Thursday, 17 January 2019

New Year, New Stories

In these first few months of 2019, I'll be having two new stories published.  First up, Raking Light will appear in the first issue of the re-launched Sanitarium Magazine. This story is about a young man named Marco mourning the death of his closest friend whilst having to restore a painting by a famous artist for the gallery he works for.  The discovery of odd symbols on the back of the painting, and a mysterious visitor to the gallery who appears to be growing younger, leads Marco to wonder if he can in fact cheat death.

Sanitarium Magazine No.1 will be available from 18th January.

Continuing the painterly theme, my story The Last Salvador, kicks things of in the anthology Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles edited C.M. Muller.  This story re-imagines the childhood of a certain Surrealist, blending facts, fiction, and imagery from some of the artist's own work.  I'm very proud that my story gets to start things off in what I'm sure will be a wonderful book which also contains stories by Charles Wilkinson, Craig Wallwork, Tim Major, Farah Rose Smith,

and Steve Rasnic Tem, amongst others.

Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles is already available for pre-order, but will be officially released on 2nd February.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Adios 2018

2018 was the year I achieved two long-held ambitions.  One was walking northern Spain's Camino de Santiago  (or one of the routes at least) which I did back in September. This was something I'd planned to do years ago, but the arrival of my eldest daughter put the idea to bed for awhile.  I honestly never thought I'd be capable of walking 20 miles in one day, but I did.  All due to poor planning, admittedly, but I did.  We completed the 40 mile stretch of the English Route in three days, passing through cities, forests, fields of sunflowers, industrial estates, farmland, and tiny villages until we finally arrived at Santiago de Compostela, a truly awe-inspiring city. And it didn't rain once.

The other high-point of my year was having a story published in C.M. Muller's Nightscript anthology.  When I got my acceptance through for Nightscript IV back in February I suddenly felt as if I'd arrived as a writer.  Despite all the many acceptances I'd had prior to that, and the many stories I'd had published, this one felt extra-special.  I felt as if I'd shifted into a new gear, and I hope I can continue in that track in 2019.

Favourite Short Stories read in 2018

My reading seems to have leaned more towards literary fiction rather than genre fiction this year, mainly due to me randomly routing out books of short stories in my local secondhand bookshop and discovering many new writers.  Here then, are a few short stories that I most enjoyed reading in 2018.

1. The Fat Artist by Benjamin Hale
From the collection of the same name, The Fat Artist is the tale of a successful artist who decides to become his own exhibit piece by sitting on a bed in an art gallery and eating all the food - all the food -  brought to him by the public in a quest to become the fattest person who ever lived.  Hale's book contains a raft of disturbing, thought-provoking stories, with a cast of damaged, recognisable characters, and they often end on an unresolved note which may frustrate some readers but which for me made the stories even more haunting.

2. The Frozen Fields by Paul Bowles
Bowles tell the story of a small boy who, visiting his mother's family at Christmastime, dreams of a wolf to rid them all of his bullying, abusive and controlling father.

3. The Sunflower Seed Man by Priya Sharma
Priya Sharma cleverly uses the fact that sunflowers are scary and do have a kind of humanoid appearance to create this story about a loving father gone bad.  From the collection All the Fabulous Beasts which has been one of my reading highlights of the year.

4. Rain by Andre Mangeot
Young Lucas, looking to show his father that his rebellious ways are behind him, is sent on an assignment to Romania for the family's lumber business.  His new found respectability and thoughts of his impending marriage to a woman his parents adore are derailed when he defends a local woman, Katya, in a bar.  From that point on, Katya, a sudden rainstorm, and Lucas's own buried ambivalence about his life, conspire to destroy the person he's tried hard to become.  All told in vivid, exquisite prose.

5. Never Visit Venice and The Inner Room by Robert Aickman
A few years ago when I was reading through Aickman's collections, I'd somehow managed to miss these two gems from The Wine Dark Sea - two of his best stories in my opinion.

7. In the Hold, It Waits by Tom Johnstone
A story of piracy and revenge on the high seas with some truly unsettling imagery including - at one point - flying Lovecraftian monsters that will literally hump you to death.  That's right.  From the beautiful Book of the Sea from Egaeus Press.

8. The Winter Father by Andre Dubus
Andre Dubus has been my discovery of the year.  When I finished his book Collected Stories, I wanted to turn back to page 1 and start reading again.  He's the kind of writer who makes you wonder how exactly he does what he does.  How can his stories be so wordy and slow, and yet so powerful and gripping?  I shouldn't work, but it does.  It works magnificently!  I finished The Winter Father and just thought 'Wow'.  Some of the others stories in the book, such as The Pretty Girl, left me stunned.  In fact, I could list almost all the stories from the book here, but I'll stick with one.  The Winter Father tells of a man who splits from his wife and struggles through the winter to maintain a fatherly relationship with his children.  When summer arrives, he finally finds a way.

