ImageThe first draft of horror Magick is now complete. It is 80,000 words long. 

The story centres on Boleskine House, one-time residence of occultist Aleister Crowley. Four friends decide to spend a weekend there for a reunion in advance of a forthcoming wedding. They awake long-dormant horrors as the tensions between themselves spill out into the open, revealing secrets from the history of the house, from their own pasts and from Crowley’s disastrous Abra-Melin ritual.

A horde of possessed pigs run amok, ghostly severed heads appear from nowhere, there are plagues of flies and maggots, the appearance of flame-blackened skulls heralds the echo of an long-ago church-burning, a butcher severs his hand in a macabre accident, a visiting BBC film crew are plagued by insects and call on a priest to perform an exorcism, a goat-headed demon looms from a mist-shrouded hilltop, something monstrous rises to the surface of Loch Ness,the friends flee the house in terror after re-awakening the demons of the ritual and stumble upon an underground secret and a skeletal figure rising from a crypt…

Will any of them survive with bodies, minds and souls intact?

Publishers, please form an orderly queue…😉

Joe Hill – Horror Author

Posted: June 5, 2013 in Review
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JoeHI was recently at an event with Joe Hill, who was signing copies of his latest novel ‘N0S4ATU‘ and anything else that people brought along, as well as posing for horn-waving photographs!

First of all, thanks to Jim McLeod of the Ginger Nuts of Horror blog, for quizzing Joe with a calm demeanour that a TV presenter would envy. Those Southern Comforts afterwards appeared well-deserved. And Ellie Wixon, of Blackwells Edinburgh, deserves the highest praise….she arranged the event through the ingenious initiative of sending Joe’s publisher a heart-shaped box containing a key….

The event was held in the Pleasance Theatre on a Friday evening. It was very busy with a wide range of people. Jim and Joe had a good and wide-ranging chat, ranging from comic novels to Joe’s latest book NOS4ATU. Joe was very forthcoming and candid about his own writing and ideas… unbelievably, he was rejected for his first collection, ‘20th Century Ghosts’. He is a naturally pleasant and relaxed person and it felt like we were all sitting in a living-room/writing-den or around a table in a micro-brewery bar somewhere. It was the end of a gruelling month-long tour and the queue for signings must have seemed a mile long, yet Joe was cheerful until the very end… he thanked the audience for their passion for reading and writing, which certainly seemed to enthuse him.

Now, to Joe’s writing. I know he has an illustrious father, the horror author Stephen King, who some may know. The resemblance between Hill and King is quite eerie… big, beards, glasses (I think King has a second writer son and a daughter in the clergy, by the way). I first read ‘Heart Shaped Box’, which – to be honest – I didn’t enjoy as much as I had hoped. I was maybe prejudiced because of the Hill/King connection, either expecting a work of genius or a cynical celebrity publishing deal. Now, this needs to be said: Joe Hill has never traded on his father’s name and does his absolute utmost to promote his writing on its own considerable merit. Paradoxically, that makes it even more surprising his first collection was rejected and doubles the credit he deserves for maintaining his own identity. Anyway, enough of that relationship for the moment.

As I said, I didn’t greatly enjoy Heart Shaped Box (HSB) but that’s probably down to my own tastes in horror, which are possibly quite peculiar…. Dean Koontz, for example, is one of those horror writers who is perfectly good and very popular, but (with a few notable exceptions) who I just don’t get. In addition to HSB, Hill has published a short-story collection (‘20th Century Ghosts’, hereafter 20CG) and ‘Horns’ (just ‘Horns’ will do). I’ve read one recent log review which slated Horns but praised HSB. This made me feel better, as I thought the opposite, that Horns was an outstanding and complex novel, literary as well as horror-fantasy, and the different responses from readers indicates a writer who has no fear of experimenting with his craft.

Hill has mentioned Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ as an influence behind Horns,  and it is a complex novel which deals with loss, guilt, identity and relationships, wrapped up in a horror package that might well be subtitled ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. This novel deserves a far wider audience and is a Generation X/Y/Z literary classic.

20CG is a short story collection best described as ‘the Led Zep 4 of horror anthologies’ (by me). There are three horror collections that stand head-and-shoulders above the rest: Clive Barker’s ‘Books of Blood’, Peter Straub’s ‘Magic Terror’ and now 20CG. All are unsettling, provocative, original and – most importantly – without any B-side stories. ‘Pop Art’ is a literary masterpiece which proves there are still original ideas out there; ‘You Will Hear The Locust Sing’ is another Kafka-inspired tale in which Gregor Samsa meets the Atomic Age (and a reader favourite); ‘My Father’s Mask’ is deeply unsettling; and ‘Voluntary Committal’ is a classic horror fantasy and strange tale that would make Ray Bradbury proud.

