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Mountain Radio

Please Smile My Noise Bleed is the name of an album by Múm, and it’s what I’m listening to as I work on a new short story. Mainly because I really like it and haven’t listened to it in a long time, but also because the story was partly inspired by the name of one of the tracks on it – ‘On The Old Mountain Radio’.

Every Múm album has a little piece of writing hidden in the sleeve somewhere. Here’s the piece from Please Smile My Noise Bleed:

 

there go the old mountain days and nights.

by now they have disappeared into a shack up the road.

they say they have developed a technique to split

a noise in half like a fruit.

 

and they were kids that

used to sleep at night.

Exquisite World Book Day Corpse

Seeing as it’s World Book Day, I thought I’d run a book giveaway competition here on the blog. I’m going to do it the same way as I did the chapbook giveaway competition nearly a year ago now – that is, an Exquisite Corpse – because people enjoyed it.

Each winner will win one copy of The Leaping and one copy of The Thing on the Shoreboth books signed.

I’ll provide the first few lines in the comments. (They’re from The Thing on the Shore).

Rules

1. Comments which are not intended as part of the emerging story don’t count. (‘This is a stupid competition’ etc).

2. Only contributions made before 12 noon on Thursday 15th March count.

3. Your contributions may be as long or as short as you like.

4. You may make as many contributions as you like.

5. In keeping with the title of this blog, whoever ‘ends’ the story – i.e. whoever leaves the last contribution before the 12 noon deadline – will automatically win copies of the books.

So – whoever leaves the last comment will win copies. The other two winners will be drawn at random from all of the other contributors.

Last time, there were a couple of instances of people commenting simultaneously – I suggest that everyone tries to finish their contribution with a complete sentence, and that way there’s more chance of one comment flowing on to the next in a way that makes sense (even if they’ve been written at the same time).

If you’re reading this, I urge you to join in. Even if you’ve already got the books (or just don’t want them) it might be fun. (I hope it’ll be fun).

Good luck!

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To Be Read

For the first time in a long time I’ve gathered together all the books that I currently am planning to read, and sorted them into the order in which I intend to read them. I did this because the list was growing and I knew that I’d start to forget about books I’ve bought / been given and not yet read, due to them being out of sight somewhere beneath / behind other books.

 

So. My plan is to take them off the right hand end, and keep adding to the left hand end. I’m actually currently reading Infinite Jest already, but as it’s quite big and it’ll take me a while yet, I’ve included it.

I think because IJ is quite big, I’ve arranged for a few relatively short books to follow. These are mostly books I’ve had for a long time, and I’ve been looking forward to them for ages. I’ve had the comic-book Joseph, by Nicolas Robel, for years, but because it’s so small I had actually lost it between two other books.

There are ten novels, two non-fiction books, three anthologies, two short story collections, and the aforementioned comic.

1. Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

2. Everything’s Fine – Socrates Adams

3. The Best British Short Stories 2011 – Edited by Nicholas Royle

4. Vault – David Rose (not the David Rose that may somehow be connected to Johann Hari, but another one)

5. Joseph – Nicolas Robel

6. Richard Yates – Tao Lin

7. Screwtop Thompson – Magnus Mills

8. A Matter of Blood – Sarah Pinborough

9. The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid

10. A Book of Horrors – Edited by Stephen Jones

11. Gutshot – Edited by Conrad Williams

12. King Rat – China Mieville

13. Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

14. Department 19 – Will Hill

15. Bleeding, Blisters and Opium: Joshua Dixon and the Whitehaven Dispensary – Michael Sydney

16. Nightmare Movies – Kim Newman

17. The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde

18. The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury

 

One other reason I wanted to put all of these books together in one place was so that I could kind of lust over them, in an anticipatory kind of way, a kind of feel-a-warm-glow-of-excitement every time I walk past the shelf kind of thing. And I do, almost. Except what occurs to me mostly when I look at these books is that only one is by a woman. A Matter of Blood, by Sarah Pinborough. And although I will be slipping The War Tour by Zoe Lambert surreptitiously in towards the right-hand end when I finally get a copy, that’s still only two. Yes, there are female writers in the three anthologies but the anthologies are all edited by men, and anyway, that doesn’t restore balance.

It’ll be a while before I buy any more books I think, but when I do get to that point I’ll be bearing this in mind. Not because I feel guilty about it, but because I want to read widely. I want to read a variety of things by a variety of different authors and types of author.

What do your to-be-read piles / shelves look like? What do you notice, looking at them, that maybe you wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t arranged them as such? Do you arrange them at all? Maybe you are sensible, and don’t.

Engines at Night

The sibilant hiss of a car outside at night, receding down the road away from your bedroom window. The sound of a car in the dark. What is really good is if you hear a motorcycle somewhere in the city during the night, at a distance. The best is if you are trying to go to sleep and you are lying motionless in bed with your eyes closed and you hear a distant motorcycle and you listen to it intently, every last drop of its engine sound, without moving at all, without opening your eyes at all, and you can absorb it completely, beginning to end, that time it spends within earshot somehow physical, despite its distance, and you’re just lying there, and it has been raining.

Value

It’s not true that Tesco insert a tiny grub into the middle of each ‘Value’ range Iceberg lettuce, just to remind you that you only get what you pay for.

