Aaaaaand off we go…

… to the historic bustling, bohemian seaside town known as Brighton, on the south coast of the UK. In just 24 hours, my wife Liz and I will be setting off for that fair place to attend this year’s FantasyCon event (her first and my second), for three days of excellent company, good food and drink, panels, talks and book-signings, and even a pantomime and burlesque on the Saturday evening (although still not entirely sure about the ‘disco’…). The weather is set to be better than fine, with clear blue skies and blazing sunshine promised. Liz will probably spend part of the time walking on the sea-front and beach, while I will no doubt be propping up the bar and engaging in stimulating literary conversation… or something of that kind. Whatever happens, a good time will be had by all.

If any of you wonderful people out there are attending, then please don’t hesitate to make yourselves known. This is one of the greatest assets of this event – the sheer friendliness and camaraderie of it, and that is always in very plentiful supply. Plus, as a bonus, there will be a specially-printed Spectral Press postcard (featuring the cover image from Paul Finch’s forthcoming King Death chapbook) being given out in the attendees’ goodie bag for you all to pin to your office wall when you get home. That’s worth the price of admission on its own! =D

At any rate, there will be internet silence from me until Monday afternoon at the earliest. So, if you ARE going to FantasyCon, then I will see you at the bar!

Spectral: 3-in-1 review number 3

Well, this week, as you guys may have noticed, there were no reviews available to me to upload on Monday, thus breaking my recent custom – but this midweek post more than makes up for that. It’s from the esteemed folk at Strange Aeons Magazine and it will appear in the Fall 2011 issue (Number 7), debuting at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon, in the US this weekend. With the kind permission of KL Young, Executive Editor of Strange Aeons, I reproduce it here – and this is what they had to say:

This issue, we’re reviewing a line of chapbooks from the newly created Spectral Press imprint. From their site: Spectral Press is a small independent imprint publisher; issuing very limited edition signed and numbered single story chapbooks in a high-quality presentation on a quarterly basis, and concentrating on the ghostly/supernatural end of the literary spectrum.

If you’ve picked up a chapbook before, you know it’s basically an 8.5”x11” stack of pages, folded in half and stapled on the spine. They’re cheap and easy to make, and they look like it. Right off the bat, Spectral is throwing all of that out the window. While the format remains the same, Spectral Press knocks you out with the gorgeous cover art and paper stock, the beautiful text choice and layout, and the spectacular content. Each issue is limited to 100 copies, making them extremely collectible.

Each new chapbook is an “issue”, and Issue I is “What They Hear in the Dark”, by Gary McMahon. After the violent death of their son, Rob and Becky buy a new house in an attempt to keep their minds and bodies busy as they work through their grief. In this “fixer-upper” of a house (a thinly-veiled metaphor for their own relationship), they find a “Quiet Room” – a place where sound literally cannot be heard. Both of them have a solitary, supernatural experience in the room; Rob’s negative, Becky’s positive, and this conflict is what drives the story towards its inevitable, creepy conclusion. If there are any complaints, it is that the characters are a little weak, their identities not quite fleshed out or believable – but McMahon is such a strong writer that it’s easy to forgive, and at 20 pages long you haven’t got time to really notice. An excellent start to this new publishing house!

In “Abolisher of Roses” by Gary Fry (the second offering from Spectral Press), we are introduced to husband and wife Peter and Patricia, at a hoity-toity outdoor art show that Patricia has been invited to show at. At first this feels like familiar Twilight Zone fare – Peter, our point of view character, is broadly painted as uncouth and unlikeable, alternately thinking about how little he enjoys or understands art, and how much he does enjoy his mistress. It’s fairly obvious he will get his comeuppance as he travels farther – and further – into the woods, away from the real art show and into one specifically designed for him. But Fry manages to pull a few tricks from his sleeve, and his skill in storytelling is apparent. The ending is satisfying and unexpected – as every ending should be.

Finally, Spectral’s Issue III is “Nowhere Hall”, by Cate Gardner. In Gardner’s story, our protagonist, the suddenly jobless Ron, is lured into a run-down hotel by a strange umbrella with an even stranger message: We want to live. Help us. Inside, Ron is faced with bizarre memories and imagery, some familiar tropes of the genre, and some not-so.

Gardner tells a confusing and mind-bending story, bordering on stream-of-consciousness and disregard to structure, all things I’m not a fan of. BUT… her mastery of the written word is so strong – in fact, she’s a fucking Jedi when it comes to painting a picture with words – made this my favorite of the three chapbooks. Sure, I might have had to re-read that paragraph anyway, just to understand what was going on in it… but I re-read it first because it was just so beautifully written.

