Monday, 8 October 2018

FantasyCon 2018 schedule

It's almost time for Fantasycon again, so here's my schedule. 

Please come and say hello! I promise I won't bite. (There's no full moon - I checked.)

FRIDAY

5 pm - PS Publishing launch (Octoberland)





SATURDAY

11 am - Horrific Tales launch (The House of Frozen Screams)





1 pm - Black Shuck Books launch (Great British Horror vol 3: For Those in Peril)




Tuesday, 2 October 2018

White Mare

What better way to celebrate the horror fan's favourite holiday than with a book of Halloween stories? Here's an excerpt from my story "White Mare":

It was raining when they landed and it rained during the long drive that followed. Heather’s first impression of England was that it was very green and very wet. Presumably one because of the other. Thorpe Morag was a small Somerset village nestled in a valley in the middle of wet green nowhere. It was near places with even weirder names, like Middlezoy and Huish Champflower.
    Her second impression was that everything was old. Like straight-out-of-a-history-book old. The roads, the houses, even the trees all seemed impossibly ancient. America was all shopping malls and Starbucks and nail salons and car dealerships, all of it new and shiny and clean. Here, Heather wouldn’t be surprised to see medieval peasants ploughing the fields.
    A battered sign finally told them they’d reached Thorpe Morag, and a winding road led them into the village. Two rows of cottages faced each other across a wide patch of grass with a little duck pond and a couple of rotting park benches. The “village green” apparently. There was a pub, the White Mare, and a shop that looked like something from an old black and white movie. As far as Heather could tell, its name was just “The Shop”.
    At the far end of the green, a cluster of trees sheltered a narrow track that led to the Barton farm. The house was a blocky stone structure that looked more like a storage building than a home. It was almost hidden in the shadows of the foliage surrounding it. The trees looked intent on consuming the upper storey, and the view from at least one window was entirely obscured. Heather shuddered at the thought of branches scraping her bedroom window like bony fingers before breaking the glass and reaching in for her.
    “It’s, um… nice,” she said, staring in dismay at the farmhouse. The photos emailed by the solicitor had clearly been taken on some enchanted spring morning when sunlight had conquered the gloom. Heather glanced at her father, but his expression was unreadable. They were really going to stay here? Live here? A glance back at the sparse village didn’t reveal any alternatives. It wasn’t like there was a hotel down the road or anything. But there had to be a city nearby. How far away was London? Surely they could find somewhere else to stay, anywhere else…
    Her dad took the first step towards the farmhouse and Heather had her answer. She heaved a morose sigh as she trudged after him, resigned to her fate. That was when she saw it.



You can get the book from amazon UK and amazon US.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Octoberland

I have always dreamt of having a story collection by PS Publishing - and now I do! The cover art is by the amazingly talented Daniele Serra.



To quote Pete Crowther, from the PS newsletter:

--------------------------------------------------------

Let’s talk about Thana Niveau . . .

And, at the very same time, let’s you and me spare a word or two for the late great Ray Bradbury.

Yes, for as I sit typing this out on Thursday evening, with a drenching autumn storm battering both my office window and the gargoyle-festooned roof of the church opposite as it pools in the greensward, my mind has indeed turned albeit briefly to Bradbury. inspired to do so by Thana Niveau’s remarkable collection, OCTOBERLAND and yet I make it sound as though Bradbury is but a single entity when, in fact, he is several.

Yes, for sure, there are many Ray Bradburys. Multitudes even.

F’rinstance, there’s the Ray Bradbury who conceived the knife-wielding toddler in ‘The Small Assassin,’ for example; the one who wrote about the jangling-nerved murderer frantically trying to remove any evidence that he was ever in the death room (including polishing away the possibility of his fingerprints on ‘The fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl’); the one who penned the fable about two time-travelling Knights fresh from the Crusades facing up to a steam train; and, of course, the one who recounts the escapades of the ghosts of Laurel and Hardy trying to move a piano down some steps during one strange and foggy Los Angeles night.

All are wonderful, each is totally different.

And that single line right there says pretty much everything there is to say about Thana Niveau and the stories in OCTOBERLAND. 

