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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Free to a good home - Nowhere To Go

If anyone's interested in reviewing Nowhere To Go (or knows someone who might), I'm offering a free download (normally $2.99) copy of the book via Smashwords.

Drop me an email and I'll send you the code, which is valid for download until June 5th. Formats for all e-readers (Kindle, Nook etc.), or a pdf.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

CONVICTIONS by Julie Morrigan


Julie Morrigan has just published her first novel, CONVICTIONS (Amazon US | UK). I've not read it yet (review to come when I do, though), but I'm looking forward to it, because what I have read is Julie's collection of short fiction, GONE BAD (Amazon US | UK), and it's excellent: dark and gritty crime fiction with a distinct flavour of the north-east in general, and a wicked, black irony.

Give either of them a whirl. Both, even.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

99c or $2.99. $2.99 or 99c. It's the Beatles or the Stones, Lampard or Gerrard of the ebook world.

Everyone's got an opinion, and a lot of people confuse their opinion with The One True Way. I think so much might depend on context that there isn't One True Way.

It's interesting though to read the argument for either side when it's well put, and I'll link to one or two as I come across them. John Rickards puts a good case here for $2.99.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Wombles vs concrete cows

I used to hate Wimbledon. Ugly football, ugly footballers. And for the 1988 FA Cup. Particularly for the 1988 FA Cup. But for all their faults, they were a proper football team, around in one form or another since 1889.

Until, 2002 that is, when an FA commission saw fit to say yes to a scheme to move them over fifty miles away to a town with no connection to the team. Wimbledon FC became MK Dons (a truly shite 'franchise' name).

The supporters of Wimbledon FC were having none of it, and founded their own club, AFC Wimbledon. Fourteen years after Dave Beasant had lifted the FA Cup at Wembley, AFC Wimbledon started their first season in the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League.

A bunch of Wimbledon supporters got together, and founded the new club, majority owned by a supporters trust. Open trials were held over three days on Wimbledon Common, a team was selected, and Orinoco tidied up afterwards.

The FA in a remarkable, contemptible statement described the new club as 'not in the wider interests of football', but AFC Wimbledon progressed up the unglamorous FA pyramid that only gets mentioned when teams are patronised on Match of the Day in the early rounds of the FA Cup: first promotion into the Isthmian League First Division, then the Isthmian League Premier Division, then the Conference South, then the Conference National.

This weekend, most of the football news was about Man Utd, or about Birmingham and Blackpool. But something else happened: AFC Wimbledon beat Luton in the play-off final, and as of the start of the next season, are back in the Football League, playing in League Two (or the Fourth Division, as it was before the guardians of football who are hell bent on ruining the game renamed everything for no good reason other than their own hubris and stupidity).

It's a victory for the good things in football over the bad things in football (i.e. greed, and the people who use the game to pursue it). And if Wimbledon win promotion to League One…they'll play the MK Dons.

Now that's a grudge match. But not a derby.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

And I ride and I ride and I ride

I've been on a train a lot this weekend, and away from the family with a fair amount of time to kill. Although I listen to music on shuffle most of the time when I'm floating round town, for some reason when I'm travelling or wandering round a city away from home I tend to listen to albums, start to finish, often something that I haven't listened to for a while. The soundtrack to this weekend was:

Sonic Youth - Sister




Fela Kuti - The Best Best



Mogwai - Young Team




Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies



The Man Sitting Next To Me On The Train Home - muttering, swaying and hissing. Yes, hissing.

No video available. I don't think he would have taken it well.

Review - The Other Room by James Everington

I took a look at James Everington's website after I'd seen an invitation on Kindleboards to write a piece for it in defence of the short story (and yes, I have, will mention it here when it's the turn of my piece to go up there). I saw James had put together a collection of his own short fiction together for Kindle, and then I saw the words 'influences' and 'Robert Aickman' and that was it, bought.

And I'm very glad I did.

The best weird fiction (horror, dark fantasy, whatever - post coming on that topic soon) stays with you. The stories lurk in your mind, unsettling, disturbing, like a flicker of movement in the corner of your eye. It's tribute to the excellence of the stories collected in The Other Room that a number of them will do just that. 

I'm not a fan of stories that focus on shock or gore to try and provoke an emotional response; the thoughtful, literate and disturbing stories in this collection take a subtler approach, creating an atmosphere of unsettling unease in the same way  Aickman's stories do, creating a world just like this one, but evoking a dawning realisation that in some way that world is profoundly, terribly, wrong.

The stories are rooted in the mundane horrors of contemporary society, which both makes them more unsettling and introduces a thoughtful element of commentary. Highlights are the title story, where a character who thinks that he has little in life finds out how much he has to lose, the excellent First Time Buyers, a disturbing story which has the feel of Ramsey Campbell's best stories without ever being pastiche, and The Watchers which starts with the notion of the male gaze and takes it somewhere else entirely. The pale and faceless creations of this collection are haunting, and haunted.

