Gutshot Teaser no. 5

The Black Rider by James Lovegrove

The Black Rider dismounts. His stallion, which has never been favoured with a name, stands stock-still, head low, barely flicking its tail. The Black Rider crosses over to where you lie on the ground. Rowels jingle. Leather creaks. The Black Rider hunkers down beside you.

His face is masked, sheathed in a black silk bandanna. The only part of his body visible is his eyes, and they are black too. Oh so black.

The Unblemished

A good review of The Unblemished from The Eloquent Page…

“Few writers have the ability to genuinely unsettle me but Williams has succeeded here. Put it this way – up until last night it has been decades since I have had to take a break from reading a book because it was creeping me out. If you consider yourself a horror fan and haven’t read The Unblemished you need to remedy this situation immediately. Be warned though, once you read something you can’t unread it. This one will mess with your head.”

The full review is here.

Gutshot Teaser no. 4

The Ghost Warriors by Michael Moorcock

He spoke a melodic, vibrant, faintly accented English which made it immediately clear how he could lead so many young warriors by the power of his words alone. The great black war-lance was in his hands and the red engravings seemed to come alive within the metal, reflecting his blazing, ruby eyes, giving his face the sheen of a silver mask.

“Let us finish this,” he said.

And then he smiled.

Gutshot Teaser no. 2

Passage by Alan Peter Ryan

Men around there called them the Hills of Hell. Even the Comanche called that treacherous and shadowy maze the Tortured Path, which meant roughly the same as Hell in their own tongue. Yet the Comanche had always loved those hills and the torturous narrow trails winding among them and had roamed there and camped there and even dwelt there from time unremembered. A Comanche could pass a full lifetime in those hills, sire a tribe of his own, and never come out unless it was to kill, or unless the thing to be killed went into those hills of its own volition and presented itself for death.

Gutshot Teaser no. 1

Art by Caniglia

Blue Norther by Zander Shaw

The guns. I watched the guns blaze. I saw the fire spurt from the end of those death-dealers. I saw the holes appear in you both. I watched the blood fan out from your backs like red angel wings. They dug graves and they put us in, all together. They think I was dead? Or didnt they care? Thought the soil would see me off. I felt the dirt patter on my shoulders and back. I felt it clod in my hair and the lights growin dim. I felt the blood of my folks trickle onto me, into me, leaking into my mouth, my eyes. And still I did not cry or scream or beg. I held my breath and I waited. When the soil was coverin me, I buried my face into Ma’s clothes and breathed the blood-tainted air that was trapped inside. I took solace. I took strength. Those graves werent deep enough. They could have dug for a month and it wouldnt have been enough.

Happy birthday, Ray Bradbury

I love Ray Bradbury.

I read a lot of his short stories when I was starting out as a writer and I envied him his prolificity, and the expansive market that was available to him. Here was a writer who made a living out of his short stories when he was in his twenties. He’d write a short story on Monday, polish it throughout the week, and submit it on Saturday. Sunday was ideas day, a day for getting something right in his mind for another first draft the following morning. I love that his work is full of purple prose. I love that he is sentimental, nostalgic, emotional. I love that his SF is unconcerned with technology and equations and mind-bending scientific theory. It’s as simple and poetic and wondrous as this:

The rocket lay on the launching field, blowing out pink clouds of fire and oven heat. The rocket stood in the cold winter morning, making summer with every breath of its mighty exhausts. The rocket made climates and summer lay for a brief moment upon the land…*

But he also wrote very effective horror stories too: The Jar, Skeleton and The Crowd I found particularly disturbing. I wrote to Ray Bradbury when I was a teenager. Cheekily (or obnoxiously… take your pick), I included a couple of my short stories. One of them, Chalk Marks in a Rain Storm, was something of an homage to The Picasso Summer. He wrote back with some wonderful advice, and sent me a signed photograph. He also said that he especially liked Chalk Marks in a Rain Storm. I remember floating around for a while after that, and I put some extra hours in that week on whatever I was working on. He’s a great role model for new short story writers, and his work is timeless. He also, for me, wins hands down the best title for an SF novel, with Fahrenheit 451. The book itself, of course, is none too shabby.

My favourite RB story? Like most fans, I have so many that it would be painful to choose but one. If pressed, though, I’ll go for The Fog Horn (I’ll change my mind tomorrow).

So happy birthday, sir, 91 today!

