Here’s your chance to read one of my stories – and lots of others – toally FREE. You can download the eText version from Amazon (links below).
My short story Obelisk is in the anthology Phantasmical Contraptions & Other Errors
Obelisk takes place in an alternative-history version of the Victorian period and is set on a newly colonised Mars, where prospectors and miners ride steam-driven horses and clockwork mules, and where archaeologists search for traces of a lost, indiginous Martian civilisation.
The anthology as a whole features twenty five tales of highly inventive Steampunkery, so grab it FREE while you can!
For the long Thanksgiving weekend, between the parade, the turkey and the football, if you find yourself without anything to do, you might want a taste of outer-space and fantasy-world adventure! Look no further than JayHenge’s anthologies! Free Kindle versions on Amazon for the entire 4-day weekend!
Get Phantasmical Contraptions & Other Errors on Amazon.com HERE or Amazon.co.uk HERE
This piece will be posted on both my Fiction Writing Blog and my Folklore & Magic Blog. I’m feeling somewhat smug today having just had a story accepted for The British Fantasy Society’s Horizons magazine. Naturally my tale A Taste Of Blood And Honey is a work of fiction but is does draw on genuine folklore and features a variety of supernatural beings in a grim social-surrealistic setting (essentially an experimental form of “Kitchen Sink Urban Fantasy”).
In my story I feature a form of Dhampyr (not quite the usual sort however). The name Dhampyr is generally taken to be a conjunction of two Albanian words, “dham” (teeth) and “pirë” (drink). As Dhampyrs are not especially well known outside Eastern Europe, I thought it might be an idea to explain a little bit about them. Traditionally, a Dhampyr is a creature found in Balkan folklore. It generally appears to be a normal human (at least much of the time) but in reality the creature is most commonly born as the result of a sexual encounter between a vampire and a human. Dhampyr is one of several possible ways of spelling the term in English, others include Dhampir, Dhampyre and Dhamphir.
In folklore, Dhampyrs generally possess powers similar to those of Vampires (inherited one presumes from their Vampiric parent). Dhampyrs however frequently have (at least some of) the strengths but not (all of) the weaknesses of Vampires.
In recent Vampire fiction, Dhampyrs have often appeared as hybrids of one human and one vampire parent – not vampires themselves, but a half-breed of both. I put a different spin on things in my own story, while hopefully remaining true to the spirit of the original folklore.
Originally “Dhampyrs” were specifically associated with Balkan folklore although other names were also used in the region, for example the Serbian “Vampirović”, “Vampijerović” and “Vampirić” or the Bosnian “Lampijerović” (literally meaning “Son of a Vampire).
Often a boy said to have a Vampire parent may be named “Dhampir” and a girl “Dhampirica”. Alternatively, depending on region and local tradition, a male child may be named “Vampir”, while a female child might be named “Vampirica”.
In the Balkan region it was believed that generally most male vampires continue to have a great desire for “female company”, even after death. It was widely believed that a vampire would return and do their best to have intercourse with his wife, girlfriend or with any woman he had been attracted to in life. In at least one well documented case, a Serbian widow blamed her pregnancy on her late husband, who had “allegedly” become a vampire. This belief also led to several cases of Serbian men masquerading as vampires in order to have their wicked way with women they desired.
The sexual nature of vampirism has been well established in classic fictional works on Vampires, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel through the Hammer Films of the ‘60s & ‘70s and on to the more recent works of authors such as Anne Rice, or even to an extent the Twilight franchise. But this is not simply a literary motif. In Bulgarian folklore for example, vampires were sometimes said to deflower virgins, just like in the later horror movies. Sexually active vampires appear in Southern Slavic vampire beliefs, and likewise in Belarusian legends.
Some Eastern European traditions tell of specific signs by which the children of a vampire can be recognised.
Albanian legends state Dhampyrs have untamed dark or black hair and lack a shadow.
In Bulgarian folklore, possible indications include being “very dirty,” having a soft body, no nails and no bones (the lack of bones is also ascribed to the vampire itself), and “a deep mark on the back, like a tail.” A long pronounced nose was often also sign, as were larger than normal ears, teeth or eyes.
In some areas, a true Dhampyr possessed a “slippery, jelly-like body and lived only a short life” which may have been a description of a hereditary genetic condition, or side-effects produced as the result of poor nutrition.
