Sunday, 14 January 2018

The heart of the story

I recently finished a long book by an author I'd heard of but never read. It would probably be shelved under SF or maybe Fantasy even though it wasn't 100% either. While the reviews from the critics were good, they seem to be less so from readers. It didn't take me long to discover something pretty odd.

I wanted to see where the story went, but I didn't care where the characters went, what happened to them, who they were or have any emotional connection with them. Not in the slightest. At first, I thought that was a failing on my part (the reviews suggested so), but as the long story went on, I realised it was because there was no heart to them. The story came purely from the head and was aimed squarely in that direction. It was like a physics problem had come to life and written a book. The intellect was there in spades; the issues the author wanted to discuss were on the page, but the character and the heart...zero. I had as much reaction to finishing the book and closing it as I did to opening it and reading the first word.

Yesterday, I finished another book. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. This one also deals with some heavy-going science and stuff that my brain (proud owner of almost no academic qualifications) wouldn't usually touch. Admittedly, it was written in a much simpler style than the other book and played out more like a thriller than a what the fuck is he on about now tale, but they're not the most important points for me. Dark Matter had a heart the first novel couldn't come close to - possibly the reason of the difference in opinion between the reviews and the readers. After all, most people are emotional creatures, not intellect. We react more than we think and we connect to the heart of any story more than we do the head.

Maybe that's one of the reasons I write what I write. To get into your heart.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Out one door, in the other

Half an hour before I finish my work for the day, so just enough time to squeeze in one last blog post before the end of the year.

Another year over; another year of ups and downs in my publishing adventures. Ascent was published in the summer which was a definite high. I'm proud of how good that book ended up (that sound you just heard was me blowing my own trumpet) after Christ knows how many laboured and shitty drafts it went through before I got to a decent version. No new short stories published this year which is a downer, obviously. I've got several still under consideration/yet to be rejected or accepted so hopefully, there'll be some good news in that department soon. I've written a few and am happy with how all turned out so I'm counting that a result.

Bad news on the novella I had with DarkFuse after that publisher closed. My Lovecraft meets Mad Max story went down the bog along with some great stuff from a lot of talented writers. It may see the light of day once again at some point although there's nothing happening with it yet.

I've polished my second to last book, written a new one and tidied up a handful of older novels. Obviously, the biggest news is selling The Unredeemed which is a great way to leave 2017 and start 2018. The funny thing is, I wrote the original draft of that one under a different title at least five years ago, left it alone for a while before reading through it and finding something in the story and character of my dead serial killer that I really liked. Several spit and polishes later, a new title and here we are - sold it within a week over Christmas.

So for next year, I'm looking at whatever work is required for The Unredeemed, hopefully selling the short stories that are out on sub and writing another book which is fully outlined and spins off one of the tales in my collection Die Laughing. As I said recently, I've been edging more into the thriller angle of horror lately (dark thrillers, obviously) rather than anything overtly supernatural. That's the idea for the next book. I still see my tales as horror but maybe more in the real world sense with future work.

Been meaning to blog more about films and books so that's a goal for 2018. For now, I'll say IT was the best film I saw this year while The Dark Tower was the absolute worst, sadly. Books of the year go to the last few Charlie Parker series from John Connolly which I blitzed.

That's about me done until next year, I think. Stay safe, be good and hope for better days.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

New book published in 2018

Ending the year on a big high is always nice but pretty rare to be honest. Anyway, 2017 hasn't been a stellar year in terms of publishing for me but here's some good news:

I have a new book to be published next year. The Unredeemed will be published by Hellbound Books in 2018. Still early days so I don't have an exact date yet but obviously I'll post it as soon as I do. In the meantime, here's the current cover blurb to give you an idea what to expect.

While keeping up the appearance of a gentleman in the sixteenth century, Benjamin Harwood butchered whoever he saw fit to kill. After he agreed to sacrifice his murder victims to an insane demon, he’s been free to walk the earth for four hundred years. That is until the agreement which kept him safe from punishment is torn in half. A righteous spirit, enraged with Harwood’s crimes, has aligned himself with Hell and is coming to judge Harwood, coming to set him to burn.

There is no choice for Harwood but to run. On a cross country trip, he gathers the worst of the worst, the thieves, murderers and bastards he calls friends. With this group of damned killers, Harwood embarks on a journey he never imagined he would take—back into the horror of his past and to a teenage girl whose family he recently destroyed, a girl with more reason to loathe him than anyone in his life or death.

Faced with an eternal darkness, Harwood has an unthinkable decision to make. He can try for a redemption that may be impossible or he can face himself and his murders. But what Harwood doesn't know is there's a hole in the floor of the world. And something much worse than the dead is down there.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Yet another rambling post

It's been quiet on the blogging front lately. Ditto on the producing new material front. Blogging has taken a back seat because it's that wonderful time of the year when everyone is tied up but also because there's not always anything worth talking about. I envy the writers who've got stuff going on most of the time and/or the energy to talk about it. More often than not, I'm just trying to keep my shit together in terms of work, real life, chasing submissions, finding new markets to sub to and actually writing - none of which is that interesting.

