Tag Archives: a trick of the night

Free Story

The team at Fireside Magazine have opened their Year Two archives to the public.  Previously, you would have needed a subscription to read any of the stories.  What this means is that there are a wealth of them now available for FREE.

My contribution, a Twilight Zone-ish tale entitled A TRICK OF THE NIGHT (first published Issue 9, January 2014) is available to read online here.  If you do read it, feel free to share your thoughts.

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Three Things I Don’t Write About (and Three Things I Do)

Firstly, let me say thank you to the lovely Priya Sharma for tagging me for this, the latest writer-craze doing the rounds. It was nice to be invited to the party for a change, instead of standing outside and wondering why no one has asked me to dance.  Thank you.

And don’t you know it…I get the chance to show off my moves and I’m out of time with everyone else on the dance floor.  Not only is my post several days later than everyone else’s but I put my left foot in when it was supposed to be right (or my Don’ts before my Do’s).  Oh well, the music’s still playing; if I keep dancing maybe no one will notice…

Three Things I Write About.

The outsider.  I’m drawn to people on the fringes, broken people who constantly struggle to relate to the world and the people around them. Why? Two reasons. One: I can relate. I prefer to observe rather than partake. I’m built that way. Two, I find these kinds of people usually have a unique and, to me, interesting view of the world. Often in real life it is those who talk the most that have the least to say. I want to shine a light on the people society forgets. Some examples from my work: In The Things That Get You Through, teacher James Graves retreats from society while he attempts to fast-track himself through the five stages of grief. With the help of a mannequin. In The Machinehouse Worker’s Song, two men are shut away from the outside world behind the walls of the titular machinehouse. The Sound of Constant Thunder is a post-apocalyptic tale about a former street custodian who has his new-found peace shattered by the intrusion of “thunder” or people.

A new thing I find myself writing about to an extent that it qualifies for this post is family, particularly parenthood. In 2011, when my son entered my life, he turned everything upside down. I quit my job, moved to another country (twice) in my quest to give him something better than the life we had at the time. It’s still a work-in-progress, but where we are now is a definite improvement. In A Trick of the Night, the devil visits a single mother’s dreams to tell her that her son is going to be responsible for the deaths of many innocent people. What follows is an overprotective parent driven to point of insanity in her efforts to keep her boy out of trouble. In The Space That Runs Away With You, I explore the scenario of the missing child and the familial devastation it can cause. In The Broken and the Unmade, I look at three generations of a Jewish family through the prism of survivor guilt. The protagonist in The Sound of Constant Thunder has father issues. And in my latest, So Many Heartbeats, So Many Words (not published at the time of this posting), I have taken many real-life situations and events and worked them into a tale which, at its core, is about communication within a family.

My final pick is the beautiful in the ugly. What I mean by this is that I look for moments of beauty in even my bleakest of tales. This is no more evident than in my latest story, So Many Heartbeats, So Many Words, in which I tried my utmost to convey glimpses of light in the seemingly all-consuming darkness. Indeed, is there a better, more accurate metaphor for life? I don’t think so. The longer I write what I write – dark fiction, bleak fiction, realist fiction, whatever label you want to stick on it – the more I find myself looking for the happy ending, and if not that then at least allow my characters a peek at the light on their way down the well…

Three Things I Don’t Write About.

Comedy is too easy a choice, so I’m going to have to go with weird or surreal fiction. Most of what I write is horror, but usually it is the horror of the real, the possible. I rarely write about monsters, and when I do all sorts of alarm bells go off in my brain. In Men Playing Ghosts, Playing God, death makes an appearance. In A Trick of the Night, the devil, briefly. But in the majority of my stories the horrors are real and/or psychological. It rarely, if ever, has fangs or tentacles. Indeed, a while back I wrote a story about the homeless living in the tunnels under Las Vegas and despite there being a lot of good material in it, when it came to the point where the monsters finally make their entrance, it became laughable. The story awaits revision. There are always exceptions, of course. The story I am writing now, provisionally titled, The Suffering, has a monster in it and I think it is pretty damn scary. Whether others agree, time will tell. Back to the weird and surreal… One exponent of that genre that I greatly admire is Ralph Robert Moore. Two recent stories of his spring to mind, All Your Faces Drown in My Syringe and Kebab Bob, both of which were published in the excellent Black Static magazine. The imagery and ending in the former touches on sheer brilliance, while the characterisation in the latter is so strong it manages to steal centre stage from the bizarre image of a human kebab. Now that’s a rare talent. I have little doubt that as I continue down the path of writing horror, I will venture deeper into such realms, but for now – or until the next idea comes along – I will likely stick to writing about real-life horrors.

