Wednesday, 29 December 2010

My Top Reads Of 2010

As 2010 draws to a close, it’s time for the third annual “Mark West’s Top Reads Of The Year”. It’s been a bumper year, has 2010, with a total of 48 books read (30 fiction, 11 non-fiction and 7 ‘comics’) along with 12 Three Investigator titles and there haven’t been too many stinkers either.

My Top 20 Fiction titles of 2010
1. All That Mullarkey, by Sue Moorcroft
2. The End - CFF (published 2011) - by Gary McMahon
3. Falling Angel, by William Hjortsberg
4. Starting Over, by Sue Moorcroft
5. What They Hear In The Dark, by Gary McMahon
6. Hungry Hearts, by Gary McMahon
7. God Save The Child, by Robert B Parker
8. Looking For Rachel Wallace, by Robert B Parker
9. Mortal Stakes, by Robert B Parker
10. Pretty Little Dead Things, by Gary McMahon
11. The Judas Goat, by Robert B Parker
12. Three Shirt Deal, by Stephen J Cannell
13. Birth Marks, by Sarah Dunant
14. Blonde On A Stick, by Conrad Williams
15. Dead Bad Things - CFF (published 2011) - by Gary McMahon
16. Where The Heart Is, by various (ed. Gary Fry)
17. A Matter Of Blood, by Sarah Pinborough
18. The Harm, by Gary McMahon
19. Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby
20. The Godwulf Manuscript, by Robert B Parker

As my main writing project this year was a crime/horror hybrid, I intentionally set out to read a lot of crime - this coincided with a decision to get back into the Spenser series, following the death early in the year of Robert B Parker. I’ve also read a lot of Gary McMahon this year, both as critiques (the Angry Robot and NewCon Press books) and purchases and it’s great to see my old writing group chum Sue Moorcroft ploughing ahead (I loved “All That Mullarkey” when I first read it, back in 2000 or so and it’s mentioned in “Conjure” too).

The Non-Fiction looks like this:
1. 1980s: Decades Of Our Lives, by Various
2. The Complete Making Of Indiana Jones, by Laurent Bozreau
3. MMS Annotated Bibliography, by Lavie Tidhar
4. ILM: The Art Of Special Effects, by Thomas G Smith
5. Premiere - Film Cuts
6. My Booky Wook, by Russell Brand
7. Blade Runners, Deer Hunters and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off, by Michael Deeley
8. The Time Of My Life, by Patrick Swayze
9. Ooh! What A Lovely Pair, by Ant & Dec
10. Wishful Drinking, by Carrie Fisher

Here’s to 2011 - cheers, everyone!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

For everyone who pops along here, thanks for your support and I'd like to wish you and yours a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2011!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

"Curse Of The Witch"

This is the movie poster from one of Roger Sinclair's earlier films, made well before he destroyed his career and several lives with 'Terrafly', his magnum opus


(from The Lost Film novella)

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Lost Film Novella - early reports in and they're looking good!

I started to give out my pre-reader copies of “The Lost Film” novella on Friday, with the last couple going on Saturday. I didn’t expect to see anything back much before Christmas and was quite happy with that - it’s not far off being a short novel, I know that people are busy now, I couldn’t see it happening.

Andrew Murray, my Antipodean chum, came back on Sunday evening saying it was very good. Tonight, my old friend David Roberts came back saying, amongst many other lovely things, that “they get better each one I read”. To top that off, my brother-in-law started reading it yesterday and finished this evening. He liked it a lot too.

I already had a good feeling about this - it’s just getting better now!

Thanks lads - and here's a rare picture of Roger Sinclair, drinking to our health!

A recommendation...

Just a quick heads up, to those of you out there looking for something dark and supernatural to get your teeth into. I’ve been lucky enough to get an early read of the debut story/chapbook from Spectral Press - “What They Hear In The Dark”, by Gary McMahon.

I’m still reeling. Not just from the story, because that is truly a thing of genius, but because I got an early copy to give me an idea of what I needed to write, as I’m lined up for Spectral Press edition too. Having read this, I now think I maybe ought to get out whilst the going’s good and take up needlework.

I’ve published my review at GoodReads (direct linked from here), so you can read it for yourself, but I’ll just put a little here -

Emotionally devastating, told with your McMahon’s usual brisk style without an ounce of fat or excess, this is gripping and painful and beautiful and honest and bleak as all hell.

Do yourself a favour, get over to
Spectral Press and order yourself a copy!

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Lost Film Novella

Yes, it’s done! The 2nd draft is now complete, at 47,219 words (yes, it went a little long on my proposed target of 35,000 - I hope Steve Bacon isn’t too annoyed with me!) and I’ve already sent out a couple of pre-reader copies. I’ll leave it to sit for a while (I was 47 days on the 1st draft and 10 on the second, so I can’t see the wood for the trees now) and then read it to Alison and collate all the notes before cracking on with draft 3.

Here’s a rough synopsis of the tale, that I included in the pre-readers letter:

Gabriel Bird is a private investigator from Gaffney who is hired to find an exploitation film-maker from the seventies called Roger Sinclair. There’s also a problem with the last film he made, his magnum opus, which seems to have a peculiar effect on those who watch it. The trail leads Bird to Oxford and Bedford, back to Gaffney and then to Heyton, an east coast seaside resort. Along the way, people tell lies and die and as Gabriel gets closer to the truth, it seems like everything he’s ever known and believed in is about to crumble around him.

I’m obviously thrilled to be at this point - the idea has been around for a little while, but it was talking with Steve Bacon that gave me the impetus to crack on with it and I’ve really enjoyed the process. There was quite a bit of research involved - both in terms of exploitation films and also the voice, which explains why I’ve read more crime thrillers this year than anything else - but it was all great fun and I loved weaving true facts into the fictional ones I was littering the manuscript with.

Next up, I’m going to read through the first Spectral Press chapbook (“What They Hear In The Dark”, by Gary McMahon) with a view to writing my entry to the series. That will take me, I imagine, over Christmas and perhaps into the New Year and then who knows? There’s still the Lost Film to complete, the proper collab with Steve Bacon, the top secret sleaze project and my “Shine” novel, which I’m determined to get going on.

It’s all go here and I love it!



“Parallel Lines”, by Gerry Balding
(
from his photo-stream on Flickr here)
I’ve used this photograph because there’s a place in the fens, where the river Heyt runs close to the railway, that means an awful lot to the characters in this book - and nothing pleasant happens to any of them there!

More writing news

Really chuffed to announce that my short "Dreaming Of A Black Christmas" will appear in the Estronomicon Christmas edition e-zine. I'll post the link up when the zine goes live.
For those who might recognise the title (thinking of my kid sister, here, nobody else is likely to!), the story originally appeared in the Terror Tales Christmas anthology of the same name back in 2000. It was reprinted in my "Strange Tales" collection in 2003.

I like it, a very dark little seasonal tale. I hope you, dear reader of this blog, will enjoy it too!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Success!

Some writing news - I started the 2nd draft of “The Lost Film Novella” today and managed to cut about 1,000 words from 12,000. Not the best of starts, so I may have to do a draft 2a before I send it out to my pre-readers. I posted this up at Facebook, along with the fact that I didn’t have a title and no less a horror-writing-personage (and literary hero of mine) than Nicholas Royle commented, saying I should keep it as “The Lost Film Novella”. So I think I just might do that!

