Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Whispering Woman


© Chrissie Demant
It's Day 13 of the Vault of Evil Advent Calendar. It's the fifth year for the calendar and this one is dedicated to the memory of Michel Parry.

If you've never experienced the horror advent calendar before, you're in for a treat! 24 of them, actually, one gruesome story for each day leading up to Christmas, many of them gorgeously illustrated by the uber-talented Chrissie Demant.

And if you really can't get enough, the first page of the thread has links to all the stories in the previous five calendars.

But today is the 13th, which means it's my turn to share a little tale with you. It's called "The Whispering Woman" and you can read it here.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Joel Lane - "Like Shattered Stone"

photo © Nicholas Royle
BLACK COUNTRY PROPHET is a project begun by Allen Ashley and Simon Marshall-Jones as a way of preserving the memory of Joel Lane and creating an online archive whereby others could discover his work. The series features stories by Joel, individually chosen by those whose lives he touched.

I've written a piece for the archive about a story of Joel's that always haunted me:

The Lost District was the first collection of Joel’s I ever read and the story ‘Like Shattered Stone’ broke my heart. It’s easy to make assumptions about a writer based on their writing (which are frequently wrong), but that particular story’s portrait of a man subconsciously sculpting the soul of a dying city told me something real about the person who’d written it. Joel was a man who knew pain. He knew loneliness and heartache and the healing power of art and music. It was simply too raw and honest to be anything but true.
I had already met him online, where we’d shared some forum chat and a few emails, but I was still intimidated to meet him in person. He’s one of those writers you envy, one of those whose prose seems effortlessly beautiful and yet so devastatingly fragile. But Joel himself never seemed fragile and he was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. He was a confident and knowledgeable speaker who helped me through my very first panel and he also inspired me to write my very first published story, for the anti-fascist anthology Never Again.
My most enduring image of Joel is from the World Horror convention in Brighton, where John Llewellyn Probert and I both danced with him to cheesy 80s pop. I had never seen Joel so happy. He seemed far, far away from the bleak and damaged characters of his fiction, from the grimy underworld he drew into the unflinching light and that’s how I’ll always remember him. ‘Like Shattered Stone’ is one of those stories you can return to like a painting, seeing something new each time. Joel often wrote about things or people coming apart, and the image of broken glass was ever-present. It’s a story about coldness and betrayal, of abandonment and discovery. Joel’s empathy runs throughout and the prose is scattered with poetic phrases that take my breath away. Snowflakes become “the dead skin of angels” and a snowy street resembles “a sea of broken glass”. Trees drip with light, “melting like chandeliers in a firestorm”. But it’s the emerging sculpture itself that holds the most potent image and it’s one I’ll leave you to discover for yourself.
Thana Niveau

You can read "Like Shattered Stone" here. 
I had to transcribe it myself for the archive, so please forgive any typos. They're more likely to be mine than Joel's!

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Calling of Night's Ocean

Interzone no. 255 marks my very first SF publication. It's a story I'm extremely proud of and one that's very close to my heart.

I wanted to explore a subject that’s always fascinated and horrified me – the 1960s experiments with dolphin communication, particularly the LSD-assisted ones pioneered by Dr John C Lilly, he of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) and ECCO (Earth Coincidence Control Office) fame. There’s a whole galaxy of story ideas in his various research endeavours but I’d always wanted to write about the dolphins.

I love dolphins. Once upon a time I thought about becoming a marine biologist (since I couldn’t be a professional mermaid) and, while that didn’t happen, I never lost my love of dolphins. I'm sure this won't be my only dolphin story, or indeed my only story told by a non-human narrator. I find the ocean and its creatures endlessly fascinating and I've got loads of ideas drifting around in my head. One day they will all rise to the surface. (See what I did there?)

Anyway, I'm super chuffed about my SF "debut" - and in Interzone no less! I couldn't be more delighted with the story illustration by Martin Hanford and I can't wait to get my hands on the actual magazine.



Monday, 27 October 2014

Signed, signed, signed!

© Peter Coleborn
It was a grand day out at London's Forbidden Planet, with 30+ authors and artists in attendance to sign, sign, sign! Of course, there's never enough time to talk to everyone you want to talk to but hey, it was still a feat having all of us in one room for a few hours.