--------------------------------------------------------

Thana Niveau's stories feature people on the edge - the edge of death, the edge of sanity, the edge of reality. In this diverse collection, two sisters leave a trail of bodies behind them as they go on the run, desperate to outrun the dark secrets of their past. A film fan is haunted by the actress whose brutal horror films he can't stop watching. A child hears a ghostly voice through the radio reciting only numbers. And a young woman revisits the place she and her brother loved above all else - Octoberland - the strange amusement park that tore their world apart. Horror wears many faces here, from creeping dread to apocalyptic devastation, and no one escapes its dark touch.


Table of Contents:

INTRODUCTION by ALISON LITTLEWOOD
Going to the Sun Mountain
The Face
Xibalba
The Things That Aren’t There
Worm Casts
The Language of the City
The Call of the Dreaming Moon
Guinea Pig Girl
The Queen
Caerdroia
Tentacular Spectacular
First and Last and Always
No History of Violence
Little Devils
Bad Faith
Made in Hong Kong
Wasps
Behind the Wall
Vile Earth, to Earth Resign
And May All Your Christmases...
Two Five Seven
Sweeter Than to Wake
Death Walks en Pointe
The Calling of Night’s Ocean


Friday, 7 September 2018

The House of Frozen Screams

It was many and many a year ago, 
     In a gothic dark chateau,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
     by the name of Thana Niveau.
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
     than to write by the moonbeam's glow.

Oh yes, it WAS "many and many a year ago". Publication is a long and arduous process. But at long last, my debut novel is making its way into the world. And look at this exquisite cover, by the hugely talented Ben Baldwin:



The book began life as The Needing, a title which later transformed into The House of Frozen Screams. Writers agonise over the silliest, most seemingly inconsequential things, and I couldn't decide between "The House" or just "House". I threw the question out to everyone on Facebook, but the vote was split. So in the end I left it up to Graeme Reynolds at Horrific Tales Publishing.

Here's the book trailer I made:



And here's the full cover, with blurb:




When Liz and Nick Holland buy Wintergate, an isolated, long-empty Victorian seaside house, they believe they have found the perfect home. However, it isn't long before it begins to have an unsettling effect on Liz. She hears the sound of crying babies in the dead of night, and a sinister presence seems to be stalking her, making her doubt her sanity. Wintergate has a dark secret. Something evil lives there, and Liz must unravel the house's twisted history before she becomes its next victim.

There will be a formal launch at Fantasycon, in Chester, 19-21 October 2018. But in the meantime, you can pre-order the Kindle edition from amazon UK. or amazon US.

And if anyone out there would like a digital copy for review, please let me know!

Monday, 3 September 2018

And Fade Out Again

The only thing stronger than mankind’s compulsion to destroy itself was the determination that it would endure. Like a virus, it adapted. It survived.
Stefani watched the colours, luminescent in the glow from the sun lamps. The light was artificial, but the surrounding coral didn’t seem to mind. It was the only thing truly thriving in the poisoned ocean. If you didn’t count the city.
By the time the human race had finally decided to stop killing each other, the planet was nearly uninhabitable. It was too late to reverse the effects of global warming. The polar ice caps were long gone and the seas had risen, drowning cities, countries and finally entire continents. Most of the land was gone, as were were any hopes of escaping to the stars to find and colonise other worlds. The space program had drowned along with most of the planet.
Stefani couldn’t imagine what it must have been like living above the surface. VR tech could approximate the experience of wandering through forests or deserts, but it all seemed so unnatural, and the animals that had once lived up there were terrifying and strange. She had never known life outside the maternal embrace of the superocean and the comforting womb of New Eden.
Once the world above had reached the point of no return, scientists and architects had focused their efforts on the world below. Or rather – the world that would soon be below. And the Eden Project in Cornwall was a perfect starting point.

from "And Fade Out Again"

Great British Horror 3: For Those in Peril is available for pre-order from Black Shuck Books!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Hallo Spacegirl

