Sliding into Summer

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::Sticks head above the parapet… gestures vaguely at the almighty fuck up happening on multiple levels online, offline, and don’t even get me started on the burning trashfire that is the UK right now because just headdesk…::

(For the record, Black Lives Matter, Trans Women are Women, bigotry, harassment, and other abuse of power & position in genre and other spaces can go do one, and Brexit is giant donkey balls.)

So, happy things.

Fantasy Magazine is coming back with new editors Christie Yant and Arley Sorg! And they’re opening for submissions, which is quite lovely too.

Fox Spirit Books are open for genre love stories for their Fox Spirit Book of Love to be edited by Chloë Yates.

And Alchemy Press will be opening January 2021 for The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors 3: A Miscellany of Monsters – to be edited by Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards.

There’s a cool sounding fairy tale mash-up anthology open for subs from air and nothingness press –  Upon a Once Time

The SFWA blog is after short articles for their blog. They pay pro rates! You don’t have to be a SFWA member!

And Angry Robot will be briefly opening up for unagented book subs for a Black Voices Matter call. Black writers of SFF & Horror can hit them with subs Monday 6th July to Sunday 19th July.

Online Conventions! 

Online conventions are one of the better developments in this new plague-world, and something that is reinvigorating my love for genre get-togethers. Here’s a few to keep an eye on…

ConZealand – bringing Worldcon to the interwebs 29th July – 2nd August 2020

#conTamination2020 – coming to you 12th-13th September 2020, this online con is all about using sci-fi and fantasy to explore pandemics and the long-term future of humankind

World Fantasy Convention 2020 – have moved their normal shenanigans online – catch them 29th October – 1st November 2020

Books!

The ever fab Jan Edwards has the next in her cool cosy crime series coming out in August – Listed Dead : Bunch Courtney Investigation #3 paperback edition is available for pre-order with kindle and other digi formats available on 6th August.  Love this series to bits!

The charity anthology – Consolation Songs: Speculative Fiction For A Time of Coronavirus, edited by Iona Datt Sharma is fresh out today.  This anthology of optimistic speculative short fiction has stories from all kinds of fantastic folks and all proceeds will be donated to the COVID-19 appeal being run by the UCLH Charity, the charity supporting the University College London Hospitals NHS Trust.

And the awesome powerhouse combo of Elizabeth May and Laura Lam have the first book in their feminist space opera duology – Seven Devils – coming out in August.  Available for pre-order right now!

September Catch Up

And here we are in September – and what a strange summer it’s been (also double impeachments on the horizon, maybe, so yay!)

While I’m up to a great many projects (so! many!) that are still bubbling and can’t be announced yet, I still managed to get some things out into the world!

Over on the Fox Spirit Books blog I’ve got a couple of listicle posts as part of their celebration of Tens:

Check out 10 Archaeologists to Dig for cool lady archaeologists and, my favourite thing, 10 Lost City Breaks for the ultimate travel guide to legendary cities.  I also put together the Fox Spirit Summer Sampler (which I can’t now find a download link for, but it was fab, of course!)

In other news, I’m a juror for the BFS Awards Best Magazine/Periodical category this year and we’ve just delivered our verdict to the boss – the awards will be announced in full at the BFS Awards ceremony at Fantasycon in Glasgow 18th – 20th October.  All I’ll say is that it was fun to catch up on old favourites and discover new to me things…

Oh! And! Much excite! My story in the Alchemy Press Book of Horrors – ‘Down Along the Backroads’ – made the Honourable Mentions list in Ellen Datlow’s just released The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eleven.  This is the first time I’ve ever been in such a thing so happy dancing all round.  Ellen! Datlow! Y’all!

 

Weekly Geekery

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Due to the dual whammo of bank holidays and illness I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with watching things while I wait for my brain to start working again, and happily I picked some good ‘uns that were worth the wait.

First and foremost, a bingewatch of both seasons of Star Trek: Discovery. I’m not the most dedicated of Trek viewers – I’ve never seen Enterprise, I’ve got fond memories of random movies, the odd TOS and most of Next Gen, adore DS9 and quite like Voyager though I’ve not managed to catch all the seasons of that, so watching Discovery hadn’t been high on my priority list. Big mistake.

