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Saturday, 27 December 2014

New Year Goals

Because resolutions are so last year...

1. Get the novel done and out. The plan is still the end of January for this one, but life can get in the way. The prequel will be appearing in the 'At Hells Gate II' anthology which is out at the end of Jan, so it would be good to have the book out at the same time. That said, I'm not putting it out until it's ready, and the last round of feedback made it clear that it isn't. So the next month should focus heavily on getting this finally in to shape.

2. Get the next novel done. I've already got the premise, and it's rock-solid. I also think it will be a lot easier than the current one for a variety of reasons. I'm also impatient to get stated on it, which is normally a good sign.

3. Land that fist pro-market sale for a short story. I've come close a few times this year, and it's one of those milestones. I feel like I've made good progress towards doing this, and think 2015 could - should - be the year.

4.a) Read a lot - The Kindle's been the breakthrough here, allowing for easy bedtime reading without keeping the missus awake. I need to read more - more novels, more anthologies. I have a huge TBR pile, and I need to work through it. Also...

4b) Review everything I finish. I reserve the right to not finish works I start (life is too short for bad writing) but if I get to The End, I should have something intelligible to say. My public review policy won't change, so I won't write negative (lower than 3 * reviews) for any indie author/press, but if I did get to the end and hated it, I will write something up for myself, because what I 've learned this year is that writing reviews about why something worked have really helped me examine and improve my own writing, as well as help me cultivate that 'distance' needed to treat a D1 as though it were written by someone else for editing purposes - put another way, it's improved my ability to see my own work as it is rather than as I wish it to be. I see no reason to suppose that won't apply equally as well to interrogating why something didn't work as why it did, so I'll get on that.

5. Get out more. Specifically, attend Fcon and meet face to face some of the incredible people I've been lucky enough to meet virtually over the mast 12 months.

Wish me luck, and all the best to you for whatever you want to get done in the next 12 months.


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

What Kind Of A Year Has It Been? (Pt. 2)

Being the post where I talk about the cool stuff I read this year. NOTE: It' s entirely possible, bordering on likely, that not all of these came out in 2014. But 2014 is when I read them. Don't write in. Also, all opinions subjective, and mine. So here we go:

Flash Fiction story of the year:

 'A Taste Of Darkness' by Chantal Noordeloos - part of the 'Deeply Twisted' collection. It starts with the simplest of inversions - fear of the light in place of fear of the dark. It's a brilliant, immediate hook, and from there we are dragged into a living nightmare. Holding back absolutely no punches and providing no safe answers, no hope, Noordeloos creates a pitch perfect scare that packs an incredible punch.

Very Honorable Mentions:

'Down By The Ocean' by John Boden - published in Splatterpunk #5. An object lesson in economic yet cinematic storytelling. Elegant. Superb.

'Big Girls Help Their Mommy' by James Newman - published in Splatterpunk #6. A crushing character study with a gut-punch ending that will stay with you a long time. Genuinely unsettling, genuinely upsetting. Top drawer horror.

Short Story of the Year:

Taking The Piss by Jasper Bark. Part of the outstanding 'Stuck On You' collection, Taking The Piss may just be the best non-supernatural horror story I have ever read. It's jet black horror, visceral storytelling, a gloriously nasty first person narrative voice, and a furious tale of revenge. A masterclass in the form. See also my full review of this collection at the Gingernuts of Horror site.

Very Honorable Mentions:

'When The Bell Tolls' by Chantal Noordeloos, again from 'Deeply Twisted'. One that I re-read immediately upon finishing. A fantastic central concept, and a great example of how a 'funny' idea can be utterly horrific, depending on how you chose to play it. In the abstract, it's almost a sick joke. In execution, it's bloody terrifying.

'So Bad' by Adam Cesare - published in Splatterpunk #5. I was sure this one was going to be my short story of the year, and it still deserves every single bit of praise heaped upon it - this is a meticulous, thoughtful and moving character study of obsession. The horror is not incidental, but neither is it the point. This is an outstanding short story from an incredibly gifted writer.

Novella Of The Year: Really, really tough, this one, with some great competition. But the winner has to be...

'Whitstable' by Stephen Volk. Where to start? This is a heartbreaking portrayal of screen legend Peter Cushing, at the lowest point of his life. Mr. Volk takes us through the not-quite-numb-enough pain of bereavement with an unflinching eye. Not a word is wasted, not a phrase excessive. Unflinching but not cruel, clearly researched in detail but never dull or showy, and most of all, a deeply moving and gripping account, Whistable really set the bar for me this year.

Very Honorable Mentions:

'The First One You Expect' by Adam Cesare (yes, again) - totally different, this one is a slick, rollicking journey into the underbelly of micro-budget horror movie making, and the characters that make it happen. Genre aware, savvy, funny, and still adrenaline fueled and exciting/scary as hell, Cesare has a real gift for putting his own perspective on familiar tropes, spinning out surprising observations and what feel like note perfect character reactions. A really enjoyable and surprisingly thought provoking study of amorality and fame culture, and also a galloping story. Huge fun.

