//downtime

Standard

Considering the sheer overwhelming variance in my pressures at the moment, the above title is somewhat ironic!

However, the title itself refers to the writing downtime I’ve accumulated since the completion of NaNoWriMo. Well, the termination at least. I reached half the target, handwritten, for which I’m happy enough. Rather than let it rot away and be forgotten, as it seemed that many people who I met at the Write-Ins* had chosen to do so, I have decided to let the novel lie fallow for a month, while Irgard hangs perilously from the World Tree, to pick up the story again in January. I hope to get the first draft finished by the end of Feb: two months for a further 25k words is perfectly acceptable.

As such, I’ve got a random urge to keep writing (which I suppose is a large point of the challenge), but I mean to (re)turn my hand to other things. Amongst the fold are these:

Sending off Not A Bedtime Story to some more publishers. I mean to try Black Static again with this one; it’s a little shy of one-thousand words, so not quite suitable for Nightjar.Tweak my latest short story, Phage, which is mostly set in St Pancras station and polish it beyond its current second draft.Return to my cyberpunk universe, Slick Thames. It’s set a little into the future in an imagined London, but the current early nightfalls and sleeting rain draw my mind back to the setting. I’ve a couple of pieces of flash grouped as my Short (Circuit) Stories that exist, and a few thousand words of a started novel somewhere.

Precisely what I try to do, I’ve yet to decide. However, I’ve opened a world of possibilities with writing on trains from my NaNoWriMo experiment, and there’s only so long I can control myself. I bought myself a new premium notebook today.

It’s already begun.

* Great sessions where many a writer on the NaNoWriMo would take over a large section of various London caf├ęs and fill them with the sound of clicking keys and my own scribbling pen. There’s a great video here, which documents a session at Starbucks where I finally crested 10k words.

At a later Write-In, I wrote a ten page paragraph. Very pleased with that.

Tom Fletcher’s ‘Field’ – My First Nightjar Chapbook

Standard

I last blogged about my recent acquisition of the latest Nightjar chapbooks and my prior anticipation for their arrival and my reading thereof.

This latter goal has now been achieved.

As an aside, since I’ve not read any of Christopher Burns’ work before, I shall give a brief review of ‘Lexicon’/Lexicon* – I liked it, especially the unreliability of the narrator; the shifts between the focused first person and the lexical overarching information were interesting and rounded the story out well. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it as scary or unsettling as I’d hoped, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Alas, the title of this post might suggest that my main aim is to review Tom Fletcher’s story, ‘Field’/Field*, and were you to surmise that you would be correct. However, it was also intended to provide you the chance to win the book itself. Tom’s blog currently has an exquisite corpse running, with the chance to win a copy of ‘Field’/Field. Hopefully my review will inspire you to enter through instilling a desire to read the self-same story.

‘Field’/Field opens with third-person narrator introducing the protagonist Tony. (Fletcher starts his exquisite corpse with the same description, although the story proceeds in a largely different way.) Tony is a peculiar character, and whilst I didn’t explicitly dislike him, I found myself thinking of him in distaste. Despite this, Fletcher’s narration keeps the reader intrigued and we remain interested in what happens to Tony.

Fletcher’s The Leaping has been widely lauded as standing out for its strong, suspenseful tension at the beginning; this is a feature most definitely present in ‘Field’/Field. This is especially true when the protagonists arrive at the scene of a crime, and something is not quite right. Interestingly, this occurs at the shore of a lake – revealing a tendency for Fletcher to use this motif (the eponymous Leaping of his debut takes place at Wastwater shore, and his forthcoming novel is entitled The Thing on the Shore). Indeed, this is actually directly where the first horror emerges, albeit not in the way that you may be thinking now.

I felt a very satisfying chill as I was reading this climax – the kind where it feels your heart drops out from beneath you. I don’t remember feeling this tangible dread since reading a story of Ramsay Campbell’s called ‘Peep,’ which you can find in Steven Jones’ Best New Horror 19.

Paul Magrs says that Fletcher “builds up tension and dread meticulously, and to grim effect.” He is spot on.

* What with these being short stories, I feel that I should notify using inverted commas; I am drawn towards italicised titles because they are published as complete books in their own right. What will win out? It’ll probably take more chapbooks before I’ve fallen into my own convention.

Anticipation… Over?

Standard

As I wrote yesterday, I have been waiting eagerly for my copies of the new Nightjar chapbooks since the weekend. Today at lunch, I went to my pigeon hole, and what did I find there?

image

I let the moment wait a while as I secured myself a comfortable chair and a drink. Then I opened the envelope.

image

The books themselves are beautiful and well presented. My copy of Field is numbered 180 of 200, and my copy of Lexicon is numbered 43 of 200. I wonder if they are disseminated in number order.

So now, the major anticipation is over. The minor anticipation remains – to actually read them. (Or am I really most looking forward to reading them over having recieved them? I am not sure.)

I shall let you know what I think.

Anticipation

Standard

image

This post is not yet live. Please leave a comment nonetheless.

The temptation to leave the post as just that was very high. Nonetheless, this blog is less of a statement and more of a discourse.

