Certain about Uncertainties III, plus R&R review

grande_uncertainties3I’m excited to announce the publication of Uncertainties III, edited by Lynda E Rucker and published by Swan River Press. It will be out in September and it is now available for preorder. This anthology contains my story “The Golden Hour”, alongside stories by eleven wonderful writers. Here’s the table of contents:

“Monica in the Hall of Moths” Matthew M. Bartlett
“Warner’s Errand” SP Miskowski
“Wyrd” Adam Nevill
“Wanting” Joyce Carol Oates
“Bobbo” Robert Shearman
“Before I Walked Away” RS Knightley (Rachel Knightley)
“Voices in the Night” Lisa Tuttle
“It Could Be Cancer” Ralph Robert Moore
“The Woman in the Moon” Tracy Fahey
“TallDarkAnd” Julia Rust and David Surface
“Ashes to Ashes” Scott West
“The Golden Hour” Rosanne Rabinowitz

This looks like a wonderful line-up and I thank Lynda for bringing us all together. I am certain that Uncertainties III will be a very special book. When I had The Book of American Martyrs signed by Joyce Carol Oates at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival I had no idea that we’d be rubbing shoulders on the same TOC.

And in case you’re wondering, the ‘golden hour’ refers to the hour just after sunrise and the hour before sunset when the light is indeed golden and transfiguring…

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A bell of the Harelle!

Meanwhile, Resonance & Revolt has received a new review from Deborah Walker on GoodReads and Amazon.

“As well as the fine stories, I was struck by the coherence of the book, which danced with the theme of Resonance of emotion, of music and of Revolt expressing what it is to take action and move beyond the constraints of what is expected of us.”

She mentions a favourite: “The story which wormed into my brain was Bells of the Harelle, a story blending 14th century rioting, heresy, and eroticism with humour and scientific mystery.”

So if you want rioting (be it 14th century, 21st century or somewhere in between), head-banging heresy, eroticism, humour and scientific mystery you just might enjoy R&R.

 

 

 

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Let’s talk about ghosts – and guest blogs

Dg1t15MW4AE-b1NSo it’s been a couple of months since my last blog post. My excuse?

I will confess that I have been playing away. Yes, I’ve been guest-blogging for two other sites. Instead of being a productive blogger at home, I’ve been off annoying someone else’s followers.

First, you’ll find my piece ‘Get Yourself Collected’ on the Milford SF Writers blog, where I discuss what I learned from producing Resonance & Revolt. I discovered that there’s a lot more to that first collection than recycling your old tales. Themes, story selection, angst! And be warned, the longer you put off your first collection the more severe the angst will be.

I’ve also been visiting James Everington’s Scattershot Writing blog, holding forth in Music for Writers, a series where authors post music they like to listen to while they write. You’ll also be able to check out tunes from other contributors including Andrew Hook,  Neil Williamson and Ray Cluley. James Everington, by the way, is an excellent writer that I met when we both appeared in The Outsiders anthology, my first venture into Lovecraftiana.

And now lets move from guesting to the ghosts. A few weeks ago I attended the Dublin Ghost Story Festival, a small gathering organised by Brian J Showers of Swan River Press. The event featured panels, talks and readings that explored strange and uncanny fiction.

I last spent time in Dublin in 2004, when I came to town for a May Day weekend of anti-capitalist demonstrations.  This was back in the era of ye olde Celtic Tiger so I was expecting things to look a little different. As my coach made its way through Dublin city centre from the airport I recognised a few places, even a glimpse of the community centre on Cathal Brugha Street where we met up and hatched plans and it’s where some of our soggy minions returned after getting water-cannoned.  

Then I was greeted by the fine sight of rainbow flags flying from the historic General Post Office, which had also been a meeting point for some of the 2004 events. I’d forgotten that it was Pride weekend in Dublin so I was surprised and delighted by the rainbow bunting up all over the city. Though I was absorbed in matters ghostly and didn’t make it down to the parade itself, the Pride paraphernalia and revelry gave me the sense I was visiting a city shaking off the shackles of the past just after the pro-choice victory in the 8th amendment referendum.

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There were also some reminders of the old order. The Jesus below presided in this glass booth in a small square near our B&B. Perhaps I missed something, but he just appeared to be part of the street furniture and not connected with any religious institution. In the second photo you’ll see that Jesus has some instructions for dog walkers. We came across a similar installation in another public square, minus the poop-scooping admonition.

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Though I enjoyed Helsinki’s massive World Con last year, I was looking forward to a much more intimate event this time around. It made a nice change to have only one stream of programming. Everyone went to the same events and hung out in the same venues afterwards. With the programme finishing around 7.30pm,  no one had to worry about their 8pm panel or a late reading where you hope your audience will be merrily inebriated rather than snoring.  It was good that we all could just relax with our dinner or drinks.

