Marked to Die – A Tribute Anthology to Mark Samuels

 

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I am delighted to be a contributor to this new anthology just released from Snuggly Books. Among many great writers’ names is nestled my novella Slag Glass Lachrimæ.  This is a big piece about lots of things – living in London, suicide, grief, lapidary work, books etc. – all with a subtle supernatural overtone. It’s also the story where I came up with the concept of crying rooms – hidden places around the city of London where one can go to express the grief of living in this world – museums filled with trinkets and oddments and stories. Slag Glass Lachrimæ is a bleak piece but also one where I feel I managed to express a small part of something I really wanted to express. Some small echo of my own desolation, yet shaped on the page (which is after all much larger than the creating brain itself) into something that can cut quite hard. I have no idea whether it will affect anyone else – but it turned into one of the stories I feel most emotional about in my very small writing career.

Technically, it was a strange project to work on.  There was no word limit on the contributions for this volume, hence they got a full-sized novella out of me, a major project that took me over for quite a while.  It was also a very steep learning cliff since I knew very little about Mark Samuels at the time the invitation came in. I still don’t really, in all honesty!  This story reacts off my reading of him as a presence in the Wierd Tale scene, without my knowing anything about the man himself – probably my preferred way of reacting to any fellow writer, really!

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And what is slag glass?  It’s a glassy or obsidian-like byproduct of metal processing.  It is hugely variable, sometimes coming in startling colours and patterns.  This story is true on many levels – not least that the glass itself is very very real.   It really is weathering out of the Thames bank, as in the story. Above is an example of the black version that made its way into the story. My own polyhedral of the black tears!  However, in reality it is not restricted to black:

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This remains one of my stranger finds since visiting London.  And it gives me a nice feeling to have immortalized it!

Order the book here – and make it quick because the hardcover is limited to 75 copies and is selling out fast!

http://www.snugglybooks.co.uk/marked-to-die/

Published in: on June 22, 2016 at 8:52 am  Comments (2)  
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Interviewed by Frank Duffy

I was recently given a lively interview by Frank Duffy on Facebook – great fun to answer and I wish all interviews were this energetic.  I am publishing the full text here:

 

Who the hell are you?  (In 200 words)

As authors go, I feel like a misfit.  I have my roots in horror fiction (the classic atmosphere of Machen and Sarban etc.), yet also chafe against it – partly because I am a rationalist and the things I am afraid of are more social/cultural than spiritual/organic.  I venture into speculative fiction as well, yet it is still not home.  I cannot call myself ‘literature’ by any means, yet I am not ‘genre’ either.  I guess I am Slipstream – the parasitic writing that feeds on everything yet is aligned to nothing.  I work slowly, producing a small number of very carefully crafted longer pieces – a work plan that almost guarantees obscurity.  And yet I believe that writing matures like wine and I can imagine no alternative.  My publications include What the Giants were Saying, A Suite in Four Windows, Brown is the New Black and the novella/story collection Feather, which was shortlisted for the Edge Hill prize. I am currently working on several novellas and two novels, one big, one small.  Who knows which will win?  Almost at the 200w point now – so here’s some magic words: human identity, contemporary classical music, the seashore, urban underground, railways, rocks, homes, poverty, canals.

 

Questions on writing:

  1. In the modern age of the jobbing writer, is there such a thing as an average writing day for you?

Nope.  I try and get at least some writing and/or editing done every day, but don’t always succeed.  I try and keep several projects on the go at once, but there’s always days when I utterly loathe ALL of them, and then there is little to be gained by fighting with them.  And yes, sometimes there’s just days when I haven’t time, or the needle of my brain meter is squarely on empty.  Maybe there is a norm here after all: that of struggling to avoid the most important activity of one’s life being squeezed to nothing by things you don’t particularly want to do.  I imagine that is the default for many or most writers, and the negative energy of that must have infused the entire literary scene!

 

  1. How often do you feel a seething envy whenever one of your writer friends posts about their latest publishing success?

Hmm, let’s see, what time is it now?  Nearly 8PM … so that would be …

I know I know, in this business of specialist presses and tween-genre literature, when one succeeds we all succeed … divided we fall.  In fact, succeed and we’ll probably fall anyway.  And yet, it’s not exactly envy but there is a certain desolate feeling that comes trickling into the brain when I watch more prolific authors yelling with excitement over publishing their six hundred and twenty-fifth story this year while I am still toiling through the foothills of my second!  It’s not envy because – oh ok, who am I kidding? It’s most definitely envy!  Not of success but of speed!