Highly recommended. Amazon (US | UK) for Kindle, at the time of writing it's 99c/68p.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Confessions of a genre hopper.

Hello, my name is Iain, and I write crime fiction. My short stories have been published in magazines full of crime fiction, and a novel was short-listed for the Crime Writers’ Debut Dagger. I even – for a while, long story, another time – had a very good agent, who specialised in crime fiction.

So I’m a crime writer.

Except, of course, for the stories that I’ve had published that aren’t crime fiction at all, but inhabit the blurry intersection between horror, weird fiction, ghost stories, dark fantasy, call it what you will. Some of those stories have been long-listed for BFS awards, reprinted in horror anthologies(bear with me, there is a point to the more self-aggrandising parts of this), so they must be not-crime.

So, I can’t just say I’m a crime writer. A writer of crime fiction and…ok, let’s use horror as shorthand, even though it doesn’t really fit (but that’s another post).

Except, of course, for the young adult novel that I wrote a while back which is kind of horror, in a YA adventure sort of way, but also kind of coming of age, and very different in tone to the short fiction. It’s a YA novel, is what it is.

So I’m a…

I’m a restless, feckless nomad, is what I am. And this bothers me, and doesn’t bother me. I doesn’t bother me because I like to read across genres, and I like to write across genres because it’s fun and the moment all of this stops being fun, I stop doing it. But it bothers me because as well as being fun, I want to be read and I want to be published and I want to sell books, and I do wonder how much I have sabotaged my own progress by hopping across genres because that’s what I fancy writing, rather than doggedly working away, concentrating my fire, building a reputation and a presence in one genre.

Hence the immodest short-listed for this and reprinted in that, up above. None of it means that anything is guaranteed, far from it. But the gap between where I’m at and where I want to be narrowed, with some of that, particularly the Debut Dagger nomination which resulted in a year working alongside an agent and the thought that man, actually this could really happen. Of course, it didn’t, not then, but that’s life. What it did give me was the nagging thought that much to my surprise, I could actually do this. But my worry is, that to get there maybe I should have the dedication to devote myself monastically, chastely, to one thing.

The trouble with that is, the ideas. They come creeping in, right when they aren’t wanted, whispering in my ear, seductive and shiny. I’m working on a crime novel. That’s the cue for all kinds of ideas to do the Tom and Jerry devil on the shoulder routine: unsettling dark weird fiction; more YA; satirical political fiction, hell, why stop at satire. Write a sitcom. Write a screenplay. Write a radio play. Come over here where the grass is greener. This is your genre, not that. This is where you’ll find your best ideas, not there.

So, what it comes down to is, pick one. I’m sure it’s not just me who gets this, so how do you do it? How do you decide? Do you decide, or do you just write what seems most fun at the time, the hell with growing a platform and doing sensible things.

Could they beat up China MiƩville?

This blog will tell you the answer.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sample Sunday - Nowhere To Go

I came across the idea of Sample Sunday on David Gaughran's blog. It's a simple idea: post on Twitter with the hashtag #samplesunday, and link the post to a sample of your work.

At the end of this post is a sample from one of the short stories in my crime collection, Nowhere To Go. It's a few hundred words from the opening of the story which gives the collection its title, and which was first published in print a couple of years ago in Hitchcock's. If you enjoy it, and want to read on, you can find the collection on Amazon (US | UK | DE) or on Smashwords. For a full sample short story check out the Derringer award-winning short One Step Closer, which is available for free on Smashwords.


###


NOWHERE TO GO


Miller didn’t go out much now, because the more people there were, the lonelier he felt. He hid in his flat, watched TV, read the books that he had borrowed on quick, nervous expeditions to the library.
Sometimes though, he needed to remind himself that he was not alone. That night was one of those times. He had eaten a microwave meal and flipped channels but found nothing to watch that would not leave him either bored or anxious. So he pulled his battered laptop from under his sagging sofa, waited for it to grind into life, and then clicked on his bookmark.

He wandered at random at first: watched the endless press of people through Times Square, blurred streaks of light from car headlights on a rainy Kaiserplatz in Aachen, a solitary cyclist weaving from side to side across a bridge over the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. And then his town, the three public webcams that never showed much of any interest. But it was home, and it gave him a connection to the way that he used to live before the illness, and for a while it stopped the walls of his flat from pushing in too close.

Miller watched taxi drivers talking and smoking outside their cabs while they waited for the next train to come in. A man in a suit sprinted from the pub next to the station, late for his train. Miller clicked back, and then on to the link for the camera that overlooked the pier. Shapes bundled fat against the cold sat in darkness, waiting for the fish. A few feet below them a deeper darkness moved and surged. Miller preferred to watch the pier camera when the nights were lighter. When it was dark like this, the sea almost invisible but always moving, it made him anxious and a little sick. He went back again, picked the last link. This one had only appeared a few weeks earlier. He was not sure why anyone had put a camera there at all, let alone made the feed public. It wasn’t very reliable, sometimes there was a picture, sometimes just a page not found error.

