Letting go

Letting go

Fear freezes us, very often. We tighten our fingers, clinging on to the known and the settled, but that instinct can be counter-productive. Ask any parent. I’ve got *three kids, and two of them are filling me with fear at the moment. I want to protect them, desperately, but I also know that if I …

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End of year review 2021

End of year review, 2021

The last time I took proper stock of The Fine-toothed Comb was way back in March. It was supposed to be the first of my Quarterly Reviews but, as it turned out, it was also the last. The longer I spent bobbing about in the ocean of self-employment, the harder I found it to tread …

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Stuff is nonsense

Stuff is nonsense

‘What do you want for Christmas?’ I used to have a million answers to that one; these days I’m more likely to say, ‘I don’t need anything.’ Hah! It always drove me mad when my parents said it, but I’ve started to come around to their way of thinking. Perhaps it’s age-related. Perspectives change over …

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Want-to wants

Want-towants

Do you know what you want? Okay, but do you really want it, or do you just ‘want’ to want it? There’s a difference, see, and it took me a long time to understand that. Take writing, for instance. I’ve always had a facility with words, so writing and editing should have been a shoo-in. English Literature was my favourite subject at school, and I followed it right the way through to university, which begs the question…why did it take me so long to get into the industry?

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Discomforting (Parsing Judgement #2)

Discomforting (Parsing Judgement #2))

I’ve had some difficult conversations with clients (and prospective clients) over the years. People can be…resistant to constructive criticism, despite the fact they’re paying for it—all the more so if there’s an inherent issue to the writing that stains character and plot. Some of the most delicate conversations, I find, are those in which the issues of subconscious misogyny, racism or bigotry must be raised. Writing is intensely personal, after all. But look, horror fiction is my bread and butter; *context matters, so I’m here today to help parse the difference between portraying repugnant things and absorbing them into your writing.

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FCon-templation

Horrific Tales

I was going to focus this post on FantasyCon 2021, which I attended in Birmingham last weekend, but I found that I couldn’t engage with the event in the normal way. This is not a criticism – with Covid-19 still very much on the rampage, I’m not sure any of us felt entirely comfortable. Instead, I’m going to talk about the significance of the event to me past and present, my mental state leading up to it this year, the fears and hopes I carried, and the final actual experience of reconnection with my tribe.

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Raising my game

Raising my game

What makes somebody a professional? At the most basic level, it’s earning your stripes well enough that perfect strangers will pay you to work for them. By those broad standards I already consider myself a professional editor, but there’s more to it than that. Laurels aren’t for sitting on. It’s one thing to be approached by indie authors or hired by small-press publishers, but quite another to be recognised by industry peers and leaders in the field. To that purpose, and to boost my ongoing professional development, I have now joined the CIEP.

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We, the Remedials – a performed reading

Giant housefly. Text reads: We, the Remedials - a performed reading

Hello! We, the Remedials, welcome you to our humble hotel. We trust you will have a pleasant, comfortable and enlightening stay with us, however long it may last. If you find that you need anything, be sure and ask – that is why we are here, after all!

This is the latest of my performed readings, bringing your writing to life and hopefully helping to find you a few more readers. In this peculiar tale, our unremarkable hero finds himself out of his depth in the big city and trapped in a waking nightmare. Welcome to The Remedial. It’s been waiting for you.

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Geek families (Finding Me, part 3)

Geek families (Finding Me, pt3)

I threw myself into fatherhood with great enthusiasm. We didn’t know what we were doing – who the heck does? – but Clo and I supported each other and figured things out as a team. One of the things we figured out early on was that children are adaptable. So long as she was loved and cared for, Summer-Rose would be perfectly able deal with whatever world she grew up in—and if that happened to include weekends camping in ruined castles while Clover and I got our medieval groove on, then all the better. It provided a change of scene and gave her some childhood magic.

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Le Mort Vivant, pt2 – a performed reading

Image of The Phantom of the Opera, unmasked and burning. Text reads: Le Mort Vivant pt2, by Steven Chapman, performed by Dion Winton-Polak

Welcome to the second part of this month’s performed reading: Le Mort Vivant. Fleeing the hypnotic Violet, our monstrous youth returns to the questionable safety of home. Confronted by a scene of bloody murder, he finds the net closing in on all sides. Can he protect the girl from his mother? Is the mysterious stranger really his father? Can anything be salvaged from the conflagration? This is the conclusion of Steven Chapman’s secret origin of The Phantom of the Opera in all its tragic glory. (Oh, and here’s the link to part 1 in case you missed it.)