The event was held in the Grand Masonic Lodge of Ireland, which boasted plush decor, stained glass windows and a collection of rather alarming portraits of eminent masons. The programme featured readings and panels on many facets of supernatural and weird fiction. Guests of honour included Joyce Carol Oats, Lisa Tuttle, Victoria Leslie, Andrew Michael Hurley, Helen Grant, Reggie Oliver, RB Russell, Rosalie Parker and Nicholas Royle. I was pleased to meet Nick Royle for the first time; along with Joel Lane he was a big influence on me in the 1990s when I first discovered that thing called ‘slipstream’. 

20180629_210740At one panel someone asked whether there’s a place for humour in a ghost story. The response was ‘yes, but it’s difficult’. And when Joyce Carol Oates read her story “The Crack” an even more emphatic YES came to my mind. The story is both poignant and funny as it lampoons the denizens of a high-rise faculty apartment building near the New York University campus.

On the Saturday Lisa Tuttle also did an in-depth interview with Joyce Carol Oates. You can see them chatting in the photo below under the watchful gaze of some very stern gentlemen.

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It’s a shame that I didn’t get better photos of the portraits because many of us began to feel on very familiar terms with them, as you can see from the tweet on the left. 

I was a kid when Joyce Carol Oates shot to prominence after winning the National Book Award for Them. I ended up reading this book semi-surreptitiously along with The Exorcist and the first two chapters from the library copy of Gravity’s Rainbow that I carried around with me but never ever finished.

My mother periodically tut-tutted over the New York Times Book Review when a new Oates book appeared: “That woman writes about such awful things.”

Of course, that was all the more reason to acquaint myself with the work of ‘that woman’. I started with Them, a gritty account of the lives of a poor Detroit family amid the riots of 1967. I was introduced to Oates’ work as a realist, so I was later amazed to discover her supernatural and gothic fiction such as Bellefleur.

However, few people are able to keep up with Oates’ massive output. According to her bio in the festival programme, she has written over 50 novels and produced volumes of short stories, novellas and non-fiction. For more information you might want to check out the Celestial Timepiece website, which is devoted entirely to her work.

While I was at the Ghost Story Festival I bought A Book of American Martyrs, which I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I also had it signed – so witness my fangirl moment of the weekend below!

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These are a few quotes that stood out for me from Oates: “I don’t believe in any ghosts but I believe that other people believe in them… but what do ghosts do when they’re waiting for you to come to the place they’re haunting? Are they playing cards? And who launders the sheets?”

And while Oates doesn’t believe in ghosts, she believes in their importance as “a triumph of the spirit over the material”.

At one of the early panels I also enjoyed the following conversation about Lovecraft. Reggie Oliver: “I don’t go for all those tentacles. It’s a question of taste.” Joyce Carol Oates: “The best age to appreciate Lovecraft is about 12.” When I tweeted this exchange I had a comeback from someone who said they started to appreciate Lovecraft at the age of 45. I can see that point too. While I share Reggie’s tiredness of tentacles, I can still appreciate a good atmospheric Mythos tale.

Reggie Oliver also nailed it when he said:  “A ghost story should contain a revelation rather than an explanation.” It expressed my discontent too with anti-climactic endings that explain too much and tie everything too neatly as well as endings that lack any kind of closure. How does a writer steer between the two?  Perhaps a revelation heralds the kind of closure that deepens rather than dispels the mystery.

The event ended with a panel where Lisa Tuttle, Helen Grant and RB Russell discussed overlooked favourites. I was pleasantly surprised when someone mentioned Ethel Mannin and her 1945 novel Lucifer and the Child, which is about a poor girl in the East End of London who believes herself to be a witch. Mannin was a journalist, a labour organiser, a comrade of Emma Goldman and possible lover of WB Yeats. She might have  published over 100 books in her lifetime. The little I’ve known of her always fascinated me. I recall reading another novel from her called Venetian Blinds, which explores the price of upward mobility.

And this brings me to the finale of the weekend, when I learned about another ‘lost’ woman writer who was influential in her own time but not so celebrated today.

30728584_555129354868004_3819477697778494371_nOn the Monday after the festival we visited an exhibition about the prison writings of Dorothy Macardle, which had been recommended by Swan River Press. Macardle was an activist and historian – and a writer of supernatural fiction. She was involved in the Irish independence movement and working on a paper called Irish Freedom when she was arrested during the civil war. She served six months in Mountjoy and Kilmainham until her release on health grounds. However, she came to have serious disagreements with the prominent men in Irish politics.

