Saturday, 2 March 2019

Table of contents for Dark Lane Anthology: Volume Eight

Decisions have been made.  Thanks to everyone who submitted a story.  22 stories have been selected for Volume Eight.

Duplex by C.M. Muller
The Ringers by Rebecca Lloyd
The Wet Knot by Marvin Brown
Junior by John Ord
The Awful Rowing Towards the End by Mike O'Driscoll
Water Vein by Carolyn Stockdale
Shadow Work by Nici West
Los Ninos by Bill Davidson
Madness is the Nexus of All Reality by Arthur Davis
The Festival of Conformity by Charles Wilkinson
Mr Webster by Michael Button
Costello's Cell by Gregory Wolos
Secondhand by Timothy Delizza
Serve and Protect by Ed Ahern
Charlotte by Robert Pope
The Calling by Ariel Dodson
The Poacher by Michael Packman
The Exhibit by Mark Keane
The Orgy at the Edge of the Galaxy by Robert Guthrie
Sing Ho! Stout Cortez by Michael W. Thomas
Letter to a Budding Entomologist by Tim W. Boiteau
No One Driving by Mark Andresen


Tuesday, 26 February 2019

An interview with Rebecca Lloyd

We were lucky enough to have Rebecca Lloyd open Volume Two with her story 'Hagbound'.  Rebecca's books include two collections of short stories published by Tartarus Press, one of which 'Mercy' was nominated for a World Fantasy Award.  Her latest work is the novella The Bellboy, published by Zagava.


Q: What are your working methods?  Do you sit down every day to write?  Do you have a designated place to work?
A: I certainly have a designated place to write and it is my small writing room with a big window overlooking my garden, just a strip of a room, too small for a bedroom and fairly roughly painted. And there was a time when I would’ve been writing every day when I had to work for a living in the outside world and so by necessity, I wrote in the early mornings every day. These days, I tend to write novellas and novels that need extensive research, and so I make a list of research topics around the story I am hoping to conjure up, and address them systematically before I begin to write. There comes a point in time when I feel that I’ve read enough and that writing should start, then I launch off.

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite short stories and why you like it (not one of your own).
A: I have always liked ‘Puddle’ by Arthur Porges because it is written in a very unpretentious manner and yet the story idea is so terrific that after reading it, I felt slightly jealous that I hadn’t thought of it myself because it was very much up my street.

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite short stories (done by you).
A: ‘Shuck’ is a story I hold dear, and it’s probably one of my most chilling stories. But as the writer, I’m not sure that having a favourite story really fits in with how it is to be a writer. Some stories are moving for different reasons, The River has a lot of resonance, for example, and some stories are more accomplished than others, but the trickier stories if pulled off feel good to acknowledge. So, you can see that I can’t honestly answer the question, and really after so very many years of writing, and not going back to read them, I’m a bit stuck with remembering tone, mood and detail anyway.

Q: Where do your ideas come from?  Do you go looking for ideas – for example by brainstorming, or do you wait for inspiration?
A: I guess if a writer did know where her ideas were coming from, she could catch them in a pan and keep them on the go. I think a writer might well know what he or she is moved by, but even then, not be able to know why a particular incident was captivating enough to produce an idea for a story. In general, I think that I become interested in some human oddity I stumble across and, I am anyway very interested in superstition, and so there is a wealth of ideas arounds that… so I’m not sure that that is either brainstorming or inspiration.

Q: Are you a full-time writer? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time writer if you could?
A: Not sure what ‘full-time writer’ actually means, does it mean someone who writes from 9 to 5, or does it mean someone who lives of the proceeds of her writing? I now longer work in the outside world for money, but even when I did, I wrote for three or four hours a day, and so would consider that full-time anyway. I’m probably being deliberately obtuse, but that’s what writers are like sometimes. I would say though, that it’s mentally healthier not to just write all day, it’s much better to have a working job and write as well.

Q: What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
A: That depends upon the story that I’m tackling. As each story is different, the part of the creative process that is difficult might also be different.