Or of course, perhaps it may indicate having a vampire as a parent…
I have a story, The Halloween Party, in the latest issue of New Zentih Magazine which is available now in digital format for the very modest price of US $3.99 (about £3.27) – click here to get a copy (it will be available in print format shortly).
My story is in the paid edition but if you’d like to see what to expect from the magazine there is a free web edition here
I’m in good company in the present issue. Details of my fellow contributors are below.
Contributors – Fall 2016
Robert Edward Baker works as a male model by day and a rock singer by night. He also writes fiction like the above. In truth, Robert lives in Bradford, England, with his wife and their three sons. Recently, he took his first baby steps toward a career in writing.
Allison Epstein is a writer, marketer, feminist, and recreational student of Shakespeare living in Chicago. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Strangelet Journal, Ugly Sapling, The Huffington Post, and Adios Barbie, among other publications. She hasn’t finished a conversation without quoting the musical Hamilton since September 2015.
A writer from youth, German-born Ute Carson has published three novels, three collections of poetry and numerous essays and short stories. She resides in Austin, Texas with her husband. They have three daughters, six grandchildren, a horse and a number of cats. Please visit her website www.utecarson.com.
G. H. Finn
G. H. Finn is the pen name of someone you are very unlikely to have heard of but who keeps his real identity secret anyway, possibly in the forlorn hope of one day being mistaken for a superhero.
Lisa Luciano enjoys reading, writing, and creating art with recycled materials. She has been through the “Miraculous Marathon” a few times….being the mother of eleven children.
Edward McDermott, born in Toronto, has a professional day job but spends his spare time pursuing a writing career. Aside from taking writing courses and participating in writers’ groups, Edward takes time for sailing, fencing, and working as a movie extra. http://www.edwardmcdermott.net/
Kate Krake is a writer, mother, wife and beagle tamer. She is the author of the continuing urban fantasy meta-novel, Guessing Tales as well as numerous non-fiction books for writers. Kate also runs the writing advice website, The Write Turn. Kate lives in Brisbane, Australia (and yes, her backyard is at times overrun with kangaroos).
Denny E. Marshall isn’t a high-flying super hero, nor president of the largest nation in the world, and he hasn’t been published in the New Yorker. However, he is one heck of an artist, and a pretty mean storyteller. Watch out world because we haven’t seen the last of him!
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chance managed to escape the trappings of life by running away to join the United States Marine Corps in time to serve during the battle of Fallujah in 2004. After serving two tours in Iraq and helping during Hurricane Katrina, Chance was discharged with a Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon. He currently lives in Princeton, Texas with his wife Jennifer, their two sons; Damien and Bastian, and two wonderful dogs. When he is not spending his time with his family or watching UFC, Chance can be found at his keyboard working on yet another story.
Brooke Petrie is an author who carries a pen, notebook and a tonne of adjectives with her wherever she goes. She has a passion for all forms of storytelling – be it poetry, music, visual art or narratives. Brooke can’t wait to venture out of the small city of Adelaide, South Australia, to hear more stories from different places in the world. Her dreams often involve meeting Jack Kerouac.
Multiple award-winning author, Jacqueline Seewald, has taught creative, expository and technical writing at Rutgers University as well as high school English. She also worked as both an academic librarian and an educational media specialist. Sixteen of her books of fiction have been published to critical praise including books for adults, teens and children. Her short stories, poems, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in hundreds of diverse publications and numerous anthologies.
LD Masterson lives in Dayton, Ohio and enjoys writing in a variety of genres. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies and she recently completed a paranormal suspense novel, Hunter’s Way.
After Jay read a few tales to his parents, they booted him out of the house. Undaunted, he continues to write everything from humor to the macabre. Jay won Horror Novel Review’s Best Short Fiction Award as well as placing stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul. He has longer works on Amazon and B&N.
Luke Spooner currently lives and works in the South of England. Having graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator working under two aliases; ‘Carrion House’ for his darker work and ‘Hoodwink House’ for his work aimed at a younger audience. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures.
John H. Stevens
John H. Stevens lives with his lovely wife, Geraldine and daughter Katie in the suburbs of Chicago after growing up near Wrigley Field. During the day, he’s a mild-mannered Systems Programmer. At night, he tries to come up with ideas for horror stories despite his dogs’ demand to play with them. His scariest secret is he’s a Cub’s fan.
