Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Public Service Announcement: Devil's Highway Release Date and Crime Novel News

So, breaking the silence again to share some news:

The release date for Devil's Highway has been pushed back. This isn't Snowbooks' fault; as blog readers will know, I was late getting the MS to the publisher, and that's what's knocked things out of kilter. Also, because the novel was completed at white heat and warp speed, both I and my brilliant editor, Tik Dalton (more about Tik in a second) have found a host of minor errors that need fixing.

Personally, I'd rather wait a bit longer to see the book and have everything about it spot on than see it come out on schedule with things wrong with it. I don't have the new release date yet, but I'll be sure to share it when I do.

Tik and her brood of novellas.
Tik, by the way, is the newest addition to the Snowbooks staff, and has been editing Devil's Highway for publication. I met her briefly, for the first time, at Fantasycon, where she and Emma Barnes were handling the launch of Snowbooks' horror novellas (including Cate's The Bureau Of Them, Mark Morris' Albion Fay, Ray Cluley's Within The Wind, Beneath The Snow and John Llewellyn Probert's The Nine Deaths Of Dr Valentine and The Hammer Of Dr Valentine, recovered from the Spectral Press trainwreck, and also featuring Gary Fry's Scourge and Andrew Hook's The Greens.)

One of Tik's first assignments at Snowbooks was to design and typeset all seven novellas. They all looked great, as anyone who's seen them will tell you. And she's been a joy to work with - fast, professional, patient and helpful.

In other news, I have now signed my first contract via my agent, Tom Witcomb, relating to an audiobook of my crime novel. More details in due course!

In the meantime, thanks for your patience: Devil's Highway will be here soon!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Popping Up Briefly: The Nightmare Man, Devil's Highway and The Feast Of All Souls...

Well, Offline October hasn't been working out too badly, despite my occasionally lurking on social media despite my best intentions. Also, I finally managed to get Freedom working on my laptop in the past couple of days, so I've been able to buckle down and get to work without temptation.

Nonetheless, I'm breaking radio silence here, because of a couple of things.

Devil's Highway, as you probably all know by now (God knows I've wittered on about it often enough here) is released by Snowbooks in both hardback and ebook formats on October 17th.

'Their hair was bleached and matted, their chalk-white skin dry and fissured like sun-baked earth.
Their eyes were near-black, glistening clots with a gleam of red; when they grinned their teeth were needles of bone. “Don’t worry, Helen. We won’t hurt you. But something will.”'
In the haunted desolation of post-nuclear Britain, the Catchman walks. Spawned from the nightmare of Project Tindalos, it doesn’t tire, stop, or die. It exists only for one purpose: to find and kill Helen Damnation, leader of the growing revolt against the tyrannical Reapers and their Commander, Tereus Winterborn.
Meanwhile, Helen is threatened both from without and within. Her nightmares of the Black Road have returned, and the ghosts of her murdered family demand vengeance, in the form of either Winterborn’s death or her own. And close behind the Catchman, a massive Reaper assault, led by Helen’s nemesis, Colonel Jarrett, is nearing the rebels’ base. Killing Helen has become Jarrett’s obsession: only one of them can emerge from this conflict alive.
With the fate of the rebellion in the balance, Helen faces her deadliest challenge yet, pitted in single combat against an unstoppable killer, commanding armies in a bloody and pitiless battle – and, at last, confronting the demons of her past on the Black Road.

It's the second in the Black Road series that began with Hell's Ditch, and is probably the most relentlessly paced, action-driven thing I've written. But it's not just an action fest (although Cate didn't enjoy it as much as Hell's Ditch, owing to the prevalence of 'shooty bang sticks'.) There's emotional drama as we learn more about Helen's past - and Winterborn's, too. And there's a new enemy, a relentless, apparently unstoppable monster that stalks Helen: the Catchman.

Where the hell did this particular monster come from? Well, inside my head, as usual. But I can probably pinpoint the inspiration in this case: a BBC TV series from my childhood called The Nightmare Man, in which an inhuman killer stalks a fogbound Scottish island.

Based on David Wiltshire's 1978 novel Child Of Vodyanoi, The Nightmare Man remains a low-key, slow-burning chiller that should be just perfect for this time of year. I've written about it at greater length over at  This Is Horror (thanks for the soapbox, guys!) so you can learn more there. (I have another contribution coming up at TIH later this month - an author interview that I think a lot of you will enjoy!)

