Harmonic Sanctuary

Pz Churchyard Headstone Detail

Life in West Cornwall has recently become about planning for storms, hiding from storms and hoping they’ll pass before the windows are blown in or the roof comes off. Like many places, Mounts Bay has taken a battering, with the last two Spring tides and storm force winds combining to smash much of the front between Newlyn and Penzance and hurl huge paving slabs and granite blocks across the Promenade and into the road.

Somehow, no one here has been injured. Many places are faring worse (we still
have power and for that I’m grateful) but it’s a frightening time and some of us are having to adapt our lives somewhat – including the fact that our links with the rest of the UK are now tenuous to say the least. Perhaps one day it will make for some (cathartic) fiction but for now it’s too dreadful to contemplate in that way.

Pz Churchyard Smallpox 2014
Despite all this and the endless disturbed nights hearing the wind thundering
against the building, I’ve been managing to get a fair amount of writing done.
All the stories I wrote last year have been edited and re-written where
necessary and are now with Storylandia. I’ve also massively re-worked Rebecca Shadow and it’s now in a coherent state to continue with, although I suspect it won’t be a quick one to finish, having taken the difficult route and based it in a modern house; atmosphere is far harder to work into this setting rather than a rambling old mansion. Although I’m bearing in mind that one of the more famous alleged poltergeist/hauntings of recent times occurred in a Council house in Enfield, Middlesex, during the 1970s; spirits, malevolent or otherwise, can appear anywhere. I’m enjoying the difficulty, actually, the opportunity to push myself, and the whole point of the story is about how the fantastique can be part of ordinary, even deprived, lives. Seth Lakeman’s new album, Word of Mouth, has provided much of the backdrop to my current work, along with the sounds made by Wind Harps – amazing structures that can be part of a door or window frame or sometimes placed at sacred sites to see what musick they create.

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Focus on infinity

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A few more things are falling into place now: after several months of sitting in the ‘slush pile’ (a term I always thought pointlessly derogatory), Ellen Datlow’s new horror anthology Fearful Symmetries has finally rejected The Ferocious Night. I have no way of knowing if anyone even read it, but at least I’ve been notified. With over 1,000 submissions to wade through, it was probably inevitable that the process was impersonal, but my polite query regarding the timescale on their tracking system got a huffy reply that the tracking system was basically useless. In which case, folks, why have it? It must have created a lot of unnecessary angst among authors and editors alike. Anyway, the story has been snapped up by Storylandia for their Spring 2014 issue. Just when I thought the story would never see publication. Bless them and their fine journal.

The ‘Two of Us’ feature on the St Buryan Wisewomen has been finished and sent to Curve magazine, together with a couple of photos (not taken by me, I should add). It’s tempted me to do more interviews. The thought of getting the stories of local 21st Century witches (and there are a fair few of them around) down on record could be an amazing project and important for historical and social reasons. I no longer have the tape of the interview I did in 2005 with Cheryl Straffon but the article is elsewhere on this site (‘The Cornish Witch’).

As for fiction: Widdershins is awaiting its second full draft, while I steamroller my way through the first draft of Grave Goods, a proper horror story, which is proving quite fun to write. Not as ‘deep’, perhaps, as what I usually write, but hopefully it’ll have a nice twist at the end and some interesting characters. I’ve been playing Kitty Jay, probably Seth Lakeman’s greatest album, full of dark Dartmoor tales and it’s undoubtedly an influence. From The Bones, meanwhile, has been rejected a few times, most recently by KZine. Editor Graeme Hurry has always offered wise and constructive criticism, so I’m going to have another look the story as soon as time allows.