Q: If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self about becoming a writer?
A: Just go on exactly as you are, be generous in your support for other writers, and be true to what really excites you to write irrespective of how the industry attempts to mould you into a writing shape that better suits them and brings them profit.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

An interview with Gregory Wolos

Gregory Wolos made his first Dark Lane appearance in Volume 6 with 'Out of the Basil Pot'.  His short story collection, 'Women of Consequence' will be published in March this year by Regal House Publishing.


What are your working methods?  Do you sit down every day to write?  Do you have a designated place to work?
I try to write every day. I work best in the morning, generally for about three hours before the creative juices tap out. If I’m deep into a piece and can’t get it out of my mind—especially if I’m close to having something submission-ready, I often will get back to work in the late evening and continue into the wee hours of the morning. The physical process of composing has changed over time with advancing technology; these days most of my writing is done on my laptop stretched out on my recliner in my study. In regard to process, I usually begin a new story by consulting my notebooks (my little Moleskin never leaves my side). I like to juxtapose different ideas to see what happens—like when I was a child and would stick different species of insects together in a jar to watch them fight. First drafts are usually at least twice the size of final versions of stories. After the first draft I rewrite the entire story over and over, cutting ruthlessly as I seek out the story’s heart. When I find that heart, I rewrite again, slashing everything that no longer fits—scenes, characters, favourite metaphors. It’s rare for any single sentence to survive from first draft to final draft. The entire process, from beginning to end takes from one to two months of what I consider full time work.
  
Tell us about one of your favourite short stories and why you like it (not one of your own).
Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” affected me viscerally the first time I read it and then intellectually as I took a close look at the “how” and “why” of the story’s impact. From what at first seems to be a family situation comedy, O’Connor turns the story of “The Misfit” into a frighteningly realistic parable on the nature of “goodness.” It’s one of the stories that made me excited about trying to be a writer.

Tell us about one of your favourite short stories (done by you).
As I suspect is true of many writers, usually the last story I’ve written is my favourite—until I begin something new. But I have a special affection for “Queen of the Waves,” the lead story of my soon-to-be released collection Women of Consequence. The title comes from a poem that recounts the true story of an orphanage devastated by a hurricane in coastal Texas around the year 1900. The nuns running the orphanage tied the children together to try to keep them safe, but the ropes intended to save them tangled, ultimately contributing to the drowning deaths of virtually the entire group. My story is about a criminally overprotective single mother who tries to “save” her son by keeping him homebound. Through slow but intense psychological manipulation, she convinces him that he is unfit for the outside world. She literally steals his senses, demonstrating to him over and over that none of his perceptions—smell, sight, hearing, etc— are fully developed enough for him to survive outside of her care.

Where do your ideas come from?  Do you go looking for ideas – for example by brainstorming, or do you wait for inspiration?
Perpetual vigilance—I’m always on the lookout for something interesting—not so much a “fully formed” story, but anything that seems interesting finds its way into my notebooks. (I write down everything, trusting my memory to nothing). At this point, being an observer is not so much a part of my life as it is a way of living, if that makes sense. I mull over the stuff I collect, juxtaposing things or holding them up like prisms to see what happens when the light of inspiration passes through them (whew!).

Are you a full-time writer? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time writer if you could?
For the last ten years, I’ve been a full time writer, which frees me up for full time observation.
  
What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
Probably the most difficult thing is moving from an early draft, where I’m not very critical about what I’m putting down, to the middle drafts, where I’m searching for what I referred to earlier as the “heart” of the story. Once I’ve found that “heart,” I actually enjoy my brutal treatment of every subsequent draft as I chisel a story down to its final version.
  
