Spooky season summonings

Somehow, it’s October. I don’t understand it either. But here’s where you can find me this month. Do come along and say hi.

Me and my ghostly dream team, Ally Wilkes and Ellis Saxey, will be chatting to Tiffani Angus about writing gothic horrors and ancient terrors at Cambridge Waterstones on the 25th of October. Tickets here.

I’ll be appearing on the “Alternate Histories – The Greatest What If” panel at 4:00pm on Saturday, October 28 at London MCM Comic Con. Catch me before I dive headfirst into the taffy stand.

For A Friend

I don’t remember how I met Betty, and she couldn’t recall meeting me, either. Perhaps eight or nine years ago, she materialised the way friends do online. We collided, and there was a spark. I remember being charmed by this lady who seemed to live inside a perpetual ghostly tea party. Purple was her colour, lurid against black and white chequers, like a hanging garden inside a ballroom.

Betty and I had similar health challenges. We bonded the way soldiers do, proud of our scars, joking and sympathising. Betty walked me through open heart surgery because she’d already been there; I was there to commiserate when Betty needed another soon after, air-lifted to hospital with her usual bravery and good humour. 8am cardiology appointment? Betty would be there in my phone, laughing with me as I bumbled around like a zombie, looking for an open coffee shop. I could tell Betty every mad morphine dream I’d ever had, and she would have plenty of her own.

When you’re wading through circumstances beyond your control, having someone who truly understands is more valuable than anything. Even when there’s an ocean between you, it feels like wearing armour.

If you ever chatted to Betty – and I know many of you in our shared circle did – you’ll have seen her art. The world of Gossamer Tearoom straddles mediums and disciplines. It’s a rich vision of galleries after dark, of tea taken in gardens foaming with purple flowers, charming epicurian ghosts, and antique toys with busy social lives. Drawing, collage, digital, model building, assemblage, cookery, botany, writing… I’m struggling to think of a medium Betty didn’t work with. I can’t think of anyone else who’d go to the trouble of learning haute cuisine, producing it in pristine miniature, and laying a full table of tiny places for a dozen ancient dolls lovingly restored by her own hand. Gossamer Tearoom is a fully-realised dream world that is unmistakably hers.

When I was recovering from my heart surgery, she sent me a doll she’d sewn by hand: The Ghost of The Giant Squid. That was Betty’s brilliant mind – whimsical, spooky, deeply caring.

We lost Betty two weeks ago. I keep thinking she’s going to message me with a fascinating painting she’s noticed, or post photos of her latest tiny antique finds. Every time I stumble across an exciting new artist or read something strange and amusing, I automatically go to tell Betty about it. She was a kindred soul. I miss her, I miss her, I miss her.

Towards the end, I had the chance to tell Betty how much her friendship meant to me. That’s a privilege – I’m old enough now to know that, more often than not, we don’t get that chance when someone we love dies. Communicating through her brilliant husband, Victor, I sent her pictures of a French restaurant I’d been to lately. Theatrical and gilded: just the sort of place she’d fit in. She told me she’d like to go to lunch with me there. I said I’d hold her to that; we’ll try the ice cream sundaes. I meant it.

Edenwell takes flight

The Others of Edenwell is out today! It lives. I can barely believe it. Thank you so very much to my editor, Dan Carpenter, to everyone at Titan Books, and to everyone who’s already snatched up a copy.

I’m celebrating with cake, coffee, and plans for the next novel. Evil never sleeps, you know.

I’ll be at Bury St Edmunds Waterstones (Buttermarket branch) on Saturday the 8th, signing books from 11am to 2pm. I’ll be doing more of the same at Norwich Waterstones on the 14th. Come along and say hi!

The Others of Edenwell is now on NetGalley. Fill your boots!

“An uncanny heart beats between the pages of this beautifully crafted book. Beguiling, chilling and profoundly disorientating, something terrifying and ancient stirs in this story of friendship, love and loyalty set against the all-pervading grief and loss of the Great War.” – Lucie McKnight Hardy

Farewell to Unsung

Seven years ago, I was sorting through a bag of donated men’s underwear (used) at my charity job when my phone pinged. An email from George at Unsung Stories: they loved Pseudotooth and they wanted to publish. After two years of fruitless querying, my weird book had finally found a home. I bought the cheapest bottle of supermarket champagne available and ordered a Chinese.

Today came the sad news that Unsung Stories is closing down. It didn’t come as a shock, but it’s a huge blow nonetheless. The loss of Unsung is going to leave a big hole in British speculative fiction. It’s the little guys who take the creative risks, putting their strength behind books the bigger publishers won’t touch. We’re all poorer when an indie goes under. Most of all, it sucks to see my friends having a hard time.

Without Unsung Stories, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Which isn’t to say I’m writing this on a veranda in Tuscany, but I’m pretty damn content. I’ve got a new novel out in July, a comic too, and I’m sitting on a nice little mountain of published short stories. I’ve met so many new friends through Unsung and had so many opportunities I would never otherwise have had. Without Unsung, I would never have found myself on the main stage at MCM Comic Con telling that one anecdote about my uncle in France and the spider sex cheese. (Don’t ask.) Unsung produced Pseudotooth so beautifully, fully understanding what I wanted to say with it and why. I’m incredibly grateful.

Pseudotooth is mine again – all rights have returned to me – and I need to decide on its future. I could self-publish or search for a publisher who deals with reprints. At the moment, I don’t know. I just don’t want it to vanish. As it stands, the last copies of the novel are for sale in the Unsung shop for £2.99, which is a lot of paperback for your buck. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Treasure your small publishers, folks. Buy something weird today.