Tuesday, December 30, 2014


The Elephant in the Room

This just arrived for me. An illustrated collection of bizarre and darkly funny stories by Sławomir Mrożek, part of the Penguin 'Central European Classics' series, which includes work by Čapek, Krúdy, Škvorecký, Cioran, Miłosz, Ota Pavel and others. Mrożek is like a humorous Kafka.

This will be my first book of 2015. On the first day of January I also plan to start writing a new book of linked stories called Down Cerberus. I have been turning over ideas for this project in my mind for a long time. It is going to be a collection along the lines of the Mrożek and also Čapek's Apocryphal Tales. It always seems a good idea to commence a new venture on the first day of a new year.

Every year I try to write a minimum of 100,000 words of fiction. Some productive years have seen me achieve more than double this figure. But I have been rather lax in the year 2014 and at one point it was very doubtful I would meet my wordage quota. A late surge has got me to 98,500 words. Today is the day I hope to thwart failure!

Friday, December 26, 2014


End of 2014

Merry Christmas! Another year is almost over; and it is with a feeling almost of shock that I realize my blog is now ten years old. My earliest entries were absurdly short and vacuous: I simply didn't know what to write. Then my blog gradually became the main way in which I sought to 'communicate' with my readers and the wider world. Social media sites have eroded this function somewhat. I usually first post news about what I have been doing on Facebook before anywhere else. Yet I am still happy to have my blog and I intend to continue updating it.

2014 was a good year. I did more things in it than I did in 2013. My writing output dropped rather a lot, however. Every year I seek to write a minimum of 100,000 words of fiction. The past few years have proved extremely fertile in terms of production (in 2012 I wrote 240,000 words) but I always knew that a higher rate was unsustainable. I haven't failed to reach my hundred-thousand word target for a decade but this year I am still nine-thousand words short. Let's see what I can do in the week remaining to me! One of the many reasons my output was lower this year is because I seemed to reach some sort of apotheosis with the Bottled Love Story novelette and found it difficult to write anything in the wake of this piece. Now, however, I am finally building up steam again...
The micro-press I set up last December was very busy in the early part of 2014 and issued no fewer than five of my own books, including my one and only poetry collection, The Gloomy Seahorse. It also issued my collection of flash fiction, Flash in the Pantheon, one of my favourites among all my books (including those published by other publishers). In 2015, my micro-press will start issuing books that weren't written by me, including some neglected classics from the 19th Century, a masterpiece from Eastern Europe, and a wonderful magical realist novel by Mike J. Westley that really is something special and should be out very soon.

And, of course, I was published by 'real' publishers too, The Lunar Tickle, Captains Stupendous and (most recently and perhaps significantly) Bone Idle in the Charnel House all appeared in 2014. This made a total of eight books published in one year, my personal record. Next year I am expecting more of my books to be published, both by my own micro-press and also by established publishers. I also have some foreign translation deals currently under discussion, which bodes well for future travel.

After a few years of not really going anywhere, I got back into travel in 2014, making numerous trips within Britain (most memorably to Devon in the summer) and also abroad, first to Ireland and then to Portugal. These foreign trips were primarily work related and involved me giving readings in public, etc. Next year I hope to travel even more, both for work and also for pleasure. Long yearned-for trips to Serbia and India might be on the cards. The latter of these will take some organisation, as if I do go then I plan to stay a long time.

In 2014 one of my main hobbies became learning to dance salsa. I had tried before, years ago, but never really got the hang of it. Finally it started to work for me; and although I can hardly describe myself as 'skilled' now I am at least competent and hope to keep improving next year. I also ended up regularly playing the drums on Sunday nights in a Latin dance club.

I no longer use this blog to talk very much about 'personal' matters, but they are the essence of who I am, so I can't ignore them completely. I had an intense and passionate love affair in the summer; but I also finally grew closer to someone I have known and liked for a long time; and she in fact has become my muse and my dearest friend, more than a friend in fact: my soul mate. I hope that together we will have many adventures in the new year.

As for reading: I think I read more books this year than any other year of my life. I devoured them! A complete list of everything can be found on my Goodreads page. Feel free to connect with me there! I grow increasingly impressed with Ismail Kadare and Milan Kundera and they have both become two of my favourite authors... Anyway, that's enough for now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Seven Men and Two Others

It is nice to sometimes talk about books that I haven't written. Max Beerbohm's Seven Men and Two Others is my favourite ever example of fin de siècle literature, superior in my mind to anything created by Wilde, Firbank, Machen, even Saki...

'Enoch Soames' is probably the best pact-with-the-devil story ever written; 'Hilary Maltby and Stephen Braxton' is perhaps the best ghost story ever written; and 'Savonarola Brown' is the funniest and most accurate parody of a pseudo-Shakespeare play ever attempted... The other stories are rather good too, with 'A.V Laider' being the only disappointment; I was expecting the 'twist' ending to be more surprising than it was. But even so, the utter excellence of the whole is not marred. I have read 'Enoch Soames' at least four times in different anthologies but this is the first time I have read the other stories.

This book was metafictional and postmodern before 'metafiction' and 'postmodernism' were even workable concepts. A delight and a privilege to read; and I am delighted and privileged to have just read it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


A Mountain Walked

A parcel came for me. It was a box of books. Copies of A Mountain Walked, an anthology of all S.T. Joshi's favourite 'Cthulhu Mythos' stories. This huge 700 page volume has already become a collector's item.

I am delighted to announce that it includes one of my own stories, 'Sigma Octantis', which was inspired by Lovecraft's early piece 'Polaris' (Polaris is the star closest to the north celestial pole; Sigma Octantis is the star closest to the south celestial pole).

Beautifully produced and illustrated, this deluxe limited edition Centipede Press tome is the ultimate Lovecraft tribute book and includes fiction by Neil Gaiman, Robert Barbour Johnson, TED Klein, Thomas Ligotti, Joe Pulver, Laird Barron, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Gemma Files, Patrick McGrath, Michael Shea and many others...

Centipede Press are an amazing publisher. I am immensely gratified that they are going to publish my collection The Senile Pagodas in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


Bone Idle in the Charnel House

I have just heard from Hippocampus Press in the USA that my new book of stories has gone to the printers. They were also good enough to show me the full cover of my collection. Here it is...

It amuses me that the title of this book Bone Idle in the Charnel House can be turned into the acronym BITCH. This was entirely unintentional.

I had to fill in a 'promotion form' for this book which included a brief summary of what it's about. I wrote, "A collection of weird stories that often develop in an unusual manner from an original premise. The stories are part of the grand tradition of the ‘weird story’ but they seek to be rather different from most stories of this type. My hope is that these stories simultaneously will be a part of the tradition of the weird story but also help to push the definition forward a little."

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