Author and Scriptwriter

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

Friday, 7 April 2017

The Lowdown with... Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy is a writer and musician. He also runs a halfway home for injured or ill feral cats and dogs as well as abandoned domestic pets. He lives in Bangalore, India. His chapbook, A VOLUME OF SLEEP, will be release by Dunhams Manor Press later this year.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
I’m a left-hander. When I first learned to play guitar I used to play a right-handed guitar upside down, without the strings changed.
My paternal grandfather and my father were both voracious readers. Although we never talked about him, interestingly each of us read Algernon Blackwood at some point, so I have editions of some of Blackwood’s works from the 1940s, the 1970s and more recently. Is this the curse of the Satyamurthys?
My father ran a bookshop in the ‘80s. This helped me read a lot of great stuff, including issues of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run and that remarkable all-text issue of Howard The Duck.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
Fiction? A very, very short piece called ‘stone rider’ for an issue of ‘Bust Down The Door And Eat All The Chickens’, a bizzaro magazine, even though my story wasn’t bizzaro.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
There is a story in my second chapbook for Dunhams Manor Press, out later this year, called ‘a place in the sun’ that I think is my best thing yet.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
Nothing, yet. Ask me again when I’m really old.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I usually get most of my writing done in half hour bursts between the hours of 7 AM and 4 PM.
That’s when I am writing at all. I don’t write everyday, only when I have a story idea that seems worth pursuing. If a story isn’t shaping up after three days of work I usually put it aside. At my best, I’ve written a 6000-word story in a single day in two or three sittings. I love it when that happens. I find that the less I have to struggle the better the story comes out. If I’m still rolling a rock uphill after 2000 words, it’s not going to work out. At least not in this particular form.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
I think the easiest way to check my way out is online - look for the story The Ouroboros Apocrypha on the Lovecraft eZine website. But ideally, try and get a copy of my first chapbook, Weird Tales Of A Bangalorean, because that will give you a deeper dive into my fiction.

7. What are you working on now?
Trying to get my mojo working again. It’s been 4 months since I last completed a story and longer since I wrote something I really liked.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Things of the Week 5th April 2017: Interview by Louisa Rhodes, New The Feast Of All Souls review, The Adventure of the Orkney Shark

Photo by Vicky Morris.
A few things to announce this week...

First up, there's this really cool interview done last month, after my half of the Hive Writer's Day Workshop with the brilliant K.T. Davies. Louisa Rhodes, one of Hive's young writers, fed me questions about horror, writing and spaghetti, typed up my rambling responses and made them look reasonably intelligent. So here's the result. Louisa did a fantastic job, and was a pleasure to talk to.

The Feast Of All Souls has a new review, over at RisingShadow, in which Seregil of Rhiminee describes it as "one of the best horror novels I've read in recent years... entertaining, thrilling... ambitious and well-written. Excellent British horror fiction!"

Many thanks to RisingShadow, and to Seregil!

And finally... Simon Clark's anthology Sherlock Holmes's School For Detection is out now.

It's 1890. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson return to Baker Street after a night pursuing a vicious criminal. Inspector Lestrade is waiting for Holmes with a proposition of national importance.
Lestrade tells Holmes that a school of detection has been formed to train a new breed of modern investigators that will serve in Great Britain and the Empire. Most students will become police officers. Some, however, will become bodyguards and spies. Holmes begins instructing his decidedly curious assortment of students from home and abroad. He does so with his customary gusto and inventiveness.
Scotland Yard, in the main, allocates crimes to solve and Holmes mentors his students. Occasionally, he shadows them in disguise in order to assess or even directly test their abilities with creative scenarios he devises. Certain crimes investigated by the students might appear trivial, such as the re-positioning of an ornament atop a garden wall, yet it will transpire an assassin has moved the ornament to create good sightlines in order to commit murder with a sniper's rifle.
Other mysteries are considered outside the domain of the police. For example, the inexplicable disappearance of a stone gargoyle, which is linked to an ancient family curse. Or a man suffering from amnesia who discovers that not only has he acquired a secret life but also gained an implacable enemy, too. Holmes, with the ever- trustworthy Doctor Watson in his wake, is kept busy with his students' cases, ranging from minor to serious, sometimes rectifying their mistakes and saving them from a variety of disasters.
These eleven wonderful new adventures and intrigues include tales such as 'The Gargoyles of Killfellen House', 'Sherlock Holmes and the Four Kings of Sweden' and 'The Case of the Cannibal Club'.

The anthology also features my story The Adventure Of The Orkney Shark. Other contributors include Cate Garder, Paul Finch, Alison Littlewood, Carole Johnstone... and many, many more.

The Adventure of the Orkney Shark is set in 1927. Lieutenant-Commander Noel Atherstone, recalled from retirement in Australia for the Imperial Airship Scheme, is given a top-secret mission: to assist Sherlock Holmes in investigating the mysterious disappearance of ships in the North Sea. Fishermen blame the gigantic and voracious Orkney Shark - but as Atherstone, Holmes and Holmes' reluctantly-acquired pupil Mr Blacksmith search the seas in airship R.36, they discover a threat far deadlier than any sea monster...