9. Stone City by E. Annie Proulx
From Proulx's collection, Heart Songs, which I thoroughly enjoyed, this is a ghost story without any ghosts in it.  The narrator is a wannabe bird hunter who stumbles upon Stone City, the one-time home of a nasty and wild family,  ruled over by Old Man Stone, a man who the narrator's acquaintance, Bangor, says 'should have had nails pounded into his eyes and a blunt fence post hammered up his asshole'.  Stone City is now a deserted collection of shacks, but the narrator is soon to learn how Old Man Stone's evil influence continues to haunt the place.

10. Where No Shadows Fall by Gary Budden
What is this?  A description of London written as weird fiction?  However you want to describe it, this, for me, was easily the highlight of Tales From the Shadow Booth Vol.1.

11. The Boat by Alistair MacLeod
An affecting story with a tragic ending about a fisherman who aspires to more in rural Canada and the son who must choose between following in his father's wake or doing that which his father wanted to do but could not.  This one strongly resonated with me for some reason.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

The Pale Little Girl By the Side of the Road

My contribution to the Christmas ghost story canon, The Pale Little Girl By the Side of the Road, can be read online on the Tale-Tale Press website.

It concerns the Redgrave family as they gather together to celebrate Christmas at a remote cottage.  When one of the grown-up children doesn't arrive, the others begin to recount their encounters with a strange child seen standing barefoot in the snow by the side of the road.

The pale little girl by the side of the road just wants some friends to play with at Christmastime.

The entire volume of The Blood Tomes: Winter Holidays can be downloaded an an e-book from Amazon.  The book also contains Christmas-themed horror fiction from the likes of Eric J Guignard, K.L. Napier, and others.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

The Hole

The 'Bubble off Plumb' anthology which contains my short story, The Hole, will be published by Feral Cat Publishing on 14th December.  I wrote this story about addiction, specifically internet and mobile phone addiction, although it doesn't deal with this subject directly and is open to interpretation.  It's about a young couple who buy their first home only to find a seemingly bottomless hole in the center of the basement, a hole they quickly become fascinated by.

I received a good response to this story when I started submitting it, even when it was being rejected!

I'd like to give a huge thanks to editor Dan Kalin for selecting my story from the 921 that were submitted for 'Bubble off Plumb'.  What an honour!

Anyone who'd like to know more about this book,  can visit the publisher's website here.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Visions of the Autumn Country

October is approaching fast, which means the release of another of C.M. Muller's Nightscript anthologies.  This October 1st volume 4 will arrive, and I'm delighted to say that I have a story of my own included in the book.  It has been a pleasure to be involved in one of C.M. Muller's projects, his enthusiasm and attention to detail is inspiring.  Having bought all three of the previous volumes, I was well aware that when you invest in a copy of Nightscript you are guaranteed a quality, lovingly-made book full of carefully chosen, and carefully sequenced, tales.

C.M. Muller is also a writer of strange tales with many impressive publication credits, and you can find more about his work, as well as the Nightscript anthologies and his other projects, here.

My story in Nightscript 4, Visions of the Autumn Country, was partly inspired by the artwork of my friend, David Whitlam.  I've know Dave since we were at University together in the late 1990s, and I've watched him sharpen his singular vision over the years.  I've always thought Dave was creating his own interior landscape - a landscape of the imagination, almost another world - and it was this idea that I used as a jumping off point for this story.

Anyone who wants to take a stroll through David Whitlam's imagination can do so on his website here.  Warning - you might want to leave a breadcrumb trail.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Hear that...?

Something's Knocking.

That's the title of my story which has just been published in the Summer 2018 issue of The Oddville Press.  This story, as with many others, grew out of a discussion I had with my friend and occasional collaborator Martin Greaves, wherein he happened to mentioned how the Surrealists used to create things called Papillons.  Papillons were cards, such as the ones below, with strange phrases written on them which would be left around Paris, on cafe tables and noise boards, presumably to inspire or confuse people.

Martin then told me how The Surrealists also opened an office to which people could call a number or write and detail their strangest dreams.  I loved this idea, and it got me thinking.  A song by Soft Cell called Frustration, which I was having a minor obsession with at the time also got mixed in, and I ended up with this story about a middle-aged man who stumbles upon a back-street theater where bizarre plays are staged every evening.  Plays that are linked to the people in the audience.

Frustration by Soft Cell, a song I ripped off stole a few lyrics from was influenced by for this story.

The Oddville Press magazine can be dowloaded for free as a PDF here.