World Fantasy Award nomination for The Teardrop Method

It’s been quite a month for me, and easily the most satisfying of my writing career.

Sunflower Junction, a story that first appeared in Black Static 57 is being reprinted in Paula Guran’s Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror in September.

A Clear Day in a Season Of Storms is being published in The Black Room Manuscripts in September.

My novelette, Why We Don’t Go Back is out now in Black a Static 64.

And to top it all, Andy Cox, emailed me last week, told me to sit down to prepare for some good news. Then I received a list of the nominees for the World Fantasy Award. I couldn’t quite believe it, but there it was – The Teardrop Method, nominated for Best Long Fiction!

The World Fantasy Award! I cannot believe that this novella, which I began about five or six years ago has gone out into the world and been read by so many people. I’m so pleased that it’s been so well-received. This is pretty much the icing on the cake.

Thanks to everyone who bought the book, read the book, and took the time to spread the word about it. I’m very grateful.

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Background on ‘Why We Don’t Go Back’, published this month in Black Static 64.

There were a couple of points of entry for me in the creation of ‘Why We Don’t Go Back’. This is the third story in my loosely connected sequence of folk horror tales with an unnamed character, provisionally titled ‘The Land Of Empty Men’. Even though they have connective tissue, I’ve made sure that they also can be read as standalone stories. At the start of ‘Why We Don’t Go Back’, the character is in Birmingham, living in a flat upstairs from a young single mother.

The initial spark for the story came from my girlfriend, Amanda, who worked for a number of years in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. Some of the stories she told me, about how the people there go about their business, ferrying around diamonds and other precious stones that are worth fairly staggering amounts amazed me. The seed of the story was in those mad little details.

The intention then, was to write a noir-infused tale of theft and going on the run, and then the setting changing subtly into something much more folk-horror, similar to Ben Wheatley’s Kill List.

The folk-horror element took awhile to arrive, but then, while I was researching something about maize mazes I happened upon some information about

Chartres Cathedral in France. In the nave is the “Chemin de Jerusalem” (Road of Jerusalem), a pavement maze. Either you were supposed to walk the maze as a substitute for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or you had to shuffle along on your knees as a penance.

The maze at Chartres —

The path through Chartres —

As soon as I read this, something clicked into place in my mind, and ‘Why We Don’t Go Back’ pretty much wrote itself after that. It’s often about two wildly different ideas fusing and evolving into a story.

At the heart of ‘Why We Don’t Go Back’ is a story about two people making difficult decisions and sticking with them all the way to the end. I really felt this story when I wrote it. It’s harsh and (I hope) sad and quietly devastating.

Further details on the sequence of stories that form ‘The Land Of Empty Men

At the moment the sequence goes:

‘Sunflower Junction’ (Black Static 57)

‘Songs for Dwindled Gods’ (Occult Detective Quarterly 4)

‘Why We Don’t Go Back’ (Black Static 64)

I’ve just completed the fourth story, ‘The Nature Of Panic’, which will go out into the world soon. As I said earlier, none of these stories need to be read in any particular order at the moment. They all stand alone. There are, of course, little connective threads creeping in, and, should you read the stories in the correct order then you will certainly see a character and an attendant cast list evolving from one tale to the next.

The ultimate intention is to gather these stories into a collection that’s provisionally titled ‘The Land Of Empty Men’. There will probably be about eight of them with a novella that ties threads and storylines for the various characters, and provides what in tv parlance would be called a ‘season finale’. As an example, early seasons of a TV show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer would generally contain standalone stories with little intimations of an over-arching story that would be tied up in a season finale. That’s the kind of idea I’m aiming for.

So far I’ve loved writing each of these stories, and I feel (and hope) that it shows in the work. I’m feeling my way forward, touching on various folk horror and Hauntology tropes, and then twisting them into something that’s dark and sad and (again, hopefully) emotionally involving. I can sort of see the road ahead, and how various threads and relationships might recur and be resolved. I really hope the stories go down well enough that someone might want to publish them as a collection of stories that form a complete story and character arc.