In short story news, “Come See My House In The Pretty Town” is out in submission, so I hope that goes well. Better news is that “Mr Huxton Goes Camping” has been accepted into Peter Mark May’s “Alt-Dead” anthology, where it’ll be sharing space with some great writers. I might also get to have a crack at the cover art too, which is always nice.

Onwards and ever upwards!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

I want to read these!

Jason Morgan, over at the Peter Raft Online Resource, has posted the cover art of some more books by Mr Raft. You might recall I read “Zombie” a little while back and really enjoyed it and these latest additions seem right up my alley (more so that a couple were published by Fontana, so they should be easier to pick up).

As good as the stories sound, however, it’s the artwork that I think is fantastic and so here they are (scans courtesy of Jason Morgan):


Some men like breasts, some like bums, some like full red lips. Barry Charles loves women’s feet. He likes to stroke them, to pamper them, to kiss them and to do much more. So much more. Worse, Barry doesn’t care if the woman enjoys the attention or not.

Sweeping through the London of today, finding his prey in the clubs and disco’s that glitter in the capital, Barry is looking for the perfect feet. And when he meets Stef Sukowski, an American exchange student, it appears that he’s found them. But Stef has other ideas. And she certainly doesn’t want to end up wearing…

Toe Tags

Published by Fontana Books (97800061522137), December 1979















Annie Sexton has a plan in life. Meet and marry an older man, get him to make her chief beneficiary in his will and then do her utmost to lead him to his death - athletic sex, scares, anything will do. Annie is very good, she’s just about to marry husband number three and he’s richer than the others put together. He’s also heavily into Black Magic.

On a rain-swept night, Annie tempts him to a tryst in the local cemetery and she once again becomes a young widow. But in death, her deceased husband is now more powerful than she could have ever imagined. And from that point on, with every step she takes…

Death Stalks Her

Published by Fontana Books (97800061522167), May 1980

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Lost Film novella (1st draft completed!)

That’s it, I’ve done it! Today, I finished the first draft of “The Lost Film Novella” - 47 writing days (from 7th September through to 29th November, which includes the 36 days I took out in the middle to work on the ZoQuNo/Mr Foo pitch) for a grand total of 52,547 words. My original plan was for 30,000 words, but I do have a tendency to overwrite massively on the 1st draft (I’m a taker-outer, to quote Stephen King, rather than a putter-inner) and the writing break didn’t help with my memory.

The thing is though, it’s now complete and that’s cause for celebration (for me, at least). On the way, I’ve gone through the usual stages, but I’ve come out the other side and have a 52.5k word manuscript to show for it.

It’s not all good, of course - there are a few bits I know don’t work, you could drive a bus through some of the plot-holes and at least one character started out as important but could be excised - but I’m chuffed to bits. And the best thing? The ending as I wrote it today is pretty much as it was in the original synopsis, which I wrote over a year ago.

Onwards and ever upwards!

p.s. Just in case you were wondering, my definition of the five stages is this:

stage 1: “I’m loving this, it’s flowing and the words fit and it’s all beautiful - I’m onto a winner”
stage 2: “Bollocks, this is getting hard. I’m sure the idea is rubbish”
stage 3: “Yep, the idea is rubbish and so is my writing, I’m going to pack this stupid thing in”
stage 4: “Oh hang on, that bit worked a little better… Anyway, I’m nearly done now, I might as well get to the end”
stage 5: “Oh no, I’m almost at the end. That’s a shame, I was really enjoying writing this…”

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

In Memory of my sister, after 7 years

It was seven years ago today that I got the phone call from Mum. I was at work, sitting in the canteen with my workmate. Mum told me that she had bad news and I paused, expecting to hear something about my Gran having fallen over or something.

Instead, Mum told me that she was at Leicester hospital, walking back to the car with my Dad and that my sister Tracy was dead. She was 32.

Tracy was two years younger than me and we fought like cat and dog during childhood (and into our teens too!), but were fiercely protective of one another. She developed MS late on in life, at the start of 2003 and suffered upwards of six relapses. She had to endure lengthy stays in hospital, which must have been awful for her - she was an active person, into horse-riding and spending time with us all and she was confined to bed and unable to do a lot of things for herself - but I never really heard her complain. At the time, Alison & I were desperately trying for a child and Tracy kept track of our appointments at the hospital, asking how things went and trying to gee us up as each month passed. Going to see her in hospital was a difficult experience - I loved to make her laugh and would do pretty much anything in the pursuit of that, but it was painful to see her try and do things as her body rebelled against her.

Tracy collapsed on the morning of November 25th, 2003, Dad’s 60th birthday. The cause of death was later given as a pulmonary embolism. I didn’t know what to say or to do and Alison & I went straight to Mum & Dad’s house that day. Sarah, at the time, was in Derby at Uni so I drove us all up there to deliver the news. We arrived just before she got home and she got out of her car and seemed excited, as if we’d all gone up there to see her for Dad’s birthday. Until Dad went across the road, crying and told her the real reason.

Tracy’s funeral service was held in the Parish church in Rothwell - I’ve never seen so many people in there - and I read the eulogy. The burial was held at the little cemetery on the edge of town and it was a cold, dank day. Afterwards, we went back to the old Sunday School buildings (now the Trinity Centre) for tea and some food. Nick was with us (he and Tracy got on really well), staying overnight at ours and supervising the taped music at the service. At the wake, he busied himself making sure that everyone had a drink and something to eat, whilst the rest of us just seemed to reel around and try to connect with people.

We’re meeting at Mum & Dad’s tonight - me & Alison & Matthew and Sarah & Chris & Lucy - and it’s not a birthday party (as Dad is keen to point out), but more a family gathering. I can’t believe it’s seven years - so much has happened since then, but it seems like only yesterday.
I still miss Tracy a lot, as do Mum & Dad and Sarah and Alison. Matthew obviously never met her, but he knows who she is and that’s the main thing, I think, to make sure that her memory continues to burn brightly.

RIP TJ

Tracy, Dad, Mum, me, Alison
Outside Madame Tusseads, London, March 2003 (before the MS kicked in)

Monday, 22 November 2010

Making progress!

The “Lost Film” novella is coming along swimmingly and I’m pretty much keeping up a 1,000 word-a-day output on it, which is brilliant for me. My original plan - certainly, it’s the one I told Stephen Bacon, when he mentioned that he’d never worked on anything novella-length - was for 30,000 words in first draft but I’m currently at 39k words and the ending is still a little way off.

But am I enjoying it? Absolutely. The draft is a mess (as all of my first drafts are), the timelines don’t work, some of the characters change direction halfway through and I know it’ll be a nightmare to make it all work but it’s there. That’s most of the battle with creative writing - getting the damned thing down in the first place.

Something’s working though - parts of the plot are dropping into place, just in time and characters are revealing hitherto unseen sides that make the story zip along - and I have a good feeling about the whole thing. I have the voice mostly right (and what I don’t, I can rework) and I think I’m going to be able to sell the climax (and trust me, it’s going to be a big sell!).

I reckon another week or two and the first draft’ll be sorted. Then I’ll let it breathe for a while (and will begin working on notes for the “80s/kids/gash in time” project, which is brewing nicely), before attacking the 2nd draft and getting it out to my pre-readers.