After seeing trusted online mates enthusing about it (and hearing that there was something to do with mycelium and spores in it… which got my attention as they’re things I’ve been fiddling about with for a mushroom based apocalypse thing I’ve been working on… but, digression…) I finally took the plunge and started watching. And continued watching. And couldn’t focus until I made it through all the episodes in one glorious blur of SF goodness. It is so good. Soooo good. From the set up and mirror universe shenanigans in S1, to the magnificence that is the twisty time-loopy red-angel plot of S2 and the potential it brings for S3, Disco is now firmly my favourite trek ever!

There are cool nods to the wider Trek universe, gorgeous character notes and relationships, Tilly! Stamets! Stamets and Engineer Jett! Georgiou snark! Culber being adorable! Moody young Spock in a beard! Nhan and Georgiou kicking ass! Burnham’s complicated relationships with all her adopted family members! Sentient space mushrooms! And the last two episodes of S2 near broke me with some of the emotional notes, and that’s a thing that doesn’t happen often. Bloody brilliant.

I also caught up with a couple of movies I’ve been meaning to see – Ant-Man and the Wasp, for one. I’m fairly certain I haven’t actually seen the first Ant-Man, save perhaps a few minutes here and there while flipping through movie channels, but that didn’t hinder my appreciation of the sequel. It’s a lot of fun and I’ll freely admit I was mainly there for the superhero lady representation – Wasp and Ghost (Killjoys fan in da house, yo!) were excellent and it’s always a joy to see women kicking ass and being super competent.

Another fun one was Solo. Again, I’m not the most dedicated of Star Wars viewers, but I have been loving the new movies – especially Rogue One and The Force Awakens (Rey and Jyn for the win! Competent leading ladies kicking all the ass and getting stuff done.) Like Disco does with Trek, Solo provides a lot of neat nods to its wider universe and manages to pull off some nice character interactions. I mean, what is not to love about the double act of Lando and L3?! And the Kessel Run! And shiny new Falcon! Admittedly it is a little uneven in places, but definitely worth sitting it out through the draggy bits as the larger whole is quite cool.

Flash Recs

So last week I finally started catching up on my Daily Science Fiction email backlog… (If you like flash fiction, then you might want to check out Daily Science Fiction, purveyors of, yes, daily flash fic delivered online or via email, and yours for the stunning price of free!)

Which I mainly mention as the lead in to some flash fic recs!

And, lo! A Listicle! Here are some of the ones I particularly loved…

A Heart, An Egg, A Lock of Hair by Kelly M Sandoval – a modern love story with echoes of the folktales where sorcerers hide their heart in improbable places.

A Thousand Times Over by Tamoha Sengupta – mermaids!

Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise – a look at Wendy full grown and what it takes to protect your daughter from Peter Pan.

Of Puddings and Prophecies by Helen French – two friends in a prophecy competition where interpretation is everything.

Last To Know by Leanne A. Styles – aliens and family secrets.

Go check ’em out and have a bounce around the DSF site for more free fic!

2018 Roundup

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2018 was a year of stuff getting done! Here’s what and where…

Fiction!

My short story ‘Down Along the Backroads’ appeared in the fabulous Alchemy Press Book of Horrors – you can get your copy of Horrors in ebook and paperback formats from a variety of retailers including Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Book Depository and Indiebooks

Non-Fiction!

Across the interwebs, I had a review of Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant published as Day 17 of the Countdown to Christmas feature on the Fox Spirit Books blog and a Five Fave Anthologies appreciation piece as Day 11; Fox Spirit also took part in the annual Women in Horror Month and my piece on five favourite short horror stories was also published by them – Women in Horror: Short Fiction Queens; elsewhere I wrote an appreciation of Stephen King’s ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ as part of the Stephen King Mixtape on Mark West’s blog.

Editing!

I edited the rather gorgeous Fox Spirit Books short fiction sampler – Fearless Genre Warriors – an epic anthology that pulls 26 pieces of short fiction, 3 poems and 2 pieces of non-fiction from Fox Spirit’s range of anthologies and collections, with bonus internal art from Kieran Walsh and cover art from Vincent Holland-Keen.  Available in epub or mobi format as a FREE download from Fox Spirit Books.

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And with my myth and magic non-fiction hat on, I launched my Ann J. Clark website and published 4 divination taster guides!

Let’s Try Dowsing – co-written with Patricia Barber – a beginner’s guide to dowsing.  Available as kindle edition from Amazon.

Let’s Try Tarot – co-written with Patricia Barber – a beginner’s guide to tarot reading. Available as kindle and paperback editions from Amazon.

