Sam Russell wrote a non-fiction article for Inkspill Magazine, and since then we’ve been chatting via Twitter. After kindly downloading my short story collection (‘The Hours of Creeping Night‘) to read, Sam then wrote an amazing review on her site.
I didn’t know what to expect, though the forewarning of ‘dark speculative fiction’ probably should have prepared me.
There are nine tales in this debut collection, each distinct from the next if not for the underlying drive to say something more than what the story itself is saying.
For me, Playle has the same ability to convey theme and meaning as George Saunders does in Pastoralia, could probably give the Brothers Grimm a run for their money when it comes to conveying terror, and reminds me of Chekhov with her brevity and pace. … (READ MORE)
Thank you, Sam!
Well, it’s been around five months since I decided to self-publish a collection of my dark speculative short stories, The Hours of Creeping Night.
I haven’t been actively promoting it, so I didn’t expect much to happen. My agent actually bought a copy before he decided to offer me representation (though the offer was more about my novel). Interestingly, both he and one of the reviewers picked out my story ‘Dead Cell’ (zombie outbreak in a prison, told from the inmates’ perspective) as the best of the selection, despite a few of my beta readers not particularlly liking the story. Just goes to show how different people enjoy different stories.
At one point, I decided to make the price on Smashwords free just to get some exposure, so Amazon matched that for two months. I checked in with the figures today – and wow! Two thousand copies were downloaded in two months, ranking the ebook #41 in the Amazon.com short story Kindle chart.
Only 74 copies were downloaded from Smashwords, and less than ten from Amazon.co.uk… So I guess the US Amazon site is the one to focus on.
Out of those two thousand copies, only two people left a review, but they were great reviews!
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Decent book
May 29, 2012, By DareT0Dream
This book is one of many short story books ive read this year. I am actually taking the time to review this book, which means I liked it enough to spend some of my time. The only reason I am giving it a 4 rather than a 5, is because i feel it should of been longer, maybe 30 pages longer. I was so close on getting my fix, that when it ended it left me “unsatisfied”. But other than that great job, i dont want to spoil it for other readers but, one story in the book Dead Cell should be made as a stand alone book.
The Hours of Creeping Night is a collection of short stories that encompass the surrealism of the late hours of the night, when the coming dawn feels like an impossible dream. This 11,000 word ebook is filled with weird and morbid tales of mechanical creatures, living forests, zombies, wedigo and other monsters, while exploring the darkness of human nature in various strange fictional worlds. Read more about the stories inside…
You can buy from the following places… The pricing is a little mixed at the moment, depending on the vendor(!) Pricing correct at time of posting (18th June 12).
I recently published a collection of some of my dark speculative short stories. Here’s a closer look at the content of that collection…
Falling Apart in the Match-Lit Dark
Victor wasn’t born. He simply fell together. In the depths of a toxic junkyard, split pipes, busted toasters and keyless typewriters connected together, forming Victor’s child-sized body. With a marble for one eye and a cog for another, he blinked in the darkness. He flexed his coat-hanger fingers on his clock-face hands and dragged himself up to the world above. It took him all day to reach the surface, not because he was weak, but because an empty net dragged behind him, catching on bolts and wing-mirrors.
The opening short story is about a little mechanical creature that falls into existence. With the naivety of a child, he wanders the city streets collecting the emotions of its inhabitants. Scared and confused, he eventually falls into the care of a kindly old man and glimpses a brighter human emotion. But the city has other ideas, and pulls him back…
The Carved Woman
Dante had walked the world to find the Living Forest. For fifteen years he had followed hearsay and local legend. And now, as he made his way through the undergrowth, he saw the trees shudder at the touch of his machete. The branches swept with panicked whispers. Just as Dante knew of the forest, the forest also knew of Dante from the voices carried on the wind.
Dante is a haunted, lonely man. He spends his days carving the wood of the Living Forest into human form, trying to regain a sense of his lost love. The deformed, imperfect bodies pile up, until the forest decides it has had enough.