There,” said Blacksmith, pointing from an open starboard window.
Where?” Holmes and I ran to his side, peering out – but we had already passed over the spot.
Reduce speed,” I told Church. “Mr Potter, bring us around. Mr Hunt, maintain altitude.”
Slowly the airship turned. It wasn’t a quick process; R.36 was six hundred and seventy-five feet long from nose to tail, and almost eighty wide. But in the end, she cruised back the way she had come, at a more sedate pace.
What did you see, and where?” demanded Holmes. Blacksmith pointed to an area of swirling water between two flat, tabular skerries.
There,” he said. “It does not move.”
I see nothing,” said Holmes.
Nor I,” I said. “Just rock, weed, barnacles…”
Barnacles, yes. There are none elsewhere on these shoals.”
He was right, now I considered: for whatever reason, the tiny shellfish didn’t appear on any visible part of the rocks and skerries. They lay only in this one area, in a long wide cluster. As we drew closer, I saw its outline was distorted by the water’s churning, but there was something about the shape – a regularity, a symmetry.
The barnacles had not grown here; they had grown somewhere – or on something – else. Something that had spent a great deal of time in other parts of the sea, more conducive to their survival.
Blacksmith was right: I saw it now. A great mass, encrusted in barnacles and weed, in the shape of a huge fish – a long teardrop body, but with fins, almost like wings, jutting out from its sides, and another, a thin sharp triangle, rising from its back. But it was larger than any fish – four hundred feet, if it was an inch...

You can buy the anthology here.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Lowdown with... James A. Moore

JAMES A. MOORE is the author of over forty novels, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, Blood Harvest, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley) Cherry Hill, Alien: Sea of Sorrows and the Seven Forges series of novels. He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President. Never one to stay in one genre for too long, James has recently written epic fantasy novels in the series SEVEN FORGES (Seven Forges, The Blasted Lands, City of Wonders and The Silent Army). He is working on a new series called The Tides Of War. The first book in the series, The Last Sacrifice, is due out in January. Pending novels also include A Hell Within (a Griffin & Price Novel) co-written with Charles R. Rutledge and an apocalyptic Sci-Fi novel tentatively called Spores. Why be normal?

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
I’m a prolific writer. On a good day I break 4,000-5,000 words. My best single day was 11,700 words, edited twice, in 8 hours.
I’m a widower.
I am an exceedingly violent pacifist, which is probably at least half of the reason I write.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
The first professional sale was a comic book script for Clive Barker’s Hellraiser issue number 15, a story called “of Love, Cats & Curiosity. The first thing ever published was a review of White Wolf Games’ entire World of Darkness (at that point about seven books in the Vampire: The Masquerade game) for Game Shop News.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 

Dude, that like asking which of your children you love best. I did a story called “Spirits,” for a book called Four Ghosts, that came out from Cemetery Dance Publications. It’s a ghost story with no ghosts, I wrote it very, very quickly and it actually worked out the way I wanted it to, which makes me very happy. My other answer is, whatever I just finished, but that part tends to fade.

 4. …and which makes you cringe? 
Of my writing? The very first novel printed was called Vampire: The Eternal Struggle: House of Secrets. I haven’t even read it since I wrote it. I’ve heard it’s actually okay, but I just can’t do it. I have no idea why, seriously. Also, when I was fourteen I wrote 472 pages of a fantasy novel with absolutely no plot and the most pretentious writing ever. The evidence has long since been destroyed.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 

I work a full time (sometimes part time)job as a barista, so first there’s the day job and heavy levels of caffeine, then I take a break for about an hour. Then 3-4 hours of writing, a break for dinner and TV, then back to writing for a few hours That also includes handling correspondence, phone calls, and social media.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
 I’m going to go with SEVEN FORGES, which I’ve had several people tell me is some of my best work.

7. What are you working on now? 
I just had THE LAST SACRIFICE come out in January and that’s the first in a new series called TIDES OF WAR. I’m about two thirds of the way through the first draft of the sequel, called FALLEN GODS. I’m just reaching the cackle stage, which is when I’ve set everything up and I can get to some serious reactions and carnage.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Things of the Week 20th March 2017: Popping Up For Air

[singing] "We all bang together..."
Hello, everybody.

Well, it's been a while since I've blogged (other than the Lowdown), so I thought I'd just stick my head above water long enough for a quick status report (for those of you who give a monkey's! Get over yourself, Bestwick...)

The new job is... well... not too bad, actually. The people I work with are okay, the job itself is fairly undemanding, and it pays enough that I can contribute to cost of living here at Castle Bestwick while keeping some pocket money. (Not that I have any objection to being a kept man, but Cate probably would.)

The only downside are the hours - lengthy shifts that can include weekend working. I have today off after having had shifts on Saturday and Sunday, and this is the first day off where I've remembered/been sufficiently compos mentis (as opposed to compost mentis) enough to say anything much.

Things are happening, anyway. I've managed to settle into a new working schedule which means I can usually get work done on whatever the main project is (currently the second draft of Wolf's Hill), and if the shift starts later, can work on other stuff too. This involves getting up at 4 am, something I'd have filed in the 'You Must Be Joking' category till not so long ago.

Another fringe benefit of the job is that employees are allowed to have loose paper and pen at their desk between calls. I've never, in the past, been able to write two projects concurrently. Never. Write one while editing another, yes. But working on a novel, say, and then working on a short story alongside it? Like the whole 4 o'clock thing, I would have told you, a few months ago, that it was impossible; to write a new story, I'd have to take a break from the novel-writing. And yet now? What started out as writing notes for a story turned into writing the thing itself. I'm only rewriting Wolf's Hill now, but wrote the first drafts of two new stories while completing the first draft of the novel.

So the weirdest thing about going back into employment after being a full-time writer is... I'm actually more productive.

Trouble is, according to Cate, this means I should work full time for the rest of my life so she can quit her job and I can support us both single-handed. I remain deeply unconvinced by this argument, and any assistance in refuting it would be gratefully received.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that my blogging has ended up taking a backseat, even the Lowdown became a bit fitful. So I'm now back to running two a week: once the current crop of interviews (plus a few last ones I'm soliciting) are exhausted, I may have to put it on hiatus for a spell. Hopefully not too long.

Elsewhere - life is good, married life is great, Wolf's Hill might actually not be utter pants and a couple of cool things are bubbling under, which I'll hopefully be in a position to say more about before too much longer.

