Category: Wraeththu


Of writing and cats

Where is this year going? April already. Anyway, been working hard on short stories and also the new Wraeththu story collection, ‘Para Kindred’. I’m really happy with my stories in this one, and also love the contributions I’ve had in from the other writers. There is a Goodreads Giveaway for this book, URL here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/88603-para-kindred-enigmas-of-wraeththu

I know I have to get into social media promotion a lot more than I do. I see horrendously poor novels, self published as ebooks, but whose authors have dozens of 5 star reviews on Amazon, presumably from friends. This is what serious writers are up against, sadly. The whole ‘recommendation’ thing is a sham on these sites. It can be abused so easily, as I see often when I download a book to read on Kindle before I sleep. Atrociously rotten books have gushing reviews. It must be orchestrated. I have simple hopes the reading public have more sense.

I’ve read a couple more of Susan Hill’s ghost stories recently – ‘Mist in the Mirror’ and ‘The Man in the Picture’. Ms Hill really knows how to set a ghost story up, and I adored ‘Mist in the Mirror’ until the end. I don’t know why, but as with ‘The Small Hand’, this superb writer really can’t finish a book satisfactorily. There were so many story threads left unresolved. It was almost as if she said to her publishers, ‘ok, hit word limit, here’s the book and my invoice’. Really disappointing and more so because I love Susan Hill’s writing. Why does she short change her readers so clunkily with these ghost stories? Only ‘The Woman in Black’ is fully-rounded. The others, while great reads for the most part, are let down by the endings. I read there’s to be a TV adaptation of ‘The Small Hand’, so hope the adaptors do more with it than in the novella. Wasted opportunities. I look back at Sarah Waters’ ‘The Little Stranger’ and that’s how a novel of this type should be crafted. Also Diane Setterfield’s ‘The Thirteenth Tale’. Why on earth hasn’t ‘The Little Stranger’ been televised? That’s now one of my favourite novels of all time.

It galls me, but work on my novel ‘The Moonshawl’ has foundered recently, not least because of the shorts I’m writing. Plus I’m trying to do more with publicity and promotion for ‘Para Kindred’. ‘The Moonshawl’ is still very much in my thoughts, and I play out scenes in my mind as I’m doing housework. Would really like to finish it soon, though.

On a more personal note, we lost one of our veteran cats recently – Uriel. What we thought was bad teeth turned out to be a malignant tumour in his jaw. Uri had lived to a ripe old age, so we have to expect this to happen, but what’s been most upsetting is the effect on our young Siamese, Grimley, known also as Stringy Bob (that’s Jim’s name for him). From the moment Grim set foot in our house, he decided Uri was his mate. Uri could not fight against Grim’s determination to love him. They were inseparable. After Uri’s death, Grim wandered around the house looking for him, and at night simply howled. He and Uri always slept with me when Jim was at work (he works most nights) and it was pitiful to see Grim’s sadness. Whoever says cats don’t have feelings can just sod off, in my humble opinion. So we made the choice to get a companion for Grim (seeing as the other cats sort of blank him a lot for his ‘in your faceness’). We’re hopefully going to pick up a girl Oriental cat companion for him next week. Superstition forbids me from saying more than that, but if she comes home with us I’ll post pics on Facebook.

January News

I’ve been super busy since I wrote my last blog post and – am happy to report – very productive. I finished ‘Painted Skin’, one of the stories for the forthcoming Wraeththu anthology ‘Para Kindred’, and am about halfway through a second. The second story, as yet un-named, is a return to canon characters in that it features Ashmael Aldebaran from the Wraeththu trilogies as well as the Kamagrian, Kate. I began the story quite a few years ago, concerning a human community that has survived against all odds in the midst of a wilderness, where the threat of the remaining unevolved Wraeththu tribes is still immense. The Gelaming have their own reasons for wishing to contact these survivors, and the har sent to do the job is Ashmael, with Kate along as negotiator, since they assume a more ‘female’ looking person will be more acceptable to the humans. They discover that a son of the human family has outstanding abilities beyond what’s normally found in the old race. The Gelaming want him incepted, the family and the boy himself don’t, and the drama unfolds from there. This story has enabled me to vent my gripes about interfering, busy-body ‘health’ officials, who think they know what’s best for us, when sometimes they really don’t. They just tick boxes and stand by the current ‘fashions’, whatever the consequences for the individual. I’ve got plenty more horrors to relate before the end of it.

