Archive for cate gardner

New Year, new review…

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on January 1, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

Another positive review – this time from author Cate Gardner (note: I will declare here that Cate is due to have her own chapbook, Nowhere Hall, published this September by Spectral), published on the Skull Salad review site.

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What They Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon is the first chapbook from new publisher, Spectral Press. Both author and story are excellent choices to open the imprint.

There’s no sound in the quiet room. After the death of their son, Rob and Becky move into a new house and discover the room. It’s a room that shouldn’t exist and like grief, the couple experience the space differently. For Becky it is a comforting place, somewhere to feel close to her son. For Rob, it is a different experience altogether.

There is a sense of menace to the tale and McMahon weaves these characters and the room into our hearts and our nightmares.

What They Hear in the Dark is a gorgeous chapbook–both the story and the presentation. The publisher Simon Marshall Jones has produced a top quality chapbook and I highly recommend it. I should however note (though there is no bias towards the story in this review–I hope) that I have a chapbook forthcoming from Spectral Press.

You can find out more about the imprint and how to purchase either subscriptions or Gary McMahon’s chapbook at the Spectral Press website.

Top Reads 2010 (part the first)

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , on December 8, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

I’ve had a very busy year reviewing-wise (and with many other things, too!) and I have to say that I have read some absolutely brilliant books and collections over the course of the last 12 months. So I thought I’d write a little blog on the literature highlights of my 2010 – it’s been a nightmare choice, just because there have been some great books sent my way. This is just a personal choice, and in no way way reflects the quality of any of the books that I’ve missed out… anyway, here we go.

Light Boxes by Shane Jones (Hamish Hamilton) is a delightfully quirky little modern fairytale, a small book which contains more invention in its 167 pages than many a book ten times that length. It’s also been optioned by film director Spike Jonez (Where the Wild Things Are), so that could indeed be an absolutely amazing cinematic treat, if they ever get around to producing it.

A logical follow-on would be the equally quirky and just as delightful Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits and Other Curious Things collection by Cate Gardner, published by Strange Publications, appropriately enough. This features 24 bizzare, surreal and wonderfully child-like takes on the world, and all with a warm and fuzzy heart at their centre. An absolutely essential read, best read whilst sitting in front of a blazing log fire in your favourite wing-back armchair, with either hot chocolate or mulled wine for accompaniment.

As for horror, I like it several shades of dark and relentlessly oppressive, and verging on the apocalyptic. For that, I go straight to Gary McMahon, and his very first mass-market paperback, Pretty Little Dead Things (Angry Robot), hit the nail squarely on the head. His landcapes, characters and the events that often overwhelm the people involved are the bleakest of the bleak, and for sheer unadulterated shivers and hellishness, then this is the book for you. I predict great things for this man and you should go out FORTHWITH and purchase a copy.

In a similar vein, I also enjoyed Tim Lebbon’s massive collection Last Exit for the Lost (Cemetery Dance). And when I say massive, I mean massive – 150,000 words and a veritable breezeblock of a book in hardback, and all wrapped in a gorgeously atmospheric Les Edwards cover. Tim writes in a very lean, stripped-back style; no verbose extraneity, just the exact words needed to convey whole worlds, emotions and horror. A marvellous exposition of a skill that is actually quite hard to master – a very talented writer.

Finally, at least for this go round, are the two collection from Australia’s Angela Slatter – Sourdough and Other Stories (Tartarus Press – pictured above) and The Girl with no Hands (Ticonderoga Publications – below). Angela specialises in reinventing and realigning the traditional tropes of the fairytale, the kind of thing we all know from our childhoods – the ones that were collected and ‘rearranged’ (to suit a particular agenda) by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. Angela brings them right up-to-date, with vibrant reinterpretations that are more in line with current sensibilities. Additionally, both collections have been lushly produced by the respective presses, with perhaps the cover of The Girl with no Hands just winning out on the most beautiful cover award.

Hope you like my choices so far – another instalment soon!! =)

The calm before the storm…

Posted in General Musings, News with tags , , , , , , , on December 6, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Oh yes, it really is the lull, the quiet interregnum just prior to the mad, swirling chaos that will hit the palatial Marshall-Jones Mansions within the next four to six weeks. Spectral Press Volume I is nearly ready to be sent to the printers, just the final few details to sort out and then it’ll be in their hands, either at the end of this week or beginning of next at the latest. A brief moment of calm, then collect signature sheets, get them sent off to Gary, wait anxiously for their return, take them back to printers for everything to be collated and then another brief moment of calm.

And then the mad rush of stuffing and addressing labels begins, ensuring that subscribers get their copies, promotional activity to all and sundry, sending out PDFs to reviewers, answering enquiries…. and then onto getting Spectral Press Volume II ready… and doing everything again when that gets published… and you know what? Bring it on!!

A couple of nights ago, as I took a break from whatever it was I was doing, I had cause to ponder: Why am I doing this? I know damn well that this isn’t going to earn me a living, let alone make me a millionaire – so why do it? It’s simple: I love books, love the written word and, most especially, love a good, well-told story, written by authors who care about what they write. The very fact that I am creating something in a field that I have derived immense pleasure from is good reason enough for me. If I make a little money that I can put back into the projects I have in mind, should Spectral Press be a success, then even better. But, to coin a cliché, I feel like I am giving something back after taking so much from the scene over the years.

