Monthly Archives: January 2014

I Don’t Want To Offend Anyone, But…

There’s a fine line between self-promotion and narcissism.  There are some writers today, too many, who should bear this in mind when they take to Facebook, etcetera.  I won’t name any names, but their countless daily posts containing the dull minutiae of their work and/or extolling their own apparent genius guarantees that at least this reader will never seek out any of their work, no matter how good it might actually be.

These writers appear to forget that while a personal web page is their own domain, as it were, social networking sites do not exist for the sole purpose of their self-aggrandizement.  It’s a fucking disease, people, and it’s spreading fast.  Indeed, the more writers I add to my Friends list, the more I loathe Facebook and to some extent writing.  It seems to have become a necessary part of a lot of writer’s lives – to sell and/or promote their wares on these sites.  Hell, I do it myself – questioning the merits up to and then beyond the point I press ‘RETURN.’  What I do not do – or have stopped doing if I did do such things in the past – is post the following sort of things (note:  these are examples only, I’m not directly quoting anyone):

I just happened to read something I wrote the other day and, you know what, it’s really rather good.

Sorry, no, you didn’t happen to come across anything.  It’s been 30 minutes since your last post and you went looking for something to post about.

I wrote 3000 words today.  Look here’s a picture of what I wrote. 

Yep, the picture shows a piece of paper or a laptop screen with some words across it, either too indistinct to read or from a random page of the story.  What’s the point?  Does that get anyone excited – really?

Here’s a list of all the things I’ve achieved this year/month/day/hour. 

Fine, good.  But put it on your web page and let people who visit your page to read specifically about you and your achievements read it there.  Besides – a little perspective here – if you have achieved something of real merit, do you really have to tell everyone about it?

Hey, I’m in this new magazine or book.  It contains my story, [INSERT TITLE HERE]

So, what, it’s contains only your story?  Not much of a book then, is it?  Are there other writers in this book?  Oh, there are?  You wouldn’t know that, would you?

I could go on but I won’t.  I won’t even say I’m not guilty of this kind of thing either.  What I will say is I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of the game and I’m tired of playing it.  I hate Facebook, but it seems like a necessary evil these days.  Without it, you are to some extent out of the loop.  In addition, I see too many examples of nepotism, of “mates” publishing “mates” (Kickstarter has arguably made this situation worse), but that’s a whole other topic.

Writing used to be a solitary business, but in some areas, some, it is becoming increasingly social, political, and one-sided.  As if the odds weren’t stacked high enough, right?  I hate to sound like one of them –  the conspiracy theorists – but it’s how I see things at the moment.

Of course, the easy solution would be to leave Facebook (my presence is minimal nowadays anyway) or delete people of this ilk, and I have, many, many times, but I suspect that if I continued down that road I’d have very few writer friends left.  Indeed, I’d probably find myself deleted from some lists, too – and so on, until we’d reach a friendless conclusion, just us and our profile pages.  Which tells you everything you really need to know about Facebook, I suppose.  And people.

At least, some people.

“The devil is in the details…”

My 4000 word short story A TRICK OF THE NIGHT is now available to read at Fireside Magazine.  Written during my five month stay in Malta in 2012, it is at heart about the fears of parenting and the lengths a mother will go to protect her son from his fate.  Here’s a short excerpt from the opening:

“I met the devil in my dreams and he told me this would happen.
Strictly speaking, he wasn’t the devil; he was Joseph Ruskin, the actor who played the genie in the Twilight Zone episode The Man in the Bottle. But in my dream he was the devil, all right. I saw him standing near the end of a railway tunnel, silhouetted against the light, a man in a black suit. Did I tell you the tunnel was made out of elephants? Well, it was. Their bodies were packed together to make the walls and the roof, tight as sardines they were, and as I walked past them toward the man in the suit I could see their eyes blinking at me. I didn’t want to go, but he was waving me over, and when the devil waves you over, you go over, you don’t get a choice in the matter. And then Joseph Ruskin the devil told me my son James was going to be involved in a mass shooting. He wouldn’t say when, wouldn’t say how. I asked. I begged. I pleaded. They say the devil is in the details, but he doesn’t like to give them, because all I got out of him was a cold smile and this: A lot of people are going to die, Anna, because of him. The devil knew my name. He knew my son’s name. He knew what was going to happen. And it did. Sixteen people lying in the morgue; four or five times that number lying injured in this hospital. Women and children — children. I don’t want to think about it. I swear I tried to find out more, but Jimmy’s screams from the next room tore me right out of the dream and ended the whole thing. At least I thought it was over, but… do you think he knew, doctor, even back then? Do you think he knew and tried to stop me talking to the devil before I could find something out — something that could have stopped all this?”

Galen Dara illustration for A Trick of the Night

The lovely artwork accompanying the story was created by Hugo Award-winning artist, Galen Dara.

Thanks to Brian White, the editor of Fireside, for selecting my story to be a part of his ambitious project and for his professionalism throughout.  And if anyone is interested in reading a little more about the story’s genesis, I talk about it briefly in this Q & A I did as part of the project’s Kickstarter campaign.

Cleaning house

A short update.  I’ve added two new stories to my Recommended Reading list.  The first is the terrific suspense tale I Won’t Take a Minute by Cornell Woolrich (from his Rear Window collection, a Christmas present from my wife).  It’s a familiar scenario that has been done to death in the intervening years, but this tale from 1940 is so well written it still feels fresh.  The other is a dark fiction/fantasy from Clarkesworld Issue 2 (I’m reading their first anthology Realms at the moment).  It’s Lydia’s Body by Vylar Kaftan.  You can read it here.  It’s a tale that will stay with you for a while – trust me.

I’ve also updated my Reviews section (note: reviews of my fiction by other people) and streamlined and fully updated (finally!) the Bibliography section for anyone who is interested.  Glancing down it I can see a clear movement over the years from short literary fiction to much longer genre work, mostly horror.  But who knows where this year will lead?  To more of the same?  I hope not.  A novella or a second novel, perhaps?  Yes, possibly.  How about a move back to Malta?  Hmm.  Thinking about that, too.

Let’s find out.

My favourite short fiction reads of 2013

2013 was the first year in which I tracked all of the short fiction I read.  In total, I read 154 flash fictions, short stories, and novelettes, 17 of which made it onto my on-going Recommended Reading list here.  Without further ado – and in no particular order – my 3 favourite short fiction reads of 2013* were…

The Death Drive of Rita, Nee Carina by Ray Cluley, published in Black Static #31
Stray Dogs
by James Cooper, published in Black Static #33
Slider by David Niall Wilson, published in Shock Totem #1

* note: stories I read in 2013, not necessarily published in the same year.