Real-time rabbit

Des Lewis has done another of his wonderful real-time reviews of Black Static. You can read the whole thing by clicking here. This is what he said about my story ‘The Hutch’:

“This is almost a Robbe-Grillet type anti-novel short story… In such a relatively short space, the description of the hutch nevertheless seems slow motion, attritionally so. It is like a Duchamp ready-made – to enclose the ‘step’ relationships of families these days, rent not ownership. Including the final image of womanly ‘confinement’ and the crude ‘hutch’ enclosure. A very effective story where the real action is under the surface, unseen”

Makes me happy.

You can order Black Static here.

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Some catching up

Well, it’s been a while. A lot’s been going on but I’m getting back into the writing and posting side of things now and here’s a little something that’s been happening…

First, check out this cover design by Erik Mohr for Probably Monsters. How absolutely awesome? It’ll be out soon from ChiZine…

Probably Monsters

And out now is Water For Drowning. I went and signed a load of them last week and they should be shipping out as you read this. You can order it here or here.

Jess book

It received some kind words over at http://www.bookedpodcast.com recently too, things like “pretty close to perfection” and “I can only imagine Water For Drowning will win numerous awards” (that’d be nice) but perhaps my favourite was “Ray Cluley, you’re a sick fuck but you write a good story and that’s all that matters”. Lovely. Both reviewers gave it five star(fish) out of five. :-)

So what am I up to? (I know you didn’t ask, but a question as if you did helps me into the next bit…) Well, I’m trying to catch up with deadlines I’ve missed and ones getting close real quick, plus I started a new piece called ‘Old Bones’ which is my most personal to date. Not sure I’ll ever publish that one but it needs writing. Then I better crack on with the stuff I quit my job for – the novel, the novella, the graphic novel, etc, etc.

I’d better get writing…

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Stephen Graham Jones on ‘Water For Drowning’

Some bloody kind words from Stephen Graham Jones about ‘Water For Drowning’ - thanks, man.

“With this, Ray Cluley takes​ us to the water’s edge and holds our faces under until we can see as he does. And it’s beautiful under there. Dark and funny and amazing. And don’t worry that you can’t breathe. Breathing is secondary, when you’ve got writing like this.”

If you want to see what he means for yourself, you can order it here.

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Black Static 41 – on rabbits and reviews

Issue 41 of Black Static has gone to press and will be mailing out soon. Check out the amazing cover by Richard Wagner:

Black Static 41

I’m both thrilled and nervous about this issue. Thrilled because I’m in it with my story ‘The Hutch’, nervous because Peter Tennant reviews my chapbook ‘Water For Drowning’ in this issue. I’ve always liked Peter Tennant’s reviews because he’s clearly very honest – and that’s what you want. If he likes it I’ll know he really liked it, and I’ll brag about it here. If he doesn’t like it, he’ll certainly say so. I won’t. In fact, I’ll go very quiet on the subject and perhaps edit this post…

If you want to order a copy of ‘Water For Drowning’ you can click here to do so.

You can subscribe to Black Static through their store, here.

In the meantime, here’s the opening to ‘The Hutch’…

Jess wasn’t upset when her rabbit died. She wasn’t happy about it, exactly, but she wasn’t upset either. Relieved, maybe. There’d be no more cleaning the hutch, scraping out pellets of poo and damp straw. She wouldn’t have to empty the bowl of that dry dusty muesli stuff it was supposed to eat but never did (in fact, she found a lot of its poo in that bowl ). She wouldn’t have to remove the blackened stumps of carrot it always left, either. And it wouldn’t be able to bite her anymore.

They had a funeral for it in the garden. Harvey cried even though it wasn’t his rabbit but then Harvey was just a kid. Not even a kid really yet. He was only two. Jess was twelve and in ten months and eleven days she would be a teenager, practically a grown up.

“Do you want to say anything, sweety?”

Jess didn’t look up from the shoebox in the ground but she knew how her mum would be looking at her. She’d be using the sad eyes, the eyes that were meant to make Jess sad too, or at least show her how it was done. But Jess didn’t care about the stupid rabbit. She’d never wanted it in the first place.

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Blog-hop tag – things I don’t write, things I do…

Well I got tagged for a blog-hop thing by Stephen Bacon and Carole Johnstone, two great writers I’m lucky enough to call friends (I call them that, but they might not agree, and I’m not going to ask, but the great writers bit is undisputed – check out ‘best of’ anthologies and award short lists and whatnot, you’ll see). Anyway, I’m supposed to talk about three things I don’t write and three things I do, so here goes…

Three things I don’t write

(disclaimer: I might one day, I’m fickle like that)

I don’t like to write stories that have writers as main characters unless the very process of writing is key to the story (as is the case in one I’m working on at the moment, before you go calling me a liar at a later date). It’s something that bothers me more than it should, probably. King does it a lot, and a few others, and it often just smacks of too much ‘write what you know’, but mostly it’s just that when I write I want to write something far removed from what I really do. That’s not to say there aren’t elements of me in each story – there always is – but I want to escape from my real physical world a bit, if not my emotional one. One of the hardest stories I’ve written is called ‘Bluey’ and it’s about a teacher. I like the story (quite a lot, actually, vain sod that I am) but working on it after a day of teaching and marking did not feel like the break I usually get by writing. I think I’d be the same with a story about a writer.