Most recently, we have NOS4ATU. This is a beast of a book and a good read; 700 pages or so. I enjoyed it and whizzed through the book; certainly a page-turner. The plot concerns a vampiric combination of Silver Ghost car and aged owner (Charles Manx), preying on children’s souls. However, the story focuses mainly on the protagonist, a Generation X-er called Vic, who has a “lost and found” teleportation ability since childhood. Hill discusses the novel in terms of Dracula and the memorably-repulsive Renfield character is called Bing, obsessed with Manx’s alluring-yet-evil alternative world of Christmasland. Hill has developed the concept of ‘inscapes’, a landscape-of-the-mind accessible from reality, and conveys this very well. As mentioned already, it is an enjoyable book. However, I found the antagonist Manx to be mysterious and remote: my mental image was of Mr Burns from The Simpsons. Hill mentions that he wanted to “show not tell” Manx and keep him shrouded in mystery; he is working on a graphic novel which should show-and-tell more of Manx and this is very good news. The other main problem I had as a reader of N0S4ATU was Hill’s frequent references to the ‘landscape of Castle Rock’: there are a number of notable Stephen King features, creatures and places which crop up. I didn’t like this, to be honest, as it took me out of Hill’s books and into King’s books.  However, after listening to his recent talk and thinking more about this, it hopefully means that Hill is growing comfortable with the King legacy and confident enough to weave it into his own writing. It is undeniably part of his background, after all, possibly an elephant in the room.

But Joe Hill is his own elephant, without a doubt, and he is essential reading for horror fans and those in search of more literary escapes and inscapes. In fact, I can’t think of any other writer of his generation and genre who I would use as a reference point in exploring horror fiction, particularly American writing.

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Image  —  Posted: June 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

Write Into 2013

Posted: January 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

ImageGood Lord! It’s 2013 already. Where has the time gone? 

Well, 2012 was a busy year. There were publication successes, with short stories appearing in Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1 (‘Valley of Death’), Tales of the Sword (‘The Tale of Cuchulainn’ and ‘King For A Day’) and Shorelines (‘Billy Boys’) anthologies. Many thanks to Matt Hilton, Dorothy Davies and the Federation of Writers Scotland, for choosing these stories.

The Japanese anthology A Thousand Cranes featured at Cargo Publishing’s Margins Festival earlier this year. Also, my short story ‘Billy Boys‘ featured at an Outside Thoughts event and is available as a podcast with ‘excessive swearing’.

I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time…. since last year, when I stood on my laptop halfway through the month! The resulting story ‘Demon Eyes‘ is complete (53,000 words) and halfway through a first edit (will probably end up at 60,000 as I usually write too little and too fast first time around). It will be released by me this year, for free or a nominal price, as 2013 is the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War and the antagonist of the novel is none other than demonic former Prime Minister Tony Blair, literally Hell-bent on seizing power in Europe.

The other work-in-progress is called Magick, and features four friends who arrange a weekend break at Boleskine House on Loch Ness, drawn by its macabre reputation as one-time residence of ‘black magician’ Aleister Crowley. Past and present collide with horrific consequences as they unravel the secret of the Abra-melin demon summoning ritual conducted over a century earlier. This should be finished in early 2013.

New stories include two novella-length ‘things’ set in urban dystopia and haunted Japan. Both of these need a lot of work! Got a handful of other ideas as well, all horror. So, once Demon Eyes and Magick are done, it’ll be onto something new, which will be welcome.

Last year, it was good to see fellow scribblers Lynsey May (New Writers Award), Gill Hoffs (too much to mention!) and Emma Briant (academia) succeed in the fiction and non-fiction worlds. Glasgow Writers Group has been enjoyable, as has Weegie Wednesday, for anyone looking to get involved in the world of words. I also enjoyed Tales from the Mall by Ewan Morrison, which has quite an overlap with my day job, and he now has a year’s supply of Glenfiddich to get through. Well done to everyone else who has persevered over the last twelve months.

And, finally, By The Sword is performing respectably. A few hundred copies have been sold, which isn’t bad in the world of independent publishing versus big publishing, with no significant media exposure or high street presence. Wild Wolf Publishing are a great outfit, promoting dark and edgy fiction for those brave enough to read it.