It’s not often that you get to watch a new publishing house begin with such strong content. This is exciting and fascinating stuff, and you want to get in on the ground floor – you’ll be paying for your kids’ college tuition with these super-collectibles in 20 years – because if you don’t think Spectral Press is going to be moving into bigger and better stuff pretty quickly, you’re crazy.

These books are sold out. But you can buy subscriptions for their new releases at [their website – which is right here folks!].

What a fantastic start to the day – this is the kind of review that all publishers (and authors) kill for. Onwards and upwards!! =)

Spectral 3-in-1 review #2

In an effort to spread the good word about Spectral Press, I have been sending all three of the so-far published chapbooks to all and sundry if they stand still long enough. One of those who did stand still long enough was Gef Fox, who very kindly reviewed What They Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon, Abolisher of Roses by Gary Fry and Nowhere Hall by Cate Gardner for Skull Salad Reviews. I am very pleased to say that the write-ups are excellent and you can see for yourself by going here to read what he said.

Also, there are now (again provisionally) only SEVEN copies of Paul Finch’s King Death left, which means there are only seven subscription places remaining as well. I recommend that anyone who has been dithering about whether to purchase a sub or not should do so now, as I can see Volume IV selling out way before its publication date (December 5th 2011). There are Paypal buttons down the right-hand side of this website, so it couldn’t be easier to order one. If you’re after an individual copy of King Death, then please Paypal £3.50UK/£4.50EU/$8US/$12RoW to spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com. If there are no more copies left, let me know whether you want a refund or if you’d like a copy of Volume V instead, Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music.

Monday morning goodness

As promised last week, and in continuation of the regular posting of reviews at the very start of the new week, here are links to not one but TWO new write-ups of Spectral Press publications. Don’t let it ever be said that I’m not good to you people… =)

First up is a guest-review of Cate Gardner’s Nowhere Hall on Amanda Rutter’s fabulous Floor to Ceiling Books blog, written by Jason Baki (himself the worthy proprietor of the Kamvision book review blog) – did Jason like it or not? Just click here to find out…

The next write- up is actually three-in-one – in other words, all three Spectral Press chapbooks (What They Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon, Abolisher of Roses by Gary Fry and Nowhere Hall) have received attention, plus there’s an overview of Spectral Press itself at the end. These were all written by Kai Savage (except the review of Nowhere Hall, which is by Corina Harrington) and posted on his rewrite blog – and once more, to get the low-down on just what Kai and Corina thought of the chapbooks they read, just click here. (It’s the very first feature at the top…)

More soon!

King Death by Paul Finch: pre-order

In 1348, England is stricken by the Black Death.

The worst pandemic in human history has reached the kingdom of the warlike Edward III, a monarch who, in battle against human adversaries, cannot imagine defeat.

Two thirds of his subjects now perish. Woods become wild again, farmland goes to rack and ruin, villages, towns and castles are left empty, inhabited only by ghosts.

Little wonder that fear of the supernatural reaches an all-time high. Little wonder stories ignite about witches and demons spreading the plague, about ‘King Death’, an awesome harbinger of doom from whom there is no protection.

Cynical opportunist Rodric doesn’t believe any of these. With reckless indifference, he sets out to enrich himself…

So runs the back cover blurb for the fourth volume in Spectral Press’ acclaimed series of chapbooks, Paul Finch’s medieval tale of misplaced hubris, King Death. Originally, I had intended to put it on preorder after I’d returned from FantasyCon but, since there are only TEN (10) copies left before it’s officially sold out, I’ve decided to do it now instead. Each copy will £3.50UK/£4.50EU/$8USA & Canada/$12RoW. So, if you want a copy, it’ll be on a first-come, first-served basis – if you ARE wanting one of these, wrapped in a stunning Neil Williams cover, then please contact me at spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com as soon as you can – I will then advise you on its availability and how to pay (if there are any left).

Which brings me to the subject of subscriptions – there are also TEN (10) places left on this Volume – if all copies of King Death have been sold out and you send money for a subscription it will start with Volume V, Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music. I do strongly recommend that you consider signing up for a sub, as this is the best way to ensure you don’t miss out on future issues. Just click on the appropriate Paypal button on the right-hand side of this page to order one – it’s as simple and easy as that!

Looking forward to hearing from you!!

FantasyCon2011: it’s nearly here!!

Every year, the good and the great of the genre scene (and the plain old writer in search of a decent pint) gather in a hotel somewhere in England and talk and celebrate all things genre-related media. Last year it was held in Nottingham but, for this year’s event, the committee has upped sticks and moved lock, stock and barrel all the way down to the south coast to Brighton. The hotel for the seedy rendezvous is the Royal Albion Hotel and the event is being held between 30th September and 2nd October.

