Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Homespun

Currently I'm doing the final edits on the five stories that will comprise my forthcoming "mini collection" AT HOME IN THE SHADOWS.

I'll make an official announcement about this at the appropriate time, but for now I'm rather excited about because it's got me writing regularly again.

Three of the stories have been published before, in slightly different forms, and two of them (the lengthier pieces) are brand new, and were written specifically for this project.

Three of the tales are loosely connected, but they all share a theme: home, or houses, or domesticity. I've been calling them my "domestic sequence".

Home.

It’s a funny word, isn’t it? Use it in one context, and it suggests safety and security; family. But use it in another context, and it becomes unwelcoming, even a little disturbing.

“I’m tired, so I’m going home.

“She went mad, so they put her in a home.”

See what I mean?

As a horror writer, I’m attracted to such conflicting meanings. I also like to look for the darkness that sits at the heart of the familiar, the welcoming, and in this case the homely.

That’s what I set out to do in this sequence of stories: dig until I found the horror at the heart of the domestic. The terror that dwells within the spaces in the places we call home.



Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Island

A long time ago, a ship went down in the middle of a vast ocean. The lone survivor of this wreck was washed up on the shore of an uninhabited island. He walked into the forest and, knowing a little about survival, he built a shelter among the trees. It took him several days to construct, and during that time he ate fish that he caught from the sea and fruit from the nearby trees.

One night a storm came and destroyed his shelter. So he started again. He rebuilt what had been torn down, taking his time, trying to make it even stronger this time. He continued to take the fish from the sea and gather the fruit from the trees, and even set traps for small animals in the forest.

Weeks later, another storm came and his new shelter was destroyed. So he built a new one, even stronger this time - spending weeks rather than days to make sure it would withstand the storms.

Years passed. He ate. he slept. He walked the beach, looking for ships that never came. A great storm arrived, lashing the island with rain and hail and vicious waves from the sea. This third shelter took a lot of damage. Once the storm had passed, not much of it remained. But the man survived. So he started again.

More years passed, and the man was dying of a fever. He lay on his bed in this final shelter - one that had lasted all this time - and he thought about his life, what it had become; he looked back on his time here, on this island. He had never married. Nor had he fathered children. He had been in the prime of his life when he came ashore here, and now that life was almost over.

The man decided that he did not have any regrets. He had worked hard for what little he had, and once he was gone the island would once again be uninhabited. He would become part of the island, absorbed by it. His flesh and bones would feed the island. His ghost would walk the beach and look out to sea, watching the distant horizon. No ships would come. They never did. But it was enough that he had existed here, upon this small patch of land, and that his life had made but a small dent in the fabric of things before fading away.

He died. He rotted. The shelter stood for two decades more, and then was torn down in yet another huge storm. The wood was washed away. The man's ghost eventually faded.

Then one day, a ship came. Men came ashore and walked the beach, entered the forest. they kicked through the scant remains of the man's shelter and wondered who had lived here, making their home in such a desolate place. When they left, their footprints faded into the wet sand.

The island continued to exist, until one day it awoke from its slumber, rolled, and dived beneath the surface like a great whale, going deep, returning to a cool, dark place it could barely even remember, even during the long dream from which it had emerged.



Thursday, October 11, 2018

October

There's a concept in martial arts - specifically in karate - called zanshin. It's a state of awareness, a relaxed alertness. If you employ zanshin, you will always be ready to react. It's a concept I try my best to bring out of the dojo and into my everyday life. We must always be ready, even when we're at rest. Ready for anything. Because life throws up surprises all the time, and control is an illusion. All we can do is react; and how we react is what defines us in those situations.

As I write this, I'm thinking about a story. It's a story about a room in a house; a story about the people who are drawn there; a story about the quiet that exists inside each one of us, and the ultimate quiet beyond all of that.

It's a novel. One that stalled a couple of years ago at around the 40,000-word mark.

Today I opened the file and started dabbling with the prose, and the novel seems to be stirring back to life. This pleases me. It's a story I've wanted to tell for years. Hopefully by the end of the year I'll have told it in at least the form of a first draft.

Meanwhile, I'm roughly half way through the last story in my mini collection, At Home in the Dark. It isn't the story I'd originally set out to tell; as I worked on the idea, it transformed into something else.

