Tag Archive: horror


As usual, time has galloped away, and now it’s nearly a year since I posted on my blog. As an excuse, I have been writing regular Immanion Press blog posts to keep people up to date with book releases.

I’ve been very busy this year, mainly working on ‘SHE: Primal Meetings with the Dark Goddess’, which I’ve co-written with long-standing friend and colleague, Andrew Collins. We’ve also got contributions from Deborah Cartwright, Maggie Jennings, Richard Ward and Caroline Wise and the book is fully illustrated. I’ve created some imaginary landscapes, and Danielle Lainton has brought many of the goddesses to life with wonderful pictures, reinterpreting the ancient deities in a vivid and dramatic style.

‘SHE’ began life a few years ago now, when I was thinking about publishing some of the pathworkings and rituals that Andy and I have worked on together over the years. While I was collating all of this material, and during discussions with Andy, we realised we had another – and perhaps better – book on our hands. There’s a tendency within modern Paganism to reimagine certain ancient goddesses, usually by making them less dangerous or ferocious, over-writing their less comfortable aspects with the qualities of a benign, nurturing goddess. A prime example of this is The Morrigan, originally a figure of Celtic myth associated with war and the fate of kings, but now said by some to be a mother goddess. The historical evidence for this is scanty, circumstantial and open to interpretation, or rather the preferences of the individual. While we understand why people perform these ‘rebootings’, because the mother goddess to them is a very positive figure, we feel that it undermines the authentic nature of such entities. It hides or diminishes what they originally meant to people and why they were created to interact with a certain part of nature and life.

‘SHE’ investigates the primal versions of goddesses who are (or were originally) often thought of as ‘dark’. We can see no reason why such powerful entities, from whom we can learn a great deal about the human condition, should have their claws and teeth pulled and be presented as limpid maidens or smiling mothers. This – to us – seems like a form of female castration. These strong feminine archetypes deserve to retain their original meaning and powers. It doesn’t make them any less relevant to modern practitioners – in our opinion, quite the reverse. There are plenty of mother goddesses and pretty maidens out there for people who want them.

The book examines thirty goddesses, demonesses and females of myth – some of them quite well known, such as Hecate and Lilith, others more obscure such as Breksta and Akhlys.  They illustrate our fears and our secrets desires. They encapsulate how Nature was regarded as a wild and unpredictable force to be appeased by people of earlier times.

‘SHE’ includes an essay on each of these goddesses, accompanied by a vivid pathworking to meet them in visualisation. All of them have a ‘dark’ side to their nature, some darker than others. We hope that people who buy the book and perform the pathworkings will gain insight into their own inner lives. It’s been great fun – as well as an important learning experience – working on the book and I can’t wait for its release in December. We will be having a launch event for it in Stafford, co-hosted by Hart Magical Gifts, which is owned by Maggie Jennings, one of the contributors to the book.

The cover is by Brom and there’s a preview below – this is not the final version, as there is still work to be done on the text.

She Taster

Here also are some tasters of the interior illustrations by Danielle Lainton – a goddess from the Preface and an illustration of Eris, the goddess of chaos and disorder. (Eris looks a little like Danni – I’m not sure if this is deliberate 😉 ):

‘SHE’s launch event will also be shared by ‘Vivia’, the latest of our Tanith Lee re-releases, originally published in 1995. As I’ve been copy-editing this book one thing struck me profoundly, even though I’ve read it before: Tanith was writing grimdark fantasy even before it existed as a genre. ‘Vivia’ is a dark and unsettling tale, which gets darker and grimmer as the story progresses. It starts with Vivia, the daughter of a barbaric, brutish lord, discovering something very weird in a deep, forgotten chamber, far below her father’s castle – an entity trapped in the rock. Is it a god, a demon or simply a peculiar sculpture? With her mother dead (carelessly murdered by her father), her nurse a far from mothering presence, and with no friends, Vivia escapes often to this dank, abandoned underworld, where her imagination takes over, especially concerning its possible supernatural resident. Could something be living down there, or is it only in her mind? When war and plague strike the kingdom simultaneously – described in as much graphic detail as any typical Game of Thrones fan could want – Vivia’s life inevitably has to change.