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Le Mort Vivant, pt1 – a performed reading

Mask of The Phantom reflected in water and flame

This month’s performed reading is Le Mort Vivant, by Steven Chapman. It’s the tale of a monstrous youth. Hiding in the shadows of the Palais Garnier, a masked figure looks longingly at a world he’s forbidden to touch—until he chances upon a precocious girl at the heart of his lair, and a ghastly family secret. Yes – this is the secret origin of The Phantom of the Opera in all its tragic glory. The story is longer than usual, so I’ve taken the decision to split it in two, breaking off at an appropriate point. Fear not, pt2 will arrive next week, so you won’t have to wait long.

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The Minotaur (Finding Me, part 2)

Minotaur in the labyrinth

It’s a funny old business, life. Some people seem set up, right from the start. They know who they are, what they are, and how to get along. Some folk even seem to know what the future holds for them – or at least they have firm plans. I was a late starter; blinking, dazed, and unsure of myself. University gave me independence and self-confidence, my girlfriend gave me love and companionship, and I thought that was all I’d need. It was stability, but I still hadn’t found ‘me’. Not yet.

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Seeking Resolution

I recently discussed ways in which we can avoid conflict when editing (or being edited) in a blog post called ‘It ain’t what we say’. You might think of today’s post as something of a follow-up, though it has applications in the real world too.

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The Cardiac Ordeal – a performed reading

Bloody hands, used to form the shape of a heart

This month’s performed reading is The Cardiac Ordeal, by Andrew Freudenberg. It’s a tense tale which involves the kidnapping of a toddler and the chilling lengths her dad goes to in order to try to recover her. (If this concerns you, rest assured there is no form of abuse either witnessed or intimated in the story.)

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It’s the way that we say it

Good and bad ways to communicate e.g. Accuracy, Negative, Brevity, Harsh, Clarity, Demeanour, Unhelpful, Frank, Uncritical, Emotion.

Writing is a perilous thing. Thoughts flit to and fro, speech vanishes in a half-remembered haze, but written words are here to stay. Fixed. Scrutinised long after the fact. If we choose them poorly, we can destroy our relationships, our sales and our reputations.

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Reinvention (Finding Me, part 1)

Student party

I’m happier now than I have even been – personally, socially, and professionally. If that sounds like a boast, I beg forgiveness, but when I look back along my footsteps, it feels nothing short of miraculous. I’ve been through bad times and mad times. These days, life feels pretty sweet. The secret? It came down to finally finding ‘me’.

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Christmas Fare – a performed reading

Christmas Fare ident

This month’s performed reading is Christmas Fare, a short story by Pippa Bailey. It may seem an odd time of year to put out this kind of tale, but for our main character, it’s Christmas every day. Originally written with a ‘Hallmark Cinematic Universe’ kind of thing in mind, Pippa takes some familiar tropes and has some good gory fun with it.

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Thinking about Purpose – Parsing Judgement #1

Judgement

Parsing’ (v.) The act of analysing a sentence into its constituent parts.

Judgement’ (n.) An opinion held or conclusion reached.

I came very close to dumping the title of this blog series, but I’ve come back around to it. Forgive me getting a little meta, but I’m going to use my internal debate on the subject to help illustrate the concept and the value of Purpose for your own writing.

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Swimming Out to Sea – a performed reading

Lone figure on beach

Welcome back, one and all. I’ve had a fair few people stick up their hands to get a story recorded for this, my monthly foray into audio narration. This half-hour horror comes from the mind of the wonderful Penny Jones. It’s a quietly disturbing tale of disorientation, set at the seaside on a roasting-hot day. Swimming Out To Sea was originally featured in The Black Room Manuscripts vol. 4 from The Sinister Horror Company, but it can also be found in Suffer Little Children, Penny’s micro-collection for Black Shuck Books.

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Breaking through (Cracking Isolation, part 3)

A helping hand

Welcome back all, and thanks for bearing with me. In part 1, I spoke of my childhood experience of loneliness and some of the ways in which I began to break free. Part 2 had me thinking about the different behaviours I’ve seen in other people that revealed their own isolation, either overtly or covertly. As I said at the time, I’m not a qualified expert on the matter, so please keep that caveat in mind as I now consider what we might actually do about it in this, the final part of the series.

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