The novel, The Moonshawl, is still going well, although at the moment I’m finding it difficult to devote more than two days a week to it, and of course those end up being less than full working days because of little tasks I continually have to attend to. But I’m happy with the progress, even if it’s not as fast as I’d like. A host of new ideas came to me, which have to be incorporated. I sat down to write a few notes on ‘the dark history of the Wyvern family’, only to end up with 10 pages of what could be a separate short story. Not all of this might make it into the novel, but as least *I* know what happened in the past.

This week I’ve written an introduction for a new edition of Algernon Blackwood’s first two short story collections, which will be combined into one volume by Greg Shepard – who some of you might remember published American editions of several of my novels, plus ‘The Oracle Lips’ story collection, through his Stark House Press. I’m not sure if that’s still the name of his publishing house, but will post further news when I have more details about the book. Blackwood is one of the most influential supernatural writers of the earliest twentieth century and inspired many other authors, even to the present day. I hesitate to use the term ‘horror writer’ for authors of his time, since to me the word horror nowadays often just entails blood, guts, dismemberment, torture, etc etc and I’ve never liked that kind of fiction. To me, the best horror is that which implies more than it shows; feelings of unease, the inexplicable, the subtly chilling. Anyway, I recommend Greg’s book, which includes ‘The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories’ and ‘The Listener and Other Stories’.

One thing I think is really important is that works like Blackwood’s are still available for everyone. So many of the ebook editions you see of these ‘historical’ writers are really badly produced, full of errors, and in one case recently – utterly empty of everything except the first page. I’ve read quite a few of these ebooks, since I’ve been devouring stories of this kind recently, and have been astonished at the sloppy production, as if the text wasn’t even read through once before it was slapped on the Kindle store. I know how difficult, if not impossible, it is to produce an absolutely pristine manuscript – mistakes will not be spotted because of human error – but really some ebooks have appalling amounts of them. Several stories have been virtually unreadable, owing to strange fonts and symbols littered all the way through. Hopefully, more publishers like Greg will restore these works with a bit of actual care.

Another thing I’ve noticed as I’ve been reading all these short story collections is how superior the older writing often is. It’s noticeable particularly when an editor has collected the new with the old. So many of the new ones are weak, uninteresting, or just gore fests. Dull, in other words. Whereas there are some real gems to be found in the older writing, often by authors completely unknown, who perhaps just produced a few stories to be published in magazines of the time. There were a fair amount of women writers involved in the genre too, and I read one ebook ‘The Lady Chillers: Classic Ghost and Horror Stories by Women Writers’, which was excellent. All of the collections have a few duds in them – inevitably – but this one was superior to most. Sadly, you won’t find collections by the majority of these writers, although there is a printed version of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories available. The ebook of Edith Nesbit’s ghost stories – forget it. This was the one I bought that was an empty file. (Actually it looks as if since I complained to Amazon it’s been removed from the Kindle store.) The Mary E Wilkins Freeman Megapack ebook is worth getting, despite the second half of the book comprising rather twee children’s stories. The first half, the supernatural tales, is great.

As for my plans for 2014, first of course I want to finish The Moonshawl, but I will be working on short stories alongside it. I’m in talks with another independent press about producing a book of my uncollected stories plus some new ones, and will again give more news about that when I have it. Once The Moonshawl is complete, it’ll be time to start on a new novel – I already have a few options. But as can often happen, a different idea might come to me before then.

I thought that in the absence of any spectacular news – life is fairly uneventful apart from writing and dealing with Immanion Press – I could give a sneak preview of the novel I’m working on. Now under the working title of ‘The Moonshawl’ (which may change), this is the third book in my Wraeththu Alba Sulh sequence and, as I’ve already said, it will be a mystery/ghost story – rather different from its prequels. Whether I get the book finished this year is difficult to tell, but I’ll certainly get most of it done. This will free me up to explore other projects, and the mountains of notes, ideas, half written things and synopses I have on my computer.