'809 Jacob Street' by Marty Young - Brilliantly realized child characters, a gripping twin narrative approach that kept you guessing right to the  explosive climax, and simply the best ghost story I have read in a long, long time. Not surprised this one picked up an award, it's a stunning piece.

Drive by Mark West - This one is a tightly paced thriller with a admirably simple premise and skillful execution. Recommended as a one sit read, this one grabs you by the scruff and drags you though the intense narrative at a breathless pace. A real pleasure. Also some of the scariest villains I've read this year.

Novel of the year: Again, very tough competition, and very hard to pick a winner. That said...

Mountain Home by Bracken MacLeod - It's grown in the memory, that's the thing. I really enjoyed it first time through (see my full review at Gingernuts of Horror), but the more I think about it, the more impressed I am. With the utterly fat-free prose and plotting. With the plausibility. With the internal landscapes of the characters. With the brutal, realistic portrayal of violence, and the consequences of violence. With a 'villain' whose motivation is understandable enough to make the whole thing tragic, without compromising the horror of what is occurring. And the goddamn pacing! Relentless.

And it's a debut. Sometimes, you can go right off people.

Very Honorable Mentions:

'The Summer Job' by Adam Cesare (and sorry that you're bridesmaid three times this year, man, but on the other hand - you kicked my ass in three different categories). Again, full review at Gingernuts of Horror. It's the lead character that I keep coming back to, here. I keep trying to remember a lead female in a horror novel that was more rounded, more clear, as brilliantly realized as Silverfish/Claire, and I keep failing to do it. The novel also reads like a movie, in the best possible way, whilst still doing all the cool things novels can do that movies can't. This is kick ass horror writing from a storyteller that's clearly totally on top of his game, and frankly, if it wasn't so awesome, it'd be depressing. Well played, sir. Bonus: kept me twisting until literally the last page. Bastard.

'Toxicity' by Max Booth III - Read this one early in the year, and was really impressed by the mash-up (if not cut-up) approach this novel takes. It's almost schizophrenic in it's splicing of Gonzo-Naked-Lunch-meets-trailer-park-Reservoir-Dogs. As the title suggests, it's an uneasy blend, occasionally inducing stylistic whiplash/nausea in this reader, but it crackles with energy, and the linking thread between the apparently disparate narratives is a sense of losers propelled stratosphericaly outside their comfort zones, with predictably unpredictable results. Another debut, and again, depressing for that reason.

The End Of The Word Is Nigh: Why? by Scott Lefebvre - A quieter, reflective piece this one, and one that manages to break the mold by actually being a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse, as opposed to just claiming to be one. Short on blood on guts, but high on tension and very high on the feels, this was a surprisingly tender father/daughter story that stayed with me for a long time.

Non-Fiction Essay: 'Guns' by Stephen King - not interested in arguing about the politics of it here, but I thought he made a clear and coherent case for sensible gun control measures, and demonstrated in the process that a) he practices what he preaches and b) the myth that there can be no middle ground on this issue is just that - a myth perpetuated by those on both sides with an investment in the status quo.

Non-Fiction Book: 'TARDIS Eruditorum: An Unofficial Critical History of Doctor Who Volume 4: Tom Baker and the Hinchcliffe Years' by Dr. Philip Sandifer. A ludicrously intelligent person writing about my all-time favorite TV show in painstaking detail, watching every single episode of the show, as well as additional essays about other contemporary shows, comics, books, and world events? Oh hell yes. Worth the price of admission for the wonderful essay on Mary Whitehouse alone (see the original version on his blog) the whole series has been a delight, but this collection was, for my money, the best yet.

It's been a fantastic 2014 for me in terms of discovering new authors. My only slight problem is how I'm going to find time for all the reading I want to do next year. It's a good problem to have. Thanks to all the authors who've shared their stories with me in 2014 - it's been a series of great adventures.

KP
23/12/14

PS - Special WTF?!?!?! Of Awesome award goes to Dominoes by John Boden. No, I don't know either, but it messed me up. In a good way. Mostly.







Monday, 22 December 2014

What kind of a year has it been? (Pt. 1)

Well, goodness.

2014 turns out to have been the year when, as the youth would have it, shit started to get real.

Looking back over the list of publication activity this year, I'm honestly kind of shocked, even a little anxious. It's hard to credit, given how recently I've started taking this writing thing seriously, just how well things have gone this year, and I'm torn between a sense of pride, and a genuine anxiety for 2015, and how the hell I'm going to top it!

Anyhow, without further ado, here's my Record Of Achievement for 2014, in somewhat chronological order (links to buy included in the story titles):

January: My debut e-novella The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife (plus short story The Debt) was released by Black Beacon Books. Reviews have been very positive, and I'm proud as hell to be part of this amazing group of writers and editors.

I also had my short science fiction story Reverse Engineering published in Do Monkeys Dream Of Electric Kettles? - a sci-fi anthology from MonkeyKettle Books. The MonkeyKettle arts collective are a group I've been a longtime fan of, so it was a real thrill to be included.

I also also self pubbed a short mood piece called Fox '75 to The Disciples Of Gonzo's blog - check that one out for free.

March:  Short horror story Cold Shock was published as part of the Till Death Do Us Part anthology, the debut collection from Burnt Offering Books. Was really happy with this tale, and glad to be part of this exciting collection, featuring some amazing stories.