 

  1. Should prolific writers be tied to a chair for a few days, before being allowed to post constant updates on social media sites relating to their literary prowess?

It’s one of the most miserable and embarrassing admissions of my entire life that I sometimes actually use a blocker app to shut down facebook for a period.  I dunno about my literary prowess, but it is the mother of all distractions as I sit there scrolling through what everyone else is up to, twitching slightly as the fix takes hold.  So I suppose if someone else is involved who would care to take on such responsibilities, then great.  Yes ma’am!

 

  1. How long does it take you to complete a short story from start to finish in the age of the internet and Facebook?

As I pontificated earlier, I am a slow writer, with the slowness of a strange gnarled tree growing while all the little bushes come and go in a heartbeat.  Your story goes from a gleam in your eye to that mournful feeling when you know there’s unlikely to be any more reviews, time and again, and I am still sitting there, patiently putting my piece together, polishing it and maturing it … and occasionally I am defiant enough to delight in that.  It can take months,  even years.  In fact, there is a part of me that knows stories are never finished.  You just reach a point when you can’t face fiddling with it anymore and have to draw a line under it.

 

  1. Can controlled substance abuse really aid the writing process?

Booze (not controlled so much as hassled) can work up to a point. Some of the others though … I am not sure one CAN write under such circumstances.  The sheer poetry of the way the lines intersect in the corner of the room is too interesting, or you are too busy hugging every single one of your friends for the thirteenth time.  Even with booze there’s several caveats, the biggest being you will have to do a LOT of editing afterwards!  I have been known to get drunk while writing scenes about people getting drunk to try and catch some of that splurge of thoughts and feelings.  The results were good, though as I said, they needed a lot of editing to fit them into the rest of the piece.  Writing is not just about inspiration and ideas, it is about craftsmanship, consideration and hard work, for all of which you probably want as little impairing your faculties as possible.

 

  1. What are your thoughts on setting word targets each day? Are they constructive, or is it something only an insufferable pedant would claim essential?

I dislike it intensely for the unarguable reason that I can’t bloody do it.  Discipline?  Oh yes, I think I heard that word once …

 

  1. Would you like to be a reviled and unpopular obscurantist if it meant having worldwide success in the literary world, or are you a true artist who would never dilute the substance of their art?

I would NEVER sell out.  Hmph!  I mean … no matter how much, how much, um, how much could you make again?  I mean – no, no way!  That’s not a way for a human to be remembered … even if it does mean maybe having somewhere to live one day.  Which would be kind of nice really …

Hey – can I use the same pseudonym as question 13?

Seriously though – do we really have any choice about this?  I suppose some may, but I at least find it very hard to change writing styles or to put myself in different places.  The biggest ‘smash hits’ – e.g. Twilight, 50 Shades, Harry Potter, all seem to fill a fairly predictable hole in our culture, something people desperately yearn for yet not something that would scare or challenge them.  Fairly conservative romance, exciting alternate sex, a dose of magic and adventure – all the while being decidedly non-threatening.  Yes, even 50 Shades, mostly.  Even the most popular genre works seem to know very much what hole to fill up or what universal push-point of the modern world to push on, though again without being hugely threatening.  The thing is, I suppose, that to write something that fills such a hole, you have to own that hole yourself.  I’m not sure I do.  Such is the nature of the outsider.  We can’t fake our way into mainstream resonance any more than we can fake our way into being a social butterfly.

 

  1. More importantly, how often are you involved in an online argument among other genre writers bemoaning the state of the writing community?

I usually just read through the long Facebook threads, trying to trace them backwards to see who has got into trouble this time, then dolefully wander away, hoping it never comes to me.  Maybe it will though.  Not all ding dongs are nice wholesome massacres of bigots or racists, any controversial idea can cause a lot of hot water.  AND YET THAT’S OUR JOB!!  To push at things and question things.  However, personally, I tend to keep the controversial arguments and thoughts to my fiction work.

