Tag Archives: anthology

More news about NIGHTSCAPE!

My new short story collection, NIGHTSCAPE is now available in Paperback!

You can get a teaser of what’s in the book here

If you’re a fan of the Twilight Zone, or if you like a dash of Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury or Stephen King in your dark fiction. check out the short stories below. You can also buy the gorgeous hardback edition from Parallel Universe Press!

 

NIGHTSCAPE is available from the following retailers by clicking on the links below:

Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2u5RRNz

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/2tQEKo9

Barnes & Noble http://bit.ly/2hhnBhu

Parallel Universe Publications  http://bit.ly/2uR0pdf

 

Focus on the short story: Ray Bradbury’s “The Emissary”

Today, I thought I would focus on a short story for a change.

What I really like about Ray Bradbury’s “Zen and the Art of Writing” is that he suggests that authors should only write when they feel a white-hot passion…. a burning idea that just has to be let out. For me, that has never been a problem. I have too many ideas and too little time. However, he also says that he started out writing by simply listing nouns…. writing down phrases like “The Skeleton” or “The Jar” and letting the story write itself. I was amazed to read this, as I did the same thing myself when I began writing in my teens. These days, however, I begin more often than not with an idea. But using this kind of word-association game can be a useful way to dodge writer’s block for those afflicted.

Which brings me to my favourite Ray Bradbury story, “The Emissary”.

 

 

Bradbury wrote tons of gold. You’ve probably heard of “The Martian Chronicles” or the film made from one of his short stories “The Beast from 20,000 fathoms”. He also wrote the screenplay for “Moby Dick”, a few “Twilight Zone” episodes, as well as the Rod Steiger classic “The Illustrated Man”, and the dark fantasy novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes”.

But for me it’s his collection “The October Country” that is my fave. The preface states it is about:

“… that country where it is always turning late in the year… whose people are autumn people thinking only autumn thoughts.”

It still sends shivers up my back. Rumour has it one story, “The Homecoming” was the seed for “The Addams’ Family”, especially as Charles Addams himself illustrated the early editions of the book.

“The October Country” contains some great stories like “The Jar” and “The Scythe”. But for me “The Emissary” is the best of the lot.

 
It’s a story about a boy who is sick in bed and whose dog is his only link to the outside world. Dog is an explorer, and he always comes back carrying the scents of everything he comes into contact with. One night, Dog goes missing. Then he comes back. But he’s not exactly alone…

 

The Emissary – from the Ray Bradbury Theatre TV show!

 

Here’s a sample:

“Martin knew it was autumn again, for Dog ran into the house bringing wind and frost and a smell of apples turned to cider under trees. In dark clock-springs of hair, Dog fetched goldenrod, dust of farewell-summer, acorn-husk, hair of squirrel, feather of departed robin, sawdust from fresh-cut cordwood, and leaves like charcoals shaken from a blaze of maple trees. Dog jumped. Showers of brittle fern, blackberry vine, marsh-grass sprang over the bed where Martin shouted. No doubt, no doubt of it at all, this incredible beast was October!”

The story combines childlike innocence and beautiful prose with an eerie dread. It’s the kind of story you grasp instantly, but you still get more out of it on repeat readings. The exquisite prose reminds me of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. It twists language to create new words out of old. But more, Bradbury captures the exuberance of sheer living. His exclamation mark at the end could be either the boy’s viewpoint or our own.

 

Martin makes sure anyone who finds his dog knows where to come looking for its owner…

 

For me, Bradbury evokes a kind of timeless, 1950’s era America of small towns that was about as foreign as you could get from inner-city Manchester where I grew up. His America is a place of wonder, mystery, nature and a million fabulous scents, smells and activities. A kind of Fourth of July of the mind. “The Emissary” conveys all this in one brisk paragraph. The rest of the story is even better. I encourage you to read it. And then to read everything else Bradbury ever wrote.

One of things writers sometimes forget about is that writing should be fun. It should move us, make us laugh or weep. We live out our fantasies and our nightmares in our writing. So be like Bradbury, who said : “You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you.”

