For the record – how the Black Dawn became a series

I need to set this up first, otherwise shooting myself in the foot, which I plan to do in a minute, isn’t going to work.

When a writer needs to explain something about their work, whether before or after publication, it’s as though they’re intimating that the work is incomplete. In groups I’ve run and classes I’ve taught in the past, whenever writers read their material aloud, rather than giving everyone an introduction or preamble, I always encouraged them to dive in and let the writing speak for itself.

That’s the pure way, the artistic way – takes some courage but it was always worth it for the feedback from listeners hearing it ‘cold’ rather than prepped.

Ahem. Now then…

*aims Glock at tarsals*

Seeing as it’s been almost four years since the Black Dawn series was published, there’s something I want to tell you.

*squeezes trigger*

Between them, Black Feathers and The Book of the Crowman have close to a thousand ratings on Goodreads, which is lovely.

Keeping an eye on Goodreads reviews is a great way for authors to gauge how their work is received by a wide selection of booklovers.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Goodreads, I’d never have discovered that hardly any readers understand why these two books became a series.

Here’s the truth: Continue reading

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Cometh the Crowman, people…

It comes as no surprise to me that images of the Crowman have begun to appear around the world, scrawled hastily on walls and in alleyways in furtive acts of prophecy.

Just to get his dark form out of the mind and onto a ‘canvas’ – whether it be cracked brickwork or a warped timber fence – must be a tremendous relief. I know from long, crushing experience what a burden the Crowman is to carry.

These are the latest pictures. Continue reading

Eco Shock Horror

Broadcaster Alex Smith works tirelessly and single-handedly to bring you cutting edge information and incisive wisdom on the environment: latest science, authors and issues including climate change, oceans, forests, pollution, Peak Oil, the economy and peace.

Listen to his weekly show and you’ll be most dreadfully educated about the ecological challenges we all face.

Alex was kind enough to take an interest in my ecologically inspired horror and fantasy novels, including MEAT, Garbage Man and The Black Dawn series.

We had a great chat, me sitting on my sofa in Northamptonshire recovering from killer man-flu and him somewhere in Vancouver – a place I’ve always wanted to visit.

Take a listen for an in-depth discussion of the eco-horror genre or visit the Ecoshock blog for a written précis and info about the rest of this week’s episode…

Spawning The Black Dawn

This article first appeared at Upcoming4me

blackfeathersPersonally speaking, it’s very rare that a single idea will be strong enough to withstand being written as a novel. It’s far more common that a number of separate incidents, notions and musings will, over time, begin to add up to something more. This is absolutely true in the case of The Black Dawn. Where the series differs in this respect is how long that process took; almost thirty years.

The thread began in school:

When I was fourteen I made a batik in art class. I couldn’t think of a subject so I looked for inspiration in a picture book. I found a photo of three crows silhouetted in a dead tree at sunset and that became the design. The batik was stolen soon after completion. That, and the fact that I received a ‘merit’ for it, makes me suspect it was quite an attractive object. Whatever the case, the iconic design stayed with me and caused me to notice corvids whenever they were around.

crowman, worzel gummidgeIn my early twenties, long before I began to write fiction, I met a performance artist who used to dress in a long black coat and black top hat with feathers in its band. He would paint his face white and ‘entertain’ people at festivals. What’s far more likely, I suspect, is that his character unsettled people; especially children. He called his creation the Crowman. As a child, I’d heard the same name in a TV show called Worzel Gummidge, but I never gave it a second thought – I didn’t like the programme at all, quite honestly – until it was spoken in real life. It sparked the idea of a trickster spirit or shaman. My own imagining of the Crowman began to take shape.Vodou priest

A few years later, I began to take more of an interest in shamanism and the way in which people, usually from less techno-centric cultures, interact with nature. It slowly dawned on me that everything on our planet exists in relationship. Whilst we might have the illusion of being separate from the natural world – say, because we live in a city or have no interest in the outdoors – the reality is that our food and the clothes we wear and all the things we use day to day, even our highest achievements in science, are all dependent on what we find around us in nature or underneath us in the ground. I began to wonder how it was that we could have become so apparently unaware of this. Once I started wondering, I couldn’t stop. And I think it’s likely that this questioning has influenced the majority of my fiction.

Here’s a quaint superstition: some people say that if you find a white feather, it’s because you’ve been visited by an angel. What a lovely idea. I wondered, conversely, what it might mean if you found a black feather. Would that mean you’d been visited by a demon? An angel of darkness?

Whilst I’m not religious, I’m completely fascinated by spirituality and how it manifests in human cultures. Messiah stories are particularly interesting. If you look at them as metaphors for the unfolding of the soul in an individual, these holy works become very much like a hero’s journey. It struck me that I could turn that around just a little; taking an ordinary person’s life and chronicling it as though it were the life of a messiah.

These notions, events and wonderings gathered mass over the years, colliding and amalgamating in my subconscious and occasionally leaping into conscious view. That’s the way things usually happen for me but it’s the ridiculous length of that process that was different in creating Black Feathers and The Book of The Crowman.

If it ever takes that long again, I expect I’ll be looking for a new line of work.TheBookOfTheCrowman-300dpi

Goodreads giveaway – The Book of the Crowman

TheBookOfTheCrowman-300dpiThose astonishingly generous folk at Angry Robot Books are giving away 10 copies of The Book of the Crowman.

GIVING THEM AWAY.

Ten.

Are they mad or something?

And you don’t even have to answer a question or do a special dance or sing a song or anything. All you need to do is enter for a chance to win.

Insane, isn’t it? Where do they get these ideas from?

Anyway, good luck!

Black Feathers and The Book of the Crowman: Reunited

Reunited2

I’m somewhat overwhelmed.

It’s four and a half years since I wrote the opening lines of a novel titled Black Feathers: The Book of the Crowman.

These were the lines:

“When the final days came, it was said that Satan walked the Earth in the guise of a crow. Those who feared him called him Scarecrow or sometimes Black Jack. I know him as the Crowman.”

Seven months later, the first draft was complete but it took almost three years to find a home for the novel – with the wonderful Angry Robot Books. Unfortunately, it was too long to publish in one book so there followed much labour, breaking what was essentially one story into two parts.

Now, however, there’s no need for the story to be split any longer. My copies arrived this morning and they look beautiful together.

With the circle complete, it’s time for me to write a new book…

*gets down to business*

NetGalley ARC of ‘The Book of the Crowman’ goes live

TheBookOfTheCrowman-300dpi

Well, today is the day when the final part of the Black Dawn Series becomes ‘visible’.

I almost can’t believe it. The result of four years’ work is now in the public domain, albeit to reviewers only at this point.

Still, it feels like a special moment so I might have a little celebration tonight…

But, until I start to see their responses, all I can do is hope that the critics will be delighted by what they find at NetGalley