If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self about becoming a writer?
Here’s the contradiction most writers have to deal with: we have to be super-sensitive to everything in the world for the sake of the “truth” of our craft, but, simultaneously, we must be hard as nails. We must be hard in two different ways: first, we must be able to turn an objective eye on our work so that we can revise and edit without sentimentality; second we must be tough enough to face daily rejection and criticism. I know too many would-be writers who gave up after a single rejection. So—the trick is to keep an open eye to the world while covering oneself with a protective shield—easy, right?
Another thing new writers need to learn is how much time it takes to do the work. I find the process addictive and thrilling, but anyone watching from the outside would see only a person alone for hours, thinking and typing. Movies about writers usually focus on a writer’s life outside of the actual process. At least movies about painters can depict the artist vigorously splashing colour around.
I guess a final thing young writers need to remember is to trust themselves and their visions, even if—maybe especially if—they seem to be wandering out of the mainstream.


Saturday, 8 December 2018

Submissions for Volume 8 now open

Submissions for Dark Lane Anthology Vol.8 have opened.  We're looking forward to reading some amazingly strange tales.
See the guidelines here.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

An interview with Charles Wilkinson

Weird fiction fans need no introduction to Charles Wilkinson.  His fiction first appeared in Dark Lane Anthology Vol. 2.  His work has appeared in every volume since.  Egaeus Press have released two limited edition collections of Charles Wilkinson's short fiction in hardback: A Twist in the Eye, and the recently released Splendid in Ash.







What are your working methods?  Do you sit down every day to write?  Do you have a designated place to write?

Many thanks for asking me to do this interview, Tim. I’m very pleased to have appeared regularly in your excellent Dark Lane Anthology series.


A poet, who has a background in science, advised me to write in the same place and at the same time every day. He claimed that by doing this one could train the mind to be receptive to the writing mode when required. I certainly think it’s important to establish when one writes best. Although I’d prefer to work in the mornings, I’ve now come to accept that I get much more done in the afternoons. I start at more or less the same time and always in the same place, an office on an industrial estate. There’s no internet connection, which ensures that I’m less easily distracted. Having a place to write that isn’t my home increases the sense of ‘going into work,’ I find. There’s less temptation to take too many tea breaks.

Tell us about one of your favourite short stories and why you like it (not one of your own).

Although I’m tempted to go for one of Robert Aickman’s stories, such as ‘The Hospice’, I suspect that many of your readers will already be very familiar with his work, and so I’ve decided to pick ‘Bestiary’ by Julio Cortazar, which is included in Blow-up and Other Stories. The title story was the inspiration for Antonioni’s film Blowup. Cortazar was a literary writer of an experimental bent; however, his short stories often blur the boundaries between genre and literary fiction. I’ve come across his work in horror anthologies. ‘Bestiary’ is the story of a young girl who stays with the same family every summer. They have a large house and there is another child. It’s seen from the girl’s point of view, which enables the author to suggest that there are tensions between the adults that she is too young to comprehend. The children busy themselves by collecting ants, bugs and insects; the adults perform everyday domestic tasks. The story might almost be a realist text if it were not for the fact that a tiger is roaming around, not only in the grounds but also in the house. The characters are apparently able to avoid this animal because a family servant gives regular bulletins as to its whereabouts. If the tiger is in the library, for example, they will avoid that room until the servant tells them the creature has left. No attempt is made to explain the presence of the tiger. Many readers have wondered what Cortazar meant by it. When I first came across the story, I assumed the tiger was some sort of embodiment of the anger and frustrations of the adults; however, Cortazar said that he did not intend the tiger to symbolize anything specific. Some of his ideas came from dreams, which I believe was also true of Aickman. The effect is to allow space for multiple readings, which means that while my interpretation of the tiger’s significance is not wrong, there are other theories that may also be valid; moreover, since it’s a riddle with no solution we’re not being asked come up with any explanation. For some readers the frisson of the weird and mysterious will be enough.

Tell us about one of your favourite short stories (written by you).