Stay drunk!

The Horror Masterworks series!

In this post, I thought it would be fun to create my own list of Horror Masterworks books containing the greatest horror novels and short stories of all time.

The idea struck me because a while ago Gollancz brought out a series of Science Fiction Masterworks. These contained seminal sci-fi novels considered some of the best sci-fi novels of all time, such as Arthur C Clarke’s Childhood’s End, Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and Robert Silverberg’s The Book of Skulls as well as the obligatory PK Dick books. The series was an introduction to many authors readers might not be familiar with.

This was followed soon after by another series of Fantasy Masterworks with books such as Lord Dunsany’s The King of Elfland’s Daughter and George R R Martin’s Fevre Dream. However, due to less success this time around, plans for a Horror Masterworks series were apparently shelved. It might also have been due to the fact that some of the “fantasy” tiles were in fact horror, or even science-fiction as in Jack Finney’s Time and Again.

 

Another mislabelled "Science Fiction Masterwork".

Another mislabelled “Science Fiction Masterwork”.

 

There has been a huge reticence by major publishers and booksellers recently to acknowledge the horror field. Yet despite this, horror is booming. Horror films like The Conjuring and the Paranormal Activity series have accounted for some of the most profitable Hollywood films this century. Horror novels continue to appear regularly on Amazon’s Top Selling Books list.  The public, it seems, thirsts for horror, even if publishers don’t want to supply it.

In conclusion, it seems unfair that Sci-fi and Fantasy should get their own Masterworks series while Horror is left out. So without further ado, here are my recommendations for Gollancz’s non-existent  Horror Masterworks series!

 

THE HORROR MASTERWORKS COLLECTION THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN…

  1. H P Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu & Others
  2. Ray Bradbury, The October Country
  3. Richard Matheson, I Am Legend
  4. Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
  5. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
  6. Bram Stoker, Dracula
  7. Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
  8. Peter Straub, Ghost Story
  9. James Herbert, The Rats
  10. Stephen King, The Shining
  11. Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire
  12. Charles L Grant, The Hour of the Oxrun Dead
  13. Clive Barker, Cabal
  14. Ramsey Campbell, The Doll Who Ate His Mother
  15. Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan
  16. Robert Bloch, Psycho
  17. William Hope Hodgson, The House on the Borderland
  18. Sheridan Le Fanu, Through A Glass Darkly
  19. Roald Dahl, Kiss Kiss
  20. M R James, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary
  21. Ira Levin, Rosemary’s Baby
  22. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey
  23. Edgar Allen Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination
  24. Thomas Ligotti, Teatro Grottesco
  25. Laird Barron, Occultation
  26. Robert R McCammon, Boy’s Life
  27. Daphne Du Maurier, The Birds
  28. Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho
  29. Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
  30. Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
  31. William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist
  32. Algernon Blackwood, Ancient Sorceries & other Chilling Tales
  33. Charles Dickens, Ghost Stories
  34. Rudyard Kipling, The Mark of the Beast & Other Stories

As you can see, there is plenty for horror fans to sink their teeth into.

One word of warning: this is not a list of personal favourites (although many of them are) or a list of the most scariest books of all time. Instead, I’ve tried to balance true masters in the field with their most notable works, either because the book set a new bar in the genre, or because it is their most representative work. I’ve also tried to include some modern writers such as Thomas Ligotti and Laird Barron to show you that horror is not dead but is in fact alive and well and still growing, albeit a little more in the dark these days!

I hope you enjoy the list. Feel free to disagree, and be sure to let me know what you think about the list in the comments below!

Pleasant dreams!

 

 

Revolutions Anthology

 

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Publication looms for the superlative Manchester Speculative Fiction Group anthology “Revolutions”, as the proof copies are being checked for last minute spelling and punctuation as we speak!

This promises to be an awesome collection of stories, folks. The Manchester Speculative Fiction group has been going for some years now, but this is our first anthology. It showcases not only work by group members, but by many talented writers across the world. The only criterion was that all the stories had to be set in Manchester, England. Whether this is the Manchester we all know and love (it’s currently pouring with rain as I’m typing), or a future, past or alternative Manchester was left to the writers. So expect the unexpected!

