Frustration welled up suddenly. It was so unfair. Bill Hayes looked at his hands as if he did not recognise them. Getting old was so unfair. It stripped you of everything that defines you. His wrinkled face and elongated ears bore no resemblance to the man whose wedding photo stared from the sideboard. How would you have felt, to know what you would become? His mind was also in decline. Faces taunted him from photo albums. They were people he once knew well and he could not even recall the first letter of their names.
Bill relaxed his hands and took another grip on the bottle. He may be losing the war against old age, but he was damn sure that he still had the strength to peel back the foil top on a bottle of supermarket milk. He fumbled with it for a moment. He could not even feel…
So that’s one book launched successfully (The Seance), and now I’m pressing on, promoting the next one! I was interviewed in a podcast earlier this week, and have posted the link at the end of this entry, but the preparation for that interview really got me thinking about how I came to be involved in this anthology and how it might be a bit jarring readers of my current stories. What could be a better topic for my blog?
Earlier this year I was invited by Stuart Keane, who is an indie thriller and chiller writer of the highest order (if you haven’t already, check out his “The Customer Is Always…” and “Charlotte” on Kindle and you’ll see what I mean), to join a horror anthology he intended to produce
Stuart had lined up a couple of other authors to appear there, too, one of them being author Kyle Scott, an author who seems to be able to pump fear into you directly via IV drip, then, when you try to cope with the terror, you look at the tube going into your arm and see that he’s now pumping someone else’s blood and liquefied organs in there too!
He had also invited Angel Gelique to be part of this war-band. Now, Angel’s work I am yet to read, but her reputation on Goodreads is fearsome. It seems this lady is unafraid to go to some very dark and disturbing places. In the descriptions of some of her stories, she almost tries to put you off reading it, so that only those with nerves of steel actually read the work.
At the time I agreed to submit a piece for the anthology, no title had been set. My previous and ongoing work on the Dr Blessing series, along with The Seance, are a more subtle, creeping style of horror fiction. Yes, there is gore in there, but my horror is embedded in not only the fear of what your physical self may have to endure, but what your mind can take, what might happen to your family, fear of isolation, etc. When the title Carnage: Extreme Horror was announced, I looked at the notes I had for several projects and wondered how the hell I was going to write anything that would fit the title.
Particularly in the case of Kyle, I could see how his style would translate right in there, and from what I understood about Angel’s work, it seemed that she was going to fit in no problem. Stuart was obviously confident that he could slip into extreme gear and when my initial buzz (I’ve been invited to write for an anthology!) wore off and it was time to make a plan, Stuart fielded a few messages from me expressing doubts that I was a good fit.
Stuart became a bit of a coach for me through that time and was prepared to be flexible on the word count (knowing I’m a family man with a demanding job, as well as a writer) and he said one of the nicest things that have been said to me as a writer. He told me that he had confidence that whatever I wrote would hit the spot, that he had approached me because of the quality of my work that he had read so far.
I relaxed for a while. I concentrated on getting The Seance off the ground, which included a successful but very time-consuming Kickstarter campaign. Kicking around a few ideas, I had to make the decision: can I do this in the Victorian settings I usually work in, or is it time to do something different? I have another huge project that is contemporary, I should say, it’s just that the Victorian stuff is really moving along.
I decided to break away from the Victorian era for a while, and tell a story that has a thread connecting it to our modern lives: the first steps of my story Anti-Terror come from the middle of the last decade when the UK was reeling in the wake of terror attacks on public transport in London, the police shooting of an unarmed man in a London subway and various threats of terrorist action in the British Isles.
Having lived in Leeds at that time, I distinctly remember the concrete blockades outside the train station, the armed police patrolling the platforms and concourses and that undeniable feeling: we have been forced to change and we can never go back. Paranoia filled the multi-racial society around me and there was that fear that a false move, an unclear motive or a breakdown in communication could have disastrous consequences. I remember travelling on the tube in London and seeing a Sikh student with a backpack, who knew that those around him generalised: they saw an Asian guy, he must be a Muslim extremist. What made me admire this guy was the slogan on the back of his bag: Don’t Freak, I’m a Sikh.
It is there, in circumstances where society is pushed to extremes of panic and alertness, that the seeds of Anti-Terror are embedded. I say seeds, because the story is in no way intended as a commentary on terrorism, policing or the use of firearms. While the seeds are certainly born of a serious matter, what I have grown with them is pure escapism and horrific entertainment.
I chose to write the story in the style of an ‘oral history’. Chuck Palahniuk used this mechanic to great effect in his magnificent novel Rant. When I started to plan out this piece, I decided the best way to tell the tale was to employ the same method A story told by several individuals who were in Leeds City Station at the time of a disastrous confrontation between police and a suspected terrorist. What the authorities have admitted, and what the witnesses saw do not align at all and the reader is drawn into a conspiracy where disgraced police officers might just be heroes, and the rivalry of two friends might just have unleashed Hell.