 

  1. What are the most common gripes that authors make on social media sites which drive you bonkers?

I am tempted to say I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I might incriminate myself!  But naah.  I suppose it pisses me off when anyone tries to lay down the law on what people should or should not include in stories – even more so if anyone suggests certain topics are off-limits for discussion.  Aside from that … not much really!

 

  1. How long does it take for you to decide if the story is a work of genius or utter drivel?

Normally I know quite soon whether a story is worth pressing on with – though if the impression is negative, then I am more likely to set it aside for the future rather than dump it.  It is later on though, as the thing nears completion and I am struggling with the seemingly unending polishing stage that the agony of doubt begins.  What have you created here?  Are you sure this isn’t crap?  I mean really?  I mean really really?  I mean – how would you know?  You wouldn’t know, would you.  You think you would, but you wouldn’t. You’d just be happily writing away and you would never know the utter crap tracing itself across your screen, would you?  Don’t deny it – you know it’s true.

This shadowy me can honestly go and swallow rocks and jump in the lake.

 

  1. Are beta readers a good idea, or are they the equivalent of your Uncle Bertie’s friends from the local library reading group?

I think they are an excellent idea and I love to get betas involved if I possibly can!  Because I am a human being and thus totally and completely and hilariously fallible.  Written works are big things – especially bigger pieces (um, yeah – you know what I mean!).  You can be surprisingly blind to some things while working on them.  Things like words you over-use or use in awkward ways.  Or crazy stupid things, like forgetting to actually introduce a character’s name (because you know it by heart) … or giving her two different hair colours … or just forgetting to explain something vital because it is so deeply lodged in your head.  And above all, how the story presents itself when seen for the first time, which is one thing the author will never ever know.  There is no legal requirement to take on board everything a beta reader tells you, but they can spot all sorts of things that you missed completely!

 

  1. What is the most difficult form of fiction to write, a short story, a novella or a novel?

Short story, for me.  Of course, novels are big – and holding one in your mind is like trying to hold a whole cow in your mouth.  But I have a much greater fear of the terrible and inescapable progression I tend to get with short works.  Works that slowly grow as I get more and more interested in them – until they are some sixteen times the length of the original word limit.  It is a very familiar sinking feeling.

 

  1. Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym to kick-start a lengthy career as a writer of erotica?

Oh yes, many times, and I probably will one day – it’s fun and actually very very challenging.  The only sad part about it would be the pseudonym.  I honestly don’t know why one should care in this age of dinosaur porn and 50 Shades mouldering away in literally every charity shop in the country, yet something about the sex industry persists in craving anonymity!  I suppose you are revealing things about yourself that you are not certain the world is worthy of knowing.  No – that’s wrong.  Things you are bloody certain the world is not worthy of knowing!  Not a world where you can discuss eating arse on TV yet a nip-slip causes as much shock and awe as a small war.

As an aside, it seems to me that the 50 Shades phenomenon revealed something about the world: the mainstream is interested in stuff.  And also that 50 Shades itself and the somewhat confused corporate forces behind it spectacularly failed to deliver it.  Frustrated and slightly repressed Mainstream was sitting there flushed with wanting, 50 Shades came along and teased, but maybe couldn’t quite get it up.  Mainstream says “hey that’s ok, could happen to anyone,” yet 50 Shades can see the frustration in her eyes, can feel a door closing in its face …  So – who knows.  Maybe in a post-50-Shades world, we can go places.  Erotica that’s well written?  Even willing to go to challenging and interesting places?  Why not?  And, thinking back to question 7 and outsiders like me, the fun thing about human sexuality is that it is one of the great unifiers of the human race, if we let it.  And that there is absolutely no end to that particular rabbit hole.  Maybe it even goes as far as literature.

 

  1. What has been the longest writing project you’ve embarked on? Was there any point at which you thought of abandoning the story so you could get absolutely sh**faced?

I am currently completing two novels, one quite large and pretty much finished.  See question 4, read it over maybe six times, slapping yourself in the face in-between each read.  That’s what it feels like.  Yes I have shed tears over them, got drunk over them, swore at them, moaned to friends over them, woken up at night over them …

Yet still I press on.  I rarely abandon things, anyway – I just set them aside until such time as I can make them work.  And if I die before that time, well – can’t help that!

