Best Horror of the Year 8


One other thing I neglected to mention, due to my year away, was that my story from the 11th Black Book of Horror, Lord of the Sand, was selected by Ellen Datlow for the latest Best Horror of the Year. This marks my third appearance in there, and it’s a feeling that I never quite get used to. Especially when I look at the other writers on the table of contents and realise how fortunate I am to be listed among them –

We Are All Monsters Here by Kelley Armstrong
Universal Horror by Stephen Graham Jones
Slaughtered Lamb by Tom Johnstone
In a Cavern, In a Canyon by Laird Barron
Between the Pilings by Steve Rasnic Tem
Snow by Dale Bailey
Indian Giver by Ray Cluley
My Boy Builds Coffins by Gary McMahon
The Woman in the Hill by Tamsyn Muir
Underground Economy by John Langan
The Rooms Are High by Reggie Oliver
All the Day You’ll Have Good Luck by Kate Jonez
Lord of the Sand by Stephen Bacon
Wilderness by Letitia Trent
Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma
Descent by Carmen Maria Machado
Hippocampus by Adam Nevill
Black Dog by Neil Gaiman
The 21st Century Shadow by Stephanie M. Wytovich
This Stagnant Breath of Change by Brian Hodge

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Ellen Datlow for taking the story, and to Charles Black for publishing it originally.

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Something Remains

Something Remains.png

I’m highly delighted to be able to report that my story, Fear of the Music, will appear in Something Remains, the Joel Lane tribute anthology that is due to be published at Fantasycon in September.

Most of the contributors utilised notes or scraps of a story that Joel had made but never completed. The results are hopefully a fitting testament to a man that was loved and respected in the genre, both for his superb body of work as a writer of the weird tale, and for his support and encouragement of the indie press.

Joel was one of my literary heroes, and was kind enough to read and provide a blurb for my debut collection, Peel Back the Sky, when it was published in 2012. He sad passing was far too soon. The profits from Something Remains will benefit Diabetes UK, a condition from which Joel suffered. Here is the mouthwatering table of contents –

Foreword by Peter Coleborn

  • Introduction by Pauline E. Dungate
  • Joel by Chris Morgan (Verse)
  • Not Dispossessed:  A Few Words on Joel Lane’s Early Published Works by David A. Sutton (Essay)
  • Everybody Hates a Tourist by Tim Lebbon
  • The Conscience of the Circuit by Nicholas Royle (Essay)
  • The Missing by John Llewellyn Probert
  • Charmed Life by Simon Avery
  • Antithesis by Alison Littlewood
  • Dark Furnaces by Chris Morgan
  • The Inner Ear by Marion Pitman (Verse)
  • Broken Eye by Gary McMahon
  • Stained Glass by John Grant
  • Threadbare by Jan Edwards
  • The Dark above the Fair by Terry Grimwood
  • Grey Children by David A. Sutton
  • The Twin by James Brogden
  • Lost by Pauline Morgan (Verse)
  • Through the Floor by Gary Couzens
  • Fear of the Music by Stephen Bacon
  • Bad Faith by Thana Niveau
  • Window Shopping by David Mathew
  • Clan Festor by Liam Garriock
  • Sweet Sixteen by Adam Millard
  • Buried Stars by Simon Macculloch
  • And Ashes in Her Hair by Simon Bestwick
  • The Pleasure Garden by Rosanne Rabinowitz
  • Joel Lane, Poet by Chris Morgan (Essay)
  • The Reach of Children by Mike Chinn
  • The Men Cast by Shadows by Mat Joiner
  • The Winter Garden by Pauline E. Dungate
  • Natural History by Allen Ashley
  • The Second Death by Ian Hunter
  • The Bright Exit by Sarah Doyle (Verse)
  • Blanche by Andrew Hook
  • The Body Static by Tom Johnstone
  • You Give Me Fever by Paul Edwards
  • The Other Side by Lynda E. Rucker
  • Of Loss and of Life: Joel Lane’s Essays on the Fantastic by Mark Valentine (Essay)
  • Shadows by Joe X Young
  • I Need Somewhere to Hide by Steven Savile
  • Coming to Life by John Howard
  • The Enemy Within by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • Afterword: The Whole of Joel by Ramsey Campbell (Essay)


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The 11th Black Book of Horror

