Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Hallowe'en Horrors

I'll be appearing at the Hallowe'en Horrors event at the Derby Quad on October 30th, running a workshop  on writing weird, strange, off-beat, and creepy fiction. Details and a link to get tickets are below:


Join us for the first part of a very special day of horror writing, with five workshop sessions looking at a wide range of aspects of the genre! QUAD’s Literature Officer Alex Davis will be your host throughout, and will be joined by acclaimed authors Sophie Draper, James Everington and Angeline Trevena for an exciting day of dark inspiration, imagination and information!

3:30pm-4:30pm: James Everington – The uncanny: making the everyday seem strange in fiction

Anyone can make a werewolf or spectre sound scary, but how do writers approach more mundane horrors? This workshop will focus on picking out those details in apparently innocuous, everyday situations and making them seem just that little bit ‘off'. Perfect for making your readers uneasy without them knowing quite why….

Further details & tickets here.

Friday, 18 June 2021

Recommendation: Casting The Runes RPG by Paul StJohn Mackintosh


In my younger days, I used to regularly play RPGs, including AD&D, Paranoia, and most relevant here, Call Of Cthulhu, a role-playing game based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. It's a bit hazy in my memory, but I think I encountered Lovecraft's mythos via the game first, and then starting reading the fiction. So along with reading Campbell and King for the first time, Call Of Cthulhu was probably another formative stage on my journey to being a writer. (Although other than a tale in The Outsiders, I don't really write Lovecraftian mythos stuff.)

The new RPG Casting The Runes is based on the ghost stories of M.R. James (and mid-40s me much prefers M.R. James to Lovecraft). After getting the rulebook, I didn't know how I'd actually play the game, but via the wonders of Zoom, I revived the gaming group I'd played with 20 years previously, and ran a few sessions.

The rulebook for Casting The Runes is organised exactly as you might expect, with some introductory remarks followed by sections on character creation (characters here are called 'Investigators'), the game mechanics, monsters and magic, the historical time period, running games, and two sample adventures. The rules themselves are somewhat different to RPGs I've played before, especially when it comes to using 'Investigation Skills' which aim to avoid ludicrous, game-damaging situations where a highly trained investigator rolls a 1 and so misses a really obvious clue like a huge bloodstain right in front of their nose. As you might imagine, while combat features, players aren't super-heroes, and fighting the supernatural beings is likely to be more of a last resort than a significant feature of every play session. I thought the 'Stability' mechanic, allowing for the psychological impacts of player encounters with ghosts, black magic and like, was really well done, and adds a sense of tension and danger to even non-physical confrontations.

Where the book really shines is in the setting specific sections, both in giving the background for the Edwardian time-period, and information about running games in the style of M.R. James.  The two example adventures in the book are excellent introductions to the game. The book itself is really nicely presented, with period B&W photographs and creepy illustrations throughout really helping to set the tone.

The only downside of the rulebook for me was that I could have done with a few more examples of character creation and the rules in play. (The rules are tweaked versions of a more generic ruleset called Gumshoe, which I looked into online to get a feel for it.)

But overall this was a really interesting game, and both me and my friends had great fun playing it. And it was really enjoyable to come back to RPGs after all these years. Hopefully, we'll keep playing.

In summary, if you're an experienced role-player and are interested in an investigation focussed supernatural game, I'd highly recommend this. If you're new to RPGs and intend to be the run the sessions, there are probably easier first games out there, but if the M.R. James connection appeals to you don't let that put you off, you just might need to do a bit of online reading before stating your first game. There's also an friendly Facebook group run by the author where you can ask questions & find character sheets etc.

You can purchase the game online, in physical or PDF formats, at The Design Mechanism or DriveThru RPG.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Sinister Horror Company Podcast

 


I had great fun recording this podcast with Justin Park, head honcho of The Sinister Horror Company. We talked about Trying To Be So Quiet & Other Hauntings, the supernatural as a metaphor for grief, specific versus non-specific settings for fiction, Bob Dylan, and of course ghosts. 

You can join TSHC Patreon and listen to the podcast here.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

A New Review for 'The Quarantined City'

It's always nice when an older work keeps connecting with new readers, and I could ask for no more perceptive a new reader of The Quarantined City than author Terry Grimwood, who's given the book a wonderful review on theEXAGGERATEDwebsite:

"...The Quarantined City is absolutely the child of its author and a highly original one at that. The dislocating sense of being shut-in, of a world that has come to a halt is something which all of us have experienced during the covid-19 lockdown and it is that experience that intensified my relationship with this novel. The Quarantined City is a delight. It keeps the reader guessing and unsettled."

The Quarantined City was conceived and written long-before our current strangeness, but it's really interesting that it seems to speak to our times now more than ever.


The Quarantined City is out now from Infinity Plus / Amazon (UK | US)


Wednesday, 17 March 2021

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror #2

Thrilled to say my story ‘The Sound Of The Sea, Too Close’ has been selected for forthcoming The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror #2, edited by Paula Guran. You can see the whole lineup for the anthology here; I'm in good company.