Having said that, I also want to avoid over-extending myself. This is the crucial difference between Spectral Press and FracturedSpacesRecords – I did way too much too soon with the latter, inevitably leaving me with a lot of stock that I am unable to sell (live and learn, eh?). Which is why Spectral will, at most, only publish once a quarter for the forseeable future (or only three in the first year). Admittedly, books are a damn sight easier to deal with, plus I appear to have gained a measure of goodwill from those in the scene, for which I am grateful. Above all, though, I am enjoying myself more than I have ever done with anything else I’ve ever been involved in.

I also like to be busy – I abhor boredom. There’s nothing worse than having nothing to occupy yourself with, apart from watching TV (most of which I detest) or drinking (and I REALLY don’t want to go there again – that was a bad place for me). So, running something like an independent publishers is ideal in many ways – and there’ll be many challenges ahead, but those will keep the stasis firmly away.

And now… as an added bonus, here’s Daniele Serra’s cover art for Cate Gardner’s Nowhere Hall chapbook (please note: the text will be different and everything will eventually conform to the Spectral Press ‘look’ – this is to give you some idea of what it’ll look like, however):

© 2010 Daniele Serra/Spectral Press

More news soon!!

Spectral bits and pieces

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Okay, just a few things to tell you before I get down to working on the main piece for today. First off, I am excited to be able to announce that the artist Daniele Serra has agreed to create the cover for Spectral III, Cate Gardner’s Nowhere Hall. His work has appeared in a whole panoply of places, including DC Comics, Image Comics, Weird Tales magazine and Cemetery Dance, and has adorned the covers of many books, including works by Allyson Bird, Brian Stableford and the recent anti-fascist anthology Never Again, published by Gray Friar Press. Cate’s surreal tale of a man haunted by other people’s ghosts would be better represented by Daniele’s beautifully and darkly eerie artwork than a photo – and I think you’ll agree too when you see his work. His website can be accessed here.

Don’t forget, yearly subscriptions are available for Spectral Press publications – you can pay through Paypal or you can now send me a cheque if you prefer. Each sub will cost £10UK/£12EU /$20US/ $25US RoW (all prices inclusive of postage and packing). Individual chapbooks will be available for £3.50UK/£4EU/$8US/$12RoW (again all prices inclusive of p+p). You can send remittances to spectralpress[at]gmail[dot]com – for details of how to pay by cheque, please send an email to the same address and I’ll get back to you forthwith.

As an incentive, if you do choose to subscribe before the first publication, then your name will be entered into the prize-draw, where you’ll stand the chance of winning a specially signed and framed edition of the first chapbook by Gary McMahon (What They Hear in the Dark). Alongside it will be a copy of the annotated manuscript, ie  Gary has scrawled all over it in his best red biro – he’s even signed it and ‘illuminated’ it with a little doodle of a smiley horned devil on it as well. The winner will even get a free subscription extension for another year on top of that… now that’s what I call a bargain!

I look forward to hearing from you!!

Spectral Press: some teasers….

Posted in News, Other with tags , , , , , , on November 8, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

So, as a form of gentle encouragement to you all and as teasers as to what you can expect in the first year of Spectral Press’s existence, here are the back-cover blurbs of the first three chapbooks. (Please note: the publication dates are tentative only – as previously stated this is only because I need sufficient time to raise the funds for this venture. IF I manage to get the funds sooner, then the publication dates will be brought forward – buying a subscription will certainly help make Spectral Press a reality even sooner!!)

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WHAT THEY HEAR IN THE DARK – Gary McMahon (April/May 2011)

An absence is more terrifying than a presence…

Rob and Becky bought the old place after the death of their son, to repair and renovate – to patch things up and make the building habitable.

They both knew that they were trying to fix more than the house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.

Then they found the Quiet Room.”

“Gary McMahon’s horror is heartfelt…” –Tim Lebbon

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THE ABOLISHER OF ROSES – Gary Fry (September 2011)

“It’s not always the guilty who have the darkest secrets . . .

Peter has been married to Patricia for nearly thirty years. He’s a practical man, the owner of a thriving factory and the father of two fine lads.

He also has a secret mistress.

One day, his wife takes him along to an outdoor arts exhibition involving some of her paintings, staged in a dark, deep wood. The fact that Peter would rather go for a pie and a pint and to watch the match is something he keeps very much to himself.

But his are not the only secrets in this marriage. And as Peter strays off the only path through the woods, he soon realises that Patricia – through the weirdest of creative art – has quite a few revelations for him . . .”

“Fry is a writer whose technique is as accomplished as his intellect and imagination are powerful.”–Reggie Oliver

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NOWHERE HALL – Cate Gardner (January 2012)

“We want to live…

In the ballroom, wallflower mannequins stretch their fingers towards Ron. He can’t ask them to dance. He’s already waltzing with other ghosts.

Someone stole the world while Ron contemplated death. They packed it in a briefcase and dumped him in the halls of the ruined hotel–The Vestibule. A nowhere place.”

“One of the finest and most individual voices around- there really is no-one quite like Cate Gardner.” –Simon Bestwick

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Now don’t those sound absolutely fantastic! Get your orders in now, as there will ONLY be 100 of each, signed and numbered…. act fast!