Four banging stories that stood out in June and one novel recommendation for you. Short fiction A Thousand Acres of English Soil by Benjamin Myers (from the collection, Male Tears, … Continue reading The Creased Spine Bookshelf
April Showers, an exploration into sibling rivalry and loss, is now available in Aggregate Vol 1 published by Writerfield.com. As explained in the foreword, the last story, A Night And … Continue reading Aggregate: stories at the intersection of science fiction and horror (Volume 1, 2020)
As I missed adding to the wealth of New Year blog posts on writing resolutions, veganism, teetotalism, and other ‘isms’, shouldn’t we have a spring look-at-me update about the projects lined up? Thought so.
In the winter of 2018, I took the initial draft of my novel from the locked drawer for the first time in two years. Shortly after, it went back. I might continue with the urban fantasy – I’m still in love with the story – or I might not. Plenty of first novels stay hidden indefinitely, and had this been only a stepping stone to a new plot? Whatever the gods decide.
What am I doing, then? Four projects, since you asked.
The first, and one that’s got me stoked as it nears fruition, is Rewilding, a chapbook to be published with the illustrator and anarchist, Mutartis Boswell. The story, (written, critiqued, rewritten, beta-read, rewritten, edited, rewritten and proofed :-)) explores the themes of abuse, isolation and instinct. The project is allowing Bos to experiment with inks and atmosphere, and comfort zones too. We’re looking to print using some pretty old machinery by experienced printers to gain an impressive look and touch to our product. Watch out for details of the Kickstarter on here and social media as there’ll be a chance to pick up a signed copy of the chapbook, along with artwork that captures the text and dons the many masks of the Speculative including Folk Horror.
Next up, a collaboration with the ace Belgian photographer, Ines Adriaens, for her abandoned places project. Ines, a master at capturing atmosphere, sent me and two other writers a variety of images and asked us to write pieces inspired by them. This project has allowed me to engage in the highly concentrated, powerful form of poetry. I am lucky to have four pieces in this photography book which will hopefully be available this year.
I was both excited and nervous when Joffre White asked me to work together on the short story collection, The Gateway, a Speculative examination of the grit trapped in Western society’s shell, mainly because our writing styles wave to each other from across a chasm. Joffre is a UK Patron of Reading, Reading and Writing Motivator, and an author, he’s also a cracking guy to work with. The project is almost like a writing exercise, and I’m able to play with shorter length and streamline my writing style using character-driven stories.
Lastly, a collection of my own short fiction yet to be titled is in progress. A brew of horrors seasoned with a pinch of magic realism. The plan is to feature mostly published work after revision, with a couple of bonus new ones. The word count is currently at 50,000.
The opportunity to work closely with these talented artists is precious and, I’m sure, will lead to some amazing work. Should be a good year! Certainly busy.
(some thoughts on my editorial role for North Bristol Writers)
The third North Bristol Writers anthology, Tales From The Graveyard, had its launch on Saturday 2nd March at the cemetery that inspired many of the featured stories. If you came along, thank you, if not, you missed a couple of relaxed and insightful hours.
Way back during October 2017, we held a storytelling evening, entitled Tales From the Crypt (yeah, I know – we’re working on originality, I promise), in the Anglican chapel at Arnos Vale Cemetery as part of the Bristol Festival of Literature, and from that sold-out evening the anthology was born.
The editorial team was agreed and consisted of myself (Acquisitions Editor), Pete Sutton (Senior and Copy Editor), and Ian Millsted (Assistant Editor, better known as Devil’s Advocate). Though one can argue how much acquisitioning is active in a submission call sent out to members of the NBW group and a few other Bristol writers, at times the use of a third editor in tipping the balance proved vital.
It was never the intention for the anthology to be horror-specific – yes, Pete and I both write in the horror genre, but there aren’t many more in the group who do – so the writers’ brief was kept suitably broad: the story must be set in a graveyard and contain a ‘weird’ element. And while the book contains ghosts, the Gothic, and a splattering of gore, it also has surrealism, pulp, humour, fantasy, and dystopia.
The content and individual word count of the accepted stories ended up so varied, that creating a TOC with enough momentum to keep pages turning filled me with a Lovecraftian dread. However, with a little research and a little more determination, the task turned out to be highly enjoyable. One could even suggest that the stories organised themselves.