And in the meantime, here’s a picture (which I found on Flickr, though
mcmorgan08’s photostream) of a cinema that one of Roger Sinclair’s films might have been shown at!

Hard Core Cine, Soho, London, 1979
Photograph by
M C Morgan

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Binary Sunset

We had a family day out with the Roberts today (David, Julia, Alice & Laura) and a great time was had by all. David & I were talking about different things and, combined with my Three Investigator blog, I was thinking about "Star Wars". I decided I'd like a picture of the binary sunset, for me the defining moment of the whole film and discovered a YouTube clip of it. Which is here.



I love "Star Wars" (and very, very rarely call it "A New Hope") and it's my favourite film of all time. And as I said above, this is the key moment for me, especially when John Williams' strings swell and Mark Hamill looks to the wider world and it never fails to make the hairs on my arms stand on end. Superb stuff, a brilliant moment of cinema and I love it.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

More love for "What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking"...

Terry Grimwood has reviewed "Shoes, Ships & Cadavers" at his website and has some very nice things to say about it. He also really liked my story - "Mark West’s dark and tragic [story was] one of my particular favourites, well told and moving."

The full review can be found on his website, here.

Thanks, Terry!

My Three Investigators Reviews, all on one new blog!

As you may or may not be aware, I’m a big fan of the Three Investigators mystery series, which shaped my reading habits through childhood and have continued - on and off - through adulthood too.

In 2008, I decided to embark upon a bit of a reading adventure and work my way through the Three Investigators series (up to book 30, the last to be written when Hitchcock was still alive and the last one I class as official). I planned to read one a month, which meant it’d take me two and a half years.

As I write this, it’s 11th November 2010 and I have three books left - “Sinister Scarecrow”, “Shark Reef” and “Invisible Dog” (which I’m saving for Christmas week). I’ll be honest, it’s been great fun - I’d forgotten a lot of the story details and so it really was like reading things afresh. In addition, I was surprised at how well written (and tightly plotted) the books were - no wonder they enthralled me as a kid, they worked very well for an adult reader (I started, with “Skeleton Island” when I was about 8, I’m 41 now).

I posted capsule reviews for all of the books at GoodReads.com but then decided, since I already have a blog anyway, why not put all the reviews in one place? On my website?
So I have - you can link direct to my Three Investigators Book Review blog directly from here.

In addition to the reviews, I’ve also taken the opportunity to post the cover art for each title (it’s much more colourful like that and some of the artwork is superb), plus other little bits and pieces that occurred to me.
If you were a fan growing up, I hope you like the blog. If you weren’t a fan, I hope the reviews at least tempt you to give a book a go but, if not, enjoy the artwork anyway!

Just before I head off, I’d like to say a big thanks to Philip Fulmer at the T3I Readers Site for his permission to use the cover scans and also to Ian Regan for his invaluable and well-constructed cover art database (both are linked from the review blog).

Now what shall I do next - the ultimate top 10…?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Listen to The Dude!

Gary McMahon's novel "Pretty Little Dead Things" hits the High Street today and if you like your horror fiction dark and bleak, then this is the book for you.

I'm lucky enough to have already read it and I can vouch that it's a corker (easily in my top 10 of the year so far) - go out and buy it! The Dude says so!


Monday, 1 November 2010

Some mechanics of writing (or, location is the key)

As a writer, I am very keen on the idea of place - I want the reader to know exactly where they are, I want them to be able to see the location in their head, I want them to feel what it’s like to stand there. I think I’m pretty good at it and it’s something that gets mentioned quite a bit in reviews so I’ll be honest here and say that a lot of it is a cheat - I use real places, wherever possible.

Now, with my guilty secret exposed, here is the key location from my latest story “What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking”, which was published in the NewCon press anthology “Shoes, Ships & Cadavers”.

The story takes place in Kettering (where I didn’t grow up) and centres around a bridge, at the end of the Headlands. That bridge does exist, as does the graffiti I mention in the story (which sets up the last act of the piece).

This is the first appearance of the bridge in the story:

The bridge was ahead, with signs warning me about cars, since the road led directly to the golf course. There was nothing on the road now. I rested my racer against the abutment and walked onto the bridge, which looked old but well kept. It was made with dark blue brick, as solid as you like, and the walls on either side were metal plates, with rivets half the size of my hand. At the far end of the bridge, on the west abutment, was a splash of graffiti – ‘Look Behind You!’ Directly across from it were a ravaged looking tree and some bushes. I leaned against the west wall, looking at the rails and waited.

And here is the bridge itself. These photographs were taken on 30th October 2010 (Dude & I were train-chasing) and the graffiti, which I first noticed almost 15 years ago, is still clearly visible.

Looking onto the bridge from The Headlands. If you go over the bridge and down the hill, that's where the golf course is.


Matthew, leaning on the outer wall, waiting for a train


The graffiti.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

George Lucas sells a little bit more...

As amusing as this is (I love R2's reaction to the video game), it is a little sad to see these icons selling Currys. Ah well, enjoy the dancing...

In Portugal - A Real Life Ghost Story

In 1989, my friend Craig Tankard & I went on holiday to Portugal. Whilst there, we experienced something that, to this day, neither of can properly explain.

Mark Deniz’s Beyond Fiction website is having a Ghost Awareness Month and he invited me to write a blog entry for him, so I thought I’d publicly tell mine and Craig’s story.

All of this is true (I even got Craig to read through the piece, to make sure our memory of the events meshed) and I’ll leave it up to you to decide what we saw.

In Portugal, a real life ghost story can be accessed from here, at the Beyond Fiction website

Sweet dreams!

The Man Who Loved Yngve

I had two good films to review for VideoVista this month - the Aussie horror film “The Loved Ones” (which was excellent) and the beautiful, poignant, fun “The Man Who Loved Ygnve”, from Norway. I’ll let you know when both reviews go live, but I just thought I’d mention something about the latter here.

As I mentioned before, in relation to “Flashbacks Of A Fool” (
you can read my post here, if you’re so inclined), I love coming of ages film and this works for me on several counts - it’s set in the 80s, it’s quirky and spiky and made with real passion.

If you get a chance, seek this out, it’s well worth a watch.

And no, I can't pronounce the name in the title either.

Rolf Kristian Larsen, Arthur Berning and Ida Elise Broch, the leads of the film

Monday, 25 October 2010

What I Do, Sometimes

Okay, so ZoQuNo is definitely on the backburner for now - the synopsis (brief and indepth) is complete, the first three chapters are complete (and have been workshopped by the NSFWG, in addition to going through the rigours of my pre-readers), but a leading publisher has passed and so I’m going to concentrate on other projects for the moment.

First up, obviously, is the Lost Film novella. It’s been a good while since I did anything on it - perhaps three weeks - and it feels very distant at the moment, but I’m confident I can get back into it.

The weird thing is, I am currently reading “Shoes, Ships & Cadavers”, the NSFWG anthology that contains my story “What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking”. I’d got to my story and thought “hey, what the hell” and started reading it. And you know what, I liked it a lot. And more, as I read it, I realised that the 80s part of it, the school-kids, was the ideal foundation for “Project Gash”. I’ve been thinking over that for the last couple of days and I reckon I can make it go, so that’s next up on the slate.