But all that is in the future. For now, here is a scene from ‘The Moonshawl’, where Ysobi is doing some psychic investigating. It’s not the final draft so might be expanded, and certainly refined, before publication. Apologies for lack of first line indentation – can’t work out how to do it on here! Enjoy!

Excerpt from ‘The Moonshawl’ by Storm Constantine © 2013

As soon as the glade opened up before us, I could tell that Moonshawl Pool was an ancient sacred place, and perhaps was still regarded as such among the local hara and used for rites. The damp grass was vivid with new growth beneath our feet; Rinawne’s pony was eager to tear at it, devour it.
Rinawne led me to the edge of the clear water. I could see that the pool was maintained by a spring and that a quick stream gulped away from it, perhaps to join with the river. Opposite me was an immense mossy rock, from which it seemed ideal for harlings to jump into the water. Sunlight came down in rods through the unfurling leaf canopy above, but even so the glade was partially in shadow.
‘Eldritch place, isn’t it?’ Rinawne said carelessly. ‘You should drink the water. It’s supposed to be lucky.’ He knelt down and scooped a handful to his mouth.
I knelt beside him. ‘I’d like to meditate here for a few minutes, if that’s all right.’
‘Of course. Do your hienemarly thing.’ Rinawne grinned. ‘There are usually mushrooms in the hedgerow to the next field. I’ll go gathering while you ponder the mysteries of life.’
Not until Rinawne had left me, his departure accompanied by a theatrical wave of his hand, did I stoop to drink the water. It was as cold as winter, and so pure as to be almost without taste. There was a faint sparkle to it that fizzed in my throat.
‘May the guardians of this site reveal to me it secrets,’ I said aloud, and then composed myself upon the grass, sitting cross-legged with my hands upon my thighs, palms uppermost and open.
I tried to concentrate on the story Rinawne had told me, visualising the har he had named Grass coming through the trees to the pool, his harling in his arms. The image wouldn’t stick in my mind, and on the brief occasions it did, I felt Grass was always looking behind him, as if pursued. I sensed urgency. But another image wanted to impose itself across that of Grass, and it was so strong, eventually I let it have its head.
In the mind picture, I was unsure whether it was day or night time. I caught brief glimpses of something pale through the trees, drawing haphazardly closer to the pool. Within the visualisation I got to my feet, cautiously approached whatever was weaving towards me. I saw a pale figure, its arms held out in front of it, touching the trunks of the trees, as if blind, and trying to feel its way forward. It wore a tattered white robe, and very long white hair fell over its face, obscuring its features completely, but it was not the white of human old age, more like the platinum white found rarely in hara. This must be a har. He was stumbling, disorientated, and now I could hear he was moaning softly, monotonously.
‘Tiahaar,’ I said softly, and the har paused. Then he began to grope his way in my direction.
‘Help… I need…’ The words were broken, ragged with the most awful despair, and shook me from my visualisation.
Opening my eyes, for a moment I too was utterly disorientated, unsure even of where I was, but then the sound of breaking undergrowth brought me to my feet. This was no visualisation. A har dressed in white – a torn robe, filthy to the knees – and with long white hair hanging over his face was trying to reach me. Pitifully, he patted the trees around him, turning in a circle, his robe catching on shrub branches, tearing further. All the while he uttered that relentless, frightened moan.
‘Tiahaar!’ I ran towards him. ‘Stay where you are. I’ll help you.’
As I reached him, the har fell heavily into my arms, and I staggered backwards beneath the burden. His hands clutched my arms, the fingers digging into my flesh, then withdrawing, then digging in again. He smelled… of sickness. ‘Wraeththu,’ he gasped, ‘help me, help me…’
And then… Then there was nothing in my arms, no sense, no physical memory even, of the weight against me. Nothing.
‘So this is your secret,’ I murmured shakily to the glade.
Around me was silence, no birds singing, no rustle of life in the bushes. Not even the soft gurgle of the water as it flowed away to brighter realms.
I sat down heavily where I stood, put my head in my hands, experiencing a strong desire to weep, yet no tears came. Something horrific had happened here once. There could be no mistake. It had left its mark, its imprint, and it was so strong it could feel like the physical weight of a har in my arms.
Ten minutes of deep breathing restored me almost to normality, yet I could still feel quivering anxiety within me, the gift of whatever apparition it was I’d seen.
I heard the sound of a har whistling and guessed this was Rinawne returning to me. For some reason, I knew I would not tell him what had happened; it was as if the har of my vision had begged me to silence.
‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost,’ Rinawne remarked cheerfully as he emerged from the trees.
I smiled, gestured with both arms. ‘Well, I went… quite deep into the landscape.’
Rinawne rolled his eyes. ‘By Aru, don’t end up like Rey and not come out again!’ He sat down beside me. ‘No mushrooms to pick today, sadly. Shall we go back to the Mynd? You can stay for dinner again if you like. And I can show you the whole house. Would you like that?’
I sensed he was speaking to me as if I were… well, perhaps slightly ill. Did I look that bad? I tried to pull myself together, put aside what I’d experienced.
‘I’d love to see the house. Not sure about dinner, though. I need to write up some notes, so I don’t forget things.’
Rinawne slapped my shoulder. ‘Oh, plenty of time for that. You can sit in the library for a while to do your writing. The day is young. Come on!’ He dragged me to my feet.

