Julia Kavan’s brilliant short story is re-released today. If you missed it last time, catch it now…
Dreaming, Not Sleeping
Some nightmares are simply too good to resist…
So, I’m here. There’s no turning back.
A few steps farther off the path and I will be consumed by the dark. A few steps farther and I will be embraced by the forest, wrapped in the musty smell of decay, held in its damp caress. A few steps farther and I will be lost forever.
Fallen twigs snap beneath my feet. Leaves whisper conspiratorially as I brush past. Twisted branches snatch at my face, scratch my cheek, draw blood. I press my fingers first against the wound, then against my lips, tasting the ferrous stain on my skin. I can hear my own breathing, my own heartbeat, over the wind whipping through the canopy of trees above me.
Not long now and I’ll see him. Not long now and I’ll be held softly in his arms and loved in a way I have only briefly tasted but often imagined.
It’s the horror writer’s favourite time of year. Halloween lurks just around the corner, and we invite you to leap out of the shadows and scare us witless. I’ve joined evil forces with horror writer Julia Kavan (author of Dreaming, Not Sleeping ) to give you the chance to make our Halloween.
We’re running a short story contest during October in the hope of finding some fabulously frightening fiction. Of course, we may be evil but we’re not totally wicked – this isn’t just for our own dark amusement! Whoever manages to come up with a tale that makes us quake and queasy will win a £20/$30 Amazon gift card.
Study the image below. Peer into the shadows, look up into the darkness and down into the light. What tales lurk there, waiting to be told?
Stories can be as short as you like and up to 3000 words in length. Please format your work with double line spacing and attach it to an email as a .doc, .docx or .rtf file. Entries must arrive before midnight (GMT) on October 31st 2013. Send your entries to email@example.com, with HALLOWEEN CONTEST in the subject line. The winning story will be announced on 1st November* and published on both our websites if the winner permits.
Julia Kavan made my day recently when she told me that her short story Safe Harbour had been chosen to appear in Sanitarium horror magazine. It’s a while since Julia graced this blog so I asked her to come over for a bit of a grilling.
Steve: Welcome, Julia. What do you think to the broomstick parking bay I had made for you?
JK: Well, you could have swept it… here, you can borrow my broom 🙂 Thanks for the invitation, it’s been a while…
Steve: So, Safe Harbour is out in public. Congratulations! I think readers will love it, but it hasn’t been plain sailing (excuse the pun) has it?
JK: It’s had a few ‘almost, but not quite’ moments. I think I’m most disappointed with its ‘almost, but not quite a radio performance’. I’d love to hear Safe Harbour being read, but it wasn’t to be. However, I’m thrilled that Barry Skelhorn, editor of Sanitarium, accepted the story.
Steve: I’ll read it for you if you can get me on a radio show 😉 Now, I know you have some quirks when it comes to forms of transport but how are you with boats? Since this story has a nautical flavour presumably you’re a hardened sea dog (I couldn’t say sea bitch, could I)?
JK: Quirks? What quirks…? Okay, so I have been known to get travel sick in a lift… and as for going over all those hills to get here… and actually I’d probably need sea sickness tablets to use the Thames Clipper. However, I do love the sea – particularly when it’s angry. I love the sound and the taste of it in the air. I’m not one to declare my love for the ocean from the comfort of a sun lounger at the edge of a calm blue sea. The rougher the sea (as long as I’m not on it) and the wilder the coastline, the better. And I’d rather be clambering over rocks than sitting on a beach, although I do go there to watch the sunset sometimes – there’s a certain eeriness being by the sea at night. I also used to go for walks on the cliffs at Dover when I was a kid – scrabbling up the lesser-used cliff paths (which kind of makes me shudder now) to get to the top. One day I’ll write something set there, I think.
Steve: Well, then, you’d better tell us why you wrote this story and something about it. Tempt my readers with it.
JK: Safe Harbour is a very short but intense (I hope!) horror story –– originally written for a competition, I think the prompt was ‘shipwrecked’. Along with my love of ghosts and demons and creatures of the night I also had a bit of a fascination with mermaids when I was very young – only not the Disney kind, I preferred the darker myths about the creatures.
Steve: I thought I could smell fish. Now, you’ve a very inspiring graphic to go with the story. How did you come up with that?