Here I am with Stephen Volk, who was horrified to think I might be sitting next to him...

© Peter Coleborn
He was spared, though! We were seated alphabetically, so I was between Kim Newman and Reggie Oliver, who put a black veil on my head and turned me into the Woman in Black.

© Reggie Oliver
© Peter Coleborn
I signed about 200 sheets for the special edition of Best New Horror 25, along with loads of copies of the book itself and Zombie Apocalypse: Endgame.

© Peter Coleborn
Afterwards we went to the Bloomsbury Tavern (and hooray for technology! Without my phone's "Maps" app, we'd have been roaming the streets endlessly), where of course there wasn't enough room for everyone and I didn't get to see everyone I wanted to. Ah well. It's impossible to catch up with such a huge group, but there's always Fantasycon next year. Until then, I hope you can read the manic purple scrawl that is my signature!





Monday, 6 October 2014

Panic on the streets of London!

The good kind, that is. A mass signing!

I'll be there and so will at least 30 other authors. We'll be signing copies of various different anthologies we're in, including Best New Horror 25 (the 25th anniversary edition!) and Zombie Apocalypse: Endgame.

No Tricks, just Treats this Hallowe’en as the greatest names in British horror gather downstairs at the FORBIDDEN PLANET LONDON MEGASTORE to sign their terrifying tomes on Saturday 25 October, from 1:00–2:00 pm.

Here’s a list of the authors, artists and editors who are participating:

Pat Cadigan
Ramsey Campbell
Michael Chislett
Adrian Cole
Peter Crowther
Les Edwards
Jo Fletcher
Christopher Fowler
Amanda Foubister
Stephen Gallagher
Stephen Jones
Paul Kane
Alison Littlewood
Paul McAuley
Gary McMahon
Lou Morgan
Mark Morris
Kim Newman
Thana Niveau
Reggie Oliver
Sarah Pinborough
John Llewellyn Probert
Joe Roberts
Lynda E. Rucker
Mark Samuels
Robert Shearman
Laurence Staig
Lavie Tidhar
Simon Kurt Unsworth
Stephen Volk
Conrad Williams

There will be in-store give-aways and, for the first 10 people to buy all five ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! titles on the day, a prize draw for the latest Sony XperiaTM Z3 phone (worth more than £470!) to tie in with the publication of ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! ENDGAME.

For those who cannot make it into London, you can pre-order your signed books through the FORBIDDEN PLANET website.

Following the signing, many of the authors will move across to The Bloomsbury Tavern, 236 Shaftsbury Avenue, where THE BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY is hosting an Open Day in the Upstairs Bar, and where you will be able to socialise with the writers, artists and publishers into the early evening. There will also be a raffle of books featuring some of the authors present.

So, please come along and join us on Saturday the 25th for THE GREATEST HALLOWE’EN HORROR SIGNING EVER!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

No History of Violence

Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease is here at last, an anthology of horror stories inspired by the government's "austerity" measures. It's also the swan song of the late Joel Lane, a project that was very close to his heart.

Co-edited by Tom Johnstone and published by Gray Friar Press, it contains 17 original stories of the dystopian reality we live in now.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Foreword by Tom Johnsone
A Cry for Help by Joel Lane
The Battering Stone by Simon Bestwick
The Ballad of Boomtown by Priya Sharma
The Lucky Ones by John Llewellyn Probert
The Sun Trap by Stephen Hampton
Only Bleeding by Gary McMahon
The Lemmy / Trump Test by Anna Taborska
Falling into Stone by John Howard
Ptichka by Laura Lauro
The Devil’s Only Friend by Stephen Bacon
The Procedure by David Williams
Pieces of Ourselves by Rosanne Rabinowitz
A Simple Matter of Space by John Forth
The Privilege Card by David Turnbell
The Ghost at the Feast by Alison Littlewood
The Opaque District by Andrew Hook
No History of Violence by Thana Niveau
Afterword by Tom Johnstone

Here you will encounter the
 terrible price exacted for treatment in a private hospital, an ancient curse on an abandoned housing development, a torture gang of wealthy thugs who hunt the poor, suicidal apparitions encountered by a healthcare PR man, and many more macabre visions.