11th Black Book of Horror

You may recall several years ago that I reported Charles Black had accepted my story Lord of the Sand for publication in his latest horror anthology. This marks my third appearance in the series. It was published at the end of 2015 to largely great approval. Here is the table of contents –

Thana Niveau – Two Five Seven
Edward Pearce – East Wickenden
Tom Johnstone – Slaughtered Lamb
John Llewellyn Probert – Forgive Us Not Our Trespasses
Stephen Bacon – Lord Of The Sand
Kate Farrell – Alma Mater
Stuart Young – Keeping The Romance Alive
Anna Taborska – Teatime
David A. Riley – Lem
Tony Earnshaw – Flies
David Williamson – And The Dead Shall Speak
Marion Pitman – Every Picture Tells A Story
Sam Dawson – The Weathervane
John Forth – Molli & Julli

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A Year of Exile


I’ve been away for over a year but it’s finally time to return! I’ve had very little opportunity to update this site for the past 12 months but I am now hoping to keep up to a steady schedule. I’m sure you missed me.

The most recent bit of information is that in the last month the very final edition of POSTSCRIPTS was published by PS Publishing, those wonderful people over on the east coast at Hornsea. My story, Happy Sands, sits in this lovely volume, alongside some greats from all the speculative genres. Here’s the full table of contents –

  • Robert Freeman Wexler  Darkness, and Darkness
  • James Cooper  S.K.
  • Allen Ashley  A Reverie of Time
  • Robert Guffey The Wedding Photographer
  • Andrew Jury  Machinists
  • John Grant  The Second Runner
  • Lisa L. Hannett  Surfacing
  • Robert Reed  In Passing
  • Darrell Schweitzer  The Dragons of the Night
  • Robert Edric  Last Post
  • James Cooper  Texas
  • John Gribbin  Untanglement: The Leaving of the Quantum Cats
  • Paul Di Filippo  Karen Coxswain, or, Death as She is Truly Lived
  • Keith Brooke  Rewrites
  • John Grant  Everything Finishes
  • Andrew Hook  The Day My Heart Stood Still
  • Gary Fry  Madam, I’m Adam
  • Cate Gardner  In the Macabre Theatre of Nightshade Place
  • Stephen Bacon  Happy Sands
  • Scott Edelman  The Man Without the Blue Balloon and the Woman Who Had Smiles Only for Him
  • Bruce Golden  Blesséd
  • Darrell Schweitzer   The Hutchison Boy
  • Brian Aldiss  Abundances Above
  • Lavie Tidhar  The Beachcomber

So as you can see, there’s some major talent involved. And the book itself is a thing of beauty. My story is a slice of extremely dark sci-fi set in the near future, and featuring aspects of artificial intelligent gone wrong.



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Should writers set goals?


When I started out writing and submiting fiction back in 2006 there were specific things I wanted to achieve. I was familiar with the independent presses. I frequented the TTA Press message board, Shocklines, the Ramsey Campbell Message Board. However Facebook and Twitter were still a few years away. I had learned that the genres I loved – horror, fantasy, crime, science-fiction – were about so much more than what was represented in my local WH Smith’s or Tesco’s. Since I’d first ‘gone online’ around 1999 I’d discovered that there was an enthusiastic core of writers and readers that catered to a particular market, one that lay outside the realms of the masses.

I decided I was going to try to get something published.

Don’t get me wrong – all my life I’d written in some form or other. It started with notebooks and fountain pens when I was a young teenager, progressed to the Olivetti electric typewriter that I bought with one of my first pay-cheques as an 18 year old, eventually morphing into a suitcase-sized Amstrad word processor (complete with its dot-matrix printer) which I later purchased at a discount due to it being shop-soiled.

But by 2005/2006 I was using a clunky Packard Bell desktop PC, running Windows and Microsoft Works. I felt like a professional.

I had heroes I wanted to emulate. I had collected all the Stephen Jones-edited Best New Horror anthologies that contained stories by my favourite writers – Nicholas Royle, Graham Joyce, Conrad Williams, Simon Clark, Mark Morris, Kim Newman, Ramsey Campbell, Joel Lane, etc – and I thought that if I could manage to get a story published somewhere – anywhere – then I too would feel part of the scene.

So I formulated a plan. I would begin writing and submitting stories.

I had several books about how to write. The strongest piece of advice that stuck in my mind was from a book by Mort Castle (although I’m not sure if it was originally said by someone else) – that writers needed only 2 out of the following 3 qualities to succed: tenacity, talent, and luck.