 As my work is quite various, it’s very hard to pick one.  My first collection had two stories that could be categorised as genre pieces and just one that was offbeat in a way that might be considered ‘weird’. ‘The Pain Tree’, which is the long title story,
was partly based on my childhood visits to a dentist who drilled my teeth without deigning to use anaesthetics. Dark but not a genre piece, it might be the best thing I’ve written – I’m not sure. ‘Boxing the Breakable’, which is in Splendid in Ash, my most recent anthology from Egaeus Press, is one of my current favourites. It’s about an elderly couple who have put their house on the market. When the wife, who is in better physical and mental health than the husband, shows them round, they behave
in such a bizarre fashion that she phones the estate agent to find out more about them,
only to discover that no appointment was ever made. The husband then disappears. Various people visit the house and there seems to be a link between them, but it’s not entirely clear what that could be. As with Cortazar, a great deal is left to the reader to fill in. On one level, it’s the quotidian world of prospective buyers, estate agents, doctors and the police, but it should gradually become plain to the reader that something else is going on that defies easy analysis. I was hoping to create a sense of the everyday permeated by the strange.

Where do your ideas come from?  Do you go looking for ideas – for example by brainstorming, or do you wait for inspiration?
.
There’s no straightforward answer to this question. Occasionally there are happy accidents: a remark overheard on a bus or a train; an article in a newspaper; a science programme on the television – that kind of thing. Sometimes one consciously mines one’s past. The germ of ‘Boxing the Breakable’ was a visit that a relative and I paid to a property in the Forest of Dean when one of us was house-hunting. The initial visit had been made by appointment and went well, but when we returned unannounced an hour later, explaining that there were a few details we wished to check, the owner was furious and refused to have anything more to do with us. I remembered this incident well over twenty years later and used it as the basis for what happened next.
Quite often an arresting first line will occur to me and that will be enough to begin the process. Whilst my weird fiction is far from autobiographical (thank heavens!), there have been events, such as the one that initiated ‘Boxing the Breakable,’ that I have used to provide a starting point. Places where I’ve lived are important too.  If I’m stuck for inspiration I make a conscious effort to invoke the dark muse; often a long walk helps!  Researching a topic that interests me can also prove effective. Now that I’m trying to be more professional I have to be prepared to ‘go to the mountain.’


Are you a full-time author? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a fulltime author if you could?

In order to write full time, I resigned from the day job six years before I would have been obliged to step down; however, I now have not inconsiderable domestic responsibilities, which mean that I write in the afternoon five days a week. I was sorry that until eight years ago I was unable to become even a semi-professional writer, although I did take a year out to do a Masters in Creative Writing when I was in my early thirties, as well as another year, just before I turned forty, to take a second course, which included a writing module.  One of my tutors, the Irish poet Eavan Boland, told me that she had seen too many people wreck their lives in the belief that they would become great writers, or at least make a decent living from the trade. She was right. I think it’s fine to take a year or so out to write, but be very careful to have a realistic Plan B in case you don’t make a breakthrough. If you have a family, you have to be even more cautious.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

It’s changed over the years. I used to suffer from writers’ block, but now I’m acutely aware that I no longer have time to indulge my uncertainties. Strangely enough, I think it’s the final stage of the process that causes me most angst. I’m a poor proof-reader of my own work. A particular problem is a tendency to omit small words, such as articles and prepositions. I’m someone who is grateful to have good editors (thanks, Tim!).

If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self about becoming an author?


First of all, get on with it! I spent too much time staring out of the window. I was also inclined to agonise over every line instead of writing a decent number of words per day. I lost literary agents because I simply wasn’t producing enough work for them to send round to publishers. Secondly, don’t neglect the small presses and little
magazines. It’s not the end of the world if Faber and Faber say no. If it’s not happening for you, you’re probably better off without an agent. Then you can do
your own research and send manuscripts to places that agents aren’t interested in as the financial rewards involved are insufficient. Starting small is better than making no start at all.

Friday, 7 September 2018

An Interview With Sally Barnett

Sally Barnett's artwork first featured in the original Dark Lane magazine.  Her stunning illustrations have since graced all volumes of the anthology series.  To see more of her work visit her website www.sallybarnett.co.uk

Q: What are your working methods?  Do you sit down every day to work?  Do you have a designated place to work?
A: I have a long term and short term plan, always on the go and changing all the time. But on a daily basis, I attack my emails first, every morning, sat in my kitchen with my laptop; dog on one side, bowl of cereal on the other. Then I set myself a list of things I need to produce that day from my list for that month. To escape from the housework I walk down to the garden shed; this is my studio. It isn’t so much a shed, more of a small stable block with a carpet. but no horses. But it is where I do all my drawing, printing, painting, priming, sanding, etc. But if it is too cold outside, I sit in the living room with my art-pad and my dog sat on my feet.