Let’s Try Cartomancy – a beginner’s guide to playing card divination. Available as kindle and paperback editions from Amazon.

Let’s Try Runes – a beginner’s guide to runes and rune divination. Available as kindle and paperback editions from Amazon.

And that was my 2018! Stay tuned for an even more packed 2019!

Book Launched: Let’s Try Runes

1545213025Launched today, the simply delicious Let’s Try Runes: A Taster Guide for Beginners!

Whether you are simply curious about the art of rune divination or are looking to make runes a part of your deeper spiritual journey, this book will give you the basic foundation skills to get started.

You will find tips on how to make and cast runes, how to make and use casting boards to give greater context to your enquiries, and when you’re ready to try things out, there’s a selection of rune castings you can experiment with to hone your skills.

You’ll also find information on the fascinating history of runes and how they are used in modern times along with some resources to take your studies further.

It’s available right now from Amazon in paperback and ebook formats and will also be available live from the Mystic Maidens stall at various events next year.  (And stay tuned for news of other ebook formats!)

Amazon ebook – https://amzn.to/2SeLAMo

Amazon paperback – https://amzn.to/2GvxdC3

Out Now! Fearless Genre Warriors

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Today Fearless Genre Warriors went live! Hurrah!

With illustrations by Kieran Walsh and cover art by Vincent Holland-Keen, Fearless Genre Warriors: A Fox Spirit Sampler brings you a selection of twenty six short stories, three poems, and two pieces of non-fiction pulled from the full range of Fox Spirit Books anthologies and collections!

It is now available to download in one handy file containing mobi, epub, pdf & azk formats, for absolute nada from the Fox Spirit Books website.

You can get your free copy from http://www.foxspirit.co.uk/free-fiction/

Scroll down to the Facebook Giveaway option and use FoxBook as your password and there you go!

But who’s in it, you may be wondering… sooooo many fantastic people! Let me introduce you to them:

Part One: Fables and Fabulations

Cheryl Morgan, K.A. Laity, Andrew Reid, A.J. Fitzwalter, Carol Borden, Chloë Yates, Steven Savile, VC Linde, Sarah Cawkwell and Alasdair Stuart

Part Two: Before Dawn

Jan Siegel, Nick Wood, Ren Warom, Tracy Fahey, KT Davies, W.P. Johnson, Ian Whates, Carol Borden, James Bennett, Alec McQuay, K.A. Laity and Aliya Whitely

Part Three: Touch Magic, Pass it On

Jan Siegel, Tim Major, Steve Lockley, Margrét Helgadóttir, Chloë Yates, Li Huijia, Yukimi Ogawa, Gaie Sebold and more from Alasdair Stuart

And I should also probably mention that genre wise, Fearless Genre Warriors covers it all – we have horror tales, fantasy tales, SF tales, crime tales, humorous tales, and tales that blend any or all of the above! So whatever your fiction thing is, we’ve got you covered!

And if you like what you read, don’t forget to check out the anthologies and collections they came from because there’s more fantastic Fox Spirit fiction waiting for you!

 

Interview with Peter Coleborn & Jan Edwards

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Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards to talk about their new anthology The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, the joys of editing, horror and short fiction!

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Today sees the launch of your latest anthology The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors – what inspired you to choose the theme and what horrors can we look forward to seeing in it?

Peter: Besides the very general theme ‘horror’ the book has no theme. I feel that stories in themed anthologies, especially tightly themed ones, can become too similar. I enjoy variety. I enjoy coming across something unexpected. In this I mirror the views expressed by Mark Morris, editor of the wonderful New Fears series.

I use the word ‘horror’ as a wide catch-all net. What you will find between the covers is 25 well-written yarns that will hopefully chill you, or at the least make you go: wow, I didn’t expect that. Weird stories. Creature features. There are stories that may have been at home in The Pan Book of Horror Stories, perhaps in New Terrors (edited by Ramsey Campbell), or in one of Stephen Jones & David Sutton’s anthologies. Other anthologies are available.

Jan: Taken at its roots the term ‘horror’ is a wonderfully broad remit that encompasses everything from Hammer Films to Grimms’ Tales. Horrors gave writers scope to write about anything and everything – and they did.

Tightly themed anthologies can become frustrating. After the first six tales about two-tailed dogs in a bone factory any sense of tension and wonder has pretty much worn away.  Of course the answer is not to read a tightly themed anthology at one sitting.

