Sunday, October 16, 2016

Telling Stories

I seem to be in a purple patch when it comes to writing short stories. After a lengthy fallow period, I've written three new first draft stories in a week.

These new stories, they seem to be pushing towards something, grasping beyond my usual boundaries. I think this is a good thing; I believe it marks a period of growth, or change, for me as an artist. Even the titles - Slam, Viewings, You Can Go Now - feel different from the usual kind of titles I use (but maybe that's just a false notion, informed by my recognition of the growth that's occuring).

Writing - and I'm guessing most types of art - is prone to these periods of change, and change is often painful. It's never easy; it always has a cost. But it's all part of the creative process, the journey (even though I hate to use that word) we take as an artist.

So I rush towards this new period of artistic expression with open arms. I just hope they don't get bitten off.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


In late December I started writing a short story inspired by the process of viewing houses prior to our big move. Last night I finally nailed down a 4,300-word first draft.
The story is provisionally titled The Viewings, and I think it has a lot of promise. It's creepy, has a neat little note of marital discord at its heart, and hopefully says something interesting and insightful about change and upheaval and the strain these things can place upon a relationship.
I have a few short stories I've promised to editors, so I'm hoping this one turns out well during the editing process so I can send it somewhere - it actually fits the theme of one or two of the markets I have in mind.
Eight months to do a first draft. Fucking hell. I remember the days when I could rattle off a finished story in a fortnight. But those days, it seems, are long dead. The ideas - the good ones; the ones that deserve the time and effort it takes to develop them into tales - don't come as often as they once did either. Everything is much more hard-earned these days.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Charles L. Grant

I've done a guest blog on Neil Snowdon's site in honour of the late, great Charles L. Grant.

Click on the photo above and the link will take you there. Stick around and read some of the other Grant-related posts.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

September 2016

I'm in a strange, reflective mood today - probably due to this current bout of insomnia - and have been thinking about how much art has brought to my life.

Books, films, paintings, sculptures, music, etc...without these things, I couldn't have made it this far. From a young, lonely northeastern kid sitting in a tiny council house bedroom reading the piles of books borrowed from the library or staying up late to watch the Hammer horrors or leafing through a book of Van Gogh prints, to a man who writes stories and sometimes gets them published and who desperately wants his son to value these things.

These precious things that saved him, and damaged him; these terrible and beautiful things that unmade him and then reformed him.

Art. It's an amazing, essential thing. In all its forms. Life without art would not be a life at all - not to me, anyway.

Friday, July 1, 2016

July 1st 2016

So this is me trying to add a post to the blog at least once a month. The 1st of the month seems like a sensible plan to me.

July was strange. Major upheavals in UK politics have seen me becoming obsessed with political shenanigans for perhaps the first time in my life. I suppose I need something to fill the void now that GAME OF THRONES has finished for another year.

Last week, taking me utterly by suprise, I started to write a new novel. It's called Edgeland and is the synthesis of three seperate ideas I had for short stories, none of which seemed to work entirely on their own. I've been researching Dachau concentration camp, 1940s sound recording technology, urban blight, an old folk song and various other bits and pieces. More importantly, I've written almost 7,000 words of first draft prose, a circumstance that pleases me greatly after suffering from a creative block for the best part of three years.

It's good to be writing regularly again.

I've decided to grade for Shodan (first dan black belt) in December and have started training like a motherfucker to give myself the best chance of passing. It's a life goal for me, something that has come to mean so much that I feel rather emotional even thinking about the prospect. The next few months are going to be tough, but I like to think I'm tough enough to get through it all and keep smiling.

My sensei always says that gains are made only when you push yourself out of your comfort zone, and I believe that too. In karate. In writing. In life.

Keep pushing. Keep gaining. Keep failing better. Inch by inch. Bit by bit. What else is there to do?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


An idea, an idea, my kingdom for an idea...oh, here's three!

Writing is a funny old thing. For ages I've been trying to come up with an idea for a lengthy piece of fiction - a novella or even a short novel. Something to break the final bits of the creative block that's plagued me for a couple of years now.

Ideas came, and ideas went. None of them seemed good enough. Not one of them had the legs to carry them into being.

Then I started reading a (terrific) novel by another writer, a book I've been asked to provide a blurb for. And something began to stir.

Ideas are curious beasts. The title of the novel I'm reading lit a spark inside my brain; in turn this spark reignited three old ideas that I'd cast aside but always rather liked: ideas that might have made three decent short stories but didn't really stretch to anything longer on their own. Yet once combined they started to writhe and transform into something stronger, something better.

Now I seem to be working on a novella that's straining to be a novel.

The working title is Edgeland. I like that. It's simultaneously mythic and intimate, and hints at many layers beneath the original trio of ideas that formed it. Indeed, here's an extract from my notes, a brief piece of dialogue that will find it's way into the tale:

Notice how it’s always three with these things? Say the devil’s name three times in a mirror. 3am. Three days until you die. Three. It’s always three – a powerful number.”

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Raised by Horror

A few cinematic images that haunted, and enriched, my early years:

Rednecks taking potshots at stumbling zombies in a distant field, a rabid woman attacking a commuter on a Canadian subway, a leather-clad warrior driving a bus loaded with sand, a chainsaw pirouette, a dead old woman tied to a chair in a desert as bait for mutant cannibals, a disfigured boy rising out of a lake, garden shears slicing off fingers in a chiaroscuro montage, a vampire child scratching at a closed window,  a monochrome Creature walking backwards into a room, Lugosi's venal smile, an armpit sprouting a penile fang, a chitinous black mask with an asthmatic voice, Rathbone striding across a misty moor, a thin-faced Van Helsing sprinting across a long table to tear curtains from a window and let in sunlight...

Man, I was raised raised by horror films.