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Monday, 27 June 2011

Principles? Yeah, I remember them.

Gove told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: "I do worry that taking industrial action, being on the picket line, being involved in this sort of militancy will actually mean that the respect in which teachers should be held is taken back a little bit."




Writers Talk About Writing - Julie Morrigan

(Once you've finished reading what Julie's got to say, check out the whole series of interviews here)


Julie Morrigan ran away to join the circus aged four and three-quarters and is a world-renowned tiger tamer and gibbon-wrangler with her own whip and chair. She single-handedly conquered Everest one morning last week and went on to cross the Gobi desert in the afternoon. She makes things up for a living, and rambles on about it here: http://gonebadonlinestories.blogspot.com/

And, fortunately given that this is an interview and it would be a rubbish one otherwise, here too.

We're in a lift, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book.

Convictions’ (US) is the story of Tina, a kid who sneaks off to see a boy band with her little sister, Annie. Needless to say it all goes badly wrong, with the outcome that Annie is abducted. Tina has to deal with her guilt, a mother who is verging on the psychotic, manipulation and religious mania. Meanwhile the search to find Annie - dead or alive - continues. All good fun!


Uh-oh. Not sure lifts are meant to stop suddenly between floors like this. Guess we've got a bit more time. Ignore the flickering lights and creaking sounds above us. Would you like to tell me about other books or stories that you have available?

I’ve had lots of short stories published in print and online, so I took the opportunity to pull some of them together into a collection, which I published as an ebook in March. ‘Gone Bad’ (US) is dark, sweary and violent and has been described (by Mr Paul D Brazill) as ‘kitchen sink noir’, which I love. Paul goes on to clarify that ‘the kitchen sink is blocked with fast food, cheap blow, lager and blood'.


Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

I’m finishing off a novel about a 70s rock band with a history of secrets and lies. Lots of musical references, bad behaviour and dead bodies. Hopefully it’s also funny.

In addition, I also plan to publish this year a second collection of short crime fiction and one of short horror stories. The latter will be based around ‘The Black Dog’, a story about a cursed book that won Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society’s ‘Phantoms at the Phil’ ghost story competition last year.

(The Lit and Phil's a wonderful place, if you're ever in Newcastle, check it out - Ed.)


You set a lot of your fiction in very familiar territory for both of us. Is the sense of place very important to you, and do you think the north-east is fertile ground for crime fiction?

I love the north east, it’s a brilliant place. It has a very colourful history, which might explain why there are quite a few crime writers writing in and about the region. One thing that has always struck me as odd - certainly about parts of Sunderland - is how a ‘bad’ area can be just a stone’s throw removed from a ‘good’ area. That brings very different types of people in close proximity on a daily basis, and that can be very handy for generating conflict.


Most of your characters are on the wrong side of the law, or at best, teetering on the brink. What draws you to these stories, and could you ever see yourself writing a police procedural?

Rogues and rascals are always interesting, I think. There’s no story in someone who just goes to work, comes home, pays all their bills on time and doesn’t cheat on their spouse or partner. Shake things up a little - maybe they’re mugged, or their spouse or partner cheats on them, or they lose their job unfairly and can’t pay their bills, and you’re getting somewhere. Focus on the bad lads (and lasses) from the start and you can’t go wrong.

As far as police procedurals go, I’ve read plenty of them in my time so it’s not that I dislike them, but I never had the slightest intention of ever writing one. Then I started writing Convictions, and the police - who were supposed to be bit part players, there of necessity - started taking over. It isn’t a traditional police procedural, but the police are in it a fair old bit. I can’t imagine writing anything like that again, but as a general rule, I never say never.


Gone Bad was a collection of fast-moving stories that were like a short, swift punch. Do you think your style has had to change in writing Convictions, your novel?

Funnily enough, all the longer pieces I’ve written have tended to be in a more laid back style. That’s never been a conscious decision, it’s just how it worked out. I’d love to write a novel that travelled at the same sort of speed as the shorter pieces. I’ll have to have a serious shot at that! (Maybe a novella as a stepping stone … that might be interesting to do.)


Can you remember what made you sit down to write your first story?

I started writing my first novel when I was seven. A friend’s mam gave us an old typewriter, a big, heavy, impressive-looking Imperial, and it seemed to me to be a sign that I should write something ambitious. The novel remains unfinished. I still have the typewriter.


What book do you most wish that you had written?

Probably The Grifters by Jim Thompson. Hell, ANYTHING by Jim Thompson!


You're publishing ebooks now - have you learned anything in that process?

Well, the same rules apply, up to point of publication: write the best book you can, get feedback from people who will tell you when you’ve gone wrong or can do better, and proofread your finished manuscript carefully. I’ve learned about formatting and I’m learning about promotion. The hardest thing is actually getting your book noticed in amongst all the others people are offering, and read by those people who might enjoy it.


Do you do much promotion for your books? What do you think is the most effective thing you've done?

I find this aspect of publishing the most difficult by far. Interviews like this are good fun, I enjoy them and I appreciate the chance to do them. I blog and I mention stuff on Facebook and Crimespace, although I try not to just bang on about my own stuff. It gets really boring when people do that! Activity on the Amazon forum I’m less good at. I try to do something every few days - which is probably less than I should be doing. I can’t bring myself to use Twitter. It’s early days yet, so I’m not sure what’s the most effective. I like to think it all helps a little, and I’m in this for the long haul, so I hope over time I’ll really see a benefit.


Are you 'out' as a writer of fiction with work colleagues/family, and if so, what reaction did you get?

Yes, I think most people know now. I don’t have any family to speak of and I work from home, but I have a fantastically supportive partner (Steven Miscandlon, who doubles as my Take No Nonsense Editor) and some smashing friends, and there’s a terrific online writing community to share stuff with. For the most part, the reaction is just one of acceptance, which is great.


Gibbons or tigers? (NB this question is to help me in compiling my List of People Who Are Wrong).

Oh, both. See above. ;p
(Hmm. Put you down as both right and very, very wrong, then. Ed.)


No denying you’re getting on a bit, girl. So what music do you want played at your funeral?

I’ve actually thought about this! I was pretty ill some years back and decided then I wanted to go through the curtains at the crem to ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’. Since then I’ve had a rethink and it’s currently between My Morning Jacket’s ‘I think I’m going to hell’, The Flaming Lips’ ‘Ego-tripping at the gates of hell’ and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’. (You might feel you can see a theme developing here.) In reality, I should think it’ll be something by Led Zeppelin. Not ‘Stairway…’, obviously, but maybe ‘Ramble on’. Hopefully not for a while yet, though!


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Six buttons and a fruit machine token

Keith Brooke (or is that Keith? Or Brooke? Brooke Keith, maybe) takes on a publisher who is offering a 10% royalty for ebook publication.

Yes, you read that right.

10%.

To the author.

On an ebook.

Monday, 20 June 2011

"A great cow, full of ink"

In the interval between posts on Writers Talk About Writing, something to lower the tone - Writers Insult Writers.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

short story, free to a good home

Head on over to Smashwords in the next day or two if you fancy a free copy of my short story, Lilies. Get it while it's hot. No, not hot like that. Unless you have a thing about dead people. In which case, get it while it's cold would be more of a catch, wouldn't it.


Writers talk about writing - Keith Brooke

(Once you've finished reading what Keith's got to say, check out the whole series of interviews here.)