There will be a number of events going on there, such as readings, book launches, panel discussions, signings and a raffle to win all kinds of special goodies. A further delight will be the presentation of a twenty minute pantomine version of the classic Tigon Productions film, The Blood on Satan’s Claw, brought to you by the exquisite John Llewellyn Probert and Thana Niveau, both of  whom will play all the roles required (unmissable!).There’s also the wonderful prospect of sitting down for a drink amongst your favourite authors between all of these happenings  and then getting caught up in the drunken – errrr – animated conversations around the tables. Another attraction will be the Dealer’s Room, where publishers and specialist genre booksellers will have tables selling all manner of interesting things to spend your cash on. Did I mention that there will also be a bar? And no doubt there’ll be a few curry outings, too!

I won’t be getting a table to represent Spectral this year, however I AM involved in two events, should you be interested: first, at 1pm on the Friday in the Fitzherbert Room, I will be part of a panel discussing Small Press Markets, so please feel free to come and watch me dribble inanely, searching for words of wisdom and erudition. Then, later on in the evening, at 10:30pm, there’ll be a Spectral Press reading, featuring Gary McMahon (with an extract from What They Hear in the Dark) and Simon Kurt Unsworth, reading his story Pyramid Spider, which will be one of the tales to be included in his Spectral Signature Edition to be published in 2013. I might even be participating in that one – it’s being held in Room 134…

On top of all that excitement, there’s the special guests, who this year will be:

Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr, and The Inheritance Cycle (the last novel in the series, Inheritance, will be launched November). Saturday ONLY.

Joe Abercrombie, author of The Blade Itself, Before They are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings, and The Heroes.

Gwyneth Jones, award-winning author of such books as Divine Endurance and Bold as Love.

John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of Handling the Undead, Harbour, and the bestselling Let the Right One In.

Peter Atkins, author of Morning Star and Big Thunder, and a Hollywood scriptwriter (Hellraiser II-IV, especially, and Wishmaster).

Special Guest of Honour is Brian Aldiss OBE, writer of such classics as Hothouse, Frankenstein Unbound and The Helliconia Trilogy – not to be missed!!

Don’t forget there’s also the British Fantasy Society Awards Ceremony as well on the Sunday afternoon after the banquet, hosted this year by the lovely, glamorous Sarah Pinborough.

This promises to be another fun-filled weekend, and it’s only just over a fortnight away! I hope to see many of you there, and please, don’t be afraid to come over, offer me a rum ‘n’ coke or a glass of wine, and talk to me! I may have a tattooed head, but I don’t bite… =)

For more information, please go to the FantasyCon2011 website.

New links: a review and a guest-blog

First up is a review of Spectral’s launch title, published back in January this year: What They Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon. This one’s been put together by Mihai Adascalitei and posted to his Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews blog. You can read his review here! =)

Last week, Graeme Flory of Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review did a write-up of Cate Gardner’s Nowhere Hall and, on the back of the fact that he’s enjoyed the two Spectral chapbooks he’s reviewed so far, he asked me to write a guest-blog explaining things like my reasoning behind setting up the imprint and why ghost stories in particular – it’s now been uploaded and you can gain access to my pontifications and witterings by clicking here!

Onwards and upwards!!

Starting the week with a new Nowhere Hall review

It seems that autumn is well and truly here – today’s weather will mostly be blustery, cloudy and showery with occasional bursts of sunshine. But that really doesn’t matter, because we have another great review of Nowhere Hall for you to peruse – this one’s from HorrorNews. Net and written by Anton Cancre, who also writes for Shroud Magazine. This is a good in-depth wrote-up, well-balanced and gets where Cate’s story is coming from, to use the tired cliché. If you want to read what Anton said, click here.

In other news, I’m debating on whether to put Paul Finch’s King Death on pre-order now, as there are only (provisionally at least) eleven copies of the issue still remaining to be sold. So, if you really do want a copy I suggest you contact me at spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com immediately to let me know you want one. Cate’s chapbook sold out six weeks before publication and Paul’s is on its way to doing the same, so HURRY! Publication date is December 5th 2011… amd also remember, subscriptions are still available to purchase…

Yet another new Nowhere Hall review

Just got sent this one, right before breakfast… it’s from Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review this time and, as is usual with Graeme Flory’s write-ups, they’re very perceptive and extremely well-balanced – if you’re inquisitive as to what was said, then you could do no better than to click here!

Graeme has also asked me to write a guest blog for his site, explaining the motivations behind setting up Spectral Press and its aims, so look out for that sometime next week!!

Nowhere Hall – new review

This short review comes from Paul D. Brazill and is posted on his You Would Say That, Wouldn’t You? blog…. you can read what he says right here.

I also received a rather nice compliment from a customer who told me that, while reading Cate’s chapbook in the bath, he actually let the water go cold because he was so engrossed in the story, calling it ‘genuinely creepy’…. that’s the kind of thing we like to hear here at Spectral Towers (well, maybe not necessarily about when people take baths, perhaps…)….