In other news, I pottered home through the park near our house on the way back from an early shift the other day, to find a full-scale frog orgy in progress. Spring, I guess, has sprung. Weirdest thing is, the little beggars sounded like a motorbike starting several streets away. Luckily, Rupert the Bear was nowhere in sight. ;) (Thanks to Tracy, aka The Seamstress, for providing photographic evidence...)

So anyway, have a good week. I'm off work today, as I said, but I'm usually not, so it only seems fair to end the post with this song...

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Lowdown with... Joolz Denby

Joolz Denby in her own words: "Professional writer, artist and tattooist. I write poetry and novels, paint, illustrate and design to commission, and am a fully trained tattooist with my own deluxe custom art tattoo studio, Studio Bijoux in Bradford UK."

1. Tell us three things about yourself.  
Three? Only three? Shit. Er. I can't sleep because a giant cat keeps jumping in my chest at night: that's actually true. Um. My day job is tattooing at my own studio. Argh....I can swear in at least 6 languages at least one of which is dead.

2. What was the first thing you had published?
Oh that was in the school magazine - I was at Belmont-Birklands Independent High School For Young Ladies - it was a four page epic poem about the fall of Atlantis and contained the word 'harlot' twice. I thought it meant the type of girl who smokes in the street. There were a number of complaints from parents. However via my English teacher, who was a friend of his, Ted Hughes critiqued my poetry. I was eleven. No pressure.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?  

Billie Morgan. It also has the benefit of getting up the most peoples' noses for being 'harsh'. They miss the funny bits because they're too busy being outraged. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize but rumour had it the organisers were so horrified at me - tattooed, Northern, loose cannon in their eyes - they privately insisted I didn't win lest I bring the Prize into disrepute... and I didn't despite being the Bookie's Favourite. Cheap bastards didn't even give us authors a new phone. Shockin'.

4. …and which makes you cringe?  
A poem I wrote aged 15 - I was taking a lot of Valium but it's no excuse - comparing my heartbreak at being ignored by a boy I fancied in the Montmatre Café to my new Biba nail varnish: 'The reflection of my tears in my blue nail polish'. Indeed. No excuse for that.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?  
Get out of bed at 10.30 am. Put on huge black fleece dressing gown. Feed Giant Cat and his adopted uncle. Make toast & tea. Take it back to bed with laptop. Type furiously for two hours. Bathroom. Coffee. Edit. Type furiously for another two hours. Coffee. Get dressed. Eat. Draw. Watch telly. Drink tea. 1.00am - go back to bed. Pretend to 'just check' writing. Type furiously for an hour. Fall asleep.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?  
Billie Morgan. Or they could listen to one of my albums - Crow is the latest. Henning Nugel did the music. It's all very Game Of Thrones. Crows, glitter, death and God.

7. What are you working on now?  
Midnight At the Rat And Roses. A modern version of the Orpheus myth involving the Russian mafia, a dead artist and karma. It will never be published.

If you enjoyed this Lowdown, you might want to check out a longer interview I did with Joolz for This Is Horror in 2013. One of my prouder moments! Part One is here; here's Part Two.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Lowdown with... Stephen Hargadon

Born in London, Stephen Hargadon now lives and works in the north of England.
His short stories have been published in a number of places, including Black Static, Structo and Popshot magazines, the Irish Post, and on the LossLit website. His non-fiction has appeared on (including a well-received article on the joys of secondhand bookshops).

He has recently finished a novel.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.

i) These are the objects on my desk: a watch with a black face and orange hands; a brown leather wallet; a white notebook containing a short story set in Stockport and the beginnings, perhaps, of a novel; a tape dispenser in the shape of an audio cassette (must buy some tape); a lamp; a small black notebook (unused); an ovoid paperweight with purple spiral motif, bought from an antique shop in King’s Lynn, a pleasingly chaotic warren of a place, overseen by two old ladies, where I also found an attractive edition of Angus Wilson’s The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot (as yet unread); a passport; scissors; coffee stains; two memory sticks; a wooden cigarette box incised with geometric patterns; a paperclip; a twenty pence piece; a white pen.

ii) I like watching films. Who doesn’t? I’m not quite as hardcore a cineaste as Marshall Tito who, I believe, watched a film every night. I used to like finding films by accident on TV. I saw The London Nobody Knows as a child. It quite gripped me – James Mason was an attractively menacing presence – and I wanted the film to go on forever: the filth and decay, the street drinkers swigging purple meths, the men ruined during the Depression, the grotty yards where the Ripper performed his foul operations, all this lingered in my memory (although for some reason I mistakenly rechristened the film The Secret Places of London). Later in life, the glib omnipotence of the internet led me from the film itself to the books and drawings of Geoffrey Snowcroft Fletcher. (His atmospherically illustrated works, including Pearly Kingdom, London After Dark and his masterpiece, Down Among the Meths Men, are well worth reading.)

One of the increasingly rare pleasures of watching TV is to stumble on an old film, a film you’d never seen before, an oddity, a treasure. I remember seeing an American film, The Baby, late one night on the BBC – perhaps the last thing before the screen was plunged into darkness. Such a bizarre, creepy film – with a sickening twist. It stayed with me. I’d look at the listings for years, hoping that The Baby would reappear, if only to convince myself that it hadn’t been a ghastly, half-drunken hallucination. Of course, it wasn’t. And I now own the film on DVD. You can look up everything on the internet. Instant information. Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush – a kooky 1960s coming-of-age drama set in Stevenage – was another film that thrilled me when I first saw it by accident on late night TV. The second time I watched it, a few years later, I couldn’t see what had occasioned my excitement. It was just another vaguely zany 1960s romp, albeit one with an alluringly mundane setting. I now have the DVD, of course. I can watch it whenever I want, which is hardly ever. There’s a good scene in it where Denholm Elliot’s character is describing wine at a dinner party. He’s plastered. He sloshes the liquid around his gob, then says: ‘It greets the palate like an old friend …’

iii) At the moment I’m reading August is a Wicked Month by Edna O’Brien. It the first time I’ve read O’Brien. I think I’m in for a treat. The opening chapter is a perfect thing – it could stand alone as a short story, ambiguous, funny, sharp. I’m looking forward to the rest of the book.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 