Lauren Aroeste had never encountered anything like it. The moondust. It was hypnotic. The finest powder she had ever seen, it poured through her fingers like liquid as she sifted it. Again and again. Her hand tingled beneath her glove and she found herself longing to remove the layer of protection, to feel it on her bare skin. She was also convinced she could smell it, an enticing, seductive fragrance that was both nostalgic and utterly alien.
They were on Celeia, the largest moon of the sixth planet in the 40 Eridani A system. None of the planets had shown signs of life, or even the potential for it. But Celeia had an atmosphere of its own. It was like a planet orbiting another planet.
The Earth Alliance ship Love had sent a transmission to Blackstar Station at once about their find, informing them that they were going down to explore. Her sister ships Luck and Liberty were light years away in different systems and there was friendly competition throughout the fleet to be the first to make contact with another species.
Celeia was only a moon, so the odds weren’t good. Still, the presence of an atmosphere meant that it might at least support life one day, even if that life was transplanted human colonists. The air was the right chemical mix, but the ground was completely barren. So far they had only found stones and dried salty riverbeds.
But then Lauren had discovered the moondust.
A furtive backward glance showed her the positions of the rest of the crew. Trivers and Ralston were investigating something on the other side of the ship. Sabaroff was even further away, taking readings of a jagged rock formation to the east. None of them could see Lauren. They could have no idea about the lake of moondust she had found, and she felt curiously compelled to keep it to herself. A light breeze ruffled the surface, causing the dust to ripple like liquid waves. Billowing, beckoning.
  There was something poignant about it, something so alien it was almost heartbreaking. It stirred feelings in her that she had always fought to keep suppressed. Her feelings of never fitting in. Her loneliness. Her alienation.
  All her life she’d been accused of being hypersensitive, of getting too involved, too connected, of feeling too much. And she’d come to regard affinity as a curse. She knew the others didn’t respect her, didn’t value her contributions to the mission. Sabaroff hadn’t even wanted her on his crew at all and had made no secret of his dislike of her. A liability, he’d called her behind her back. It had stung, just like the countless other barbs that had wounded her throughout her life. Wounds were supposed to heal. That’s what she’d always been told. But hers never did. Every little dig, every harsh word ever said to her – they were still there. Buried like stones at the bottom of a lake, but unmistakably there.
  The sky was pearlescent. Pale, lemony sunlight penetrated the haze, turning the ground into beaten gold. Lauren felt the sun’s warmth even through her heavy starsuit. She closed her eyes as she continued to sift the moondust. It slithered soundlessly from her hand, sinuous as a snake. Exquisite. Her skin prickled with something like arousal.
  She shook her head to clear it of the strange sleepy feeling and thumbed the button on her helmet to open a private channel to the ship’s computer.
  “Is the air safe to breathe?”
  After only a split second’s computation, Love replied softly. “Yes, it is safe. There is no indication of anything toxic or dangerous to humans.” She had the same slight accent and careful pronunciation of her Chinese programmer, and Lauren had found cold comfort in the illusion of having at least one female friend on board. 
  “What about the surface? Is it safe to touch?”
  “I do not know.”
“Should I risk it?”
  Love hesitated, apparently grappling with the dilemma. She was programmed to protect the crew and warn them of potential danger, but her creator had also endowed her with a sense of adventure and romanticism. They were all explorers, after all, and Love had as much curiosity as any of her human companions. She had to weigh that against the necessity for study and research.
  “Don’t worry, Love,” Lauren said. “You don’t have to answer that.”
  Asking the question had decided it for her anyway. Or rather, the moondust had. She unfastened her left glove and slipped it off. Alien air rushed in, the scent at once overpowering and intoxicating. For a moment Lauren was dizzy, but then her body began to acclimatise, adapting to the atmosphere. The powder seemed to be writhing below her, tempting her closer.
  Lauren couldn’t resist its allure any longer. She plunged her bare hand in up to the middle of her forearm with a gasp of delight. It was like stroking a cloud. The moondust slid over her skin, sensual, cool, impossibly soft. The dust couldn’t be alive, could it? And yet there was no denying the sensation of bonding, of communing.