Now I couldn’t do much about the luck part, although I’m a firm believer that you can make you own luck. So I didn’t worry too much about that. The talent I realised I most certainly didn’t have. But I also believed that if I kept writing, kept listening to advice that others gave me, kept trying to improve my style, I might somehow be able to influence that part. Which brings me on to the part that I knew most definitely I could do, and that was the tenacity. I knew that if I ignored the irrefutable evidence that I wasn’t good enough, and instead just concentrated on getting better, I would eventually get better. Obviously there are other factors here – it is essential to read widely (both inside and outside the genres), try to disect things that you like, try to work out what makes a good piece of writing different from an okay one.

So I set myself a very achievable goal. I was determined I was going to have a story published online somewhere. I actually emailed the multi award-winning editor, Ellen Datlow, for advice on where to send a story. She pointed me in the direction of That opened my eyes to the possibility of markets.

I managed to come up with a story that (at the time) I was quite happy with. I sent it to an online zine called Dark Fire Fiction, who accepted it and published it online. My fee was exposure. Yay me!

This felt great. I was now a published writer. I kept writing though, because that itch wasn’t yet scratched. After a while I felt a little bit unsatisfied with not having a physical copy of my story in my hands. So I changed the ambition to wanting to have a story published in a paper zine or magazine.

So in the summer of 2006 I had my story published in Aoife’s Kiss, a US magazine. The fee was exposure again, although this time I did get a couple of contributor copies. Wow. Look at me now: a story in a magazine!

For a while I repeated the process. Placed a few more stories in tiny micro-sized zines for nothing more than contributor copies. Then the same cycle of dissatisfaction started: how about this time trying to get published in an anthology of short stories? Wouldn’t that be cool?

So that’s what I did. Eventually I landed a slot in Cutting Block’s The Horror Library II, with a story originally rejected by Peter Crowther at PS Publishing for his Postscripts magazine. Mr Crowther did, however, give me some editorial feedback and mild encouragement, which I’m sure boosted my confidence when I submitted it to RJ Cavender for The Horror Library.

By the way, rejection is part and parcel of the job. I remember rejections that I’ve had that have been helpful – other than the Peter Crowther one I mentioned above, ones from Barbara Roden, Gary Fry, and Allen Ashley spring to mind. I took on board all their reasons for rejecting the stories, and placed them elsewhere. Eventually.

The next few years went the same way. I made similar appearances in small-press publications – Des Lewis was extremely important to my writing at this time – and then one day I received my first invite to contribute to a book. This was from Gary Fry for his Where the Heart Is anthology.

In my mind, another milestone was passed. I found myself continually changing the goalposts. That story in Where the Heart Is was also my first story to receive an honourable mention by Ellen Datlow in her summation of Best Horror of the Year. Another aim reached.

And throughout all this, I had in the back of my mind, a longterm goal: to eventually sell a story to each of the three magazines that I most considered my favourites – Cemetery Dance, Black Static, and Postscripts. With every rejection note that came back from these editors, I found my determination strengthening. I could tell that each story was better than the last. I could see I was improving. I knew that eventually I would achieve what I set out to do nearly a decade ago.

Which brings me to the point of this piece. Just last week I received a contract from Peter Crowther of PS Publishing, to publish my new story Happy Sands in the next annual Postscripts anthology. Coming after the February publication of The Cambion in Cemetery Dance, and the news that my story Bandersnatch will be appearing in a forthcoming issue of Black Static, 2015 is shaping up to be the year that I finally achieve my goals.

I still have writing goals. They’re different to the ones that I formulated a few years ago. But that’s the exciting thing about this writing lark: if we work hard and are patient, if we continue to work to as high a standard as possible, if we act like a professional, and with enough care for the genres we love, it can take us where we want to go. Eventually.

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Black Static 45

My new short story, BANDERSNATCH, has been accepted by Andy Cox for publication in BLACK STATIC magazine. This one is a particularly dark tale, possibly almost sick, but one that I hope will disturb the reader in more way than one.

This marks my third appearance in the magazine, which remains one of the best publications available. The issue above is Black Static 45, the current one. My story is probably going to appear in the next issue. More information as I get it.

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PEEL BACK THE SKY digital version

Peel Back the Sky cover

I have recently signed a contract for a US publisher to put out my debut collection, PEEL BACK THE SKY, in a digital format – ie, Kindle version (and others). Hopefully this will bring the book to a much wider audience. Not sure whether it will still have exactly the same one as the print one; the publisher has secured the rights with original artist, Les Edwards, but the typeface is very likely to change.

