Archive for May, 2013


First… A book I’ve just read.

For some years, the only fiction I read was that which I edited, and that HAD to stop. I had to find time to read other books, so as not to lose out on fantastic stories. I’m happy to say over the last three years or so I’ve stuck to this resolve and had read many wonderful novels.

But this week I finished reading what I regard as one of the best supernatural novels I’ve ever encountered. Lent to me by my friend Louise Coquio, ‘The Little Stranger’ by Sarah Waters was an absolute delight.

This book embraces all that makes a spooky story good. There is not just the gloriously underplayed supernatural element (and all the more un-nerving because of that underplaying), but a competence and silkiness of writing that is exceptional. Sarah Waters might not tease the senses with a sensual and sumptuous writing style, such as we find in the works of Alice Hoffman and Tanith Lee, but her prose is faultless, smooth and flowing. She tells a story well, the unravelling is perfect, the denouement, though again understated, absolutely chilling. I read this fat book in under a week, and I get little time to read. With this one I made time. I just couldn’t put it down.

The premise is the story of an aristocratic Warwickshire family, post Second World War, struggling to keep an unwieldy family pile solvent. The father of the family is dead, his son is crippled by war injuries, his surviving widow is a rather wilting anachronistic violet and his daughter, the sole strong survivor, is hampered by her apparent ‘plainness’ and clumsiness in social skills. Their huge home ‘Hundreds’ is falling to bits. They struggle to keep their estate farm alive, and half the time they don’t even have the money to light or heat their home properly. Beautiful artefacts are falling to ruin. Irreplaceable architectural treasures succumb to weather and wear, and the family have no money to prevent it. Into this situation comes the local doctor, the narrator, whose mother was once a servant at the house. He is intrigued by ‘Hundreds’ and its inhabitants, and wants to help them with their mundane trials, but then, slick as the thinnest of blades, the supernatural slices into this story of Post War troubles, the emergence of the National Health Service, and the problems that beset Britain, across the social classes, in those times. The knife is keen and cruel. It’s also subtle. You are left wondering. I don’t want to say more than that. Just read it for a real treat.

It’s not often I feel a bit breathless after reading a novel, because I read so many, but for those who love good writing, plus a supernatural slant, with a bit of ‘Downton Abbey’, without the riches, thrown in, this is a super read. 10/10

Writing News

Well good and bad. Good in that the short stories are progressing, and I’ve placed two. More news when I get release dates for the collections.

Bad is that I still find I have little time to write my novel. On the one hand, it’s great that life is full and I’m doing things many days of the week with other people, getting me out into the world, but I also wish I had more private time to work. Even so, despite this lack of time, I’m thinking about my novel and working on it in that sense.

It amazes me now, looking back to when I wrote the first Wraeththu novels, that I only had nub ends of time, in between a day job and a house full of lodgers, to write those books. I guess youth had something to do with it. Or maybe my life was less full in… responsible ways. Now I run my own business, and if I look at my email at the start of a day, you can guarantee my muse flits off in disgust. By the time I’m through with admin, the urge to create has long gone.

What I am happy about is that when I do get time to write, I enjoy it and am pleased with what I produce. Just wish I was doing more of it!

I have my friend Andy Collins up for a long weekend this week so look forward to some magical times. We will be meeting up with Deb and Yvan Cartwright and Graham Phillips for a day out, so sure to be… intriguing!

Back to the Immanion Press side of things, we’ll be bringing out our first Young Adult title in June, ‘Runners’ by Sharon Sant. This is an experiment for us, as we’ve not ventured into this genre before. Sharon is an editor at Immanion, and YA is her forte. We hope ‘Runners’ is the first of many YA titles in the SF, fantasy and horror genres we publish.

Please take a look at http://www.immanion-press.com for our latest releases.

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Glad to say that ideas are coming thick and fast at the moment. As has become usual, my only impediment to writing is having to attend to other tasks. But I have a trusty notebook (paper one, not computer) to hand , so jot things down in that. I have also acquired a laptop computer for the purpose of working outside in the summer – assuming we have one, of course. My husband, Jim, and I share a workroom, and it’s one of his quirks that he chatters to himself constantly, which is a distraction to me, since I can’t stand any noise while I’m writing. This includes music as well, which is a shame, because I find it very inspiring. Still, to write I need Silence. I have my own little workroom in the spare room of the house, but it doesn’t get much sun and feels a bit subterranean, so I’m hoping we get enough decent weather to be able to sit in the garden this summer and write. Fingers crossed.

