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A Competition That’s Doing Good

5 Oct

Want a chance to win a prize for your writing whilst also doing good? Then, you want to enter A Story For Daniel. The competition itself is free and you could win £100 for writing a joyful or uplifting piece of flash fiction. The twist is that the organisers ask that you assist a charity or do a good deed in memory of baby Daniel. The deadline is the end of October 2017 and the competition is open to everyone.

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Corporate Cthulhu is coming!

5 Oct

Nothing is more terrifying and mind-shattering than the Cthulhu Mythos – expect, perhaps, the meaningless bureaucracy of a corporation. Well, now, these two hideous horrors are being combined in one anthology – Corporate Cthulhu!

The anthology is on Kickstarter now and needs your assistance if it is to meet its target and escape the cloying tendrils of Great Cthulhu and enter print. So, rush over to the anthology’s Kickstarter page and take a look at its contents and the various stretch goals, then pledge something towards making this blasphemous tome a reality!

Corporate Cthulhu

Download now!

22 Jun

You can now download issues of Awen and The Supplement (as well as DJ Tyrer’s fiction ebook, Black & Red) for free from this site. New issues will be added regularly. Enjoy!

Equal Opportunity Madness!

26 May

EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness – A Mythos Anthology by Otter Libris

In the depths of the cosmos there is madness to be found and there are stories to be told…

H.P. Lovecraft first unveiled his dark and twisted vision of human insignificance to a wide audience with the publication of his short stories beginning in the early 1920s. He became a significant influence on horror writers and readers around the world and left a profound imprint on the horror genre itself. But something was missing in his work, things like positive portrayals of people of color and strong women.

Lovecraft is one of those problematic authors who created astounding work, but carried personal attitudes that most modern audiences find repugnant, like racism and anti-Semitism. Whether or not he was also a misogynist is a topic of spirited debate, but there is no question that his work lacks female characters, and when they are present they portrayed as weak or evil.

And then a group of feisty writers and one plucky little independent press, Otter Libris, decided to fill in some of the gaps in the Mythos….

What began as a joking suggestion to write stories that would make Lovecraft roll in his grave grew into the little anthology that could – EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness. Why should straight, white men of Anglo-Saxon descent get to have all the maddening fun?

EOM includes stories from writers in America, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Greece, and the protagonists are male and female, straight and not, and come in a wide variety of skin tones. Come enjoy all the madness of the Mythos in a rainbow of colors with EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness from Otter Libris, soon to be available in trade paper edition and your favorite e-book flavor.

Visit our Kickstarter and make sure you’re the first on your street to go mad!

Locum Who?

8 Feb

Peter Capaldi is going and it’s time to find a locum to fill the famous Doctor’s shoes…

Along with a black James Bond, a female Doctor Who with a male companion is the most common ‘politically-correct’ change to an established character that crops up. I’ve advocated a black Doctor in the past – not for any reason other than because there have been some excellent black actors who would be perfect for the role. But, a female Doctor wouldn’t sit right with me.

Let’s tackle the male companion first. There’s no reason a male Doctor cannot have a male companion. In the first half of the original series, there usually was a mixture of male and female companions, and often of age. By the end of the original series, there was usually only one companion, who was female and this has been common since the revival. While it originally arose from the idea that a ‘bit of totty’ would attract the dads, I think the reason it was retained was because, especially with the example of the final original-series companion, Ace, a strong female companion made a good counterpoint to the male Doctor. But, there’s no reason why the companion must always be female, young, or in the singular. The companions offer plenty of opportunity to mix things up.

But, the Doctor is a constant.

Of course, we’ve had a female incarnation of the Master (‘Missy’), but that twist worked because the Master has a history of running out of regenerations, stealing bodies and meddling with his biodata. That he would transform into a woman is almost a logical outcome of his adventures in identity. Yes, the Doctor has run through his regenerations quickly and seems to have messed with his biodata, but not to the same extent – and making gender a choice raises all sorts of questions of why he always chose to be male before, but has changed his mind now.

