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Saturday, 27 December 2014

New Year Goals

Because resolutions are so last year...

1. Get the novel done and out. The plan is still the end of January for this one, but life can get in the way. The prequel will be appearing in the 'At Hells Gate II' anthology which is out at the end of Jan, so it would be good to have the book out at the same time. That said, I'm not putting it out until it's ready, and the last round of feedback made it clear that it isn't. So the next month should focus heavily on getting this finally in to shape.

2. Get the next novel done. I've already got the premise, and it's rock-solid. I also think it will be a lot easier than the current one for a variety of reasons. I'm also impatient to get stated on it, which is normally a good sign.

3. Land that fist pro-market sale for a short story. I've come close a few times this year, and it's one of those milestones. I feel like I've made good progress towards doing this, and think 2015 could - should - be the year.

4.a) Read a lot - The Kindle's been the breakthrough here, allowing for easy bedtime reading without keeping the missus awake. I need to read more - more novels, more anthologies. I have a huge TBR pile, and I need to work through it. Also...

4b) Review everything I finish. I reserve the right to not finish works I start (life is too short for bad writing) but if I get to The End, I should have something intelligible to say. My public review policy won't change, so I won't write negative (lower than 3 * reviews) for any indie author/press, but if I did get to the end and hated it, I will write something up for myself, because what I 've learned this year is that writing reviews about why something worked have really helped me examine and improve my own writing, as well as help me cultivate that 'distance' needed to treat a D1 as though it were written by someone else for editing purposes - put another way, it's improved my ability to see my own work as it is rather than as I wish it to be. I see no reason to suppose that won't apply equally as well to interrogating why something didn't work as why it did, so I'll get on that.

5. Get out more. Specifically, attend Fcon and meet face to face some of the incredible people I've been lucky enough to meet virtually over the mast 12 months.

Wish me luck, and all the best to you for whatever you want to get done in the next 12 months.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

What Kind Of A Year Has It Been? (Pt. 2)

Being the post where I talk about the cool stuff I read this year. NOTE: It' s entirely possible, bordering on likely, that not all of these came out in 2014. But 2014 is when I read them. Don't write in. Also, all opinions subjective, and mine. So here we go:

Flash Fiction story of the year:

 'A Taste Of Darkness' by Chantal Noordeloos - part of the 'Deeply Twisted' collection. It starts with the simplest of inversions - fear of the light in place of fear of the dark. It's a brilliant, immediate hook, and from there we are dragged into a living nightmare. Holding back absolutely no punches and providing no safe answers, no hope, Noordeloos creates a pitch perfect scare that packs an incredible punch.

Very Honorable Mentions:

'Down By The Ocean' by John Boden - published in Splatterpunk #5. An object lesson in economic yet cinematic storytelling. Elegant. Superb.

'Big Girls Help Their Mommy' by James Newman - published in Splatterpunk #6. A crushing character study with a gut-punch ending that will stay with you a long time. Genuinely unsettling, genuinely upsetting. Top drawer horror.

Short Story of the Year:

Taking The Piss by Jasper Bark. Part of the outstanding 'Stuck On You' collection, Taking The Piss may just be the best non-supernatural horror story I have ever read. It's jet black horror, visceral storytelling, a gloriously nasty first person narrative voice, and a furious tale of revenge. A masterclass in the form. See also my full review of this collection at the Gingernuts of Horror site.

Very Honorable Mentions:

'When The Bell Tolls' by Chantal Noordeloos, again from 'Deeply Twisted'. One that I re-read immediately upon finishing. A fantastic central concept, and a great example of how a 'funny' idea can be utterly horrific, depending on how you chose to play it. In the abstract, it's almost a sick joke. In execution, it's bloody terrifying.

'So Bad' by Adam Cesare - published in Splatterpunk #5. I was sure this one was going to be my short story of the year, and it still deserves every single bit of praise heaped upon it - this is a meticulous, thoughtful and moving character study of obsession. The horror is not incidental, but neither is it the point. This is an outstanding short story from an incredibly gifted writer.

Novella Of The Year: Really, really tough, this one, with some great competition. But the winner has to be...

'Whitstable' by Stephen Volk. Where to start? This is a heartbreaking portrayal of screen legend Peter Cushing, at the lowest point of his life. Mr. Volk takes us through the not-quite-numb-enough pain of bereavement with an unflinching eye. Not a word is wasted, not a phrase excessive. Unflinching but not cruel, clearly researched in detail but never dull or showy, and most of all, a deeply moving and gripping account, Whistable really set the bar for me this year.

