Monday 31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012, hello 2013

So here we are, 2012 draws to a close and we look forward to 2013 bringing us bigger and better things.

I had a great 2012 as it goes - in my personal life (joined a gym, got fit, then got injured and got unfit unfortunately), with my family (wife voted Miss Slinky for her Slimming World group and the Dude joined Junior school and took to it like a duck to water), I became a Parent Governor and I had some good publishing credits, including my Spectral Press chapbook “What Gets Left Behind” which has been very favourably received.

So what of 2013?  I don’t usually make resolutions but this year, I’m going to.  And they are:

Love more, less anger
Write more, less procrastination

Bearing in mind that this blog is, at least partly, about my writing, what does 2013 hold for me, creatively speaking?  Well, quite a bit as it happens

* My short “The Witch House” will appear in Anachron Press’ Urban Occult anthology
* My short “Falsche See, On the North German Plain (N is for Nickar)” will appear in Dean M Drinkel’s Demonologica anthology
* My (as yet unwritten) short will appear in the Crystal Lake Publishing anthology For The Night Is Dark
* Two of my shorts - “Empty Souls, Drowning” (a revamp of my 1999 story) and “The Taste Of Her” - will appear in Screaming Spires anthologies
* My short “The Bureau Of Lost Children” will appear in “ill at ease 2”
* My short "World Outside Your Window" will appear in the Second Annual Spectral Press Christmas Ghost Story anthology, edited by Simon Marshall Jones

"What Gets Left Behind" will be reprinted, with an afterword, in the "First Eight Chapbook Volumes" collection from Spectral Press

My novellas “Drive” and “The Lost Film” will appear from Pendragon Press

"Conjure" will be published as an ebook by Greyhart Press, with the interior illustrations re-instated and new cover art.

My (as yet unwritten) short will appear in the next Hersham Horror Books PentAnth - The Anatomy Of Death (in five sleazy pieces) - alongside Stephen Volk, Johnny Mains, Stephen Bacon and Andrew Murray - which I will project manage and co-edit with Peter Mark May.

And that’s what I know, as I write this and so, on that note, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all readers of this blog a very happy, safe and productive New Year!

Monday 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas

I would like to take this opportunity to wish readers of this blog (and their loved ones) a very Happy Christmas and a hale and hearty New Year.

Thank you, as ever, for your continued support and interest - let's hope 2013 brings us all everything we want!

Friday 21 December 2012

The Fourth Annual Westies - review of the year 2012

Well this year seems to have whipped by and so, as we gear up for Christmas, it’s time to remember the good (and not so good) books of 2012. 

It was a really strong field this year (or, alternatively, I made some good reading choices) and places in the top 20 were hard-fought.

So without further ado, I present the Fourth Annual Westies Award - “My Best Fiction Reads Of The Year” - and the top 20 looks like this:

Joint First
Last Days, by Adam Nevill
Whitstable, by Stephen Volk (not actually published until next year)

3:  Silent Voices, by Gary McMahon
4:  Dream A Little Dream, by Sue Moorcroft
5:  Reaping The Dark (not published yet), by Gary McMahon
6:  A Cold Season, by Alison Littlewood
7:  Ceremony, by Robert B Parker
8:  Beyond Here Lies Nothing, by Gary McMahon
9:  Darcie’s Dilemma, by Sue Moorcroft
10:  The 9 Deaths Of Dr Valentine, by John Llewellyn Probert
11:  Into The Penny Arcade, by Claire Massey
12:  Eyepennies, by Mike O’Driscoll
13:  The Widening Gyre, by Robert B Parker
14:  The Way Of The Leaves, by David Tallerman
15:  Taming A Sea-Horse, by Robert B Parker
16:  Marionettes, by Claire Massey
17:  Joe & Me, by David Moody
18:  Videodrome, by Jack Martin (Dennis Etchison)
19:  The Eyes Of Water, by Alison Littlewood
20:  Valediction, by Robert B Parker

The next ten, in no particular order, were:
One Summer In Malta and Where The Heart Is, by Sue Moorcroft, Thin Men With Yellow Faces by Bestwick & McMahon, Hell’s Ditch (critique) by Simon Bestwick, The Butterfly Waltz by Lisa McCarthy, Small Animals by Alison Moore, Black Mirrors by Paul Edwards, The Respectable Face Of Tyranny by Gary Fry, Vampire Circus by Mark Morris and The Howling 2 by Gary Brandner. 