In other news, I began would would later become the 'My Life In Horror' blog series over at the magnificent Gingernuts Of Horror website, with posts about Stephen King's IT, and an extended essay on the greatest movie ever made. Some of the most fun I've had writing this year has been my pieces for this site, and I think it shows. Click through for more, you won't regret it.

June: Short western story When The Pin Hits The Shell was published in A Fistful Of Kettles, another themed anthology from the MonkeyKettle collective. This is a dark little slice of nasty, and I had a blast writing it.

July: Flash sci-fi story 'Time Out Of Mind' was published as part of the Yesterday You Said Tomorrow time travel anthology by Burnt Offering Books. This was one hell of a writing challenge, and I think in the end it brought the best out of me.

August: Following on from 'The Loving Husband...' I self published my novella Lifeline via Amazon. Feedback has been amazingly positive, with some great advance notices and reviews from authors whose work I respect and admire greatly. This forms a loose thematic trilogy with 'The Loving Husband...' and 'The Debt', though each tale stands alone and can be enjoyed separately. It's also dark, violent, visceral, and scary as hell.

September: Was blown away that my short horror story 'Baptism' was accepted for inclusion as part of Widowmakers: A Benefit Anthology of Dark Fiction. This anthology, put together in response to James Newman's horrific accident earlier in the year, contains 47 stories from some of the brightest, darkest stars of the horror firmament, and every penny of profit goes to help a great writer and incredibly friendly guy defray his appalling medical costs. I had the pleasure of working with James later in the year for a Gingernuts of Horror article, and can confirm his reputation as a knowledgeable and affable horror fanatic and all round good guy are well earned. If you only pick up one thing from me this year, make it this one - it's a fantastic anthology of top drawer stories and all for a great cause.

November: Short (and very nasty) horror story Wide Load was accepted into Splatterpunk #6! This Zine has a deserved reputation among horror fans as the go to place for quality extreme writing, and this issue is certainly no exception. Also featuring stories by James Newman, Bracken MacLeod, and others, and with exclusive illustrations for each story, plus non-fiction articles and reviews, this acceptance was a big fat cherry on the top of a very good year... sundae, I suppose. Hmm, that one got a way from me a little. Anyhow, if you only buy two things form me, make this the other one, and do it quick because this zine is limited edition and sells out fast.

Bloody hell, what a year.

In 2015, I have two publications I already know about. First, I have a short story appearing in At Hells Gate II: Source Of Evil. This charity anthology has attracted a ton of incredibly gifted indie writers, and the first in the series had massive and deserved success. To have been selected for the follow-up is both awesome and humbling, and I'm profoundly grateful to be in this with a story called Genesis.

Genesis also serves as a prequel to my debut novel, GodBomb! This long-delayed title should see the light of day early next year - I apologise for the continued delays, but I want it to be in as good a shape as possible before I put it out there. The bad news is it needed the work. The good news is, I'm putting the work in.

After that, I have the next novel/novella planned out already and the one after that starting to take shape. I also have a few shorts in various stages of readiness, and plenty more busily out collecting rejection slips.

Part 2 will focus on some of the amazing work I've read from others this year. In closing, thank YOU, so much, for continuing to read my work. It's been a hell of a year.

KP
22/12/14

PS - I will be running a competition next year for people who sign up to my mailing list, with a chance to win some genuine money-can't buy prizes. If that, and the idea of getting an email a month (max) of progress reports, random musings and exclusive content from me interests you, then please just drop an email to kitpowerwriter[at]gmail[dot]com . Thanks, and happy silly season.
K












Thursday, 11 December 2014

MY LIFE IN HORROR - FEED THE WORLD - Ginger Nuts of Horror

My latest My Life In Horror takes on Band Aid 84, and being 6 years old when it came out. WARNING: Contains language, fury, and despair...



MY LIFE IN HORROR - FEED THE WORLD - Ginger Nuts of Horror

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

LEYTONSTONE BY STEPHEN VOLK - Ginger Nuts of Horror

My latest writing for The Gingernuts Of Horror website is a review of Stephen Volk's novella Leytonstone, which is due out later in the year. SPOILERS: I really enjoyed it...



LEYTONSTONE BY STEPHEN VOLK - Ginger Nuts of Horror

Friday, 19 September 2014

YOU OPENED IT. WE CAME. NOW YOU MUST COME WITH US, TASTE OUR PLEASURES - Ginger Nuts of Horror

Hellraiser day on Gingernuts of Horror - featuring 2 posts from me, about Hellraiser and the in my opinion underrated sequel, and many other guest posts and rambling musings. Enjoy!



YOU OPENED IT. WE CAME. NOW YOU MUST COME WITH US, TASTE OUR PLEASURES - Ginger Nuts of Horror

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Publication Newsbomb!

Hi all,

Goodness, it has been a while. Apologies for that, but I have been busy, promise. In fact, I've even, in part, been busy blogging. Which totally deserves an explanation. So here we go...