Finally, some news that warmed the cockles of my heart and put a big smile on my face: over at Beauty In Ruins, the subject of this week's Waiting For Wednesday, where eagerly-anticipated release are discussed, is The Feast Of All Souls. Bob Milne's review joins those by Lilyn G at Sci-Fi and Scary and Tammy at Books Bones and Buffy, both of whom are looking forward to its release.

So that's all from me. Have a good weekend, everybody!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Offline October

I meant to post along these lines last week, but with one thing or another I delayed it (not least because I wanted to do a Lowdown beforehand.)

Anyway, a few people I know have been talking about 'Offline October', where they spend the month staying off social media.

I've decided to join them. It's a serious timesuck right now - Facebook in particular - and I spend far too much time dicking around online instead of writing, or reading books, or doing pretty much anything constructive.

So that's it from me till the end of the month. I may break the rule and pop up to pimp Devil's Highway (which is released in ELEVEN DAYS FROM NOW! *Squee*) Or I may not.

In the meantime, email me if you need me. :)

Till then, have fun, and don't break anything!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Lowdown with... Ruth EJ Booth

Ruth EJ Booth is an award winning writer from the North-East of England. With fistfuls of credits from The Independent to Kerrang! magazine, she made the leap from rock music journalism to SFF in the early 00's. In less than five years, she picked up the BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction for 'The Honey Trap' (La Femme, NewCon Press), a tale of hipsters and urban gardening. Her short fiction and poetry range from the stories of cracked AIs to the love affairs of Earth spirits, and can be found in anthologies from NewCon Press, Fox Spirit Books, The Speculative Bookshop, and in Far Horizons e-magazine. As of mid-2016, she is also a regular columnist for Scottish SF journal Shoreline of Infinity. A member of the Glasgow SF Writers Circle, you can find news on her upcoming stories in Fox Spirit, Pseudopod and more here.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 

1) As a teenager, I could recite the scripts of series I-VI of Red Dwarf by heart. Not sure how it took me so long to start writing SFF, really.
 2) The three most famous people I've interviewed are Bill Bryson, Weird Al Yankovic, and Coby Dick from nu-metal poster boys Papa Roach. Coby had pretty good taste in post-rock, incidentally.
 3) At University, I got away with writing both my undergraduate project and my Masters thesis on video games. A wee suggestion if you're a Psychology third year: design experiments around 30 minute sessions on the SNES or Sega Megadrive. You'll never be short of participants.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
Fiction-wise, that'd be a story written for a vanity press anthology that came out in 2012, comprising steampunk adaptations of Shakespeare's plays. I wrote a take on Much Ado About Nothing from the viewpoint of Don John, in a universe where Don Pedro is the head of a steampunk mafia family. There were some interesting ideas in there, but not so much in the title -- 'Much Ado About Steam Presses' -- so perhaps it's lucky that (as far as I know) it's completely out of print. Apart from that, anyone reading Student Direct (the University of Manchester's student paper) in the early 00's will have seen some of my early reviews. And if anyone has the Shiny Toy Guns review, the one with the line about the hula girl in the tumble dryer, please can you send me a copy?

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
That's a hard question to answer. The expectation is to pick the story that's done the most for you, and that would of course be 'The Honey Trap'. I am still very proud of it: the first story I had critted by other people, I was hella nervous about sending it to Ian Whates at NewCon Press (a proper tick off the bucket list that was), and I worked my arse off on the edits. It was a level-up in many senses, and I'm still stunned by the results. But I'm almost always most proud of the most recently completed thing, which gives me a choice of two. The first is the column I've been writing for Scottish SF journal Shoreline of Infinity. At the time I started it, I'd not reviewed or written an opinion piece for a while. Frankly, I was daunted by the prospect of starting again. There's an expectation -- or more accurately, a supposition -- that regular columnists should be some kind of expert or authority, someone who can hold forth on a particular subject, and hired as such. And on that score, I don't consider myself anywhere near -- I can only write about my own experiences after all. Ironically, the first column ended up as an exploration of the weight that expectations can add to your work -- other people's but especially your own. And I think it's some of the best and most honest writing I've done in a while. That appeared in issue 4, followed by my second column in issue 5, which is out now here if you'd like to read it. And the second, that's a short story called 'Telling Stories', which is about the stories we tell each ourselves about our relationships with other people. It's a more experimental mode of storytelling than I've used before, yet at the same time it's quite raw in places, and covers a subject that's close to my heart. It's doing the rounds right now, so we'll see what comes from it.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 

Oh god. Probably any one of the great many unpublished things... and possibly one or two of the published...