Today marks the release of the latest chapbooks from Nightjar Press, who I’ve blogged briefly about in the past. Saturday saw me popping a cheque in the post for a very reasonable six pounds fifty pence. I am currently waiting on the arrival of the books themselves.

It’s a feeling I quite enjoy. I have opted for the books to be delivered to my school, which means I will at some point, I will find them unannounced in my pigeon hole. This reminds me of when I used to live in halls, and my good friend Byrnsweord (read his blog) would check our post in the forgotten hours of the morning. It was a blissfully cathartic experience, which often provided counterpoint to a cold evening outside because of a fire alarm.

It is because of this same anticipation, perhaps, that I rarely drink instant coffee these days. Perhaps it could be considered elitist, but the fact is that I would often rather expend more effort in crafting a more complex drink. Perhaps it’s the chef in me.*

Nightjar’s chapbooks (and indeed the movement) were considered elitist by some of the comments on this Guardian blog article. I’m not sure if I agree or not, nor if I feel it is a bad thing either way. Perhaps my anticipation to receive such objets d’art (signed and numbered) means I am unable to fairly judge.

Either way, I can’t wait. But I’m enjoying that just as much.

*His name is Raoul, and he is from Brasil and wears dress shirts with too many buttons undone.

Tom Fletcher’s “The Leaping”

Standard

A few weeks back, a bout of illness gave me the bed-ridden time to finally finish reading Tom Fletcher’s The Leaping. Unfortunately, the back-log such a bout of illness causes has delayed my official musings on the matter until now.

I am very pleased that I managed to luck across Tom’s name, through past hints at Nightjar Press by Michael Marshall Smith. On seeing that Tom had a novel out, in addition to a number of chapbooks with Nightjar, I was interested. Subsequently, I found it in the beautiful Piccadilly Waterstones store.

I read the first part of the novel quickly. The novel leaps between two narrators, very different in their voices, idiosyncracies and tenses, as the plot develops – this drives the action and the pacing very efficiently. At all points, the action is driven more by the characters than a sense of authorial purpose. Multiple narrators are tricky to get right, but Fletcher has constructed such powerful individuals that there is no crossover of voice, despite the crossover of romantic interests and locations the plot assigns.

It has often been noted that the real horror of the novel doesn’t start until a decent way in, and the consensus is that this is a good thing. I agree. The action perfectly suits the character and the mood, and the lack of occurence whilst regularly spotting oddnessess reminds me of the classic horror authors. That being said, Fletcher shows us the many strings to his bow (pardon the pun), in his handling of sheer graphic, visceral gore in the later stages of the novel – it wrenches at the gut, but without lowering the tone of the novel.

We are dealing with skin-rending horror here, and no punches are pulled.

While I liked the pacing of the novel, personally I found myself thinking halfway through the final hundred pages that the story dragged a little. After a fantastic climax on the haunted shores of Wastwater, the final section reverted to a slow persistence. I really enjoyed the subtle horror here: indeed part of me expected the book to drawl out into a chilling anti-climax. Instead, I did enjoy what happened, and after the animal, primal ferocity of the earlier climax, Fletcher shows the other side of his antagonists – the pure ancient evil. The Leaping itself is a thing of brilliance.

Would I recommend the book?

Undoubtedly. Indeed, I am likely to bring it with me when I next visit my parents so that my mum might read it.

What will I take from it? I really love the changes between the narrators, but especially that the action is driven by the characters. This is often something I am not focused enough on. Furthermore, I really love how Tom has used first person. I should try to use more of it.

Frenzy

Standard

I wrote earlier of my desire to become a published author, specifically within the field of horror short stories. My overreaching aim is targeted at Nightjar Press, because they seem to be attracting a fantastic calibre of author (their site directed me to Tom Fletcher‘s site{s}, of whom I’m now reading his debut novel The Leaping - and enjoying it thoroughly; expect a review when I’ve read the final half) and because their chapbooks look lovely and appeal to my love of pulp. I also plan on submitting to Dark Tales, for similar reasons!

Last night found me culminating the first draft of my first proper, complete short story, ‘The Trees (That Bled Blood)’. The title is a lot darker than its b-movie reminiscent title hints at, and once I’ve completed a fully edited version, a taster will appear here.

I had had a parents’ evening the night before, so I arrived home seemingly early last night; I took myself to Costa with The Leaping and my exercise book. A flat white mostly consumed, and I picked up the pen to begin my minimum three pages for the day. In the end, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote; my coffee grew cold and my story grew inches from its climax. And then I ran out of pages.

Luckily, WH Smiths was still open, so I bought another narrow-ruled 48-page exercise book and brought it home. After dinner, I resumed my pen, and the ink spread spiderly across the pages.

Final estimate – around four thousand words. I’m leaving it for today, and will probably begin typing up at the weekend.

This is the first proper first draft I’ve completed, and afterwards I felt emotionally spent. This story has been roaming around in my head for three weeks, and finally it is all out and down. The creative splurge is done, finished in a frenzy of activity. Next comes the unhurried crafting of the editing process

Then, dissemination. Likely as frenzied.