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With the APB of Horrors #2 opening for submissions in January 2019, what are your long term aims for the series and are there any particular types of tale you’d like to see submitted for Volume Two?

Peter: All being well – health and wealth wise – I’d like to see this become an annual event. I’d like to see a few more ghost / supernatural stories next time, otherwise more of the same – good quality horror fiction. I rather not see the usual horror tropes unless handled well / differently.

May I also mention artwork? Well, I am! One of the things I liked about the British Fantasy Society days was that there were so many pen & ink illustrations. I wanted to emulate that in Horrors so I managed to get 26 original Jim Pitts drawings for volume one – and all being well I hope to do the same for volume two onwards. The illustrations, I think, add a little class to the book.

Jan: I can’t add much more to the points Peter has raised. Yes, a few more ghost stories are always welcome. I am a fan of the good spooky tale – and folk horror, naturally – that uses imagination without resorting to ‘jolt’ tricks. Whether supernatural horror or not, anyone submitting work will always do well to avoid the ‘tropes of fashion’, for want of a better term, unless they have a genuinely different twist to perform.

What are the qualities of a good short horror story for you? What horror tropes turn you off?

Peter: Well-written tales are a must, otherwise it is difficult to describe the quality of a good story. If you can be precise about definitions then the story may lose that sense of wonder that grabs you. Generally, I like stories about people in strange or weird situations. I’m not a fan of people becoming victims for no reason whatsoever except to end them in particularly gruesome ways. Bloodshed is fine, but keep it in check. Subtlety is good!

Jan: As with the previous question, it is the things that go bump in the night that most people find scarier. The mad axemen will make you sweat a little yet they can usually be fought off or outwitted. We are hardwired to be far more afraid of the unknown, those things we cannot see or touch. The horror is always in the anticipation. Yes, there is horror in the more visceral but that relies far more on revulsion than genuine fear in many cases.

Who are your favourite short horror authors, and what short horror stories do you keep coming back to? 

Peter: I find this sort of question difficult to answer, to be truthful. I enjoy a range of short stories from a range of writers. Of those no longer with us, I would select Karl Edward Wagner as one of my favourites, as well as Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, etc… As for living authors: I rather not say because I’m bound to miss someone out.

Jan: I always hate these favourite or most influential writer questions. Partly for the reasons Peter has given but also because the moment I have delivered my choice I come up with a half dozen others. So not going to name names because they know who they are. But if pushed then I’d have to say that Daphne du Maurier will always take some beating in the short story stakes.

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What would you say is the appeal of short fiction anthologies for the reader? What anthologies would you recommend new readers try? 

Peter: Read Alchemy Press anthologies (and collections)!

I’ve mentioned a few earlier. In the UK I would always recommend you seek out any anthology edited or co-edited by Stephen Jones. Jones and David Sutton probably taught me more about anthologies than almost any other editor. Mark Morris’s New Fears series promises to be a top-notch home of quality horror – long may it exist. There are also several anthologies in the UK small press arena that are worth checking out.

In the US, go for Ellen Datlow anthologies. If you can find them, try Dark Forces edited by Kirby McCauley, Prime Evil edited by Douglas Winter, Masques edited by J N Williamson, Unknown Worlds edited by Stanley Schmidt and Martin Greenberg (this last is more weird fiction rather than horror).

Also, read the best of annuals, those currently edited by Stephen Jones, Ellen Datlow, Paula Guran, Johnny Mains. And dig around second-hand bookshops for the best of series edited by Karl Edward Wagner and Gerald Page.

And of course, read the magazines such as Black Static.

Jan: For me at least, though the novel allows scope for building tension and ramping up the chills, horror often works best in the brevity of the short form. For example I have always found Stephen King’s short fiction far more thought provoking than the majority of his novels. It brings us back to the unknown. The less you know, or is explained to you, the more scope your brain has to speculate.

What would I recommend? The best of annuals are a showcase for the best in the field selected from the plethora of anthologies and collections produced every year. Peter has listed most of the better known in those categories but there are always others. The great thing about them is finding authors who are new to you and appeal to your tastes. Like Forest Gump’s infamous box of chocolates, ‘you never know what you’re going to get.’

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You’ve edited a variety of publications for the British Fantasy Society as well as your work for the Alchemy Press, Penkhull Press (and Jan’s work for Fox Spirit Books) – how did you get started with editing short fiction? When and how did you realise it was something you wanted to do, and who were/are your editor influences?