Very Honorable Mentions:

'The First One You Expect' by Adam Cesare (yes, again) - totally different, this one is a slick, rollicking journey into the underbelly of micro-budget horror movie making, and the characters that make it happen. Genre aware, savvy, funny, and still adrenaline fueled and exciting/scary as hell, Cesare has a real gift for putting his own perspective on familiar tropes, spinning out surprising observations and what feel like note perfect character reactions. A really enjoyable and surprisingly thought provoking study of amorality and fame culture, and also a galloping story. Huge fun.

'809 Jacob Street' by Marty Young - Brilliantly realized child characters, a gripping twin narrative approach that kept you guessing right to the  explosive climax, and simply the best ghost story I have read in a long, long time. Not surprised this one picked up an award, it's a stunning piece.

Drive by Mark West - This one is a tightly paced thriller with a admirably simple premise and skillful execution. Recommended as a one sit read, this one grabs you by the scruff and drags you though the intense narrative at a breathless pace. A real pleasure. Also some of the scariest villains I've read this year.

Novel of the year: Again, very tough competition, and very hard to pick a winner. That said...

Mountain Home by Bracken MacLeod - It's grown in the memory, that's the thing. I really enjoyed it first time through (see my full review at Gingernuts of Horror), but the more I think about it, the more impressed I am. With the utterly fat-free prose and plotting. With the plausibility. With the internal landscapes of the characters. With the brutal, realistic portrayal of violence, and the consequences of violence. With a 'villain' whose motivation is understandable enough to make the whole thing tragic, without compromising the horror of what is occurring. And the goddamn pacing! Relentless.

And it's a debut. Sometimes, you can go right off people.

Very Honorable Mentions:

'The Summer Job' by Adam Cesare (and sorry that you're bridesmaid three times this year, man, but on the other hand - you kicked my ass in three different categories). Again, full review at Gingernuts of Horror. It's the lead character that I keep coming back to, here. I keep trying to remember a lead female in a horror novel that was more rounded, more clear, as brilliantly realized as Silverfish/Claire, and I keep failing to do it. The novel also reads like a movie, in the best possible way, whilst still doing all the cool things novels can do that movies can't. This is kick ass horror writing from a storyteller that's clearly totally on top of his game, and frankly, if it wasn't so awesome, it'd be depressing. Well played, sir. Bonus: kept me twisting until literally the last page. Bastard.

'Toxicity' by Max Booth III - Read this one early in the year, and was really impressed by the mash-up (if not cut-up) approach this novel takes. It's almost schizophrenic in it's splicing of Gonzo-Naked-Lunch-meets-trailer-park-Reservoir-Dogs. As the title suggests, it's an uneasy blend, occasionally inducing stylistic whiplash/nausea in this reader, but it crackles with energy, and the linking thread between the apparently disparate narratives is a sense of losers propelled stratosphericaly outside their comfort zones, with predictably unpredictable results. Another debut, and again, depressing for that reason.

The End Of The Word Is Nigh: Why? by Scott Lefebvre - A quieter, reflective piece this one, and one that manages to break the mold by actually being a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse, as opposed to just claiming to be one. Short on blood on guts, but high on tension and very high on the feels, this was a surprisingly tender father/daughter story that stayed with me for a long time.

Non-Fiction Essay: 'Guns' by Stephen King - not interested in arguing about the politics of it here, but I thought he made a clear and coherent case for sensible gun control measures, and demonstrated in the process that a) he practices what he preaches and b) the myth that there can be no middle ground on this issue is just that - a myth perpetuated by those on both sides with an investment in the status quo.

Non-Fiction Book: 'TARDIS Eruditorum: An Unofficial Critical History of Doctor Who Volume 4: Tom Baker and the Hinchcliffe Years' by Dr. Philip Sandifer. A ludicrously intelligent person writing about my all-time favorite TV show in painstaking detail, watching every single episode of the show, as well as additional essays about other contemporary shows, comics, books, and world events? Oh hell yes. Worth the price of admission for the wonderful essay on Mary Whitehouse alone (see the original version on his blog) the whole series has been a delight, but this collection was, for my money, the best yet.

It's been a fantastic 2014 for me in terms of discovering new authors. My only slight problem is how I'm going to find time for all the reading I want to do next year. It's a good problem to have. Thanks to all the authors who've shared their stories with me in 2014 - it's been a series of great adventures.


PS - Special WTF?!?!?! Of Awesome award goes to Dominoes by John Boden. No, I don't know either, but it messed me up. In a good way. Mostly.

Monday, 22 December 2014

What kind of a year has it been? (Pt. 1)

Well, goodness.

2014 turns out to have been the year when, as the youth would have it, shit started to get real.

Looking back over the list of publication activity this year, I'm honestly kind of shocked, even a little anxious. It's hard to credit, given how recently I've started taking this writing thing seriously, just how well things have gone this year, and I'm torn between a sense of pride, and a genuine anxiety for 2015, and how the hell I'm going to top it!

