Monthly Archives: June 2014

Three things I don’t write about (and three things I do)

I’ve been tagged by the marvellous Carole Johnstone for this blog hop. Carole has been nominated for a British Fantasy Award for her fantastic short story, “Signs of the Times”. TTA have recently published her latest novella, “Cold Turkey”.

So, what don’t I write about?

I know I’m playing fast and loose with the question here but I don’t/can’t write humour (but I wish I did). I love a bit of gallows humour. “Shark! Shark!” by Ray Cluley made me laugh out loud, as did Carole Johstone’s “Cold Turkey”. It’s a skill to be able to grant the reader that relief from the darkness and it acts as a great counterpoint.

There are comic actors that are so good at their craft that they can elevate their part beyond caricature.  They switch from comedy to pathos seamlessly. They’re the whole package and I feel that way about authors that can walk that line.

Again, this may seem like a fudge, but I can’t/don’t write poetry  (but wish that I did). I don’t even understand most poetry but the bits that I do get blow my mind. I envy the ability to write succinctly and distill an image/emotion into a single line. I know authors do this to some extent but to have a real grasp of the rhythm of words and real economy would make me a better writer. In “Zen and the Art of Writing”, Ray Bradbury said that all poetry is compacted metaphor or simile and that every writer should read poetry. Even if they don’t get it, their synapses will. I like that.

Here’s the reason it may seem that I’ve been evasive in my answers. In a world of protocols, guidelines, directives and deadlines, writing is my freedom. I like the idea that eveything is on the table. I don’t have to censor myself. I’m happy to tackle tropes when they can help me express what I need to say- “Sweetpea” (a vampire story about child abuse), “Fishskins” (a mermaid story about marital love) and “The Fox Maiden” (a shape shifter story about the suppressed self). I haven’t got anything against zombies, but I’ve yet to think of an original take on or use for them.

And what do I write about?

This is going to sound banal, but I’ m a simple creature and want to keep this simple. If it doesn’t move me, then I can’t write about it. If it doesn’t press my buttons, if I’m not in love with it or disturbed by it, then it doesn’t work. Writing is free therapy. People who know me well know what bits of my work are real, albeit in a veiled form. I need a bit of my own truth on which to build my fiction. In short, I write about my inner freak. Or at least from my inner freak.

I got to the end of my latest story, “The Rising Tide”, and realised that I’d called my protagonist Cariad. It’s Welsh for darling. Priya is Hindi for darling. And Freud says there are no accidents.

Many of my stories are set firmly in the present, but I’m partial to a bit of historical fantasy/alternative history/mythology. I enjoy researching for a new story and then skewing what I’ve learnt for my own needs. It’s the escapist in me. I can play dress up in my head and go anywhere in my personal time machine.

I hope that relationships are at the heart of everything that I write. Bewildering, messy, difficult relationships. They’re the biggest puzzle of all. Ideas are exciting but without relationships my stories would fall apart. If I’ve failed to convince you of what my characters are feeling (and what I’m feeling) in  my writing, then I’ve failed.


I’ve been greedy about handing on the baton.

Steven J  Dines ‘s numerous stories have appeared in Black Static, Interzone and Crimewave (yes, he’s one of the TTA triathletes). He never fails to impress me, but my personal favourite is “The Sound of Constant Thunder” (Black Static issue 37). I hope to see more of his work all over the place this year.

Sean Demory  The first piece of work that I ever read by Sean Demory was “The Ballad of the Wayfaring Stranger and the Dead Man’s Whore”. It got an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume 5.  I think he’s a superb stylist of the weird. He’s the sort of writer that makes me wonder what he’ll produce next.

Steve Toase is an archeologist and author. Steve’s story, “Call Out” is  quite rightly getting rave reviews following its appearance in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume 6.

Sharon Kae Reamer is a seismologist and author who is currently working on a mammoth five book epic that mixes science with magic. The first three volumes of Schattenreich series are now available.

Neil Murton  is truly economical- he produces little gems of flash fiction. I particularly like his reinvention of King Arthur as Arfa, a scrawny young girl. A collection of his work will soon be out in paperback, but you can suscribe to his site and get regular stories in your inbox.











