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Having been contacted by another publisher via a third party for one of my quirkier brand of short story, I’m having to rethink my communications strategy. This means getting out of some aspects of social media entirely and getting new, paid, email services that have nothing to do with Silicon Valley.
Now I’ve had one of my novels disallowed by one Silicon Valley owned platform for being ‘against community guidelines’ whatever that means. To me a story is a story, and whatever happens from premise to conclusion is narrative-necessary. No-one asked me if I wanted to be part of any ‘community’, in which others set the rules to which I have no real say, apart clicking ‘accept’ to the constantly changing ‘terms of service’ one has to accept when using any given online platform. I’m not part of any ‘community’. I’m an individual who can stand on his own two feet.
So I’m starting a new non-google, non-silicon valley affiliated email provider account and shifting this site to a fully paid WordPress plan, which should give me more overall control and no adverts for anything else but my work. If conditions change, I may even forgo the assistance of their ‘Happiness Engineers’. There’s a satirical title for a story right there. Can you ‘Engineer’ happiness and what form do the perpetrators of that blessed state of mind intend it takes? I was wondering about what to submit to the editor of that horror eZine. Now I think I know. Something unexpectedly nightmarish for preference.
On the topic of publishing Transgenre Dreams, the latest from Leg Iron books containing my short story “A Coelacanth in the Bathroom” is now available via Amazon. It’s also available from Smashwords and Kindle A linked picture should shortly be available on the sidebar.
Here are some opening paragraphs from ‘Coelacanth’
Finding a four foot long fish occupying the bath was a bit of a surprise. Especially at six fifteen on a Monday morning and particularly before breakfast. “I know it’s an old bathtub.” Perry muttered to himself, blinking wearily at the large, strange looking fish peering dopily back at him through vaguely green tinted water. At this time of day his sleep fogged mind was still running far too slowly to register any shock. “But this is ridiculous.”
Maybe if he left the bathroom and came back it would maybe disappear. Maybe he was still dreaming. He pinched himself and blinked hard, twice. No. The fish with skin like Van Gogh’s starry night turned in the confined space of their claw footed cast iron antique with a sluggish sploshing and waved an amiable tail back at him.
Who had filled the bathtub anyway? Wouldn’t they have heard their flats notoriously eccentric pipework in the middle of the night? And greenish water? Their venerable plumbing occasionally dispensed liquid with a brown tinge, but never green. Perry sniffed. Was that the taint of old seaweed? Sea water? This far inland?
Last night I got an email from Kevin Hillman over at Leg-Iron books who recently accepted my short story submission “A Coelacanth in the bathroom”. Apparently there’s a small eZine publisher based in California that is looking for original horror writers. They have expressed an interest in the kind of quirky, off the wall story I like to write and asked me, via Kevin, if I had anything. So, pleasantly surprised, I said yes. So I dashed off a brief email explaining who I was and what I did and the response was guardedly positive. They don’t pay, but they do have a fairly good distribution spread.
Now I’ve offered them a short story, currently a work in progress; target length about five thousand words that is kind of a spin off from “Coelacanth” in that it includes one of the characters from that tale. Without giving too much away, it’s mainly about an infestation of semi-mythical beasts who are a little, but not quite like they are portrayed in mainstream fantasy stories.
I did my research and looked at the crypto-biology behind these creatures before fleshing out the details and making them a little more believable. Nothing much, just playing around with the how, what, why, when and where of their mythology. I haven’t gone the full J K Rowling on them because I’ve always considered using the Harry Potter style of magic and wand waving as a bit of a cop out. Far more fun to take the impossible and set it off against the mundane. I mean, what would someone do if they found an endangered species in their bathroom or a plague of mythical beasts in their place of work? Whose job is it to deal with these things? How big a crimp would it put in their day?
It’s oddball questions like these that make my mouth twist into a villainous little smile and make me take to my office for so long that my wife greets me with “Oh, hello stranger” in the evenings when I finally surface.
… is the title of my latest short story with Leg-Iron books for their spring anthology. I’ve decided to err on the lighter side of things with a dark little comedy of errors which I hope readers will enjoy. Sort of a comic tale of the unexpected. Currently just under five thousand words and in the final editing stage before publication. Will post the links to Amazon etc when available.
Still working on the artwork for my reading of ‘Blink’. Stars trilogy is still being restructured. Not much more to say. Manuscript at 69,000 words, which is still only about half way.
What can I say. Fiction writing isn’t much of a spectator sport. On the technical side, have just adjusted the site to make Smartphone surfing possible.
Update: Contracts signed for the text. Not sure about the artwork.
Have uploaded my reading of ‘Moonlit shadow’ to Bitchute as it was too long for the free version of Vimeo. Same format as the Youtube version. Like, don’t like, let me know why, although I’ve often drawn criticism for putting the whole narrative of this particular story in the present tense, which some people don’t care for. What can I say, it’s a stylistic choice on my part. Channel link here.
Most of these short stories are simply experiments while I keep trying to restructure the ‘Stars’ series of science fiction stories, which started off in 2004 as a planned trilogy, but seems to be spinning off the original narrative into multiple projects like ‘Miners’. Still very much in the same universe, but too far off the main thread to be part of ‘Darkness between the Stars’.