 

  1. Have you ever lain awake at night and wondered why you write? Have you ever considered if other people lie awake at night also wondering why you write?

The thought that anyone else cares why I write is so strange that I might have to think about it for a bit.  Though hey, if you do, don’t be a stranger.  Pop over.  You can watch.  It must be fascinating.  And then maybe you can tell ME why, because I ain’t got a clue!

 

  1. Do you conduct research for everything which you write? Have you ever broken into a top secret facility to add authenticity in the name of research, or is Wikipedia your ultimate guide to authenticity?

Well that’s the problem, isn’t it.  I am pretty careful actually, and I value getting things right.  So the fact that I have never broken into a top secret facility is one of the reasons why I have not yet written anything about top secret facilities.  It’s a minor tragedy in my career.  Mind you – I do have a post-apocalyptic novel on the back burner, so how I am going to deal with that one I am not sure yet.  Problem is, I still need at least some readers around to read the damn thing.  I’ll figure it out.

Wikipedia, google earth, street view, youtube, field trips, memories, asking friends embarrassing questions … it’s all basic tools.  And there’s stranger stuff too.  Health encyclopaedias filled with gross images that the reader should be grateful they don’t have to look at.  Other archives with even worse things because I need to get descriptions right.  And online sex communities – hey, I’m a guy, there are certain things I just do not intrinsically know, and I do not want half my readers throwing a giggling fit because of it!

We writers get everywhere!

 

  1. What piece of research might show up on your internet history and give your family cause to worry about your stability?

Why does a flying fuck not matter?  How to liquefy meat and bone?  Sleeper Shark.  Brazilian Waxing how-to.  Scar from Lightning Strike.  Do Tasers leave visible marks?  How to treat a severe head wound.  Vote Yes or be shot.  Police Riot Gear Diagram.  Nuclear Society of Slovenia.  Hand-Foot Syndrome.  Most Poisonous Caterpillar fatality rate.  List of communist nations.  How to prepare snails for food.  Earth Worm Burger recipe.  Poisoning by stove fumes.  Ustasha.  Do moths fight?  Nuclear Waste Train timetable.  IUD insertion.  Can one person drive a narrowboat?  Wahoo Fish?  What time are vending machines restocked?  Use a trouser press for cooking.  Affinity liquid chromatography.  Max Headroom Incident.  Transgressive art meat hook.

I think writers must be a kind of spectator sport for GCHQ – and seriously, I am dreading the day I need to write about something really contentious, like a bomb going off.  I can’t do that without knowing at least a little about it …

 

  1. What life experience has been the most advantageous in terms of writing a story?

Ummmm – oh boy, this is a tricky one.  There’s several.  Love troubles and loneliness are always great fuel – nothing like a bit of sexual frustration to fire creativity!  It’s a tricky thing to express and explore, especially when you are in it, yet one always feels the need to try.  Also the housing crisis etc. and the Doom that Came to London all had an effect – a drastically destabilising situation (and no, not just in London) that makes the future seem far from guaranteed.  I have to say though, the biggest thing was probably studying at one of the wildest alternate arts college in the UK.  People sneer about them for not equipping you for dealing with the ‘real world’, and that may be true but rubbing shoulders with crazy performance artists and playing around with truly experimental ideas does have an effect.  I am no avant-garde poet or performance writer – I tend not to write my novels on my body or express them in interpretive dance with Japanese shibari … but something about the aesthetic rubs off and gives you an edge that is a little different to other things.  It’s something I value very highly indeed.

 

  1. Should authors give advice to aspiring authors, or should they leave them to do things their own way? What was the worst bit of advice you ever heard?

Advice, yes, please do!  Instructions – maaaaaybe not!  Little tips and ideas for checklists or ‘things worth thinking about’ are great.  Laying down the law that thou shalt not use the word ‘suddenly’, thou shouldn’t write in such and such genre or don’t thou dare go above/below Y number of words are decidedly less so.  One should just write, dammit!  Ideally without creeds and bondage.  In the end, only you can really decide what you need to do.

 

  1. What are some of the most popular misconceptions about writers from the perspective of the public?

Bloody hell – I don’t know what those weirdos think about us!  Maybe that we’re sophisticated successful alpha males who can sweep you off your feet with our remarkable brains?  Or that we are hopeless introvert hermits sitting hunched in dark rooms muttering to ourselves and trying to remember which side of this world is real and which isn’t?  Oh wait – that might actually be true in my case.