This is an exciting time for myself and the other editors. More details will follow nearer the launch date.  I just couldn’t wait to share these pics with you all!

Until next time…

Do you like Anthologies of Urban Fantasy Stories?

Okay, shameless plug time.

Not exactly hot off the presses but still relatively recent is TWISTED BOULEVARD, an anthology of surprising Urban Fantasy fiction by Elektrik Milk Bath Press (don’t ask).

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There are all manner of goodies inside, including a story by yours truly! BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN is about an anything-but-typical day in London after something has gone terribly wrong with the universe! If you like Urban Fantasy, this could well be the anthology for you!

You can get yours here at Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0982855486?keywords=twisted%20boulevard&qid=1444768811&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

or here at Amazon.co.uk

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0982855486?keywords=twisted%20boulevard&qid=1444768871&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

Any reviews of this under-read collection of short stories would be most welcome. Pretty please with a cherry on top???

 

 

Update on Revolutions Anthology! (sort of)

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Been relatively busy recently so this will be a short-ish post. Over the past few weeks I’ve been editing The Manchester Speculative Fiction Group’s first ever anthology, “REVOLUTIONS”, together with my co-editors. This is a science-fiction/horror/fantasy compendium of short stories, all loosely connected to my home town of Manchester, England in some way. So I thought I would take a moment to share some insights into Manchester.

Manchester is a city that is close to my heart. Like a piece of shrapnel from a bullet wound that is lodged there. I don’t think I’m alone in having a love/hate relationship with the city. On the one hand, it has a proud industrial heritage, a lively student population, the BBC, world-class football, great shopping, and architecture so good they filmed part of “Captain America” here. On the other hand it suffered greatly from urban decay, has sprawling council estates, and the levels of high crime, poverty and homelessness associated with many inner cities. And did I mention the football?

In recent years Manchester has changed again, with the creation of the rather Bohemian Northern Quarter section, full of quirky cafes and bars. Manchester today is a city in flux.

If you want to know what Manchester is like, you can see a rather sanitized version of it here…

Manchester's lovely Town Hall.

Manchester’s lovely Town Hall.

or here…

 

A rather nice leafy suburb in Greater Manchester.

A rather nice leafy suburb in Greater Manchester.

 

…or here are some rather less flattering images:

Manchester town centre.

Manchester town centre.

 

Or here…

Brunswick council estate, Manchester.

Brunswick council estate, Manchester.

Or perhaps here…

Studentville, Manchester.

Studentville, Manchester.

 

Like it or loathe it, Manchester has always been fertile ground for poets, artists, writers and musicians. There’s something about the place that inspires escapism. Perhaps it’s all that industrial age architecture (while some of the new buildings in the city centre are straight out of a science-fiction novel) or the twisting back alleys that could hold unexpected tales of horror or fantasy. In any case, it has inspired some fascinating stories that hopefully we’ll be sharing with you in the coming months.

Until then, here are some of the famous (or notorious) people who have come from the city:

Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange novelist), Professor Brian Cox (physicist and TV presenter), The Stone Roses, LS Lowry (artist), The Bee Gees, Robert Donat (actor), Oasis, The Hollies, Joy Division and New Order, Davy Jones (The Monkees), David Lloyd George (Prime Minister), Ian McShane (actor), Emmeline Pankhurst (Suffragette),Thomas De Quincey (novelist), The Happy Mondays, John Thaw (actor), 10cc, The Buzzcocks, Elkie Brooks (Singer), Elbow, Georgie Fame (Singer), George Formby (comedy actor), Manchester United Football Club, Freddie and the Dreamers, Herman’s Hermits, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Morrissey and The Smiths, Sad Café, Lisa Stansfield, Simply Red, The Verve, Stephen Leather (novelist), Nicholas Royle (novelist), Bernard Hill (actor Titanic, Lord of the Rings), David Warner (actor Tron, The Omen), Jack Wild (child actor Oliver!), Harold Shipman (Britain’s biggest ever serial killer), Beryl Reid (actress), The Moors Murderers, Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden novelist), Winston Churchill (Born in Oxfordshire but MP for Oldham and then MP for Manchester North-West).

