January Turns Tiger

Hello again my friends,

It’s now the end of January in the third year of the pandemic, 2022, and it’s the start of the Chinese year of the Tiger.

Towards the end of last year, I had a growing realisation that, although I had intended to write a novel, it isn’t for me, at least for now.

I am moving forward with my writing, however. This month I have drafted a new short story, created four new pieces of flash fiction, and three new poems. Some of these have left my hands already, and await possible publication or rejection. I am committed to a reading and writing plan for each month (reading lots of short stories!) and am enjoying the writing that I am doing.

I’ve read a lot of wonderful short stories this month, and a few changed my conception of what a short story is and what it can do. Two stories that really dug into my heart were ‘A Small, Good Thing’ by Raymond Carver, and ‘The Guest’ by Albert Camus. I had a very strong emotional response to the first story, which I put down to the strong characterization, and because the reader is able to pay attention to certain details which the central characters are unable to comprehend until the end. I enjoyed ‘The Guest’ for different reasons, although it also left me staring into space afterwards. Camus’ visual descriptions and his dialogue astounded me, but the story had impact on me for more philosophical reasons. In this story, as in life, sometimes even actions intended to be helpful are misunderstood or regarded as hostile. 

The two stories discussed above are classics, but from my reading this month I would also highly recommend the following:

Laura Mauro, ‘Obsidian’ – A beautiful and chilling folktale about what happens when a girl follows music from beneath the ice, and what it means for her older sister.  (in her collection ‘Sing Your Sadness Deep’ (Undertow))

Gordon B. White, ‘Gordon B. White is Creating Haunting Weird Horror’ – A wonderful short story about a writer who sends short pieces of flash to infect their readers. Written in second person perspective.  https://www.nightmare-magazine.com/fiction/gordon-b-white-is-creating-haunting-weird-horror/

Kurt Fawver, ‘Introduction to the Horror Story, Day One’ – A horror story written in the form of a lecture on how to write horror stories, and with a horror story inside it. https://www.nightmare-magazine.com/fiction/introduction-to-the-horror-story-day-1/

I would also recommend, for those who haven’t already seen it, ‘The Power of the Dog’, directed by the wonderful New Zealand director Jane Campion. In this dark tale every detail is important, and the cinematography and performances are excellent.

Now I’ll sign away this month for now. Until next time, weather fair or foul.


The First of February

I’ve been making good progress with the novel. I’m discovering that as I write I am learning new knowledge, because the story requires me to know it. Because of need, I went to the public library today, and got out a book on spiders, and another book on the history of World War 1. I’m enjoying the writing, and I’m finding that every day life is becomign

As today is the start of Women in Horror Month (#WiHM), I wanted to recommend a few works of horror and dark fiction by authors that I’ve read over the past couple of years and that I have really enjoyed or have been stimulated by.   

Shirley Jackson, ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’  

If you haven’t read this novel yet, please do. I just read it recently, and loved it. It’s a wonderfully written novel with memorable characters about murder, madness and two sisters’ love for each other.

  • Sarah Pinborough, ‘Behind Her Eyes’

A dark thriller, with a really unpredictable twist about adultery and murder. Wonderful use of first-person perspective.

  • S. P. Miskowski, ‘I Wish I Was Like You’

A detective story with a malicious but surprisingly fascinating protagonist.  

  • Siobhan Carroll, ‘For He Can Creep’

A wonderful dark fantasy novelette about a cat protecting his human from Satan. Based on a poem by Christopher Smart about his cat Jeoffrey.

  • Madeleine D’Este, ‘The Flower and the Serpent’

A dark YA novel about high school rivalry, a Macbeth production, magic, and lots and lots of evil. Very entertaining.

  • Deborah Sheldon, ‘Body Farm Z’

A zombie apocalypse in a place researching decomposition. Great fun, and lots of good zombie fighting action.

  • Kaaron Warren, ‘Into Bones Like Oil’

A terrific supernatural novella set in a rooming house by the sea. Chilling.

  • Kathe Koja, ‘The Cipher’

An excellent read, particularly if you like your horror intense and mind-shattering.

  • Catriona Ward, ‘Rawblood’

A creepy Gothic horror novel written in beautiful prose, which describes the horrors afflicting several generations of a family in South-West England.

This list is a very personal one, of course, but maybe there are one or two of these you haven’t read that you might enjoy.

Best, and see you next week,


A New Year

Things have changed. Just recently, I have been made COVID-redundant from the excellent language school that I have been teaching at for the past seven years or so, Christchurch College of English. So it goes.

I’ve been thinking about the verb ‘go’ a lot recently. If you have to go, is this leaving or do you have a place in mind to go to?