First up, I now have a regular writing gig. With thanks to Jim Mcleod, who is clearly working off some care in the community hours by allowing a lunatic like me to spout drivel on his deservedly well regarded website The Ginger Nuts Of Horror. The monthly column is called 'My Life In Horror' and will feature me rambling about a book, film or album that warped me as a child. The first post will be of great interest to the two or three of you who haven't already heard at length about my enduring love for the Guns n Roses album 'Appetite For Destruction'. This post actually forms the third part of the '.... that made me' trilogy. Part 1 'The Book', regarding Stephen King's IT, is here, and 'The Film', regarding the genius that is the 1987 movie Robocop (accept no substitutes, sequels, or remakes) is here.

Since then I've completed an article about the WASP album 'The Headless Children', with an article on movie The Thing to follow shortly, and many, many others in the pipeline.

As if that wasn't cool enough, the site is also hosting a series of articles that I'm co-authoring with the absurdly talented horror author James Newman. This five part series will be an in-depth back-and-forth discussion of the aforementioned IT, part one has already gone live, and a lively conversation is developing in the comments. So if you fancy it, grab your copy off the shelf and join us for the re-read - it's going to be one hell of a journey.

Phew! So far so good, eh? Oh, but there's so much more...

For starters, I've also had a guest post accepted by The Writers Drawer as part of a memoir series. If you want to read about the real life inspiration behind my new novella Lifeline, look no further...

What? Oh, right. Yes, I have a new novella coming out! It's called Lifeline, is a thematic sequel to The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife and The Debt (new review with a chance to win a copy of that book is here, and if that doesn't work it's still available at a very modest price via Amazon) and will be available for Kindle and Kindle readers from 16th August. Advance notices have been very positive:


"This isn't a story to dip in and out of at your leisure, this is a story that will devour you in one sitting. A stomach churning, white knuckle descent into pain, futility and desperation, a hideous turn of events from which there is but one slender lifeline ..." – Jasper Bark, Author of ‘Stuck On You’ and ‘Way of the Barefoot Zombie’

"...drags you right in and gets the heart pumping." - Marta Salek, Author of ‘The Oracle’



"Very tense, edge of your seat stuff. Loved it!" - Jack Bantry, Editor of Splatterpunk Magazine

"Challenging. Intense. Hard Core." - Bruce Blanchard


 Sounds good, right? I'm really happy with this one and eager to get it into your sweaty little palms. Let's see, anything else?

How about two new short story publications? 'When The Pin Hits The Shell' features in the recently released western collection 'A Fistful Of Monkeys' (also available in e-book format, and thanks to those fine folks at MonkeyKettle Books for publishing another one of my tales). 'Time Out Of Mind' has just this week seen publication in Burnt Offering Books new time travel anthology 'Yesterday You Said Tomorrow' (dead tree edition also available). I'm really happy with both these stories, and recomend you check them out.

What's next? Well, aside from the aforementioned Lifeline release, my short story 'Baptism' will be appearing in the 'Widowmakers' anthology. This bumper book will feature almost 50 short stories, novellas and poems from some of horror's finest talents, and it's an honour to have been included. Every single penny this book raises will be used to help the family of James Newman defray some of the frankly horrific medical costs incurred by his recent unfortunate misadventure with a giant falling tree limb. Consequently, my story will only be available in this anthology for the forseeable future: you want to read it, you buy the big-arsed book. I'm doing you a favour, anyway, because the book is stuffed to the gills with awesome. How often do you get to fill your head with a ton of great horror talent AND help someone out at the same time? Exactly. Scheduled to drop 1st August. Look out for it.

In addition to another short story acceptance that I'm excited as hell about but can't tell you about yet (oops), I guess the only other thing to say is my novel should be out in the autumn, providing my critical readers don't tear it to shreds, and providing I can come up with a title that doesn't totally blow. So, you know, hopeful.

I think that's everything. For now. Again, sorry for the long radio silence, and hopefully a more regular service will resume shortly. It'd better, this is getting exhausting... :)

Talk soon.

KP

PS Kind of redundant, I realise, but life is GOOD.  :D

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Review Group: Bad Boy: The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife ...

Latest review for 'The Loving Husband...' plus a chance to win a FREE copy of the book!



The Review Group: Bad Boy: The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife ...: The author is kindly giving two copies of Bad Boy away so see the instructions at the bottom of this post for instructions. This li...

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The first 'bad' review

Because it's going to happen. As sure as the sun also sets, as certain as the hot cross bun getting caught in the toaster and setting off the fire alarm when you're trying to have a drunken snack at 1am, waking your wife and children - if you get over the hurdle of absolutely no-one reading your work - if you actively solicit the opinions of others, desperate for the oxygen of publicity, hoping it will feed the smouldering embers of word of mouth and somehow, some way, cause your book to catch fire and sell, propelled on a wave of 5 star reviews and increased sales and the vagaries of the Amazon algorithms to the top ten of the >kindle >thriller >noire >unreliable narrator >two stories included chart - if you do that, you will sooner or later, probably sooner, get a 'bad' review.

Yes, I used the dreaded air quote. Yes, it's because I'm about to say something really stupid. Ready?

There's no such thing as a bad review.

I know it doesn't feel like that in the moment. I know when you have 5 reviews and one of them is a 2 star one, and your average crashes from 4.1 to 2.85 it's kind of the end of the world.