Darren writes short fiction full time, along with book editing for Evolved Publications and narrating audiobooks for Audible. His stories have appeared in seventeen publications. He’s had two plays produced and a non-fiction book published. He lives in Phoenix with his wife and son and does his best work in coffee shops on a dated word processor.
Kyra Spisak resides in the Great White North of Canada. She spends her nights writing and her days working in a half asleep haze. You can find her and all her writing adventures on Twitter, @GeorgeSpisak. She publishes under both Kyra Spisak and George Spisak, depending on her mood.
J. J. Steinfeld
Canadian fiction writer, poet, and playwright J. J. Steinfeld lives on Prince Edward Island, where he is patiently waiting for Godot’s arrival and a phone call from Kafka. While waiting, he has published seventeen books, including Would You Hide Me? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Misshapenness (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions), Identity Dreams and Memory Sounds (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions), Madhouses in Heaven, Castles in Hell (Stories, Ekstasis Editions), and An Unauthorized Biography of Being (Stories, Ekstasis Editions).
Paul Weidknecht is the author of Native to This Stream: Brief Writings About Fly-Fishing & the Great Outdoors, a collection of short stories, essays and poems. His work has also appeared in A Readable Feast: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales for Every Taste by the Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC, Best New Writing 2015, Gray’s Sporting Journal, The Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine Anthology, The MacGuffin, Potomac Review, Rosebud, Shenandoah, and Structo, among others. He resides in New Jersey and has completed a collection of short fiction.
It has been supplanted in recent years by vampires, witches and other monsters, but now the good old-fashioned ghost story is back with a bang, with everyone from debut novelists to established literary stars such as David Mitchell and Gillian Flynn hoping to raise the hairs on readers’ necks this Halloween.
Flynn’s The Grownup, the chilly tale of a fraudulent medium and a possibly haunted Victorian home, which won an Edgar award in the US when it was published in George RR Martin’s Rogues anthology last year, will be available as a standalone tale for the first time on 3 November. Meanwhile Mitchell’s haunted house tale, Slade House, which began life on Twitter, arrives next week, as does Little Sister Death, a previously undiscovered ghost story by cult US author William Gay.
They will join Catriona Ward’s debut novel Rawblood, Neil Spring’s The Watchers, Andrew Michael Hurley’s word-of-mouth hit The Loney and Kate Mosse’s The Taxidermist’s Daughter, all of which describe hauntings of one kind or another. The queen of the genre, Susan Hill, also has a new book out, as her spine-tingling stories are published together for the first time, while those who prefer to get their chills the old-fashioned way – read aloud – should head to the website of author Robert Lloyd Parry who, as “Nunkie”, will tour Britain this autumn performing classics of the genre.
Not since the heyday of MR James and WW Jacobs has the ghost story been so in vogue, but why? “We’re definitely seeing a resurgence after horror has held sway for a long time,” says Mosse. “The thing about horror is that it’s not that subtle; it’s a straightforward chase about the terrible thing that’s going to get you. With a ghost story the whole thing is, ‘Is it coming? Is everything in your head?’ Ghost fiction plays on those fears – which is why I describe The Taxidermist’s Daughter as not a whodunnit but a whydunnit.”
Spring’s acclaimed first novel The Ghost Hunters, which takes place in Borley Rectory in Essex – infamously once known as the most haunted house in Britain – has just been optioned for an ITV series starring Rafe Spall. He says: “The thing with a good ghost story is that it’s about ‘What if this happens? What if this is real?’ It’s in those moments that you start to imagine the worst.”
That’s certainly true of Gay’s terrifying lost novel Little Sister Death, which drew on the author’s obsession with America’s infamous Tennessee Bell witch case (also the influence for the indie horror, The Blair Witch Project) to tell a Shining-esque tale of thwarted ambition, a haunted house and a family on the verge of collapse.
“Little Sister Death works because of William’s sense of character and place,” says Angus Cargill, Gay’s editor at Faber.
“You know all these horrible things are going to happen. They’re looming from the get-go, so you end up shouting at the page, ‘don’t do that, don’t take your family there’.”
Cargill attributes the ghost story’s comeback to a growing acceptance of genre fiction: “We’re definitely seeing less of the sort of snobbery there used to be. I love it when writers cross genres, so it’s great to see someone like William, who was known as a literary southern gothic writer, move more towards horror, or Mitchell writing a ghost story.”