I’m concentrating on my writing at the moment. Writing on my novel daily, amid a range of other writing related things. It’s going well. At 12,000 words or so now, so I’ve made a start. I’m marking off my productive writing days, so I’ll go on to cross off nearly all the days off my calendar on the wall by the end of this year.

Just finished reading Shirley Jackson’s wonderful novel ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’. Glad that here in New Zealand we don’t, yet, have to lock ourselves in our houses and wait for someone to drop food by our doors. But it seems there is possibly at least one active case in the community up north. I hope this all goes away, soon.    

This has been a short blog, but a new beginning. Please feel free to drop by again. In the meantime, feel free to check out Warren Zevon’s song ‘Sentimental Hygiene’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWgEhQfMQGc  

Why? Because it’s good, and to make sense of it all. I’m not sure if you will be able to, but it’s worth a try. Plus, I don’t want you to ‘go without it’.

Bye for now,


PS The image is from an old coach bridge I took a photo of in Otago.

Locked Up with Crepes and the Apocalypse.

Hi all. It was my birthday yesterday, and for it my daughters collectively made me birthday cards, a necklace, a picture, crepes and a pizza. I walked with my daughters to a nearby park where we played dodge the humans and their bubbles, and threw autumn leaves over each other.

One other present I received was one that I made myself, a new draft and reworking of a pulp dystopian science fiction story, first created two years ago. I think it is better now, but I will see what my beta readers notice.

In the evening, after indulging in crisps, chocolate, and beer, I watched a very grim movie called ‘It Comes at Night’, which if you haven’t seen, is excellent and thoughtful pandemic viewing – if you haven’t already had enough of pandemics. It has strong, well-developed characters, that behave in believable ways. As with the classic stories ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ by W. W. Jacobs (which you can read here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/12122 ) and ‘Man-size in Marble’ by Edith Nesbit (http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0602511h.html , it deals with horrors whose actions are unseen, and leaves a deep impression.

In the past week I have done a fair bit of reading. I read an excellent short story in Black Static #74 called ‘The New You’, which is about a sister’s disappearance, flower people, and a very strange house, and is incredibly disturbing, wonderfully weird and written in a mesmerising form of dark poetic prose. I also finished Adam Nevill’s amazing book ‘Lost Girl’, a book that I have been reading for some time (I tend to read several books at once, so this isn’t so unusual). I would describe it as a grim descent into a man’s grief and violence while searching for his lost daughter in a harsh and realistic future world. The novel, written in 2015, is remarkably prescient about our current world situation, and is a testament to Adam Nevill’s skills at research and his willingness to delve into matters which should be of concern to us all, particularly inequality and our impacts on the world we live on. If you are interested, here is a link to the author’s page, where you can check it out:  https://www.adamlgnevill.com/books/lost-girl/

Well, that’s it for now.

Until next time,


Words from my Yellow Submarine, 8-4-20

Hello friends in lock-down. Sorry to have not posted for a while, but I’m back now.

I’ve been reading a lot, judging novels for the Australasian Horror Writers Association and teaching English from home full time. Writing – I’m getting back into that too. Feeling more motivated to be more creative and get those stories and poems out. If I get up early enough, they are still in bed. Gives me a bit of time.

I’ve been doing a bit of exercise too. Jogging around the block, two people-lengths away from all I meet, and when I return home, I’ve been doing circuits of basic bodyweight exercises and practising sabre techniques so my techniques are sharp for next time I can train with others. I’ve been carefully adjusting my technique on rainy days to avoid expensive lighting explosions.

I think that many of us here are in the middle of an extended training montage. After the lockdown, we’ll likely be fitter and stronger. Or maybe rounder. I guess there’d be a chocolate and wine consumption montage for that too.

I mentioned reading. I’ve read some wonderful books recently, most as part of judging for the competition – and so I will not mention them. But in terms of short stories, here are some incredible pieces, well worth your time. Not all of them are new stories, but I’ve newly arrived at some of them. I’ll do my best not to spoil any of them.

Leonora Carrington, ‘White Rabbits’ (1941) in ‘The Weird’ (ed. Ann and Jeff Vandermeer)

A weird short and dark surrealist tale with stars and rabbits in it.

Ray Cluley, ‘In the Wake of My Father’ (2020), in ‘Black Static #74’ (ed. Andy Cox)

A deeply emotional piece of dark fiction about grief, art, love, and story-telling.

Michael Marshall Smith, ‘Sad, Dark Thing’ (2011), found in ‘A Book of Horrors’ (ed. Stephen Jones.)

This is a powerful and emotional story with an excellent opening and a powerful conclusion. Left me with an empty feeling of desolation.

