Thursday, 25 February 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Danielle Birch

Danielle Birch's "Leonora" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.

Tell us three interesting facts about yourself:

I love to collect antique dolls and while I adore my growing collection, most of my family and friends find them creepy. My husband and I like anything vintage and eclectic and spend a lot of time searching through garage sales, op shops, and antique shops for just the right piece. I have worked in law (my day job) for the past 18 years and it has provided much inspiration for some of my stories.

What drew you to this particular theme? 

I love a challenge, so the chance to write something with a hint of a steampunk theme was fun to explore.

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

Though I am a huge fan of horror, I find some machines and robots terrifying, most especially the fighting machines in War of the Worlds.

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 

Shirley Jackson.

What does your editing process look like? 

The first draft flows quickly (but filled with many lumps) onto paper. Then I slowly weave the plot and play with words through several edits until I’m relatively happy with it.

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write? 

When I start, I have a rough plot in my head along with the characters and their backgrounds. Quite often, the ending doesn’t come to me until I’m about half-way through writing the story.

What are you working on now?

A novel – a modern tragedy.

Where can we find you online?


Instagram: daniellembirch

Twitter: @mrsdanbirch

Thanks, Danielle!

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Karen Bayly

Karen Bayly's "Foul Beasts" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.

Tell us three interesting facts about yourself:

I have Welsh and German ancestry. I have a PhD in Ethology (the study of animal behaviour). I used to act and get paid for it. 

What drew you to this particular theme? 

We like to think we are masters of the machines we create. Playing with the idea of a machine taking over or someone hijacking a machine for a nefarious purpose is always fun.

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

The Corporate Machine. Not a mechanical monster, but a monster nonetheless. I’m also skeptical about making androids too human. It feels like birthing a slave race. Humans are quite frightening biological machines.

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 

Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Clive Barker.  Angela Carter wrote some excellent horror (e.g., “The Bloody Chamber”). Also, screenwriter John Logan who wrote much of the TV series, “Penny Dreadful”. He was nominated for a Bram Stoker award four times, but never won. He did win an Edgar Allan Poe Award though.

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

Mortal Engines—I love that cities can be machines that devour other city machines. I’m also ridiculously fond of HAL 9000. It gets a bad rap in the movie.

What does your editing process look like? 

Tedious, meticulous, and often mind-numbing. The latter probably explains why I often miss things. I do the standard developmental, line, and copy edits. I read it aloud. For longer pieces, I enlist beta readers. Yet still errors slip through. Aargh!

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write? 

I create a rough plan which gives me a few plot points as guideposts to a destination. I may even get detailed about certain parts. Then I start writing and any detail usually goes out the door. Planned plot points evolve and new ones emerge. I guess it is a bit like building a trellis for a plant to climb—you create a framework, plant the seeds, and guide the growth so that you end up with a healthy plant that reaches upward and outwards instead of crawling on the ground.

What are you working on now?

I’m editing my YA fantasy, tentatively titled “The Witch Who Wasn’t” and writing a dystopian novella about an assassin and the Corporate Machine who owns her.

Where can we find you online?

Thanks, Karen! 

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Michael Picco

Michael Picco's tale "The Wheel" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.

Tell us three interesting facts about yourself:

1. I am a germaphobe. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this neurotic and annoying behaviour. (Editor’s note: smart man)

2. I like to eat my pancakes from the inside out. That way, there’s always a tiny pool of syrup to dip my pancakes into without them getting all soggy. It’s a mouth feel thing. Don’t judge me. (Editor’s note: smart man again)

3. I used to be an avid spelunker. Too many injuries prevent me from doing that now though, I am sad to say. I actually got stuck in a cave once and I am still trying to work that awful experience into a narrative. (Editor’s note: hmm…not so smart man)

What drew you to this particular theme? 

There’s something dreadful and diabolical about the efficiency of machines. They are relentless. They move with a tireless monotony that I find deeply disturbing. In writing The Wheel, I didn’t want to write about a machine that was designed to kill, I wanted to write a story about something that is normally innocuous… something safe. I wanted to write about something that would normally be calming or soothing to see in operation. I wanted to write about a machine that was designed to bring life to a community but instead killed its most vulnerable.

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

The increasingly short-circuiting, gear-slipping clockworks between my ears. Stupid brain… (Editor’s note: keep it well-oiled with whisky…NB. I’m neither a doctor nor a mechanic.)

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 

I love Tim Curran’s work! He’s a great new voice in the genre! John Skipp and Craig Spector remain two of my absolute favourites in the field and have been a HUGE influence on my work. I also enjoy Erinn Kemper’s work (and wish that I wrote more like her).

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

Burning Chrome, by William Gibson; The Karma Machine, by Michael Davidson, Fred Saberhagen’s The Berserker War Series and, as unpopular as this book may be: Tommyknockers, by Stephen King.