Hill, whose The Woman In Black, first published in 1983, continues to terrify as a book, film and a play, agrees. “There has been a sea-change in attitude towards genre writing,” she says. “Literary novelists started turning their hand to the crime novel. Writers such as Hilary Mantel changed our perception of the historical novel. The genres became not only acceptable but writing to which people aspired, whereas they would not have done 20 years before. I took a lot of flak about ‘dumbing down’ when I published Woman in Black and I’m very pleased it has changed – there’s never been any reason to be ashamed of writing genre fiction, but at last people realise that.”
It’s also arguable that as the nights draw in people draw a strange comfort from spooky tales of things going bump in the night. “Queen Victoria in the Doctor Who episode Tooth and Claw puts her finger on it: we think ghost stories chill us but actually they offer comfort,” says Mitchell, whose Slade House, a Halloween-set tale drawing on everything from The Turn of The Screw to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, is one of the most anticipated novels of the autumn. “A universe with ghosts is a universe with an afterlife, which means the bed in the hospital ward or the view from the hospice window is not the end; we carry on, we’ll get to see the people we love once again. So while ghost stories scare the pants off you, they also defang mortality.”
Catriona Ward, author of the much-praised debut Rawblood, agrees. “I think the thing about ghost stories is that it’s a safe place to enact your darkest fears,” she says. “Reading a ghost story gives you the permission to go to places we actively and rightly avoid in normal life. A good ghost story asks the reader to examine the horror within – but it’s in a safe and contained way.”
Ignored by critics during her lifetime, the Haunting of Hill House author is now recognised as a great American novelist – by Sarah Hughes
Reblogged from The Guardian : https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/22/shirley-jackson-america-queen-gothic-noir
She has been cited as an inspiration by Stephen King, Donna Tartt, Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris.
Now the American author Shirley Jackson, once memorably described as writing “not with a pen but a broomstick”, is set for a long overdue reappraisal on this side of the Atlantic.
This week sees the release of a new biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, swiftly followed by a graphic novel version of her most famous short story, The Lottery, illustrated by her grandson, Miles Hyman, and the publication of Dark Tales, a collection of her most chilling short stories. And the revival does not stop there: next year will see a film of her book We Have Always Lived In The Castle, with rising stars Taissa Farmiga and Alexandra Daddario, alongside Sebastian Stan and Crispin Glover.
It would be easy to attribute this sudden flurry of interest to the fact that 2016 marks the centenary of Jackson’s birth – she died in 1965 from heart failure at the age of 48 following a period of heavy drinking and a growing dependence on painkillers – but, while that plays an important part, there are other more interesting factors at work.
“One of the most striking things is how relevant both her writing and her life seem today,” says Ruth Franklin, author of A Rather Haunted Life. “There’s something timeless about her work. It doesn’t feel particularly of its era – there’s no sign that the stories are taking place in the 50s and the sensibility feels modern.”
Indeed, Jackson increasingly looks like an author ahead of her time. In addition to building up a reputation as the queen of gothic horror with unnerving spine-tinglers such as The Haunting of Hill House, she also turned her hand to nonfiction, writing essays about her life bringing up four children, running a household and ensuring everything ran smoothly for her husband, a literary critic and academic whom she ferried to work each day, fitting her writing around his schedule. Their light-hearted, sardonic tone feels almost like the 50s equivalent of today’s popular mummy blogs.
[Photo – Julie Harris and Richard Johnson in “The Haunting”, the 1963 British adaptation of “The Haunting of Hill House”]
“She received all these letters from fans asking how she coped and saying that they were too exhausted after doing the housework to write – I call them her ‘I don’t know how she does it notes,’” says Franklin. “She would write back cheerful replies saying ‘do less housework, write more’, but of course the real answer wasn’t so cheery: she was refuelling on amphetamines and tranquillisers.”
Robert Weil, editor-in-chief of publishers Liveright, believes Jackson was largely ignored by the predominantly male literary establishment of the 50s and 60s because of her looks. “I stand by my belief that if Patricia Highsmith and Shirley Jackson had looked like Sylvia Plath they would never have been condemned to the margins,” he says. “There’s this sense that people don’t take Jackson seriously at the time because she’s viewed as a dumpy, overweight housewife.”