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Back from the dead…


Cemetery Dance 72

At long last I have returned. Apologies for the radio silence, which I notice was well over a year. Just thought I’d pop back with a quick catch-up.


The last year has been a very difficult one from a writing perspective. I’ve been busy working on Laudanum Nights. For some of the time at least. It’s fair ro say that at times I wasn’t sure if I’d ever finish anything ever again. My confidence was at rock bottom, my productivity was at an all-time low. In October last year TERROR TALES OF YORKSHIRE was published by Gray Friar Press. Edited by Paul Finch, this series of localised UK-based anthologies stand among my favourites in the genre. My story, THE SUMMER OF BRADBURY, features alongside some true giants of the British horror scene so I take great pleasure in appearing in this.


Then in November 2014 Gray Friar Press also published HORROR UNCUT! TALES OF SOCIAL INSECURITY AND ECONOMIC UNEASE, edited by Tom Johnstone and the late great Joel Lane. My story THE DEVIL’S ONLY FRIEND appears in this anthology of weird stories, all of which try to reflect the discord in the UK political scene of today.

And finally in February 2015 CEMETERY DANCE issue 72 was published. My story, THE CAMBION, sits alongside an uncollected tale from Stephen King no less, and several other fantastic writers.

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Best Horror of the Year 6

I’m very thrilled to announce that my story Apports, which was published in Black Static last year, has been selected by Ellen Datlow for Best Horror of the Year 6. It’s a tale I’m very proud of, and was my second appearance in the UK’s premier horror magazine, edited by Andy Cox. Starting out under the title ‘The Allure of Oblivion’, its new name seemed to reflect a leaner, less-pretentious vibe, and I’m delighted it has found a platform to reach a wider audience. Here is the table of contents for Best Horror of the Year 6 –

Apports by Stephen Bacon (Black Static #36)
Mr. Splitfoot by Dale Bailey (Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells)
The Good Husband by Nathan Ballingrud (North American Lake Monsters)
The Tiger by Nina Allan (Terror Tales of London)
The House on Cobb Street by Linda E. Rucker (Nightmare #9 June)
The Soul in the Bell Jar by KJ Kabza (F&SF November/Dec)
Call Out by Stephen Toase (Innsmouth Magazine #12)
That Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Love by Robert Shearman (Psycho-Mania)
Bones of Crow by Ray Cluley (Black Static #37)
Introduction to the Body in Fairy Tales by Jeannine Hall Gailey (Phantom Drift #3)
The Fox by Conrad Williams (This is Horror chapbook)
The Tin House by Simon Clark (Shadow Masters)
Stemming the Tide by Simon Strantzas (Dead North)
The Anatomist’s Mnemonic  by Priya Sharma (Black Static #32)
The Monster Makers by Steve Rasnic Tem (Black Static #35)
The Only Ending We Have by Kim Newman (Psycho-Mania)
The Dog’s Paw by Derek Künsken (Chilling Tales: In Words, Alas, Drown I)
Fine in the Fire by Lee Thomas (Like Light For Flies)
Majorlena by Jane Jakeman (Supernatural Tales 24)
The Withering  by Tim Casson (Black Static 32)
Down to a Sunless Sea  by Neil Gaiman (The
Jaws of Saturn by Laird Barron (The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All)
Halfway Home by Linda Nagata (Nightmare #12)
The Same Deep Waters as You by Brian Hodge (Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth)

So as you can see, it promises to be a great book. I’m very excited to be sharing pages with so many fantastic writers. I’ll post more when I get the details, but the expected publication date is around June.

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New Stories

Just thought I’d throw a little note up to say that January seems to be progressing in a nice manner. I’ve recently had three stories accepted for forthcoming anthologies – all due out later this year, all of which I was invited to submit to. This type of thing usually adds an extra element of pressure because as well as agreeing to find the time to write the stories, I also feel obligated not to let down the respective editors; I’d hate to send something to them only for the story to be passed up as being not right for the book (that has happened before in the past). But I’m pleased to report that in this instance all 3 tales have managed to make the cut. More information as soon as I can announce it.

Now my short story commitments have been fulfilled, it allows me time to focus on my novella (provisionally called Laudanum Nights), which I hope to have finished sometime this Spring.

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