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite artworks and why you like it (not one of your own).
A: The hairs on the back of my neck bristled and time stopped right there, the first time I saw ‘Some Roses and their Phantoms’, an oil painting by Dorothea Tanning. It disturbed me and that was why I really liked it. I felt it was telling me, ‘I know you’. It was like someone painting a feeling from my childhood that only I knew about. It reminded me of the curtains that used to be in my bedroom when I was little. The curtain pattern was of deep red and black flowers or swirls I think, but very abstract. At night, the curtains became alive; deep caverns where lots of figures moved about; people’s faces looking out, so quietly. And the cupboard in the corner of my bedroom?... don’t get me started on that. lol

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite artwork (done by you).
A: I drew a picture of a landscape after my sister died, to process my emotions at that sad time and even though I feel I have drawn more accomplished work, it is this picture that I am most connected to and fond of. The image is of mountains, hills, trees and flowers but there are lots of things (animals) hidden and symbolism within the image. One of those images that you can look at and see something different each time you view it.
  
Q: Where do your ideas come from?  Do you go looking for ideas – for example by brainstorming, or do you wait for inspiration?
A: I draw from emotions within a story or circumstance and find the visual inside it. I find this an easy part of the process. There is also a lot of research involved because I like my work to be as informed as possible.
 If I have a commission and there is a strict brief, I make sure I achieve everything within the brief but also add an element of me within it, in order to create something both my client and I are proud of.

Q: Are you a full-time artist? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time artist if you could?
A: I work freelance part-time as an Illustrator and Designer, whilst also managing a long term health condition. I have learnt how to focus my capabilities on design work that I enjoy, which has in turn allowed me to create a more meaningful and bespoke business for my clients and myself.
I am self taught in web design and have a few ongoing clients, which helps financially. I miss my old job as a highway engineer, but I cannot return to the engineering industry right now because of my health.

Q: What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
A: I enjoy my work. It does not feel like work because I have loved illustration and design since I was little. It only becomes work and so difficult to endure, if I take on work that does not fuel my passion.  I use mind-maps and other similar design theories to help me come up with draft ideas. I know how to get myself out of ‘creative block’. I know when to put the pen down. I nurture my passion by attending art exhibitions or illustration and design events. I keep scrapbooks and sketch every day. Being creative is not difficult.

Q: If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self about becoming an artist?
A: Never give up; never think you cannot do something; always believe in yourself and others will follow; listen to others and learn from them. Be inspired!


Thursday, 3 May 2018

An interview with L.S. Johnson


 L.S. Johnson's fiction first appeared in Dark Lane Anthology Volume Two.  She later opened Volume Five with her story 'Ada Awake'.  Her short fiction collection, Vacui Magia, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2017.

Q: What are your working methods?  Do you sit down every day to write?  Do you have a designated place to write?

A: I am currently blessed with a piecemeal freelance career. It’s stressful in regards to financial stability, but it allows me to control my schedule and thus carve out writing time every day. Before this, I tried to schedule my day jobs for either very early or very late starts, but that was hit or miss. Weekends I get up before my spouse and write. I was a night owl as a child, but circumstances have conspired to make me a morning person.
I took over the spare bedroom in our house for my writing space, but I have difficulty sitting at a desk for long stretches. Thus I usually draft on a cheap netbook and move around the house, writing on the floor, standing up, etc. Once the piece I’m working on feels solid, I’ll move it onto the computer in my writing space and put it in Scrivener or Word for revision.
I’m hoping one of these days I’ll be earning enough from writing to invest in an adjustable desk. Life goals!

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite short stories and why you like it (not one of your own).

