Friday 30 March 2012

The writer, reading "Fog On The Old Coast Road"

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might remember the Hauntings Event I attended on March 11th (and if you’re not, you can get up to speed with the original post here).

Co-organised by the team at Un:bound (Vincent Holland-Keen, Adele Wearing & Kat Heubeck) and Newcon Press (Ian Whates), the event was in two parts. The first consisted of five writers reading their stories to an audience whilst the second would see those stories, plus many more, appear in a limited hardback edition that NewCon would publish in time for FantasyCon.

I had a great time and the videos are currently being edited by Vincent. Ian’s was posted last week and mine went live today, which I’ve posted here. It’s over 20 minutes long (which makes me appreciate the audience even more), but here’s “Fog On The Old Coast Road”, as read by the writer.

If you have 20 minutes to kill and decide to have a listen, I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Dear Me

I'm currently reading a book called "Dear Me", edited by Joseph Galliano. It's a collection of letters written by celebrities to their 16-year-old selves, which the website describes as being "for the teenager wondering what life is all about, someone looking back to their youth, or [someone] seeking homespun wisdom."

I'm enjoying it so far, it's amusing, poignant and life-affirming and since the website asks for contributors, I thought I'd have a go. So this is my letter to my 16-year-old self.

- - -

Dear Me

Here we are then, the 43-year-old version of me writing a letter to the 16-year-old version of me. So what do I have to tell you then?

Pay more attention to your grandparents, visit Nana more often and spend more time with Grampy. And keep visiting Auntie Laura, sit and talk to her and listen to the history and stories she wants to impart. Trust me.

I can’t tell you why, but don’t be so quick to argue and fight with your sister, Tracy. Things will settle down in your twenties but the quicker you accept that you’re different personalities and try to get on, the better. You’ll thank me for it later, you really will.

You know how people are saying that it’s a pipe-dream about becoming a writer? It’ll take a bit longer than you think, but you will get published, you will enjoy it all and you will have people you’ve never met before tell you that they like your work. So keep believing in yourself - oh and try your hand at horror first rather than contemporary drama.

When you meet a woman next year and she tells you that it’s best if you stay friends, listen to her and accept it. Don’t moon over her or suffer unrequited love for the remainder of your teen years - she’s right and 27 years later you’ll still be the best of friends.

Don’t worry about women and losing your virginity - it’ll happen. Also, don’t think that the friends you have are the be-all and end-all of life. In fact, apart from Nick, you haven’t met your best friends yet. You and Nick are still going strong though.

Keep hold of your Star Wars toys - it’s for the best. And buy more of them now, if you can.

You will know love when it hits you.

Take more photographs - lots more.

Most of all, keep doing what you’re doing and enjoy yourself, you end up having a pretty damned good time.

Take care, mate, I love you



My letter is now on the website - click here to see it - and I got a lovely email from Joe Galliano informing me. Why not visit the site and leave your own letter?

Sunday 18 March 2012

Coming September 2012 (part 3)

A photocopied page of The Gaffney Evening Telegraph, relating to The Rainy Day Abductor...

(photo courtesy of The Gaffney Historical Society)

Tuesday 13 March 2012

The Hauntings Event - 11th March 2012

Dear Discerning Reader

Picture the scene: an isolated country pub; it’s a bitter (which is only fitting, this being a pub) and blustery night. Five weary travellers huddle before a crackling fire. Slowly, falteringly, one of them starts to tell a story - a chilling tale of dark spirits and tragedy. As the first narrator’s (wholly original and never heard before) story reaches its dire conclusion, so another of the band begins to relate their own ghostly tale…

Thus they entertain each other (and an attentive audience that has mysteriously gathered for the occasion) well into the night, pushing back the darkness while populating its margins with malicious spirits and malevolent shades…

On Sunday 11th March 2012,

Amanda Hemingway
Paul Kane
Marie O’Regan
Mark West
Ian Whates

will gather at The Staff Of Life pub in Mowsley, near Market Harborough in Leicestershire, to tell original ghost stories before a live audience, in an event jointly organised by NewCon Press and Un:bound.

from the Un:bound website

I’d really been looking forward to the event, ever since Ian had asked me for a “really scary ghost story” back in November of last year and especially since I found out what NewCon and Un:bound were planning to do. I wrote my story (and I think it’s a pretty scary ghost story), I admitted that I’d acted in the past and the stage was set. Then, on Saturday, I got a toothache which combined with the nerves, made me feel quite apprehensive about the whole thing.

I shouldn’t have been, of course. After Google maps tried to send me in the wrong direction, I found Mowsley quite easily. The Staff Of Life was a smart looking pub and, as soon as I got in, saw the Un:bound gang, meeting Adele Wearing, Vincent Holland-Keen and Kat Heubeck for the first time (though Adele & I have been tweeting to each other for a while). My fellow readers - Ian Whates, Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan - were already there and Jay Eales & Selina Lock arrived soon after. I was then introduced to Amanda Hemingway, who I’d first read years back (on holiday in the Lake District) and she was lovely, a real force of nature and full of energy and verve. Our place was set up by the fire and the running order agreed - since Ian was reading on the fly (ie, he hadn’t got a full story written), he went first, I followed him, then Marie read. After a break, Paul read and Amanda closed the show (reading by candlelight and a camera-lamp held by Kat).