Peter: I first edited magazines for the British Fantasy Society, including Winter Chills (aka Chills from number 5), which received some favourable comments from Ellen Datlow. That started me off. In the late 1990s I felt that the BFS wasn’t able to do the kind of thing I was after so I started The Alchemy Press. The first publication was a slim collection of Damian Paladin stories by Mike Chinn. (I should say here that Mike has been a huge help with all this editing and publishing lark – thanks Mike.) The next books included story and poetry collections by Kim Newman and Jo Fletcher. The first anthology Alchemy did was the loosely themed Beneath the Ground edited by Joel Lane (RIP, Joel. He would’ve been 55 this year), then Swords Against the Millennium edited and co-published by Mike Chinn/Saladoth Productions.

After a break of a few years – blame the BFS and FantasyCon – I decided to launch the press again with two anthologies, The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders (edited by Jan and Jenny Barber) and The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes (edited by Mike Chinn). Then there were several other anthologies and collections. I usually did the backroom stuff – final edits and design work.

The first Alchemy Press book with my name on the cover was Something Remains in 2016, a tribute to Joel Lane – I’m very humbled to have produced this book. And now we have The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors due on 1st November (and launched at FantasyCon in October).

Jan: Like Peter, I started small, editing anthologies for writers’ groups and graduating through journals such as Dark Horizons up to open call anthologies. So yes, the BFS has a lot to answer for! Dark Horizons, and its later siblings, spawned many an anthologist and championed many a writer in its time.

I teamed up with Jenny Barber for both Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit to produce some dark fantasy anthologies. When we first started planning Ancient Wonders almost all anthologies being produced in the UK at the time were more traditional horror. We wanted to produce volumes that were dealt with the themes of fantasy and folklore. From that came the two Alchemy Urban Mythics and Fox’s Wicked Women.

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Editing The Alchemy Press Book of Horror with Peter is a return to editing after a little break, mainly because I have been more heavily involved in writing crime fiction in various forms.

And finally… what are you up to next? 

Peter: Besides The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, I’m also publishing this year the second collection by Bryn Fortey, Compromising the Truth. Bryn’s first collection, Merry-Go-Round and Other Words was also published by us, a few years back. Bryn is a wonderful gent who had stories published in The Pan Book of Horror Stories – so we’re going full circle in a way.

I sent Bryn a mock up of the cover, based on one of my photos, which he liked so much he wrote a new and brilliant story for it, ‘Ain’t that the Truth.’

Otherwise, I’ve decided that I will keep Alchemy Press low key and publish just two titles a year, one anthology (Horrors 2, obviously) and a collection (which is hush hush at the moment). As you can tell, I am a short story fan.

The Penkhull Press is a non-fantasy/horror imprint formed by a few local writers, a sort of co-operative. Penkhull has published novels and short story collections, for which I seem to end up doing all that backroom stuff – but that’s okay, that’s fine. One of our books, Winter Downs by Jan, a World War Two crime drama, won this year’s Arnold Bennett Book Prize, which is fabulous news.

Jan: I have three more WW2 crime novels in the pipeline, and intend to get my urban fantasy trilogy out at some point (which is also crime in its way, but with supernatural elements thrown in).

I also have my novella, ‘A Small Thing for Yolanda’ just out in the French folk horror anthology Into the Night Eternal and have several short stories in gestation that are intended for crime anthologies, and at some point I will finish my ‘Captain Georgi’ cosmic horror collection, though as always its finding the time!

Thank you for joining us Peter & Jan!

The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors is available in ebook and paperback formats from Amazon and all good retailers!

Peter Coleborn created the award-winning Alchemy Press in the late 1990s and has since (co-)published a range of anthologies and collections, including The Alchemy Press Books of Pulp Heroes and Urban Mythic, and collections by John Grant, Anne Nicholls, Marion Pitman and others. He has edited various publications for the British Fantasy Society (including Winter Chills/Chills and Dark Horizons) and co-edited with Pauline E Dungate the Joel Lane tribute anthology Something Remains in 2016. Besides editing and publishing he mucks around with Photoshop a lot, as you can tell by the cover artwork.
www.alchemypress.co.uk

Jan Edwards has edited been anthologies for various presses, notably Fox Spirit, The Alchemy Press and the BFS for over twenty years, including: (co-edited with Jenny Barber) Wicked Women, Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders and APBO Urban Mythic 1&2. The Alchemy Press book of Horrors (co-edited with Peter Coleborn) is just released. Several of her anthologies have been shortlisted for awards.