A: Well, I can whittle it down to two, and I’ll mostly talk about one of them.
The two stories are “1986” by Yu Hua and “Rare Bird” by Andrea Barrett. Together, I think they form a kind of bracketing of my aesthetic.
I come back to “1986” often, because it’s so painfully precise and so mannered in its pacing and yet it is so, so brutal. It took me many years to let go of the idea that Proper Writers only write literary fiction, but “1986” was pivotal in that process. I think of the story as horror, though I first found it via a comparative lit class; more to the point, I think “1986” says something about war and trauma that can only be said through horror. My father was a painter, but in his early twenties he was drafted and sent to Vietnam, just before the Tet Offensive. When he returned he didn’t talk about the war for decades, but it … leaked out, in a sense? It showed in his temper and his art, and when I read “1986” I felt a kind of resonance for something I hadn’t been able to describe before: a sense of disjunction between my sheltered, loving childhood and this unspoken, brutal history. I haven’t found that resonance anywhere else, certainly not in the many literary novels or essay collections I’ve read about the war.
“Rare Bird” is at the opposite end of my aesthetic spectrum, a lovely piece of historical fiction. It shares the precision and mannered pacing, but it’s a quiet story—a domestic story, really—about repression and intellect and women. I think it says a great deal in the space around the story, if that makes sense. I struggle a lot with clarity vs. opacity – when to reveal, when to be explicit, when to hold back, elide? and when I’m really struggling I re-read Barrett to see it done well.

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite short stories (written by you).

A: I can’t choose! I love all my stories, both the great and the terrible. Whether they fail or succeed, they each have a tiny bit of life in them. How do you choose among them? Every one of them is a relationship. It’s like ranking friends.

Q: Where do your ideas come from?  Do you go looking for ideas – for example by brainstorming, or do you wait for inspiration?

A: A story usually starts with an image or two that’s stuck in my head. I can’t write a story until I’m immersed in it, like being inside a movie; fiction is very cinematic for me. So I’ll see things, or I’ll imagine something based on what I’m reading, and that will spark, oh, not even a scene so much as a moment—but it’s a moment I can enter, I can be the character in that moment. From there I can start imagining the emotional core of a story.
An example: I have a novelette that I’m working on whose initial seed was a video I saw a few years ago, about spider eggs hatching beneath a person’s skin. That video lingered in all sorts of gross and delightful ways in my head; I wrote “spider thing?” in a journal and tried to write a story with that as an element but got nowhere. Years later, I was describing the pine forest near where I went to college and I suddenly remembered that video, and at once I was in the moment: I was standing in the forest, the cool damp of it, and I was looking down at my bare forearms and watching the skin move and feeling those bodies wriggling inside. Then I was able to start building the story.
Sometimes, too, those initial scenes don’t make it to the final draft. Sometimes they’re just scaffolding. I write a lot of scaffolding.

Q: Are you a full-time author? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time author if you could?

A: I mostly write book indexes. I’ve indexed everything from history to critical theory to automotive repair. I also proofread books and copy, write copy for retailers, provide story critiques, and read exams to dyslexic and blind students. It’s a hodgepodge income stream, but I burned out very badly at my job in publishing, so I’m trying to avoid a return to full-time office work.
I’ve had a taste of writing full-time now in the lull between freelance projects, and I like it, but it’s much harder than it looks. It takes a great deal of discipline to stay consistently productive.

Q: What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

A: First drafts. I hate how far they are from the thing in my head, and I have to be careful that I don’t psych myself out of the story completely. It’s easy to reread a garbage scene, see only an endless parade of revisions to be done, and abandon the whole damn thing, who wants to do that much work? I just keep reminding myself of that glorious moment, usually second or third draft, when it actually starts to polish up a little. Then all the enthusiasm kicks in.

Q: If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self about becoming an author?

A: That all that stuff you’re writing with the mysterious filenames, so no one would twig what they’re about? The sword and sorcery, the fairy tale adventures, the fanfiction? Trust your heart and don’t stop. You just haven’t found your tribe yet.