What does your editing process look like? 

Oh, you mean besides a lot of drinking, swearing and slamming my face onto the keyboard? (Editor just burst out laughing…spraying expensive scotch over cheap laptop) Chuckle… I usually roll my edits as I am composing. The previous day’s work gets at least two rounds of edits before the whole story gets edited.

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write? 

My process is fairly organic. Usually this method results in a LOT of rewrites, but seems to yield the best results for me.

What are you working on now?

I just released my second collection of short stories (Corpse Honey, A Banquet of Gruesome Tales), so I am taking a little bit of a break from writing and focusing on promotion instead. I hope to start work on The Lost City of Brass (the long-awaited sequel to Fraser, The Disappearance of Michael Pitts) this summer.

Where can we find you online?

Thanks, Michael!

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Murder and Machinery - Cogs in Motion

Mechanical Madness and Technological Terror!

Join Black Beacon Books as we celebrate the launch of "Murder and Machinery", an anthology of horror, suspense, sci-fi, and steampunk all about - you guessed it! - murder and machinery. There'll be interviews, chats, competitions, and sneak peeks galore! 
Kindle pre-order for $2.99 USD (returning to RRP $3.99 after publication)
If you're not on social media, simply enter your email in the field on the top right of this page to receive Black Beacon Books updates directly in your inbox.
The anthology will be available wherever good books are sold after the release date. If you have a favourite local bookshop, please consider ordering through them. Orders can also be placed via our online shop.

Lock the doors and switch the power off at the mains!
Tales of deadly machinery have long fascinated us, from Edgar Allan Poe’s classic pendulum to the Terminator films.
Murder and Machinery pays homage to this tradition, offering you gripping tales following this theme but set in different times and places, from colonial America and London during the First World War to dystopian futures on this planet and beyond. Never before has an anthology brought tales of science fiction and suspense together in such a terrifying way, showcasing the nightmarish imagination of authors who know how to play on the reader’s fears and who share those fears of uncontrollable machines, or perhaps even more frightening, of fellow humans mastering technology for their own evil purposes. A word of advice before you start. By all means, settle down in your living room and let this anthology of technological terror and mechanical madness enthral you, but first, you might want to lock your doors and switch the power off at the mains. Best keep it low-tech tonight. Trust me. I hope you have candles?
★ Crime   ★ Sci-fi / Steampunk   ★ Horror   ★ Suspense   ★ Historical

Thursday, 17 December 2020

The Problem of the Snowbound Shack - Sneak Peek

As 2020 draws to a close (what a year!) and we look back on what we've read, published...achieved, despite all the landmines laid in our path by this global annus horribilis, which is Latin for either "horrible year" or "horrific anus", we cast our minds back to the launch of our 5-star anthology (just check the reviews!) of armchair mysteries, PI investigations, and noir escapades. Yes, 2020 gave the world "The Black Beacon Book of Mystery", and let's make sure 2021 spreads (hmmm, poor choice of word?) it far and wide, ensuring it lands on the bookshelf or in the e-reader of every mystery fan! Ambitious? Well, yes...unashamedly so! Here's a sneak peek for you...   

The Problem of the Snowbound Shack

Jon Matthew Farber

Jason Hawthorne sighed contentedly as he savoured his double malt, looked across at his guest, and said, ‘I suppose you want to hear about some of the “impossible” crimes I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with, and been lucky enough to solve. Well, I guess the beginning’s as good a place to start as any.’                                                       

   My earliest such case also happened to be the first one where I was given the chance to take the lead. I still don’t know whether it was because my captain was worried because he thought it might never be closed, or if he was trying to teach me some humility with an impossible problem. Looking back at my early career, I agree I was quite cocky, and this would’ve been a good lesson for me, had I indeed failed. Either way, I was in charge. Let me set the background for you.

It was 1965 and I was almost one year out of training, but already moving up fast, having been promoted to Trooper First Class. My Captain was Leo Ark. I was based out of Upper Clifton, the capitol seat in a rural county. This was a quintessential small New England town with a strong sense of community, where most everybody knew everyone else. As such, I already had a good sense of the locals.

The murder I’m going to tell you about took place around three weeks after the annual Winterfest. This was the major social event of the season, with pretty much the entire county turning out. One highlight was our local genius, Thomas A. Edison, who demonstrated his latest invention. Don’t laugh, that was his real name, only the A stood for Alan. He even owned several patents, and this time he showed off his “flying saucer”, a two-foot-in-diameter metal contraption that used compressed air to skim above a surface. In retrospect, this was a precursor to what would now be called a true hoverboard, and may have led to something big, except that Edison lacked the 99% perspiration that his namesake had, so that most of his projects were never completed. The saucer actually travelled several feet on a couple of different runs.