Jan is also a writer of short fiction, which can be found in many crime, horror and fantasy anthologies. Her fiction has appeared in books as diverse as The Mammoth Book of Moriarty, Terror Tales of the Deep and the Dr Who DVD and anthology Daemons of Devil’s End; some of those tales have been collected into: Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties and Fables and Fabrications. Her supernatural crime novella ‘A Small Thing for Yolanda’ appears this year in Into The Night Eternal: Tales of French Folk Horror.
Her novels include Sussex Tales (winner of Winchester Slim Volume award) and more recently, Winter Downs: Bunch Courtney book #1 (crime novel; winner of the Arnold Bennett Book Prize). In Her Defence: Bunch Courtney #2 is due out late in 2018. Jan is also a recipient of a BFA Karl Edward Wagner award.
Blogsite: http://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @jancoledwards

 

Coming Soon! Fearless Genre Warriors

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I’m thrilled to say that one of my editing projects is getting close to publication! Hurrah!  Coming very soon from Fox Spirit Books may I present – Fearless Genre Warriors: A Fox Spirit Sampler.

With illustrations by Kieran Walsh and cover art by Vincent Holland-Keen, Fearless Genre Warriors: A Fox Spirit Sampler brings you a selection of twenty six short stories, three poems, and two pieces of non-fiction pulled from the full range of Fox Spirit Books anthologies and collections!

You’ll find folklore and fairytales told with humour and heart, ancient gods in far-flung times, ravens and foxes, shamans and sacrifice and earthquake gods, werewolves and faeries and mad science, classic tales seen anew, fiction and reality colliding, bards and dragons and mighty heroes, oh my!

You’ll also find the tales told in the graveyard hours, twilight terrors and pre-dawn dread. There’s tales of death and resurrection, human monsters and monsters of legend, tricksy creatures both fae and other, from desert and hillside and moor, to the depths of space and the deepest sea. Stories of transformation and transference, of hope and revolution and survival and moving on. Stories where worlds are changed, new homes found, and lives altered for the better.

It will be available soon in digital format only, and how much will this epic volume of short fiction goodness cost you? Nothing! Nada! Zip! Zilch! Totally Zero! Free all the way!  Is that not the bargain of the year or what!

More news and download links coming soon!

Interview with Marie O’Regan

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Today I am pleased to welcome Marie O’Regan to the site to chat about her latest anthology Phantoms, the joys of short fiction, and all things horror!

Today sees the launch of your latest anthology Phantoms – what inspired you to choose the theme and what kind of haunting tales can we look forward to seeing in it?

PhantomsCoverI’ve wanted to do another ghost story anthology ever since I edited Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, back in 2012, but anthologies are a hard sell with publishers these days. I’m very grateful to Titan Books for the opportunity to go back to working with ghost stories, which I love. Phantoms is a very different beast, as all the stories are contemporary. Four are reprints, including: John Connolly’s beautifully told ‘A Haunting’, the story of a man revisiting the hotel he always spent anniversaries in with his wife, this time, for the first time, alone; Joe Hill’s ‘20th Century Ghost’, which is a wonderful story about a movie-loving spirit tied to a cinema; Paul Tremblay’s story ‘A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken’, which is a ‘choose your ending’ style tale, beautifully told; and Muriel Gray’s emotive ‘Front Row Rider’, first published in Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories. Add to that original tales such as: Alison Littlewood’s ‘The Marvellous Talking Machine’ set in a Victorian entertainment emporium; Robert Shearman’s ‘Tom is in the Attic’, a haunted house story with a difference; M.R. Carey’s ‘My Life in Politics’, which deals with spirits seeking a new home and a corrupt politician, told from a young girl’s viewpoint… There are also stories by Kelley Armstrong, Gemma Files, Josh Malerman (‘Frank, Hide’), Tim Lebbon… the list goes on, but hopefully there’s a story in there for everyone.

What are the qualities of a good short horror story for you? What horror tropes turn you off?

A good short horror story, to my mind, should leave you feeling slightly uneasy – not necessarily because a story is gory, or shocking, but because it creeps you out and that feeling remains after you’ve finished reading. If you’re talking about classic ghost stories, a great example of this would be Edith Wharton’s ‘Afterward’ which I included in The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women; you’re aware throughout the story that there’s something not quite right but there’s nothing overt until the end, when you realise there has been a ghost after all, you just didn’t realise it at the time. If you’re talking contemporary short horror fiction, then I think an excellent example is Angela Slatter’s ‘When We Fall We Forget’, which is in Phantoms. The setting is very atmospheric, the characterisation is very well done and the story plays on the emotions beautifully, every thread weaving together to an affecting conclusion.