Alison Littlewood, ‘Ways to Wake’ (2018) In Nightmare Magazine #70 (ed. John Joseph Adams)

A dark tale about a man in a rest home and a cat.

You can read it online here: http://www.nightmare-magazine.com/fiction/ways-to-wake/

Brian Evenson, ‘The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell’ (2020), in ‘Shadows and Tall Trees 8’ (ed. Michael Kelley).

Wonderful weird fiction, with prose you can sharpen your mind on. It’s one of those stories that after reading it you feel the world has changed, and that you must read it again to obtain further knowledge. Open that door.

Well, that’s it for now. See you soon!


10 Books That Messed Me Up Into the Person I Am

This was inspired by this article by the constantly inspiring and wonderfully provocative Gabino Iglesias: https://litreactor.com/columns/10-books-that-feel-like-exes, I have decided to write about 10 books that are important to me, and well, kind of messed me up.

old-books-vintage-background (1)

  1. The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice

Wearing my grey and blue school uniform, I raced after high school to a bookshop in the central city of Christchurch to buy this book new. This was in my Sting ‘Nothing Like the Sun’ phase, when I insisted on being stylishly unshaven, a habit that I have carried through to the present day. Although now, peppered with grey, my face seems more unkempt than anything else.

When I got home, I started reading the real adventures of Lestat (not the dreadful lies spread by his beloved companion in the first book). After being forced to communicate with my mortal parents to consume dinner, I returned to the vampire world and remained there until I had completed the book when the first rays of sunlight tore into my eyes.



  1. Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift

Sure there’s the adventures in Lilliput and pissing on fires, but this is only a small part of the novel. There’s a lot of humorous hatred of humanity and of human stupidity too. It’s like a very amusing science-fiction/fantasy version of Robinson Crusoe mixed with cutting social criticism.



  1. Siddhartha, Herman Hesse

Despite its excessive conflation of Eastern religions, this is a beautiful short novella about enlightenment, heavily influenced by psychoanalysis. It is so visual that it is perfectly possible to after reading it several times to replay it in your head, memorising the whole thing, and I did this one evening, around the same time as when I lay on my bedroom floor in my sleeping clothing and meditated myself into a heart rate so slow I was very cold and the blood left me, so much that my parents thought I was as white ‘as a ghost’.



  1. Scaramouche, Raphael Sabatini

Comedy, acting, acrobatics and swordplay, but revenge, sweet revenge with a capital Zorro. While there’s a fair bit of racism in some of his other novels about pirates, this one was beautiful, particularly for the opening line: ‘He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.’



  1. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

One of the first science-fiction novels, with a story that appears to have been heavily influenced by the tabula rasa theory of psychology and Milton’s Prometheus, Frankenstein is also by turns a horror novel, a thriller and a tragedy. Byron, Percy, Mary and some of the other Romantics were writing horror stories at that time, but Mary’s was one of the most successful.



  1. The Complete Works of Byron/ The Complete Works of Shelley

Two works that for teenage boys are not conducive to natural communication with female humans, but instead make put women up on pedestals, write sickly love poetry, or longingly cite their praises, all the while cursing god and praising the creative force of Satan.




  1. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

I would probably have not got into this book so much except due to a visiting scholar to my university’s Russian department who read and praised the opening of the book very highly, and who read that section aloud, luxuriating in the sounds. There are a lot of French phrases in the book that I didn’t understand, but it is wonderful, for the poetry and humour of it. If you want to hear the book being read, please listen to the spectacular audiobook with Jeremy Irons at HH. I think without ‘Lolita’, we would not have the amusing and disturbing characters/monsters such as Hannibal Lecter, and the stalker Joe in Caroline Kepne’s ‘You’. It’s a thriller, a tragedy, a comedy, a travelogue, a work of detective fiction, a critique of materialism, the narrator commenting in an often pretentious and amusing way on a whole range of topics.


  1. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

I like this book so much, and the prose style of Vonnegut in it, that I have read it several times. Also, when I got the opportunity to go to Germany, I immediately put Dresden into my travel plans. Such a beautiful place, with nearly all new buildings compared to the cities in other parts of Germany, and we know the reason (it had the absolute shit bombed out of it by Allied forces, even though it wasn’t a priority military target, and the war was ending). Plus, ‘so it goes’ is one of the best quotes ever.



  1. Hannibal, Thomas Harris

The others were wonderful too. But this one focused on Hannibal Lecter, the gentleman of refined tastes himself. I guess giving him an enemy nastier than himself makes him somewhat of a hero in this, but we know he is not an individual we should make a point of coming close to, lest we offend him. He remains a dangerous, but charismatic individual.