The golden prince Zulgaris who comes to the ravaged castle is hardly a rescuer – golden only in his physical appearance, he matches Vivia in darkness of nature. Their relationship is perverse, and Zulgaris encourages Vivia into habits and hungers she’s only just beginning to understand. This has no 50 Shades of … urgh sentiment or codswallop, if anyone reading this was starting to think that; ‘Vivia’ is gritty, brutal and uncompromising. I can’t say I particularly like any of the characters in the book, even the innocent victims, but by all the gods I believe in them. It presents humans at their very, most selfish worst: an incredibly realistic vision of a savage, unjust world in all its stinking, blood-soaked glory. And despite how you might wince at what goes on, you want to know more. It feels almost like a guilty pleasure. Just how can this story end?

Here’s a preview of the cover by John Kaiine:

Vivia Web.jpg

I’m also working on a fiction project of my own at the moment – which I’m developing from ‘The Emptiness Next Door’, a story that appeared in the latest ‘Para Spectral’ Wraeththu Mythos anthology, I co-edited with Wendy Darling.

The tale was inspired by an old ghost story I read – I’ll write more about that nearer the book’s release – but I realised my adaptation of this was far more than a short story. Fortunately, I found a way to finish the piece as a novella, so it could be included in ‘Para Spectral’ but there’s a lot more I have to tell, which takes it far from the piece that originally inspired it.  The novel is set in Ferelithia, and in the longer version, includes a very minor character from ‘The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit’ in Karn, one of the musicians from Rue’s band. Rue, of course, (for those familiar with the Wraeththu Mythos) went on to much greater things as the first trilogy progressed and Ferelithia was left behind. This new story reveals how the settlement was originally set up – or rather a town was appropriated from the remaining human population – and how Wraeththu victory was ensured by dangerous dealings with weird entities of the landscape. Things got out of control but were contained. However, the seals are weakening, and a catalyst reawakens the past. Karn is now a respectable pillar of the community, holding a high position in public office. Few know about his earlier life, or where he rose from. In order to deal with the current threat, the past might have to be revealed and some hara have reasons for not wanting that to occur.

That’s the basic background, and against that I have the stories of the main characters, with their own secrets, desires, problems – and hauntings. I’m enjoying writing the story very much. I had intended to release it this year, but in order to do it justice I might need more time, so I’m not committing myself either way. If it’s ready to join ‘SHE’ and ‘Vivia’ for the December launch, great, but I’m not fretting that it might not be. It’ll be ready when it’s done. 😊

Ruby did a wonderful cover for ‘Para Spectral’ based on my story, and she’ll be doing something different for the full length novel. In the meantime, here’s a version of the ‘Para Spectral’ art, without any lettering on it. The character could be Leupardra, the vanished witch-pard, or Seladris, the unfortunate har now inhabiting a house in Ferelithia, haunted by the past and the legend of the Blue Leopard.

Leupardra Web

If anyone reading this post is interested in reviewing any of the books mentioned, I can send you a review PDF and hi res jpgs of the covers in November. Please mail me at editorial(at)immanion-press(dot)com

 

 

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Book News

Immanion Press’s first blog hop is now over, bar selecting a winner of the competition. It was interesting to try this way to promote Para Kindred, and I’ll certainly do similar promotions for future Wraeththu anthologies. Thanks to Nerine Dorman and Shauna Knight for their help and advice on this procedure!

As far as the Wraeththu Mythos is concerned, my own current novel, ‘The Moonshawl’, is edging towards its climax. I’ve got to a part now where I really have to put myself inside Ysobi’s head and think, ‘ok, what would this character do next, credibly?’ He’s acquired a lot of needed information about the mystery he’s investigating; now he needs to take action. But as to which other characters are with him on this final stage I’ve yet to decide – or maybe I should let the character decide simply through the writing.