Still to fit in - the ‘proper collaboration’ with Steve Bacon, a top secret novella project (also with Mr Bacon and a leading small press publisher) and the 4-writer-project.

Cool, eh?

Friday, 22 October 2010

Does anyone else remember "The Blimeys"?

A bit of an interruption here, from Mark Townsend, bass guitarist of the much lamented “The Blimeys” - best known for their single ‘It’s Criminal Baby’ from the ‘Ironing The Soul’ album.

Not web invisible now, are we Towney?


Subscriptions ahoy

I don't know if you'll be interested, but I've added a "subscription button" to the blog - click on it, enter your email address and be advised of each new shiny blog-post as they occur.
You know you want to.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

It's all about the ego, baby!

I have a little gizmo on here, from sitemeter, that serves as a statistical analysis - the hits I've had, how long people were here for, what they looked at and where they're from. For the latter, you get a map and occasionally I like to click on it, just to see where all of you readers are. I did that today and, blimey, it's a mixed continent readership!


So thank you, one and all - I thought this blog would only be read by me and my sister and to know that people around the world are also tuning in is fantastic!

Cheers, folks!

Monday, 18 October 2010

It's late...

I shouldn’t have gone online tonight because, to be honest, I’m a little depressed now. I’ve read about plagiarists who create multiple identities (and seriously, if you’re not getting paid, what on earth do you get out of such an endeavour?) so that they can put “their work” into even more markets; I’ve read about idiots whose ‘great new books’ feature generous and glittering cover blurbs from people neither I nor Google have heard of and I’ve read about people who big themselves up out of all recognition to their talent or publishing credits.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone has to start somewhere and we all need to shout from the rooftops about our wares every now and again but some people seem to forget one key detail - you need to write. You need to produce a work, an original piece of fiction that will make people stop and say “Christ, that was good”. A cover blurb from your Uncle Frank telling me that your new novel is a work of genius will just result in a) your not getting a penny from me and b) me never, ever taking you seriously again.

Like the spam stuff I get through Facebook and, sadly, GoodReads - ‘Become my fan’ or ‘I suggest you read my book’. You know what, I’m sorry to say that your sterling efforts to recruit me have just resulted in your being wiped off my friends list. On Facebook, I’ll become a fan of what I want, when I want to do it - I won’t do it because you ask me to and I’ll delete you because you asked (Facebook rule number 2). Likewise, on GoodReads - yes, you’ve written a book and that’s brilliant, but why suggest it to me? That just sounds desperate. And invokes rule number 2.

I’m very lucky. I’m part of a vibrant small press scene, with several of my peers and friends breaking out into the mainstream markets and presses. That’s brilliant. I revel in the creative energy and spirit of that. Reading through my Facebook updates today has been depressing (the plagiarist especially) and my tolerance for message board idiocy is at an all-time low (I’m done with Shocklines now - I should have gone when Greg Lamberson did).

When did this beloved genre, for some, become not about the writing but, instead, about the “look at me”. Don’t tell me, you idiot, show me - write it, publish it, make an impression.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Flashbacks Of A Fool

You won't know this, probably because I've never told you, but despite loving the horror genre and defending it staunchly whenever necessary, I do have a little secret. My first two proper novels - "The Loved One" and "Alice" - were contemporary drama and it's one of my long-held ambitions to write something lit'ry, kind of like The Great British Novel. Every now and again, I'll have a tinker and make some notes and then something comes up and I never complete it. In fact, I probably never will but tonight, the idea is playing on my mind.

I went over to have dinner with Pauline, who is beautiful and spirited and one of my oldest friends and I love her dearly. We had a pizza and rented a film ("The Losers", it wasn't bad) and then watched the late BBC film, which was "Flashbacks Of a Fool". I hadn't heard too many good reports about it, but we decided to stick it out and I'm so glad we did. It had flaws, certainly, but parts of it were - I'm convinced - touched by genius. I much prefered the flashback to the opening Daniel Craig segment (though the coda segment with Craig was good) and it was just an incredible film.

The one sequence which really sticks with me is where young Joe and young Ruth are at her house, messing around and they lip-sync to Roxy Music. The sequence is slowed down and there's so much life and vitality and fun, it's a joy to watch. And that's what makes me think - I'd love to do that. Just the once.

Watch "Flashbacks Of A Fool", it's a good film.

Friday, 15 October 2010

More signing goodness...

Another photograph from Newcon (courtesy of Ian Whates)
- the signing line-up, with Neil Bond, me, (Dr) Steve Longworth and Paul Melhuish.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Happy birthday..

...to Sir Roger Moore, 83 today.

Alison & I watched "Live & Let Die" this evening, in honour - cracking fun!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The way he makes me laugh...

In our house, we’ve moved to the default routine that it’s my job to get Dude bathed and ready for bed and to read his bedtime story (or, as is more frequently the case now, to have it read to me). Last night, as he & I had been out for a wander/bike ride after dinner, I thought it might be nice for Alison to get some time with him and put him to bed. I asked him and he pondered the question for a moment, as Alison & I stood there waiting. He decided to solve it the same way important issues have been solved for centuries - a quick case of eenie-meenie-me-nee-moe.

He went through his little poem, different to the one I remember learning at school and it slowly became obvious to all of us that he’d miscalculated - moe was going to end up on Alison. I smiled. He got to the end:

eenie - pointing at me
meenie - pointing at Alison
me-nee -pointing at me
mo - pointing at Alison, quickly followed by
wuh - pointing at me

It made both of us laugh so much that, even though I offered to let her go up, I ended up putting him to bed and telling him a story.

I have a wonderful little kid, I really do.

- - -
In other news, the publisher passed on the zombie pitch. Bummer. He liked the prose, but the plot didn’t move him. Ah, bugger. I wrote back, thanking him for his time and for coming back to me so quickly. He said to approach him again with ideasand I probably will - I think I have the start of another one, even as I type this - but at the moment, I’m just licking my wounds a little.

However, onwards and ever upwards. I’m doing a little bit of writing in Gaffney over the next few days for another project (which is looking hopeful) and then I’m back to the Lost Film novella.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

NewCon 5 (9/10th October 2010)

You know how sometimes you read a report and it appears as if the person wasn't at the event at all? This is one of those, I'm afraid - I had a great time, I met a lot of good people, I went to a reading but I didn't do any of the main panels. So other people might have far more accurate reports of the con than I do. Oh well, I had a good time.

I’d never been in the Fishmarket art centre in Northampton before, but it’s a good space - open and airy, with plenty of natural light. There’s a little café at the top, small special-interest shops down the sides and plenty of room to move about.

Paul from the NSFWG was manning the door when I arrived, so I had a chat with him and Susan (another NSFWG member). Russell Morgan, an artist from Kettering that I knew from Facebook but only met for the first time at FantasyCon, came over - he had some (very good) pictures in the art show and we had a drink and a chat, about writing and drawing, influences and horror and a project that we might work on together.

