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Showing posts from 2014

The Top 5 of Everything - 2014

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As we all look back on the past year - and ahead to the next - it's customary to produce lists. These lists can be made for many reasons. They can be lists of resolutions, lists of achievements, lists of Christmas presents we need to return. And then there are the Best Of... lists. Having a toddler around the house, I can't claim to have listened to enough music, or watched enough films, or read enough books to make a truly informed decision about what was great in 2014. But there were a few things that made the year a little bit brighter and more exciting for me. So here are my favourite five things of 2014, in no particular order: Best Album - The War on Drugs, 'Lost in the Dream' I'd never heard of TWoD before 2014, and their discovery was a slow-burner. At first this album seemed like a mashup between Dire Straits and Bob Dylan, but the more I listened to it, the more I loved it. Now I can't go a few days without a fix. Combine that with their awe-

The Long, Hard Road to J.G. Ballard

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A couple of months ago a conversation started online. Spurred on by Nick Hornby's comments on whether we should feel obliged to finish a book, the discussion quickly became a literary confessional. All those classics we'd given up on, all the bestsellers we'd left half-read on a beach somewhere - it all came pouring out, as if we'd simply been waiting for the opportunity to confess our failure as readers. In my case, my sin came in the form of J.G. Ballard. I'd attempted Ballard's books several times during my adolescence, my interest sparked by the British author's connection with William Burroughs, one of my literary heroes. I was certain that I'd love them the way that I'd loved Naked Lunch and Junkie , so my reaction came as a surprise, and a disappointment. I tried Crash (inspired in part by the Cronenberg film), The Atrocity Exhibition , High-Rise . Each time I'd get a few pages in and be swamped by the density of the language, the

From Cardiff to London: Looking Back at October

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October was a crazy month: live readings, pitching panels and author interviews turned it into an impromptu tour, as I hit the road for three very different events. From the drooling zombies of Cardiff (not a comment on the local populace - I was at the city's horror convention) to the hirsute hipsters of Shoreditch (definitely a comment on the local populace), October was a month of travel, madness, and pre-packed sandwiches. First up was our Litro Book Club event in Shoreditch. I had the pleasure of meeting Marc Pastor, author of gothic crime novel Barcelona Shadows and rabid Doctor Who fan. It's always a pleasure to meet a fellow Whovian, especially over a few pints of Meantime's excellent London beers. You can listen to me interviewing Marc Pastor here , on the Litro Podcast. If you haven't already read Barcelona Shadows , be sure to check it out. Then came SCARdiff 2014 , as horror fans, writers, actors, producers, editors and... erm... pythons descended on

Scream! Scream!! Scream!!!

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Twenty years ago, two friends and I decided to write, produce and direct a series of three short horror plays for Halloween. The trilogy was called Scream! Scream!! Scream!!!, and it enjoyed at least one rather lukewarm review. What was remarkable about it was the range of our ideas. One of the plays was a moody serial killer thriller, another was a sliver of weird horror straight out of the Twilight Zone , while the third was a bizarre slasher-pantomime that climaxed with the audience throwing Halloween candy at the blood-drenched actors. None of the plays had much in common, yet they all lurked beneath the Horror banner.   Fast forward twenty years, and Litro #138 has the same Horror theme. Of all the issues I've edited of the magazine, this is probably my favourite. In part that's due to the quality of the writing. We have a fantastically haunting tale by Toby Litt , a sliver of near-future horror from Richard Thomas , and a deeply disturbing story about toys from Ada

Live Events: October

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These days, it's not unusual to see writers out and about in the real world, reading from their work, signing, and generally promoting what they do. It's become an inevitable part of the modern publishing deal. These 'tours' are usually tied to a book release - but I've decided to buck the trend, by having an unreasonably busy October without actually having a book to promote. Go figure. Here are the events I'll be appearing at this month. Please drop by and say hello, buy me pint, give me some homemade knitwear, present me with figurines you'd made of me out of your own earwax, etc. All are welcome (except for the earwax sculptors... you can stay at home). Thursday 16 October - Litro Book Club event w/ Marc Pastor Shutterbug, 1 Rivington Place, London EC2A 3BA. Doors open 6.30pm. Marc Pastor will be reading from Barcelona Shadows , after which I'll be interviewing him on the book and its themes. There will also be a chance for audience question

A Summer of Festivals

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This blog has been silent for a few months. It's not due to my laziness (okay, not completely...), or to the lack of things to write about it. Instead, it's due to the fact that I've been out in the field for much of the summer. In two fields, to be precise. In July, Litro presented three live events as part of the Latitude Festival in Suffolk, and I was on-site for most of the festival, taking care of authors, making contacts, and generally pestering people around the Press Tent (especially those interns they placed by the fridge to guard the Happy Hour drinks). The festival as a whole was a slightly chaotic - and very damp - smorgasbord of music, arts and entertainment, featuring the likes of Damon Albarn, The Black Keys, The War on Drugs, First Aid Kit and Temples. There was more than enough to keep anyone entertained. As long as you managed to dodge the marauding hordes of teenagers intent on - well - moping about mostly. As for Litro's events, we present

Lights, Camera, Words

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Writing can be a lonely profession. Most of the time it's just you, a laptop, and enough coffee to power a small submarine. If you're really lucky you might have a pet - a cat, or a dog, or a houseplant - to mutter at while you work. But occasionally writers are released into the community, at special events called Literary Festivals. When these come around we like to make the most of them, drinking far too much and partying until almost ten o'clock in the book tent. They're our chance to meet like-minded individuals, swap a few stories, make a few new contacts. Oh, and occasionally we read from our work. Last weekend I took part in the fifth Stoke Newington Literary Festival , presenting three young authors at the Litro Live! event on Sunday evening. The temperature had risen throughout the day, and our venue felt like a sweatbox by the time we came on stage. We'd all been at the festival for two days straight, catching events with Thurston Moore, Joanne Harr

Buddy's Back...

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So far 2014 has been a busy year. I've spent the last few months working my fingers to nubs as editor of Litro , and I'm pleased to say that it's bearing fruit. We have a fantastic new Augmented Reality issue due in a few weeks, as well as 'Somewhere Between the Borders' in June (introduced by bestselling travel writer Rory MacLean) and a Music issue in July (guest edited by Kele Okereke of Bloc Party). We have an event on 8 June at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival, and some very exciting news on the way about one of this year's major outdoor music festivals. But that's not what this is about. This is about getting back to basics, spending some time with an old friend, and uncovering as many horrible cliches as I can about getting back on the horse. Litro has taken up so much of my time recently that my own writing has been slow in coming. I've been so busy editing everyone else that there's been very little time for my own work. I'm g

New Year, New News

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Has anyone else noticed that advertising executives have been rolling out the same 'New Year, New You' campaigns every January for the last ten years? As slogans go, it's a strong one - but it started to tarnish when Justin Beiber was still in potty training. I guess even 'Creatives' put their feet up over the holiday season. As it turns out, however, this New Year has heralded a new me. You may have seen the news in December that I've been appointed Editor of the London-based literary journal Litro , and my first issue of the magazine was released shortly before Christmas. It's a role that I'm already enjoying, even when my inbox is bubbling over with fiction submissions from overeager, hope-filled young writers. You can find my first issue of the magazine here , and consider subscribing to Litro to stay in touch with all the exciting developments we have planned for 2014. The start of the year also brought a resurgence for some old material, to