Back to the novel at last!

I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to work on my novel this week – I refused to write another blog post until I could say something positive about the book. I’ve also started another short story for a forthcoming collection. But the most important thing is that I’m able to get back to the full length work. One thing I find I need when working on a novel is immersion – I need to be on it every day, thinking about it, listening to music that inspires scenes, and so on. I can’t just do a bit and leave it for weeks, then go back to it and find it easy to write. If I’ve slipped out its world, I need to get back in.

I had a number of scenes for which I’d written notes and have spent time writing those up. I’m not sure yet where these scenes will go, but as they were there, determined to come out, they needed to be written. These scenes were ‘eerie happenings’, ideas that came to me for the Tower in the story. It’s not exactly haunted but its occupant is.

I wanted to finish off the Alba Sulh sequence of the Wraeththu books, begun with ‘The Hienama’ and ‘Student of Kyme’. In the second one, the story took a rather miserable turn. Unfortunately, that’s what wanted to be written, and few of the characters came out in a good light. For the third one, I wanted a departure and to leave all that angst behind. The main character is Ysobi, who ended up being rather a villain in the previous book. A little punch drunk from his experiences, and also contrite, if not confused as to his earlier behaviour, he takes on a commission to help a rural community establish a spiritual system based upon the landscape and local folklore. He finds a magical, almost surreal environment, where in some of the harish families their human roots are still very important. The family who have hired him still live in the ‘ancestral home’ and it quickly becomes obvious that – like any ancestral home family worth its salt – there are secrets in its past. It’s also clear something unusual happened to the hienama of the community, with hints he disappeared into the landscape, leaving his son in the care of the ruling family. But while it seems Wyva, his brothers, and his chesnari Rinawne are the benevolent leaders of the community, there is another mysterious family, the Whitemanes, who appear to wield more power, certainly in a magical way. The community holds them in awe. Ysobi is soon involved in ancient plots and a personal haunting, while trying to complete the job he was given to do, against a nebulous opposition that seeks to terrify him and drive him away. Ignorant of this undercurrent, the harish community simply sees him as a replacement for their vanished hienama, a job Ysobi really doesn’t want. He’s had his fill of such positions of responsibility and yearns only for the life of a scholar. But nohar else seems keen to take on the position, and Ysobi is shuffled into it, despite his misgivings. He also refuses to be intimidated by his shadowy enemies and resolves to fight back.

Anyway, that’s the idea and there’s a lot more to go into it, but I’m glad I’ve got back to it at last.

Immanion Press news:

We’ll be publishing some of Tanith Lee’s work in e-book, as well a new printed novel called ‘Turquoiselle, which is part of her ‘Colouring Books’ sequence. The e-books will be ‘Kill the Dead’, followed by the Flat Earth series: ‘Night’s Master’, ‘Death’s Master’, ‘Delusion’s Master’ and ‘Delirium’s Mistress’. ‘Kill the Dead’ should be on Kindle very soon, with the others following after.