Best of luck to all for 2013!

My Predictions for 2013

Posted: December 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

1. The Queen will abdicate. Her Majesty will claim the onset of old age, but the real reason is a Christmas Day 2012 dispute with Charles over who won a cracker-pull and got to wear the crown. An attempt by the Duke of Edinburgh to mediate was unsuccessful (“leave it aht, Phil, ‘e ain’t worv it!”) and Charles assumes the throne, with the title Zog II, inspired by King Zog of the Albanians, the coolest monarch’s name in human history.

2. The government will introduce an “oxygen tax” on aerobic metabolic activity in a desperate attempt to reduce the fiscal deficit caused by handing over generations of taxpayers’ money to bankers. “No one need worry about asphyxiation,” they will claim, as a 20 page form for qualified oxygen tax relief is introduced.

3. Gay marriage proposals will reach the legislative stages, resulting in a backlash from the bigoted backbenches, who will raise the spectre of “gay stag parties” descending on British cities, dressed as cowboys, indians, sailors, builders, motorcyclists and policemen. However, a messy compromise will be agreed with reactionary Conservatives, with a composite bill legalising foxhunting for gay married couples and long queues of people in hunting-red and fake moustaches outside registry offices and participating churches (marry one, marry another one free while the offer lasts, terms and conditions apply).

4. The Scottish independence referendum arrangements will be unveiled. Voters (anyone who hates the English will be eligible) will be presented with a choice of two options: “Freedom from the English oppressors who murdered William Wallace, cleared the glens for sheep and who want our oil” or “continued slavery under the English yoke for all eternity”.

5. The second part of The Hobbit trilogy will be released. Bilbo finally makes it from Bag End after the extended dwarfs dinner-party of the first episode and spends most of the film in a riddle-battle with a mysterious creature who is revealed to be Gollum at the very end, padded out with lots of footage of brooding elves. Director Peter Jackson reveals that the 351 page novel will be a “trilogy of trilogies” and returns to New Zealand to begin filming the second trilogy.

6. Author JK Rowling’s 2012 Christmas shopping list (Waitrose and M&S) is the subject of a frenzied bidding war in the publishing industry. She pushes her long-faithful agent off a cliff and sells the rights to Rupert Murdoch in return for the Moon. The BBC adapts The Casual Shopping Trip into a lavish drama with bits of searing social commentary.

7. Geriatric erotica is the surprising publishing hit of 2013, and quickly becomes know as Granny Porn. “Ada slowly slipped her teeth from her liver-spotted lips, drool trailing from the glistening pink gums as she turned her silver-permed head towards me….” The large print version will be uncomfortably visible on buses and trains up and down the country.

8. Amazon will unveil a Kindle that can be read in the bath and *doesn’t break every bloody year*

9. The Edinburgh Tram will finally begin operations on December 31 2013, when a single vehicle leaves the depot at Gogar and arrives at St Andrew Square in time for 23:59hrs, to meet contractual obligations and allow the payment of bonuses. Tickets will be sold for £250 including a glass of cash-and-carry vintage bubbly.

10. The longrunning Doctor Who series will see another incarnation of The Doctor in time for Christmas Day television. The umpteenth Doctor (a grandfather in the first series) will make his appearance from a well known boy band, further alienating loyal Whovians, in a celebrity packed episode when the Master (a rogue Time Lord with two hearts two sizes too small) aided by the Daleks and the Cybermen attempt to steal Earth’s Christmas presents and the Doctor has to put on a red suit and fake beard to foil his plans. Loyal fans vote it the worst episode since that one with Sylvester McCoy and the monsters made of sweets.

Demon Eyes

Posted: November 30, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

DemonEyesRev2

Demon Eyes is now complete … my NaNoWriMo project, 51,000 words in one month. I’ll edit it and have it out by the end of the year!

Europe is in crisis.
One man steps forward to offer leadership and vision.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair stands for the first elected Presidency of Europe, ten years after the Iraq War.

But what dark secret is he hiding?
Has he paid the ultimate price for power…his soul?
How many more will die to slake his thirst for power?
Is the world on the brink of destruction at the hands of the “Man of Sin”, foretold in the Bible?

Journalist Amy Hannah stumbles on a bloody conspiracy stretching from Brussels to the Vatican, the sands of Iraq and the redwood groves of California, reaching its terrifying conclusion in the sinister Hellfire Caves deep under the Chiltern Hills.

Will she live to reveal the secret behind the “demon eyes”?