‘World of Trevor’ in Black Static 40.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
 I can’t say that I’m particularly proud of any one piece over another. Yes, I have a residual affection, perhaps, for certain stories. But I don’t feel pride. I very rarely re-read my stuff once it’s found a home: I tend to see faults and blemishes, wrong turnings, botched gambits, although occasionally I’m surprised by a phrase or image, as if it’s been put there by someone else. I have a soft spot for old Trev because it was the first thing of mine to appear in print: a thrill, for sure. I wrote successive drafts in longhand. Then I typed it up, revising, refining. ‘Through the Flowers’ (published in Popshot Magazine, issue 14, with a brilliant illustration by Kate O’Hara) is another story for which I have a certain fondness – at least that’s how I think of it in the cosy saloon bar of my memory. Should I be forced to read it again right now I might well shake my head in dismay, or at least flinch every second sentence. And there’s ‘Just Browsing’, an essay on second-hand bookshops, which was my first venture into non-fiction, a mode I’ll certainly explore in future.

For me, the finished thing, the completed text, is not as interesting as the act, the process of writing, the way in which words spark more words. Once it’s done, it’s time to move on. I can only hope that the reader enjoys what I’ve produced, that he or she experiences the same strange, complex thrill that I’ve feel when reading a good book, a kind of yesness. I suppose my deepest loyalty is always to the last thing I’ve written or to the thing I’m working on at any given time. The important thing is to finish the wretched thing before it becomes a bore to write (and probably to read).

4. … and which makes you cringe? 
All of it and none of it.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I spend many days in an office, among voices and computers. It’s not too bad. I suppose I’m always writing. There’s always a section of the brain working on something. Everything is material. Every moment, every sensation: floating spores of thought, the pollen of memory. (Careful, look out for that lamp-post.) I carry around a small notebook (it bears the logo of the Monk Bridge Iron and Steel Co Ltd, Leeds, 1922) and the slimmest pen imaginable, a Japanese marvel, thinner than a matchstick. The problem with notebooks is that I have so many of them. They multiply. They hide in bags and pockets. They lurk on shelves like awkward, scruffy adolescents among proper books, books with the author’s name on the spine, books that were perhaps once notebooks themselves. My notebooks refuse to give up their secrets when I need them most. They contain odd lines, quickly caught, my handwriting stretched and loosened to the point of indecipherability, flattened by the speed of thought. There are snatches of dialogue, obscure epiphanies, many dark doodles, emphatic squiggles and underlinings, sinuous arrows pointing at words that mean nothing to me now. In some respects I’m not very organised. But it’s worth making notes: sometimes, when I skim through my notes and can’t find what I think I need, I’ll find something else that I’d forgotten about, a bright fragment, a useful quip, a callous aside. I’m not too fussy about where and how I write. I started a recent story on the morning train next to a fat businessman who was scrolling through inanities on his phone. The first line just came to me on the platform, in the milky blue of a suburban dawn. I didn’t know if the line would turn into a story. I still don’t – it’s not finished. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of catching the voice. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. A writing day is nothing special. You sit down and write. You get on with it.

I need peace and quiet if I’m editing or re-writing. It depends. Sometimes I listen to music but mostly I prefer the sound of the world around me, its creaks and sighs. There’s no routine. A mug of tea or coffee. I switch between keyboard and longhand. The change can freshen things up. I try to write something every day. I always start a new piece with pen and paper. It’s the only way. Often, it’ll be a snatch of dialogue that sets me off, less often an image. I don’t tend to plan things in minute detail. No graphs. No spreadsheets. No diagrams or intricately engineered story arcs. I need room for things to develop. That’s part of the fun. The words spark and fizz as you write. For me, there is no other way. Sometimes a story can die in my brain once I know the ending. If I don’t finish the thing while it’s still fresh and new, I could lose interest, I’ll roll off and fart. After I’ve put a fair amount of ink on paper I switch to the screen. I work on a basic laptop. I don’t use anything like Scrivener. I am a one-fingered percussionist. I bash the keys. I’ve got it down to an art, I can go at a decent speed. I don’t have a daily word target, although I keep an eye on how much I’m churning out. I might aim to get to the end of a chapter or to work out a scene. But I’ll stop when the writing becomes sluggish, when the connections don’t quite work: that’s when I’m tired. I write during the day. I don’t burn the midnight oil. Although sometimes I wake up and jot down a thought or two.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
Well, I suppose the best place to start is to find anything that’s been published, online or in print. There’s not exactly tons of stuff out there: my published works are not likely to buckle your shelves. Go to my website: you’ll find a few stories there. Most of my published stories have appeared in Black Static, so that’s a pretty good place to start. People seem to like ‘The Bury Line’ (Black Static 42) and ‘The Visitors’ (Black Static 45). I like ‘The Mouse’ in Structo 15.

