Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Lowdown with... Ren Warom

Ren Warom is a writer of the strange, dark and bizarre, not known for an ability to fit into boxes of any description. She's repped by the fabulous Jennifer Udden of Donald Maass Literary Agency and has two cyberweird novels forthcoming in the UK and the US with Titan Books - ESCAPOLOGY in 2016 and VIROLOGY in 2017. She Tweets here, waffles on Facebook here, and YouTubes over there.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.
I think the movie Tremors is perfect and I’ve seen it in excess of 100 times; I’ve also inducted my spawn into this obsession – sorry not sorry.
I left school at 15 with no GSCE’s but went on to hold a first class degree in writing and English.
I have never broken a bone, despite riding from the age of 6 and generally being a clumsy idiot.

2. What was the first thing you had published?

I had stories published in a few anthologies but the first story I was paid for appears in This Is How It Ends, the second Machine Of Deathbook, published by Grand Central Press. My story is called In Sleep.

3. Which piece of writing are you most proud of?

In terms of persistence and dedication I am most proud of the serial fiction I wrote for four years because I feel that was a hell of a thing to commit to and I did it every two weeks for all that time (it’s on my blog). A specific piece of writing though? Perhaps The Lonely Dark, my psychological horror SF novella published by Fox Spirit Books. It’s deeply personal, dealing with some of the feelings surrounding the loss of my sister and my struggle with mental illness and it was incredibly difficult to write in places. I’m proud that I wrote it and very proud that I was brave enough to put it out there in the world. There’s a lot more of me in that novella than in anything else I’ve ever written.

4. ...And which makes you cringe?

Oh Hades! So much. SO MUCH. I have written a terrible amount of unbearable dross.  Thankfully none of that will see the light of day. As for things I have had published – well, you can always see things you’d change in old work but I see no point in feeling embarrassed by it. At one point that was the best you could do and it’s great to look back and see a clear arc of improvement.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?

A challenge. I’m a single mum of three kids all in their pre-teens and teens on a writing deadline whilst starting her own business and running a YouTube channel. This is a house of drama and noise and chaos and whilst I love it, I often find it hard to steal quiet moments. I try and write when the kids are at school and college but I have to do everything else I need to do in that time too, so it can get a little crazy. Typically if I can get bum in seat or anywhere with my laptop and a internet connection (it’s a chromebook) I try and write until I have to move – that can be anything from ten minutes to three hours. You make the most of any chance you get basically.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’d never read you before pick up first?

They could read The Lonely Dark, or my story Unravel in the BFS nominated anthology Tales of Eve. Or they can wait until next year and pick up my debut novel Escapology, which is a cyberweird and more indicative of what I usually write given ten minutes at a laptop or computer and some inspiration. :)

7. What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m working on edits for Escapology, then I’ll probably have to start working on Virology, but I’m also tinkering with a cyberweird novella dealing with cloning and thieves and awesome women called Peonies and planning another couple of novellas. One a grotesque, hallucinogenic, Burroughsian tale of personal metamorphosis and horror set in 1960s New York, the other an SF serial killer thriller slice of weird.

Thanks for having me!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Blog Tour: Week One!

The Hell's Ditch Blog Tour is well and truly underway! The first two posts are now live.

Over at This Is Horror, there's Between the Cold War and the Third:

All life on earth seemed caught in the crossfire between two increasingly brutal and ruthless regimes, run by cruel, sickly old men. Is it any wonder so many writers depicted a world on the point of falling apart, where monsters lurked in every shadow?

At Ray Cluley's blog, Probably Monsters, there's an interview:

Reminders of what’s been lost – the people, the whole way of life – are everywhere, all around you. You literally cannot get away from it, there are a hundred things, every day, to trigger a flashback of some kind.  

At Keith Brooke's Infinity Plus, you can now read an exclusive extract from the novel:

And the worst thing, the worst, worst thing, is the absence of sound. When those faces lift and gape wider to howl their prayers and agony to the uncaring, dying sky, she sees chests and shoulders heave as they try to scream. But there’s nothing.

And at James Bennett's blog, you can read about how it came to be written - and published! - in The Long Black Road Out Of Hell. 

I had this image: a city, in the future, rundown and broken. In the middle of it was a tower, gleaming and futuristic; from it, a brutal dictator ruled, with an army of uniformed thugs.

I'll keep this updated as the week goes on.

The full itinerary is here.

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Lowdown with... Mark Allan Gunnells

Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He has been lucky enough to work with some wonderful publishers. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his fiance Craig A. Metcalf.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.
I have a phobia of large bodies of water and cannot swim. I am engaged to be married. I'm a total Scully about the supernatural, though with an open mind to the possibilities.

