working at an outdoor activity centre, doing what she loved and fell.

I have no words, other than to say my heart and thoughts go out to Liz, Glen and their daughter Bronte at this terribly sad time. It’s never good when anyone dies, but somebody who’s just into their twenties, just about to start out on life, well, it’s simply just not right.

RIP, Emma.

Was it really that gory?

At the weekend, I set up an photo album on my Facebook account, which showed the covers of various magazines/anthologies that my work has appeared in. One example was “Tourniquet Heart” (featuring my story “Up For Anything”), as edited by Chris Teague and he wrote, in the comments, “I do recall Paul Finch squirming during your reading at a Terror Tales gig in Birmingham, Mark; I think it was the tampon-scene.”

He was right, it was the tampon scene. “Up For Anything” was written in 1999 and was my attempt to get a story into “Nasty Piece Of Work”, a superb small press zine at the time. Essentially, it details a young woman’s willing descent into a BDSM relationship that she tries to continue with new partners after her lover dies. It’s not badly written (if I do say so myself) and subsequently appeared in my collection, but nobody is ever going to accuse it of being coy. Anyway, it never made its intended market, Nasty shuffled off this mortal coil and then Chris picked up the story. Cut to 2002 and TH makes its debut (at the Terror Tales Gathering in the Britannia Hotel in Birmingham) and several of its writers are in the audience, so it makes sense for them to read their stories aloud. Right? As I stood there, in front of perhaps 100 or so people who were all waiting for me to start reading loud and clear and concisely, all I could see was the word tampon (I won’t explain why this sequence elicits reactions, you’ll have to read the collection or ask me to see the story via email). I cracked on, reading through and as I got to the scene in question, I was aware of both Mr Finch squirming and then Simon Bestwick made an ‘urgh’ noise. Job done, eh?

Back to this week. Chris followed up his comment with “Do you think you could write such a visceral story now?” and, you know, I’m not sure that I could. In 1999, I was 30 years old and on top of the world and I wanted to push boundaries, I wanted to write to push the envelope. Does “Up For Anything” do that? Yes, it does. Am I proud of it? Yes, I am - I’m proud of every story that I’ve ever had published. Would I write it again? Yes, but with reservations.

Maybe it’s the two big family changes since then - losing my sister and becoming a Dad - but my writing style has definitely changed. It’s got darker, for one thing, a lot darker and that often detracts from the gore. “The Mill” is probably one of the bleakest things I’ve ever written and it works because of that, because it doesn’t allow the splat scene to detract from the pain and loneliness and horror of the protagonists. “Come See My House In The Pretty Town” is a ‘nasty’ story but, again, there’s no gore in it and it works all the better for that (in my opinion). As much as the quick release of an “urgh” is great fun (and trust me, eliciting one from Simon Bestwick made my day), now I find that I’m not aiming for that, I’m aiming for the lingering cloud in the readers head as they finish the story and realise that things, sometimes, don’t get better in the end.

Speaking of which, I’m currently reading and critiquing Gary McMahon’s forthcoming novel “Dead Bad Things” (from Angry Robot) and I can honestly say, hand on heart, that it’s the darkest thing I’ve ever read to be published by a mainstream house. Seriously. My God, it’s dark.

In other news, still no writing done on ZoQuNo (yay me, the writer who’s moving away from gore and yet is just about to start a zombie novel!), but plenty more sequences are coming to light.