There were panels and readings through the day - the panels were in the main area (which carried quite a bit of echo), the readings at the back, in a little room that was rather exotically called a studio. I unfortunately only managed one reading - though I did get to meet Sam Stone, which was a bonus - held by Jaine Fenn, Ian Whates and Stephen Palmer, who let Ian read his piece too. Very good, with some great excerpts read, but the room got a little stuffy after a while.
After chatting with Sam about writing, later joined by David Howe, I then checked out the stalls, met Ian Whates’ lovely partner and finally got to see “Shoes, Ships & Cadavers” (the anthology of new writing from the Northampton SF Writers Group, edited by Ian Whates and Ian Watson, with a terrific introduction by Alan Moore). Neil Bond & I oohed-and-aahed over it and it’s lovely looking tome. He & I sat and chatted for a while, joined by Donna Scott (both members of the writing group).

After lunch (where I managed to pick up a long sought 70s sleaze novel from the market in town), I took to door duty with Tim Taylor (also from the NSFWG), where we were entertained by the Jester and his magic show and chatted about writing, our plans and our processes. All good fun.

Then there was a real buzz in the air, as Alan Moore arrived. Now I’ve never met Alan Moore before (he’s a Northampton resident) and the only real contact I’ve had with him has been interviews regarding films of his work, where he comes across as quite crotchety (though it has to be said, having seen the films, I can see his viewpoint). His very lovely words about my story “What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking” made me think differently, but I was still a bit trepidatious when I went to introduce myself. How much of an idiot am I? “Hello,” I said, “my name’s Mark West and I just wanted to thank you for your kind words about my story.” “Which one’s yours?” he asked. I told him it was the train one and he remembered it, complimented me on it again and was full of praise for the book and what we were doing and then he said “keep it local” What a truly lovely man, all beard and great jacket and rings, but exuding this wonderfully genial air. I didn’t get to sit next to him on the signing panel (damn you, Tim!), instead I was sat between Neil and Dr Steve and had a great time. The book seemed to do well, people were very interested and hey, if you’re a writer, being on a signing panel is terrific fun. Three months ago, I wasn’t even in the NSFWG. Now I was, I’d written a story in a week and met Alan Moore through it. Sometimes, you know, this writing lark is bloody brilliant!

I had to head off a little after this and didn’t get to say goodbye to everyone, but the rest of NewCon partied into the night (and then met up again the next day). It was a cracking con, I really enjoyed myself and can’t wait for the next one.



Donna Scott, Neil Bond and me, on the signing panel

Monday, 4 October 2010

Very pleased with this

In one of his patented real-time reviews over at his blog weirdmonger/, Des Lewis is reviewing the anthology "Never Again". In one of the story reviews, he has this to say...

"It reminds me of the classic story, 'The City In The Rain', by Mark West that I reviewed
here.. "

His review of the story is about halfway down the page.

How cool is this, though? Des Lewis is quoting my work in reviews!

Definitely chuffed with this.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

1st draft done!


Wahey! Finally, the first draft of the novel pitch is now complete (3 chapters, 6,091 words). A brisk run-through, then I'll send that 2nd draft on to my pre-readers.

Phew!

Lost Film Novellas (trailer test)

This is just a test - my novella hasn't even been completed yet and nor has Stephen Bacon's, but I do like to do this arty-farty things...

video


Let me know what you think.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

What you see, whilst train chasing

Dude & I like to go train chasing. It's a term I invented (and used in my story "What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking") because he likes trains and loves to watch them and I thought calling ourselves trainspotters this early in the day was a bit limiting. But train chasing sounds cool, I think.

Anyway, one of our haunts is the bridge on the road that connects Rushton to Pipewell. It's relatively safe, not too much traffic and with a kerb and the views are very nice. A week or so ago, we went out and I took this picture, looking towards Desborough, with Triangular Lodge just off to the left (there's plenty of history, some of it quite macabre, around here).

I love train chasing because I get to spend quality time with the Dude - it also has other benefits too!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

This Is England '86


Genius. Absolutely bloody brilliant work - top notch acting and writing, beautifully constructed, difficult to watch at times but never less than gripping. If Vicky McClure (Lol) doesn't get awards for this, there's no justice.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Raft did crime too!

Who knew? Published through Pan Books in the 70s, going into the early 80s, horror writer Peter Raft branched out into crime. Apparently, all of the books are set in Miami (where Raft lived at the time) and just looking at the covers and titles is enough to make me want to read one. These two are my favourites:


Don't forget, there's an online presence of sorts for Peter Raft - http://peterraft.blogspot.com/

Sunday, 26 September 2010

From a Golden Age...

Just discovered this writer (well, I haven't read any of his stuff yet, but the covers and titles alone make me want to). They don't make them like this any more, do they?



I can't tell which'd be the more fun, but I hope to track either of them down - and when I do, I'll let you know!
Edited to add:
There is an online presence of sorts for Peter Raft - http://peterraft.blogspot.com/

Friday, 24 September 2010

What I'm doing now...


No, I'm not writing a book based on this fabulous film, but rather I'm working on my first ever novel-pitch. It all started at FCon, with a conversation in the reception area and, suddenly, ZoQuNo is back on. I've already produced a (far too long) synopsis (which some of my pre-readers have been through) and now I'm working on the sample chapters. I'm going to open with a bang and a half and, hopefully, I'll drum up some interest in it.

More news, as and when!

Monday, 20 September 2010

FantasyCon, Nottingham, 17th to 19th September 2010

After attending many Con’s in the past, only for the Saturday, I decided to push the boat out a bit and stay for the weekend. And I’m really glad I did. I caught the train up and found my hotel, the Plaza, immediately (and thank you so much to Mick Curtis & Gary Cole-Wilkin for suggesting it - lovely room, plenty of space, very close to the Con itself).

So much happened, it’s going to be impossible to try and create a decent blog post so I’ll go with the bullet point method:

Friday
* Got signed in, chatted with Martin Roberts (cool haircut) and Helen Hopley. Bumped into Stu Young and Peter Mark May (the first of many new friends, who I’d already conversed with through Facebook). Had my afternoon planned out, which readings I was going to go to, which panels, all sorted.
* Convened in the bar, met Mick & Debbie Curtis and Gary Cole-Wilkin & Soozy Marjoram (all good people) from the RCMB. Also met Simon Marshall-Jones (SMJ from hereon) - we’d been saying it felt like ages since we last met up, but it was Terror Scribes in July. How times flies. Also met the lovely Raven Dane and Pixie Pants - wonderful ladies.
* Went out for dinner - Zizzi’s, very nice, very expensive - with Stu Young, Pam Creais and Lilly (don’t know her surname, unfortunately). Due to the extraordinary length of time they took to serve us, managed to miss Simon Bestwick and Peter Mark May’s readings. Whoops! On the plus side, Stu gave me two books he’d picked up in local charity shops, a Jesse Stone hardcover (Stu & I love Robert B Parker and often end up talking about him, when we meet and on email too) and a Robert Crais.
* Back to the hotel, met more people, went to the Quiz (our team was bolstered by the wonderful Jay Eales - recovering from graphic dental work that he kept trying to tell me about - and Selina Lock) and two chaps I never really caught the name of. The quiz was tough (seriously, who knows that much about the bloody Transformers) and we came last, though there were only about 6 points between us and the winners.
* “Get Real” panel, which I attended with Stu.
* Back at the bar, meeting and chatting. Called it a night at just after midnight, then was kept up until 3am by the shrieking of Nottingham night-life-folk on the main road outside my hotel.