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Katherine Dunn

Geek Love 1I’m excited about “The Firebrand” being included in Ellen Datlow‘s Nightmare Carnival, out later this year, as it Geek Love 3includes wonderful writers like Joel Lane, A.C. Wise,  N. Lee Wood, Nick Mamata, Terry Dowling, Glen Hirshberg, Jeffrey Ford, Dennis Danvers, Genevieve Valentine, Stephen Graham Jones, Robert Shearman, Nathan Ballingrud, Livia Llewellyn and Laird Barron.

I was even more excited to hear that Katherine Dunn is writing the introduction. Yes, KATHERINE DUNN.

Her novel, “Geek Love”, widened my eyes and broke my heart. It’s the story of Al and Lil Binewski and their travelling carnival. Lil gobbles pesticides and exposes herself to radiation to birth a brood that includes are Arturo the  flipper boy, Electra and Iphigenia the Siamese Twins, Olympia the hunchbacked albino Geek Love 4dwarf and Fortunato the baby with telekinetic powers.

Geek Love 2It’s a marvellous book about family dynamics and power, of love and otherness. By the last page I wanted to begin it again and go back on the road with the Binewski’s.

There’s a great article on the book on Wired if you’re a fan too- Geek Love at 25: How a Freak Family Inspired Your Pop Culture Heroes. *Be warned if you’ve not read it as it contains spoilers.*

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Signs of the Times by Carole Johnstone nominated for a British Fantasy Award

The British Fantasy Award nominees for 2014 have now been announced. It’s a pretty dazzling list that includes Neil Gaiman, Adam ImageNevill, Sarah Pinborough, Joe Hill, Alison Littlewood, Lauren Beukes, Graham Joyce, Nina Allen, Stephen Volk, Thana Niveau, Karen Tidbeck, Ramsey Campbell and Pat Cadigan. Congratulations to everyone on the list.

I have to confess a massive soft spot for “Signs of the Times” by Carole Johnstone, which has been nominated in the short story category. My proof is in my recent interview with her. Good luck to her with this amazing story of friendship that appeared in Black Static( issue 33).

Carole Johnstone’s blog.

Carole’s latest novella, “Cold Turkey” is available from TTA Press.

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Free Copy of Alt Hist

Mark Lord, editor of  Alt Hist, has annouced that the first issue of Alt Hist is now available free in eBook format from the following issue 1 Alt Histretailers for free: | | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

Table of Contents:

“The Silent Judge” by David W. Landrum
“Easter Parade, 1930” by Rob McClure Smith
“Holy Water” by Andrew Knighton
“Lament for Lost Atlanta” by Arlan Andrews
“The Bitterness of Apples” by Priya Sharma
“Travelling by Air” by Ian Sales

Alt Hist Issue 1 also includes an interview with Brandon H. Bell, co-editor of Aether Age, and information about the alternate history anthology Columbia & Britannia.

Alt Hist’s mission is to provide readers with entertaining and well-written short stories with a historical setting, whether portraying actual events or events that could have happened. If you read and enjoy historical fiction, alternate history or historical fantasy then we think you will like Alt Hist.” Mark Lord, editor.


Her: I always knew when Adam was dreaming of Eden. His breathing changed, his eyes flickered beneath their lids. His face transformed to pleasure, then to pain. He’d murmur to himself and turn about as though on a bed of nails. I knew he was in Eden and I envied his restless sleep because I never dreamt of it at all.


Him: Eve is all I ever wanted for myself. All the things I could have had and my heart fell upon her. She stood before me and I never realised perfection until she smiled.

I love her more than any other could. I love her best.


Adam was revealed to me in fragments, with each bite of the apple. Not just Adam but Eden too. The colours made my eyes ache, the light pulsing as though it had a beat. Birdsong reverberated on my eardrums. The breeze and sun slipped over my bare skin.

I’d spent so long being blind. I’d never seen the line along Adam’s thighs as they tensed. The way his throat moved as he laughed. The run of his ribs. The ridiculous piece of flesh that looked stuck on.

When I put my mouth on his, my breasts against his chest, my arms about his shoulders, that strange piece of flesh between his legs reinvented itself. Somehow it didn’t seem so ridiculous anymore.

The apple was sour by the way.


We apportion blame. It doesn’t matter. However we try and divide it up between us, the outcome is still the same and if we are despised, it’s because we are despicable.


When Adam held me it seemed that we were made of each other after all. Was it really so wrong?

Afterwards, Adam fed me figs, not apples, split open to reveal their private parts. As we dozed in the tree’s shade it shed leaves to cover us and keep us warm.