But here's the thing - it really really isn't. For starters, if you only have 5 or 6 reviews, one bad one isn't going to make a big enough dent to hurt your long term chances because, as things stand, you're absolutely nowhere anyway (sorry, but check my Amazon page for 'The Loving Husband...' and you'll see I'm not announcing this from a lofty cloud or anything). That's okay, by the way. It's where almost everyone starts. If your book is good, you will get to 200 reviews,and almost all of them will be 4 or 5 stars, and that lone 2 will make no dent at all on your lovely average rating. It's just, probably not tonight. Think about Stephen King and that railway spike of rejection letters. And he was Stephen King. It takes years and years and years of putting out high quality writing, rewarding that small band of people who buy your stuff with ever more impressive stories, each time ushering a few more into the fold, spreading the word, building a buzz.If you're dead, then congratulations, you have failed as a writer (and stop reading my blog, you're stinking up the joint). Still sucking breath? There's still time. Keep writing.

Also, dirty secret time - no-one is universally popular. I don't write bad reviews - if I don't like something, I simply don't leave a rating - but if I did, Mr. Dickens would be getting a rude awakening for some of his so-called 'classics'. Think about your own taste. I bet every single person reading this (yes, both of you) can with no effort name at least one big name author all your writer friends adore that you think is garbage. Well, guess what, kiddo, that's how someone feels about you. It's a cruel world, no doubt.

Also also, here's the thing - even a bad review (well, even one that isn't some version of U HAVE TEH SUCK) will have something interesting in it - something that will make you think about your writing in a different way. Hell, one of the best compliments I've yet received for 'The Loving Husband...' came from my only 2 star review (to date - Goodreads, and no, sorry, I've suddenly forgotten how to hyperlink, forgive me) - 'it's almost like the two stories were written by different people!' Seriously, how can you top that? Mission acomplished, I'd say (apart from the whole 'hating it' thing, obv).

So, you're going to get bad reviews. And it will always sting. But in the words of the indomitable Mercedes Murdock Yardley, suck it up, buttercup. All it means is one more person read your book. If you're really serious about writing, and you really believe in what you're doing, that has to be, by definition, A Good Thing.

Here's to the next one.

Kit

PS -  Talking of reviews, Bookie Monster were kind enough to recommend 'The Loving Husband...' to " readers who are looking for an adult drama with aspects of psychological horror." - which let's face it, that's you, isn't it? Sure it  is. :)

Frank Errington had more nice things to about my writing, this time in his review of the 'Till Death Do Us Part' anthology, and as an added bonus managed to get the correct vowel in my name (one out of three ain't bad, eh?) Find out what that nice young man Tim Power has been writing here. (Just kidding, Frank - I love you, man. Glad you dug the story.)

The Author Alliance posted a seriously in-depth interview with me, which was jolly nice of them.

And finally, I haz an Amazon author page. So you know, if you are reading this having read either of my publications to date, and you enjoyed them, feel free to click through, leave a review, and make my evening.  :)

KP


Monday, 12 May 2014

Monday, 5 May 2014

Tragedy, Comedy, and Horror

Mel Brooks has famously been quoted as saying "Tragedy is when I stub my toe. Comedy is when you fall down a manhole and die".

I returned to this quote as I worked my way through Chantal Noordeloos excellent short story collection 'Deeply Twisted' - a women in horror recommendation. It's a fine collection of tales, evoking Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman, whilst having a distinct voice all its own. Noordeloos is not a 'safe' horror writer. The places, situations and people are often bleak, and when violence occurs (as it frequently does) it is graphic and brutal. Not that this collection is simply gore for gores sake - though these tails often contain significant shock value, their true worth is in the characterizations - the number of different characters and voices encountered represent a considerable feat of imagination, and each character and voice is well realized and believably drawn, even as the situations they encounter plunge them out of the world as we know it and into dark, often nightmarish landscapes.

As you can probably tell from the above, I had a blast with this collection.

My favourite story in the collection, 'When The Bell Tolls' (nope, not going to tell you - go buy the book and read it for yourselves) stuck with me for quite a while, and brought into mind the above quote. Without going into any detail at all, there's a way you could describe the basis of this story that would make it sound pretty funny. It even almost has the structure of a joke, complete with punch line. When I thought about it, many days after finishing the tale, it even made me chuckle, a little.

But here's the thing - it's only funny from the outside - from a distance. It's not remotely funny when you're reading it, because Noordeloos treats the idea with the seriousness of a heart attack, and through her choice of protagonist and supporting cast puts you so close to the action that the reading experience is high stress terror right to the close.

It's a great piece of writing, a superb short horror, the kind you always hope to read in a collection like this. The kind that you take with you, and treasure.

And it got me to thinking...

Because if tragedy is when I stub my toe, and comedy is when you fall down a manhole and die, maybe horror is when you fall down a manhole but don't die. Instead, after your forty feet plunge into foul smelling darkness, your heart lurching in your chest as the ground opens up and swallows you, you land badly, fracturing both legs in several places and dislocating your hip as your body is smashed into the bricks by gravity. Your left leg has a greenstick fracture, and you gaze in mute wonder at the bright white of your own tibia poking through your blue jeans, like some bizarre conjuring illusion. The small circle of daylight from the hole you plunged through illuminates your shattered leg, and you see the blood soak the denim of your jeans, darkening the fabric. There's no pain, not yet. It all seems to be coming from a long way away. There's a weird ache below your waist, somewhere, but it feels disconnected, not a part of you. You don't feel like a part of you. You feel like you're watching this happen to someone.