It's available direct from Gray Friar Press and amazon (UK) and amazon (US).







Wednesday, 27 August 2014

FrightFest 14 report

Wow, what a festival - 26 films in five days! By the end they were starting to blur into one huge Lynchian nightmare of a film and there are certain images (and one sound effect) I’ll never get out of my head.

It still blows my mind that there are that many hardcore horror fans in the world, and it’s always a delight to be part of this weird and wonderful tribe for a few days each year.

The GOOD:
It was a great year for analog synths and we have a few new film scores to track down, even if nothing will ever top the magnificent score for MANIAC (iTunes tells me that one’s been played some 60+ times on my computer!). It was also a great year for women, with some first-rate performances.

The BAD:
I left my shoes behind in the cinema! The staff will probably wonder which film was so terrifying it knocked me right out of them.

The UGLY:
DoesTheDogDie.com can add a few new films to its database. Yes, this year it was DeadDogFest, with at least SIX doggies becoming statistics. Kill all the people you want (kiddywinks too) but leave the animals alone!

But hey, as you must always keep repeating: It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie. It’s only . . .

A movie like THE GUEST is a real delight and the sort of thing that’s made for fans and festivals like this one. A tribute to John Carpenter and 80s action flicks with the first great synth score of the festival. Director Adam Wingard won us over with this one and we’re proud to say we’re converted fans now. It was also a special treat for me to hear Love & Rockets’ “Haunted When the Minutes Drag” on the Vue’s state-of-the-art sound system. I had the song in my head for the rest of the week.

The midnight show was ZOMBEAVERS. Better than any film with that title and concept has any right to be. But we’re suckers for that kind of fantastically trashy fun. Even though the dog died - boo!

Eli Roth’s THE GREEN INFERNO is sort of a reboot of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and overall I liked it (I think) but I did feel uncomfortable with the use of actual tribespeople who probably had no idea they were in an exploitation film - exploiting themselves.

The cannibal ultraviolence didn’t put us off our lunch, though, and we skipped what we gather was the real turkey of the festival, SHOCKWAVE DARKSIDE 3D to treat ourselves to one proper meal. At one point, as another film was starting, someone shouted out “SHOCKWAVE DARKSIDE 3D!” like some deranged football fan. We don’t know why but it kept us laughing for the rest of the festival.

LATE PHASES was next. A low-budget werewolf pic with some cool practical effects (hooray!) and a solid central performance. Unfortunately, the doggie body count rose again with this one. (And apparently also with PRESERVATION - which we didn’t see.)

Then it was off to the Discovery Screens to unearth two real gems: THE FORGOTTEN and THE CANAL. THE FORGOTTEN is an effective, scary, and very moving urban ghost story. I got something in my eye towards the end . . .

Irish indie horror THE CANAL is a great mix of haunted house / J-horror / Polanski-esque paranoia / descent into madness / Victorian ghost story. And even if one of the final scenes shamelessly borrows from another iconic horror film, the little twist that follows kind of makes it okay. In any case, it scared the pants off me (no, not the shoes) and wins for scariest film of the fest.

STARRY EYES was a nice surprise. It took a well-worn cliche (Hollywood is bad and uses people) and turned it into something gruesome and real, with a fantastic leading lady (Alex Essoe), who really puts herself through it and was apparently up for anything. “Anything” included going through a Seth Brundle style transformation, slaughtering her friends and being splattered with blood and guts and prosthetics that took hours and hours to apply (and probably wash off too). Definitely one I’ll watch again!

Aussie psycho-horror THE BABADOOK claimed another dog. But it also had a brilliant performance by its leading lady. Essie Davis went through a different kind of transformation, swinging from sweet and long-suffering widow into the Mother From Hell. She scared me more than the Babadook himself. This is a great film with a great story that works on multiple levels. A real triumph for debut director Jennifer Kent.

Adam Green’s fantastically clever and scary DIGGING UP THE MARROW proves that there are still inventive things to be done with the found footage format. The always-brilliant Ray Wise is on top form here as a loony monster-watcher.