The Next Big Thing

Posted: October 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

This is a Q&A, passed on to me and to be shared with five other writers… I will nominate you soon!

What is the working title of your book?
– Magick.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
– A trip to Loch Ness, on the shore opposite the one-time home of “black magician” Aleister Crowley.

What genre does your book fall under?
– Horror… definitely horror.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
– Four unknowns and a period-type actor for Crowley… don’t know of many actors who spring to mind!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
– Four friends visit Boleskine House, one-time residence of the infamous Aleister Crowley, and are besieged by demons and ghosts… will any of them survive?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
– Very reluctant to self-publish as this seems mainstream horror, so the long haul of pitching it starts shortly!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
– Since April, about six months, but still writing…. will probably finish the first draft in the next week or so.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
– Probably James Herbert, in his Sepulchre and Magic Cottage era… at least that’s what I’m aiming for!

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
– A visit to Loch Ness, on the northern shore opposite Boleskine, and the many intriguing myths that surround the place and the demonic rituals it hosted.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
– Some of the terrifying content is based on fact and I spent a very uneasy night on a follow-up research trip to Boleskine and Foyers.

It’s been a while…

Posted: September 1, 2012 in Novels
Tags:

Okay, “Magick” news first. Now at 40,000 words and an early first draft. Chapters 1 and 2 are shaping up okay.

In other news: my story “Billy Boys” will be performed at an upcoming “Outside Thoughts” event, on 13 September (I think) in Glasgow. It will also be published by New Voices Press in their forthcoming anthology.

The writing goes on…. as well as “Magick”, I’ve started a novel/novella called “Surge”. This is based on a short story I did, which won a prize, but I gave up the prize to keep first rights on the story.

The idea of “Surge” is this: a sinister cult leader is executed, after trying to baptise people with electricity… fittingly, the Reverend Adam Thales chooses to die in the electric chair. At the moment of his death, the lights go out across the world and a massive surge of electricity engulfs the globe, killing billions.

The survivors must come to terms with the aftermath and they quickly discover two things that make their struggle worse. Firstly, whenever they use electricity, it stimulates the recently-dead into frenzied life and attracts them to the source like moths to a flame. And there is something else happening in the world…. lightning flashes in a thunderous sky as the resurrected Thales gathers his forces in search of the Node, where the energy-carrying ley lines of the world converge….

Short Story: Carnival

Posted: July 10, 2012 in Horror, Short Story
Tags:

 Okay, time for another short story. This one is called “Carnival” and it has three inspirations… the excellent HBO series called “Carnivale”, the childhood-America stories of Stephen King, and the novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by the recently-departed Ray Bradbury. The last two are closely related.

The story: A father and son feel a flash of rekindled affection after years of alienation scratching a living from a dustbowl farm, when the carnival comes to town, bringing a bit of light to everyone’s lives. But… once the bars are locked on the Ferris Wheel, once the Carousel begins to turn, that is when the slaughter begins. The showpeople massacre the town, killing every person… except for the son, who flees, and tells the story many years later, when the same carnival (much modernised) turns up at the town where he has raised children and grandchildren.

It feels like a good story, one that has been bubbling away for a while, even before watching “Carnivale” (one of the great HBO programmes, like “Deadwood”, before the money was blown on “Rome”). I read Ray Bradbury’s novel only recently, but it made all Stephen King’s (good) writing slot into place immediately. He writes about a past America that is somehow still present, big skies and wide open spaces, dusty towns, and so on. This story will probably remain under wraps for a while once written (currently at 1,500 words out of about 3,000 to 5,000) as it feels as if it could be submitted somewhere… so watch this space.

After this… road trip planned to Loch Ness to put a foot up the backside of “Magick”!

ps…. might change the name of the story. Still not 100% sure of it.

650

Posted: July 8, 2012 in Novels, Thriller

Then…

A British Army unit in Afghanistan suffers bloody losses because of political bungling… but they stumbles upon a cache of weapons, explosives and money.

Now…

Disaffection and economic hardship is widespread.

Tax rises and cutbacks are biting, and jobs are scarce.

The political classes are increasingly privileged, detached…and hated.

When some Members of Parliament are killed in a series of apparent gas explosions, it doesn’t take long for the conspiracy of assassination to become public.

After the initial shock, public resentment boils over into sympathy for the killers, identified as rogue veterans of Britain’s recent wars.

Civil liberties are curtailed in a race against time to catch the assassins.

But what is the real conspiracy behind the plot, aimed at Britain’s 650 MPs?