Saturday
* Up good and early, checked out the hotel breakfast. Decided £16 was too steep, walked around to Greggs and got a croissant. On the way, I bumped in Gary Greenwood, we had a chat and agreed to meet up later. Determined to have a more pro-active approach to the readings and, for the most part, managed it. In fact, the lift (or ready lack thereof) scuppered me more than anything else. So what did I do today?
* Met Gary and Emily McMahon on the way into the hotel. Had a nice chat, talking about awards and work and families. Stu Young came by, gave Gary a copy of “The Godwulf Manuscript”, which he & I have been raving over and which Gary wanted to read.
* Andrew Hook’s reading was great fun, included the penguin head and I got to ask him some questions at the end.
* Gary McMahon’s reading was equally good. I’m very lucky, I’ve pre-read “Pretty Little Dead Things” (an ARC of which appeared over the weekend) but it was great to hear it in Gary’s own voice.
* To the bar, where I met up with Paul and Cath Finch, David Price, Simon Unsworth, the McMahon’s and Shaun Hamilton, who I originally met in Fiction Factory. We took some photo’s. I also finally got to meet, face-to-face, Stephen Bacon. Steve & I have been corresponding for a while now and we’re working on a collaborative project together, but it was great to shake his hand. His wife, the lovely Andrea, had come along for the day with him and it was great to meet her too. I only hope she didn’t get too bored!

Gary McMahon (and the "Pretty Little Dead Things" ARC), Shaun Hamilton, Steve Bacon, SMJ, me, David Price and Simon Unsworth. A gaggle of horror writers.

* Caught Paul Meloy’s reading and I’m glad I did. The story was incredibly moving, written (and read) with power and very affecting. I’ve never been disappointed by Meloy and this was no exception.
* Went to lunch at the Java café with Dave Price and SMJ. By the counter, at a small table, were Stephen Volk, Tim Lebbon and Mark Morris, who all said hi. Stood behind Jonathan Oliver in the queue and the lady behind the counter asked what we were all doing. We explained about the Con and that we were writers. She asked if any of us were famous. As one, we all turned and pointed at Steve Volk.
* Steve & Andrea Bacon joined us for lunch and he & I talked over our collaboration project. I’ve got a good feeling about it.
* “End Of The Line” launch - picked up my copy, got a signature from everyone who was there. When I got to Conrad, shook his hand and thanked him for the confidence burst that FicFac had given me. He’s a gracious man, that Williams.
* Paul Finch’s reading was good, though I only caught the tail end because of the launch and the bloody lifts.
* “The Grass Is Greener” panel. I went in on my own, interested to hear about moving genres (I’m not leaving horror, but my Lost Film novella is functionally a crime story, told in that voice and I’ve been reading a lot of crime lately to absorb it). Paul Meloy came in and joined me. Good panel, very interesting.
* Paul & I have a chat in the reception area, about brands. Decide that it’s all about the writing. He goes to the dealers room, I head up to Ian Whates’ reading. Once again, foiled by the lift but I catch at least 20 minutes. Ian runs the Writers Group I’ve recently joined and it was great to hear him read aloud, even better that he finished early and so I got to ask some questions.
* Back to the bar, where I meet up with John B Ford, who has dropped in for a while and Alison Davies. I haven’t seen either of them for years but, quite literally, it’s as if no time had gone by. John looked good and, despite his dreadful last few years, was upbeat. Let’s hope this isn’t the last Con we see him at.
* “How Not To Get Published” panel, which I’d been really looking forward to but, to my mind, didn’t work at all - it got quite snide, I thought, so I left. Managed to meet up with Jonathan Oliver for a chat a little later, as I wanted to ask him how he liked his novel pitches.
* Back to the bar, for more chat, then SMJ collared me and we sat down with Adrian Chamberlin. The three of us - and Mark Deniz - are working on a 4-writer-collection and we batted some ideas back and forth. One of them, in two parts, was really quite exciting!
* The RCMB Curry trip, wonderfully organised - as ever - by Gary Cole-Wilkin and Soozy Marjoram (and a terrific job they do, I organised a “thank you” round of applause when we finished). We were rounded up, led down, seated and eating really quickly - conversation was loud and passionate and funny and the meal was terrific. Attending were: Paul & Cath Finch, John Travis, Charles Rudkin, Ally Bird, Simon Unsworth, Terry Grimwood, Daniele Sierra, SMJ, Joel Lane, Simon Bestwick, GCW, Soozy, Shaun Hamilton, Mick & Deb Curtis, me, Gary & Emily McMahon, Chris Teague and Gary Fry. Great fun.
* Back to the Brittania and into the awards. Neil Bond and Donna Scott, from my Writers Group, had saved me a place at their table for the event and I didn’t realise, until too late, that I was sharing it with David Riley and Sharon Ring. Wish I’d known at the time, I’d have introduced myself! The awards were good (I wish Selina Lock had won for ‘Girly comic’ but Neil Gaiman - who he? - is, I suppose, a big draw) and Conrad William’s acceptance speech for “One” was about the most moving I’d heard since Tim Lebbon’s last year. Fantastic stuff and I made a point to go and congratulate him and Sarah Pinborough before the evening dispersed everyone.
* Back to the bar. More chat.
* Into the small bar, for the Pan book launch. It was held back by another event running late, so Peter Mark May & I stood chatting with John Forth and his partner Esther Sherman. We chatted about many things, but “Piranha 3D” got a good airing - it’s important, I think, to find folk who share your belief that a 3D film full of boobs can only be a good thing! Great fun, great couple and I really hope that Esther’s promise of a horror-Burlesque performance comes off.
* The Pan Launch was fabulous, helped in no small part by Johnny Mains’ enthusiasm and John L Probert’s incredible oratory skills.
* Back to the bar, more catching up with people (including Matthew F Riley), then back to the Plaza to listen to the Nottingham harpies.

Gary McMahon & I at Chutney's, for the curry

Sunday
I admit, I chickened out. I got a text from Mick Curtis, wishing me a safe journey and decided to head straight for the train station and my pre-bought ticket and reserved seat. If I’d stepped back into the hotel, I’d still be there, I think.

This was a fabulous con, brilliantly organised and run and I had a whale of time! Roll on the next one!

Incidents In Quiet Places is now available

is my new, digital-only collection, published by Ghostwriter Publications and contains ten of my previously published short stories. These are:

A StirringA hiking holiday in the Canuris range of Wales goes horribly wrong

Risen Wife
A grief-stricken widower is surprised when he opens the door to his newly-dead wife.

Cottage By The Sea
A holiday cottage, a centuries-old wrong-doing and strange shapes in the water

A Bug Supper
Is the fancy dress party everything it’s supposed to be?

Sleep Deeply
What happens if, one day, you simply forget to breathe?

Thank You For The MusicAll she wanted was to sing.

All The Rage
What road rage can sometimes lead to, if the persecuted is pushed hard enough.

Safe
What happens on these darkened streets, Grandad?

27:32
When a man, obsessed by time, seems to run out of it. Literally.

Toes
For the man who loves feet…

And from my foreword:
My first collection, “Strange Tales”, contained what I considered to be my best fiction up to 2002. This has no cross-over material, containing a mixture of newer stories and some which were left out for reasons of space.