Creativity is funny that way. You have an idea, and that idea starts to grow. Soon it consumes you. That idea is all you think about. At the day job, in the car, in a queue at the supermarket, as you try to get to sleep at night. The idea: it's all there is. But sometimes that idea tells you that it wants to be something else, and as you worry away at it, the idea changes, it shifts and twists and becomes something else. So you grab hold of it, and you let it take you wherever it wants to go. That's when you know it isn't really you that's in charge: the idea is the boss, and all you can do is follow it.

I wasn't expecting that novel to come back to life, but I was ready for it. When I opened that file, I was ready for anything. I didn't think that idea would mutate, but it did. And when it happened, I was ready: literary zanshin.


Monday, September 10, 2018

10-09-2018

I'd planned to write a short story during our family holiday in Dalyan, but somehow managed to write two. I wrote them longhand, in a narrow-ruled pad; that pad is sitting next to my laptop waiting for me to transcribe the stories into Word documents.

In the meantime, I've started editing work on a few stories and urgently need to write a couple more to complete a mini collection I'm submitting to a publisher.

I've also just written the first draft of a story that was commissioned late last night - luckily an idea popped straight into my head, and I've had some time today to work on it. Unless a better title presents itself, I'm calling this one Somewhere in Here. It's about spousal abuse and social isolation.

It's taken me a long time to get back into writing in any kind of serious way, and still I'm not entirely satisfied with my work. I've become super critical of my own writing, and I'm too quick to think something is ordinary or sub-par. I need to relearn the trick of having faith in what I do. Part of this is a reaction to the absurd posturing I see from a lot of writers on social media, a bunch of mediocre scribblers who tend to think their stories are examples of literary genius. Part of it is a result of my low self-esteem.

I'm not looking for sympathy when I write about this stuff; I'm merely prone to self-examination. I think it's good for the soul.

So I carry on. I write when I can. Hopefully I'll regain at least some of the confidence I once had.






Monday, July 30, 2018

In two weeks time I head off to Dalyan, in Turkey, for our annual family holiday. A fortnight in the sun, in a beautiful village on the banks of the Dalyan Çayı River, overlooked by the Lycian tombs.

I've already sorted out which books I'm taking to read, but I've also set myself a little writing challenge: over the two weeks I'm there, I plan to write a ghost story set in Dalyan, utilising that river as a major part of the tale. All I have is the bare bones of a plot; hopefully the meat will form over them during the holiday.

The working title is And You Shall Drown in My Tears.


Image result for Dalyan Çayı River

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tuesday 24th July

I spent most of the weekend in Nottingham on a JKS karate course: 4 hours of training on Saturday; 4 hours of training on Sunday. By Sunday evening, my feet were aching and I was exhausted. It was a fantastic weekend but I didn't get any writing done.

Last night my son and I watched The Red Turtle on Blu-ray. We were both profoundly moved.

It's a sublime parable and a gorgeous metaphor for the journey of life, the importance of family, and the guardianship of nature.

The simple story of a man deserted on an uninhabited island is open to multiple readings, and is at once life-affirming, beautiful, and achingly sad. 

I'd call it a masterpiece. Please see it if you can.

This week I'm planning to get more edits done on some stories and get cracking on The Cabinet - the final story in a sequence of tales I started over a decade ago. 

I seem to have gone from having no projects on the go to having too many: a small short story collection, a potential reprint in a limited hardback edition of my Concrete Grove trilogy, and the novel I've been working on for a while. It's good but it's scary; it feels like I've forgotten how to juggle multiple creative projects and balance it all with the rest of my life.

But I continue. I endure. A life without creativity, for me, would be an empty life. 






Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday 7th July

Not much to report on the writing front. Still working sporadically on the novel, feeling it out and trying to get a feel of what shape it might take once it settles.

Last Friday, I had a decent idea for a short story, and managed to write nearly 3,000 words over the weekend. It's inspired by my mother's recent move to sheltered housing. If it turns out well, I'll probably put it in the ToC for the next collection, which I'm trying to put together before approaching a few indie presses.

Next on my list is pulling together the short collection I'm putting out through a UK small press possibly late this year, or early next year.

At Home in the Dark will feature the following stories:


  • The Chair
  • The Table
  • The Cabinet
  • The Viewings


The stories are loosely connected and form what I've always thought of as "the domestic sequence." The last two stories in that list are brand new, previously unpublished pieces.