“This time I will definitely do some writing while I’m on holiday”

Who am I kidding? Every holiday, I take pad and pen. Every holiday, they remain untouched.

I think, though, that it’s important I take them. It symbolises my intent. And if I don’t actually put pen to paper, then I can spend time plotting and planning, right?

Well, no. Not really. Not consciously, anyway. I spend the time with my family. I barely think about whatever project I’m working on.

But the time away does help – to invoke a cliche – to recharge the batteries. Without the pressure of trying to think of the next scene or of a character’s motives, ideas pop up that might not otherwise, now that you’re removed from your normal environment.

So I’ll enjoy my holiday and not worry about not writing. But the tools are there, if I need them.


Progress update: I’m committed to a book review. The first draft is almost complete, though I’m unlikely to finish it before the holiday starts. Enough is written to make completion a straightforward priority on my return, and the deadline is the beginning of September.

The folk horror work (what do I call it? Novel? Novella? Novelette?) progresses. Over 13,000 words now, and spilling from my Parker Jotter at twice the speed that the now-dormant fantasy novel ever did. I’m trying to strike a balance between wanting it to be a work of literary merit and my instinct to make it read like a 1980s pulp horror novel. It wants to be both.

Right now – first draft – that’s not a problem. The priority in the first draft is to get the story told. The way you tell it can wait until you begin to re-write, to an extent: but I always need to know which voice or whose viewpoint a particular scene will be told from. I find that this unlocks the episode for me, and gives me a way in. Nothing I can’t change later.

There also comes a point, after sending a manuscript to agencies and publishers, where you concede defeat. Yes, maybe the book is good, but it’s not quite good enough to capture the mass-market that agents and editors are after. So with that in mind, I’m thinking about serialising the Robin Hood novel on this blog. It’s a few years old now, and my interest in doing anything with it has faded, given that the fantasy novel and – hopefully – the folk horror work are both better-structured and better-written. But the Robin Hood novel romps along and is quite good fun, or so I hope. I’ve nothing to lose and, ideally, a few readers to gain. Are you interested?


Summer Reading

In Scotland the schools are off, and the weather has been uncharacteristically summery since late May. I’m away on holiday. Time to share with you what I’ve been reading in this fine weather, and what’s in the suitcase for the trip to Kernow.

  • The Devil Rides Out – Dennis Wheatley: 1930s black magic horror hokum. “Of its time” in the sense that its racist, sexist and classist; despite all this, the basis of Hammer’s enjoyable 1968 film. If a horror writer’s own fears can be deduced from what they portray in the most ghastly terms, then¬†forget all the Satanism stuff. In the orgiastic scenes, people fall upon piles of food without using cutlery! The horror!
  • Mythago Wood – Robert Holdstock: a mythago is an archetype; a figure from our collective unconscious. The prototypes of the likes of Robin Hood and King Arthur haunt an ancient woodland. A man recently returned from World War 2 searches for his brother in its unmapped depths. Wonderful, and as deep and many-layered as the wood itself.
  • The Arrival of Missives – Aliya Whiteley: Delicately-told weird fiction, set in the aftermath of World War 1. A writer I intend to read more of.
  • Black Static #57 – Bi-monthly horror magazine, with good long-form fiction and many reviews; includes a story by Aliya Whiteley (above).
  • Some Kind of Fairy Tale – Graham Joyce: a girl went missing twenty years ago, and turns up not a day older. Was she really abducted into the land of faery?
  • Devil’s Day – Andrew Michael Hurley: the dark rituals of a hidden Lancashire valley pull one of its sons back into the family orbit.


Still to read:

  • Four Colour Fear: anthology of 1950s American horror comics. Full-on brain-eating gross-out fun. These are what prompted the formation of the Comics Code Authority.
  • The Gallows Pole – Benjamin Myers: Great cover. Dark historical fiction rooted in the Yorkshire landscape, and based on a genuine story of counterfeiting in the 18th century.
  • Under the Rock: The Poetry of Place – Benjamin Myers: Myers again. Non-fiction this time, and what looks like a poetic yet unflinching piece of “nature writing” (horrible term; we need a better one).
  • The Running Hare: The Secret Life of Farmland – John Lewis-Stempel. More nature writing, this time looking at the English farming landscape; what’s to be found, and what’s been lost.
  • Nutmeg #8: Scottish football journal. A new one to me: I don’t follow football nearly as much as I used to, but the World Cup (and Scotland’s repeated absence from it) is unavoidable. This looks like football’s answer to cycling’s game-changing Rouleur magazine.