You don't know how long you float down there, dislocated, hovering on the edge of shock. All you know is that you've become aware of a noise. At first you think it's the roar of some wild creature, and the animal part of your physiology, the part that kept all your ancestors from being sabre tooth tiger food, fires synapses that release a potent chemical dump direct into your blood stream, and you come all the way awake at once, jerking forward, and the movement, the forward roll of your hips, sets off an explosion of pain in your midsection so intense that your teeth clack together into your tongue and you don't even feel it, any more than you feel the tears on your cheeks. The pain transports you, bashing you, disorienting, and when the warm flood hits you, you assume it's just part of the inferno engulfing your nervous system. It's only as your repeated gasping sobs elevate your oxygen levels and the adrenaline deadens your nerve endings enough to lower the screaming of your shattered body from life threatening to merely intense agony that you catch up with the signal from your taste buds and realize that you've just been splashed by a tidal wave of human waste. You can taste the sharp ammonia deep in your throat, feel it stinging in your right eye where the wave broke. You are now waist deep in a river of shit, and you can taste it. The gag reflex is uncontrollable, and the last meal you will ever eat is forcibly ejected from your throat, hot chunks of partially digested breakfast splattering into the river of filth before being swept away by the current. The spasm of vomiting triggers another detonation of pain in your broken hips and you scream in agony, a full throated roar that sounds nothing like your true voice, and the pain doesn't stop and you heave in more air and scream again, the sound rolling down the tunnel, echoing uselessly from the dripping bricks, and all the while the river of shit oozes by, already infecting your bloodstream via the hole in your leg caused by the jutting spear of bone that has torn through muscle and skin, stabbing out of you like some jagged tooth from the mouth of a monster.

By the time you finish screaming and sob yourself into unconsciousness, the hyperventilation and pain proving too much, the germs that will kill you are already shooting through your circulatory system. By the time the circle of light has grown to a narrow oval that shines directly into your eyes, driving spikes of pain into your skull and forcing you to resurface, the sweaty feeling you put down to the sunlight and the pain is actually the first symptom of the fever that will ultimately claim you. For now, you sob some more, screwing your eyes tight and cursing the light that brought you back, that causes your head to ache and eyes to water. You cast about, trying to see past it to your surroundings, but it's impossible - the light is too bright. You gradually become aware that you're no longer sitting in a river, but rather the shallow stream you first landed on (the last two flushes having passed you by as you slumped unconscious, unaware of the tide of waste that at one point reached your chin, leaving a dirt mark there you'll never remove). The smell, the taste, is now so all pervasive that you barely notice it. You also are aware that your throat is cracked, bleeding, and your lips feel painfully dry. You remember drinking from a bottle of water however many hours ago, in a world of light and cars and people and phones and ambulances and laughs and work and email and food and things, and you start crying again. You wonder for the first time if that world was real, if you really were a part of it. You wonder why that world has not come back to you, found you, saved you. Your body temperature begins its inexorable climb, unnoticed, as you snivel and pray, incoherently, for rescue. The irreplaceable fluids fall from your eyes and into the stream of shit trickling under your legs.

The light moves from your face. The after-image lingers long enough for you to start to think that permanent damage has been done, but eventually you readjust to the gloom. There's not much to see. The pain in your lower body swirls and snarls and bites, but either it's lessened or you've become more used to it. You think about that, and the fact that you can no longer smell your surroundings. You think about earthquake victims who survive for a week, even two. About what they do to survive that long.

You wonder what else you can get used to.

The next flush (by this time the light is fading totally, the trembling hand you hold in front of your face becoming dim, indistinct, fading) you resolve to find out. As the tide reaches your chest, you plunge your cupped hands into it, skin crawling at the texture and the warmth, and you raise your hands to your lips and try to sup, but at the consistency of the liquid on your tongue, your throat clamps shut, refusing to swallow, and you spew the fluid out instead, spitting and sobbing (but no tears now, your body having belatedly realized the need to conserve its remaining fluids has become a mortal concern) as the tidal wave of filth rolls over you and past you and the light fades and your body shivers for the first time - the fever, having wrapped itself around you, now beginning to squeeze. You close your eyes, in defiance of the fading of the light, and try to bring the world of light into your mind, to picture friends and loved ones and people and hope.

The faces surround you in your mind, but the plunging external temperature and slowly climbing internal one conspire to distort them, twisting features of loved ones into grimaces of pain or mockery, taunting and tormenting you in your pain. Every time you shiver, the pain wakes you up, your eyes open sightlessly into darkness, and the pain climbs until you slip back into the fever dream, the faces returning, distorting further, until you no longer recognise them or remember their source.