Current word count for ‘Darkness’ is just over 69,000 words and the separate parallel and convergent narratives make sense. The bad guys are clearly defined as corrupt politicians and the ‘good’ guys as a loose grab bag of deserters, reformed drug lords and other rebels. I’ve even got to the point where I can clearly visualise them all as visual novel style drawings. When I say visual novel, the artwork I can visualise is not so much Anime, more Marvel or DC style. This is good. I may even finish the first draft this year.
As far as the recordings and video’s are concerned, have invested in a lapel microphone which should improve the sound quality of future recordings. I’ve always hated that flat, echoing and nasal quality that a webcam or PC mike gives to my voice.
‘Blink’ will be the next offering, probably by the end of February. Or as soon as I have some visuals I’m happy with. I’ve given this particular 2500 word offering a significant editing so that the new version is better than the original. ‘Blink’ is also part of a much larger project. Another work in progress. However, the chief focus will be on ‘Stars’ from now on.
Feeling mildly pleased with myself today. I’ve just had a story accepted for a Christmas-themed collection of supernatural stories. Only 1900 words, but it’s a cute little tale with a significant macabre twist. The title is ‘Moonlit shadow’ and I’ve placed it with a small Scottish publishing house called Leg-Iron Books. A publishing house so small it has no significant online presence. However, the proprietor likes the story and apart from my usual mistakes of occasionally mixing tenses and the odd rogue apostrophe, it’s as sound a piece of work as I ever write. So editing should be minimal.
Of course the money on offer is insignificant. Less than twenty dollars. But if my story helps grow the Leg-Iron brand, perhaps the financial rewards will grow too. May even do one of my video readings of it with the publisher’s consent.
For the record; I spent a rough total of thirty-five hours actually writing the story, with another five or ten hours of editing to come. Not bad considering I’m also holding down two part-time jobs, but this is no way to get rich.
Well I’ve done it, I’ve finally created a video of one of my old short stories. Looks like I need to get a decent microphone and upgrade my webcam, but for a first attempt it’s not too bad. This piece of work is up on both YouTube and Vimeo. I’ve embedded the Vimeo version here because on YouTube my supernatural tale of a recovering alcoholic is in competition with lots of video’s of cats climbing ‘trees’ made of MDF and carpet. Which a lot of people find amusing. This makes my small effort very hard to find.
The video is marked as mature content simply because it deals with adult subjects, not because this work is salacious in any way but simply because work that covers topics like alcoholism, psychiatric illness and domestic violence are not topics the main video platforms and their advertisers generally like. Please have a look and comment if possible. What you like, what you don’t like, did the tale give you a chill or miss by the proverbial country mile? I’ll try and answer any questions about the story, perhaps in a follow up video.
No, it’s not autobiographical but some of the story is based on personal experience.
With luck, this will be the first of a series. I originally wrote five dark little stories based around this particular family and their own special kind of spirit. Here are the titles in sequence;
The Cat Tree
Here is the Youtube version below. Same thing goes; tell me what you liked, what left you cold, what made you shiver.
Update: Now also on Bitchute.
Writer’s block takes you on some strange journeys. While I’m still struggling with reconstructing the Stars series of science fiction novels I found a stray short story on my hard drive, untouched since 2005.
Let me explain a little of the tales history. While I was living in Claverdon, Warwickshire, back in the 1980’s I roughed out a series of supernatural fantasy stories based around the theme of a haunted garden which I entitled ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’. These tales were never submitted anywhere and have lurked in various of my archives, both paper and digital, for over thirty years. Until last week.
I also found a manuscript copy of the title story ‘The Cat Tree’ which is a spooky little tale, sitting in my archive box too, along with several of the original planned series, like ‘White Noise’ and ‘Josephine’. On Amstrad tractor dot matrix printer paper no less. How they survived there since 1987 I have no idea. Since I first wrote them a lot of life has happened. Wife, stepdaughters, four changes of career and a move to Canada. Not to mention the upheavals of four house moves we’ve undergone since we’ve been here.
The original drafts were written between 1985 and 1987, firstly on an Imperial Safari typewriter, then transferred onto on a primitive Amstrad 8512 word processor. The narratives dealt with issues like drug induced mental illness and the long process of healing and recovery. A few years before, I’d dropped out of Nursing college, so I felt comfortable dealing with the themes of healing and recovery, which at that stage were still fairly fresh in my mind.
Still, after a read through I thought that the original draft was fairly shaky but the theme was too good not to have a go at revisiting the project. So in my off duty time last week I gave it a re-write, then handed it to my wife for a second opinion. She said she liked it, asked me various questions and I answered by editing the offending passages until it made sense to both of us. I was quite pleased with the ensuing 3300 words, which has led me to a further decision. I’ve decided to resurrect this project and breathe some life into all six of the stories I wrote for the original collection, then post some readings on a dedicated YouTube / Vimeo / Dailymotion / Bitchute video sharing channel. Furthermore, I’ve elected to open a Patreon account, so whomsoever likes my work can throw me an occasional dollar or two, if it pleases them. If not, at least I haven’t given up my day job.
The artwork is of my own creation and gives a strong hint as to the theme and content of the first story in the series. If anyone out there wants to comment / voice an opinion, I’m happy to listen.
Update: I’ve edited the repeat text out of this post and am busy trying to record some versions worthy of broadcast. ‘White Noise’, the follow on from ‘The Cat Tree’ is in need of a thorough overhaul and I haven’t even re-read ‘Josephine’ or my notes for ‘Unwelcoming’ for transcription just yet. Watch this space.