2. What was the first thing you had published?

The first thing of mine I ever saw in print was probably a poem called "Football Nights" that I wrote in Junior High. It was published in the local Paper, the Gaffney Ledger. Didn't see any money from it, but it was a thrill seeing myself in print.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?
That's like asking a parent which child is their favorite. I'll say my sentimental favorite is a story called "Jam." It was one of the first things I wrote after a dark time where I had stopped writing and it helped me gain my confidence back. It just flowed and turned out exactly how I wanted it, and ended up being the first piece of fiction I ever sold for money.

4. …and which makes you cringe?
In my early days of selling stories, I had a story called "The Lost Gentlemen" appear in an anthology, and while I don't think it's a terrible story, it isn't a great story and several reviews singled it out as the worst in the antho. Ouch!

5. What’s a normal writing day like?
I'm very lucky in that I get to write at work. I'm a security guard, and throughout the day I have little pockets of downtime. I never know when or how long they'll last, but I've trained myself to write in those spaces. It's one of the greatest perks of my day job. I don't pressure myself with word count or page numbers, I just aim to do some writing every day and not beat myself up if it's not as much as the day before.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?
Hmm, as a reader I like to start out with a new writer by trying a short story collection if they have one. It's a great sampler to give you a good idea of what the writer has to offer. I have several of those out. I'd recommend Tales from the Midnight Shift, Ghosts in the Attic, or Welcome to the Graveyard. [You can check out Mark's Amazon author page here, and browse his wares at greater length.]

7. What are you working on now?
I'm collaborating on a novella (now in the short novel category maybe) called "Where the Dead Go to Die" with the great Aaron Dries, while also continuing to write short stories. When the collaboration is done, I'll return to a solo novel I started called 432 Abercorn.

Friday, 20 November 2015

An Announcement

As some of you may recall, I had cause to visit London earlier this month. I couldn't say why at the time, but promised an exciting professional announcement in due course. So here it is.

Back in the summer, I wrote a crime novel. I subsequently sent it off to several agents. Three asked to see the full MS; two offered representation. Hence the trip to London, to meet them both face to face - and then to make a decision.

It was a very difficult choice, as both were brilliant agencies and it would have been a huge honour to get an offer from either. Even so, I managed in the end. I signed the contracts last week and returned them; I was going to say something last Friday but as everyone knows, other events - horrible events - took place, and to do so would have been grossly insensitive.

So, anyway, here's the news: I'm now represented by Tom Witcomb at the Blake Friedmann Agency.

I've been working to get an agent for the last couple of years; it's a funny feeling to have actually achieved that goal. Now I've done so, of course, I've got to remember that it's just one step on the journey, one rung on the ladder - there are many, many more hills to climb, and I may well have to find a proper job again in the interim. But it's an important step, an important rung, and I'm happy to have got this far.

Have a safe and happy weekend, and take care, folks.

Ginger Nuts Of Horror Best of the Year #1: Shout-outs for both me and Cate!

PictureJim McLeod's site Ginger Nuts Of Horror is an awe-inspiring labour of love, a review blog that's expanded and gone from strength to strength to become one of the premier sites for anyone who wants to know what's new and hot in the field. Jim's also a big-hearted bloke (despite his irrational hatred of Irn Bru) who's rightly much-loved by folks on the UK horror scene. So much so that when he suffered a heart attack last year, Phil Sloman got in touch with a bunch of writers to ask them to write a story featuring Jim in which he died or worse. Only one physical copy of the resulting anthology, Jim McLeod must die, exists: it was presented to him at Fantasycon last month, and he cried like a big softie, bless him.

Today Jim published the first part of Ginger Nuts Of Horror's Best Of The Year picks, and among them is my beloved Cate's The Bureau Of Them, from Spectral Press:

' I like stories with emotional depth, I prefer my horror to come from the emotions of the  protagonists rather than from some poorly written scene of carnage and death.  The Bureau of Them, Cate Gardner's beautiful tale of loss, separation and isolation is a perfect example of this, a deeply emotional story of a woman coming to terms with the death of her partner, and her frantic quest to be reunited with him, this is a powerful story that draws its horror from the her sense of loss and loss of control.'

As with all Cate's stuff, a description of the plot doesn't even begin to do justice to the strangeness of the tale. You really ought to read it.

Also on the list is this:

'Special quick mention as I haven't finished the review yet must go to Simon Bestwick's Hell's Ditch, a brutal action packed dystopian novel that mixes military action eugenics horror and the mysticism of Celtic cults into a thrilling page turner with hidden depths.'