JK: LOL, subtle, Steve… I think you should have put a winky emoticon there… 😉 aside from my putting the final image together, the composition was pretty much down to you! We both enjoy a bit of photo-manipulation when we’re not writing, and I find it relaxing – usually. However, you kindly got the images together for me during a somewhat frazzled moment. Thank you.
Steve: Oi! I wasn’t looking for thanks. You knew what you wanted – as you always do. Listen, I know many people are waiting for your next book. What’s on the horizon?
JK: Well, of course you and I are still putting the finish touches to our joint project, ready to get feedback from some brave beta-readers. When we’ve finished working on the novel I’d like to write more horror/dark shorts. I also have a WIP – Sinner – which is growing in quick, violent bursts. I don’t know if it will turn into a novel just yet, though.
Steve: What’s your take on the state of horror publishing at the moment? Do you think readers have enough choice now?
JK: When it comes to horror novels – no, there doesn’t seem to be a huge choice from mainstream publishers…or any choice really. There was a glimmer of hope recently when a small publisher opened its door to horror submissions, only to shut it again very quickly. As you mentioned in a recent radio interview, everything seems to be crime based, about tracking down serial killers etc.
Steve: Yes, it’s a crime, when really it ought to be a sin 😈 What do you think could improve things?
JK: Well, I understand that publishing is a business and publishers are out to make money at the end of the day… but… it would be nice for them to be more willing to take a chance with new writers.
Steve: Well, yes – new writers can sell, too, after all! Have you read any really good books in the last couple of months that you’d like to share with us?
JK: I’ve been so busy concentrating on our joint project I haven’t really had time to read anything substantial. I have several books I’ve started and put to one side. Instead I’ve found myself dipping into some horror anthologies, and I’m becoming more drawn towards novellas. I have Cousin K on my ‘to read’ list thanks to your recommendation.
Steve: Cousin K is a superb book! Here’s the link to my review at New York Journal of Books:
Steve: I don’t do definitions, that’s what dictionaries are for.
JK: Grrr! I’ve part-read plenty of stories that haven’t grabbed me by the throat – and I do like to be grabbed…or seduced, or intrigued… something… I may just be really hard to please, though.
Steve: You? Hard to please? Don’t make me larf, darlin! *gasps* Where do you see yourself twelve months from now?
JK: Still writing what I love, I hope.
Steve: I know you like Pinterest, so give us something to look at that sums up your work.
JK: I do like Pinterest – I remember when I used to have folders and display books of images, cuttings and notes when I first started writing. In fact I still have everything I collected for my first novel in a box somewhere. Pinterest is much tidier J and I can access my images anywhere. I have boards for all WIPs – so if people wander around my page they’ll catch a glimpse of what may be to come.
As a kid I read horror story upon horror story and had a shelf full of horror anthologies in my room. I hoped that one day I might have my own story included in a collection – one of those childhood dreams that I put aside for a while. It’s taken some time I know, but I got there in the end.
Today sees the official release of the horror anthology Touched by Darkness, published by Etopia Press, including my short, erotic horror story, Dreaming, Not Sleeping. I have my copy on my Kindle already and can’t wait to dive in and start reading the rest of the stories.
It was a thrill to see my name on the cover on my Kindle, and I can’t wait to hold the paperback in my hands when it is released in October!
My thanks to Steve, for having me here today and for the “For God’s sake, get on with it” words of encouragement.
On 16th September, as most of you will now be aware, I am appearing at the Northampton booQfest. I’ll be talking about horror, reading from Diavolino, answering questions and signing books. The moderatrix is my friend and fellow horror author Julia Kavan. With just a week to go I thought it would be a good time to drag her in here so that you can get to know her a little bit.
S: Welcome, Julia. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that you had been chosen to crack the whip at my event at booQfest. How did you pull this off?
J: I originally approached Morgen Bailey when I heard about booQfest, to offer my help with either promoting the event or perhaps doing something practical at the booQfest itself, as Northampton isn’t too far away from where I live. I also mentioned I’d be stopping by to hear you speak… a few days later Daniel Burrows contacted me with the idea of me moderating your session. So, I was just as surprised to be asked as you were to find I was the one assigned to keep in you in line…erm, I mean moderate your session. (Where did I put that whip?)
S: That’ll teach you! I feel honoured to have been asked to speak at this event, especially with so many well-known writers about the place. To tell the truth, my nerves are starting to surface. I’m not quite horrified, but I can sense traces of mild terror. Are you all cool, calm and collected, ready to put down any daring hecklers?