There are zombie stories, quiet and dramatic; there are a couple of very black comedies (about the music business and foot fetishists); there are two very dark, hyper-realistic nightmares that were tough to write; a surreal adventure into time, or the lack of it; a story about bugs and another about the worry I used to have, that I’d suddenly forget to stop breathing; and a tale about a cottage, sitting near a beach in Wales, where I had a lovely holiday.

None of the incidents in the stories, it should go without saying, really happened though each of them, in one way or another, contain a lot of biographical details. It’s virtually impossible, I would have said, to write something and not include parts of yourself and your loved ones in it. That is, of course, if something is written with honesty. And all of these are - whether the monster in the story is in the protagonists head or wants to bite it off - are honest, in that I hope they all say something about the life around me, the writer, as I was creating the tale.

I hope you enjoy what follows, I had a good time writing them and it’s great to see them having a fresh start in life.
Download the book here, from Smashwords, where it is available on most digital formats.

Come and get it!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

It's all happening at once!

I had my second meeting at the Northampton SF Writers Group last night and it was very successful - good material to critique (from Nigel Edwards and Tim Taylor), interesting chat and a terrific, creative atmosphere.

The Lost Film novella is coming along very nicely. I’m past 12k words now, Bird has seen his first glimpse of the lost film (and experienced the first of many side-effects) and he’s also witnessed the mental collapse of someone associated with the person he’s trying to track down. I’m amazed at how quickly this is coming out and, I have to say, my confidence is running at an all-time high. I’m attributing it to several things - kind words from readers, especially Mick Curtis, who had lovely things to say about my work; the Northampton SF Writers Group and the creative energy it’s suffused with and “What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking”.

On the “upcoming” front, I have the artwork and “Up For Anything” in the PDF Ltd Edition to be launched at FantasyCon this weekend.

I also have some terrific news, regarding my work. Neil Jackson, at Ghostwriter Publications, is releasing a new collection from me. It’s called “Incidents In Quiet Places”, will feature ten stories and a foreword and I’ll post more details as and when (hopefully, very soon - like, this weekend!). For now, though, here’s Neil’s cover art. Lovely, isn’t it?

Ghostwriter are also putting out another chapbook of mine, “Cottage By The Sea”, which will feature four stories. More details as I get them - I have seen the cover art for that too and it’s a cracker.

And last, but by absolutely no means least, it’s FantasyCon this weekend, in Nottingham. For the first time (my first FCon was back in 2000, in Birmingham, with Doug Bradley as one of the guests) I’ll be staying for the weekend and to say that I’m really excited is a bit of an understatement. Thanks to Facebook and various message boards, I’m looking forward to meeting face-to-face people I’ve only conversed with on the web, I’m looking forward to seeing old (and new) friends and I’m looking forward to the curry. Ah, the curry. Most of all, though, I’m looking forward to being in the company of like-minded folk and having a good time.

I’ll post a report when I get back! See you on the other side!

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Lost Film novella's

I managed another 2k words on the Lost Film novella today - Eric Freeny has just had a mental meltdown at a big old hospital in the centre of Oxford. Very enjoyable.

As things are starting to move now, my partner-in-crime on this ‘collaboration-that-isn’t’ and I have decided to go a bit more public. My colleague on the project is
Stephen Bacon, whose “Last Summer” was, for me, the best story in “Where The Heart Is”.

We’ve been corresponding for a couple of years (we’re finally meeting up at Fcon this weekend!) and enjoyed each others work, chatted through Fiction Factory and, just after that finished, I suggested that we team up for a novella length project. At first, we were going to go for a straight collaboration, then decided to try a story each (we both felt like we needed the kick up the arse) and in a brainstorming of themes, he mentioned “lost film”. And that was it.

Mainly, we’re doing this to spur one another on - we’re going to critique each others work, help out with various bits and pieces and blend some characters/incidents as we go. We have a publisher in mind, but that’s not the important thing now, getting us both working is.

Not many other details at the moment, since we’re both in first draft, but whatever comes up, I’ll be sure to let you know.

And this - because I’m wired this way - is a teaser graphic I’ve created for the project.


Saturday, 11 September 2010

We went to the cinema (on our own)...

...for the first time in ages, since Matthew is at Sea Palling with his grandparents today.

On the spur of the moment, we decided to head to Sixfields in Northampton and watched "Piranha 3D" and it was brilliant (the first 3D film either of us have seen at the pictures since the early 80s) - cheesy good fun, with great special effects, a cracking pace and more boobs in 3D than I would have thought it possible to fill a film with!

If you get a chance - and haven't already - this is well worth a look.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Apropos of nothing, here's a picture...

...of me, Nick and Sarah (head partially obscured by Dad's technique!), cruising up the Norfolk Broads in 1988.
I like this.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

It's Official! "Come and get it while it's hot!"

Shoes, Ships and Cadavers
Tales from North Londonshire


The Northampton Science Fiction Writers Group
Introduction by Alan Moore


Northampton:
A town that sits at the heart of England. A town that has played host to kings, saints, parliament, public hangings, and hot air balloons. A place steeped in history, laden with mystery, and bursting with wonders just waiting to be realised.

Let us be your guides...

“The writers represented in Shoes, Ships & Cadavers: Tales from North Londonshire have crafted visions of the town that are distinct and separate, covering a generous and sweeping arc of this tiny and yet deceptively expansive area of spacetime… I read this in a single sitting, something that I can’t remember managing with an anthology for a considerable while. I don’t expect to read a book this year that is more personally satisfying or a greater cause for optimism. Passionately recommended.” – Alan Moore, from his introduction.

Twelve tales of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy and Horror

Established in 2002, the NSFWG exists to enable local writers of genre fiction to learn their trade and hone their skills. The group includes both established novelists and exciting new talents. This volume features twelve original stories set in Northampton and acts as a showcase for their work.


Available as a limited edition (of just 50) dust-jacketed hardback, and an A5 sized paperback.
12 stories, 256 pages, 80,000 words of intrigue, humour, magic, terror and conjecture.

Paperback edition: £9.99 (ISBN: 978-1-907069-18-5)
Hardback edition: £15.99 (ISBN: 978-1-907069-16-1)

Available to pre-order at:
http://www.newconpress.co.uk/

Full contents:

1. Introduction – Alan Moore
2. A Walk of Solace with my Dead Baby – Ian Watson
3. Lifeline – Susan Sinclair
4. These Boots weren’t Made for Walking – Ian Whates
5. Mano Mart – Andy West
6. What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking – Mark West
7. Arthur the Witch – Donna Scott
8. Goethe’s Wig – Steve Longworth
9. The Old Man of Northampton and the Sea – Sarah Pinborough
10. The Last Economy – Paul Melhuish
11. Hanging Around – Neil K Bond
12. I Won the Earth Evacuation Lottery – Tim Taylor
13. The Tower – Nigel Edwards
14. About the Authors

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Lost Film novella (post 1)

Well, it appears to have started. Sorrell Eve is in the process of engaging the services of Gabriel Bird and it seems to be running along quite nicely so far.
My target is to have this finished by 19th October (preferably the week earlier, as that'll tie in with my first critiquing slot at Northampton SF Writers Group) and we're off, so here's hoping everything goes to plan. Speaking of plan, that took ages - for a fairly straightforward horror/detective tale, this has been very complicated to try and fit everything in together. Thank goodness it's a novella and not a novel!