  She desperately wanted to peel off her starsuit, to sink naked beneath the lake of moondust. The urge was almost irresistible. Slowly she began to pull her arm up and out of the powder. It slid over her skin. Its individual particles were too tiny to see, but she could feel each single grain. Even stranger, she sensed desire in it. Was it intelligent? Or was it just some kind of weird chemical attraction, like iron filings drawn to a magnet?
  It was all she could do to withdraw her hand completely and she felt the absence of the moondust instantly and acutely. Her skin ached to touch it again. It whispered against the dead surface of the moon, calling to her.
  She was barely aware of loosening the clasps of her helmet and pulling it off. Celeia’s atmosphere caressed her face and hair and Lauren savoured the wonderful, indescribable aroma. She thrust her hand into the lake once more, surprised and a little embarrassed at the euphoria that flooded her mind and body. It was beyond any sexual experience she’d ever had, beyond any she could even imagine. And before she knew what she was doing, she had filled her hand with the dust and drawn it to her nose. She inhaled the scent deeply, drunk on the experience. Then she opened her hand and buried her face in it.
  The dust flowed over her, as insubstantial as smoke. She opened her mouth to it and the taste was beyond her capacity to process. Every nerve in her body felt stimulated past bearing, awake and alive, as though she had suddenly woken from death. She belonged here. This was where she was meant to be. The powder caressed her, silky and refreshing. It seeped into her pores, kissing her veins, carrying her awareness far, far away.
  Far away . . .
  From far away there came sounds, alien sounds that meant nothing to her. She closed them off in another part of her mind and immersed herself fully in the sensations gifted to her by the moondust.
  It took several long moments before she began to dimly recognise what she was hearing. A voice, familiar and commonplace. It grated, hurting her ears. Then a name. Hers.
  “Aroeste! What the hell!”
  Then she was assaulted. Unwelcome sensations crashed through her body, pulling her away from the source of pleasure. Her skin burned as she was torn away, as though billions of tiny filaments had entered her skin and were now being ripped out, like velcro. At the same time she felt a different kind of pain, a pain that wasn’t hers. The pain of another’s life.
  “No!” she screamed. “Leave me alone! Don’t hurt it!”
  But it was too late. The spell was broken, and even as her crewmates pulled her from the moondust lake, she understood that she hadn’t been quite herself.
  “What the hell happened?” Sabaroff demanded. “What are you doing?”
  He was slapping her exposed face, swatting and brushing at her hair and her chest as if she’d been attacked by a swarm of wasps, and she realised with a start that she had taken off her helmet and unzipped her starsuit.
  “I’m fine,” she said, catching his wrists. “Don’t touch me!”
  He withdrew, but the three men shared a concerned glance as they peered at her. “You were lying face-down in that stuff,” Ralston said. “You looked like you were drowning in it.”
  Trivers brushed something off the back of her neck and she batted his hands away.
  “That stuff might still be on you,” he said.
  “It doesn’t work like that,” she said sadly, gazing at the pale lake, now silent and still. “You won’t find a single grain on me. It’s all right there. It left me.”
  They stared at it, their faces a mix of horror and fascination.
  “What do you mean,” Trivers asked, “it left you?”
  Lauren blinked at him in confusion, only comprehending half his words. “Can’t you smell it?”
  They shared a look of concern and confusion, as though she’d gone mad.
  “Look,” she cried, reaching out to touch the moondust again. “Just touch it. It’s alive!”
  It slid through her bare fingers again and she couldn’t repress the sigh of pleasure at the sensation. Even so, she sensed a kind of sorrow in it, a wistful longing. Their bond had been cruelly broken, the connection damaged.
  Trivers filled his gloved hand with dust and let it cascade back into the lake, but his expression of puzzlement and worry didn’t change.
  “It’s just moondust,” he said.
  Ralston nodded as he tried it too, clearly experiencing nothing unusual. “Yeah. The moon’s dead, Lauren. No sign of life at all, not even this stuff.”
  Lauren shuddered at his use of the phrase. This stuff.
  Trivers put his arm around her and hauled her to her feet. “Come on, let’s get you back to the ship. Love, prepare to run a decontamination programme on Aroeste.”
  “But there’s no reason ––”
  “Yes there is,” Sabaroff snapped. His concern was gone, replaced by his usual gruffness.
  The computer took his side. “It is a mandatory procedure after contact with an unknown substance. I am sorry.”
  Lauren sagged in her crewmates’ arms as they led her away. She glanced back longingly at the moondust, which shivered like a disturbed pool of water. Her insides ached with every step that took her further away, and by the time they got her back to the ship, she was crying.