Ian Whates has asked me to write a story for his Newcon Press ‘future of agriculture’ anthology, to be launched at Bristolcon this year, where I am one of the guests of honour. I was a bit stumped to start with, because all the ideas that came to me were rather dark and not terribly positive about this aspect of the future, but now, after doing a bit of workshopping with my friend Lou Coquio, have come up with something that’s a bit brighter in tone. I felt that for this particular collection, it seemed appropriate to be upbeat rather than dreary and doomy.

I’ve managed to find time to write a few scenes for my third Alba Sulh Wraeththu novel. Again getting lots of ideas but things are just so hectic at the moment. I look back wistfully to the days when my workload when I got up in the morning was just writing. I squandered a lot of that time, because I had no idea how things would change. Writing time is a luxury for me nowadays. But that said I do savour it and look forward to immersing myself in it. It seems bizarre to me that for quite a few years I suffered writer’s block, yet now it’s not so much I can’t write because the words aren’t there, but just I have so many other things to do. But the positive side of this is that writing is now a pleasure to me rather than something to be feared, or dreaded. We all have our own ways round writer’s block!

Aside from my own writing, and working on Immanion Press titles, I have a delicious little job of typing up one of Tanith Lee’s stories for Ian Whates. I do the layout for Ian’s Newcon Press titles – one of my favourite things to do. I adore designing books. Tanith works on a typewriter rather than a computer, and hers died recently, so she’s been writing by hand. I’ve done quite a bit of typing and scanning for Tanith over the last year, which gives me the privilege of reading her new work – aside from the novels of hers Immanion Press is publishing. The tale I’m typing up now, which is a fairly long one, is ‘The Frost Watcher’, to go in Newcon Press’s new edition of Tanith’s short story collection ‘Cold Grey Stones’. Tanith’s husband John Kaiine did the cover art for the original edition, which I always thought was wondrously spooky and strange, and for the new edition Tanith has written the story to go with that illustration. Ian is launching this new edition in October, so check the Newcon Press web site for more details. http://newconpress.co.uk/

I’ve recently done the layout for another of Ian’s titles, the ‘part two’ of ‘Diary of a Witchcraft Shop’ by Liz Williams, and her partner, Trevor Jones. I just had to read parts of it as I was doing the layout – irresistible – and my favourite bits are the recounting of conversations with customers in the shop. A hoot. I loved the first book and can also recommend this one.

In respect of my own work, and reviewing what I have stored in my ‘ideas’ folder on the computer, I had a look at a novel I started some years ago, called ‘Shimbari Dreams’, which is sort of autobiographical in that it concerns a female writer who’s created a fantasy world where the characters have ambivalent sexuality. But primarily, it was my attempt to explore the possibilities – and dark shadows – of the internet. Looking again at the pages I wrote for it, I realise that social media have moved on so much I need to rewrite it quite a bit. I was interested in investigating how virtuality could leak into reality, and also about the more obsessive side of fandom. The ‘new’ fandom that evolves in the story grows beyond the regular fans, and is as much of a mystery and an absurdity to them as to the author. Then things take a sinister turn. I’m thinking at the moment, this might be the novel I return to after I’ve finished the last of the Alba Sulh sequence, but I do have several other stand alone novels started, either with a few chapters done, or just in note form, so I’ll leave it until later to decide which one I’ll actually work on next.

For now I need to finish the agriculture story and also the Alba Sulh novel. There is one part of this novel that I’m sort of reluctant to write, and might not include it ultimately. It’s something I find extremely gruesome and therefore uncomfortable to write about. It’s based on a real event that was reported in the news last year, and when I read about it, it affected me greatly. I need something quite shocking for the core of this novel, wrapped as it is in ghosts, but whether I can stomach actually writing that part remains to be seen. I might yet wuss out!

I’m still mulling over what should be the next Wraeththu anthology theme. I thought it might be nice to bring out a collection annually but I think bi-annually is more realistic.

So, lots going on, and feeling very positive about my work. Could just do with more time, or some kind of device that lets me stretch time. Now, that would be handy!