If you've enjoyed an ebook of mine, then you have Keith Brooke to thank. If you didn't enjoy it, I'll forward on letters of complaint too. Keith turned some fairly idle speculation on my part into the actual intention to do something about it, and through infinity plus ebooks, published Nowhere To Go. I've known Keith almost as long as I've been writing, and he's always been a source of encouragement and sage advice (anything you want to know about herbs, he's yer man), so it's a genuine pleasure to feature Keith in the next of this series of interviews.

For ten years, Keith ran infinity plus, one of the best resources on the web for sf and fantasy fiction. By the time it was put into hibernation in 2007 (although all the content is still up there), infinity plus contained over two million words of fiction, a thousand book reviews, and a hundred interviews.

As well as running infinity plus ebooks, Keith is the author of a dozen novels, more than 70 short stories and a whole bunch of non-fiction, including regular book reviews for The Guardian. He also has incredibly ticklish feet, as he confirmed shortly before completing this interview. In between all of this, he somehow finds the time to
blog..

We're in a lift, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book.

There's a boy, see. Teenager. Bullied. Lives in a seaside town. Lost his sister a couple of years ago, resulting in his parents splitting up. Not convinced yet? Well... he escapes the bullying by retreating into a world of fantasy. Which is all very well, if not particularly healthy, until his fantasy world starts to take over the real one. Then things get messy. The novel's called The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie. Half a minute, you say? Well I can talk fast.

Uh-oh. Not sure lifts are meant to stop suddenly between floors like this. Guess we've got a bit more time. Ignore the flickering lights and creaking sounds above us. Would you like to tell me about other books or stories that you have available?


Did I mention that I'm scared of heights? Or rather, falling from great heights... This lift's not going to fall, is it? Books. Okay. For those of you lucky enough to have Kindles (or other e-readers), I have five volumes of collected short fiction available: Liberty Spin, Memesis, Segue, Embrace and Faking It. All kinds of stories, from hard SF, through cyberpunk and near-future thriller to fantasy, horror and the plain weird. Each story has a specially written afterword, and I've even thrown in a handful of previously unpublished stories.



Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

Oh, you know, I'm taking it a bit easy at the moment. I've just finished a new novel called Tomorrow using my Nick Gifford pen-name (that's the name I use for my teen fiction). I'm working on a big novel crammed full with aliens called alt.human (check out the cover - Ed.). And I'm putting the finishing touches on a non-fiction book I've edited called Strange Divisions and Alien Territories: The Sub-genres of Science Fiction. That one looks at the genre from the perspective of a dozen practising authors, including Kristien Kathryn Rusch, Paul di Filippo, Alastair Reynolds and Catherine Asaro. And I keep coming back to compiling notes for a mainstream novel I'd really like to get to next.

[Ought to get off your backside and get some work done, you slacker. Ed.]


This year, you've started publishing ebooks through the infinity plus imprint. How's it gone, and where would you like to take it? What's coming up next?

We have sixteen full-length books out so far, from Eric Brown, Anna Tambour, John Grant, Kaitlin Queen, Neil Williamson, me, and a certain Iain Rowan (who also has an excellent - and free - short ebook out from us, too). Last weekend all sixteen titles were in various top 100s at Amazon UK, some of them in two or three top 100s. Not too shabby. The response has been fantastic, and it's great to see how the list is building.

For me, it started as a bit of an experiment. Particularly in the UK, the ebook market is only starting to take off and it offers authors a number of alternative models to conventional publishing. It's interesting to see what happens when authors take back control of their work. They can get it spectacularly wrong, but also there have been some notable successes. At infinity plus we're pursuing a collective model: a bunch of authors getting together to see how we can make this market work for us. Given our initial success, I think infinity plus is in transition from an author dabbling to becoming a serious publishing imprint. I don't think we'll ever supplant the major publishers, and I wouldn't want to. Instead, the model for the next few years is likely to involve authors building up portfolios: infinity plus authors will continue to work with the big publishers, but will also be bringing out back-list and less obviously commercial titles either independently or through imprints like infinity plus.


SF novels, SF short stories, YA novels, Ebook publishing. A marathon. Two questions: how the hell do you find the time, and would you like another opportunity to plug the charity for which you ran the Edinburgh marathon?

What, alongside the book reviewing and other non-fiction work and having a day job, you mean? I guess I must have developed strategies over the years. I make the most of every opportunity. If I catch myself between meetings or with free time on journeys or at lunchtime I'll write in notebooks, on my phone, on scraps of paper, etc. Give me a couple of hours and I can sometimes hit two thousand words of new material if I'm in the thick of a novel. It's not easy, but I love it.

The marathon: I had a fantastic time, and have raised over £1200 so far for Epilepsy Action. They've been a big help to my daughter Molly over the years and I thought it was time for a bit of pay back. The marathon was a couple of weeks ago, and I can take online donations through www.justgiving.com/keith-brooke until 22 August.


You've been successful in writing both adult SF, and young-adult horror. How do you decide what kind of story to work on next - is it what sells, or the story that interests you, or something else?

Much to the frustration of my agent, who occasionally reminds me that I should be more career-minded, I tend to write whatever grabs me next. Hence the constant switching between genres and audiences. Not to mention the mainstream novel I have lined up next. I haven't mentioned that one to my agent, yet. I think I'll need to break it to her gently.


In your own writing, what do you think you do well, and what do you wish you could do better?

Such a hard one to answer! I think I have a good sense of overall story and pace, and my stories tend to strike a good balance between the big picture and the intimate, personal stories of my characters; that's a real challenge with the current novel, setting a very personal story against a vast backdrop. I don't think I have a general "wish I could do better". For me it's more a case of wanting to tell each story as well as I possibly can, and each time I finish one knowing that I haven't quite managed it yet. And god, but it'd be dull if I thought there was no room for improvement!


Can you remember what made you sit down to write your first book or story?

It was a dark and stormy night. No really, it was! To be more specific, it was a wet week in Yorkshire when the village shop had a supply of trashy horror novels. I devoured them, enjoyed them, and at the same time started noting down ideas for how I would have done them differently. That's when I realised that actually writing stories was an option and maybe I should give it a go. And look where it got me.


Do you have a book or story that you're very fond of, but you think should get more attention from the world than it has.

Two. Genetopia came out in hardback in 2006, but for various complicated reasons has not yet had a paperback edition. I'd love to get that out to a larger audience. And The Unlikely World of Faraway Frankie came out from the excellent indie press Newcon; again, it'd be great to get a mass market edition out for that one.


Print publishing is a doomed but still predatory dinosaur rotting from the feet up. Ebook publishing is the vomiting out of the world's slushpiles onto the market. In the ongoing war of words and hyperbole, where's the happy medium to be found? Where do you think the publishing business is heading over the next few years, and what are you doing to be ready for it?

A big shake-up! The success of some indie authors has illustrated how conventional publishing has to become more responsive, more fluid. Readers don't swallow arguments justifying ebook prices that can be higher than the print equivalent. And they're willing to put up with poorly edited, often poorly written books that make up for their flaws with gusto and energy and sheer storytelling verve. Which isn't to say that publishers should stop bothering about editing and production values, but perhaps they should be paying more attention to what it is that these indies have that is grabbing the readers. In many cases it's as simple a formula as: good writer + substantial list of titles available + writer's good social media profile + books cheap enough to make it worth the gamble = success in ebooks.