 

  1. What was the worst rejection from a publisher you’ve ever had?

Ummm … ok, this is going to sound weird but I have never really had a nasty rejection.  A) my career has not been that long yet, and B) I work very carefully to hone a small number of pieces for specific purposes – and, um, haven’t actually had that many chucked back at me.  And the ones that were always seemed either a non-entity form rejection or perfectly courteous.  Dunno if I should ever admit that in public though – and, um, if any other writers are asking about me, I just moved to Sierra Leone.

 

  1. Have you ever thought of launching a secret hate campaign against a publisher who simply misjudged your literary genius?

Hey – I am a publisher myself as well!  Eibonvale Press!  That puts me in the curious position of being on both sides in the Great War.  It also means that leaving aside actual cases of rip-off, I am extremely sympathetic to the troubles of small presses.  It also made me a lot thicker-skinned in terms of those rejections I mentioned, since I have had to deal with those stacks of submissions, I have had to chuck out stories I loved.  I know, you see, that most basic truth – that a rejection doesn’t mean the editor was rolling on the floor laughing or needed treatment for shock.  Only sometimes.

 

  1. And finally, which would you choose, a commercial contract with stipulations about what you’re allowed to write, or a career in the Small Press with no restrictions on what you are allowed to write?

Tricky one – if it really was either/or then I’d have to choose the small press.  The freedom and the quality seem so much higher, purely because you can stretch out more.  I value writers who slip between genres, who have no allegiance to them, the area Slipstream occupies – and I value being allowed to do that myself, and being appreciated for it.  And I say all that as a reader as well.

Hey – maybe homes are overrated.

Not to say that commercial contracts are automatically the flipside to that, of course – but again, I have to reiterate what I said in question 7.  If someone offered an outsider like me a contract to write a tryptic of ‘young adult’ novels about a teen witch who fights evil undead estate agents in London, I might have to take them aside and have a quiet word, making sure they knew exactly what they were letting themselves in for.  But hey – if they really wanted to shove money at me for something that would probably turn out more like J G Ballard meets the Panty and Stocking cartoons, then I am hardly going to refuse, am I!

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on June 19, 2016 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Soma

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This is one of my most prized books. It’s a hallucinatory horror novel that is extremely strong, vivid and original, filled with a kind of stinking beautiful poetry of rot and perversion – it made a huge impression on me when I first read it. There were only 150 of these printed by Delirium, and for a long time this was the only complete version of the book available – which rather epitomizes my ambivalent relationship with these special limited editions. On the one hand, it is nice to own something so special, but there seems something wrong to me about having a work tied up in such a rarefied circle of readers, especially when the prices start climbing up into the triple digits! You can’t exactly grab people and say “hey, you have to read this!” Fortunately, it’s now available in paperback as well and well worth checking out if you are feeling like such a strange journey through the jungles of Cambodia.

Published in: on April 5, 2016 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Morning Yet?

This is crazy. It’s evening and I have just been lying in bed working on a short story set on the London canals in the deep night – and a peaceful dawn breaks at the very end. Now I am utterly convinced that it’s morning and that I should probably get up soon . . .

Published in: on March 13, 2015 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Doom that Came to Liberal Discussion

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http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/11/mainstream-left-silencing-sympathetic-voices?CMP=fb_gu

One very key element of the liberal left has long been under threat: its liberalism – that is, its willingness to debate with anything outside a narrow range of opinions within its own walls. And the more scary and incomprehensible the world becomes, the more debate is replaced by edict and prejudice: literally pre-judging.