Nor did it help that Jackson’s subject matter was so exclusively female. “You can count the number of male protagonists on one hand,” says Franklin. “Her work is almost exclusively focused on women and women’s lives and when her work came out the majority of book reviews were mainly by men. They either didn’t get what she was doing or didn’t regard the stories of women as important.”
Nor did it help that Jackson’s most famous fiction saw her condemned as a “mere” horror writer. “It’s so often a problem that people condemn certain genres as not literature,” says Weil. “Patricia Highsmith was described even in the late 90s as a ‘mystery gal’, Ursula Le Guin has argued for years about the need to treat science fiction as literature. Jackson was packed away as a horror writer and that allowed people to dismiss the work.”
There is also a slipperiness to Jackson’s writing that can make her work hard to categorise. US novelist Jonathan Lethem has described her as “one of this century’s most luminous and strange American writers”, and her best writing trades on ambiguity making you unsure as to what really happened and why.
The Lottery, published in 1948, tells the story of a murderous ritual in a New England village, and was described by the New Yorker as “probably the most controversial story [the magazine] has ever published”. It lends itself to interpretation – Jackson herself at various times claimed it was about antisemitism, parochialism, a reflection of the ugliness of society and a play on ancient mythological tropes – and its influence can be seen from The Wicker Man to The Hunger Games.
In an era when domestic noir reigns at the publishing houses and our thirst for dark tales of women under threat rages unabated, Jackson’s ability to unnerve strikes a chord. “There’s a whole new appreciation today of what it means to be a mother and a writer and how to reconcile those two things,” says Franklin. “We’re also more interested in the lives of women and that in turn has led to a revival of interest in Jackson’s work. I honestly feel as though she’s one of those authors who’s been in the background for a long time, yet has a huge influence on American fiction, and it’s only now that we’re beginning to see how important she is.”
A Rather Haunted Life is published by Liveright on 25 October, £25; Dark Tales (Penguin Classics, £9.99), is out now
Philip Pullman calls for UK to adopt EU plans to protect authors’ royalties
Reblogged from The Guardian
His Dark Materials author has appealed for EU directive to be introduced in Britain, to block ‘unfair practices that currently prevent authors making a living’
His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman has welcomed a “badly need[ed]” new proposal from the European Commission that would protect authors who achieve unexpected success from missing out on royalties.
Pullman was speaking as president of the Society of Authors, which is pressing the UK government to adopt clauses from the new EU draft directive on the digital single market in order to “avoid unfair practices that currently prevent authors making a living from writing”. The Society highlighted the case of Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon, who has not received any royalties from the television and film adaptations of her Horrid Henry books, despite the series being broadcast in 44 countries with more than 1.5m DVDs sold.
In an article last December, Simon revealed that she was missing out on the royalties because when she sold Orion her first Horrid Henry book in 1993, the book deal included film and television rights. A deal with Novel Entertainment for those rights was subsequently negotiated by Orion. “They did a poor deal. They did not use a lawyer,” wrote Simon in the Author magazine. “Not understanding their proper value led to the worst mistake of my career.”
The new draft directive, released last week, states that authors “often have a weak bargaining position in their contractual relationships, when licensing their rights”, and that “transparency on the revenues generated by the use of their works or performances often remains limited”, with this affecting their remuneration.
It proposes two safeguards, which the Society of Authors says are particularly important for writers. The so-called “bestseller clause” would give authors the right to claim additional and appropriate remuneration if the returns in their contracts are disproportionately low compared to the subsequent profits from exploitation of the works. The transparency safeguard, meanwhile, would give writers a right to regular and adequate information on the exploitation of their works.
“I welcome this draft directive, especially for its emphasis on transparency and the bestseller clause. Authors badly need the sort of natural justice that these clauses embody, not least because our work contributes substantially to the wealth of the nation,” said Pullman. “I hope that our government will see the rightness of these proposals and embody them firmly in the law of our land to ensure that they continue when we leave the EU.”
Society of Authors chief executive Nicola Solomon urged the UK government “to implement these clauses without delay”, and for the provisions to be adopted in UK law, given that the directive is unlikely to have effect until after Britain has left the EU.