Beyond the big commercial successes in e-publishing, we're seeing far more opportunities for niche markets to be viable. Short story collections are a good example of this: the big commercial publishers rarely put out collections, but with ebooks we can do so; not just conventional collections, but shorter books - sets of three or four linked stories that would never be viable as print editions, for example.


Do you do much promotion for your books? What do you think is the most effective thing you've done?

I've tried various forms of promotion, both for my own work and for the books we publish through infinity plus. It's very hard to pin down what works adn what doesn't, though. A successful initiative might lead to a surge in sample downloads from Amazon, which isn't something we can measure as they don't release this data; actual sales could take weeks to materialise.

For an author, the best thing is to write your best work and get titles out. Build up some momentum. Being active in social media, embracing the social aspect of it rather than just using it as a platform to bellow BUY MY BOOK!, can be effective, as can blogging, interviews, personal appearances, etc.

I think the single-most effective thing I've done is work through a collective like infinity plus rather than going it alone: authors benefit by helping each other and, just as in the early days of the infinity plus website, we share each other's readers around.

If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Push. Push yourself to make every word the right word. Push yourself to make every sentence better, every paragraph better. Push your story so that every peak is higher, every trough lower; push your characters so that they suffer more and have greater challenges, so that their triumphs will be greater. If you're serious about being a writer, you're going to be up against a lot of alternatives for readers' attention: your priority has to be to deliver your very best.

If you could tell an aspiring piece of writer to ignore one commonly given piece of advice, what would it be?

"Write what you know." Chris Fowler wrote a brilliant guest editorial for Postscripts a few years ago where he railed against this one. What a dull world it would be if we only ever wrote about what we knew! Write what you imagine! Make stuff up! Push boundaries.

Today

Basho: The Complete Haiku
Obligatory slippers -
Father's Day

Saturday, 18 June 2011

flash fiction - Search History

"internet dating"

"what to wear on a first date"

"seduction techniques"

"italian restaurants"

"cheap rooms" travel lodge "Sandfrith area"

"love at first sight"

"how soon is too soon to propose?"

"engagement rings"

"engagement rings" platinum

"engagement rings" platinum "interest free credit"

"engagement rings" gold

"how not to be overbearing in relationship"

"wedding venues"

what does it mean partner want space

"sales conference PAQM Consulting UK" Grestbrough attendees

"sales conference PAQM Consulting UK" agenda "time finished"

"ten signs your partner is seeing someone else"

"hotels, Grestbrough area"

"how trace call hung up no answer"

"anger management tips" online

"how I can recover deleted texts from Nokia?"

"keylogger for windows how do I"

"private detection agencies"

strategies to keep temper

how to keep calm

twenty ways to keep your cool

anger management

confront partner cheating what say

confront partner cheating how keep temper

anger management

anger management

plastic sheeting

woodchipper hire

"industrial bleach"

"carpet cleaning services" Sandfrith

"best prices sell gold engagement ring"



"internet dating"

The horror. The horror.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Writers talk about writing: James Everington

(Once you've finished reading what James has got to say, check out the whole series of interviews here.)
James Everington is a self-published writer of dark, surreal horror stories. After keeping his writing to himself for many years, he's still got that surprised, slightly stunned look of a newbie who's found that a few people, at least, seem to like what he's doing. You can find his blog here.

We're in a lift, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book.

The Other Room (UK link) is my debut collection of short horror fiction, containing twelve stories of the uncanny and the surreal. I enjoy the unexplained, the psychological, and the ambiguous in my weird fiction, and that is the kind of story I try and write.

My main literary influences are writers like Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson, and Robert Aickman. Non-literary influences on some of the stories include anonymous hotel rooms, the credit crunch, Radiohead, and the scientific thought-experiment Schrodinger’s Cat.

Uh-oh. Not sure lifts are meant to stop suddenly between floors like this. Guess we've got a bit more time. Ignore the flickering lights and creaking sounds above us. Would you like to tell me about other books or stories that you have available?

There's not much yet to be honest; there's a few stories of mine scattered around small-press magazines, and then another called
Feed The Enemy that's published as an ebook by Books To Go Now. I didn't really plan for that one to get published as it did, but it's been a useful learning experience for when I came to put The Other Room out.

Feed The Enemy is slightly different from a lot of my stories, as it's about terrorism, or more accurately the psychological effects that constant distortion of the terrorist threat by certain sections of the press and government might have on some one.

Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

Two things really. One is the sequel to The Other Room, which will be a second collection of short, dark stories. They're mostly already written, although some need a nip and tuck, and a few major surgery. I held a few stories back from The Other Room to have them ready for number two - I don't want to be like one of those bands whose second album is so obviously rushed and cobbled together.

But before that, I'm probably going to put out a novella which I'm not sure would work in either collection. It's still horror but a bit more commercial Stephen King-y horror. It's basically something I wrote over fifteen years ago when I was about seventeen I guess. It's very badly written, basically. But the plot seemed to me quite sound. So the idea is to keep the youthful freshness and storyline, but make the writing more focused and tight. If I can make it work I think it could be really good... It's called The Shelter; you heard it here first kids.

Your short stories in The Other Room are unsettling and disturbing. What scares you most in fiction?

I'm not a big fan of the gore, gore, overt violence and more gore school of horror writing - not out of any moral squeamishness, just because I don't think it works very well artistically. I'm more of a creeping dread man myself.

I like the kind of horror writing which starts with a nagging sense that something is wrong, and that off-key feeing is built upon the author. And I like it when this wrongness is not necessarily just a monster or psycho running amok (although monsters are cool), but represents something wrong in the character's psyche or how the reader thinks the world is. Basically I like a good mixture of creepiness, blood, and pretentiousness...

I'm also of the opinion that, with some obvious exceptions, horror works best at short story length than as a novel.

'Horror' is such a broad genre: Aickman at one end, Shaun Hutson at the other, and sparkly vampires in between. Where do you think the genre is going over the next few years?

It is broad, and I think this causes problems - most people seem to assume horror is just Shaun Hutson (or more likely his cinematic equivalents) and the sparkly vampires. Robert Aickman & Co. don't seem to get much of a look in, sadly.

As to where it's all going, I've no idea. My selfish hope is that the literate, surreal, creepy end of the horror spectrum becomes ascendant, and I could kid myself that there's signs of this actually happening (Ligotti seems to be getting more notice; eBooks providing a natural home for short horror stories) but I'm probably wrong. The sparkly vampires are probably winning.

Your stories seem very rooted in place, whether named or not. Is that important to you?

It's interesting you ask that, because I've never thought that depicting location was one of my strong points as a writer. At least not in the objective, realistic depiction of an actual place, like Joyce's Dublin or whatnot.

I guess what I try and do is focus the description of the character's surroundings so that everything reflects their fears or misgivings - like Poe said, everything in a short story needs to work together, and I try hard at that. It's like that cliché about buying a new car, and suddenly seeing that model of car everywhere - your mind filters reality to fit your preconceptions, and that's how I think place and weather and other trappings should operate in a good short story. They show you how the central character is filtering their reality. And hopefully that's why my characters and their fates seem very rooted in their location, even if it is nameless.