I hope everyone enjoys the story.

http://ttapress.com/1983/black-static-64/

Why We Don’t Go Back- Black Static #64

My new novelette, Why We Don’t Go Back arrives next week in the July/August issue of Black Static (#64).

It’s a noir/folk- horror tale of theft, mazes, running away and loss. Although it’s a standalone story, it’s the third tale featuring an unnamed character who began his life in Sunflower Junction (Black Static #57), then continued in Songs for Dwindled Gods (Occult Detective Quarterly #4). You don’t have to read them in order but if you do, you’ll certainly see the development of the character and his overarching story.

Next week I’ll post some further details about the inspiration behind Why We Don’t Go Back, and about the character and my plans for his future.

Black Static #64 can be ordered here — http://store.clickandbuild.com/cnb/shop/ttapress?productID=33&op=catalogue-product_info-null&prodCategoryID=4

Occult Detective Quarterly #4 featuring Songs for Dwindled Gods, out now

Songs for Dwindled Gods features an unnamed character that began his life in Sunflower Junction, which was published in Black Static 57. That was intended as a one-off, but I found myself thinking about him and wondering what happened to him next. My girlfriend and I were travelling through Dorset and Devon last year, passing through some remote and tiny hamlets and villages when the idea for a Songs for Dwindled Gods struck me. By the end of the day, most of the core elements of the story were in place, along with the idea of returning to that character from Sunflower Junction, fleshing out his life story and deciding that he could be someone I returned to much as Joel Lane had with his unnamed policeman in the stories that made up Where Furnaces Burn.

Songs for Dwindled Gods is a folk horror tale about lost villages, psychedelic folk music from the sixties and seventies, running away from life, and something ancient and hidden in the wilds of the Dorset countryside.

Occult Detective Quarterly #4, featuring Songs for Dwindled Gods is out today, and available from <a href=”https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1718645481/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_dp_nDV8Ab5EF45TW”>Amazon</a&gt;

I hope you enjoy it.

Here also is the fantastic artwork for Songs for Dwindled Gods, by Andy Paciorek.

New story sale to Occult Detective Quarterly

Really pleased to say my story Songs for Dwindled Gods has been accepted for the brilliant Occult Detective Quarterly. I wrote this slice of Folk Horror after coming back from a holiday in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, and it’s steeped in the wildness of the countryside there. Can’t wait for people to read it.

The story behind The Teardrop Method

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After I met my girlfriend, Amanda in 2001 we started visiting Europe every year. Prior to that I’d never travelled outside of the UK. Once I had a passport, I was a voracious traveller: Rome, Paris, Venice, Lake Garda, Salzburg, Bruges, and everywhere in between.

Everywhere I go usually inspires a story, or at least some notes that might spark something a few months or years down the line. The idea of a woman who used to be famous recording an album while living on the top floor of a faded hotel overlooking a great river came to me after a tour of Italy and Austria. All those ancient buildings, surging rivers and eternal avenues had opened my mind to new ways of thinking and approaching my fiction. I knew the atmosphere of the story immediately; it’s what always comes first for me. A general sense of the tone and the air of mystery I want to convey with the setting. After that it’s about applying structure without losing that brittle sense of how you want the story to ‘feel’.

On a rather more prosaic level, the title, which eluded me for months came to me outside the car park of our local Asda. I’m not sure what it was about all those cars and the prospect of buying groceries led me to The Teardrop Method, but there you are…

M3_nordenstam

I knew very early on that the character of Krisztina would be modelled on the reclusive Swedish singer/songwriter, Stina Nordenstam, who I’ve been a fan of since she released her first record, ‘Memories of a Colour’, back in 1991. That and the follow-up, ‘And She Closed Her Eyes’ were delicate things: jazz-infused, strange, imbued with an other-worldliness that still enchants me to this day. Her sixth album, The World is Saved, released in 2004 was her last to date. During those years, Nordenstam flirted with distorted guitars and beats, pop, and cover-versions. She’s reclusive, a reluctant live-performer; she doesn’t give many interviews and when she does, little of her interior process is given away; she wears wigs and changes her appearance. Somehow she’d faded into another life entirely, it seems.