Overtly political stories are another no-go area for me, really. Obviously some politics will creep in because it’s everywhere but I tend to agree with Mark Twain regarding politicians inasmuch as I feel they’re like diapers and need changing regularly for the same reason, and as a result I don’t care for politics at all. I think it would make my writing too angry, and too easy for that matter – if you want a real horror story just read a newspaper. Worse, my writing might become preachy, and I don’t want that either. I’m far more interested in individuals (see below) rather than societies, though of course the two are linked. So for example, although ‘I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing’ looks at the shocking exploitation involved in lobster fishing in Nicaragua, it mostly focuses on the narrator’s own grief and personal angst, using the political and economical situation of the setting to support this story.

Historical fiction is something I’m yet to try. I’d really like to, I just haven’t yet. There are a couple of weird westerns kicking about in my ‘still to send’ pile, but other than those I’ve pretty much left well alone. I think there’s lots of scope for adding a little horror to a historical setting but I’d avoid the biggies – nothing supernatural on the Titanic, no additional strangeness to the JFK assassination, Jack the Ripper, nothing like that. And the World Wars have enough horror in them without me adding any. I do like the idea of sticking dragons into a Victorian setting though (I have a story outlined for that) and I’d like to tackle the medieval period without turning it into full blown fantasy. It would be nice to tackle a time without mobile phones or computers, a period when there were still parts of the world to discover and we weren’t all so connected to everything. A story that springs to mind that I really like is Priya Sharma’s ‘Needlepoint’ which I picked out as a favourite from Interzone a while ago – I’d like to do something like that.

Three things I do write

I found this part quite difficult because I try to write something different each time, if possible. I’ve not established a niche for myself, and don’t really stick to one genre, nor do I usually focus on a particular locale (in fact, my stories have been set all over the place). But here’s what I’ve come up with after a bit of a think…

I write about the sea quite a lot. I love it. So far I think I’ve published eight or so stories about the sea, with a fair few more planned (including a series of novels). Maybe not a large number, but that represents about a fifth of all my published work across all genres. Partly I think it’s because the sea genuinely terrifies me, so it’s easy to harness that fear. Not that each of the stories is necessarily frightening, but there is often at least a sense of awe that touches on the sublime (in the truer sense of the word). Another reason I like sea stories is because of the mystery – there’s so much we haven’t explored of our ocean planet, and there is some weird shit in the water (hence the story ‘Where the Dark is Deepest’). I kinda subscribe to the idea that we evolved by climbing out of the water because it was just too fucking scary in there.

I write a lot about individuals, mostly lonely people or outsiders, flawed broken types. I noticed this pattern when putting together the contents for my collection, trying to split like from like, and it’s no bad thing really I suppose (I’m sure it’s cheaper than therapy). I should maybe write about a family or two some time soon to balance it out. But mostly I love the psychological aspect of a single character and often chuck in some basic Freudian stuff or symbolism while I’m at it. I’m not against relationships in my fiction but it’s usually between two people and usually it isn’t working properly or is somewhat complicated.

Speaking of characters, more a technique thing this time but I do tend to make sure the names I use for my characters are significant somehow. They have to sound right, of course, but often there will be further connotations, or puns, or a meaning few people will know but me (without looking it up). Frances and Charlie in ‘At Night, When the Demons Come’ are particularly significant, for example (can’t tell you how in case you haven’t read it). Rita, from ‘The Death Drive of Rita, nee Carina’, plays with the RTA initialism for ‘road traffic accident’ and Carina puns on careening. Josh in ‘Water For Drowning’ is someone who doesn’t take things too seriously. Things like that. I have to say, though, it bugs me when it’s obvious. A detective called Morse? Really? Fucking Rebus? At least you have to think a little bit with Sam Spade (digging for the truth). The most obvious I’ve gone is a grieving character called Willow (weeping Willow?) but even then she tends to get called Willoughby in the story because of a misunderstanding (her middle initial is B) which disguises the weeping Willow reference a bit. I hope. (Well, it doesn’t now, obviously.)

So there you go, three don’ts and dos concerning my writing. Thanks for the tag, Stephen and Carole. I’ve no idea who hasn’t done this, but I do know that it’s probably passed V. H. Leslie by as she tends to avoid social networks and all that. So tag, you’re it, Victoria…

Post Script: I’m tagging Ralph Robert Moore as well. Go for it, Rob.

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Review of ‘Water For Drowning’ (and ‘Shark! Shark!’)

Wow. That little bit I posted before from Dread Central came from my editor, but here’s the full review of Water For Drowning’ from Gareth Jones.

I am very very happy. He totally gets it.

You can still pre-order a copy.

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Some shameless self-promotion

So pleased to be getting some favourable feedback regarding ‘Water For Drowning’, so pleased that I thought I’d share some:

“Real life and legend collide in Cluley’s haunting tale. By turn tragic and beautiful, the emotions ebb and flow like the tide. Water For Drowning is heartbreaking. It plays on your mind and leaves questions unanswered, as all good horror should. Recommended.” (David Moody)

“Haunting in its plausibility… Water For Drowning will immerse you in a sea of inescapable, personal darkness.” (Dread Central)

“A wonderful story of contemporary life meets folklore and fairy tale. The characters are fascinating and the plot beautifully woven – I loved it. Highly recommended!” (Alison Littlewood)

Available for pre-order here.

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