In your own writing, what do you think you do well, and what do you wish you could do better?

I wish I had more variety and range to be honest - I've tried to write in different genres and at novel length but it never seems to work out. All I seem able to do is write short stories which are either fairly dark or very dark. I suppose I should be content with that - you can only piss with the dick god gave you after all.

Print publishing is a doomed but still predatory dinosaur rotting from the feet up. Ebook publishing is the vomiting out of the world's slushpiles onto the market. In the ongoing war of words and hyperbole, where's the happy medium to be found? Where do you think the publishing business is heading over the next few years, and what are you doing to be ready for it?

I doubt anyone knows the answer to this! And as long as good books keep getting written and can find at least some kind of audience it probably doesn't matter. I think there's several key things that people don't know yet which will determine how the publishing business changes:

  • will eReaders and eBooks achieve the same kind of market penetration as digital music formats or will print books still remain a prominent feature of the market?
  • will people with eReaders use them to read the same kind of books as they have been doing so, or will they change what they read and buy more small-press and self-published works?
  • is the torrent of self-published books being released due to the fact that every wannabe writer is self-publishing all their rejected manuscripts from the last twenty years at the same point in time, or will the volumes grow and grow? And if the latter, how will readers sort through the dross?

What book do you most wish that you had written?

I'm not sure wishing to have written a whole book someone else did is particularly healthy, but the first paragraph of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House is as close to perfection as you can get.

I also wish I'd written the line "He turned round slowly, like a fridge door opening" from one of the Dirk Gently books by Douglas Adams. I find it hard to think of a better placed comma in all of literature.

Do you do much promotion for your books? What do you think is the most effective thing you've done?

I do the usual for a self-published author: I
blog, I tweet, I annoy people on various forums and message boards.

I think the one thing that helps unknown authors like me get going is a recommendation or good review from someone who isn't also a self-published writer. The biggest spikes I've had in sales have been when I've been reviewed somewhere like
Red Adept, which are seen as objective, 'real' reviews.

If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Ignore pieces of advice from other writers who are just hoping to sound insightful/amusing/feisty in an interview. There are exceptions to almost all the rules commonly trotted out, and what will make you exciting and original as writer is finding out which rules your writing is an exception to.

If you could tell an aspiring writer to ignore one commonly given piece of advice, what would it be?

The whole "show don't tell" thing. It's like seduction, you shouldn't show everything. The trick is to work out what to show and what to tell, and when in the story to do so.

Are you 'out' as a writer of fiction with work colleagues/family, and if so, what reaction did you get?

Yep. Given the amount of time I spent alone in my bedroom with the door shut writing as a kid, I think my mother was pleased when she realised what I'd been doing.

My dad just looked nonplussed and announced he'd been writing some stories too.

Gibbons or tigers? (NB this question is to help me in compiling my List of People Who Are Wrong).

Well, tigers have a beer named after them, and gibbons a funky dance, so that's a point apiece there. But as I writer I have to side with gibbons, because gibbon is obviously a better word than tiger. You only have to say it out loud to realise that: "gibbon."

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Ice Age

I've added a new book page to the menu bar up top. Unlike the one for Nowhere To Go, this is a page for something which doesn't exist yet. I've reposted it here to save you the effort of sliding the mouse up a little bit to click on it, because that's the kind of considerate person I am.

Although a lot of my time these days has been spent writing crime fiction, I used to write short fiction that was mostly orbiting around a dark, weird feel. I find it hard to call them horror because they're not particularly scary and there's no gore, squamous and rugose old ones, or vampires. And I find it hard to call them dark fantasy because, well, there's no vampires. Some of them are easy to classify, because they're traditional ghost stories of a sort, and if you like James, and Blackwood, you might like them. Others, aren't.

I'm starting to release a few of them as short stories for Kindle and other ebooks, and at some point I will bring these together into a collection which will be called Ice Age, after the first story I ever sold to anyone (described in one review as 'a cloud of poetic miserabilism' which amused the former teenage Cure obsessive inside me no end. Despite the name, there are no sabre-toothed squirrels in it, sadly). I'll list the stories here as I publish them, and then give details of the anthology when I get round to it.

Lilies

Lilies was long-listed for the British Fantasy Society's best short story, and later republished in Stephen Jones' Mammoth Book of Best New Horror.


Sighted

Sighted is a short story first published in the Stoker-nominated and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated anthology At Ease With The Dead.


Driving In Circles is a short story first published in Nemonymous 5. It received an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow Year's Best Horror and Fantasy anthology, and was recommended for the British Fantasy Society's best short story award.

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No, you won't. You'll be added to a very occasional mailout from me about new books, news about my writing, or the occasional giveaway. But that doesn't sound quite so good.

[EDIT: Duh. Have now actually created the email address above, so if you've had a bounceback, it should now work. Idiot. Long day.]

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

flash fiction - The Best Grandson In The Whole Wide World

He was young, desperate for cash, and off his head. She was old, lying on the patterned carpet, and nearly dead.

“Tell me where you keep the money,” he said. He felt ashamed about hurting her, because she reminded him of his Nana. He didn’t like being made to feel like that, so he hurt her again. Felt like stamping on a sack of sticks. Crick, crack.

She thought: I deserved better than this. Thought: At least I’ll be with Tom again. Thought: But who’ll feed the fish?

He ground his teeth and kicked her again, but then he thought about his Nana and he thought about caravan holidays, and playing knockout whist on the little fold-down table, and how when he was ill Nana had sat beside his bed, night after night, reading Disney stories to him because his mam was out at work or out on the drink or out because she just didn’t care for being in. She used to tell him that he was the best grandson in the whole wide world.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “You should have told me where the money was. Why didn’t you tell me? You only had to tell me.”

But she didn’t say anything at all.

He found forty-five pounds in a willow pattern teapot, a necklace that he sold for five pounds and a packet of Superkings, and half a bottle of gin. He gave the gin to his Nana.

No-one fed the fish.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Writers talk about writing: John Grant

(Once you've finished reading what John's got to say, check out the whole series of interviews here.)

John Grant is the author of some sixty books, both fiction and nonfiction, and has received two Hugos, a World Fantasy Award, and various other awards. He lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and (embarrassingly) seven cats, one of which vomits a lot. You can read more about John at his website, or on his blog.

We're in a lift, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book.

My most recently finished book is a hefty nonfiction work called Denying Science, which is coming out from Prometheus this autumn. Basically, it aims to demolish the pretensions of those who refuse to accept the findings of science, from antivaxers through Creationists to climate-change deniers and beyond.

Also due for release this year, this time from PS Publishing, is a slipstream novella called The Lonely Hunter. I've used the form of a murder mystery to tell a story that's about loss, and loneliness, and even about writing. And Infinity Plus Ebooks is bringing out a fat collection of my book reviews to be called Warm Words and Otherwise.

Uh-oh. Not sure lifts are meant to stop suddenly between floors like this. Guess we've got a bit more time. Ignore the flickering lights and creaking sounds above us. Would you like to tell me about other books or stories that you have available?

There are, um, quite a lot of them [Not kidding! Ed.]. I should mention that my books Discarded Science, Corrupted Science and Bogus Science, which have done quite well in the bookstores, are to have an ebook incarnation with Jeff VanderMeer's new publishing venture Cheeky Frawg Books.

Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

I'm just contracting with the Hal Leonard company to write a massive encyclopedia of film noir, so what I'm working on now could best be described as clearing the decks of everything else in preparation for this venture.

Although you are perhaps best known for your sf and fantasy writing, you've also written crime stories, and fiction which sits somewhere between the three. Do you find it harder to find a place for work that doesn't sit neatly in a genre, and do you think the world of fiction would be a better place if more of it pushed at those boundaries?

I do think it'd be good if readers and writers could stop thinking so much in genre terms, yes, although at the same time I recognize the usefulness of genre labelling: it's handy in the bookstore to be able to find all the f/sf together, or all the crime stories, or whatever. But these days a lot of books that would fit easily into those genres -- like Carlos Ruiz Zafon's fantasy The Angel's Game or Donna Tartt's ripping thriller The Little Friend, to name just the first two that came to mind -- are being published as mainstream novels, and I think that's healthy. And, on a slightly different tack, personally I like books and stories that don't seem to fit comfortably into any of the standard categories.

I grinned at your question about finding it harder to place work that sprawls across several genres or none. Some editors are far more amenable than others to this. (Readers rarely grumble, at least on this score.) The folk at PS -- Peter Crowther and Nick Gevers -- are especially open, I think, to mongrels of this kind. They published, for example, my novella The City in These Pages, which is both a cosmological fantasy and an Ed McBain homage. With a bit of metafiction thrown in. Sorta thing. With some editors, though, there's this chasm between what a story's actually about and what they assume it should be about on the basis of the first couple of pages.

You have a built a cosmology of characters that emerge throughout many of your stories: the polycosmos. What did you want to achieve with this, and are you still developing your conception of it?

I'm not really doing much with the polycosmos at the moment -- which doesn't mean that I've abandoned it, just that my focus is currently elsewhere. I'm interested in the idea of Story as an entity independent of the embellishments (i.e., the actual details) that must be added in order to turn a pure Story into a work of fiction. We have legends and archetypes that keep resurfacing in fiction, often, I think, without the readers and writers quite recognizing this is what's happening. So my notion was to create some legends and archetypes of my own and see how they panned out when I tried to reinterpret them in different situations.

One such, slightly off to the side of the polycosmos, was a "legend" I called Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child LoChi; I first explored it in a novella of that name (just reissued in e-format by Infinity Plus Ebooks, now I think of it), and since then it's resurfaced in completely different contexts in quite a few of my other fictions.

Your four books Discarded Science, Corrupted Science, Bogus Science and now Denying Science have charted some of the fraudulent, foolish and poisonous excesses of the pseudoscientists, anti-scientists and frauds, and it's clearly a subject you are passionate about. Do you explore any of the same notions through your fiction?

Yes and no. In the two parodies Dave Langford and I wrote quite a few years ago, Earthdoom and Guts, we had a lot of fun dreaming up idiotic conspiracy theories and cod pseudoscience. At the same time, though, I think the place for these ideas is in fantasy/sf. You can write some very good sf based on wild bits of "sciencey" speculation -- and, yes, every now and then one of those bits of speculation might come good. But the real point is that pseudoscientific notions that are recognized as fiction are safe. It's when people begin believing them to be real that things get dangerous. Kids are dying of measles because some people prefer to believe a loony hypothesis about there being a link between vaccination and autism. If that hypothesis had been explored in an sf story no one (well, okay, there are always a few) would have believed it for a moment, and everyone could have had fun exploring its ramifications.

You're a writer of fiction, and a writer and editor of non-fiction. I'm sure you value the diversity of your work, but do you ever find that one eats into time you wish you had for the other? Does it get difficult to ignore the siren-call of a fantastic new fiction idea when you have deadlines looming on non-fiction work?

Yes.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

More news from elsewhere

Regular readers will recall mention of The Other Room, James Everington's excellent collection of short stories here a little while ago. Good to see it's currently #20 in Amazon's Books>Fiction>Horror>Short Stories chart.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

flash fiction - Rule Number One

Think I'll post a little flash fiction now and again. This is from way back when.

We huddled in our broken cardboard boxes in a shoe-shop doorway, and he told me about how to stay alive. It was only my second week. I didn’t trust him. I didn’t trust anyone. Me included. So l listened, and tried to spot what might be useful, and spot what might be bullshit, and spot what it was that he wanted from me. I thought to myself, if he touches me, I’ll break his fucking hand. He didn’t touch me. I thought to myself, I wonder what I really would do if he did.

In this new life, I didn’t know anything.

Shouts came from round the corner. Shoes slapping on tarmac. A man swearing. A man making a noise like a kicked dog. I got up to look. My bones hurt.

“Don’t,” he said. “Not our business. Rule number one, mind your own business.”

“You said, rule number one was never trust anyone.”

“It’s all rule number one,” he said. “All of it.” But he followed me anyway.

We poked our heads around the corner. A little way along an alley, a man lay all broken on the ground. We’d seen him earlier, standing in the middle of the road, talking to the moon. Three other men stood round him. They were kicking the man on the ground, taking turns, one after the other, like it was a dance.

“We should call the police,” I said.

“They are the police,” he said.

We walked away in the sick yellow moonlight and went back to our boxes.


Friday, 10 June 2011

Writers talk about writing: Paul D Brazill

(Once you've finished reading what Paul's got to say, check out the whole series of interviews here.)

Now for the next in the series of interviews. Paul D Brazill came into the world kicking and screaming and he hasn’t stopped since. You can find Paul pretty much anywhere there's an interesting discussion going on about crime fiction, often generously promoting the work of others, but the best place to start is at his blog: You Would Say That, Wouldn't You?

We're in a lift, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book.

‘13 Shots Of Noir’ is a lethal cocktail of dark fiction that will be published pretty damn soon by Untreed Reads.

It starts with a TUT and ends with a THUMP.

Uh-oh. Not sure lifts are meant to stop suddenly between floors like this. Guess we've got a bit more time. Ignore the flickering lights and creaking sounds above us. Would you like to tell me about other books or stories that you have available?

Well, there’s a lot going on at the moment. I recently had a story published online at Beat To A Pulp. LoVINg The Alien is the first part of a serial that I wrote with BTAP’s editor David Cranmer.

I have a story, Guns Of Brixton in the new Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime. I’ve expanded that into a novella which is currently being perused by Pulp Press.

I’ve got a story in the forthcoming Pulp Ink anthology, called The Lady & The Gimp and one in the new ezine Noir Nation, called Who Killed Skippy?

(And speaking of Noir Nation, check out the excellent video trailer.)

And there’s more…my Amazon Author page is here.

Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

I’m writing a psychic detective story/novella called The Crime Scene and an action/ spy novella called Code Name: Blackwitch- ( Think Nikita meets Catwoman) And there’s a follow up to Guns Of Brixton on the cards called Fulham Fallout.

And there's more ...

Noir. Discuss.

Javelin.

High jump.

I recently gave Dead End Follies my Ten Rules To Write Noir, which is pretty much covers that little topic.

Or, the title of this LP.



You're a tireless and generous promoter of the work of others. How the hell do you find time to write your own stories, and what gives you inspiration to write?

I have none of the money/time consuming commitments that a lot of people have- mortgages, kids- and I don’t need to earn much money for day to day living. So, I only need to work about 20 hours a week. And I work from home so I have more time than lots of people. I'm a cucky lunt.