I’m happy to report that we have Wraeththu Mythos novels by other writers on the horizon, from Wendy Darling and anthology contributor E S Wynn. Wendy, of course, has been involved in the Mythos for many years, and was the co-author of ‘Breeding Discontent’ as well as co-editor on all the Mythos anthologies. Her novel ‘Angry City’ explores the early days of Wraeththu, as does Earl’s ‘Hollow Hills’. Both of these books will present gritty visions of the mythos, and I’m really looking forward to reading the completed manuscripts.

Para Kindred contributor Nerine Dorman is also working on ideas for a mythos novel set in South Africa. I loved the story she gave us for PK so again I’m really looking forward to what she’ll come up with for a novel. I’ll post news about that once she’s worked out a plot line for it.

Wendy and I are currently swapping ideas for the theme of the next Wraeththu Mythos anthology. So all in all, things are looking interesting for the future of Wraeththu.

Short Stories

Happy to say that my story ‘The Saint’s Well’ was accepted by editor David Barrett for his ‘Mammoth Book of Tales from the Vatican Vaults’. I believe this will be out next year, but will give more details when I know for sure. I really enjoyed writing this story and am glad to appear in the excellent line up David has secured for this satisfyingly fat collection!

A Storm Constantine ‘Imaginings’ short story collection is in the pipeline with Ian Whates’ Newcon Press. This is scheduled for mid 2015. The collection will include a few previously published but uncollected stories (none that have appeared in Newcon Press anthologies), and also a selection of new pieces.

Currently Reading…

I’m a fan of ghost stories and have been reading some of the Dark Terrors collections. I’m not a fan of gore, however, and am somewhat disappointed sometimes that well set-up stories then conclude with the cop-out, typical horror ending: ‘the protagonist is murdered in horrible detail by whatever supernatural thing is in the story’. Some of the best stories are brave enough to do something different. After reading Liz Hand’s ‘Near Zennor’, I had to order her own collection ‘Errantry’ that includes it. What I loved about Liz’s story is that it’s supernatural, eerie, but also credible. The supernatural part is just ‘off centre reality’ enough to be believable. Also beautifully written. I’ve just started reading ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn, but Liz’s book is next on my reading list.

I’ve also got into Simon Kurt Unsworth’s work, firstly through his book ‘Quiet Houses’, which I got for my Kindle and then through other pieces of his in anthologies I’ve read. I loved ‘Quiet Houses’, not least because one of my greatest loves in supernatural fiction is haunted houses. The protagonist (a paranormal investigator) at one point investigates a haunted Victorian public toilet! I believe Simon has a new collection in store, which I’ll also be quick to order. Evocative writing, interesting new slants on the haunted house. I posted a link today on my FB page concerning creepy photos of abandoned buildings, such as hotels, amusements parks and asylums. They could well illustrate Simon’s ‘Quiet Houses’.

Cats… Well, There Has to be Cats

New girl Pashti has discovered a new pastime – net curtain climbing. To Pashti, I imagine the navigation of our half window net curtains in the living-room is the equivalent of some perilous jungle vine network. She swings herself around, generally in pursuit of moths, throwing herself onto the tiny ledge of the sash window’s ledge, wobbling precariously, sometimes falling, only to rescue herself with a timely grab of the nets, then to swing wildly as she scrambles to safety on the thin ledge again. From outside, our nets now appear full of rents and tears, lending the house a rather Steptoe ambience! I learned today from friend and neighbour Danielle Lainton, who lives opposite me, that several neighbours on the opposite side of the road have been observing Pashti’s antics with amusement. She provides street entertainment, it seems. Someone said to Danni: ‘Has your friend Storm got a new cat? A sort of mottled, weird looking animal?’ Yes, that must be Pashti, lol. People who aren’t familiar with orientals don’t quite understand her exquisite beauty. Our friend Bob Forse called round yesterday. Pashti’s greeting to him was to launch herself from the ground right onto his chest, all claws out, and cling there. He said, ‘you’ve been feeding her after midnight and got water on her, haven’t you?’ She is rather a little gremlin, bless her, but despite the injuries she inflicts on guests, everyone loves her. She’s clearly worked out that climbing people, or destroying parts of the home, if accompanied by ecstatic purring, means she doesn’t get chastised.

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.

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