The camera looked out over Burdon Square, a place that people went through, rather than to. A boarded-up Wesleyan chapel occupied most of one side, the short flight of stone steps to its door littered and stained. The wet asphalt of the road glowed orange from lights in the window of an interior design shop. Every few minutes, the light dimmed and changed into a different colour. Miller liked the orange best. Above and behind the shop, a high embankment curved away towards the distant Victorian arches of the station. Miller sat and watched, waiting for the light to change colour, because he had nothing else to do.

A movement caught his eye, something dark against the steps of the chapel. A man was standing there, as if he were looking for something that he had lost. The man turned, looked across the square, and Miller saw what had caught his attention. A woman hurried out of the square, unsteady on high heels, tugging down at the hem of her short black dress with one hand, clutching tight at her handbag with the other. Then there was movement above her, a train passing along the embankment, rectangles of pale yellow light flickering past for a moment, and then one final arc of blue as the overhead power cable sparked. The man took two steps back up the steps to the chapel, as if retreating from the square. A taxi drifted along the far side, slowed. The man stepped forward, raised a hand but the taxi accelerated away again, until it was just red lights, and then it was nothing at all.

The lights in the furniture shop window changed colour, warm orange to a sickly green that turned the air into thick water, deep under the sea.

They came from the alley at the side of the chapel, two of them, not particularly hurrying, walking towards the man. One wore a light coat, one a dark coat, and both pulled their hoods up as they walked. The man took a step out, then back, then stopped, no time any more, nowhere to go.
The figures did not seem to hurry, but they closed the gap very quickly, and then they were on him. One vicious punch to the gut dropped the man to his knees, and then a kick in the face threw him back on to the steps, where he flapped about like a fish just out of the water. Then there were more kicks, a stamp and then another, and then another, like they were trying to put out a fire, and the man on the ground did not move any more, and the two attackers suddenly broke away, drifted down the steps and out of sight, not hurrying any more than they had when they arrived.

Miller sat in horror, hand opening and closing over the mouse as if with one click he could pause time, with another rewind it. But there was nothing that he could do that would change anything. The light from the shop changed from green to red, and the square looked as if it was on fire. Miller took a deep breath, and hurried over to the phone on the kitchen wall. He took another breath and dialled.

He spoke to a calm voice, gave his name and address like a child lost in a store, and then described exactly what he had seen. He told the operator that he thought it best to phone the police first, but that they would need an ambulance too.

“I’ll get them straight there,” the woman said. “Can you tell me sir, is the victim conscious? Please don’t move him, but can you see if he is conscious?”

“I didn’t explain myself well,” Miller said. “I’m not actually there. I saw it on camera.”

“On camera, sir?”

“Yes, on my computer. I’m not a security guard or anything. It’s a public camera. You can watch it. On the computer.”

“Thank you sir,” the woman said, as if she didn’t understand what he meant but didn’t have the time to find out more. “We’ll send someone right away.”

When he went back to his computer, the browser had refreshed to an error page, the camera or the server down, and no matter how many times he clicked refresh, he could not get it back again.




###


Thanks for reading. You can read the rest of this story in Nowhere To Go, on Amazon (US | UK | DE) or on Smashwords. For a full sample short story check out the Derringer award-winning short One Step Closer, which is available for free on Smashwords.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Lawslessness

On Friday of last week, a woman was found guilty of breaking the rules so she could claim over £372,000 of public money to which she was not entitled. Her punishment: a ten month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

On Monday this week, a retired nurse in Leeds was found guilty of breaking the rules so she could claim over £37,000 of public money to which she was not entitled. Her punishment: sent to prison for four months.

On Thursday this week, an MP and recent Coalition Cabinet member David Laws was found guilty of breaking the rules so he could take nearly £60,000 of public money to which he was not entitled. His punishment: suspended from the House of Commons for seven days and forced to say "sorry", a punishment so harsh, so barbaric, that it may well contravene the provisions of the Human Rights Act in relation to torture.

MPs usually fight to be first in the queue up to condemn people who break the rules so that they can claim public money to which they are not entitled. Where Mr Laws is concerned though, it's more a case of being the first in the queue to say well, it's not that bad really and he's a thoroughly decent chap. Funny, that.

We are, of course, all in this together.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Police and thieves

Guest blog from me over at Keith Brooke's place, in which I talk about why I don't have detectives or anyone from the police as protagonists in my stories, why things in the margins and edgelands are more interesting (to be, ymmv etc), and the amazing automatic Cop-O-Tron.