In the talent portion of the festival, our librarian, Miss Ives, won the baking contest for her lemon chiffon pie—her cooking was to die for—while in target shooting, William Monroe, the mill foreman, needed his perfect score to just beat out Thomas Farley, our local carpenter, and Barney Snow, the hunting guide, in a tense match. In the artistic competitions, the widow, Mrs. Holt, won for her quilt depicting the local flora and fauna, while Mr. Farley got his moment to shine in the collectibles category for his 1894 Smith and Wesson 38 5-chamber double-action model 4 revolver, a piece that was beautifully restored and faithfully cared for, while second place went to Richard Simpson’s Pre-war Lionel Model Train 413 Colorado Passenger Car Model.

Anyway, around three weeks later I was in police headquarters when a call came in one morning from Michael Swift. It seems he was supposed to meet Monroe, having spoken with him the previous night around 10 pm, but he hadn’t showed. As things were quiet, the captain, our newest recruit, Larry Whitman, and myself piled into our 1964 Chevy Biscayne and headed over. This was a hard-driving full-size car, known for having two taillights on each side, and the choice at the time of many police departments throughout the country. The department had sprung for the more powerful V8 engine.

Monroe lived in a one-room (plus bathroom) shack in a clearing, perhaps a hundred yards in diameter, in the local woods. When we arrived, the ground was covered by around three inches of snow that had fallen until late yesterday afternoon. The weather was a little warmer than the frequent well-below freezing, so the snow was still powdery, and the absence of any significant breeze meant there were no drifts. The driveway was unspoiled, and the path to the front door was smooth and undisturbed.

    We padded up to the door and knocked, but there was no answer. The cabin had many knotholes in it, stuffed with cloth, so I pulled the cloth from one to the right of the door and looked inside. Monroe lay directly in front of me, sprawled out on the ground beside the bed, by the entrance to the bathroom... 

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Our Purveyors of Mechanical Madness

Introducing our purveyors of technological terror and mechanical madness. This epic anthology will have you breaking out in a cold sweat whenever you go to press a button or flip a switch! "Murder and Machinery" is set to be 2021's finest mechanical mashup of horror and science fiction, with a soup├žon of suspense, ranging from dystopian nightmares and steampunk romps to suburban drama and government conspiracies!

For updates, don't forget to join our mailing list by entering your email address (on the sidebar) or liking us on social media: Facebook and Twitter

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Small Press: The Ups and Downs

This year has been a tough one for small press, as it has been for most industries, and the sailing probably isn't going to get any smoother in the near future. A number of small presses have gone under and I thought I really ought to write a blog post outlining the strategy and aim in place here at Black Beacon Books. Like most small publishers nowadays, Black Beacon Books is a labour of love. It is not a full-time job, and no matter how much I wish it were, it almost certainly never will be. You have to chase your dreams, but you also have to keep your feet on the ground...not simple!

The strategy behind Black Beacon Books has been, and will continue to be, one of slow and measured growth. This is why we currently only release one title every year or two. When quality matters to you (and anyone who has read our books knows it does), the process of releasing a book takes time. But the biggest constraint is money. If we had more to invest (a lot more!), we'd be able to pay professional rates and fund broad-reaching marketing campaigns. In the meantime, we offer token rates and rely on word-of-mouth, social media, and reviews. We've also set up a Patreon page, which we use as a subscription service, not for crowdfunding (meaning the monthly fee covers the benefits provided). The disadvantage of this conservative approach is that we're not making a name for ourselves as quickly as many other small publishers who use personal savings to fund projects. This means lower sales due to lower exposure. The advantage is that there is almost no risk of being forced to shut down because debts can't be paid. And it's that stability, along with the artistic freedom it allows, that is probably our greatest strength. The frequency of publishing books can speed up or slow down as a result of fluctuating sales, but we can keep plugging along through the tougher times.

You may be asking why I'm writing this post. Well, I suppose it's to reassure you that Black Beacon Books plans on keeping at it, publishing quality mystery, suspense, and horror fiction that makes us proud, first and foremost, and that we're confident you'll enjoy, as a natural consequence. This adventure is, of course, a team effort. We need you to chip in. We need you to write amazing stories for us, to spread the word about us, but above all, way up there in the clouds, the absolute number one thing is to buy our books. Making sales is the only way for us to truly grow as a publisher. In a way, when you buy one of our books, you're not only getting your money's worth in reading entertainment from that title, but you're also investing in an even better book for a similar price next time. That is what it boils down to! That's the kind of "social contract" (for the philosophers out there) we want you to figuratively sign with us. 

So, there you go. I hope that reassures you. It certainly feels reassuring from this end to write this little post, and to put it out there as a clear statement. Black Beacon Books is here to stay! We have countless great stories to tell you, from yesterday, today, and more are coming tomorrow. Get reading!

Founding editor, Cameron Trost