The night ended with the super-creepy CREEP (aka PEACHFUZZ) (and yet more proof that found footage isn’t dead yet). A truly unnerving portrait of a man no one should be alone in the tub with and I had to wonder if it was inspired by Edward Albee’s THE ZOO STORY. One of the true gems of the festival. And if you’re wondering which film had that sound effect and image that disturbed me so much - this was it. (Is that where I lost my shoes?)

John and I did a little re-enactment of a scene from the film...


FAULTS was another total surprise and the always-excellent-but-here-exceptional Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the third candidate for Best Actress. It’s an absolutely riveting piece with Winstead and Leland Orser in a motel room for most of the film. I had no idea where it was going at any point and my expectations were constantly subverted. It lies somewhere between horror and black comedy and I really can’t stop thinking about it. Don’t read anything about it - just see it.

OPEN WINDOWS by the manic Nacho (TIMECRIMES) Vigalondo (no, Spellcheck, not Vagabond) was great fun. I confess I was a little lost at times but the concept was so clever and so well done I didn’t even care. I was mesmerised by the constantly opening/closing/shifting windows and Elijah Wood is great as the hapless pawn in a techno game of cat and “mouse”. (See what I did there?)

Then there was STAGE FRIGHT. Introduced by a wildly un-enthusiastic Ian Rattray, whose cup of tea it clearly wasn’t, it was a real crowd-pleaser and I enjoyed telling him so afterwards. Riffing on such horror musical classics (a far-too-small subgenre) as PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, ROCKY HORROR and I WAS A TEENAGE WEREBEAR (from CHILLERAMA), it was the most fun I had in a single film. The songs were hilarious and catchy, the kills superbly executed, and the little tribute moments to other films never ceased to raise a cheer. It will definitely be added to our list of feel-good films.

Nicholas McCarthy’s HOME (aka AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR) was next. A super-creepy ghost story paying homage to TWIN PEAKS, J&B and THE HOWLING in the first 5 minutes, and then catapulting me back into my 80s-era adolescence for the rest. It wears its influences on its sleeve, with nods to DON’T LOOK NOW, ALICE SWEET ALICE and THE ENTITY. McCarthy’s debut, THE PACT, really scared me and HOME featured a lot of the elements that worked so well in that film. Anyone can make a derelict gothic asylum scary but how scary is a normal suburban American tract house? Very, if McCarthy is behind the camera. Even when the mirror is covered by an Ocean Pacific hoodie of the type everyone in high school wore, you know something spooky is just waiting to be let out. Corner-of-the-eye images constantly made me jump in this one, although I have to say I preferred the subtler ones without the musical stingers. The third act was right in my personal horror zone but I can’t say any more than that without spoilers.

The uber-strange DER SAMURAI (“The most dangerous thing to come out of Germany since 1945”) left me confused but still appreciative of the imagery. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it. A bizarre metaphor for protagonist Jakob’s closeted homosexuality, it seems to have upset at least one reviewer, who thought it was condemning gay sex by portraying it as violent. I didn’t see that at all; what I got was the Cronenbergian idea of birthing one’s own inner turmoil, a la THE BROOD. I particularly loved the image of Jakob running down the street of the elaborate model of the village he’s created. And a woman’s severed head opening her eyes and smiling. Alas, another dog died, but this one also had a real wolf in it (who didn’t die) so it scores points for me there.

UK-shot werewolf western BLOOD MOON was a revelation, with a whole cast of Brits doing spot-on American accents and invoking the spirit of DJANGO (the original, of course) with its mud-drenched town. See John Llewellyn Probert's review for a more in-depth description, as I’d just be repeating what he said.

VHS: VIRAL was terrible except for Nacho Vigalondo’s segment. And another dog died!

THE SIGNAL was an okay sci-fi film that frankly suffered from having Laurence Fishburne in it. Don’t get me wrong - I think he’s excellent but it was impossible not to see Morpheus every time his kindly, soft-spoken character talked. A bit of an odd choice for a festival closer but hey - it can’t always be BIG BAD WOLVES.