I have no real idea what kick starts the writing. A word, a sound, a picture, a name. I'm still winging it.

You live in Poland - is there a thriving Polish crime fiction scene that you know of?

No. There really doesn’t seem to be. Maybe it’s due to the effects of communism trying to supress the imagination. The country was emotionally frozen for so long and there is a missing generation, too.

There is no real history of transgressive popular culture here, either. Cultural appreciation seems either to be ‘highbrow’ or completely mainstream, although D Lynch, QT and the Coen’s films seem to do well, so perhaps it will change with the next wave. And more writers like Hammett, Chandler and Megan Abbott are getting translated into Polish too.

In your own writing, what do you think you do well, and what do you wish you could do better?

I’m good at the daft little absurdist moments of normal life and rubbish at writing action scenes. Some of the scenes in Stuart Neville’s The Twelve, for example, are brilliant. Wish I could do that.

Do you have a book or story that you're very fond of, but you think should get more attention from the world than it has.

Not by me. I think I get more than enough attention! But when I read something like Julie Morrigan’s Convictions or Dave Zeltserman’s Blood Crimes, I think, why isn’t this a best seller?

What book do you most wish that you had written?

The Bible.

What is it that really pushes your buttons as a reader?

If I like the cut of someone’s jib, then I’m in. Personality is pretty much everything for me, in all aspects of life.

If you could tell an aspiring writer to ignore one commonly given piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t write what you know, write what you like. Life is short.

Gibbons or tigers? (NB this question is to help me in compiling my List of People Who Are Wrong).

I was born in the Chinese year of the tiger so, rather like Lulu, I’m a ti-grrr!

What’s the difference between American and British crime fiction?

About a couple of zeros on the advance.

How many Nordic crimewriters does it take to change a light bulb?

One. It is a very simple procedure.

Meticulous research is both enjoyable and important / what's the point in writing fiction if you can't just make stuff up - discuss.

Ray Banks once said that he researched just enough to avoid getting caught out and that seems about right to me.

Covered up

Over time, I'm going to publish a few of my non-crime short stories. These are...well, hard call, really. I guess they're horror, although anyone who's looking for gore and repulsion will be disappointed. Weird fiction is probably a better description.

As they've all got something in common, I wanted to design covers which linked them all together. Lilies is already published, but I want to bring that into the fold so there's a redesign for that too. I've come up with the design below for Lilies and the next story to be published, which should give the idea. Any comments welcome, critical or otherwise. Each of the faded photos will have some connection with the story.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Writers talk about writing: Gary McMahon

(Once you've finished reading what Gary's got to say, check out the whole series of interviews here.)

Next up in the series of interviews here is Gary McMahon, a lover, a fighter and a Warlord of Atlantis. His short fiction has received acclaim from various quarters, and his novels seem to be going down quite well, too. He is both relieved and amused that he’s still getting away with whatever the hell it is he does. You can find Gary's blog, and much more about his stories, at www.garymcmahon.com.

We're in a lift, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book.

The Concrete Grove (published by Solaris) is about crime, debt, sacrifice, redemption and the monsters created by our society. It’s set on a rundown council housing estate that might just be a doorway to another world.

Uh-oh. Not sure lifts are meant to stop suddenly between floors like this. Guess we've got a bit more time. Ignore the flickering lights and creaking sounds above us. Would you like to tell me about other books or stories that you have available?

Pretty Little Dead Things and Dead Bad Things (both published by Angry Robot): very grim novels that are equal parts crime and supernatural horror. Think David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet meets William Peter Blatty’s Legion, throw in a pinch of Angel Heart and a sliver of Clive Barker’s The Damnation Game, and you’re about half way there.

Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

Apart from a way to fashion some kind of bludgeon out of lift parts, I’m currently working on the second Concrete Grove novel (titled Silent Voices) and a screenplay.

You're a Sunderland AFC supporter, so grim and unrelenting horror is second nature to you. But what scares you most in fiction?

Nobody knows true horror like a Sunderland fan...the horror, the horror! For me, insanity, old age and demonic possession are the Big Scary Things – and regarding the latter, I think it’s probably a metaphor for loss of identity. These things terrify me. I think it’s the notion of losing control, yet being utterly unaware that you’re doing so that turns my knees to piss. I mean, how do you reason with that?

Is there anything in horror that is done to death - so mined out that it loses the ability to scare any more? Or is it always possible to add an original twist?

I used to think that vampires had been all used up, but lately I’ve read some interesting and rather brilliant vampire fiction (The Passage, Department 19, Let The Right One In) that’s managed to convince me there’s a lot more to be said on the subject. I do believe that zombies have become a tired theme – that whole sub genre seems to have reached some kind of critical mass, where the genuinely good stuff is outweighed by some truly awful rubbish. And I say this as a man who wrote a zombie novel! (Hungry Hearts, published by Abaddon Books.) I honestly believe that John Ajvide Lindqvist’s brilliant Handling the Undead was almost the Last Word on zombie fiction...somebody is going to have to do something pretty damned special to top that.

You've written many short stories, and recently blogged about short fiction being in your blood. What is it about the short story that keeps you coming back time after time?

These days it’s the brevity and intensity of short fiction that attracts me both as a reader and a writer. I love the way that a short story can latch onto a mood, a moment, or a single metaphor, and get right under your skin (and that of the characters in the story). A novel requires more commitment; it has a different set of rules. Short fiction is like being stabbed quickly by a stranger in a narrow alley, whereas a novel is more like a prolonged knifing. So to speak. (God, that sounds insane...)

In your own writing, what do you think you do well, and what do you wish you could do better?

I’ve been told that I do atmosphere well, and I think that I’m pretty good with characters – I see all my fiction as being about the characters, and they tend to shape the story. I’d love to be able to do dialogue better (although, I’ve also been told I’m also good at that). To be honest, I’m constantly trying to do it all better. I see the craft of writing as a constant honing and development of whatever core skill we might possess.

Can you remember what made you sit down to write your first book or story?

Yes, I can. I was off school, suffering from a cold or something, and I didn’t have a book handy. So I picked up one of my sister’s books – some short girly novel about a young kid who wrote poetry. Afterwards, I decided I’d try to write a poem of my own. I produced something called “After the Battle”, which was set during WW2 on a battlefield after a big, apocalyptic battle. Totally out of character, I entered the poem for the school magazine. It was published, and went on to win the prize for the best thing published in the magazine that year. I got a carrier bag full of sweets. I can only remember the first few lines:

After the battle, all is silent
After the battle, so bloody and violent
Bodies lie upon the ground
But in death they utter no sound

Give me a break; I was only thirteen.

Do you have a book or story that you're very fond of, but you think should get more attention from the world than it has.

I have a whole book full of them! I honestly believe that my first collection, Dirty Prayers, contains some of the best fiction I’ll ever produce. It’s ambitious, challenging, probably even slightly pretentious, and hopefully has a lot to say about how we all live today. I think only about 100 people bought a copy.

Print publishing is a doomed but still predatory dinosaur rotting from the feet up. Ebook publishing is the vomiting out of the world's slushpiles onto the market. In the ongoing war of words and hyperbole, where's the happy medium to be found? Where do you think the publishing business is heading over the next few years, and what are you doing to be ready for it?