Not a bad end to the week, all told.

Cheers, Jim. Next time we meet the Irn Bru's on me.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Hell's Ditch Blog Tour

Tentatively resuming normal service on the blog... well, as you may remember, my new book Hell's Ditch is released on December 1st in hardback and ebook. To help promote it, I've arranged a blog tour with the following lovely people. It starts on Monday and it goes like this:

Week One!

Monday 23rd November: Between The Cold War and The Third, over at This Is Horror.

Tuesday 24th November: Interview by Ray Cluley at Probably Monsters.

Wednesday 25th November: Excerpt from Hell's Ditch at Infinity Plus
Thursday 26th November: The Long Black Road Out Of Hell, at James Bennett's blog.
Friday 27th November: Soldier, Gaunt Soldier: Peter Watkins' The War Game, with Gary McMahon.

Week Two!
Monday 30th November: Can One Man Survive? at Strange Tales.

Tuesday 1st December (RELEASE DAY): A Fallen World, at Walking In The Dark. (Also the online launch party - see below!)
Wednesday 2nd December: Masada In Yorkshire, at Rosanne Rabinowitz's Writings and Rantings.
Thursday 3rd December: The Casting Couch: Some Thoughts On Characterisation, at Andy Angel's page.
Friday 4th December: Broken Threads, at From Hell To Eternity.

Week Three!
Monday 7th December: When Mutants Go Bad, at Mark Gunnells' blog.
Tuesday 8th December: War Without End, at Dark Musings. (TBC)
Wednesday 9th December: The Rats and the Ruins: Domain by James Herbert, at Graeme Reynolds' blog.
Thursday 10th December: Words That Count: Some Thoughts On Writing Dialogue, at Jay Faulkner's blog.
Friday 11th December: Zen and the Art of Rebellion: Kerr Avon and Blakes' 7, at Jenny Barber's blog.

I'll update this post with links as they go up. Next week should hopefully see some advance reviews; I'll link to them as well.

There may be some sort of belated event in meatspace in the New Year, or to boost the paperback coming out in March, but until then, there's an online launch party on Facebook on the release date. This will include discounts on the hardback and ebook, an ebook giveaway, and a reading from Hell's Ditch (via the wonders of YouTube) for anyone who fancies it. (If you're on my Facebook friends list and haven't been invited, sorry! I started inviting everyone I knew and then found out too late there's a limit to how many invites I can send. So if you want to take part, click the link and invite yourself!)

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Paris, Beirut, Baghdad

No Lowdown this Monday. Maybe on Friday; it depends.
There are things to announce, new developments in my writing career; they can wait for now.

There aren't any words. What the hell do you say about this, except that it's awful?

And there aren't any answers. Not from me, anyway. I don't know what to do. Military action? Half the folk calling for it are the same idiots who bayed for blood in Iraq and still haven't admitted their catastrophic error. I marched against the Iraq War, for all the good it did. But this isn't 2003. And yes, ISIS, ISIL, Da'esh - whatever these Stone Age fuckwits call themselves, or we call them - are at least in part a monster of the West's making. But they're still monsters. Left alone, they'll kill people horribly, worsen the ongoing refugee crisis and - if they are indeed as they claim behind what happened in Paris on Friday - it isn't exactly a stretch to say they'll likely organise further attacks. If we bomb the hell out of them, will we end the problem or just make the problem worse?

I don't know. I have no idea. I doubt most of the politicians do.

I've heard hate and bigotry screamed at all Muslims. I've heard cries for vengeance. I've heard calls for peace and restraint, too, reminders that we can't tar all followers of a religion with the same brush. When I shared one, a Jewish acquaintance accused me of  'making excuses for them', spewed a load of hatred for Muslims in general and deleted me on Facebook. Well, frankly, good fucking riddance.

My partner works for a French company, in a major British city. She's nervous about going to work today. I'm nervous for her going to work today.

I don't know what to do or to say or to think or to hope for. I wish I could say something wise and kind and healing, but this is all I've got. Fuck people who slaughter the innocent. Fuck them. Whether they do it with suicide vests or machine guns or missiles or cluster bombs or drone strikes or whatever. Fuck them.

What matters is kindness; what matters is love. In Kurt Vonnegut's words: 'There's only one rule I know of, babies: God damn it, you've got to be kind.'

Beyond that, I got nothing.

Look after yourselves; look after each other.

Now I'm going to try to do some work, for whatever it may be worth.

Simon x