  1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

Some books get you to relive your own past history, make tears flow while you dream of events in childhood. This was one of those books for me. Of course, the story wasn’t like my childhood, with its beaches and woods. It just brought all of my past back, and helped me to relive it.



Of course, there are actually a lot more books that messed me up into the person I am. These are just a few. Given room to roam and ramble, I might add ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ by Mark Twain, Diana Wynne-Jones’ ‘The Homeward Bounders’, Homer’s works, and Adam Nevill’s ‘No One Gets Out Alive’, along with many others.

Well, that’s it for now. Tune in for more adventures.


May Your Hopes Be Fulfilled!

year-of-the-pig-2019-1534658056LpYHappy Chinese New Year! 万事如意! May all your hopes be fulfilled!

This year I’ve set out to do a great many things. I think it’s important to take up new challenges in order to improve, and I’ve realised through learning martial arts and the Chinese language that many things are possible given persistence and time.

I plan to go to Geysercon 2019, the NZ Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, on Queen’s Birthday Weekend here (May 31st to June 3rd).

I’m also currently one of the judges for the Novel section of the Australian Shadows Awards organised by the Australasian Horror Writing Association (AHWA), and due to this, have been reading some wonderful fiction by Alan Baxter, Angela Slatter, Lee Murray, Dan Rabarts, Jason Franks, and others.

I’m currently engaged in the wonderfully challenging and stimulating Advanced Creative Writing Workshop run by Richard Thomas, reading through several top short-story anthologies, and writing stories as I go, learning so much from Richard and my classmates.

I’ve also improved my writing a lot recently due to all the helpful feedback and advice I’ve had from my writing mentor, Kaaron Warren.

Finally, and I’ve only decided to do this fairly recently, I’ve decided to run the local half marathon in March and enter a HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) competition in August.

These are not resolutions, these are things I’ve decided to do. The resolutions I’ve written in a little book with a leather cover, and I’m working on them too.

Wishing you all the best with all of your plans and resolutions this year. Hope you give yourself lots of challenging things to do and develop through.


An Afternoon Surprise

Sometimes what we need are some nice surprises to change our day. Being a regular purchaser of books, and a subscriber of several wonderful magazines, I’m never quite sure when book parcels will arrive in my mailbox or by courier.

Today I received a small parcel from somewhere in the US. No, I said to myself, it can’t be Fantasy & Science Fiction, because the Nov-Dec issue arrived recently. Instead it was this:


I guess I never expected to receive a print copy of a magazine sent over from the US that I had only published a few short horror haiku in, so receiving this was an absolute delight. I am also impressed because of the quality of the little magazine and the work within. That cover image by Marge Simon, ‘The Hangman Glow’ is excellent, isn’t it?

I have also recently become aware of the release of an online version of the Scifaikuest Magazine, which has another of my horrorku, available for viewing here (this is free, but if you like the look of the magazine you can order yourself a copy of the print version): https://www.albanlakepublishing.com/scifaikuest-online

I’d better get back to editing the short story I’ve been working on. I think I’ve got all of the words down. Now to excise duplicated information and notes to myself in text.

Bye now!


The Power of ‘What If?’

Neil Gaiman is doing it, Diana Wynne Jones did it, Ray Bradbury did it, Stephen King and a whole lot of other cool guys and gals are doing it. I’m doing it now. You can do it too.

Start with ‘What If?’ and write a page. Follow it until something comes out. Might take a while. Still, should be good fun. Might summon some magic.

I wrote this story, a dark fairy tale. You might like it. What if the handsome prince was a horrible person? It’s in this magazine, Breach. There are a lot of other wonderful writers in it too (Got to count myself in that circle. If I can’t be wonderful now, when can I be?) Anyway, you can find it here (oh, and it’s on special on Smashwords at the moment – fabulous!) :





And if you like it, drop a comment, or leave a short review somewhere. This is how the people who think ‘What if?’ keep rolling.

Thanks, and bye for now,


Long time, no see.

hao jiu,  bu jian. One of the most famous Chinese sentences ever to be put into English. Anyway, sorry to have been away so long. I let myself get distracted from the blog for a bit.

Oh and Happy belated Halloween! That evening I followed my fearsome children into the Halloween night, and they scared the candy out of local residents. Many apologies to the person who was not home when my children knocked, since their noise incited your terrier to a blinds-attacking frenzy at the upstairs window overlooking the street.

Today I have received word that one of my stories, a dark fairy tale, is to be published in Breach 09 in the next week or so. Groovy! Thanks to Peter Kirk, Bartholemew Ford, and to the other lovely people involved with the e-zine.

Now, onto further improving that story draft for my mentor…