New Release: Unquiet Dreams

Unquiet Dreams is the long, deep plunge in the coldest quarry in the woods; the lingering look under the rotting wood at all the writhing life there; the stare into the abyss until one realizes something is staring back.”

~ S. R. Bissette, creator of Tyrant, Taboo, Teen Angels & New Mutants and illustrator of Swamp Thing

Out now from Tirgearr Publishing, it’s my dark fiction collection Unquiet Dreams. Wow, what a nice pull quote from Steve, too! One of the stories in here is dedicated to him, the darkly comic ‘Another Metamorphosis’ which of course features dinosaurs. Most of the stories in this collection have dedications — either the person who inspired them or someone I immediately thought of upon writing them. Many of the stories have appeared in print, but not always in easy-to-obtain anthologies and some in magazines or websites alas, no longer with us.

I experimented with various ways of arranging the stories: by length, by theme, even by genre. The truth is most of the stories veer off into more than one category. Some are short and a couple are rather lengthy. I thought of breaking them up as ‘REM sleep, naps and fever dreams’, but the categories never pleased me. In the end I went with ‘higgelty piggelty’ and that seems to have suited the collection (and me, just because I like to say ‘higgelty piggelty’).

You’ll find my paean to Ray Bradbury that appeared in a literary magazine, my ultra-modern-meets-ancient office horror story, a couple of crime stories that veer into a hint of the supernatural, a zombie western and at least two dragons — much to my surprise. October always makes me think of Bradbury’s The October Country, itself a strange collection of tales that take unexpected turns into off corners and dark passages. It’s a grand tradition to follow, even in my own small way.

Are you feeling in need of something unsettling? Give them a try.

Keeping Abreast of the Fabulous

Sunny Dundee

All right, even I am having difficulty at times keeping up with all the news, so if I repeat something here, it just means you’re paying attention, well done, here’s a cookie! Soon I have to leave the glories of Alba for the um, gories? of Albany. Alas. Which means I have to figure out a few things that I haven’t yet. I will probably be a bit of a gypsy at least for a time, as I plan to be back here as soon as possible. More anon.

Have you read my interview with Lenore creator Roman Dirge? Do! He’s a hoot.
Good news: my story “Guide Me Soft” will be appearing at Shotgun Honey in October. I’m very pleased as they are a tough site to get into and you really have to tell a tight little story to thrill them in 700 words. Yes, the strange and seemingly ungrammatical title comes from a Fall song, although the events of the story were sparked as much by another song, “Wrong Place, Right Time”. I’m lucky to have such a bountiful muse in Mark E. Smith.

If you missed my last story out, “ASBO Bambi”, that’s up at Pulp Metal Magazine along with a load of other good stuff. I have to say, the darker the crime, the nicer the people. Like I’ve found in the horror genre, the people who write these torrid tales of murder and vengeance tend to be quite nice folks who exorcise all their darkness on the page.

Never cross a romance writer though! 😉

I’m about 20K words into the new novel White Rabbit. It’s supernatural crime which isn’t quite mainstream (I’m working on it!) but given the success of folks like John Connolly and Sarah Pinborough, I’m hoping that it will be a bit easier to market than oh, let’s say a science fiction/urban fantasy/alternate history/shamanic/road trip/retelling of the Descent of Inanna. But I should have news on Owl Stretching‘s cover art soon. I’ve seen the final version of the text. Just waiting on Ruby’s (doubtless gorgeous) art.

Speaking of which, I should be able to unveil the cover art for Weird Noir soon. Stories are coming in and I am looking forward to reading them and sorting out what the final collection will look like and then turning it all over to Fox Spirit Books so they can do the hard part (i.e. layout and ebook coding). I should be able to flog it with a vengeance at Noir Con, which looks to be shaping up into quite an event. If you think you have a story that fits the criteria, send it along.

Speaking of Fox Spirit: Tales of the Nun and Dragon coming any day now! And a song!

My Wisty-ish guide to world domination is up at The How-To Issue. Drop by and see all the wise women.

Noir-writing women appear to be the new thing. Yes, like most ‘new things’, it’s been going on a while. I’m not above piggybacking on the publicity though!