The morning light is trapped by the London smog so that it hangs lifelessly in the thick air. Down a narrow alley, Gretel runs from the confines of a crowded rented room, the slam of the door ricocheting off the bricks. The city opens up around her as she makes her way through its capillary streets; people bustle on foot or on horseback, hackneys and omnibuses clatter down cobbled roads. The stench of condensed life burns the back of her throat and, as she passes a grated vent, she thinks about the sewers that weave below the surface of the city like the veins of a dying thing. Ships chug through the brown waters of the river; ropes tinker against the hollow steel masts of the swell of moored boats at the jetties while seagulls scream overhead.
Gretel works in a Victorian cotton mill. She’s plagued by a nightmare she can never remember, and is sick of being so exhausted while she works that the strappers whip her for every mistake. So she runs into the countryside to escape the suffocation of the city, if only for a while. But she becomes lost and stumbles upon a strange-looking cottage formed of rusted metal and broken rivets, and her nightmare suddenly becomes all too real as the metal screeches to life…
The Fallen Safat
The Safat live in the sky. Unlike other birds, they never set foot on land and never rest; they spend their lives soaring above the clouds, riding high thermals and feasting on stars. Every year, the females lay their eggs in flight. As the eggs plummet towards earth, they hatch and tiny birds dart into the air before the shells smash to pieces on the ground.
But one little Safat never broke free of his egg, and fell to the earth. Wounded, he finds himself lost and alone in an Arctic wasteland. Against all odds, he tries to climb the mountain to reach the stars but is hunted by a terrifying Wendigo.
The Atheist’s Soul
I look down at the gulls and the jackdaws. They glide through the mist, fading and reappearing as they ride the thermals, lamenting to no one with their sad cries. The clouds roll over the cliff edge. Behind me, scattered leafless trees grow sideways in submission to the endless wind. In the distance, I can hear the lighthouse’s apathetic warning.
A man stands on the edge of cliff, contemplating the end of his life. But a strange figure appears and leads him into a concealed hotel buried in the rock of the cliff. It all seems too perfect, too unreal.
Denton had been awake most of the night, as usual, but his body clock was tuned enough to know that it was well past morning. And yet, everything was still dark. Every day for the past fourteen years the slam of metal and the flicker of harsh synthetic light had been his wake-up call, the smell of burnt coffee penetrating the constant musk of sweat and stale cigarettes as the guards changed shift. But not today.
Two cell-mates awaken to a dark and silent prison, instantly aware that something isn’t right. As the inmates wake around them, creatures stir in the darkness. Something has gone horrifically wrong, but who would come to the aid of a group of convicts?
Bump in the Night
Cynthia poured the imaginary tea from the plastic teapot. First for Mister Spears, then for Grobble, then Lucy-Loo. Baby Bub was too little to drink tea. Mister Spears sat stiff-backed, waiting for Cynthia to add the milk for him.
‘Not too much, girl!’ he snapped. The thin line of his mouth did not move as he spoke. He polished his monocle on his white cotton handkerchief before picking up the teacup and sipping, sticking out his little finger.
Cynthia is a strange little girl. She plays on her own, in her locked room, with her imaginary friends. But her imaginary friends are frightening and violent – so she decides to get rid of them once and for all.
Four snarling dogs snapped at my heels, their chains taught, as the officers threw me into the cell. ‘So, you’re all they’ve got? Pathetic,’ they laughed. The cell door clanked shut, the lock clicking. I saw them leave through the haze of red dust, their scarlet uniforms fading as they walked away.
On a far away desolate planet, a man with no memory is thrown into a prison cell. His skin is scarred all over, as though he has been ripped apart and put back together. He looks out of the window and sees thousands of enslaved people, mining rocks in the desert. A swarm of gigantic, metal-plated worm-like creatures attacks the settlement, and something unexpected stirs inside the man, and he fights for the survival of his species.
I was someone’s bad thought.