Simon Bestwick's Statistics

My friend Simon Bestwick’s latest blog entry (click here to read it for yourself) is an interesting little essay about him sorting through old stories to hopefully put together a new collection (which’d be very nice). The biggest revelation was that he has written over 190 short stories.

Bloody hell! He has a couple of years publishing headstart on me but even so, my credits pale against his. I checked through my records today and these are the stats:

Including non-genre, I have written 67 short stories.

Of those (including non-genre), I have seen 54 of those published (a not at all bad 81% success rate).

Of the unaccounted for, 4 of those are at a really odd length (in fact, I now realise they’re novelettes) and two are currently ‘circulating’.

Simon talks about the heyday of the British small press and I share the same views - in fact, at the weekend, I found a stash of ‘Sackcloth & Ashes’ and it was very interesting looking through the credits for each issue. I shared space with some very good writers, a lot of whom - I’m pleased to say - are still publishing today. There are many others, of course, whose names I haven’t seen in ten years - what happened to them, do you think? Did they just stop writing, or move into a different genre?

Anyway, between Simon and Gary McMahon - whose work rate should be an example to us all - I feel like a real slouch. But hopefully not for long because, this morning, I started the plan/synopsis for the lost film novella.

I’ll keep you posted as to progress.

Monday, 6 September 2010

State of play

Okay, this is where I am now:

* Chris has signed off on the last of the illustrations for the “Tourniquet Heart” pdf, which is good.
* My diary is now up to date
* My afterword for “What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking” is now completed (and might just make an appearance here, once the story is published)
* I have caught up on all of my critiquing

My slate is now clear, therefore, leaving me free to crack on with my lost film novella and I’m keen - I’ve been itching to get to it for a while, bits of the story are dropping into place every day and I think it could be pretty powerful. We’ll have to see. Anyway, that’s next up.

* * *
In other news, I showed Dude my Snowspeeder model yesterday (for those who don’t know, the Snowspeeder is the Rebel ship that fought the AT-AT’s in “The Empire Strikes Back”. He was so taken with it, we went up into the loft and found all the old bits and bobs I had from back in the mid-to-late 90s, when the re-issues brought a new wave of merchandise. I still have two original 1978 figures - Han Solo (with a small head) and a Death Watch Commander, but they remain on the top shelf of a bookcase, safely out of reach.

Dude said, “I love these, but we can still share them if you want, Daddy.”

Dude, yesterday, with some of the toys

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Last minute changes...

Chris has pointed out a perfectly reasonable thing about my illustration for my own story in the "Tourniquet Heart" pdf - the opening line is "The bathwater was crimson..." and it clearly isn't here.

So, this was supposed to be my picture but now isn't!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

"What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking"

Woo hoo!

I’m really chuffed - my story “What We Do Sometimes, Without Thinking” will appear in a forthcoming NewCon Press anthology, featuring stories about Northamptonshire (and which’ll hopefully have an introduction by a comics legend).

For me, this story has been a revelation - Ian told me about the antho on the Wednesday, I had the germ of an idea that night, Matthew helped things along by asking me to write a story about train-chasing and then I wrote 3 drafts of the story (and got pre-reader feedback) within a week.

Great news for me and now, after a little bit more artwork for Chris, I’m launching into the lost film novella.

Thunderbirds Are Go!

Monday, 30 August 2010

FantasyCon in a fortnight, another teaser tonight...

As mentioned in a previous post, Pendragon Press is producing a free, limited edition PDF version of “Tourniquet Heart” for FantasyCon. Only perhaps a dozen of the original ToC will be included, but one of those will be my “Up For Anything” (yep, the tampon one).

Chris approached me to produce some photo montages, as story headers and I’ve had a lot of fun with the process. I’ll post all of the images after FantasyCon but, for now, here’s a taster (this isn’t the final one for “Up For Anything”, but I like it).


Saturday, 28 August 2010

Couldn't resist - a late-coming INXS Friday special

Lately, from the Wembley concert (which I was at). Not included on the original concert film (it's an extra on the DVD), this has a terrific sax solo by Kirk Pengilly.

Friday, 27 August 2010

I'm writing!

I’ve just this minute sent off my finished short, for consideration in the NewCon press anthology and I’m basking in the glow that comes from having worked the story up, written it, got some critiques and completed three drafts, in a week. That’s the kind of speed I thought I’d left behind in the early noughties, so I’m taking it as a sign that joining the Northampton SF Writers Group was a great move on my part.

I’ve also been making other plans to keep myself up to speed and so, suddenly, I seem to have a whole plate full of things:

* I have my “collaboration that isn’t”, with a fellow writer I like and respect. I’m using the lost film idea I had a while back and I’m hoping to leap into that next week.

* I have some more artwork to complete for Pendragon Press, for a project that Chris Teague has just announced. He’s producing a PDF ‘sampler’, taken from the anthology “Tourniquet Heart”, which he edited and was released through Prime Books back in 2002. My story “Up For Anything” appeared in that and will also appear in the PDF, along with a host of other writers. I am producing little photo-montages for each tale.

* The zombie novel. Come on!

* A four-writer-thingy collection, with Simon Marshall-Jones, Adrian Chamberlain and Mark Deniz. We’re at an early stage with the project at the moment (Simon & I discussed it at the Terror Scribes gathering and Mark came on board this week) so there’s not much to tell, but it’ll be published next year, press to be announced. Could be interesting.

So there we go, all of a sudden, I’m a busy boy. And, following the comments from Mick Curtis about “In The Rain With The Dead” and my joy at producing a short in a week, my confidence is riding high!

Let’s go!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

I'm chuffed!

Had an email today from the wonderful Mick Curtis, who's just read "In The Rain With The Dead". He wrote - and I quote - 'I loved it! I liked the characters so much that several times I was tempted to look at the end of the book to see if they’d be ok or not'.

This has really pleased me. Writers mostly work in a vacuum - you write the story, sell it (hopefully) and then, later on, it gets published and makes its own way into the world and you're not there to defend it but have to hope that it'll be okay. When someone takes the time to let you know what they thought - and, moreso, when they clearly liked the thing - well, that's just a wonderful feeling.

My writing schedule seems to be filling up now, between the short I'm currently revising, the lost film novella and another new project and kind words like those of Mick only make me feel more confident about what I'm doing.

Cheers, Mick!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Wahey


I've done it! The first draft of my as-yet-untitled short story is now completed - over 8,200 words in three days (thank you, Alison & Dude, for giving me the time)! 2nd draft starts tomorrow, then to the pre-readers and hopefully to Ian by the end of the week (or weekend, more than likely).

Heidi Klum (see the video post entry from earlier) seems chuffed for me too!

Below is a picture of the bridge at the end of the Headlands, which I've used as key location in the story.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

"Just Walking The Dog"

I've just found out that an old story of mine - "Just Walking The Dog" - is still floating about online. I originally wrote this back in the late 80s, then revised it for publication in the late 90s. It was also the story I read as my introduction to the Kettering Writers Workshop, in 1999.

With that warning suitably made, here's an old story of mine - very much a monster tale!
http://www.carlmerritt.com/terror/west01.htm