You know what – I don’t have a clue. Nobody does; that’s part of the problem. Personally, I still believe in the old fashioned publishing model of having a publishing house invest a lot of time, money and effort into getting your book out there in the best form possible. It’s like a filter. The Ebook market is currently awash with barely edited garbage written by authors with no previous track record, so the good stuff is hard to find.

What book do you most wish that you had written?

A Child Across The Sky by Jonathan Carroll. I could name about fifty more.

You're publishing ebooks now - have you learned anything in that process?

Well, I have three or four out there right now, I think. I’m being very cautious. The main thing I’ve learned is that those Amazon Ebook charts are complete bullshit – one of my Ebooks hit the top 100 of some random chart by selling about 25 copies. The other thing I’ve learned is that a lot of people are desperate to give their work away for free in the hope of hitting these essentially pointless charts.

Do you do much promotion for your books? What do you think is the most effective thing you've done?

I try my best. I attend conventions, sit on panels, do readings and signings, and spend a fair amount of time networking on Facebook and Twitter...I’m not sure if any of this is effective, but it’s certainly a lot of fun. It’s important, if only to get out there and meet potential readers.

What is it that really pushes your buttons as a reader? (Voice, action, sense of place etc).

The prose. Always the prose. I love tight, stripped down, sparse prose. Good prose gives me wood. Voice is important, too: someone like Stephen King or Michael Marshall Smith can grab hold of me and keep me right where they want me for hours.

If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Never, ever quit.

If you could tell an aspiring piece of writer to ignore one commonly given piece of advice, what would it be?

The cream always rises. It doesn’t. Sometimes the cream just curdles because nobody notices it.

Are you 'out' as a writer of fiction with work colleagues/family, and if so, what reaction did you get?

Yeah, I started telling people a few years ago. Half of them think it’s cool. A quarter of them don’t understand. The rest of them seem to be afraid of me.

Gibbons or tigers? (NB this question is to help me in compiling my List of People Who Are Wrong).

Gibbons. Obviously. Simians are nature’s stand-up comedians. Personally, though, I’m more of a chimp man.

Make up your own question here. And answer it.

Q: Have you ever tasted human flesh?
A: Yes

Meticulous research is both enjoyable and important / what's the point in writing fiction if you can't just make stuff up - discuss.

I find research a bit of a chore, to be honest. Sometimes it’s essential, but I’m lucky enough that with the kind of stories I write, living life is the research. I’ve spent 42 years researching the novels I’m writing now, and there are still so many stories left to tell.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

And elsewhere...

Excellent interview with Julie Lewthwaite (aka Julie Morrigan) at Richard Godwin's Welcome To The Slaughterhouse.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

In Defence Of Short Stories

Why short stories are like Teenage Kicks: I argue the case for short fiction in the latest of a series of guest posts on the topic over at James Everington's blog. Catch up with the other posts, from Todd Russell, Neil Schiller, and Alain Gomez.

Writers talk about writing: Dave Zeltserman

(Once you've finished reading what Dave's got to say, check out the whole series of interviews here.)


As promised, the first in a set of interviews with writers. First up is Dave Zeltserman, a fine purveyor of noir, crime fiction, horror and mysteries, and other delectable treats for the mind and soul. You can find Dave's blog at Small Crimes. As well as writing all of the books mentioned below, Dave somehow managed to find the time for years to promote and publish short crime fiction through the online anthology Hardluck Stories. He was kind enough to publish a couple of my stories there, and to ask me to be guest editor for one issue, which was a lot of fun. Dave's always been a great friend and support, so I'm delighted to kick off this series with such a wide-ranging interview. Enjoy.


We're in a lift/elevator, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book.

Julius Katz and Archie is a charming and fun mystery featuring the brilliant and eccentric detective Julius Katz and his very unusual sidekick, Archie. While Archie has the heart and soul of a hardboiled PI, well, he’s not exactly human, and instead is an advanced piece of technology that Julius wears as a tie clip. When a famous writer hires Julius to find out who is planning to kill him, it soon plunges Julius
into his most challenging case yet, while at the same time poking a bit of fun at every aspect of the publishing business, including writers, editors, agents and especially book critics. Julius Katz mysteries that have been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine have so far garnered Shamus, Derringer and Ellery Queen’s Readers Choice Awards.

Uh-oh. Not sure lifts are meant to stop suddenly between floors like this. Guess we've got a bit more time. Ignore the flickering lights and creaking sounds above us. Would you like to tell me about other books or stories that you have available?

I’ve got a bunch of them. My ‘man out of prison’ noir trilogy had two books that made The Washington Post’s best books of the year list, Small Crimes (2008) and Pariah (2009). The third book of this trilogy, Killer (2010), was sadly not reviewed by The Washington Post so couldn’t make this list, but is my and
most readers favorite of the trilogy. My first horror novel, The Caretaker of Lorne Field (2010) was well-received, garnering a Dark Scribe nomination for best dark genre book of the year, as well as being short listed by the American Library Association for best horror novel of the year. When the Boston Globe was reviewing Stephen King’s last book, they had the following to say:

"Compared to how artfully Dave Zeltserman handles the similar question of reality or psychosis in his 2010 novel The Caretaker of Lorne Field, King never rises above pulp fiction."

A few more books I’d like to mention. Outsourced (2011) is a fun bank heist novel, Blood Crimes (2011), which is available only as an e-book, is probably the anti-Twilight, a violent thrill ride that places vampires in a noir universe and is getting a terrific reaction from readers, and Dying Memories (2011), also available only as an e-book is a fast-paced very twisty thriller with a very cool plot and which readers are really digging, at least from what I can tell from the emails I’ve been receiving.

Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

I’ve just finished a screenplay for The Caretaker of Lorne Field. More about that later. I’m also over 200 pages into a YA noirish horror novel titled ‘The Boy Who Killed Demons’. As the title suggests, it’s about a boy who kills demons, or maybe he’s not killing demons since he’s the only one who sees them that way.

Your books range from gritty crime fiction, to the charming and light crime fiction of the Katz stories, to Bradbury-esque horror in the Caretaker of Lorne Field. How do you decide which to go for next - or is it the story that dictates that?

I write the books I want to write without caring about the genre. So whether it’s crime noir, crime fiction, horror, mystery, thriller or some hybrid of these, it doesn’t matter. I had a book event recently where the bookstore owner is one of my biggest fans, and he was telling the crowd how every book of mine is a different genre or subgenre, and it’s really true—even my ‘man out of prison’ noir novels are all very different types of noir from each other. Even with my two Bill Shannon novels, Bad Thoughts and Bad Karma, they’re two very different types of books, with Bad Thoughts being this very grim and bleak horror and crime hybrid while Bad Karma is more of a hardboiled PI novel with new age sensibilities. I guess I just don’t like writing the same book twice!

Because of the range of your writing, your books might have rather different audiences - some Julius Katz fans might be a little shocked by a novel like Pariah, for example. Is it an issue, and do you try and market them to differentiate them?