7. What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a novel. Now I need to find a home for it, which is a job in itself. I’ve a couple of stories on the go – I’ve always got a story on the go – while others haven’t yet found an outlet. In fact, my notebooks contain about 20 stories in various states of disrepair. A novel is stirring. It is set in Manchester. I’ve written a few sections. It’s like tuning a radio. There is feedback and interference. The neighbours are making a racket. But mostly the new novel remains a possible world of certain images and unresolved dialogue. At this stage, it’s no more than a flavour, a smell, a feeling, a dream, a portly man with desire in his eyes, a man who sits next to you on the train. There will be dirty carpets and brick walls. There will be pale faces and whorled turds, chicken sandwiches and an impossible love affair. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to work.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The Lowdown with... Cassandra Khaw

Cassandra Khaw is the business developer for Singaporean video games publisher Ysbryd Games. She also writes for Ars Technica UK whenever possible. When not doing either of those things, she practices muay thai, tries to find time to dance, and reads voraciously. She also writes a variety of fiction, and has a novella entitled RUPERT WONG, CANNIBAL CHEF out with Abaddon Books, and another, HAMMERS ON BONE, from Tor.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 

I don’t go anywhere without a plush bunny named Judy. (Yes, named for the Zootopia character.) There’s an unhappy story tied to that, but that is not here or now.

I practice Muay Thai. Not very often and certainly not at the expertise level that I’d like. But I enjoy the martial arts and the excuse at working out incessantly.

My favourite thing to do in the United Kingdom is gallivanting about, telling people nice things about their attire, and otherwise terrorising the Brits with undue flattery. Some day, this is going to get me arrested.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
What the Highway Prefers’ which Lackington’s published. I have the acceptance letter printed somewhere.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
Oh. Oh, my god. Like I said in another interview, it always feels like I’m playing favorites when someone makes me pick. (Because it literally is, but let’s ignore that.) If I had to choose, it’d probably be ‘In The Rustle of Pages’ that came out in 2015. It was my first story to have a strong emotional impact on readers.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
We do not speak ill of the dead and buried.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
Roll out of bed, shamble towards the nearest available source of coffee, eat breakfast, drink coffee, prod at Twitter. At some point after morning ablutions, open up a document and haphazardly smack at the keyboard until words fall out. Writing might be a more elegant affair for everyone else, but for me, it isn’t. Then again, I’ve never feigned being an elegant human being. So there’s that.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
I want to say Rupert Wong just because he was the first thing I really wrote, the first thing to give me confidence I could do something with my fiction. But Rupert is also a Character, if you know what I mean, and of all my works, his stories are possibly the goriest of them all. Still. Demon babies seeking to unionise.

7. What are you working on now? 
Right at this very second? I’m switching between this and typing out a manuscript for a tie-in novella. The boys at Signal from Tolva gave me licenses to go crazy with their world, and I’m not ashamed to say I have. Expect queer women cyborgs of every variety, 3D-printed scientists, parasite complexes, and plenty of body horror.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The Lowdown with... Paul StJohn Mackintosh

Paul StJohn Mackintosh is a British poet, weird/dark fiction writer, and journalist/media pro. Born in 1961, he was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, has lived and worked in Asia and Central Europe, and currently is based in Hungary. He has published two collections of poetry, as well as several co-translations from Japanese, done with his ex-wife Maki Sugiyama. His first collection of dark/weird/transgressive fiction, Black Propaganda, appeared from H. Harksen Productions in May 2016. Paul is Associate Editor of the US books, publishing and literary site, and has been rated #1 of "The 12 Publishing Shakers You Should Be Following" by The Independent Publishing Magazine. He has produced award-winning short films with his ex-wife, the Hungarian filmmaker Lilla Bán.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 

I'm an active member of the BDSM community, an advocate for sexual rights, a sometime member of Torture Garden, and an occasional contributor to Skin Two. All of that feeds into my writing. I find dark fantastic erotic fiction to be one of the best ways of probing the existential dilemmas of human agency and identity that fascinate me most.

I'm an inveterate clubber and dance music fan - especially house music, techno and d&b. I go clubbing on average at least two nights a week.

I'm a Scottish nationalist. I grew up in Edinburgh and Dundee, and cleave closest to the Scottish side of my heritage. Out of respect for the feisty underdog; out of disgust at the gimcrack, failing "British constitution" and querulous, murderous modern English nationalism; out of love for a wholly distinct culture and tradition in Britain; out of love for the Scottish landscape; and simply out of hope for change for the better. I'm also official clan poet of Clan Mackintosh. That said, I love living in other countries and cultures, and can't recommend the experience enough.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
The first thing I had published that I really took pride in was a poem, "An Expressionist Passion," inspired by Die Weiße Rose, the German pacifist anti-Nazi student resistance group. That basically kicked me off as a serious writer.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
The semi-autobiographical story "The Princess and the Dragon," based on my experiences in Singapore, in my new collection, Black Propaganda. It's the oldest story in the book, and the one I thought most about revising, and revised least. Even though it has plenty of faults, it also has all the raw passion I could ever wish for.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
There's a 200-page first novel I wrote in my early twenties stashed in a ring binder back at my parents' place. I'm terrified that some day someone is going to disinter it and actually read it.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 

I tend to write in spurts rather than to a regular disciplined timetable, but when I do get a rush on, I closet myself and buckle down for several hours. Otherwise, I try to get up to an hour in the early morning, to put things down while my mind is freshest. I also tend to do a lot of writing in cafes - using handwriting recognition on a tablet. I find it helps keep things spontaneous, enables me to incorporate research straight off the internet into what I'm writing, and tempers the aching solitude of the writing life.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
I'd be tempted to say "The Princess and the Dragon," except that in some ways it's not representative. Maybe they should start with "Coma Berenice," also in Black Propaganda - a weird tale of bizarre paraphilia, obsessive love, and emotional vampirism.

7. What are you working on now? 
I've got any number of short stories on the chocks at any one time, as well as full-length works either under way or awaiting revision. I'm working on an apocalyptic cli-fi novel about environmental stress driving humanity into an epigenetic phase shift, as well as some occult historical tales and war stories.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Janine Ashbless: Blood And Stones

Today I've invited the awesome Janine Ashbless (aka Keris McDonald) to guest-blog about her major new novel In Bonds Of The Earth. So now I'll get out of the way and let her do the talking...