And I think I forgot to post the trailer for The Claddagh Icon here. As always, getting noticed in the cacophony that is the digital world these days is the biggest challenge for any writer, so every little thing helps. And trailers are fun. It’s got some lovely photos from Mirko Merchiori that appear in the ebook. Check out the page at Atlantis (where you can add other books at a discount, so pick up my pals’ books like Red Esperanto or The Secret Hour) or on Amazon. The series got a nice write up at Noir Nation. Drop by and check out a really terrific site.

Tuesday’s Overlooked A/V: Wise Blood

Flannery O’Connor’s masterpiece of Southern gothic, Wise Blood, received an unusually effective film treatment. It probably had a lot to do with the cantankerous John Huston helming it, someone with enough weight to throw around to keep it cleaving to the same dark vision that inspired it. For those who sneer at “literary” it might be good to remind you that the first chapter initially came to life as her master’s thesis and other portions of it drew on stories first published in Mademoiselle, Sewanee Review, and Partisan Review.

That said, I doubt her work would get through a modern writers workshop.

Huston’s 1979 film scores with a fantastic cast: no one could capture the strangeness of Hazel Motes like Brad Dourif. I can’t find the name of the actress who played Leora Watts, but she fearlessly capture the role. Of course Harry Dean Stanton and Amy Wright as the preacher and his Sabbath Lily shine. Ned Beatty and William Hickey — and of course Huston as the fire-and-brimstone grandfather who messes up Hazel in the first place.

I caught this just before leaving Ireland; I hadn’t seen it many years but it was just as good as I remembered and even more chilling. The strangeness of Dan Schor’s Enoch Emory has a wistfulness that my younger self overlooked, a terrible heartbreak and loneliness.

The finale of the film can’t quite catch the uncanniness of the novel, but it does an amazing job with adapting a complex and strange book. “No man with a good car needs to be justified.” Coming from Michigan, that phrase had even more resonance for me. It speaks to the dream of mobility and freedom that the car industry sold in the lush times of consumer dreams in the post-war era — while papering over those atrocities. They came out in strange ways sometimes, as they did for Hazel Motes. Look it up, and enjoy a little trip with “the Church of Christ Without Christ. Where the blind can’t see, the lame don’t walk, and the dead stay that way.”

Check out the round up of worthies over at Todd‘s.

The Maltman

Happy birthday to my big brother, Steve!

Wandering the Howff again, trolling for material I suppose as always. That’s what I do all the time. You know that by now, don’t you? That’s what writers do: absorb everything and turn it sideways and fit it into stories. You have to turn it slant, as Emily would say, because the naked truth seldom makes a good story. Too many jagged edges and implausible events.

So here’s the gravestone erected by maltman (i.e. brewer) Robert Ramsey and his wife Isabel Duncan in memory of their daughter Margaret who died aged 4 years and 10 months in 1814.

It’s a shock to remember just how recent the heartbreak of early childhood death stopped being so widespread. While poorer nations continue to suffer these losses as a sad norm, we’ve grown used to the expectation that our children will grow and thrive. We went to a christening yesterday, a big happy celebration of life for little Ayla. Long may she prosper. Thankfully she has every likelihood of doing so.

Georgian and Victorian families: together in death as in life. Everyone takes their place in turn. Tradition takes many forms and the constancy of place (at least until the Howff was closed to further burials) preserves a tangible history in a lovely location.

Much to explore in Dundee, but I do find myself drawn back to this site. It’s so beautiful and peaceful. And other nice surprises await there; I shall have to ask Miss Wendy about this nest. I’m not sure what kind of bird dwells here. A ‘pendant nest’ I understand from the initial searches I did.

See more of the photos of this grave at the 2nd Dundee photo album. Much to do this week as I’m off to Harrogate on Thursday. Doubtless many stories to tell from there! Trying to get some good way into the new novel in case I have an opportunity to pitch it to someone.

Six Sentence Sunday: The Price

Six Sentence Sunday has rolled around again: if all has gone well, I am in Dundee. After the long day of travel, I suspect I may still be in bed. Let’s hope!

In the midst of packing and tying up loose ends, I was also writing (well, when am I not?). One of the things I worked on was a little story called “The Price” which will appear in the inaugural anthology from Fox Spirit Books, Tales of the Nun & Dragon. Isn’t that just the loveliest cover?