We were all heartily sick of the trailer for THE STRAIN by the end (someone even paper-bombed our seats one day with flyers for it in case we’d missed the point) and when it came on for the last time it prompted a spontaneous ironic round of applause. Conversely, the Arrow showreel was always a joy to see. The spirit of ROCKY HORROR was invoked the final time it ran, with everyone shouting the dialogue along with the showreel: “I caught a big fat bug, right in my spiderweb!” “You better run - for your lives!” “C'mon, shoot me, I’m goin’ nowhere!” “Why is this happening?”


Well, it’s all over. Again. We’ve seen all the films we could possibly have seen (and a couple we wish we hadn’t). So much wine, so many hot dogs, so much fun, so little sleep. And it’s all over for another year. When we came home we watched FINAL DESTINATION 5 and we’re already scouring the multiplex listings for something to see this weekend. Because like Depeche Mode, we just can’t get enough. And we can’t wait for Glasgow! Hope to see you there!



Sunday, 6 July 2014

Book signing: Best British Horror

What are you doing the evening of Friday 11 July? Are you in London? Can you GET to London? Well, then you're in luck! Come along to Waterstones in Covent Garden between 18.30 and 20.30 to meet some of the authors of Best British Horror! I'll be there and so will John Llewellyn Probert. Editor Johnny Mains will be there too. And Stephen Volk. And Reggie Oliver. And Rob Shearman. And Les Edwards. And Jasper Bark. And a host of assorted other madmen and madwomen.



There will be readings, a Q&A session, a signing (of course) and . . . WINE! Yes, you heard that right. Wine!

There's even an official T-shirt!

If you're not there, the Pale Woman may have to come and find you . . .

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Bloghop! Three things I don't write and three things I do

Stephen Bacon tagged me in the 3 Things blog, so here goes. 3 things I don't write + 3 things I do.

It's surprisingly difficult to sift through your own fiction to see what your unique themes (and non-themes) are. But here's what I came up with:

I DON'T WRITE ABOUT...

Politics

You won't find any propaganda or heavy-duty political machinations between my characters because politics (and more specifically, political writing) just doesn't interest me. I don't consider the back-stabbing manoeuvres of characters in Game of Thrones or Dune to be "political" as such. What I have an aversion to is either the preachy, crusader-type "agenda" writing or the everyday mundanities of committee meetings, big business, elections, etc. Fiction (writing AND reading) is an escape for me from all those things. That said, Joel Lane got me to write two stories for him with political (ish) themes: "The Death of Dreams" in Never Again and "No History of Violence" in Horror Uncut. So - hey, never say never.

Religion

Unless it's pagan or witchy or Satanic, again, I'm just not interested. I was raised by heathens and never went to church, so I'm unusually ignorant about basic Christian stuff and Bible stories that most people know about and take for granted. What the hell is Palm Sunday? Shrove Tuesday? Cults, on the other hand, both fascinate and terrify me, and that's an area I could definitely see myself exploring in fiction. But I wouldn't know where to begin writing a religious character and I suspect it would be too easy to make them a caricature of all that's bad about Christianity.

Miserablism

It's just too depressing for me and I don't get any pleasure out of angry stories either. For me, fiction is about losing myself in a world and I don't want to be lost in a world of grimy pubs and crime-ridden estates and filthy homes with battered wives and abused kids. There's too much of that in the real world and I don't want it in my fantasy world. I've written the occasional misery-drenched setting ("Antlers" and "Under the Skin" spring to mind) but they're not the kinds of places I want to spend time, even in my imagination. I can READ it in small doses but I wouldn't want to put myself through creating it.

I DO WRITE ABOUT...

The Ocean

I love the ocean and all its creatures. (See? I even capitalised it up there.) The very first time I tried diving and took my first breath underwater, it was like coming home. Only astronauts and divers have the experience of moving in three dimensions and it's a magical feeling. Probably my very favourite of all my stories is "The Curtain", which takes place almost entirely underwater. I have so many water-themed stories in me that I'm sure will come out over the years. The sea is awesome in the truest sense of the word, but it's more a Machen sense of awe than a Lovecraftian one. It's beautiful and majestic and inspiring. And while there are awful things in it like jellyfish, any place with dolphins and whales will always be home to me. I want to write about a flooded earth and I'd also love to write a far-future alternate earth novel where man returns to the ocean like the dolphins did millions of years ago. Oh - and I'd love to do a novel featuring nothing but dolphins.