When I started writing In Bonds of the Earth, I knew I’d have to go to Ethiopia.
Well, to be precise, I knew my characters would. In Bonds of the Earth is the second in my trilogy The Book of the Watchers, an erotic supernatural thriller about fallen angels. My primary sources for the fallen angels and their offspring the Nephilim was The Book of Enoch, a truly hallucinatory text written in the 3rdt century BCE, quoted in the New Testament Epistles, but then excised altogether from the official canon of Biblical literature. For thousands of years it disappeared from Western Christianity.

But Ethiopia kept the Book of Enoch alive. Ethiopia has been, extraordinarily, a Christian nation since the 4th century—way before anywhere in the West become officially Christian. It’s a unique, heavily Jewish form of Orthodoxy, perhaps the closest imaginable to that of the Early Church (they don’t eat pork for example, they segregate the sexes during services, and the Holy of Holies in every church is focused not on a crucifix but a copy of the Ark of the Covenant). And they do include the Book of Enoch in their canon.


So at the end of the first book in the series, Cover Him With Darkness, Azazel has been freed from his imprisonment and vows to release all his brother Fallen Angels and wage war on Heaven.
I knew I had to take him to Ethiopia to find the first of his comrades. And I knew that that had to be Penemuel, Angel of the Written Word, just because I was so amused by this quote from Enoch:
And he instructed mankind in writing with ink and paper, and thereby many sinned from eternity to eternity and until this day. For men were not created for such a purpose, to give confirmation to their good faith with pen and ink.”
So I booked a twenty-day tour, which was eye-opening and awesome, even if it did result in terrible food-poisoning. Hey, it’s not every author who has literally bled for their book. Rectally.

Appalling mental images aside, I found the perfect location for Penemuel’s imprisonment; the subterranean rock-cut churches of Lalibela:
I have learnt my lesson. For Bk 3 in the series I’m using nice gentle locations … like the Norwegian mountains. In the middle of winter…
(BTW, there are more photos of Ethiopia, its amazing historical legacy and its wild Church art, on my blog)

Would you defy God, for love?

Broad at the shoulders and lean at the hips, six foot-and-then-something of ropey muscle, he looks like a Spartan god who got lost in a thrift store. He moves like ink through water. And his eyes, when you get a good look at them, are silver. Not gray. Silver. You might take their inhuman shine for fancy contact lenses. Youd be wrong.

Janine Ashbless is back with the second in her paranormal erotic romance Book of the Watchers trilogy: In Bonds of the Earth.

Unafraid to tackle the more complex issues surrounding good and evil in mainstream religion, Janine has created a thought-provoking and immersive novel which sets a new standard for paranormal erotic romance. The first in the series, Cover Him With Darkness, was released in 2014 by Cleis Press and received outstanding reviews.

In Bonds of the Earth is published by Sinful Press and is due for release on March 1st, 2017.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Devil's Highway is unleashed!

Today, at last, the paperback edition of Devil's Highway is properly in stock! As you may remember, it was originally slated for release on 1st February, but Snowbooks had so many advance orders they ended up switching publishers for a bigger run! So, at last, it's loose now.

Also, Snowbooks are now doing a special offer on ebooks: all their ebooks are now available at a reduced rate. That includes Devil's Highway, and Hell's Ditch too! For the full list of Snowbooks e-titles, go here! (The Devil's Highway ebook doesn't seem to be on Amazon just now, so you'll have to get it from the site, here.

And just to round it all off, here's that third book trailer...


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

More Black Road News: The Second Trailer!

And so here's the second trailer! Number three will be along soon...

More Black Road News: The Second Trailer!

And so here's the second trailer! Number three will be along soon...

The Black Road Website, and the first Devil's Highway Trailer

Been meaning to do this for while - I've set up a separate website for the Black Road series. It won't replace this blog (and I'll be blethering on about the books here as well) but I liked the idea of giving this story - which has been a long time in the telling for me, and is very close to my heart - its own online home. And it was good practice for me with Wordpress...

Another thing I got round to (always fancied trying it and had a little spare time over the past week) was making a book trailer for Devil's Highway. Three of them, in fact - all short, and hopefully building up in effect. Anyway, for what it's worth, here's the first of them...

The Obligatory Blowing Of Horns

Voting for the British Fantasy Awards closes on 1st March this year, and various other awards are gearing up to put together long- and short-lists. I hope to put out a few recommendations shortly, but in the meantime here’s a quick round-up of my own eligible work from 2016 (or as I like to call it, the Annual Obligatory Horn-Blowing)

I had two! The Feast Of All Souls and Devil’s Highway (although I’m painfully aware Devil’s Highway was only released in hardback in December and the paperback’s only just seeing daylight now.) Nonetheless, both are eligible works.

I only had three original tales published in 2016:
‘Wrath of the Deep’ in The Hyde Hotel
‘Between Angels and Insects’ in Tomorrow’s Cthulhu
‘And Ashes In Her Hair’ in Something Remains

That's all, unless anyone counts was my blog about Spectral Press as non-fiction – it seems to have ended up being read more than anything else I’ve done to date!

Right, that’s the horn-blowing out of the way… as you were. Happy Valentine's Day, and read good stuff.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Behind Her Eyes By Sarah Pinborough

The fab Ms. P.
Sarah Pinborough is an author whose career basically embodies the term ‘levelling up’. After emerging in the mid-2000s with a succession of pulpy supernatural thrillers from Leisure Books, she made her mark as a writer to be taken seriously with the award-winning and poignant novella The Language Of Dying. Since then she’s gone from strength to strength, penning (among others) a dystopian crime trilogy featuring the fallen angels (The Dog-Faced Gods trilogy) a brace of Victorian murder mysteries (Mayhem and Murder) with a supernatural tinge, the devastating novel The Death House and a first-class YA thriller, 13 Minutes. Throughout, she’s aimed higher, got better and better, and marked herself out as a name to watch.