Nothing was spectacularly bad this year, though The Plague Pit by Mark Ronson and The Cartoonist by Sean Costello were both a bit ropey and only garnered 2 stars.

Stats wise, I’ve read 59 books - 35 fiction, 14 non-fiction and 10 comics/nostalgia.  Having not read any Three Investigator books last year - and missing the series - I’m just about to start The Mystery Of The Invisible Dog as my Christmas read and I’m really looking forward to it

Of the 59 books, the breakdown is thus:

5 biographies
25 horror novels
9 film-related
5 drama (includes chick-lit)
4 crime/mystery
1 sci-fi
1 nostalgia
9 humour (including the first two Adrian Moles)

Just in case you’re interested, the previous awards are linked to from here:

Wednesday 19 December 2012

What Gets Left Behind - again!

Following on from it's appearance on Jim Mcleod's excellent Ginger Nuts Of Horror year round-up, plus it's shortlisting on the This Is Horror Awards for short fiction - both of which I'm still reeling from, to be honest, comes the next.

Gef Fox, who favourably reviewed the story earlier this year, has included it in his round-up of favourite novellas/novelette and says; "What Gets Left Behind by Mark West - Spectral Press never disappoints with their limited edition chapbooks, but this one about two boys and a serial killer manage to stand out from a very impressive herd of stories."

Thank you, Gef - and Jim and whoever voted for This Is Horror - this is bloody marvellous

This links to Gef's post

This links to the This Is Horror Awards page

This links back to the Ginger Nuts post

Tuesday 18 December 2012

What Gets Left Behind is shortlisted...

"What Gets Left Behind", my chapbook from Spectral Press (and many thanks must go to Simon Marshall Jones for his faith in it and me), was released in October but had already sold out four months prior to that.

It's not for me to say if it's a good story - I like it a lot, obviously and it touches on themes I'm interested in pursuing, such as old friendships, nostalgia and father/son interaction - but I can say it's picked up some of the best reviews I've ever received.

All of that has been raised another level today, as it's been shortlisted in the Short Fiction Of The Year category of the This Is Horror Awards.

I'm genuinely thrilled and chuffed about this and touched that people have thought enough of Mike and Geoff and the Rainy Day Abductor to nominate me.

Thank you.

Full details here on the This Is Horror site

Thursday 13 December 2012

Guest Blog - Colin F Barnes

As regular readers of this blog will know, I don't generally open this space out for tours (the previous one was the lovely Cate Gardner which, it has to be said, went well).  Having said that, today I have a post from my friend Colin F Barnes, who is doing some very good work at the moment with both his own writing and also his publishing arm, Anachron Press.

So say hello to Colin and take a look at his work - it's very good and well worth your time.

* * * * *
Mark was kind enough to allow me to take over his blog today to talk about my new novel Artificial Evil: Book 1 of The Techxorcist. What is it you might ask? Well let me tell you.

Artificial Evil is the first book in a trilogy. It's a cross between Blade Runner, Mad Max, and The Exorcist. It's set in a near future, post-cataclysmic earth. The few survivors are kept within a dome city run by a so-called benevolent dictatorship called The Family. The problem with the city is that everything is monitored and assessed on a citywide network. Every individual is plugged into this network via an implanted 'Artificial Intelligent Assistant.'

On the face of it, these AIAs are very helpful. Imagine having a smart computer in your head that you can interact with via your mind. That's pretty cool, and there are a lot of very practical applications for such things. Such as: brilliant recall abilities. Image storage and using your eyes as cameras. Computational power outside of your mind. Want to figure out a sum, or calculate something? No problem; give your AIA all the factors and let it do the hard work for you.