I wish my skin would heal, so I wouldn’t have to wear these rough stitches. My shoulders and arms are scratched and scarred – surely this means it was alive, once. Dead skin doesn’t mend. A thick thread extrudes from the centre of my stomach and I probe it with my finger. Dried blood flakes out of the closed wound. I place my hand on my chest and feel for a heartbeat. Nothing.
A creature is thought into existence, into a nightmare world. He watches an artist paint him onto a canvas and contemplates the evils of the human imagination.
If you’re interested in reading the collection in full, you can download it from the following outlets for less than £2/$3:
Note to self: improve immune system.
Yes, previous to the last six weeks, the last time I had a cold was the winter of 2010-11. But over the past six weeks, I’ve caught three viruses worse than the average cold. Damn you, germy world, and damn you crappy immune system.
But enough of that. You don’t want to hear about the Armageddon of snotty tissues in my bedroom. How about some publication news instead?
Today, the February issue of Yes, Poetry is out. You can download the free PDF from their website. It contains just the right amount of quirky and insightful poetry to keep you entertained. And it features my poem ‘Breathing Out’.
In Novermber 2010, I submitted a little poem to The London Magazine. In February 2011, they wrote to say my poem was accepted. Then I never heard anything back. I kept an eye on the website. Nothing. Months after this, the same poem was accepted for an anthology, but the anthology asked about publication rights. I assumed I still held all the rights as The London Magazine hadn’t published the accepted poetry, nor had a signed a contract, nor were there rights information on their website. Then by chance I saw that my poem was published by The London Magazine. Despite three emails and a promise of a contributor copy, I still haven’t received my contributor copy. If this was any other magazine, I would have been livid with their disorganisation. But its such a prestigious publication that I can’t help but still be pleased I’m included. And I really think it’s the best poem I’ve written.
You can read Napkin Swans in the Oct-Nov 2011 issue of The London Magazine.
It will also appear in The Young British Poets Oxfam Anthology, published by Cinnamon press to raise money for Oxfam.
As well as that, our Royal Holloway MA anthology, Bedford Square 5, was published in Dec 2011. It contains novel extracts and poetry from two year’s of students on the MA. It features the first chapter of my novel The Sky, The City, The Others (working title), which is a steampunk/zombie adventure story. It’s really interesting to see what all the other groups were working on. Though the general reader is unlikely to pick it up and read an anthology of extracts, it’s a good showcase for prospective students, agents and publishers. Some of us will be reading from the anthology at the Runnymede Literary Festival on Friday March 16th at the Centre for Creative Collaboration on Acton Street.
And my last piece of publication news is that I’ve taken the plunge into – gasp – self-publishing. Now, I immediately feel the need to justify myself due to the great prejudice against the notion. (I’ve written about the concept of self publishing recently, here.) I wouldn’t self-publish a novel, as I’d much rather have a team of experts working on it, as well as the quality control assurance the backing of a publisher provides.
However, I have decided to publish a handful of my short stories. Some of them have been previously published in magazines, but mostly I know that short story collections are notoriously hard to publish traditionally, and I think my collection might be too dark (and too short) for a traditional publisher. So I’ve released this collection as an ebook. It is very much an experiment, but I thought it would be interesting to see how it fares, rather than letting the stories sit, unread, on my computer.
I put a lot of thought into which stories to include. All of them are dark in nature and contain a speculative element. I had one story, that I was slightly unsure of, professionally edited. I had all the stories analysed by a handful of beta readers – these were my fellow MA or BA students, and I knew that they would be honest and critical. I gave the collection a final edit based on their suggestions. I designed the cover myself… purely because of budget. I’m pretty sure its better than most of the self-published covers…
The Hours of Creeping Night is a collection of short stories that encompass the surrealism of the late hours of the night, when the coming dawn feels like an impossible dream. This 11,000 word ebook is filled with weird and morbid tales of mechanical creatures, living forests, zombies, wedigo and other monsters, while exploring the darkness of human nature in various strange fictional worlds.
You can buy the ebook for less than two quid at:
You can view the first few pages at Amazon or Smashwords. I’ll be posting more about this project in the future.
Okay, this disgustingly self-promotional post has been long enough. Thanks for reading.