Pinborough’s latest, Behind Her Eyes, has been spoken of as her breakthrough book, one that will propel her name in among the front rank of British thriller writers. And they may be right.

Single mum Louise feels as though her life’s stopped: it consists of her son Adam, her job as a doctor’s receptionist, the occasional joint and bottle of wine with her friend Sophia – and that’s it. Then she meets David – attractive, charming and sexy. Only one problem: he’s her new boss.

Louise begins an affair with David, but also – despite her better judgement – befriends his wife Adele. Trying to prevent her lover and her friend from finding out about about one another, Louise is drawn deeper into the secrets and lies of the couple’s marriage. Is David, her gentle and charming lover, a controlling and abusive husband? Or is Adele more than she seems?

Well, that would be telling.

The most frustrating thing about Behind Her Eyes – frustrating in a good way – is that it’s hard to describe why it’s such a good read without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure yet. That’s not just because of the plot’s twists and turns, although it has plenty of them and they’re done very well – there’s a reason #wtfthatending has been trending constantly about the novel. It’s more than that.

What drives this book is a simple, but very unwelcome and unsettling truth: you can never really
know for sure what goes on in someone else’s head. Your closest friend, your most intimate lover, your spouse of years or decades: they’ve all got secrets that you’ll never find out. You just have to make your peace with that and hope none of those secrets are dangerous. But in Behind Her Eyes, of course, they are.

Which is what makes it so much more than just another clever thriller with a twist: that uncomfortable truth is the book’s central theme and the motor that drives the whole story. The book cuts between Louise and Adele’s viewpoints, so we only ever see David from the outside, our view of him constantly changing. And while we spend a lot of our time inside Adele’s head, she’s constantly pulling the rug from under us: small wonder, then, that even David doesn’t know all her secrets.

Tautly written, beautifully constructed and with superbly-drawn characters, Behind Her Eyes is Pinborough’s best novel to date. I haven’t re-read it yet, but I suspect I’ll enjoy it even more the second time around, knowing what I know now.

 And, #wtfthatending?

Oh yes, indeed.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Things of the Week, 6th February 2017: Good/Bad News re Devil's Highway, Tales To Terrify, Writer's Day in Sheffield

I know you're sick of the sight of it by now.
First of all, huge thanks to everyone who’s bought, pre-ordered or reviewed Devil’s Highway so far. It’s hugely appreciated. So, as promised by the above title, some good news and some bad news.

The bad news first.

The lovely Emma Barnes at Snowbooks has been in touch to let me know that the paperback won’t be properly in stock until 20th February. Some copies will be going out to online purchasers, including (at my request) ones originally earmarked as my advance copies. So my apologies to those who may have to wait a couple more weeks to read the latest instalment of the Black Road.


The good news is the reason for that delay.

Basically, Snowbooks have received WAY more pre-orders than anticipated – between five and seven times as many as they expected. As a result, they’ve decided to change printers in order to request a larger print run.

That’s right.

So many people have ordered copies, the publishers have had to print more.

So once again, a HUGE thanks to everyone who’s ordered a copy. Again, sorry for the delay, but you will get your copies. I really hope you find them worth the wait.

The kick-assness that is KT Davies.
In other news, I’ve a new story up on the Tales to Terrify podcast: 'Vecqueray’s Blanket', from my Pictures Of The Dark, is read by Graeme Dunlop. It joins 'The Children Of Moloch' (read by J.K. Shepler) and 'The Churn', (read by Ashley Storrie.) So go and listen for free, if you’re so inclined.
second collection

Also, I’ll be in Sheffield on 25th February, co-hosting a Writer’s Day for Hive South Yorkshire with the brilliant KT Davies (read her Lowdown here!) It’s open to budding writers up to the age of 25, so if you know anyone who’d be interested, spread the word...

I’m hoping to get the blogging back into some sort of regular groove again soon – juggling writing with the new day job has thrown me off a bit, although I’ve ended up being pretty productive (touch wood.)

Till next time!

The Lowdown with... Zak Jane Keir

Zak Jane Keir is a veteran writer specialising in sex and sexuality. She has written a lot of non-fiction in the past but now prefers to concentrate on erotica in the form of short stories and the occasional novel. She also edits anthologies and runs Dirty Sexy Words, a “celebration of erotic fiction”, which hosts reading slams and runs bookstalls.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
I am a Morris dancer, and I have written an erotic novel (under my other name, Sallyanne Rogers) about Morris dancing. I have been writing, professionally, about sex and sexuality for over 25 years and I’m still not bored. I recently starred in a spanking-and-rope-bondage porn film with a mate of mine. This link is pretty NSFW but if you feel like clicking it, go ahead because I will get 50p.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
The first thing I had published. Hmm. I think it was an interview with Screaming Lord Sutch that I did in 1983. It was published in a long-defunct South London fanzine. The first piece of fiction I had published was a fairly derivative short story, the title of which I have now forgotten, in a top shelf magazine in 1991. It was about some puritanical anti-porn campaigner who goes to a Funny Little Village In The Middle Of Nowhere and ends up getting shagged by a mysterious woman who is a sort of pagan goddess.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
It tends to change all the time, depending on what I’ve just finished, or what I’ve just re-read, having forgotten about. I’m very proud of the new anthology, Silver Desire, which is all about women over 50 having sexy adventures. I edited and curated the whole thing and wrote a story for it, about an aging groupie, which I’m pretty happy with. I’m quite invested in that book because I’m 51 myself and I don’t think much of the way society and culture portray older women’s sexuality as either disgusting or ridiculous.

