Tag Archives: so many heartbeats so many words

BRING YOUR OWN LIGHT

I’ve announced this on Facebook already, so it might not be news to some of you, but here it is: my debut short story collection is due to be released next year by TTA Press, publisher of Black Static magazine. The awesome Wayne Haag will provide the cover art, and in the coming months I will be revealing more about the book and talking about some of the stories that will be included in its pages…watch this space.

It’s been a couple months since SO MANY HEARTBEATS, SO MANY WORDS appeared in Black Static (#46), and it’s fair to say that it has been generally well-received by readers and reviewers alike. A number of people messaged me on Facebook to share their thoughts, and one or two even posted some kind words on here. If you were one of them, please accept my deepest thanks. It’s appreciated, believe me. If you want to read the story, you can download the issue onto your Kindle from Amazon or buy issues (or even a subscription) direct from TTA Press. It’s a wonderful magazine, and I’ve been pretty lucky to be a part of its history.

The latest issue (#47) is out now, featuring columns by Stephen Volk and Lynda E. Rucker; fiction from James Van Pelt, Kate Jonez, John Connolly, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Ray Cluley, and Eric J Guignard.

I will be back in September’s issue (#48) with THE SUFFERING, and hopefully I’ll be in a position to share the artwork that will accompany that story in the next few weeks…

Meantime, I’m working on something new. PERSPECTIVE is an ambitious multi-viewpoint story (it’s written in First, Second, and Third Person) that deals with an historical rape, hysterical blindness, and a marriage feeling the strains of both. It’s about power and powerlessness, the need to be seen, and the need to see. Hands down, it’s the darkest, most disturbing thing I’ve ever written. But I feel it has some important things to say. All going well, it will be ready soon. As it’s my first project following a long break I am taking my time and getting it right…

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Two acceptances, one thank you

After a long and difficult quiet period (my last story acceptance was exactly one year ago today, oddly enough), I am thrilled to announce the sale of not one but two stories to UK horror magazine Black Static. These will be my fifth and sixth appearances in the magazine, although never let it be said that it gets any easier – it doesn’t!

The first story is called So Many Heartbeats, So Many Words.  It’s a 7,900 word novelette about family relationships and communication (or rather, lack of), and it’s probably the most heartfelt and personal story I’ve written to date (inspired by actual events, let’s say), and so I am both excited and nervous about how it will be received by the Black Static readership. Fingers crossed.

There is a family relationship at the heart of the other story too, which is called The Suffering, and it is that of a mother and her dead daughter. At 5,500 words it is one of the shortest stories I’ve written in a while. I don’t often write about monsters, but you’ll find one in this tale. I hope I did it justice.

Look out for these stories in future issues of Black Static, as well as tales from the likes of Gary McMahon, Cate Gardner, and Damien Angelica Walters, to name but three. Then, that’s probably three reasons you should take out a subscription…

Lastly, thank you once again to Priya Sharma and Ray Cluley for their selfless encouragement and support of late – two hugely talented writers with better things to do with their time than pick me up and dust me down, but that’s precisely what they did. Read their work, folks. For such good and decent people, they write some dark and scary sh#t!

All the best.

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.

Inspired by Actual Events

Last night, I finished the edits on my first short story since THE BROKEN AND THE UNMADE (which was written in November of last year and published in Black Static #39, Mar-Apr 2014).  Since then, I’ve gone through some personal and family “stuff” and come out the other side.  As for writing, I came very close to throwing the towel in.  The hiatus was good for me, though.  I have a new perspective on writing (and my place in the writing universe, as it were), not to mention a fresh enthusiasm for the craft.  It was a difficult and stressful time, but things are definitely looking up, I am glad to say.  By the way, I’m not looking for sympathy here.  We all have our demons to fight.

So, my latest story, SO MANY HEARTBEATS, SO MANY WORDS is an attempt to record some of those events, thoughts, feelings, etc. in a work of fiction.  Inspired by actual events is the best way to put it, I’d say.  It is by far my most personal work to date, and perhaps the strangest writing experience I’ve ever had.  There were moments when I found it difficult to separate the reality from the fiction, where I asked myself if this or that happened (and if it did, did it happen in the way I am writing it; sometimes the answer was yes, sometimes, no).  I compare the experience to those first few seconds after you wake up from a particularly convincing nightmare, one so believable you’re unable to distinguish what’s real and what isn’t.  We’ve all had those, right?  It’s odd and disorientating.  But the story is done.  It is approx. 7900 words, a novelette, and I submitted it for consideration today.  I must say, it feels great to finish a project after such a long break.  I’ve missed that sense of accomplishment.  That small thrill.

It’s good to be back.