The Guardian sometimes nails it spectacularly, sometimes perpetuates the very problem this article highlights (obviously – it’s created by many different voices).  The problems outlined here concerning the political left can be extrapolated to cover pretty much any issue that needs to be fought for, including those in the book world, and as a result it is rather close to the bone for me. It seems to be one of the biggest problems with even the most progressive areas of thought: what’s the point of any of the big issues and causes if the ‘majority tone’ is that of people stifling debate due to their own insecurity and if they are unable to cope with the blurred nature of reality? Hey – I like debate, I like to discuss things, or at least I used to. I like it because the world is fascinating and because there are so many things we still need to work out and understand as a species if we are going to get anywhere.  But we are reaching a state where I simply will not discuss or involve myself with subjects like feminism, animal welfare, food, heath, racism, religion etc. Even book genres for gawd bloody sake! So even though I agree with most of what the people involved are fighting for, they will have to fight for it without me. I am not aggressive and we don’t NEED aggression – we don’t need abuse and dogma.  We need thinkers – we need sense and reason and questioning of everything.  The kind of bickering, selfish and defensive quarreling that seems to predominate achieves zero.  It is tiresome and stifling but infinitely worse than that, it’s making enemies when the whole point of these causes is to work together and be open in order to make something better in areas of thought that none of us have a full understanding of.

Opinions differ.  What are you going to do?  Beat her up?

Opinions differ. What are you going to do?  Yell abuse?

These days these topics are pretty much limited to my novels, where I can tackle them without every single comment needing to be a weapon and a suit of armor. They are a way to explore such subjects without the need to be defensive because they are stories about how humans function rather than attempts to put together a thesis.  Such is the magic of characters acting out a narrative.  And maybe this aspect of fiction contains a heck of a lot more it could teach the world than many think.

The most basic awareness in all these subjects needs to be that nothing is black and white, nothing is clear-cut and simple, that we don’t even begin to know the ‘truth’ – simply because that’s not the way humans or nature work. Never has, never will be. We don’t even know ourselves in any real sense yet, living lives filled with illusion and delusion and in an entirely artificial environment, both physical and mental. We are all just fumbling our way towards these things and towards ourselves.  A lot of our ideas are inevitably going to be wrong or incomplete but that’s ok because everything can be a step closer to further understanding – and yet we act as though we are some kind of messiah of ideas that must be worshiped or else. People need to realise that the complexity of reality does not invalidate any single one of these issues. The only thing that threatens to invalidate them is ourselves, if we have tied our identities and egos to our beleaguered ’cause’ or ideas to such an extent that even slight disagreement or asking questions is grounds for excommunication.  The author of this article calls it the paradoxical voice, but for me any subject has to contain these paradoxes otherwise something is missing – incomplete.  Unsatisfying.  Any basic idea is going to be both right and wrong.  And any major issue, as listed above, even more so.

Those who identify with the “paradoxical voice” self-censor because they know they are going to get rocks thrown at them – not by their enemies but by their friends. That’s not only a bad feeling; it’s a tendency that’s bad for democracy, for politics, and the wider movement we call the left. And the left – in its compassion, freedom and concern for social justice – is the only hope for the future of this country.

Published in: on March 12, 2015 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Duet now available to read online – in Wordland 5 from Exaggerated Press

Another of my short stories has just been published, this time in Wordland 5 from Exaggerated Press.  You can read it online here along with plenty of other great writers – or you can get the hardcopy soon.

The theme was True Love.  I am a bit of a twisted, bruised romantic, so the theme was certainly a good one to play with. The result was a bizarrely icy, lonely and surreal horror story about the underground music scene set in London – lonely concerts in bizarre industrial warehouses, a hefty dose of urban alienation and an unusual amount of the surreal for me.  The Black Sheet Moth spreads its wings . . .

Published in: on January 25, 2015 at 8:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Blood is Not Pink – free to read online

One of my (rare) shorter works has been published over on the Sparks of Consciousness blog and can be read for free online.  Called Blood is Not Pink, this is an odd one for me – a whimsical but dark and even slightly cruel slipstream miniature.  Click through and have a read!  You don’t often see things this small with my name on them!  And yes, it features my character Richard Jarvis, the English Gentleman . . .

http://sparksofconsciousness.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/blood-is-not-pink-by-david-rix/

Published in: on January 8, 2015 at 5:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Aaah the romance of writing . . .

Writing a book is like being in love – as you work on it, as you get so intimate with it, there is no question whatsoever that this is ‘The One’ – and no way will you ever be involved in the creation of anything better.  It has all the sense and rationality and intellectual reasoning we tend to show with our human relationships.

And then it’s over – it’s finished – it’s gone out of your life . . . the reviewers start mauling it around, and that process is a bit like your friend buying you a drink and saying “Hey, I know you were close but, you know, she’s just another novel.  There’s plenty more fish in the sea”.  And you sigh and nod and stare forlornly at your completed work . . .

