Saturday, December 16, 2006

Old Year's Resolutions

One of the avowed purposes of this blog was to keep a record of how things were going with the writing lark, and it occurs to me that I have been rather lax in following this up. So...

(Cautionary note: The day job has gone ballistic at the moment - the season of advent madness being one of our busiest times - so I'm writing this in a state of almost-complete knackeredness. One personality quirk that I have discovered over the years is that exhaustion breeds verbosity in me, or at least pomposity and the ability to sound as if I have swallowed a thesaurus. So apologies for the somewhat tortured style that probably follows).

At the moment, I have only got one short story 'out there' - sitting, I hope happily, with Greyfriars Press after their call for stories for a film-themed anthology. I quite like the piece and, if Greyfriars don't want it, I think I'll try to do something else with it. Otherwise, I have been going back through various older stories with a newly critical eye, sorting out those that I want to try sending out in the New Year and deciding which ones could do with that extra polish (or, in one case, a complete re-write).

I've also been re-working little bits of a short novel (73,000 words) called Otherkin with an eye to sending this out to a few areas in the New Year. This modern-suburban-werewolf-murder-mystery, as I like to think of it, has been fiddled with and polished for so long now I'm starting to lose track of it. The latest ammendments are as a result of sending it out to John Jarrold's scriptural editing service a few months back - the feedback was extremely useful and I have spent quite a bit of time and effort working on the book. But to be honest, I have to leave it alone now. I'm itching to start the sequel to it - Alpha, a modern-urban-werewolf-western (sorta) - and I think that is where I need to concentrate my energies now.

Other than that, I have submitted the opening few chapters of Once: A Belmouth Tale (the famed boomerang book mentioned in the first posting) to Snowbooks and we'll see if anything comes of that.

I'm painfully aware that I need to get more done, but I also recognise that there are only 24 hours in the day and yesterday, for example, I was working for 16 of them. Hey ho. There's always next year...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I'm Never Going To Belgium

I watched a film last night. You know when you have one of those days when you're walking home and you pass Blockbusters and you think, 'Oh, sod it, there's nothing on the telly', so you go in and take pot luck? Well, that was me last night - and the film I chose: The Ordeal.

I hadn't really heard much about the film, but I have a fondness for left-of- centre and/or foreign cinema and this seemed to be both. And it was. In spades.

If you haven't seen it and you want a totally weird night in, try it. The plot is basically a Backwoods horror story a la 'The Hills Have Eyes' or 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre', but with a few twists and set in Belgium. For instance, the heroine in peril is not a woman (but still conforms to the heroine stereotype - you'll have to see it), and the lead character is totally unsympathetic whereas the 'monster' of the piece looks like your favourite uncle and is motivated by such intense loneliness it has driven him mad. In fact, when he is removed from the plot near the film's end, his successor - and arguably a more monstrous man - looks like Santa Claus. Add in a deliciously surreal touch (look out for the woodland children and the pig-used-as-hunting-dog) and you have a totally original film.

And I haven't even mentioned the religious subtext.

I haven't enjoyed being so upset by a film since I saw Irreversible, but this manages it. It is a horror film, but you actually forget that for long periods, and when the horror does come it's from a total different area than you were expecting. It is cinema that provokes a reaction, and as such is worth watching anyway. But it's also fun in a somewhat twisted way.

And watch out for the 'dance' sequence in the bar which somehow manages to be very funny and genuinely disturbing at the same time.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

And So To London...

... For the BFS Open Night at Ye Olde Cock in Fleet Street.

I'm not a member of the British Fantasy Society, but I am an avid scourer of their website and membership has been crossing my mind recently. The Open Nights seemed to be an easy way of testing the waters - and besides, Chris Teague of Pendragon was to be launching his new anthology, Choices, there. If nothing else, I could meet the man who finally said yes to my writing!

Ye Olde Cock turned out to be easy to find and very crowded. The BFS meeting was upstairs, but downstairs was packed with men in expensive suits smoking and drinking (well, it was opposite the Law Courts). The smoking side didn't go down too well with me, but hey, come April, that won't be a problem anymore. Once the BFS crowd had been given entry, everyone colonised some tables and the wait for the bar to open began.

A couple of observations. Firstly, I had expected to see a few faces there that I knew. I've been to quite a few SF conventions - EasterCons, WorldCons, even the odd UniCon - and, although I'm not particularly known there, I know faces. The surprising thing here is that there were none of the ones I knew at the BFS. I had expected some cross-over, but no - Sf and F, ne'er the twain shall meet. (There was one face there that I recognised, Stephen Jones, Editor, author, and God Of Horror Fiction in the UK - but with no track record as yet, I had no reason to introduce myself to him).

Another thing was that I had expected something a little more, well, structured. As it was, one guy stood up after a few minutes, announced that Chris Teague was there to launch his book, that there was another book on the Hellraiser films also being launched, and that there was no raffle, and then he sat down again. That was it. At the SF equivalent to this, at The Tun public house, there is a speaker and an order of events. Here, laissez faire.

It soon became clear as well that the Christmas Open Night was probably not the best to have started with. There were a lot of people there - but they all knew each other and were greeting one another as long lost friends. It was not the atmosphere to just push into. A husband and wife sat at my table, for instance, but it took ten minutes of being studiously ignored before I felt that I could start up a conversation. Once it did get going, the couple were very nice - but it was evidently politeness rather than interest that motivated the chat.

Not that it was all like that. I did meet Chris Teague - a very nice guy who sold me a copy of Choices (not a difficult sale!), signed it and was very complimentary to me. He even introduced me to someone from Elastic Press. The other thing of interest was that, unlike SF meetings, this one was less fannish and more professional - by which I mean that there seemed to be more networking with potential writers and publishers than general discussion. And it was also much more biased towards Horror than I had expected. I had somehow thought that the British Fantasy Society might have more than a passing interest in elves, mages and quests - but here the main buzz that I got was for dark fantasy, horror and slipstream works.

Which is both interesting and heartening.

I think I shall return to the BFS Open Night in the future - but probably a little later in the year when the pack has thinned out and I might have something to talk about. All in all, an interesting night.