I can’t wait to see how the anthology looks. I can’t wait to see all the projects lined up for Fox Spirit Books. Some terrific stuff; that Adele — she makes things happen. So I’m working on a story of a girl who has very little chance of making anything happen. It has a lot to do with it being CE 793 in England — might even end up having something to do with the evil portents in the sky…

Here’s the six:

“You sold me?!” Ælfgifu stared at her parents with disbelief.

Eadgifu winced. “Not sold, my dear. We’ve tithed you.” Her mother ran a hand through her hair, looking very tired…

I went with short and intriguing this time, not to mention rough and unedited (ah, first draft, how you creak). It’s meant just to tease you a bit. I promise to read this story before a big crowd when Adele opens the pub named after this book.

Heh. She probably will.

Unquiet Dreams & other things

I am so happy to announce that I just signed a contract with Tirgearr Publishing for a collection of short fiction to be called Unquiet Dreams. Stories old and new will be gathered up in this dark bouquet. I’m so excited! Some of these stories have not been available for a long time and people are always asking me about them, so I finally stirred myself to put together what I had. Wow, it’s quite a lot! The title comes from Yeats’ poem “The Stolen Child” so it’s fitting that this comes about in Ireland and with an Irish publisher.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

So this is me whispering in your ears with my unsettling stories, little trouts. More news as we get further along in the process.

I have also agreed to edit an anthology for the brand-spanking-new press Fox Spirit Books called Weird Noir. Here’s the skinny on it:

On the gritty backstreets of a crumbling city, tough dames and dangerous men trade barbs, witticisms and a few gunshots. But there’s a new twist where urban decay meets the eldritch borders of another world: WEIRD NOIR. Featuring thugs who sprout claws and fangs, gangsters with tentacles and the occasional succubus siren. The ambience is pure noir but the characters aren’t just your average molls and mugs—the vamps might just be vamps. It’s Patricia Highsmith meets Shirley Jackson or Dashiell Hammett filtered through H. P. Lovecraft. Mad, bad and truly dangerous to know, but irresistible all the same.

This will be fun; it will be coming out later this year. I should also have a story in their anthology Tales of the Nun and Dragon (assuming I get it done soon!). Isn’t that cover the best?!

Last but far from least and hot off the presses, it’s “My Twitter Wedding” over at Asinine Poetry. If you weren’t so interested in this week’s other publication, my gritty little crime story “Just Waiting” this might be more to your taste. Pure silliness dedicated to my sweetie. Enjoy.

Postcards, Bridges, a Knife and a Quill

I model the latest SL Johnson design with lighting by Garbo

I have got so far as narrowing down the entries in the First Annual Postcard Fiction Contest to a pool of final contenders (yes, Ale! Your card arrived). Agonizing to make the final choice! I may need a glass of wine for this. Alas, I have none. I suppose that could be remedied, but I have so much to do today.

I will force myself to make a choice by Wednesday and keep rereading them in the meantime. A huge thank you to everyone who entered. I may indeed make this an annual event. It was about this time last year that I got the call saying I was going to Ireland. It has to have been the fastest year on record, whew.

Not that it felt like it when I was packing and clearing out my old flat. The horror, the horror. But wherever I may be, I will stop around this time and think of the adventure about to unfold and feel very happy:

“If it could only be like this always – always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good temper…”
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited 

 No time to spare for wistful thoughts: much too busy! One of the latest projects: a book trailer for Burning Bridges: A Renegade Anthology. Yes, if you’re reading this you likely already know the story — and that you have no excuse for not getting it! Free on Smashwords, 99¢ on Amazon and all that going to literacy. Don’t make me come over there! No, really — because I’m staying over here. The trailer tells the story of the assembly of our renegade band. Check it out and give it a like and get the book already!

One more important bit of news: I’m writing reviews over at A Knife and A Quill, a site for dark fiction, as you might guess from the name. Lots of horror and crime fiction covered over there. So if you have an interest, drop by and read some reviews, interviews and features. If you’re an author think about submitting something for review by the team. Yes, this is in addition to writing for The Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse and the occasional piece for Un:Bound. Why do you think I’m so busy? My quill is always scratching away.

Writers, who can resist a quill? I remember comparing quill tattoos with Sarah Pinborough at P-Con. Writing: it’s in the blood, it’s in the flesh.