Horror tropes that turn me off? There are a few, I admit. I’m not a fan of the ‘woman in distress’ trope; some poor female is degraded in any one of a number of ways (chased, raped, abused, tortured, killed – always joyfully depicted), and the hero of the piece is some man, of course. Both men and women can be strong, and both can be weak.  And they can both be monsters; that’s not exclusively male. To me, good fiction shows the complexities of all the characters, and isn’t dependent on gender. I don’t like overly graphic violence that’s unnecessary. Sometimes it is, and that’s fine as long as it’s not glorified, but sometimes too much graphic violence just reads like torture porn and that’s a complete turn off for me.

Who are your favourite short horror authors, and what short horror stories do you keep coming back to?  

My favourite short horror authors are: Christopher Fowler, John Connolly, M.R. James, Charles L. Grant, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Angela Slatter, Gemma Files, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Crowther, Lisa Tuttle… the list goes on. There are loads of stories I keep going back to. Christopher Fowler’s ‘The Rule Book’, from his collection Red Gloves, or ‘Hater’, both excellent but I’m a huge fan of his writing in general. One of my favourite Stephen King short stories is ‘The Monkey’ from Skeleton Crew – and another favourite, although it’s a novella rather than a short story, is ‘The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet’; there’s also ‘The Reach’… I think you can tell I’m a fan! Peter Crowther’s ‘Eater’ is excellent; Charles L. Grant’s ‘Confess the Seasons’ and ‘The Last and Dreadful Hour’; John Connolly’s ‘Sometimes Children Wander by Mistake’ or ‘A Haunting’… So many that I love.

What would you say is the appeal of short fiction anthologies for the reader? What anthologies would you recommend new readers try?

joe-roberts-ghost-stories-by-women-x-portrait-designI think a short story anthology holds a certain kind of appeal. The stories are ‘bite-sized’, if you like, so you can dip in and out as and when you have time. There’s also the fact that you’re less likely to have to leave the story part-way through, as you would with a novel. And with an anthology, there’s also the fact that you get the chance to sample writing from a number of different authors, some of whom you might not have read before – introducing you to new possibilities as well as reading work from some of your favourites.  As for anthologies I’d recommend, I’m bound really to recommend mine – Phantoms, and the last one, Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, or the ones I’ve edited with Paul (Kane), Hellbound Hearts, short stories based on Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, or our anthology of circus-themed horror, A Carnivàle of Horror: Dark Tales from the Fairground. I love Stephen Jones’ long-running Best New Horror anthology series, now published by PS Publishing, although any anthology he edits is going to be great value. Or any anthology edited by Ellen Datlow – I’m particularly fond of The Dark. PS also do the Postscripts series, always a good read.

Do you prefer anthologies with a narrow theme or a wider theme and why?

I prefer as wide a theme as possible, purely because then you stand a chance of getting the widest range of fiction possible. Ghosts, for example, is a broad church; you can set your story anywhere or anytime.

You’ve edited and co-edited an assortment of magazines and anthologies – how did you get started with editing short fiction? When and how did you realise it was something you wanted to do long term, and who were/are your editor influences?

I got my start editing short fiction with the British Fantasy Society. First I edited their newsletter, Prism, as it was called in those days – and then moved on to their fiction magazine, Dark Horizons. With Paul, I co-edited an anthology (BFS- A Celebration) for them, and we’ve also edited many other magazines – FantasyCon programme booklets etc. I’ve taught writing, I’ve been a judge on short story competitions, a juror for the Stoker Awards two years running… and of course Paul and I have edited a number of anthologies together, as I’ve said above. We’re currently working on a few more, to be released over the next two years, but I can’t really say too much about those here.

As an ex-Chair of the British Fantasy Society and current Co-Chair of the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, what would you say are the benefits of being part of such organisations?  And what are your aims and future projects with the UK HWA?

I would say the value of both organisations lies primarily in their ability to form a community of sorts for people working in the genre. Writing is a lonely business, or can be, and it’s important to make friendships and keep abreast of developments in the genre as well as attend events and mingle with others working in the same field. Both societies also publish fiction by their members, which is a great way to get those vital first few stories out there. The HWA goes a little further in that it provides things like a hardship fund, legal advice for publishing disputes, a mentor scheme – it’s always looking for ways to help its members in a practical way.