Describing her music in anything other than basic terms is fruitless. She has a voice you either accept or you don’t; her song-writing is angular, brittle, frequently shot through with a sublime beauty that few musicians ever capture on tape.

She’s been missing in action now for 13 years, and few of her fans now expect her to return to recording. Her website is gone, the message boards lie fallow with little for fans to cling to in the way of news. A FaceBook appreciation page intermittently lights up with posts bearing old videos, but little else.

I knew I wanted to write about her, or about someone like her. I find that reclusive Salinger-esque quality endlessly fascinating. Musicians who operate outside of normal conventions also appeal to me: how does the process begin; how is it articulated to other musicians in the studio; how do you walk away from the creative urge and why; how do they live their lives when they stop being the person they never really were?

I wondered what might lead to someone calling a halt to their career and how they dealt with a tangential relationship to fame. I came up with Krisztina Ligetti, and relocated her to Budapest. A songwriter who has produced one record and then walked away from it all, only to be drawn back into the process by tragedy; something strange and impossible to ignore, and where that leads her.

Those of you who’ve heard Stina Nordenstam’s work will see the subtle similarities in Krisztina’s music and the way she conducts her life. The rest of it is fiction, rooted in a deep and abiding love for Nordenstam’s body of work. I return to it often for its wintry, spectral beauty. I hope you do to, or even better, find it for the first time. I envy you that journey. It’s certainly a perfect soundtrack for The Teardrop Method.

loud-and-terrific-the-childhood-of-a-leader-bigRight around the midway point of The Teardrop Method, we are introduced to another singer/songwriter, John Merriwether. John is in his late sixties and ailing from poor health. He was once a heart-throb of sorts in the late sixties, the creator of five opulent records where his rich baritone was set against lush symphonic orchestrations. Songs flooded with kitchen-sink dramas, angels at bedroom windows, sailors and their whores, philanderers in faded suits and funerals in the rain… Strange, otherworldly records. Since then he’s been similarly reclusive until now, releasing a new album called ‘The Bleed’, an unsettling, cacophonous piece of work, all raw nerves and trauma.

Anyone with even a tenuous grasp of music history would gather that Merriwether is very much inspired by none other than Scott Walker, the Californian who relocated to London in the sixties and never went home. I’ve loved this man’s work since I was small. My dad would get me to sleep at night while walking around the flat with ‘Plastic Palace People’ playing. It took me some years to realise that Walker was out there on his own; a wholly unique artist who produced five exemplary records at the tail end of the sixties and then took several years to return on his own terms in the late seventies, the early eighties and then in the nineties with Tilt, itself utterly unique and experimental, described as ‘an anti-matter collision  of rock and modern classical music’. He’s gone further in the subsequent years, producing surreal and abstract lyrics set to angry percussion and blocks of noise and silence. He’s still very much out there on his own.

Like Stina Nordenstam, Walker is relatively reclusive. He does a round of interviews when a new record rolls around and that’s about it. Barring a brief song recorded for English music show, Later… Live, he hasn’t played live since a Walker Brothers reunion in the seventies, and at this point in his career, he really doesn’t have to. Again, that aspect of the reclusive genius producing intermittent works of strange, limited appeal interests me greatly. I suppose curiosity is what drives that ‘what if?’ question in a writer, and at some point during the process of the creation of The Teardrop Method, I realised I could include a version of Walker in the narrative. It allowed me to indulge in speculating on what drives that creative urge and what stymies it; and what happens in that downtime between the creative urge.