I've spent the last month going through a few older pieces and trying to either find places for them or deciding what's best for them if they're not going to find homes. To be honest, I'm not really any further forward with the second issue than I was when I started the process in November. They're solid pieces of work (if I didn't think so, I'd bin them without a second thought), but the market for two reprints is next to nothing and finding anywhere worth subbing new work to is proving to be a pain in the arse. Of course, just sitting on them gets me no further forward, so I need to work out what's best for these books, particularly the reprints.

As for new stuff, I've got a fresh book outlined and pretty much ready to start but I've held back over December as it's a bad month to begin new work and it's given me time to go through all the stuff I've just mentioned. Looking forward to getting stuck into this one in January. Almost as much as I am working out just what the fuck to do with my collection of books piling up in my hard drive.

Have a good Christmas, all. With any luck, I'll post again before the end of the year.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Call me what you like

In my last blog post, I made noises about horror being a wide genre with plenty of areas for the writer to explore in their fiction. This is something I've been thinking about quite a bit recently due to a couple of things, one of which is realising I haven't been sticking to purely supernatural horror in my longer work for a while. Hometown involves ghosts and other worlds that are probably best summed up as the underside of our own; Ascent features time freezing so something that shall not be named can torment and hunt a group of people; and Die Laughing is full of ghosts, zombies, demons, killers and all round nastiness that my mum wouldn't like. These are the areas and factors in horror that I love, but they are not all of horror. Not by a long shot.

I have a finished novel I hope to one day sell which I thought was a horror story until a few people who read it pointed out it's more crime than out and out horror. If you pushed me, I'd call it a horror/crime story but it's not as if a nobody such as yours truly has the luxury of pitching a hybrid to publishers or agents. They want tales that can be classified so they know what to tell their editors, and readers want to know where to look for it in the bookshops (well, Amazon). Even so, in my secret heart, I think of that one as a horror that involves a criminal investigation, murder and the police. The horror is in what's happening to the victims and the character who can't face the fact he knows more about the crimes than he can deal with. But, that wouldn't stop it being more of a crime story to anyone in the publishing world, I'm willing to bet.

It's a similar deal with the book I'm currently polishing ready for submission. Again, nothing supernatural in this tale of a post-apocalyptic Britain destroyed by a nuclear war. It would probably be classed a dark thriller while I thought I was writing a horror story that just so happened not to contain any demons, ghosts or horrible slimy things. Ditto with what I've got planned for my next one which I'll probably start within a few weeks - you could call it a dark thriller again or maybe even a grounded firmly on planet Earth type of science-fiction. I think the idea as it stands is horror but like I said, there's a lot of room to play with here. So what if I haven't touched on the restless dead or the things that live in the quiet, lonely places lately? I'm not really fussed what I might be called or what sub-genres of horror I explore as long as I get to tell my tales.

Friday, 17 November 2017

On turning forty

I was forty yesterday - a landmark number, I suppose. A point in a person's life when you're apparently meant to be a grown-up, settled and all that. Whoever came up with this idea, it sounds like crap to me because we're all individuals and our circumstances are our own. While my wife and I don't have any kids, we've been in a happy relationship for seventeen years (married for eight). While we don't own a house, we used to and sold without making a profit to improve our life and our happiness. Owning your home is a great way to ground yourself while renting means waiting to see every six months if the landlord wants to renew the contract and hoping he does because you have two cats and finding a place that takes pets is a fucking nightmare. But for us, it's a million times better than where we were - and if UK house prices ever become sensible, we can buy a house again.

I'm probably no nearer to the dream/plan/imagination I've had for my entire life of making a living from writing than I was when I turned thirty, but I've had a few books published (and re-published in the case of one) along with short stories I'm really happy with. Horror as a genre isn't one many publishers or agents want to touch but it's a massive area (light horror, crime horror, OTT gore, spooky, funny horror, fantasy horror, SF horror to name a few) so that's not the end of my writing plans. It just means widening my subjects and exploring sub-genres. I'm happy with my dark tales whatever you want to call them because I'm (blowing my own trumpet) not too shabby at writing them. If I thought otherwise, there'd be no point in telling those tales to myself or anyone else.

I may not be grounded with a house, a car (never learned to drive, would you believe?), kids or a dog, but with my wife, my family and friends and obviously with my stories that I still enjoy telling and still believe showcase the best of people as well as their worst, I am the key word you may have noticed from this rambling post.

Happy.

Monday, 30 October 2017

London Comic Con

So, my Comic Con adventure is over - a weekend of trying not to sound like a dickhead when people asked me about Hometown, walking approximately eight million miles around the Excel, doing a panel with other authors much more articulate than what I am and counting the Harley Quinns and Jokers while being on the table literally next to the Red Dwarf crew.

Never having done anything like Comic Con before, I didn't really have a clue what to expect - happy to say it was a hell of a lot of fun with a great atmosphere in no small part because every person there attended for the love of their genre and to showcase their passion for it. I'm far too much of a lazy bastard to get that involved outside of writing and books in general, but it's nice to see the people who do. If I get the chance to go again, I will. And maybe if I'm on another panel, I'll think to tell the people who buy my book before the panel and not when I've just finished it.

Anyway, if I saw you and you took the time (and spent your cash, obviously) to get a copy of Hometown, thanks very much. Hope you enjoy it.