J: As an experienced tutor I am used to speaking in front of people… although it’s been a while since I’ve done so as I’ve been concentrating on my own writing over the last couple of years. I’m certain that the audience will be friendly.
S: I’ll hold you to that. The Festival celebrates gay and lesbian authors (local and national) and their writing. This years’ booQfest is also reaching out to a wider audience so that other local writers can use it as a platform to publicise their work even if they do not directly identify with the LGBT community. Do you think there are enough opportunities nationwide for new or local or niche writers to showcase themselves and their work? If not, what would you like to see taking place?
J: I think the number of literary events created by writers themselves is growing. I’ve seen more events advertised recently than I remember seeing for a long time – after all, the whole point of writing for most authors is for others to read their work or hear/see it performed. In fact I’ve just seen that someone is already arranging a poetry festival in my home city for next year. I don’t think I will be inflicting my poetry on any poor audience, however– it takes horror to a whole new level.
I do think it’s a shame that larger bookshops no longer seem to want to support new and local authors – which is counter-productive, really – anything that brings customers in to the shop to buy books is surely a good thing (isn’t it?), and they are seen to be supporting new writers… and this week’s new writer could be next months big thing – but they have to be able to get their books seen. Luckily we have a great independent bookshop near to where I live which puts on regular readings and talks featuring both well known and local authors. With agents unwilling to take as many risks on new writers, wanting only to take on those they see as likely to achieve high sales (and fair enough it is a business they are running… but what happened to the idea of nurturing new talent?) writers are finding other ways to publish and get their stories out there. The literary landscape is changing… I wonder if the tremors started by writers being able to self-publish e-books will at some point develop into a full-blown earthquake.
S: We are certainly living in interesting times, I agree. I imagine that you’re going to kick-off the Q and A session with some probing of your own. What sort of things are you hoping to drag out of me and lay bare for the public?
J: Oh…as if I’d give you an inkling of what I’m going to ask! Where’s the fun in that? But I like to know how people tick…what makes their hearts beat faster…
S: Depends what sort of tick you mean, I suppose. I doubt it’s a big secret that, as moderatrix, you know more or less what I am going to talk about. So, without giving the game away, what would you say my theme is? In other words, if someone is looking at this and wondering whether to come or not, how would you persuade them?
J: Writers are often advised to ‘write what you know’ – some readers hearing that piece of wisdom might then look askance at the author of a horror novel, wondering if what they write is how they really think, but, in my view, there is far more to horror than gore, violence and the ability to scare a reader. There’s history and tradition. I like new horror writers who find ways to blend the old with the new. Diavolino does this in great style and this in an opportunity to discover how.
S: *blushes* Sunday 16th is by its nature going to be about me, but you write extremely taught scary stuff yourself. Why don’t you tell my readers something about yourself, your stories and where they can find you?
J: I grew up reading horror stories and a lot of sci-fi. I also read a lot of non-fiction – Fortean Times, Erik von Däniken, and magazines like Man, Myth and Magic (that might give away my age – erm – they were old, dusty copies J ). I exhausted the local library’s supply of supernatural reference books very quickly – I was fascinated by anything ‘otherworldly’. As a teenager I started writing my own horror (not sure it was terribly horrific – more like the dark ramblings of a moody teen), but back then I had no thought of trying to get published – it was just for the fun of playing with words. I returned to writing horror about 12 years ago, again for fun at first, but then I signed up to a creative writing course and started writing a novel. This was followed by a couple of screenplays as well as short stories in between. I still didn’t start submitting to publishers as I found myself teaching a creative writing course for my local college, as well as starting up a writing group for teenagers – and my time was taken up by that. Sometimes the path to where you want to be can be long and winding! Now I mostly write short stories, but I have a novel which is now being submitted to agents and publishers, and I am just starting work on another. I still write horror and suspense – I guess I’m just happiest in the dark. To find out more about me and my writing drop in at www.juliakavan.com
S: We have a super venue for the event and I’m looking forward to it, despite the nerves. I need to find where to park the car but tell me, are you coming on your broomstick?
J: Tsk, broomsticks are so yesterday, Steve. Bilocation is the way to go now – you can achieve twice as much in the same time. The question is, which version of me are you going to get on the day… the evil one or the nice one? Hmmm, doppelgänger story comes to mind…
Steve: Two of you? Now that’s an horrific thought if ever there was.