I have Tanith fans writing to me all the time, bemoaning the fact her work isn’t available in e-book. This is because her work is tied up in rights, and a couple of years ago the UK publisher, Orion, bought up most of her back catalogue for e-book publication (but not all of it.) As I’ve said to those who’ve written to me about it, there’s no point going on Amazon and requesting e-book editions from the original publishers of her books. This is simply because that in most cases they do not hold the rights. The best option for those wishing to campaign on Tanith’s behalf is to contact Orion, who have the majority of her titles. A little nudging, and a clear fan interest, might help the books appear sooner rather than later.

One of the main problems with social media has always been – for me – the time commitment for keeping up with all of them. I also found a lot of it trivial – such as making small posts about what I was having for lunch or something. What was the point and who would want to read that anyway? Snowed under with work, I couldn’t see the benefit of joining the chattering, tweeting masses. I did and do use Facebook, but only sporadically. However, one thing has become clear to me and that is that social media are now essential for any author wishing to remain noticed (or to get noticed) – unless they are one of the privileged 5% who are the best-sellers of this world. Also, it’s good to talk to about books.

So I decided it’s time to interact with the world a bit more. I’ve become something of a recluse over the years – far different to the party animal I used to be – and I want to get out of this habit, at least on the internet. (No, I don’t want any real life party invitations, thank you!) I’m grateful to Sharon Sant and Louise Coquio who’ve been helping me in this regard, not least in how to use the different media properly. Half the time I was put off because it seemed like too much effort to learn how things worked and I have to confess I’m not the most patient of people in that respect. Still, we had an evening ‘Educating Storm’ so now I’m better equipped to chat, tweet, squawk or whatever.

Anyway, to news. I’m still hoping wistfully that I get time soon to do more work on my Wraeththu ghost story novel – the progress has been slow, because as usual Immanion Press, its accounts, and all the admin tasks just devour my time. However, I have found time to complete some short stories, which will be appearing in print soon. One which I’ve mentioned before is for Allen Ashley’s ‘Astrologica’ collection, coming out through Alchemy Press this autumn, and another is for Ian Whates’ ‘Looking Landwards’, again appearing this autumn through Ian’s Newcon Press. I’ve done another for Ian, for a collection due out next year and hope to find time to write a story for his Femme Fatale anthology, again for next year. Shorts are far easier to fit in between other work. I also want to write two for the ‘Para Kindred’ Wraeththu anthology, which will be published by Immanion Press. I’ve started work on the stories – one of which will be a completion of a piece I’ve had lying around for years, the other will be completely new. I’ve pushed deadlines and publication for this collection forward to next year, as some of the contributors are – like me – extremely pushed for time. We’ve had some great stories in already, so it’s looking good – it just needs an extension on deadlines. So it’s the end of February now for story submissions, with the idea of getting the book out before the summer.

I recently acquired a Kindle Fire and am loving it. I was a bit Luddite before, thinking nothing should replace the feel and smell of a real book, but I’ve absolutely run out of space for storing more books. Now it’s great being able to download whatever I want to read. I’ve found the device easy on the eye and – best of all – perfect for when I snuggle down on my sofa in the workroom for a sneaky half hour’s reading. (Who am I kidding? Erm… slightly more than half an hour.) The lack of light in that corner of the room makes it difficult to read with my cranky eyes (with my lenses in, I’m not short-sighted but long-sighted, yay), but of course a Kindle lights itself. Marvellous! I started downloading the works of old horror writers like Oliver Onions, E. F. Benson, Sheridan Le Fanu and so on, having found masses of cheap collections. I have to share one priceless little snippet – unfortunately not exactly word for word as I can’t remember which story it was in, but it made me laugh so much it stuck in my mind, so here’s the gist of it.
‘James, did you ride over on Grey Boy today?’
‘I did indeed, Anne.’
‘Splendid. I have some sugar for him in my muff.’

How times and the use of language have changed! I adore coming across these little gems that during their travel down the years have somewhat changed in meaning. Reading the ghost stories has been great for inspiration for my novel. One thing I love about the Victorian and Edwardian horror writers is that they didn’t rely on the shock value of gore and violence. The stories are genuinely creepy without a spilled gut in sight. Yes, nearly every one of them involves people living in vast, spooky mansions that hide terrible secrets, so generally the characters are affluent and privileged, but to me nothing can beat a massive haunted house with endless corridors and hidden locked rooms, and all those gruesome secrets from the past.