Me reading "Fog On The Old Coast Road" with Ian Whates, Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan

Once it came to my turn, as soon as I’d started reading, my nerves disappeared and I really got into it. I was doing well until about halfway through, when the heat from the fire proved just too much. After a short break - fire closed, stool moved, drink drunk - I resumed and my story went down well, I think. All of the stories kept people’s attention (I don’t know how many people attended, but I counted about thirty people from my vantage point) and it was lovely to be at a reading where you could hear a pin drop.

Kat holds forth - from left, Adele Wearing, Ian Whates and me (obscured by Kat Heubeck), Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane (waiting to read)

After the readings were over, I shot some of the wraparound stuff with Vincent and we filmed a round-table discussion on ghosts and ghost stories. By then it was almost 10pm so Amanda left, Ian headed home and Adele drove Paul & Marie back to Harborough, where they were staying for the night. Everyone was shaking hands and hugging, looking forward to meeting up again and there was a lovely atmosphere. I had another couple of scenes to shoot, which I managed without any hiccups and I headed off for about 11pm. Had a great afternoon/evening and now I can’t wait to see the finished film.

Many thanks to Adele, Vincent and Kat for organising such a terrific event and Ian for asking me for a story.

Photography © Selina Lock 2012

Thursday 1 March 2012

Silent Voices, by Gary McMahon - an early review

My friend Gary McMahon is just about to have his next Concrete Grove novel - "Silent Voices" - published by Solaris Books. I'm making a trailer for him, so he sent over his final draft to read through. It's epic, a truly amazing piece of work and I can't wait to do the trailer - there are so many images and sounds I could include, the hardest part is figuring out what to leave out.

Since I have a bit of a scoop here (the book is scheduled for publication on March 27th), I thought I'd publish my review. It's good, at least 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Twenty years ago, three ten-year-old boys - The Three Amigos - went missing in The Needle, in Concrete Grove. When they were found, nobody knew what had happened to them, the boys included, but it tainted their lives and their friendship. Now, Simon is a successful property developer in London, Marty is a hard man and Brendan is a lost soul, the only one with family but ground down by life. Simon is haunted by the past and, spurred on by mysterious letters and emails, he decides to head back to the Grove - and his old friends - and see if he can uncover the truth.

Welcome back to The Concrete Grove, the second in McMahon’s trilogy about that eponymous hell-hole of an estate. Moving on from the events in book one (Hailey and Bingo re-appear, the former with seemingly more to do with the Grove than we’d originally thought), this spends a lot of time getting to know the three leads, how their lives are and how they’ve changed since their childhood (we get some flashbacks to them as ten-year-olds) and the book works fantastically well because of that. We are shown their pain, we are shown how it affects - and sometimes runs - their lives, we are made to empathise with their existence. Simon is a millionaire, with a Russian lingerie model girlfriend, who feels that something is missing from his life. Brendan has a wife and children that he loves - and who love him dearly (Jane, his wife, is wonderfully developed and rounded, even though a lot more of her story is hinted at than shown) - but he’s one of life’s losers. The same can’t be said for Marty who was psychologically and physically scarred by his father and continues to push his body and his hard-man existence to extremes. An occasional doorman, he lost his boxing licence after an accident that killed the only girl he ever truly loved and now he takes part in illegal bare-knuckle fights. The moments of horror all focus on the main characters - Brendan and his acne, his son and a small bird (a scene that is very disturbing) and Marty’s fight with an untrained Polish opponent is as brutal as anything I’ve read in a long time.

The construction of the novel is pitch-perfect, doling out just enough information to keep the plot moving forward, allowing the reader to piece it all together - who is Captain Clickety, what are the hummingbirds doing, why is Bingo in The Needle, why is Marty obsessed with Humpty Dumpty? We see more of what’s powering the grove, more of what’s inside The Needle and the confrontation between good and evil that doesn’t end here.

Gary McMahon is one of those writers who constantly ups his game, delivering more power and emotion with every new work. I thought “The Concrete Grove” was an astonishing achievement, moving away from straight horror into something that was much more of a horror/urban fantasy hybrid, but this novel tops that, pushing both sub-genres further. He barely puts a foot wrong, immersing the reader completely into the world, writing with strength and passion about friendship, family history, urban history, location and sins of the past and it’s genuinely brilliant stuff. I’ve been lucky enough to read “The End” (awaiting publication) and since I did, I’ve considered it my favourite McMahon novel - this runs it very close and has perhaps his bleakest climax so far.

With “Silent Voices”, Gary McMahon writes about childhood and friendship and how adults can perhaps reclaim the past and he does it superbly, with as much love and tenderness and bleakness and brutality as we've come to expect from him. I can’t wait to find out what the third Concrete Grove has to offer us.