There’s a lot more to The Teardrop Method though. Besides being a love letter to the music that inspires me, it’s a speculative piece of fiction about stories and loss and how we recover ourselves from the wreckage of tragedy. I hope you enjoy it.

You can order The Teardrop Method for just £8 from TTA Press here

You can pay by card or PayPal on their secure server.

Teardrop Method has arrived!



My author copies arrived from TTA Press today! I’m overjoyed with how it’s turned out. It’s a beautiful looking book, thanks to Andy Cox and Richard Wagner for the beautiful cover art.
If you’ve ordered it already – thank you! – your copies will be on their way to you in the next week or so. And if you haven’t ordered it, then I’d really appreciate your support. It’s my first book, and I really want it to reach as wide an audience as possible. Thanks!

Here’s the link to TTA Press’s secure store page where you can pay by card or PayPal.

http://store.clickandbuild.com/cnb/shop/ttapress?productID=27&op=catalogue-product_info-null&prodCategoryID=4

The Teardrop Method arriving in September from TTA Press

This is a huge event for me. In September TTA Press will publish The Teardrop Method as part of their novella series. The wraparound cover art by Richard Wagner is just gorgeous.

You can order it now from http://ttapress.com/shop/ for just £8. I’d really appreciate your support!

I’ve also been lucky enough to get some wonderful advance praise from a trio of writers whom I admire greatly. Thanks to Gary McMahon, Ted E. Grau and Nicholas Royle for their kind words.
Krisztina heard the song and she followed it across the city….

Winter in Budapest. In the midst of a terrible personal tragedy, singer/songwriter Krisztina Ligetti discovers she can hear songs of mortality. She spends her days following these songs until they lead her to people at the precipice of death. From the fading bars of their final breath, Krisztina takes the story of their lives and turns them into music.

When Krisztina is reunited with her father, a reclusive 60s pop star, she believes that she has finally found a way out of the darkness, but then she begins to receive news clippings detailing each of the deaths she has been witness to. A man in a porcelain mask who seems to be everywhere she looks and a faded writer who shares Krisztina’s gift seem to know her, know that the past has a hold on them all, and that it won’t stop until someone has paid the price.

 

‘The Teardrop Method is a story about stories; a beautiful novella about love and loss and the connections people make and then sometimes break. It’s quiet, haunting, and ultimately moving.’ Gary McMahon

 

‘Nightmare plotting infused with an aching mitteleuropäische sadness, Simon Avery’s tale of music and mortality could be the novelisation of a lost Argento movie.’ Nicholas Royle
‘Without any prep or background, I started reading the novella The Teardrop Method by British author Simon Avery, and was immediately engaged by the moodiness, the bleakness, the desperation and creaky, world-weariness of the setting and characters. These appealing elements perfectly coalesced into a tragic and fervent eulogy to the creative process – to Art with a capital A – as a means of salvation and transcendence and doom, and to love itself in all its complex iterations, exploring the concept of loving, dying, and even killing, in order to achieve the proper reception code from the eternal Muse while the roaring Danube drowns out the rest of the world. This is a very European story, in all its faded baroque finery and cafe claustrophobia. The snow is heavier here, the dawn ever more surprising. The supernatural and the natural are not so far removed in places like this. The old and the new forever caught in a twirling waltz.

The Teardop Method is also a brilliant showreel for Simon Avery, a relatively new author that I had not previously read. His balanced prose and mature grasp of doomed love (both romantic and familial), the transience of corporeal existence, and the grim hidden realities of even the most outwardly charmed lives mark him as an author of dark fiction florets already fully in bloom, growing big and tall and dangerously beautiful in a corroded hothouse hidden away in a backstreet of a crumbling cobblestone city five hundred years past its prime.

I highly recommend this novella, and cannot wait to see what melody Mr. Avery pens next. I’ll be listening.’ T.E. Grau
http://store.clickandbuild.com/cnb/shop/ttapress?productID=27&op=catalogue-product_info-null&prodCategoryID=4

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