And then before you know it, you are hard at work on another ‘The One’ – and your friends are rolling their eyes with a hint of weariness, muttering ‘here we go again . . .”

Published in: on January 4, 2015 at 6:34 am  Leave a Comment  

New Story Accepted for Publication – Duet.

It’s a rare enough event so I have to get a bit excited.  It’s rare considering how slow my output is and that when I write a piece, the creative process seems to go on forever.  Stories tend to be large, take at least five or six drafts and are always beleaguered by the day job and the small publisher I run, Eibonvale Press. But anyway – my story Duet has been accepted for publication in Wordland 5: True Love from Exaggerated Press.

I am a bit of a twisted, bruised romantic, so the theme was certainly a good one to play with. The result was a bizarrely icy, lonely and surreal horror story about the underground music scene set in London – lonely concerts in bizarre industrial warehouses, a hefty dose of urban alienation and an unusual amount of the surreal for me.  The Black Sheet Moth spreads its wings . . .

As an aside, I do have another piece accepted for publication soon that i am not at liberty to mention yet, save that it is possibly my favorite story yet.  So watch this space.  :-)

Published in: on October 25, 2014 at 10:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Novels in Progress and I am Getting left Behind by History . . .

I am currently working on two slipstream novels simultaneously now – one with the underlying theme of general social frustration and over-regulation (entitled Meat – now in the polishing stage) and one on more direct themes of sex, liberation vs. repression and judgementalism that suddenly came out of nowhere and wouldn’t let me rest until I had at least started sketching it out.  I am tentatively calling it Triangular Sky but who knows if that will change.  I am going to have to go into more details about both of these elsewhere, but for now i will say that both books feature my mighty supernatural adversity, the Polyhedron!  And they are both slightly activistic books giving me a chance to vent a bit on various aspects of modern life, though i hope not overtly or in your face.  These are fantasies with such issues as backdrops, not idea- or politics-driven stories.  I have a massive allergy to books that lecture or preach too much – so I am always very conscious indeed of the fine balance that needs to be struck in this area.

However, the current chaos of Scotland is reminding me that there is one huge societal issue that I haven’t tackled in either.  In Meat, I drew on a highly fantastical and surreal version of the London Riots and set it sometime in the future where everything we know has got just that little bit worse.  In Triangular Sky I am looking at the rise in PostModern Prudery and possibly a bit of UKIP-style politics (again – just tinges in the background).  I almost feel as though I am being left behind by history now though because even as I process that idea, here’s another thing going on right now that is crying out to inspire some hot Polyhedron action.  It’s a good thing that themes are timeless, even if history isn’t.  The excitement and ugliness of what’s going on in a part of the world I always used to feel very close to is going to be the defining memory of the Scottish Independence Referendum, regardless of how the country votes.  However noble some of the aims of both sides are, it seems unable to escape a sense of ugly nationalism and partisan entrenchment – sense and debate running wild into polarized bullying and tribalism on a societal level.  This has been made very clear by a vast number of comment threads and articles and personal accounts.  The old familiar chaos of a run-away vortex of emotion that ends up helping no one, only digging things in and reinforcing resentment.  I suppose that is almost inevitable in any major issue (it is clearly visible in English politics as well, not to mention globally) – but that doesn’t make it any prettier.  So maybe there will be a third novel at some point – the ultimate incarnation of the Polyhedron.  I can’t think of anything more Polyhedral than this kind of partisan obsession and excitement.

It would definitely not be a novel about Scotland, let me make that quite clear – I doubt any human being knows enough to do that for a LONG time and besides, that’s not the way I work.  I am interested in the small scale.  The personal, set against the unknowable mystery of society as a whole and the even more unknowable future.

And then maybe I can lay writing about this kind of thing to rest for a while and get back to the quiet seaside strangeness I was playing with in Feather!  Because I will tell you one thing . . . this kind of writing is EXHAUSTING!  It takes me to some of the ugliest places in the human soul and then I have to somehow make sense of them . . .

Now – if i can just find a way to combine it with Guerrilla Knitting . . .

Published in: on September 13, 2014 at 9:21 pm  Leave a Comment