My story was originally published in the brilliant Shadows & Tall Trees #8 from Undertow.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

'Out Of The Darkness' Kickstarter

 

In the UK horror scene, Dan Coxon is one of the good guys. As well as his own fiction, he's the editor of a number of fantastic anthologies, including The Shadow Booth series in which I was fortunate enough to feature.

Dan is now looking to fund a new anthology, Out Of Darkness, via Kickstarter. As you can see from the cover here, the list of contributors pretty much guarantees this will be a must-read. In addition, the book will raise funds for the charity Together For Mental Wellbeing.

If you want to check out the kickstarter for this project, then you can (and should) do so here.




Friday, 12 February 2021

Guest Post: ‘Writing the Body: I Spit Myself Out’ by Tracy Fahey

Today I'm delighted to welcome Tracy Fahey to the blog, to talk about her brand new story collection I Spit Myself Out, which is published tomorrow by The Sinister Horror Company. I'm a big fan of Tracy's previous two collections, so I preordered this one as soon as I saw it announced.  

Tracy is always very articulate about her writing, both in person (I hope to chat to her again soon in some convention bar once all this strangeness is over) and, as you can see below, via the written word.


Take it away, Tracy:

 

‘Writing the Body: I Spit Myself Out

Tracy Fahey

In my third collection, I Spit Myself Out, I delve deep beneath the surface of the skin. The idea of this collection has haunted me for years; a collection of tales that would explore the terrors that arise precisely from being a woman. I’ve never been drawn to extreme horror, or to body horror (yes, I do see the irony here) as for me true horror doesn’t reside in the rending of flesh, the brutal exposition of the body. For me, true horror lies in the psychological implications of such a disruption. Horror happens when all that is sure and certain in our lives begins to collapse; our homes, our culture, our bodies, and most important of all, our very identity.

A recurring theme in my writing is that of identity that is called into question. Towards the end of my favourite movie, Alan Parker’s marvellous Angel Heart (1987), Harry Angel calls out desperately ‘I know who I am!’ But of course he doesn’t, and the impact of that tragic situation and the emotional dissonance behind it has never really left me. I’ve previously explored identity in different ways. In The Unheimlich Manoeuvre I explored the implications of feeling insecure in that securest of settings, the home; in New Music For Old Rituals I explored the Gothic horrors of buried secrets contained in our folk histories. In I Spit Myself Out, I attempt perhaps the most ambitious of all questions to do with identity – what happens when we feel unsafe in our own selves? 

I’m a huge admirer of writing by Charlotte Gilman Perkins, Georgina Bruce, Sylvia Plath, Carmen Maria Machado, Margaret Atwood – work that presents us bluntly with the fears and vulnerabilities that arise from possessing a female body. The female body in their writing is one that is permeable to patriarchal repression, dominated and dictated to by religions, and marked by its own private blood rituals. 

In writing this collection, I tried to tap into that sense of body horror; that emotional rawness, that overwhelming sense of vulnerability. The protagonists of I Spit Myself Out struggle with the outside world, but most significantly with themselves. Their pain becomes imprinted on exterior objects, like the Anatomical Venus of the opening story, ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror,’ it is literally too big to hold inside. As the story ‘Becoming’ opens: ‘It barely contains me, this body I’m in.’ 

Writing this collection, I was also conscious of the vulnerability of the female body under different gazes; the male gaze, the medical gaze, the female gaze. The stories, which attempt to chart a passage from birth to death, from puberty to menopause, are riddled with themes from Catholicism to love to the supernatural to illness. They’re also populated with transgressive bodies; ones that refuse to conform, bodies that cry out in protest. While writing these stories, time and time again I returned to Julia Kristeva’s essay, ‘The Powers of Horror,’ which deals memorably with the question of abjection and identity – she asks how identity is problematized when the body expels its own core substances; tears, blood, skin? 

What happens when you spit yourself out?

I Spit Myself Out leads the reader through the dark labyrinths of the body to explore potential answers to this question…


I Spit Myself Out

Eighteen unsettling narratives map the female experience from puberty to menopause.


I Spit Myself Out is a collection of female-voiced stories exploring the terror that lurks beneath the surface of the skin. In this collection, an Anatomical Venus opens to display her organs, clients of a mysterious clinic disappear one by one, a police investigation reveals family secrets, revenge is inked in the skin, and bodies pulsate in the throes of illness, childbirth and religious ritual.


Disturbing and provoking in equal turns, I Spit Myself Out reinvents the body as a breeding ground of terrors that resurface inexorably in the present.


You can pre-order it here, or you can directly from the Sinister Horror Company.


Tracy Fahey is an Irish writer of Gothic fiction.  In 2017, her debut collection The Unheimlich Manoeuvre was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. Her short fiction is published in over thirty American, British, Australian and Irish anthologies. She holds a PhD on the Gothic in visual arts, and her non-fiction writing is published in edited collections and journals. She has been awarded residencies in Ireland and Greece. She has written two collections, New Music For Old Rituals and The Unheimlich Manoeuvrethe mini-collection, Unheimlich Manoeuvres In The Dark, and the novel, The Girl In The Fort