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As to our aims with the HWA UK – we’ve been organising pub meets, similar to the BFS Open Nights, as a way of allowing members to meet up and socialise, as well as discuss what they want from the HWA or talk to us about any things they’d like to see… we usually have a guest author to read and answer questions as well. So far we’ve had M.R. Carey, Catriona Ward and A.K. Benedict as guests – we’re trying to organise another one at the moment, but can’t confirm just yet. We’ve run two day long events – a Scriptwriting Day last year, with screenwriters such as Joe Ahearne, Stephen Volk, Stephen Gallagher, James Moran and Cat Davies, Jason Arnopp, producer Jen Handorf, among others, giving up a day to give talks/run panels on various aspects of screenwriting; we finished with a screening of Alice Lowe’s PREVENGE, produced by Jen, which went down very well. And this year we ran a Crime Writing Day, as there’s a huge crossover between horror and crime fiction. Again, it was a great day, with authors such as Stuart MacBride, Fiona Cummins, David Mark, Steph Broadribb, Roz Watkins, Paul Finch, Jo Jakeman, to name a few, giving up a day to run panels on all aspects of writing in that genre.

StokerConLogoAnd in 2020, we’re bringing StokerCon™ to the UK for the first time, over the weekend of 16th to 19th April, in Scarborough. We’re working on that now, and it promises to be a brilliant weekend. You can find more details on www.stokercon-uk.com.  What we want to do is build a community for fans of the horror genre and those working within it; there isn’t really an organisation purely for horror in the UK.  We’re also looking at ways to improve what we offer here; perhaps an ezine for members only, that sort of thing. All members, worldwide, get monthly emails that include market information, members’ news etc.

And finally… what are you up to next? 

So much stuff! First up, Paul and I are about to hand in another anthology, but can’t release more on that just yet. I have a collection coming out from Luna Press next year, called The Last Ghost and Other Stories, several short stories in various anthologies – three are due out this month: ‘Pretty Things’ in the Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, ‘Before the Parade Passes By’ in Stephen Jones’ Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories, and ‘Tap, Tap’ in Black Room Manuscripts Vol. 4. Two of those launch at FantasyCon this month, as does Phantoms, and I have a Forbidden Planet signing for Phantoms on Saturday 27th October (https://forbiddenplanet.com/events/2018/10/27/join-best-names-horror-fiction), with a number of authors coming along: M.R. Carey, Joe Hill, Catriona Ward, Laura Purcell, Robert Shearman, George Mann… and me. I’m trying to organise a couple of local events for that as well. Paul and I are working on two more mass market anthology projects that are due out over the next year or so, I’m working on a novel that I hope to finish pretty soon now… and various script and short story projects are in the pipeline. And StokerCon UK, of course. That’s just going to keep getting busier.

Marie O’Regan, thank you for joining us!

Phantoms is available in ebook and paperback format from all good retailers!

Marie O’Regan is a three-time British Fantasy Award-nominated author and editor, based in Derbyshire. She has released two collections, Mirror Mere and In Times of Want, and her third, The Last Ghost and Other Stories is due from Luna Press early in 2019, Her short fiction has appeared in a number of genre magazines and anthologies in the UK, US, Canada, Italy and Germany, including Best British Horror 2014, and Great British Horror: Dark Satanic Mills (2017), and The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories. Her novella, Bury Them Deep, was published by Hersham Horror Books in September 2017. She was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Short Story in 2006, and Best Anthology in 2010 (Hellbound Hearts) and 2012 (Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women). Her genre journalism has appeared in magazines like The Dark Side, Rue Morgue and Fortean Times, and her interview book with prominent figures from the horror genre, Voices in the Dark, was released in 2011. An essay on ‘The Changeling’ was published in PS Publishing’s Cinema Macabre, edited by Mark Morris. She is co-editor of the bestselling Hellbound Hearts, Mammoth Book of Body Horror and A Carnivàle of Horror – Dark Tales from the Fairground, plus editor of bestselling The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women and Phantoms. She is Co-Chair of the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers’ Association, and is currently organising StokerCon UK, which will take place in Scarborough in April 2020. Marie is represented by Jamie Cowen of The Ampersand Agency.

You can visit Marie at her website: http://www.marieoregan.net

[Author photo credit: (c) Ellen Datlow]