Maybe we’ll see more names added to the list after the anthology!

How to get your short story published!

By way of an update about the Revolutions Anthology I am editing (along with my fellow members of the Manchester Speculative Fiction Group), I thought I would share some insights about how to submit a story to an editor.

The reason I’m doing this is that I have been surprised by how many people don’t know the best way to do this. So here are some tips about sending out your short stories if you’re a fledgling writer (or even if you’re not).

Submissions are closed now for the anthology, and myself and my fellow editors are busy reading through a small mountain of stories. But I have noticed some simple errors that will stop you from being published. 

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Except for a word limit of 6,000 words we only had two rules for the Revolutions Anthology. One, stories had to be speculative (science-fiction, fantasy, horror or slipstream). Two, they had to be connected in some way to Greater Manchester, England.

That was it.

First of all, here’s what NOT to do.

– Send things the publisher doesn’t publish. We would love to have published a novel, but that wasn’t what we set out to do. We wanted short stories. Period. So sending us anything else is just a waste of your (and our) time.

– Send us a long list of stories we might like and ask us to pick one. Sorry, but it’s up to you to decide which story to submit.

Here’s what you should really do:

– Be professional.

That’s it.

The general public often see writing as a strange profession, part shaman, part celebrity. You sit down and magically produce a novel or short story which a publisher then falls in love with. And lo, a legend is born!

Alas, not so.

Writers are just like anyone else. They have to work.

If you want to submit a short story you have already written to a publisher (for instance, an anthology or magazine editor) check first to see if it’s the kind of thing they would want. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES!

This is so important, I’ll say it again: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES!

Editors are busy. They set guidelines because it helps them save time. We all want to save time. So save yours and theirs by FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES (there, I said it again).

So what should you send?

1) Your story, either attached or emebedded in the e-mail as per their GUIDELINES (!).

2) A short covering letter (short being the operative word). This should tell them the following:

– Who you are

– What you are submitting (How long it is. What genre it is. It’s title)

– If necessary, a short one paragraph biography detailing any relevant publishing credits you have, or any relevant experience you have. Note the word RELEVANT. If you’re a palaeontologist and your story is about fossils, that MIGHT be relevant. If you’re a divorce lawyer and your story is about a wertiger, it probably is going to be less relevant. Use common sense.

 

DO try to address the letter to the editor by name. It’s not always possible. Some are shy about putting their names on their wesbites. But “Dear Bob” always sounds better than “Dear editors” or “Dear Sir/Madam”.

DO NOT spell the editors names incorrectly.

DO NOT assume that anyone who uses their initials only is a man (or woman). A good tip for this is to address them by their initials, e.g. “Dear T.J.”

A good letter should also include a good-bye. Something simple like “I hope you enjoy the story and look forward to hearing from you in due course, Yours sincerely, Eric.” is enough.

That’s it.

After that, send your shiny e-mail off into the ether and wait. Wait again. Then wait a bit more.

DO NOT pester the editor with e-mails every few weeks asking if they’ve read your story. I  myself only ever chase up a submission if it’s something I’ve personally been asked to submit. It’s a sad fact that some publishers never reply to you. Take that as a rejection.

Once you’ve done all that, either:

a) REJOICE! Your submission was successful. You are now a published author!

or

b) REPEAT the above.

Nobody ever said being a writer would be easy! Writing requires persistence, patience, and above all, a thick skin. Not everyone will appreciate your genius right off the bat. Don’t let that deter you. Get back in their champ and keep swinging!

Following the above will not guarantee that your story will ever see the light of day. However, it will guarantee that the editor does not immediately burn your submission (hopefully). Doing these simple things will ensure that you come across as a professional rather than an amateur. And, sometimes, that makes all the difference.