Anyhow, without further ado, here's my Record Of Achievement for 2014, in somewhat chronological order (links to buy included in the story titles):

January: My debut e-novella The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife (plus short story The Debt) was released by Black Beacon Books. Reviews have been very positive, and I'm proud as hell to be part of this amazing group of writers and editors.

I also had my short science fiction story Reverse Engineering published in Do Monkeys Dream Of Electric Kettles? - a sci-fi anthology from MonkeyKettle Books. The MonkeyKettle arts collective are a group I've been a longtime fan of, so it was a real thrill to be included.

I also also self pubbed a short mood piece called Fox '75 to The Disciples Of Gonzo's blog - check that one out for free.

March:  Short horror story Cold Shock was published as part of the Till Death Do Us Part anthology, the debut collection from Burnt Offering Books. Was really happy with this tale, and glad to be part of this exciting collection, featuring some amazing stories.

In other news, I began would would later become the 'My Life In Horror' blog series over at the magnificent Gingernuts Of Horror website, with posts about Stephen King's IT, and an extended essay on the greatest movie ever made. Some of the most fun I've had writing this year has been my pieces for this site, and I think it shows. Click through for more, you won't regret it.

June: Short western story When The Pin Hits The Shell was published in A Fistful Of Kettles, another themed anthology from the MonkeyKettle collective. This is a dark little slice of nasty, and I had a blast writing it.

July: Flash sci-fi story 'Time Out Of Mind' was published as part of the Yesterday You Said Tomorrow time travel anthology by Burnt Offering Books. This was one hell of a writing challenge, and I think in the end it brought the best out of me.

August: Following on from 'The Loving Husband...' I self published my novella Lifeline via Amazon. Feedback has been amazingly positive, with some great advance notices and reviews from authors whose work I respect and admire greatly. This forms a loose thematic trilogy with 'The Loving Husband...' and 'The Debt', though each tale stands alone and can be enjoyed separately. It's also dark, violent, visceral, and scary as hell.

September: Was blown away that my short horror story 'Baptism' was accepted for inclusion as part of Widowmakers: A Benefit Anthology of Dark Fiction. This anthology, put together in response to James Newman's horrific accident earlier in the year, contains 47 stories from some of the brightest, darkest stars of the horror firmament, and every penny of profit goes to help a great writer and incredibly friendly guy defray his appalling medical costs. I had the pleasure of working with James later in the year for a Gingernuts of Horror article, and can confirm his reputation as a knowledgeable and affable horror fanatic and all round good guy are well earned. If you only pick up one thing from me this year, make it this one - it's a fantastic anthology of top drawer stories and all for a great cause.

November: Short (and very nasty) horror story Wide Load was accepted into Splatterpunk #6! This Zine has a deserved reputation among horror fans as the go to place for quality extreme writing, and this issue is certainly no exception. Also featuring stories by James Newman, Bracken MacLeod, and others, and with exclusive illustrations for each story, plus non-fiction articles and reviews, this acceptance was a big fat cherry on the top of a very good year... sundae, I suppose. Hmm, that one got a way from me a little. Anyhow, if you only buy two things form me, make this the other one, and do it quick because this zine is limited edition and sells out fast.

Bloody hell, what a year.

In 2015, I have two publications I already know about. First, I have a short story appearing in At Hells Gate II: Source Of Evil. This charity anthology has attracted a ton of incredibly gifted indie writers, and the first in the series had massive and deserved success. To have been selected for the follow-up is both awesome and humbling, and I'm profoundly grateful to be in this with a story called Genesis.

Genesis also serves as a prequel to my debut novel, GodBomb! This long-delayed title should see the light of day early next year - I apologise for the continued delays, but I want it to be in as good a shape as possible before I put it out there. The bad news is it needed the work. The good news is, I'm putting the work in.

After that, I have the next novel/novella planned out already and the one after that starting to take shape. I also have a few shorts in various stages of readiness, and plenty more busily out collecting rejection slips.

Part 2 will focus on some of the amazing work I've read from others this year. In closing, thank YOU, so much, for continuing to read my work. It's been a hell of a year.


PS - I will be running a competition next year for people who sign up to my mailing list, with a chance to win some genuine money-can't buy prizes. If that, and the idea of getting an email a month (max) of progress reports, random musings and exclusive content from me interests you, then please just drop an email to kitpowerwriter[at]gmail[dot]com . Thanks, and happy silly season.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

MY LIFE IN HORROR - FEED THE WORLD - Ginger Nuts of Horror

My latest My Life In Horror takes on Band Aid 84, and being 6 years old when it came out. WARNING: Contains language, fury, and despair...

MY LIFE IN HORROR - FEED THE WORLD - Ginger Nuts of Horror