These are the collections I’ve read so far, which I can recommend:

Hauntings and Horrors, E. F. Benson
The Dead of Night, Oliver Onions
The Lady Chillers: Classic Ghost and Horror Stories by Women Writers

Still had at work on short stories, not least one I have to finish for a friend’s anthology, and also a couple for the new Wraeththu collection, ‘Para Kindred’. Wendy Darling, my co-editor, and I have announced it in a few places, but I’ll also do so here. The last two collections have been very successful, with great submissions.

Here’s the Call for Submissions text. Please feel free to circulate this.

Para Kindred: Call for Submissions

Following on from the Paragenesis and Para Imminence anthologies of Wraeththu Mythos stories, this new collection will focus upon the enigmas that might be found within the disparate tribes of this androgynous race – how Wraeththu might have – or will – develop in strange and unimagined ways.

We are calling for submissions to this anthology, of stories between 3,000 and 10,000 words. As with the former anthologies, we are mainly looking for pieces that do not involve characters from the original Wraeththu books, although such characters may have ‘cameo appearances’ if it suits the story. Writers who were included in the previous collections may also expand upon characters (or their descendants or ancestors) who they created for their earlier stories, if they so wish.

This collection gives writers a broad canvas for their ideas. Contributors can explore how the mutation from human to har might have unforeseen consequences; how new strains of hara might have come into being with unusual attributes; how tribes might have developed in hidden corners of the world that are vastly different to the mainstream population. Or even within ‘regular’ Wraeththu communities, harlings might be born who are different in some way, who might have additional mutations to their parents, thus taking them further away from their human progenitors.

Are hara as they exist within their world the ‘finished product’ or are they perhaps a stage on the way to further evolution? Or would some harlings born to hara be throwbacks to their earlier human roots? They are many avenues to explore, no matter how strange.

Please let us know if you are interested in contributing and provide a short synopsis of your idea, by mailing Storm at editorial (at) immanion-press (dot) com. The deadline for completed submissions is 31st August 2013. Contributors are welcome to submit more than one.

If you know of anyone who might like to contribute, please feel free to pass this document to them.

Other News:

I’m just putting the finished touches to the new cover for ‘The Way of Light’ the third book in my Magravandias trilogy. The books have been out of print for quite some time in the UK, and I’m glad to be able to republish them. I’ll be doing Kindle versions also in the near future. The printed copy will be available within the next couple of weeks.

I’ve had a story accepted for Allen Ashley’s ‘Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac’ anthology. The story is called ‘The Order of the Scales’ and was inspired by the zodiac sign Libra. Allen’s anthology is being published by Alchemy Press on 1st November 2013.

Another story has been accepted, but at the moment I can’t say where as the editor is still making choices over final submissions.

I had an ‘attic tidying’ session on my computer over the weekend, looking at a lot of my half-finished stories, notes about ideas for stories, novel synopses and so on. There are several ideas for novels that I just never took up, or other ideas took over so I had no time, and these to me are just wasted lying about doing nothing. I think a lot of them could work simply as short stories, so that even if the full length books never get written, at least the work I have done won’t go to waste. I also have a number of half-finished Wraeththu stories. For Para Kindred, I’m working on a new one, but there are also a few that could be finished to fit the theme. As before, I’ll aim to get two stories into the collection.

Sharon Sant’s young adult novel, ‘Runners’, is now out through Immanion Press. This is the first YA title we’ve done, so I’m hoping it’s the first of many. Sharon is really good at promoting her book, and tirelessly working to make sure people know about it. I wish I had her energy! Anyway, hoping this will have a really good effect on sales. ‘Runners’ is a science fiction/dystopia story, and will appeal to any readers of good writing, not just young adults. Here’s a link to it: http://www.immanion-press.com/info/book.asp?id=448&referer=Hp

The other new novel due within the next few days is John Kaiine’s reprint of his novel ‘Fossil Circus’. This is a dark and strange, but beautifully written horror novel, set in a disused mental asylum, which has been inherited by a group of previous inmates. As its editor, I was astonished at how John made me care about characters who are really quite repulsive in a lot of ways. You really do find youself rooting for them! Again, here’s a link: http://www.immanion-press.com/info/book.asp?id=450&referer=Catalogue