Eve has finally stopped raging. Now all she wants is to make everything right. For everyone to have of a piece of the Eden that is lost to them. That we lost. To glimpse the grandeur. I’ve been watching her. I’ve seen her stop people on the street. A couple arguing. A trickster mid-hustle. An angry mother. She admonishes them gently as if to say, My children, how can you be so unkind to one another?

It wasn’t always so with her.


God didn’t roar as he cast us out of Eden. His voice was as calm and cutting as a glacier. Then silence. We were alone, incarcerated in the empty world.

That damned snake.

“The Bitterness of Apples”

More about this story and reviews here.


Best Horror of the Year, Volume 6 edited by Ellen Datlow

The Best Horror of the Year vol 6Ellen Datlow‘s Best Horror of the Year (Volume 6) is now out!

I am very excited to be included alongside writers like Neil Gaiman, Kim Newman, Nina Allen and Ray Cluley, to name but a few. My story, “The Anatomist’s Mnemonic”, was initially published in Black Static 32. As always, a big shout our to its editor, Andy Cox, and to Ellen.

Table of Contents:

“Apports” de Stephen Bacon (Black Static #36)
“Mr. Splitfoot” de Dale Bailey (Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells)
“The Good Husbandv” de Nathan Ballingrud (North American Lake Monsters)
“The Tiger” de Nina Allan (Terror Tales of London)
“The House on Cobb Street” de Linda E. Rucker (Nightmare #9 June)
“The Soul in the Bell Jar” de KJ Kabza (F&SF November/Dec)
“Call Out” de Stephen Toase (Innsmouth Magazine #12)
“That Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Love” de Robert Shearman (Psycho-Mania)
“Bones of Crow” de Ray Cluley (Black Static #37)
“Introduction to the Body in Fairy Tales” de Jeannine Hall Gailey (Phantom Drift #3)
“The Fox” de Conrad Williams (This is Horror chapbook)
“The Tin House” de Simon Clark (Shadow Masters)
“Stemming the Tide” de Simon Strantzas (Dead North)
“The Anatomist’s Mnemonic” de Priya Sharma (Black Static #32.)
“The Monster Makers” de Steve Rasnic Tem (Black Static #35)
“The Only Ending We Have” de Kim Newman (Psycho-Mania)
“The Dog’s Paw” de Derek Künsken (Chilling Tales : In Words, Alas, Drown I)
“Fine in the Fire” de Lee Thomas (Like Light For Flies)
“Majorlena” de Jane Jakeman (Supernatural Tales 24)
“The Withering” de Tim Casson (Black Static 32)
“Down to a Sunless Sea” de Neil Gaiman (The
“Jaws of Saturn” de Laird Barron (The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All)
“Halfway Home” de Linda Nagata (Nightmare #12)
“The Same Deep Waters as You” de Brian Hodge (Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth)


The Anatomist's Mnemonic, art by David Gentry“The finger bones are called the phalanges. Three to each finger. Two in the thumb.”
She touched each one in his little finger and his thumb by way of demonstration. Sam felt the start of gnawing elation.
“Fascinating.” He’d been preoccupied with aesthetics, not construction or mechanics, but her words thrilled him.
“And these are the metacarpal bones,” Sam swallowed when she ran her finger across his palm. “At one end they form the knuckles and at the other they articulate with the wrist bones, which are my favourites.”
“Why?” He relished her pleasure.
“They’re interesting. Each one has a different shape and name but they fit together like a jigsaw.”
She made him arch his thumb to reveal two taut lines along his wrist.
“This gap is called the anatomical snuffbox,” she pointed to the space between the pair of tendons. “The bone which forms the floor is the scaphoid.”
“Scaphoid,” he repeated.
“The rest of the wrist bones are the lunate, triquetrel, pisiform, trapezium, trapezoid, capitate and hamate.” She worked her way over the wrist to show him where each bone was. “I like the hamate. It has a hook.”
He felt like he was party to the arcane.
“How do you remember all that?” Sam wanted her to know he was impressed.
“Hard work. And mnemonics. Lots of mnemonics.


The Best Horror of the Year Volume 5The e-version of Ellen’s Best Horror (Volume 5), which contains shorts by Peter Straub, Margo Lanagan, Stephen King and Livia Llewellynn ( as well my own, “The Ballad of Boomtown”)  is on offer for a limited period for the $1.99. More info on here.








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