This is how your final night passes, a purgatory of pain and hallucination, the sickness and the hurt driving your mind ever deeper into itself. By the time the sunrise casts a yellow oval upon the opposite wall, beginning its crawl towards you, you are no longer you. All higher brain function has ceased. You are an animal, in pain and afraid. Language, love, hope, understanding are all behind you now, stripped from your mind by dehydration and agony. The primal state you have become fears the yellow oval, hates it, tracks it as it crawls so slowly towards you, but before it reaches your face once more, you slip into a coma. In that coma, the faces become mouths full of teeth that bite and rip and tear at your legs, but you have no way to move or fight them off, and your mind is too damaged for the pain to cause you to resurface, and eventually, the sheer exhaustion and injury fuelled adrenaline are too much for your heart, and the muscle stops pumping, and you plunge away from the sharp teeth and into final cold black.

Yeah, I think that's horror. Thanks, Chantal - for the inspiration and the lesson.

Sleep well, everyone.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Book review: Casting Shadows Everywhere

L.T. Vargus has produced here a début of stunning quality and depth. The voice of the narrator is one of the best-realised teenage voices since 'The Catcher In The Rye', though this is not some pale imitation. indeed, I was delighted by the avoidance of so many of the 'Angry Young Man' clichés, even as the subject matter turned dark. The combination of wide-eyed innocence with the sometimes blank amorality of youth was skilfully woven, and the author also managed that rare trick of a first person narrative where the reader feels the ice cracking beneath the protagonist's feet long before he does so.
The final quarter of the novel is nothing short of stunning, audacious and thrilling and genuinely moving.
Casting Shadows Everywhere is a really special book, and an amazing début. I can't wait to see what L.T. has for us next.

Five stars. Get it for FREE here. There is no way the next book will be free. This author is going places.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

It's Publication Time!!!

Well, yes, okay.

So since we last spoke, I've had four publications! One fiction, the other three - less so. Oh, and another interview. So, ranked in order of profitability (hey, these cheeseburgers don't buy themselves, people) we have...

  1. Burnt Offering Books have launched their debut anthology 'Till Death Do Us Part' and my short horror story 'Cold Shock' has been included! This anthology is available in either Kindle or print formats and can be purchased right here, right now. I'm really proud to be a part of this collection, and reading through the other entries I have been really impressed with the overall quality so far - Marta Salek's 'Promises' was a particularly gut-wrenching highlight (in a good way). Please consider picking up this anthology and scaring the hell out of yourself.
  2. Ginger Nuts Of Horror is a superb horror site, featuring great interviews and features with horror writers and editors. I've been lucky enough to write for this site on TWO occasions over the last several days. I'm sorry that they were that hungry for content, of course, but delighted and honoured to have been published there. The first piece I wrote for them was part of the on-going series 'The Book That Made Me' where authors discuss the book that first inspired them to write. My entry, on Stephen King's seminal work IT, provoked some lovely comments from people pissed off that I'd gotten there first, which I accept as perfectly fair criticism.
  3. Meanwhile, over at the 'Tales From The Booth' blog, Max Booth III has been asking fellow crime writers to write their own responses to the question 'Why are we so fascinated by criminals?' He was kind enough to agree to publish my thoughts on the subject, even when I basically re-phrased the question and went on a rambling diatribe mainly concerning screen and TV crooks, as opposed to literary ones, for which forbearance, much thanks, Max.
  4. Back at Ginger Nuts Of Horror, a dream was about to be realised. After a joking exchange about the film RoboCop, I exclaimed loudly (on FaceBook, so not really, but, you know) that were Jim ever to run 'The Movie That Made Me', I was SO bagsying RoboCop, because by crimminy could I say a thing or two about THAT particular cinematic masterpiece. With the week, this happened. Jim, I will love you forever for inspiring this piece, and I can only hope that your site will somehow live down the reputation of hosting an essay proclaiming RoboCop to be (amongst many, many other things) the best horror movie ever made. You also win the Internet for that gif. Y'all need to click through right now to see what I'm talking about. You will not regret it.
  5. Oh, Ginger Nuts Of Horror also ran an author interview with me,  which was awfully nice considering I've had one novella and three short stories published so far. Learn all about my astounding height, dazzling good looks, pathological lying, and so, so much more.
 What an incredible week! What an incredible start to 2014. Thanks to every single one of you mad buggers for reading my stuff. I hope it brings you joy. It sure does me!  :) Talk soon.

Monday, 24 February 2014

'Is there one of your characters you did not like...?'


So, it's been a month since launch date for my début e-novella, 'The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife'. In that month, I've been fortunate enough to have received six reviews from book bloggers, and six interviews, with many more in the pipeline. I'm very grateful to them for their support, and thrilled at how positive the response so far has been. I'll provide a full list of links at the bottom, but for now, I'm just going to say thank you for taking a shot on an unknown indie author, and I hope you decide to stick around, because there's plenty more where that came from... 

Also, thank you to the people kind enough to have left customer reviews on Amazon or Goodreads - positive reviews from paying readers are the life-blood of a new release, especially one like mine that doesn't have a massive publisher behind it with squillions of marketing dollars, so thank you to each and every one of you that left a star rating and/or some words. It really does mean everything.