*From The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

Listened to: Changing Skies, by Jeff Greinke

Read: The Coffin, by Ray Bradbury

Chosen road

Project Bayonet: 1021 words

Project Wishbone: 659 words (quite a few of them written close to midnight last night, sitting on the edge of a concrete plant pot on Piccadilly station’s platform 13)

I’ve met a number of people over the years with writing ambitions. A lot of them never finish a piece of work (and quite a few never even start). It struck me, while I was writing yesterday (at that giddy position at the start of a novel when you’re breaking into your stride and anything is possible) that the reason for this lack of closure on a project might be precisely because… anything is possible. You start out with that sheet of blank paper – same as any other writer – and the limitless possibilities can cause you to freeze. Even when you have an idea, there are what feels like an infinite number of options available to you. Your character is sitting at a table, drinking a cup of coffee. What happens next? What doesn’t happen next? A guy walks in holding a bucket full of eels. There are an endless number of reactions to that. An endless number of avenues to explore. You become stifled because you think choice A might not be as good as choice B, never mind choices N, T and Y. A plan can help, but you can lose yourself down a similar rabbit hole when you’re working out the plot. So you grit your teeth and plunge in, go with what occurs to you. ITV it, as one colleague of mine at Channel 4 was fond of saying: Intuit the Vibe. Much of writing is seat-of-the-pants anyway. You want to reach a point where you’re barely in control, where the characters are kind of dictating what happens next. Don’t panic. That’s good. Let it happen. If you muck it up, you can always retrace your steps and try something different. Kick the bucket out of his hand. Call the cops. Stick your head in.

A good day…

…apart from a claw in the thumb, this time. I wrote 1061 words of Project Bayonet and 1076 words of Project Wishbone. I also outlined The Fox and wrote a blurb for Gutshot, as well as a press release. In the evening I managed to squeeze in a film, Ils, before crashing. Smug? Me?

One other thing I did was to think about a timeline for these novels. Too often in the past, I’ve barged into a story only to hit a point where I think, hang on, what day is this meant to be? How long has the story existed, in days or weeks? Is it summer, even? Or winter? Bayonet might be tricky, in that I want a definite swing in temperature from sweltering to sub-zero. The novel must begin in June, because of something that happened in a real-life June, nearly 70 years ago. Although, having just written that down, it’s feasible that the novel could end in June instead (see what happens… you plan a novel – this one has been expanding in my notebook since over a year ago – and at the last minute the U-turn gremlins come and kick you in the pants… I no longer know whether this is a good thing, or if I’m just incapable of making a decision).

All I need to do, really, is track the story day-by-day, and I’ve noticed that Scrivener’s labels system is handily set up with seven default tags. Change the names, apply them to your chapters and Robert’s your mother’s brother. I think if I get a day-change within a chapter, I’ll just devolve to whatever day the chapter ends upon. I could just write a subtitle to each chapter heading: Monday, Tuesday, etc. But I need to be able to see this transition on Scrivener‘s corkboard overview. It doesn’t have to be too rigid, as long as I have a rough idea of the passage of time.

Listened to: The Equatorial Stars, by Robert Fripp & Brian Eno


You set a month aside to write some big chunks of two new novels and life gets in the way. In among the paltry word count, there have been too many late night (and late afternoon) birthday parties, too many battles with the cat to get her to swallow some antibiotics (at one point she sank a claw so deeply into the back of my hand that there was about 12lbs of feline hanging from me), and various other writing jobs that suddenly require completion (Gutshot edits, for example, p.131: change proselytizing to proselytising… *zzzzzz*), or events and appearances that I was committed to. So I reckon I’ve got maybe a thousand words done on both Project Bayonet and Project Wishbone in the last ten days. Not great. It doesn’t help that I also have a delivery deadline looming at the end of November concerning Open Heart Surgery, the new collection. I had in mind a new short story for that (got to have at least one original, right?), but then another one occurred to me, so I want to get that done too. Pleasingly (to me, at least), their titles will be The Pike and The Fox. At some point I’ve also got to nail down the contents, and provide notes for the stories too.

Today, though, the house is still. The cat is hiding somewhere (sorry, mate, but you’ve got another week’s worth of medication to fight me over); the munchkins are visiting the Tate in Liverpool, and I’ve had those necessary two big cups of Illy. Once I’ve posted this, I’m activating Freedom and knuckling down. Peace out, rainbow trout.

Reading: Things that Never Happen, by M John Harrison and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan Garner

Listening to: Cold Summer, by Lull (aka. M J Harris?!)

Watched: Source Code