While to some of my loyal readers, the prospect of a contemporary story falling under the extreme heading might seem very far away from my usual body of work and in its setting and mechanics, it is. To those readers, let me offer a reassurance, Anti-Terror is laced with many of the other features that have made my other work so popular. Certainly there are the breadcrumbs that will link into other stories, and the appearance of a character from one of the first horror stories I ever wrote (those who have followed me for 10 years know about that big reboot I am planning) and the conclusion of the story will definitely linger on long after you have put the story down. Those hallmarks won’t be drowned out by violence or gore – the story is strong, the situation compelling and I will be most surprised if you don’t find yourself reading it more than once to find all the hints I’ve dropped throughout the pages, to be discovered after the “Ahah!” moment at the end of the first reading.
Halloween saw the launch of my new gothic Victorian horror novella, “The Seance”. This title also marked the first new publication from Dark Chapter Press. They have posted a lovely summation of the night’s festivities and I’m glad. It saves me the job of doing it. I did enough typing last night!
Last night’s online book launch for Jack Rollins’ “The Seance” was a total success. With loads of indie authors offering their books as prizes to help Jack along the way, he hosted the launch for 4 and a half action packed hours (instead of the 2 hours initially planned).
Building up the launch in the days preceding the main event, Jack had invited guests to follow his twitter account at https://twitter.com/jackrollins9280 and his Facebook page to build up the number of copies of “The Seance” he would add to the draws on the night.
Guests were also invited to register details to sign up to his newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/58PA1 to enable the delivery of e-books and paperbacks won at the event.
He opened the night early with a posted “Sound Check”, which linked to a Youtube video for the song “Burn” by The Cure, which sparked off some of the guests reminiscing about the movie The Crow. Jack returned at 8.55 pm to take things forward and as guests checked in, a relaxed tone was set as guests discussed movies and reboots etc.
The first draws took place at 9.10pm, to win a signed paperback copy of The Seance, and a copy of the e-book. This was the first of many draws which saw around 50 copies of ebooks and paperbacks from a host of generous authors being given away for sharing links to The Seance, or for buying the book, or a copy of The Cabinet of Dr Blessing.
Jack held a giveaway for the best Halloween costume selfie, and interspersed the competitions with music from The Misfits, Siouxie and The Banshees, and Ozzy Osbourne to name a few, as well as horror movie trivia questions and horror movie clips. There was even a link to an all-knowing online ouija board.
Some of the best fun was had when Jack decided to start some mischief, in true trick or treat style, and posted the link the launch party of his fellow author and friend Stuart Keane (who was launching his new novella “Charlotte” and who had donated copies of both of his novellas to the draws). Jack got his guests to gatecrash Stuart’s launch party and leave messages, including “The beer is better at Jack Rollins’ party”, which went down well. Those who did so received copies of Keane’s novellas.
This of course prompted retaliation from Keane’s camp, resulting in some great interaction and fun, as guests of both launches got involved in both of the parties.
By the end, a thoroughly exhausted Jack Rollins played out the party with The Misfits, “Hybrid Moments” and crawled off to bed. Having spent more time promoting the work of other people than promoting his own, Jack proved that a virtual book launch can be exciting, fun, packed with content and not all about “buy my book”. He used the opportunity to reveal himself, his likes and interests. He introduced his guests to the work of his ever growing network of author friends, his brother, who designed the cover of The Seance (and who got much love for it) and shouted out to his long-time writing pal Dave Basnett, author of the De Omori books (which connect up to Jack’s Dr Blessing series) and to one of his most staunch Twitter supporters, Lisa.
Speaking to Jack this morning, he has had over 90 messages and notifications on Facebook from after the launch ended, thanking him and encouraging him. People have trawled back over the timeline of the launch event, picking up on the bits they missed and hitting like and share.
Jack went to great lengths to make a truly interactive experience, rewarding not only his readers, but people new to his work. He worked the virtual environment as one would expect the host of a party to perform in person, mingling, including everyone he could, making introductions and somehow, only just, managing to stay in control.
Jack has deemed the night a success, one not measured simply by sales of his stories, but in the relationships, new and old, that will go on well after the last page of his novella has been turned.
So there you have it. I had a blast, I really did. There’s going to be a lot more like this coming as I will soon be relaunching “The Cabinet of Dr Blessing” with its splendid new cover, my entry in the “Carnage: Extreme Horror” anthology later this year, with Stuart Keane, Kyle Scott and Angel Gelique, and hopefully work in 2 new flash fiction anthologies and 3 other horror anthologies with a US publisher… It’s going to be a busy few months and no mistake.
If you love horror fiction, make sure you don’t miss a thing by popping your details on this form: http://eepurl.com/58PA1 – I hate spam, so I will send my newsletters out sparingly, I promise.