So here's the thing about the interviews: You do get asked some of the same questions, but one of the pleasant surprises of doing a series of these now is that there's a lot less overlap than you'd think. So far, each interview, I've had at least one or two questions that have pulled me up short and given me real pause for thought.

The one I want to talk about today, which came from an as-yet unpublished conversation, was this: 
"Is there one of your characters that you did not like when you started writing about them, but found yourself liking by the end of the story?"

Why was that such a stumper, you may reasonably ask? Well, here's the thing. I've written about murderers. I've written about psychotic torturers, and sadistic thugs, and creatures that eat children, and all manner of vile horrors, but I've never actually disliked any of them.

Now, if I can just stop you before you complete that call to the emergency services that will lead to a knock on my door, permit me to explain. Please.

My first prolonged period of creativity was not based around writing, but theatre. I was very lucky to be involved with a local youth theatre project between the ages of 10 and 14, run by insanely talented and dedicated people, and it had a lasting impact. I got to play both heroes and villains (spoilers - I preferred the villains). And one piece of advice I got that I held on tight to was 'never think of the villains as villains when you play them'. Because, let's face it, they don't, as a rule. Or as Neil Gaiman's Death would put it 'no-one is scary on the inside'.

If it applies to playing someone, it probably applies to writing about them.

So, I've written about some people I'd never want to meet in a darkened alley, or frankly in broad daylight in a crowded shopping centre (there's this one cat who calls himself Jacob, and if I ever get my novel in shape you will one day get to meet him, and you may just recall this post and shudder), but I've never disliked any of them.

Does that make me a sociopath?

And you, fellow writers - what say you on the question of dislikeable characters?

Talk soon.

Kit Power

PS - Welcome to the book review and interview URL forest! Enjoy!

REVIEWS: 
Notebook Of Books (four stars)
Twisted Book Junkie - 4 star review PLUS interview
Author Ingrid Hall - 4 Star Review
Frank Michaels Errington's Horrible Book Reviews - 3.5 Stars
Author L M Langley - 4 star review 
Long and Short Reviews - 3 Stars 

INTERVIEWS:  
You are entitled to my opinion
IndieAuthorLand - Why you MUST read Kit Power's 'The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife' 
Milton Keynes Citizen newspaper - 'Debut e-novella for city writer' article + interview 
The Bookie Monster 
authorsinterviews 

And don't forget you can buy your copy on 'The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife' for Kindle RIGHT NOW from Amazon.

KP

PPS - So busy, I didn't have time to tell you about my latest acceptance of a short horror story to a new anthology! Check back later for all that news. Good times.  :)

K


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Women in Horror Month - a shameful confession

As I type, we're just over halfway through 'women in horror month'. If that's news to you, you are not Derick Jacobi alone. If it hadn't been for Facebook, I wouldn't have had the first clue. I'm not even a tiny bit proud of that, but it is what it is. Ignorance is never a defense, but it still beats malevolence, in my book.

 Here's the more worrying thing - one of the practical consequences of this is that I've realised I know basically bugger all about female horror writers.

That's a travesty.

I mean, okay, I know Poppy Z. Brite made Thomas Harris look like an amateur, that Anne Rice proved to me that I basically will never dig on vampires no matter how well they are written, and... that's it. Oh, wait, no, I'm also familiar with the work of Mercedes Murdock Yardley, whose short fiction is astonishingly good and whose debut novel I devoured in less than a week. Still, when I think about the hundreds of genre novels I've read, that's a pretty shaming strike rate.

This is profoundly embarrassing, for me. I was raised as a feminist. I self-identify as a feminist. I have a daughter and a step daughter and a wife and a mother and a sister and I need the world to be better and safer and kinder and more robust than it currently is for them. I need that. I follow @EverydaySexism on Twitter (and fellas, if you don't you need to - trust me, you have no idea what the world looks like for half the population otherwise). I try really hard to write strong, complex, real female characters. I'm trying to raise my daughters to believe that they can be and do anything they want. And yet, here I sit with this big old blind spot right in my own wheelhouse.

Oops. Also, sorry.

(I have a silver lining with the above, and it's this - I do believe I've successfully answered the question 'Do we really need Women in Horror month'? Because clearly I bloody well did, and I can't possibly be the only one.)


So, good and kind blog readers, I cry your pardon, and beg your assistance in rectifying this sorry state of affairs. The first five named female authored horror books I see in comments, I will buy the recommended book on Kindle and read - they will be my next five books. I need to broaden my horizons. Famous, indie, self-published, novel, novella, shorts collection, don't care - if it's broadly in the horror genre. and you recommend it, it's good enough for me (no series please, and yes, of course you can recommend your own work). Assuming I have nice things to say (and if you're recommending them, I'm sure I will), I'll report back here.

Number two, all my profits from the February sales of my debut e-novella are going to my local women's shelter. Because I need to do better.

And by the way, thanks for sticking with this, and with me. I remain grateful, and feel more humbled than ever.

Kit Power

PS - I realise there's a whole gigantic can of worms lurking behind the question 'why did it take Women in Horror Month for you to think about this issue?' That can of worms is, I strongly suspect, labelled 'male privilege', and I hope you'll forgive me for keeping my thinking on that subject off-line for the moment. Believe me, I am thinking about it, long and hard.

KP