Female-specific horror

It's probably just because I AM a woman but I see a lot of horror that is unique to women in my stuff. I have a real horror of the whole reproductive process (and babies!) and the thought of something growing inside me like a parasite fills me with dread and revulsion. So naturally that crops up a lot in my stories. Our bodies do a lot of weird and creepy things and it's all fodder for the fiction. (It won't surprise you to hear that David Cronenberg is one of my biggest influences.) Likewise, our female-specific vulnerability is a rich mine of inspiration. I've only touched on that worst female fear of all - rape - in one story, "Antlers". That one sprang from a nightmare I had one morning. And while I escaped by waking up, I didn't spare my protagonist. It wasn't easy to write but I wanted to push myself. "Ultrasound Shadow" deals with pregnancy horror (but in my own special way) and "A Time of Choice" is a coming-of-age story that owes a lot to Angela Carter.

Dreams and madness

They say write what you know but my own maxim is: Write what scares you. And madness is probably my worst fear. As any fellow neurotic can attest, whatever you fear most is what haunts you in your dreams. And I have a lot of nightmares along those lines. I love the Lovecraftian idea of something so immense and horrific it drives you insane and I've written a few of those scenarios. Dreams and nightmares are some of my favourite things to write and it's where I get a lot of my inspiration. My very first published story, "The Death of Dreams", concerned a futuristic device called the Dreamcatcher, which recorded your dreams in a form that could be played back. Naturally, the technology was abused by the tabloid press, who used it to ruin lives. In "The Call of the Dreaming Moon", my Cherokee heroine dreams the end of the world. And in my 1960s Lovecraftian novella Not to Touch the Earth, my hippie protagonist has the trip to end all trips the first time she drops acid.

Those are only three things I write about a lot. I could go on to include J-horror style unfair vengeance scenarios, Victorian settings and stories from a kid's POV. (I don't like kids but I remember being one and I love exploring the special vulnerability and innocence in a story from a child protagonist's perspective.) But I'll save those for the next bloghop that wants to know.

I have no idea who else to tag, since I'm quite late to the party. But if anyone reading this wants to do it, consider yourself tagged by me!



Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Face

CROESO Y CYMRU!
Welcome to Wales and all the terrors that lie therein. It's a land of beauty and ancient mystery, of dark, swirling mists and mountains.

I have a tale for you. It's called "The Face" and it's about one of my favourite places in Wales, a lovely waterfall called Pistyll Rhaeadr. That's it there on the left. You wouldn't think anything bad could happen there, would you? Well, even the most beautiful places can harbour ancient evil.

My story is about a girl who discovers something very strange in her photographs of Pistyll Rhaeadr. She's convinced she can see a face in the changing currents of the falling water. Her boyfriend Owain and his brother Gareth see it too but they don't seem to find it strange. That winter the entire waterfall freezes solid and Gareth, the adventurous one, decides to climb it.

That's all I'll say about it. If you want to know more - well, you'll just have to get the book, won't you? You won't be disappointed, I promise. You're always in good hands with Paul Finch. And just look at that list of contributors! Reggie Oliver . . . Simon Clark . . . Stephen Volk . . . Tim Lebbon . . . Ray Cluley . . . Gary Fry . . . Oh - and John Llewellyn Probert, of course.  :-)

I'm certainly looking forward to reading all those stories myself. Although it might make visiting my Welsh in-laws a little more . . . unnerving.



Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Tentacular Spectacular

I hope I'm not tempting fate by posting about it before I hold the actual book in my hands. But I *have* seen photographic evidence on the Interwebs that it exists so I'm taking the risk. (I'm just too excited not to share!)

Two years ago I announced the inclusion of a story of mine in the Chaosium anthology Steampunk Cthulhu. And at long last the book is finally out!

Here's a tiny taste...

As the door closed behind her she became aware of a dank and pervasive smell. The interior of the shop was entirely at odds with the beautiful corsetry on display. The surfaces were furred with dust and the walls were spotted with ichorous yellow stains and tufts of fungus. Lucy pressed a lace handkerchief to her face and she was just turning to leave when she saw the book.
       