My second choice falls into a similar category as weird fiction in that I am not adverse to “going there” I just prefer to write about other things. I’m talking about historical fiction, or fiction set in a time period other than our own. Simply put, I prefer here and now over there and then. Perhaps it is also a fear of the overlooked detail, of not doing enough research to convince the reader that they are in a specific period in history. A fear that my efforts will have all the historical accuracy of a Bill and Ted Adventure, no matter how excellent that might be. Or, again, maybe the ideas haven’t called for it yet. There is one recent exception that comes to mind. Some scenes in The Broken and the Unmade were set in a death camp during the Second World War, a subject that has fascinated me for years. However, I shied away from them too, leaving the flashback scenes until after everything else had been written before going back and filling in the gaps.

Lastly, I’m going to pair these two together because they go together like…well, you know. I’m talking about romantic fiction and the sex scene. It takes a particular set of skills (to paraphrase Liam Neeson in the film Taken) to write romance or to create a sexual encounter of the convincing kind. Many writers lack these skills, and I may or may not be one of them. I wrote a brief sex scene for The Sound of Constant Thunder. A thousand words before I, pardon the pun, hit the spot, I started to sweat and worry. Performance anxiety. As it turned out, the protagonist was a virgin and came quickly, saving me (and the reader) further embarrassment. Joking aside, his…brevity suited the character and the situation and wasn’t merely a product of my own discomfort. Still, sex scenes are rare in my work. If you want some (again, beg your pardon), go pick up a copy of 50 Shades. Romance has little place in fiction of a darker persuasion, but it’s something I’ve included to some extent in stories like The Sound of Constant Thunder and Men Playing Ghosts, Playing God, and my latest, So Many Heartbeats, So Many Words. Of course, when you write dark or horror fiction the good things like romance and sex often have a tendency to turn bad.

That concludes my answers.  If anyone reading this fancies having a go, by all means, consider yourself tagged.

“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.

Black Static #37

This month, with the publication of Crimewave 12:  Hurts and Black Static #37, I have achieved two trebles.  The first, to have three stories appear in horror journal Black Static.  The second, to have a story appear in all three TTA Press periodicals – Black Static, Interzone, and Crimewave.  In short, what a lovely way to tie up the year!

I’ve talked about Crimewave elsewhere, so here are the final cover, ToC, and interior artwork for Black Static #37.

Black Static #37
(Cover art by George Cotronis)

Stories:
“When Charlie Sleeps” by Laura Mauro.  Art by Rich Sampson.
“Bones of Crow” by Ray Cluley (recent winner of the British Fantasy Society award for Best Short Story for “Shark! Shark!”)  Art by George Cotronis.
“All Your Faces Drown in My Syringe” by Ralph Robert Moore.  Art by David Gentry.
“The Strongest Thing About Me is Hate” by DeAnna Knippling.
“The Sunflower Seed Man” by Priya Sharma.  Art by Richard Wagner.
“The Sound of Constant Thunder” by Steven J. Dines.  Art by Joachim Luetke.

When Charlie Sleeps   Bones of CrowAll Your Face Drown in My Syringe   The Strongest Thing About Me is HateThe Sunflower Seed Man   The Sound of Constant Thunder

Please visit TTAPress for more details, or to take out a subscription.  I recommend you do.

There will be no other new material from me this year, but I have a story,  A TRICK OF THE NIGHT, due to appear in Fireside Magazine in January.  I’m also working on new short fiction for 2014 including THE BROKEN AND THE UNMADE and my first ever collaboration.  Details to follow!

Black Static #35

Black Static #35

Let me tell you about the time four old ghosts held death captive in a basement. Let me tell you what that power can do to a man and the sacrifice he will make for the gift of time. But first, let me tell you how we became ghosts in the first place.
–  MEN PLAYING GHOSTS, PLAYING GOD

The new issue of Black Static (#35) is available now from TTA Press.  Stories by Daniel Mills, Steve Rasnic Tem, Michael Griffin, Caspian Gray, Jason Gould, and Carole Johnstone.  The cover artwork is by Richard Wagner, who also provides the interior art for my contribution, the 9800-word novelette, MEN PLAYING GHOSTS, PLAYING GOD.  It is particularly satisfying for me to see this story in print because the character, setting, and a (very) small part of the plot first appeared in an unfinished story of mine from 2004, OF BEE AND UNDERTOW.  For 8/9 years I’ve wanted to find out what happened to Henry Eddowes in that residential care home, and now – now I know.

Other stories coming soon are THE SPACE THAT RUNS AWAY WITH YOU (novelette) in Crimewave 12 (publication date still to be announced) and A TRICK OF THE NIGHT (short story) in Fireside Magazine (due Dec 2013/Jan 2014).

It’s been a quiet time for me on the writing front (personal issues, Life, call it what you will) but I’m feeling reenergised and ready to get back to some black business… Indeed, I have a number of projects and ideas in the pipeline that just need prioritising before I mention them on here.  So, expect some more updates soon.