The important first slot went to Kevlin Henney’s quick story for its strong opening that provides a philosophical slant which really works for, and certainly does no harm to, a book full of dead people. This bled into a murd’rous stab of fiction penned by the chilling Clare Dornan. The epics (of which there were a few) I spread throughout the book so their length would hopefully go unnoticed. The first of these, Chrissey Harrison’s fantasy action/adventure contrasts perfectly with the preceding stories. Next, two ghostly tales with child protagonists: Jon Charles’s simple tale followed by Louise Gethin’s wandering child which then ties into the gruesome wandering husband in Grace Palmer’s piece. I thought the reader now ready for a change, thus Darkfall by Dev Agarwal submerges all who feast upon it into a truly bleak dystopia. Then up for a gasp of putrid air with Amanda Staples’s creepfest, followed by the two more unusual stories of our anthology courtesy of Ken Shinn and Jay Millington. Placing both centrally highlights the differences between the two, and the rest of the book. They also act as “tentpole” stories (John Joseph Adams, source below*). Of course, what type of graveyard fiction does not contain Gothic? Behold, Chloe Headdon’s contemporary and Scott Lewis’s traditional tale. Both make an appearance in the latter part of the book allowing the reader to experience other aspects before this ubiquitous theme. Shock horror, courtesy of Grimdark queen Maria Herring, felt a natural follower-on from this, partnered with Tanwen Cooper’s seedy tale of rotten humanity. The last stories mirror the two openers, and are intended to leave positive flavours lingering on the reader’s palate; Piotr Świetlik’s humour and multiculturalism (both much needed in the world at present) and Alex Ballinger’s hopefulness. Ballinger’s ‘Messenger’ is philosophical and resonates with Henney’s opening story.
With the publication of the book, we now have a sexy little bunyip of a product that has been presented beautifully by the Typesetter (and writer), Harrison, and all wrapped up in a classic cover designed by Fabrice Mazat. And, of course, my editorship has come to an end. I’d like to thank North Bristol Writers for the opportunity to become part of this terrific book, and the insights into the other side of publishing.
You can purchase Tales From The Graveyard on Amazon UK
Previous North Bristol Writers anthologies are:
North by Southwest, AmazonUK
Having recently joined the North Bristol Writers, I found out that, in late 2016, they published an anthology called The Dark Half of the Year.
From the creepiness of Garland’s The Ancestors and Dornan’s Dark Time, to the chilling This is Me by Henney, and just plain weirdness of Meyjes’ The Last Four in the Bar, The Dark Half … is a collection of stories that explores the vastness of the afterlife. It is also eclectic, with Newland’s tragic tale set during the Roman invasion of Britain and Sutton’s futuristic take on the ghost story, keeping the company of scolding grandmothers, vengeful in-laws, and righteous wraiths, alongside Harrison’s spin on Cornish folklore and, of course, the gruesome moral tale provided by Shinn. My favourite story of the anthology, Winternights by Herring, hauls ancient myth into a dystopian future whilst almost revelling in a vivid portrayal of bloodlust, truly making The Dark Half of the Year a celebration of the dead.
With the second draft of Up On Midwinter Hill complete it’s now time to allow the story to stew. Meanwhile, I’ve also had feedback from The Nameless Writing Group for my shape-shifter piece, Hashtag Rewilding, (which has been on the backburner) so I’m pretty much ready to revisit this one.
I reread Rewilding a few nights ago, and it was then that I saw the wonderful illustration (opposite) by Sam Guay entitled, Tender. I was fascinated by the bark-like background that the woman’s almost misshapen form appears to be morphing into and, in particular, the way her belly has become a woody knot or whorl which may symbolise anxiety or hunger.
I drew parallels in this artwork with Hashtag Rewilding, notably the theme of trust. Whilst the woman in the picture does not seem particularly happy about placing her head in the jaws of a wolf, this mouthing behaviour is very common amongst canines and can be seen as being similar to a hug for a human. Maybe the woman in the picture has a pre-conceived idea about the act, like we all have about something at one point or another. Given the present state of my (Western) society, perhaps we do need to pay a little more attention to how we act and learn to trust our instincts rather than what others tell us.
Hashtag Rewilding, borne from an exchange on the recent sighting of the Hull werewolf, Old Stinker, and the rewilding debate explores what happens when we are both ruled by prejudices and when we are free of them.
With thanks to the artist, Sam Guay, for the kind permission to use her work. Please visit: http://www.samguay.com/
For more information on where to read Hashtag Rewilding, watch this space.
Flying high with the news that Mythic: A Quarterly Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine will be acquiring my short story, Holding Hands, for its third issue.
Read my short story, What You Wish For. A perfect tale for Valentine’s Day. Available via here.
(image: The Absinthe Drinker and the Hostile Silence ©Pamela Wilson)
The werewolf is used as a trope for many societal issues. Like that particular shapeshifter, I’m discovering that my story, Hashtag Rewilding works on quite a few levels too. Although, this is not a bad thing, I feel that is important to keep a short piece of fiction simple if you want to keep the reader engaged.
In preparation for the first edit, which – rightly or wrongly – I’ve undertook with hardly any downtime, I asked myself what is this story really about. This time around the answer – a clue to which is the title – was found when I asked myself a different question: why did I start to write a serious werewolf story when two weeks before I believed it would be many years before I could write such a thing without it being a spoof.
With that in mind I have begun eliminating any thread that may obscure the true nature of this story; any sentence that does not draw the reader in to hear what is whispered between the lines. I guess I’m editing, aren’t I?
My point here is this: Ask yourself what you’re trying to say before you begin to edit.