Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Monday, 27 April 2009
And I have some news. My Spare Book Box is now offically full so I've decided to GIVE SOME BOOKS AWAY. Yes, free! Want one of my books? Well, if you pop here to this blog anytime from this Friday (1st May) through to the following Monday (4th May) you'll have a very good chance.
See you soon!
Saturday, 25 April 2009
The book has a very unusual and strict structure, which works as both a contraint for me and a spur to my imagination. Into that structure I needed to fit a number of major characters - I decided on 6. Each character needed a name, a distinct social personna, a distinct sexual style and to fit into one of the pre-ordained first chapters in order: m/f/m/f/m.
So thank goodness for post-its!
Everything since has just been filling in the gaps.
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Madelynne Ellis' comment about one of my stories on Tuesday has prompted me to post this.
I am of course a huge fan of the classic ghost story. The sort written mostly at the beginning of the 20th Century, with old-fashioned settings and creepy decayed horrors from beyond the grave and NO GORE but a hideous feeling of spiritual danger and dread. Ring, The Orphanage and Sixth Sense are the movies that spring to mind. I have a large collection of tatty paperbacks gleaned over many years from charity shops, but it's getting more and more difficult to find new stuff.
Then - hooray! - last year I discovered the Wordsworth Mystery and Supernatural imprint. Wordsworth specialise in publishing out-of-print and out-of-copyright fiction in cheap editions, and they've produced a HUGE range of old ghost stories. So cheap in fact that I bought a crateload without worrying about the reputation of any of the authors. In fact I only threw two out - one for being so dull I finished the book with no memory of what I'd read, and the other for being modernist drivel even worse than Henry James (I'm not a fan of The Turn of the Screw).
Best of the bunch:
Couching at the Door by Dorothy Kathleen Broster. Contains the eponymous classic in which a decadent C19th poet (who has done something unspecified but clearly very nasty involving black magic) is pursued to his doom by - of all things - a malevolent dust-bunny. The stories aren't all supernatural, but have an emotional depth and understanding sometimes lacking in the genre and and are really quite unsettling. But the best story is A Taste of Pomegranates, which is totally original take on the Persephone myth and took me completely by surprise.
The Bishop of Hell by Marjorie Bowen (there were a lot of female authors in the genre) is a solid and uncompromising collection of supernatural stories, mostly about people suffering paranormal retribution out of all proportion to their sins. Elsie's Lonely Afternoon - understated and quite cruel - made me cry.
Honourable mention must go to Oriental Ghost Stories by Lafcadio Hearn. While on the most part gently creepy rather than spine-chilling, and reminiscent of fairy stories, these have the unique selling point of being set in historic Japan, so the details are enthralling.
And as for A Night on the Moor by R Murray Gilchrist, well you'll either love it or hate it. He wrote pseudo-historic stories that seem to be set in an unreal world where madness, suicide and betrayal (by friends and lovers) is inevitable. Like Clark Ashton Smith or Dunsany his fictional world is unique and feverish and intensely personal. I read the first story and thought it ludicrous, but by the fourth or fifth I was hooked by his mad vison.
Of course, before going anywhere near these, you do have to have read the collected ghost stories of M R James. You have read his ghost stories, haven't you? He is, like, the god of ghost story writers. Nothing else compares.
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Whoo! I feel like a member of an exclusive pink VIP club. With pink champagne served by butch men in pink kilts. Freaky. And what did I have to do to gain entry to this club?
"Trent on the other hand knows exactly how I feel. We’ve never talked about it, but we share an understanding. We’ve been friends for that many years that we have very few secrets. In fact, I can tell whether he’s serious about a guy as soon as he brings him home. If he thinks it might be serious, or hopes it is, Trent shuts his bedroom door. If it’s just a one night stand then he leaves it ajar with the bedroom light on, so that if I’m very quiet I can sneak up in the darkened hall and watch them fucking."
Monday, 20 April 2009
Saturday, 18 April 2009
Time for something cheerful I think - and what could be more cheery than Tammy Wynette and the KLF? Tammy, stand by the JAMs!
I have a particular reason for feeling happy this weekend, and in fact I'm buzzing. You see, out of the blue I have come Under Instruction to write a particular book for Black Lace. My previous work-in-progress (another collection of short stories) that I was gently bimbling away at has now been relegated to the bottom drawer. I've started again with a new project and have popped a widget in the right hand bar to track it.
And what's it all about? Well, I'm going to sit on the details for a little while. I have a deadline and a title Adam likes, but not a contract* and I don't want to mouth off yet in case it all falls through and I look a bit crap. Let's just say it's still paranormal, and that I'm nervous because it's going to be a real challenge for me, and that I'm really really excited about it.
Black Lace works in Mysterious Ways, its wonders to perform ...
*Contracts come late on with Black Lace. In at least one case an anthology was in the bookshops before I got to sign for my contribution.
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Amazon has decided - in a quite Stalinesque attempt to make facts fit ideology - to remove all "adult" material from their sales rankings. Not to stop selling them - you can sill buy erotica on Amazon - but to stop them showing up as popular. This means that at the time of writing their "adult fiction bestsellers" list consists of 2 books, both out of print, that somehow escaped the purge.
Of course they fucked it up. Their pogrom deleted all Lesbian and Gay books too, and there was a massive online petition (go go Erastes!!) and they panicked and blamed a computer programming error in France and are trying to restore all the "respectable" adult LGBT/educational books to their postions.
But I see no sign that they intend to acknowledge Erotica.
I'm still really pissed off, even though I'm delighted they're backpeddling on the (rather more important) LBGT issue. They have every intention of making profit from our work, but at the same time they want to pretend we don't exist because it might offend Middle America. Hypocrites. And liars.
It's the offence against truth that really gets me.
UPDATE: As of the morning of the 15th April, the Amazon UK "adult fiction" bestsellers listing has been restored.
Erotica rides again!
Monday, 13 April 2009
Sunday, 12 April 2009
This Last Supper (bigger version here) by Pieter Pourbus (1523-1584) looks pretty average until you wonder WTF IS THAT COMING IN THROUGH THE DOOR ON THE RIGHT?! Skeletal, with staring eyes and elongated claws on hands and feet ... I think it's supposed to be the Devil coming for Judas, who has just decided to betray Jesus (Judas is depicted with red hair, ha ha: it was considered a Bad Sign at the time). But it's a real M R James type picture. He should have written a story about it.
Back to the chocolate...
Friday, 10 April 2009
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Oh, the drinking-chocolate bars of Krakow! Words cannot do them justice!
This is the cathedral, which is part of the Wawel Castle complex:
And these are the bones of a medieval dragon, kept chained outside the cathedral door:
Yes of course it was a real dragon! In fact its statue still breathes fire:
We saw a great deal of religious art - Poland is an intensely Catholic country of course. My favourite was the Art Nouveau work of Stanislaw Wyspianski (d.1907). Here's his "Creation" from the Franscican Basilica:
And some more Art Nouveau stained glass:
And here's a chapel 100 metres below the surface of the earth. It's in the famous Wieliczka Salt mine and took 3 miners 70 years to hand-carve from solid rocksalt in their spare time:
Yes, everthing is made from salt - including crystal chandeliers, statues and wall reliefs of the Last Supper etc.And here's me with cake and beer 123m below the surface of the earth. The efforts I go to for my research, *ahem*. Please don't tell my Wii Fit...