Twenty-Four Hour Supermarket Carpark

The supermarket is open already. Of course it is probably open twenty-four hours a day. I slow down and turn into the carpark beneath the pink sky. Big rectangular boards advising of petrol prices tower up blackly against that vivid pinkness. I drive across the carpark diagonally, enjoying the absence of other cars, and choose a parking space near the entrance. A parking space near the entrance of the supermarket is a rare thing usually. For me, anyway. I feel like I am living in the future and the future is all giant empty carparks and empty twenty-four-hour supermarkets and pink skies and silhouettes. The future is a perpetual dimness, a perpetual pre-dawn light, and everybody in it is driving.

Ending

So this review of Adam Nevill’s The Ritual (at The Hat Rack) prompted this excellent blogpost  over at The Speculative Scotsman, and also this excellent blogpost at Spooky Reads, which – if you haven’t already clicked on the links – are about the endings of horror novels, and how they’re often disappointing and, more specifically, how it’s a tricky thing to satisfyingly end a horror novel. Do you explain everything, and in doing so rob the novel of the mystery, the unknown, that made it what it is? Or do you refrain, and finish the book without explaining the nature of the horror, thereby potentially giving the impression that there’s no internal logic to your world, that you threw in all the supernatural stuff purely for effect, or – worse – for expedience?

It’s a good question. My personal approach (when writing) is to have all of the logic and explanations worked out, but only include the details that are appropriate to the narrative viewpoint. It was easier with THE LEAPING than with THE THING ON THE SHORE, because the point of the horror in THE LEAPING was that it was random and nihilistic and ‘why me?’, like the cancer suffered by the protagonist’s father. I struggled to know where to draw the line between explanation and mystery in THE THING ON THE SHORE, though.

But what I really wanted to add to the conversation was my feelings as a reader. And my feelings as a reader are that I don’t want anything much explained at the end of a book, to be honest. Genre aside, I don’t want everything wrapped up. If when I get to the last line of the last page of a book all of my questions are answered, then I forget the book more quickly. A neat ending makes a book easier to swallow, and I don’t want that. I want a book that feels like it’s stuck in the throat. The mind’s throat. An angular book with sharp corners that leaves grooves in the mind’s throat for the mind’s tongue to probe at, to keep returning to. I want to read books that I’ll remember, and I remember books that leave me with questions, not answers. Books that make me feel something exactly not the warm glow of resolution, basically. Not always, but often.

That’s what I like to read, and that’s what I’d like to write. When I work out how to do it in horror fiction without leaving readers feeling cheated, then, well, hopefully you’ll let me know.

Pictures From The Enderground #3

Brilliant Email

A couple of days ago I received the below e-mail from somebody called peterbd. The subject was ‘relieved’. (Since originally posting this, I’ve added the subsequent correspondence).

you are tom fletcher and you appear to be a writer. i know nothing about you. are you a good writer? i have no clue. you seem like one though. i can tell because i googled you. i made the mistake of typing tom fletcher sans writer after your name. on my screen came a tom fletcher who isn’t like you. this tom fletcher looks like he’s trying too hard. fucking insane. i like my tom fletcher’s to not have highlights. no look at me attitude. your the REAL tom fletcher dammit. and i’m the captain of the tom fletcher crew. do you write poetry? fiction? nonfiction? don’t have the slightest the clue. what do you care anyway. your at the top of your game probably. i’m just a little person for whom you don’t have time. life for tom fletcher must be sublime. you seem like a sophisticated londoner. maybe i’m wrong but you exude high class energy. you would never associate with me. i’m from the bottomless pit known as new jersey. so tom fletcher who is allegedly from london and is not the freak who originally came up on my google search. please continue writing and purging your hurt. the world needs you. there’s only one you. when i find the time to pick up one of your books my life will change guaranteed. as i flip through the pages i’ll never curse the day of discovering this gem. but mostly i’ll be relieved. relieved that that tom fletcher the writer i don’t hate like that imposter vehemently.  

Hi Peter.
Thank you for your e-mail. Yours is exactly the kind of e-mail I hoped to receive when I made my e-mail address available online.
I am a writer and I do live in England, though not London. And to answer your question I write fiction – novels and short stories. (Not currently available in America). For what it’s worth, I’m glad you feel the way you do about the other Tom Fletcher. I can’t explain why. Some kind of schadenfreude, probably; quite a vicious reason. If he is the Tom Fletcher I’m thinking of, then he is a singer with millions of adoring fans. I can’t sing at all. You ask if I am a good writer – I don’t know, but I am confident that I’m a better writer than I am a singer.
I hope you are still relieved, and not disappointed.
Tom Fletcher
PS – would you mind if I posted your e-mail on my blog? I have friends for whom the Tom Fletcher / Tom Fletcher confusion is a source of some (small) amusement. I’d credit it to you, i.e. Peterbd, or not – whichever you prefer

you have my blessing the real Tom Fletcher sans shitty highlights. you have my blessing 

BFS Awards

THE LEAPING has been shortlisted for the BFS ‘Best Novel’ award, due to be announced at FantasyCon 2011. This is a real honour – thank you hugely for everybody who voted for it at the longlist stage.