While imprisoned Macardle wrote a book, Earth-Bound: Nine Stories of Ireland, which is a collection of ghost stories inspired by the women that she met in prison. I’ve often encountered a view that supernatural/strange fiction is escapist and backward-looking, but books like this show that’s far from the truth. Ghost stories – and the weird and esoteric in general – offer a powerful way to highlight historical and personal struggles and create fictional connections through time and space. That’s certainly the impetus behind my stories in Resonance & Revolt. So while I indulged in a chuckle or two over the thought that I came to Dublin in 2004 to take part in an international anti-capitalist convergence and this time I went there to talk about ghosts, it doesn’t mean that the two are opposed – neither does it necessarily mark the softening that is said to come with age!

20180702_130127Each of the nine ghost stories in Earth-Bound is dedicated to a fellow prisoner, who are all featured in the exhibition. Some of the ghost stories in Earth-Bound incorporate Celtic myth, while others are set against the backdrop of the Irish independence struggle. One tells of a contemporary Irish revolutionary who is haunted by the ghost of a prisoner from the 1798 Rebellion. Pictured left is the knife and spoon that prisoner Eithne Coyle took with her when she escaped with three other women from Mountjoy in 1922.

Macardle went on to write more supernatural fiction, including a novel about a haunted house that was later made into the Hollywood film, The Uninvited. She also led the Women Writers Club in 1933. It’s possible that she might have even known Ethel Mannin, since the Women Writers Club had presented Mannin with its award in 1948 for her bestselling novel Late Have I Loved Thee.

My visit to this exhibit was a perfect way to end our weekend in Dublin.

 

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Dorian’s doing well!

grande_scarlet1Here’s a very nice review of The Scarlet Soul in Lovecraft Ezine, which praises the quality of all ten stories and the physical production of the book. Acep Hale also describes my contribution to this anthology:

“Rosanne Rabinowitz’s “All That Is Solid” is another story from The Scarlet Soul that has stuck with me. It is the story of two friends, Gosia and Ilona, living in London after the passage of Brexit. As both of them have Polish backgrounds uncertainties start to creep into Gosia’s psyche as more and more overt examples of British nationalism start happening around her. Ilona passes on the number of a counselor who suggests that since Gosia is a freelance designer art therapy may help? I feel that Rabinowitz displays an acute sensibility with “All That Is Solid” that is as respectful as it is chilling.”

Last thing I heard, Dublin-based Swan River Press said that they were down to their last five copies of The Scarlet Soul. So to quote Janis Joplin, get it while you can!

Swan River does put out some very fine books, concentrating on strange and supernatural fiction with an Irish connection. I look forward to meeting editor Brian J Showers and others in person this summer at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival. And if any readers of this blog happen to be attending, I look forward to meeting you.

Meanwhile, I’ve set up a new page for R&R. It includes a table of contents that links most of the stories with a related post or review giving background or thoughts about the story. I’ve also linked to the blogs of Lynda E. Rucker and Mat Joiner, friends and fellow writers who’ve contributed to this book.

The paperback edition of Resonance & Revolt will be released on the very appropriate date of 1 May. You can pre-order it from Eibonvale or from Amazon. Keep an eye out for news about a launch event and an ebook edition.

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“As the dawn was just breaking he found himself close to Covent Garden…”

I’m pleased to announce the publication of my story “All That is Solid”grande_scarlet1 in The Scarlet Soul from Swan River Press, a collection of stories inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and its themes of art, obsession, love, lust and sorcery.

Editor Mark Valentine suggested we all choose a quote from Wilde’s novella to kick off our stories. Dorian had gone strolling in Covent Garden; so does my protagonist many years later. It’s the summer of 2016 and she hears a bunch of lads singing: “Rule Britannia… Britannia rules the waves, first we get the Poles out then we get the gays”.

The title ‘All that is solid melts into air’ comes from a quote by Karl Marx. That solid thing melting into air can be the ground beneath our feet when we think too much about the space in its atoms; it can also be the ground beneath our feet when our right to live in the place we call home is threatened. So what does this have to do with Dorian Gray and his famous portrait? More than we might think, especially when anxiety and art therapy are involved…

I’m in the company of nine fine writers – Lynda E Rucker, Reggie Oliver, Caitriona Lally, John Howard, DP Watt, Timothy J Jarvis, Derek John, Avalon Brantley and John Gale. I look forward to seeing how they’ve approached the theme.

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I also have more news about my forthcoming collection, Resonance & Revolt. The pre-order page is up at Eibonvale Press, including a preview of the cover. We’ll be adding more images to the mix, perhaps a flying gefilte fish or two (in reference to The Matter of Meroz). Who knows? It’ll be exciting. I’ll write more about this project in the next few weeks.