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
A normal writing day is usually squeezed around a normal working day. So I have an hour in the morning, an hour at lunchtime, and an hour in the evening. These are split between two hours of writing and, on training days, an hour of running. Weekends, I aim to add another couple of hours writing time on top of that per day. If I fancy a treat, I'll schedule in a couple of hours at a cafe in town (where I'm typing this now). I don't really enjoy writing in the evening -- my ideal schedule would be 8am-2pm, maybe an hour or two at teatime -- but needs must when there's bills to pay.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
It depends what you're after. If you like poetry, I'd say go for 'Love of a Season' in Winter Tales (Fox Spirit) -- or maybe the new poem in Thirty Years of Rain (see below for more details). If you like Horror, try 'Good Boy' (recently reprinted in Far Horizons' April 2016 Staff Picks issue, which you can find here). If you like non-fiction, go for my column in Shoreline of Infinity. If you're into SF and schadenfreude, try 'The Honey Trap' (reprinted earlier this year in Digital Dreams, available from NewCon Press).

7. What are you working on now? 
I’ve just finished a couple of things, including copyedits for a brand new poem, ‘Picture, of a Winter Afternoon’, which appears in Thirty Years of Rain (out now). This anthology marks the 30th anniversary of the Glasgow SF Writers Circle -- and considering its alumni include Amal El-Mohtar, Louise Welsh, Gary Gibson, Hal Duncan, Mike Cobley, Eliza Chan and Neil Williamson, I could not be more proud to be involved. Meanwhile, my latest published short story, (deep breath) 'Dame Ammonia Dastardly-Truste's Evil Genius College for Ladies Class of 2013: Graduation Speech [Transcript],' is in Fox Spirit's Fox Pockets: Evil Genius Guide. And, there are the things I've already mentioned. Also, while this isn’t directly about writing, I’ve just moved up to Scotland to study at the University of Glasgow for their MLitt in Fantasy. We’ve had some fascinating insights into the genre so far, including Shelley’s thoughts on universal truth, and George MacDonald on message and the role of a reader. On top of that, joining the passionate folks in Glasgow’s vibrant writing scene really has been a joy. I can’t wait to see what the next two years will bring. In the meantime, I’ll be working on more columns for Shoreline of Infinity, more short stories, more poetry. Oh, and my first audio story is due out from Pseudopod next year. So it might be worth keeping an eye on for whatever comes next.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Fantasycon By The Sea...

Conducting myself appropriately at the Alchemy Press launch. 
...was an absolute blast.

I always love Fantasycon, but this was a cracker by any stretch of the imagination. There was a huge amount going on, and huge numbers of lovely people - and I only got to talk to a fraction of the ones I would have loved to catch up with! - but here are a few highlights.

Getting to talk to Frances Hardinge, whose work I've become a huge fan of, and catching her interview with Kim Lakin-Smith. Amazing writer, lovely person and very, very funny.

 Meeting Catriona Ward, author of Rawblood (which won the August Derleth Award for Best Horror
Novel at the British Fantasy Awards.)

The panel 'Girls Just Want To Have Fun', about women in genre fiction, with Catriona, Maura McHugh, Ann Nicholls, Heide Goody and Priya Sharma. Which got left off the printed programme - a source of some sardonic amusement! - but was the best panel I saw that weekend.

The launch of Snowbooks' novella line, resurrecting novellas from John Llewellyn Probert, Ray Cluley, Mark Morris and, of course, Cate Gardner, that were originally published by Spectral Press, together with new work from Gary Fry and Andrew Hook.

Getting to meet Keris McDonald/Janine Ashbless properly IRL - and to sign her copy of Hell's Ditch! Keris has new stories out in The Private Life Of Elder Things, along with Adrian Tchaikovsky and Adam Gauntlett. That one's out from Alchemy Press, along with the Joel Lane tribute anthology Something Remains. Massive kudos to Pete Coleborn, Jan Edwards and Pauline Dungate for making that anthology happen.

Getting to meet the force of nature that is Georgina Bruce. Also getting to meet Emma Cosh, Sarah Dodd, Miranda Jewess and many, many other new people.