On a battered lectern in one corner, a large volume lay open. Curious, Lucy inched closer, realising as she did so that the book was the source of the stench. Its crumbling pages were warped and stained and the stand beneath it dripped with foul water. But although she was repulsed, Lucy found herself peering closer at the open pages. The spiky text was presumably some foreign language but it was the drawing that really intrigued her. A peculiar multi-legged creature hovered midway down the page, its single monstrous eye seeming to stare directly at her from the depths of some awful abyss.

       The oppressive smell was making her lightheaded and she backed away slowly, determined to get away from the book. As she watched, the creature’s legs seemed to wave like fingers. Was it levering itself up out of the page?

It's available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Shortlisted!

I can't believe it… My ballet giallo "Death Walks en Pointe" has been nominated for a British Fantasy award for best short story of the year! I really like that story a lot and I'm very proud of it but I never imagined it would be shortlisted for the award. I have some very intimidating competition and I wish them all good luck. May the best story win!

In other exciting news, Best British Horror 2014 is out and I have my contributor copy at last. And what a beautiful (read: horrific!) book it is too. I've already read quite a few of the stories included and it's a fantastic line-up. I hope it does really well. Maybe this time next year will see it garner its own nomination...

Congratulations to all the other nominees!


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Creative Process Blog Tour

I've been tagged by Ramsey Campbell on the Creative Process Blog Tour (or Facebook if you are blog-less), in which each participating writer answers the same 4 questions and passes the baton to two more writers. So - Anna Taborska and Allison Littlewood, that's you!  :-)

What am I working on?

Any number of things at once. Right now I'm writing a novel called The Needing. It's a haunted house story about a young couple who don't want children. But their strange new house has other plans, rooted in its gruesome Victorian history. The story is a manifestation of my own personal Cronenbergian body horror, as well as a bit of self-indulgence of pet themes. One character proved so problematic for such a long time that I thought I might have to either kill him or scrap him and start over. But he's finally starting to reveal himself and the writing is much easier now.
       I've also been writing short stories at the same time, including a Lovecraftian novella (Not to Touch the Earth), which will hopefully be out later this year. I'm also trying to do something with the stew of ideas I have for a story based on John C Lilly's kooky 1970s research with dolphins (giving them LSD, trying to communicate with them to facilitate contact with aliens, etc.). It's like being lost in the woods and not knowing which path to take. Each one leads somewhere interesting but which one leads where I'm going?

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to think it differs from other work in the same way I differ from other people. No two writers are the same; therefore how could any two stories be the same? I hope my work is uniquely "me", exploring as it does the things that frighten and intrigue me specifically. I think my writing is distinctly female and probably very revealing of my personal neuroses and quirks (a kind person might say "eccentricities"). My stuff probably wears its influences on its sleeve but so far no one's accused me of trying to BE anyone else, so I must be getting the balance right.

Why do I write what I do?

I just write what comes out - who knows why that is? I don't necessarily try to write something scary or horrifying; I just write what scares or horrifies ME and hope it will resonate with others. I love exploring things on the page I could or would never want to experience in real life and I suppose I'm a bit psychologically masochistic in that what I enjoy most of all is poking around in the dark, cobwebby corners of my subconscious. We all play the obsessive "What if?" game and horror writers play the darkest possible version of it. Dreams and nightmares are also a major influence and inspiration.

How does my writing process work?

It's pretty chaotic and undisciplined! I'm at my best early in the morning but brainstorming obviously happens any and everywhere. Usually I write at my computer, with film soundtracks as accompaniment. (Christopher Young is my favourite composer, followed by Howard Shore - they're my muses.) I've never been able to write in public, so the coffee shop setting doesn't work for me. I need to be isolated and feel secure in my surroundings and I'm just not comfortable opening myself up in public the way I have to do to write. That's not to say I'm a bleed-on-the-page type, but I'm too introverted to let go "out there" the way I can when I'm alone. (I did however write my first short story, "From Hell to Eternity", on a transatlantic flight to see my parents, but then I'm nothing if not inconsistent.) Some of the most productive writing I've ever done was at a mini writing retreat with my husband (John Llewellyn Probert for those who don't know). I filled a sketchpad with three different stories that weekend!
       Like most writers I'm constantly observing and taking notes. I always called my mental junk room of ideas the "Bradbury box" because I envisioned it like the toy dinosaur-cluttered study on Ray Bradbury Theatre. Then last year I got a REAL Bradbury box for my birthday, so now lots of ideas get physically scribbled on scraps of paper and buried in there for later excavation. I especially love coming across some old note I have no memory of writing or even any clue what it means. It's as though those thoughts came from some other me. It often happens that I'll read a story of mine and not remember where the idea came from or even how I wrote it. (I keep a separate journal of story notes now so I don't forget!)