However, practicality comes at a great cost: the loss of freedom. Because in the post-cataclysmic world, resources are incredibly short. There are no huge factories building things anymore, there aren't countries or governments or corporations to mine the earth for resources and build infrastructure and technology. There is only the dome and The Family who run it.

Due to the resources being finite, it requires a lot of management to ensure a good standard of living, and health, for everyone. And that's where the network comes in. It monitors everything; the air the population breathes, the energy they consume, the energy they create. All this adds up to a complicated set of factors that go into in the death lottery. To maintain the status quo, and thus the continued existence of humankind, The Family have deemed it necessary to control the population.

A certain amount of children are allowed to be produced only when there are sufficient resources. To achieve this, our main protagonist for the first book, Gerry Cardle, heads up the design of the algorithm that decides the death lottery. When your numbers are up, the network takes over, and via the AIA extinguishes your life and releases your resources into the system. Of course, Gerry himself is exempt from this lottery as he is a very important part of the system, but things take a sinister turn one morning when via his AIA, he's informed that his numbers have come up, and he has just seven days to live.

Thinking it's some kind of practical joke, Gerry heads into work on a Saturday morning to sort it out, but he's refused entry. Lottery winners aren't allowed into governmental buildings. Frustration builds and soon he's in an altercation with security and flung out onto the streets. Such is the confidence and reliance on the network, no one dares question it, even when someone as prominent as Gerry Cardle, the death lottery designer himself, finds his numbers up.

It is at this point he starts to discover what's behind the peculiar occurrence. While coming round from being ejected forcibly from his place of work, he's approached by a hobo resembling a priest. This man, Gabe, informs that he's possessed by a demon and that his code and AIA have been hacked. This has dire consequences not just for Gerry but the entire city. It's the first instance of any security breach.

With the aid of his new friend, and his friend's partner, a young violent hacker called, Petal, Gerry sets about finding the origins of the demon before it's too late.

* * * * *

Colin F. Barnes is a writer of dark and daring fiction. He takes his influence from everyday life, and the weird happenings that go on in the shadowy locales of Essex in the UK.

Growing up, Colin was always obsessed with story and often wrote short stories based on various dubious 80s and 90s TV shows. Despite taking a detour in school into the arts and graphic design, he always maintained his love of fiction and general geekery. Now, as a slightly weathered adult, Colin draws on his experiences to blend genres and create edgy, but entertaining stories.

He is currently working on a Cyberpunk/Techno thriller serial 'The Techxorcist.' which combines elements of Sci-Fi, Thriller, and Horror.

Like many writers, he has an insatiable appetite for reading, with his favourite authors being: Stephen King, William Gibson, Ray Bradbury, James Herbert, Albert Camus,  H.P Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith,  and a vast array of unknown authors who he has had the privilege of beta reading for.


Friday 7 December 2012

"The Mill" picks up another mention!

It's that time of the year again (my round-up is coming soon), when people reflect back on the books they've read over the past year and pass judgement on them (who doesn't love a 'best of'?).

This time it's the turn of Peter Mark May, my friend and occasional partner-in-crime and his list (including all the books he's read which formed the voting pool) can be found on this link.  You really should go and read it but I'll just say that he's declared "The Mill" as his favourite short story/novella.

Thanks Peter, I really appreciate it.  And if you're intrigued, the ebook is still available from Amazon on this link.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

What Gets Left Behind (Ginger Nuts round-up)

Jim Mcleod, who runs the terrific resource Ginger Nuts Of Horror, is putting together his review of books for 2012.  A keen supporter of my work - for which I am very grateful - who highlighted "The Mill" last year, has done me proud once again and included "What Gets Left Behind" in his round-up.

As I write this, my little chapbook is joined with Adam Nevill's masterpiece "Last Days" and I am truly honoured to be in such good company!

Jim says: "I like to think of Mark as the heart of horror, and this story in particular set partially in the present and in the 1980's manages to evoke a huge feeling of loss and nostalgia.  Emotionally written this story shows that horror has a range of styles that most people don't give the genre credit for."

This links back to the Ginger Nuts post