But, more than my feeling that it doesn’t really fit in with the established continuity of the series, is my view that the demand for a female Doctor is horribly sexist. There’s no need for the Doctor as a female role model – if people wanted a female Timelord, why not produce a series featuring Romana? – while the Doctor represents a male character who doesn’t pander to typical male stereotypes. He’s rarely violent, he’s intelligent, academic and quirky, he’s tolerant and kind. In a world where too many male role models are the opposite, he’s a welcome alternative.

Introduce a Romana series, by all means (after all, The Sarah Jane Adventures were excellent), but don’t deprive boys of the wonderful role model who is the Doctor.

Where To Start?

7 Nov

“Where do I start my story?” must be the question writers most frequently ask, whether of others or themselves, yet it is impossible to answer, except with the vague suggestion to start with action. Not, of course, that you cannot start with a description or witty observation, but they will need to be very arresting to seize the readers’ attention.

Action, though, is a little misleading. People tend to assume action must be spectacular, a murder or an explosion, but even in a thriller, that isn’t necessarily so. Action can be low-key, too. Even in the case of an explosion, it isn’t necessary to start with the bang – you could begin with the bomb being planted or even a couple arguing only to be interrupted by this sudden blast: All that matters is that the reader is hooked. You could even cheat a little – rather than the main murder, you could begin with the killer offing an accomplice whose death will remain unknown to the investigators for some or all of the story.

Short stories and, especially flash fiction, are easier than novels as they usually consist of a single scene or a few closely-linked scenes: Begin at the beginning and continue till the end. In a novel, not only do you have multiple scenes to choose from, with the complication of flashbacks, flashforwards and subplots, but you need to maintain and build tension over a much longer span. A really powerful piece of action might make a great opening, but could leave the reader underwhelmed by what follows if you’re not careful.

Let’s imagine a murder mystery: Two friends have an argument, which leads to one being murdered; after the funeral, at the reading of the will, a discovery is made that reveals they were murdered and prompts an investigation. Now, ignoring other tricks, like starting with the ending or the murder of an accomplice, where do we begin?

We could ‘begin at the beginning’ – but, where does the story begin? The start of the investigation, or perhaps more effectively, the revelation at the will-reading, would work. Or, how about at the funeral, as a lead-in to the discovery, perhaps with some foreshadowing of the revelation? Or, we could start with some real action: the murder itself. Or, we could begin with the argument that sets events in motion.

But, those aren’t the only options. The story could begin with the aftermath of the murder or some way into the investigation. Equally, the story could begin between the argument and the murder. Or, we could start well before the argument by inventing some other event, probably a piece of fairly low-key action, for the opening paragraph, and then developing the characters and the reasons why they argue. That’s nine alternatives before we even consider anything sneakier.

But, which one do you pick? That’s up to you – you decide which one appeals the most.

HP Lovecraft made a point of creating timelines of events in his stories so that, no matter where he began the narrative and regardless of the order in which events unfolded on the page, he knew the actual order they occurred in, who was where, etc. Even if you’re not much of a planner, a loose outline of the early parts of your story can be a good way of identifying potential starting points.

Indeed, you could take this a step further and write your story in chronological order from the earliest relevant event, before going back and deciding where to begin the finished story. This might involve cutting some text, perhaps recycling some as backstory, or it could be relocated to serve as flashbacks; or you could move something back to serve as a flashforward. You will probably need to do some rewriting to cover excised details that are important to the plot and to make the new opening work properly as an introduction (you may, for example, find the descriptions of key characters are in earlier, deleted sections), but this is likely to be far easier than staring at a blank page, trying to envisage how to start.

Remember, once you reach the end, you can always rewrite your beginning. So, don’t worry too much. Get started, get writing and you’ll get there eventually.

Try something different…

3 Oct

Looking for something different to read? Well, October is Black Speculative Fiction month. You could even win a prize! Lots of events going on in America, but even if you’re on this side of the Pond, you can still follow the links to some fascinating sites or get the special horror-themed issue of Black Girl Magic (out on the 15th).

black-spec-fic-month