The readings were unequivocal: Celeia was completely dead, just like the rest of the system. There were no signs of life, not even the simplest bacteria. Love had analysed the moondust through its contact with Lauren’s starsuit and found it to be nothing more than powdered rock, the kind to be found covering any moon in the galaxy. Its consistency was finer than most but it was otherwise entirely unremarkable. It was surprising that there wasn’t even a single particle of it on Lauren’s suit or her skin, but the rest of the crew, Love included, seemed satisfied that the breeze had simply blown it away.
  Lauren knew better.
  That night she lay in her bunk, wide awake and listening. The others were talking about her, but she didn’t have to hear them to know what they were saying. She had glared icily at Sabaroff earlier for suggesting that her judgment might be impaired by processes going on within her own body. It was no surprise that he felt that way; she’d sensed that her gender was at the root of his dislike of her from the beginning.
  “I get it,” she’d said coolly. “Impressionable female. Hormones out of control. Biological clock ticking. I thought that kind of sexist talk had died a long, long time ago.”
  The others had come to her defence and at least Sabaroff had had the good grace to look ashamed. He’d shrugged and apologised – grudgingly, at a loss to offer any other possible explanation for her experience.
  It didn’t matter anyway. They were leaving in the morning. Love had sent her report to Blackstar saying they’d found nothing.
  So that was it.
  Except it wasn’t. Not for Lauren.
  The wind whistled outside on the supposedly dead moon of Celeia while Lauren waited for the others to go to sleep. She checked her bedside scanner every few minutes until she saw that they were all in their individual compartments, and then she asked Love to monitor their breathing until she was sure they were asleep. Then she crept out into the corridor.
  She left her starsuit hanging in the decontamination chamber. She didn’t need it where she was going.
  “Listen to me, Love. I’m going to go outside, but I don’t want you to alert the others. Can you do that for me? Keep a little secret?”
  “I am not allowed to withhold information from the crew.”
  “Let me rephrase it, then. Don’t wake them up. You’re not withholding information; you’re just not volunteering it.”
  Love was silent for a few seconds, just like a human contemplating a difficult moral decision. “The moon is safe,” she said after a while, as though thinking aloud. “There is no danger. Therefore I am comfortable not waking the crew.”
  Lauren smiled and stroked the console affectionately. “Bye-bye, Love.”
She opened the airlock and slipped out into the night. Three of the planet’s other moons were overhead, casting varicoloured light across the surface of Celeia, but Lauren didn’t need their help to find her way back to the lake. The rock was cold and hard beneath her bare feet, the night air chilly against her naked skin. But she would be warm soon.
  She could see the glow of the moondust as she made her way towards it, and as she drew nearer, it began to shimmer. A bluish light flickered within it, conveying a sense of joy, like that of lovers reunited.
  Lauren didn’t hesitate. She walked straight into the lake as though it were snow, sinking up to her knees, her hips, her chest. She lay back and spread her arms and legs wide, offering every inch of her skin to its contact.
  The moondust reacted instantly, flowing over her like waves, welcoming her. She felt chosen. Cherished.
  The others were wrong. There was life here, just life of a kind inconceivable to cold circuits and microprocessors, to close-minded humans. Unimaginable to those it couldn’t connect with.
  Lauren sank beneath the surface as the particles filled her, the moondust permeating every pore. It smelled of rapture, it tasted of freedom. It was sublime order, exhilarating chaos. It was killing her. It was bringing her to life.
  The dust swirled around and within her, the spores of a living world. There was no life on Celeia because Celeia itself was life. How long had this lonely organism been here, adrift on a sea of stars, waiting for a compatible being it could join with? Millions of years? Billions? Lauren couldn’t bear to contemplate it. So much solitude, so much yearning. It made her flesh and blood ache.
  The painful empathy was edged gently from her mind as she gave herself completely to the lake, letting the moondust cover her, absorb her, free her. There would be no trace of her, not that any instruments could find. She would be here forever, part of a living world, one with the stars.
  Her last human thought was a message sent out into the cosmos. Not a farewell, but a greeting.
  She said hello.


(for David Bowie)

(c) Thana Niveau

Monday, 30 October 2017

The Sound of Horror

What does horror sound like? You can find out today on Brighton & Hove's Coastal Waters Review, hosted by Caroline Waters, with special guests Tom Johnstone and... me!

It's on at 4 pm. (That's UK time and our clocks just went back, so as far as I know, that means time has stopped entirely in the rest of the world.)

You can hear us live here:

http://www.bhcr.org.uk/bhcr/

Tom will read his story "The Apotheosis of Jenny Swallow" and he'll also be discussing the role of sound in horror. I'll be reading an extract from my radio-based horror story "Two Five Seven", about a little girl who hears a ghostly voice coming from her grandfather's old radio. Has she merely found a numbers station? Or is there something else at work behind those dials that look like staring eyes?