Catching up with other friends like Lynda Rucker and Sean Hogan, Alison Littlewood and Fergus Beadle (who we stalked and were stalked by en route to the Con...) Helen Marshall and Vince Haig, Gary Fry, Gary and Emily McMahon, Stephen Volk, Steve Savile, John Llewellyn Probert and Thana Niveau, Anna Taborska, Andrew Hook and Sophie Essex, Laura Mauro, Victoria Leslie, Ray Cluley and Jess Jordan, Adrian and Annie Czajkowski, Phil Sloman, Des Lewis, Jon Oliver, Dave Moore, Lydia Gittins, Nina Allan, Jim Mcleod.... the list goes on and on and I'm sure I've missed important people off....

Seeing the Karl Edward Wagner Award go to the Redshirts, past and present, who make the whole thing happen.

And best of all, seeing the lovely Priya Sharma win the Best Short Story Award for the superb 'Fabulous Beasts'.

I was on the jury for Best Collection with Carole Johnstone and Emma Cosh - the shortlisted collections were all superb, and picking a winner was a very, very tough call to make. Nonetheless, we were all unanimous in our vote: the fantastic Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due. It's a beautiful, powerful collection, and hugely recommended.

A fantastic weekend. I'm missing it already.

Next year, FCon's in Daventry. Can't wait!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

FCon Awaits...

Tomorrow, the dread trio that is Bestwick, Gardner and Priya Sharma will be setting off again, like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. (Except that there'll be three of us, and two of us are women, and we're in a car.) Off to Scarborough, for FANTASYCON!

Very much looking forward to seeing some old friends and meeting a few new ones.

The highlights, for me, will be the Snowbooks launch (featuring the relaunch of Cate's novella The Bureau Of Them), the awards (where Cate's on the shortlist for Best Novella alongside Nnedi Okorafor, Usman Tanveer Malik, Mark Morris and Paul Cornell, and where both Cate and Priya are shortlisted for Best Short Story with V.H. Leslie, Ralph Robert Moore, Adam Nevill and Frances Kay) - and the launch of Alchemy Press' tribute anthology to Joel Lane, Something Remains.

The inimitable Des Lewis has carried out one of his real-time reviews of Something Remains, available in three parts here, here and here.

Of my own contribution, 'And Ashes In Her Hair', Des says:

Ashes are fragments from many things all made the same thing by fire. This story, from whatever fragment it is made, is overtly the story of a call centre worker under strict employment rules, wringing out, from the results of a soul’s combustion, his own casual relationships with this book’s earlier waifs and strays – and wreaking sustenance from near-poisoned food, as well as eventually becoming complicit with acts of arson-into-ashes taking place in the vacant lot near the office where he works … with a swaddled outcome wrought into being as if for his embracing of a bereavement as well as of a potential birth. Heartbreaking.

I haven't seen Des since my first Fantasycon back in 1999. I believe he's going to be at this one though; it'll be good to meet him again.

For those others going this weekend - see you there!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Ramsey Campbell's The Searching Dead: Reviewed by Gary Fry

Ramsey Campbell's new novel, The Searching Dead, is launched at Fantasycon this year by PS Publishing. It's the first book in The Three Births Of Daoloth, a planned trilogy - something of a new departure for Ramsey...

Dominic Sheldrake has never forgotten his childhood in fifties Liverpool or the talk an old boy of his grammar school gave about the First World War. When his history teacher took the class on a field trip to France it promised to be an adventure, not the first of a series of glimpses of what lay in wait for the world. Soon Dominic would learn that a neighbour was involved in practices far older and darker than spiritualism, and stumble on a secret journal that hinted at the occult nature of the universe. How could he and his friends Roberta and Jim stop what was growing under a church in the midst of the results of the blitz? Dominic used to write tales of their exploits, but what they face now could reduce any adult to less than a child...

The novel also marks a return to the 'Brichester Mythos' of Campbell's earliest stories, revisited in more recent works like The Darkest Part Of The Woods and The Last Revelation Of Gla'aki. It promises to be something pretty special, I think.

Gary Fry, certainly thinks so, anyway; he's reviewed it over at his blog, and describes it as: a novel which looks set to become one third of Campbell’s masterpiece: a trilogy about who he is as a man and what he’s always striven to achieve as an author.

You can read the full review here, and order the book there.