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

More horrors on the way

I have happy news!

My story "No History of Violence" will feature in the forthcoming anthology Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease, edited by Joel Lane and Tom Johnstone, published by Gray Friar Press. Watch this space - Table of Contents coming soon!

I'm also delighted to announce that my notorious "Guinea Pig Girl" (from The Tenth Black Book of Horror) has crept her way into both Best British Horror (edited by Johnny Mains) and the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 25 (edited by Stephen Jones).

I have other stories due to rear their dark and scaly heads very soon but I'll leave off talking about them until I have book covers to share.

For now, here's a shot of me being absorbed by the stones at Avebury…


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Call of the Dreaming Moon

At last I have some news! I have so many stories out in the wild right now and it's been a frustrating few months not being able to talk about any of them. But finally they are starting to pop up.

Let me introduce you to another little Lovecraft mash-up: Sword & Mythos. This time it's - well, sword & sorcery vs Lovecraftian horror. I'm part Cherokee so I though it would be fun to write about Native Americans in a high fantasy/horror setting. I'd never written about the Dreamlands before and the idea of a Cherokee girl dreaming the end of the world seemed a natural for this anthology. It's a story I loved writing and I fully expect to return to the Dreamlands again sometime.

For now here's a taste of "The Call of the Dreaming Moon":

Ghostly plumes of smoke rose from the peaks of the mountains as Sunoyi climbed to reach them, losing her way among the thinning trees and unfamiliar spiny plants. At last she came to an immense deep lake. It too was strange. It was wider than any lake she had ever seen and its waters boiled as if a great flame heated them from far beneath.
Through the waves she saw the darting silhouettes of terrible fish, their bodies huge and ungainly, as though the water was not their natural home. The creatures seemed to sense her nearness and she watched nervously as their movements began to slow. Soon they had stopped swimming entirely. The bulky shapes turned beneath the water and countless heads rose black and dripping above the surface, each with a gulping mouth that appeared to be trying to form words.
Sunoyi stepped back, her flesh crawling at the sight. The eyes of the fish were cold and empty and she knew they could see every dark thing in the world. They could see deep inside her and they knew her thoughts, her fears. She stared, unable to look away. Her eyes burned for want of blinking but she was transfixed. Soon her vision began to darken, as though someone were pouring black paint into her eyes. And then she saw beyond the darkness.
She stood now at the crest of the mountain, staring down with her new black eyes at the world below. The cold plateau was the grey of ashes and bones, the colour of eyes when all sight has gone from them. And swarming across its pale expanse were strange animals, so many more creatures than the Great Spirit could have made. So many more trees and plants. And in the impossible distance, so many more mountains. Mountains so vast they might reach all the way to the Upper World. Or perhaps to an even higher world above it, one her tribe knew nothing of.
In the centre of the dead plateau one creature stood apart from the others. At first it seemed human and she took it for a warrior of another tribe. But the unknown colours it wore could not be paint for they seemed to pour from the body of the creature itself, staining the ground beneath it. Inhuman sounds escaped its mouth, a mouth far too wide for its thin face. As she watched, it unfolded great dusty wings like those of a moth and turned to look at her, waving a multitude of spiky, jointed legs. Its eyes were the most terrible things she had ever seen. They were of an even deeper black than those of the gulping fish, a swallowing, bottomless black that threatened to reduce her mind to dust with the horror of its emptiness.

All that black emptiness and more is available on Amazon Kindle. I hope you like it!


Saturday, 18 January 2014