4. …and which makes you cringe?
A ludicrous, earnest, pompous and utterly naïve feature I wrote for the same fanzine as the Sutch interview. It was all about homosexuality and I thought I was ever so open-minded for writing it. OK, this was 1983, around the time of the Sun’s vicious, bigoted attacks on Peter Tatchell, and there was a lot of prejudice around still, but let’s say I’m quite glad that piece was published under a never-used-again pseudonym and I think the only copies of the mag in existence are in a box under my bed.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I wouldn’t say I have a writing day as such: I tend to write in snatches, often in the evenings, because I’m a single parent and I have other part-time jobs that have to be fitted in as well. But a day at home (as oppose to one that involves attending a day-job meeting or working on one of my other schemes) usually involves a lot of bashing the keyboard, interludes for cups of tea and cigarette breaks. Sometimes I go for a jog round the park at the end of the road if I am feeling stiff and achy.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
Probably A Dice Evening, a short story in my collection Sticky Fingers & Warm Leatherette. It’s about a group of people playing Truth or Dare and getting up to various filthy things with one another. Or given that your blog readers mostly prefer horror/paranormal, they might be better off with Whose Woods Are These in Sticky Fingers or maybe Her Midnight Roses in Inked, the tattoo erotica anthology. Woods is about a bloke who finds a spooky woman in the woods and strange things happen, Roses is about a kind of succubus-therapist with tattoos...

7. What are you working on now? 
My memoirs. I don’t know, yet, whether the publisher I have been talking to will definitely want me to go ahead: I’m currently working on getting the first three chapters sorted so I can submit them. If it does happen, it will be mainly about interesting stuff that happened such as the pre-internet days of fetish clubbing and working on porn mags, and becoming an erotica writer, rather than just listing all the people I had sex with. I’m also fiddling with a new erotic novel and all I can really say about that at the moment is it’s sort of about rope bondage and Brexit.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Devil's Highway: Paperback Launch


The paperback of Devil's Highway, the second book in the Black Road quartet, is released today.

You can buy direct from the publishers, or from Amazon.

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 for one purpose only: to find and kill Helen Damnation, leader of the growing revolt against the tyrannical Reapers and their Commander, Tereus Winterborn.

Meanwhile, Helen is threatened from both 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.

And in others news, today I finished the first draft of the third Black Road novel, Wolf's Hill, which will be published in 2018.

Please share far and wide! Like an idiot (well, partly because juggling the new job with the writing in knackering me out) I completely forgot to do much to signal boost this one, and it's a book I'm very proud of. I hope you'll enjoy it too.

Basically, just imagine this as the theme music:


Monday, 30 January 2017

The Lowdown with... Michael Wehunt

Michael Wehunt lives in Atlanta, Georgia. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, The Dark, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction, The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, and Year's Best Weird Fiction, among others. His debut fiction collection, Greener Pastures, was published in 2016 by Shock Totem Publications.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
i. I was born in Georgia, just south of the Appalachian Mountains, and while I ended up 60 miles away in Atlanta, many years later I have not figured out how to leave the South yet.

ii. I once attempted stand-up comedy…three times. I’m still not sure why, but it was a lot of fun and it did a world of good for my mild stage fright. It also greatly helped my more general fear of “performing.” I’m putting that word in quotation marks to broaden it, and because I really believe getting up there and doing that was the first step toward allowing myself to try writing fiction.

iii. There are Prohibition moonshiners in my family tree in north Georgia. Following a police raid and the destruction of a family distillery in 1916, some equipment and a great deal of whiskey ended up in a nearby well. My great-grandfather died trying to rescue his son and his cousin, who had both tried to recover equipment from the well. All three, one at a time, were overtaken by powerful fumes. It’s a tragic piece of local lore in the area.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
My short story “Notrees” was published in Innsmouth Free Press in June of 2012. A piece of trivia about this story: It’s very, very obviously Lovecraftian, but I had yet to read a single thing by Lovecraft. That tells you how pervasive cosmic horror has been in recent years and how well others play in it. I would never publish it again, but I’m proud of the fact that I haven’t yet had a particularly strong urge to remove the link to “Notrees” from my website’s bibliography page. But now that I’m mentioning it here, I find myself wanting to reread it with a critical eye…

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
My story “The Devil Under the Maison Blue” (originally published in The Dark in 2015) might come out on top. I tried to look at several difficult things at once using only 4,000 words, and somehow it all came together. It also has been made by others into my proudest moment. It was chosen for Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2016 by Paula Guran, Year’s Best Weird Fiction 3 by Simon Strantzas, and it was how my agent found me. So it will always have a special place in my dark writer heart.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
My third published story, “The Anything Cloak.” I haven’t read it in quite some time and would probably be mostly okay with it. It’s a little clumsy but not embarrassingly so. But not long after I wrote it, I read Joe Hill’s “The Cape” and realized the central conceit and theme (while somewhat different) had been done a lot better already.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
If it’s a really great writing day, I’m able to take half an hour during my lunch and peck away at something. But a normal day is just me sitting down for one hour in the evening. My rule is five evenings a week and hopefully a good bit more on Saturday. No writing on Sundays. The crucial thing for me is routine. I put on a record (field recordings, ambient or drone, some unobtrusive classical) and try not to hear the ticking clock.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
I have to go with “October Film Haunt: Under the House,” which is original to my collection, Greener Pastures. (I would pick one exclusive to the book, wouldn’t I?) Although it’s more intense weird horror and less character-driven, I feel extra-safe choosing that one. I had a lot of fun taking risks with the concept of horror fandom and the “found footage” genre, and of all the stories in the book, it’s been singled out most often as the favorite of readers.

7. What are you working on now? 
I’ve basically shoved everything off my desk in order to write a novel for the first time. Someone told me that you learn a lot about yourself while writing a novel, and now that I’m around the 30% point, I can already agree with that. At any rate, I’m past the point of no return and still nervous and excited to see how it all plays out.