“Publishers too often fail to give their authors full information on sales and exploitation of their work. Many more gain an unfair windfall when a work is an unexpected success but do not share any of that gain with authors. This unfairness leads to many authors no longer being able to make a living from writing and, if unchecked, threatens the creative excellence of our publishing industries,” she said.
“Having provided evidence of such unfair contract terms to the Commission, we are delighted that the EU accepts there is a problem and is suggesting sensible and proportionate measures to improve the position for creators.”
The directive, part of an EU strategy to create a digital single market, also aims to help rights holders to negotiate and be remunerated for online exploitation of their content, and to provide a “clear legal framework” for when journalistic content is licensed for digital use.
“I want journalists, publishers and authors to be paid fairly for their work, whether it is made in studios or living rooms, whether it is disseminated offline or online, whether it is published via a copying machine or commercially hyperlinked on the web,” said EC president Jean-Claude Juncker in his state of the union address last week.
Just in time for the spooky season, I have a short story titled “The Halloween Party” about to be published in New Zenith Magazine
“New Zenith Magazine is a quarterly short fiction, poetry, and visual art magazine. Within its pages you will find short stories of all genres, flash fiction, mesmerizing poetry, hilarious cartoons/comics, photography, illustrations, inspiring author interviews, articles on the topic of writing, provocative writing prompts and more. This page-turning magazine will delight your senses, and incite your curiosity. There is truly something for everyone inside the pages of this eclectic journal.” I’m delighted to have been chosen to be among New Zenith’s featured authors.
“The Halloween Party” features a veritable cornucopia of rum and uncanny characters such as The Gobdjeofel, Morrogolloro, The Bloody Lobaghast, Granddaddy Strawbones, Jo-Jo Le Snatch, The Skenny-Grobbler, Lulu Gongo, Baa-Baa-Dead-Sheep, Black-and-Blue Jenny, Abu-Mambu-Babu, The Ladyjack, Gog-Gog, Old Mother Shatter and Yasakaluka the Sucking Devil.
I won’t give any spoilers but the story blends folklore, the belief in childhood bogeymen, dark humour, horror and the weirdly macabre.
Just what you need for a happy halloween….
The Autumn/Fall issue of New Zenith Magazine is due out very shortly & I’ll update as soon as it is avaliable.
I’ve heard from JayHenge Publishing’s hard working editior, Jessica Augustsson, that my short story Obelisk is due to be published very shortly in an anthology titled Phantasmical Contraptions & Other Errors.
This is a steampunk themed anthology and looks to have an exciting and diverse line-up (more on that soon).
The exact date for publication is yet to be confirmed but it should certainly be in October (and of course I will be posting as soon as I hear myself).
I won’t give any spoilers but my own story is set on colonial Mars during the Victorian era and… well… wait and find out…
New study reveals Julia Donaldson, David Walliams and JK Rowling lead the top 1% of authors, who account for nearly a third of all UK book sales.
The gap between publishing’s rich and poor continues to widen, as figures from Nielsen BookScan reveal that the top 50 authors account for more than 13% of UK sales.
Children’s authors dominate the top five print sellers, with Julia Donaldson leading the pack for the sixth year in succession with sales of £14m, followed by David Walliams with £11m and JK Rowling with £8m. Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley, the writing duo behind Penguin’s bestselling series of Ladybird parodies, are in fourth with £7.4m, with Jamie Oliver’s collection of healthier recipes, Everyday Super Food, powering him into fifth with £7.3m.
But while publishing’s top table may be groaning with riches, the helpings get much smaller as you move down the list. The Bookseller estimates that the UK print sales counted by Nielsen come from 55,000 authors, meaning that the 50 writers who accounted for 13% of the £1.49bn in sales represent less than 0.1%. The top 500 – or top 1% – of authors clocked up 32.8% of sales, while the top 10% amassed 57%. And the gap is getting wider: according to the Bookseller, the £199m netted by the top 50 authors represents a 21% increase on 2014, compared to a 6.6% rise for the UK print market as a whole.
The figures come as momentum builds around Philip Pullman’s protest over the Oxford literary festival’s failure to offer authors appearance fees, with writers including Linda Grant, Joanne Harris and Francesca Simon among a host of authors calling for a boycott of events which expect writers to appear for free.
According to Nicola Solomon, the Society of Authors chief executive, the figures tie in with last year’s Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) survey, which showed that many authors struggle to make a living from writing. “We are not putting in any special pleading here,” Solomon said, “but falling author incomes, and the narrowing of what money there is towards top ‘brand name’ authors, is not healthy for the publishing industry, nor for society as a whole.”