If I was thinking ahead I would’ve used a pseudonym for my Julius Katz stories and novels, but I was thinking it would just be one story for Alfred Hitchcock’s Black Orchid contest and that would be it. But then the story got picked up by Ellery Queen, won the Shamus Award, and more stories and the novel have followed. While Julius Katz is maybe 180 degrees opposite of Pariah—really these fun and charming and humor filled mysteries that are geared for any mystery reader, I’m finding that my noir and crime readers are equally enjoying them, but I don’t think the opposite is going to be true. I think many of my Julius Katz readers would be shocked and horrified if they ever picked up Pariah, Blood Crimes or Small Crimes. However, Killer seems to be a book that mystery, crime and literary readers enjoy.

I’m seeing the same with The Caretaker of Lorne Field—the same readers who like my crime fiction are really enjoying this one, and the reciprocal is true—horror readers who never read crime are picking up my crime novels and are enjoying them and thinking that they now also like crime (although they don’t realize yet that my crime novels are quite a bit different than the norm!).

Probably the biggest dichotomy is with Bad Karma, which is my one and only hardboiled PI novel (anyone thinking Fast Lane is a PI novel is in for a shock!). What I’m finding with that one is my crime noir readers are generally disappointed with it, while PI readers unfamiliar with me like it a lot.

Interesting things are happening with your books and the film world. Tell us more.

Even though Outsourced has just been published, it’s been in play for film since 2005. Over the years we’ve had a lot of close calls and at one point we almost had a cable TV deal. A little over two years ago I struck a deal with Constantin Film and Impact Pictures (Impact are the guys who make the Resident Evil movies). It’s been moving slowly, but a couple of months ago they signed up the director they wanted, and it’s now looking very likely this will be going into production, which is when I get paid!

I have a gritty crime novel coming out in the Fall titled A Killer’s Essence, and my publisher showed it to a film company in NY who ended up making me an offer which will include me writing the screenplay. I made my counter offer and we’ll see what happens. So far they’re the only film company who’ve seen the book, and I have to think if things don’t work out with them, I’ll get a deal elsewhere. This book is a natural for film.

Finally, I’m getting interest for The Caretaker of Lorne Field from film companies and producers. Right now this is all speculative where there’s no money yet and these people want to see if they can put a deal together. I decided to go with this producer who has a very hot director attached, and where he’ll be using my screenplay. It’s a long shot, but we’ll see what happens.

In your own writing, what do you think you do well, and what do you wish you could do better?

I’m very good at plotting and characters, and especially coming up with fast, twisty stories that get my readers deeply involved, and so far that’s the feedback I’ve been getting from readers and reviewers. My writing also tends to be very spare with not a lot of description, and certainly none of the flowery type. Some readers complain about that, but then again, I don’t want my writing to be that way!

Since I never release a book until I’m fully satisfied with it, there’s really nothing I wish I could do better, since if there was I wouldn’t be releasing my book!

Can you remember what made you sit down to write your first book or story?

This would be Fast Lane, and I had a nearly driving mania to get the story out. Hard to explain really, but it was something I needed to do, and could barely think of anything else while I was writing it.

Do you have a book or story that you're very fond of, but you think should get more attention from the world than it has.

Pariah has gotten a good amount of attention with making The Washington Post best books of the year list, as well as a number of other year-end best lists, and it has sold decently, especially as a book from an independent publisher, but it’s a book that I think could do much better and could reach a much larger audience. Part of the problem is it’s marketed as crime and mystery fiction, and it’s such a fierce book that almost all mystery readers all appalled by it. While at one level it’s an intensely fierce and brutal crime novel, at another level it’s a satire on the publishing industry (really a FU to the NY publishers) and our celebrity obsessed culture, and it’s a book for crime and literary readers, especially those looking for more subversive novels. For example, I really think fans of Palahniuck’s Fight Club would love this book.

Killer is another book that has gotten great reviews and a terrific reader response but hasn’t gotten the sales I thought it should. This is a much more accessible book than Small Crime sand Pariah, and is really one that mystery, crime and literary have all liked, but a big problem was Pariah, which turned a lot of mystery readers off to me (although it also cemented a lot of crime readers to me). If this book gets more widely discovered it could do very well.

I’ll add Blood Crimes to this mix. It’s sold okay so far as an e-book, about 2500 copies, but it’s such a thrill ride of a book and it’s been getting such an enthusiastic response from readers that it should be doing better if word of mouth really worked with e-books, although I’m sure Twilight fans who pick it up will be absolutely horrified.

Print publishing is a doomed but still predatory dinosaur rotting from the feet up. Ebook publishing is the vomiting out of the world's slushpiles onto the market. In the ongoing war of words and hyperbole, where's the happy medium to be found? Where do you think the publishing business is heading over the next few years, and what are you doing to be ready for it?

I think we’re in for more dramatic changes. Right now large publishing is mostly retrenching and only buying the safest books, while independent publishers in order to survive are buying what they feel are the best books they can find, and e-books is a free-for-all with over 800,000 books now available for Kindle downloads. I think all three of these trends are going to continue, with the big publishers limiting themselves to the biggest, safest names and bestsellers, while the most worthy and best books will be coming out from the independent publishers, with massive shakeups happening in the e-book area, which in effect are already starting to happen with Amazon creating their own fiction and nonfiction imprints. All I know for sure, though, if that the landscape is going to look vastly different a year from now than it looks now.

You're publishing ebooks now - have you learned anything in that process?

That it’s hard. Reviews and word-of-mouth doesn’t seems to do much for sales, instead it’s really shameless social networking that appears to drive sales, which I don’t think suits many authors. In my own case, I enjoy these interviews and writing articles about my books and crime fiction, but I don’t feel comfortable signing up 5000 strangers on facebook, for example, and constantly flogging my ebooks to them, which seems to be part of the strategy that’s needed these days. Also, Amazon really controls what e-books sell. Amazon has proven very powerful at direct marketing, and when certain e-books hit certain heuristics that Amazon has set, Amazon will then generate an endless stream of sales. It’s not word-of-mouth that’s creating these Kindle bestsellers, but Amazon itself.

Do you do much promotion for your books? What do you think is the most effective thing you've done?

I blog, do interviews, write guest articles, maintain a website. I also do events at bookstores. I don’t tweet.

The most effective promotion are external events that you can’t control. For example when NPR selected Small Crimes as one of best crime and mystery novels of 2008, it sold a lot of books. Same when The Washington Post named Pariah. And when Barnes&Noble recommended my e-books, Bad Thoughts and Blood Crimes, it helped sell several thousand copies of each.

For what I can control, the best promotion I’ve found is doing bookstore events. Over the years bookstore owners and employees have become readers of my books, and end up hand selling a lot of them.

What is it that really pushes your buttons as a reader?

I need two things to keep me reading—top-notch writing and I need to be absorbed deeply into the story. If either of those don’t happen, I quit. And nothing breaks the fictional world as much as something false or gratuitous. So characters doing dumb stuff just to advance the plot will usually get me to stop reading pretty quickly.

If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t do it! Do anything other than writing if you can help it! It will break your heart and leave you a ruined person, bitter and angrily muttering to yourself. Fuck, I could’ve had such a nice, pleasant life if I had just stayed a software engineer and kept myself from writing.

Gibbons or tigers? (NB this question is to help me in compiling my List of People Who Are Wrong).

I’m going with gibbons since I could probably survive a gibbon attack but would have no chance if attacked by a tiger.

Meticulous research is both enjoyable and important / what's the point in writing fiction if you can't just make stuff up - discuss.

Exactly! The fictional world you create should feel real, but it doesn’t mean it has to be!!