The problem goes wider than the books industry, she continued, citing contemporary celebrity culture and the need for publishers, as businesses, to “produce what the public wants. Bookshops are suffering, and online retailers tend to focus attention on bestselling titles through recommendations, so people aren’t able to see the wide range of titles that are available.”
But “increasingly profit-driven” publishers should shoulder some of the blame as well, Solomon added. “Publishers need to take more risks with diverse titles and authors, and give more support to midlist and backlist titles.” She called for emerging writers to be supported by “decent advances” and for the industry as a whole to fulfil its responsibility to put new and diverse names in front of the public.
“Bookshops, reviewers and festivals need to ensure they make space for books outside the bestseller lists,” Solomon said. “For example, festival organisers should make a commitment that every time they programme a big-name author they put a smaller author alongside.”
Readers can also help, she added, by “reading more widely, reading more in translation and from writers of diverse background”. “We need a flourishing range of diverse voices to inspire imagination and to create the fabulous material, from literature to text books, poetry to films, for which Britain is so justly famed and which underpins and supports our creative industries.”
You can find anthologies of short stories featuring my work on my author’s page at Amazon.co.uk hereand another on Amazon.com (i.e. for the USA) here.
They are all available digitally as well as in print (and in the case of The Adventures of Moriarty as downloadable audio) so you could have them delivered quite literally at the last minute!
(If you have read my work , please do leave a review!)
More info & direct links :
The cover for Wild Things – Thirteen Tales Of Therianthropy
Title : Santa Marimbondo – August 16th 2015
Horror short story, circa 5,000 words, featured in Wild Things – Thirteen Tales Of Therianthropy(anthology), edited by Steve J Shaw, published in the UK by Black Shuck Books, an imprint of Great British Horror Books.
The cover for The Adventures of Moriarty: The Secret Life of Sherlock Holmes’s Nemesis
Short story, circa 5,000 words, featured in The Adventures of Moriarty: The Secret Life of Sherlock Holmes’s Nemesis (anthology), edited by Maxim Jakubowski, published in the UK by Constable Robinson and in the USA by Running Press.
“We think of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, but far more seductive is the pairing of Holmes and Professor James Moriarty, ‘the Napoleon of crime’ – a rivalry unparalleled in the world of crime fiction. Fiercely intelligent and a relentless schemer, Moriarty is the super-villain as megastar.
The anthology reveals not just the evil side of Moriarty’s personality, but his humanity, his motivations and his human failings. Some of the stories are humorous, some scary, but all are hugely entertaining.”
Well, the nights are drawing in and winter is coming, so it seems a good time to share a little more about forthcoming anthology Winter Tales, edited by Margret Helgadottir and due for release in early 2016
Frost pierces through everything. Your bones ache in the icy wind. Harsh winter storms rage and the sun is leaving, not to return for many months. The cheerful men arriving to the mountain bothy in the midst of the winter storm, why do they unnerve you so much? The hunter who follows after you on your way home from the store, what does he hunt? The old neighbour lady seems so innocent, but you know the truth: you saw her that night. Why will the police not listen to you?
Dark, grim, beautiful and grotesque. We are delighted to bring you a collection of speculative winter stories and poems from new and established writers. The collection is edited by Margret Helgadottir. Winter Tales will be released in early 2016 from Fox Spirit Books.
My short-story Unnatural Acts is included in the anthology How To Trick The Devil by Erebus Press – which has just had it’s publication date confirmed as 16th October 2015.
It’s going to be a busy week for me that week as another short story of mine, The Perfect Crime, is being published in The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Moriarty on the 15th! As they say, it’s like buses…
Here is the text from the back-cover of How To Trick The Devil :-
The devil lures with sweet words and promises, do you fall for his trap or trick him instead? Can you really have it all?
How to Trick the Devil tells stories of trickery and deception; of monsters lurking in unexpected places; of the lengths we might go to get what we want. Much more than your average deal-with-the-devil tale, the talented authors in this collection explore the motivations behind the choices we make, be it out of fear, greed, or desperation.
The trickster works in confidence, never expecting the twists that just might tear their plans apart. Evil is not always rewarded, but the hero does not always win.