Thursday 30 November 2023

An Interview with Paul Kane

DARK REFLECTIONS, Paul Kane's latest collection, will be published on the 15th of December. Black Beacon Books is absolutely thrilled to be publishing Paul's homage to the masters of dark literature. Kindle pre-orders are open now at just $1.99 instead of $3.99. Of course, before you dive into the stories, it's important to learn a little about the man who penned them... In fact, you'll learn a lot about Paul in this interview, and if you have other questions, just post them in the comments section at the end. Let's begin!

Hi Paul,

Dark Reflections, your latest collection, will be out in December, in time for the Christmas ghost story season, and here at Black Beacon Books this is making us feel frightfully festive. Now, you’ve made quite a name for yourself over the years, but there may be some kids out there who haven’t discovered your work yet, so this interview is an opportunity for them to learn who you are—and for those familiar with your work, it’s a chance to gain more insight into the man himself. Are you ready to get dark and reflective?


I’ve always been ready to do that! Let’s go…


Dark Reflections is a collection of your fiction influenced directly by the work of classic authors including Bram Stoker, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Can you remember how your fascination with their dark worlds began?


At quite a young age. I’ve always been fascinated with the macabre and darker side of things, so I’d gravitate towards horror comics when I was little—Batman’s my favourite superhero because of his darker side and being emotionally scarred. I probably encountered Dracula and Frankenstein that way too, through comics my dad would buy me. Then of course reading the material, especially in anthologies. There was a book I found when I was about eight or nine called Ghosts, Spooks and Spectres, which had tales like ‘The Inexperienced Ghost’ by H.G. Wells and ‘The Signal-Man’ by Dickens in it. So I was devouring all this good stuff, for what I like to call my ‘real’ education, working my way through not only modern horror authors but also the classics—I still have the pieces of paper somewhere with Lovecraft’s stories in order ticked off one at a time after I’d read them. And with people like M.R. James, it was also watching those superb A Ghost Story for Christmas adaptations of tales like ‘Lost Hearts’ when I was a kid. That had such an impact on me, which you can definitely see in stories like ‘Heartless’ in Dark Reflections. Similarly, Jeremy’s Brett’s interpretation of Holmes on TV was a game-changer for me—in particular the specials like The Hound of the Baskervilles. Many have picked up on the fact that I used him as the main template for my version of Holmes, in Servants of Hell but also in stories like ‘The Case of the Lost Soul’ recently reprinted in Nailbiters—Hard Bitten, and of course ‘The Greatest Mystery’ in Dark Reflections.


If you could invite three of these authors over to your place for Christmas Eve, who would they be, what would you and Marie cook up, and how would you spend the evening?


That’s such a hard choice to make, I’m not sure we’d be able to narrow it down to three, to be honest! But my inclination would be to go with James for starters—simply because he’d tell such a great spooky story by candlelight; I always watch the Christopher Lee readings where he plays James every Christmas. Same goes for Poe, can you imagine anything better than him reading out some of his poems for the festive period? And probably Dickens—A Christmas Carol is one of my favourite books of all time, the obvious inspiration for ‘Humbuggered’ in Dark Reflections. I’d love to chat to him about where the idea came from, how he developed it. Marie and I would do what we usually do at Christmas, cook tons of festive food and break out the mulled wine! Perfect.


What is it about Black Beacon Books that made you think, hey, I want my dark reflections staring back at me from their mirror?


Whenever I finish putting a collection together, I always have a look around for a suitable publisher—sometimes they say no, but happily a lot of times they’re totally up for it. I think I was seeing Black Beacon posts quite a bit on social media, especially places like Instagram, so I went and had a look at some of the terrific books being put out—and in particular the anthologies of horror stories. I remember thinking, yes, this Cameron guy seems to be on my wavelength… So I dropped a line to sound you out! The rest is very pleasant history…


There are a number of overriding themes throughout the collection—fate, death, betrayal, madness—but what strikes me most is the recurring presence of orphans, runaways, and kidnapped children. Is this intentional?


I do seem to write about those a lot, don’t I? I was going through stories in my next general collection the other day and noticed there are large numbers of orphans or people who had horrific childhoods, which is weird because mine was great. I couldn’t have asked for better parents or been loved any more than I was. They totally supported me becoming a writer, for example, which is quite rare in itself; it’s such an unstable career. So, I guess it’s just a case of things that happen to you when you’re little have an impact on the rest of your life, which in turn makes for fantastic narratives. Like for instance, I’ve always been scared of the dark and that stems from bedtimes when I was a kid—anyone who’s read the prologue to Of Darkness and Light will see that I’m drawing on memories of imagining what might be out there lurking in the darkness when you’re a child. I was bullied at school, which also crops up in stories from time to time, particularly bullies getting their comeuppance in whatever form. Sometimes it’s intentional but I think a lot of it is just swirling around in your brain and it’s whatever makes for a good jumping off point for the tale you’re working on at the time. Whatever’s going to work best.


When you need a book to read, where do you go? Do you read ebooks, do you have a local second-hand bookshop (M. R. Jamesian antiquarian?) or do you have Leaning Towers of Pisa stacked around your house waiting to be devoured?


When I was in my teens there used to be a fantastic second-hand bookstore in Mansfield I’d visit, but there don’t seem to be as many of those around anymore sadly—at least not nearby for me. I still have a lot of books I bought from there and on holidays at the coast, though; our house is chock-full of paperbacks and hardbacks all over, you can imagine what it was like when Marie and I—two collectors—got together and put our book hoards together under one roof! These days, like everyone else, I end up in Waterstones or wherever, or looking on ebay or ABE Books for rare stuff I might not have. I’m not a big fan of Kindles or reading on my phone—I’m quite jealous of people who enjoy doing that, as it would free up a lot of space in our home. But there’s just something about reading an actual book, having it in your hands in front of you… And I think it’s to do with the fact I’m reading or writing on a screen all day as well. When I relax with a book, which is usually at bedtime, I like to disconnect from the work side of things by reading words on an actual printed page.


Name an underappreciated novel that you love.


Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells. I’ve talked a lot about this before in interviews, but we basically read the novel for English classes at school and it had such an effect on me it probably directly led to my writing so much about post-apocalyptic worlds. It almost certainly influenced the Hooded Man novels, along with epics like The Stand by Stephen King. This one’s only short, however, and what would be classified as YA now probably, because the protagonist is in his teens and it deals with his experiences after a nuclear war. But it’s also a fascinating exploration of family ties, loss, loyalty, and just a good tale well told. I’d recommend it to anyone, young, old, or in-between. You might need a hanky, though.


What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?


I tend to write a lot on my laptop on the couch these days, as it’s only myself and Marie at home. I can spread out all my research and such around me, it’s nice and quiet so I can just get on with my work. I tend to stick to office working hours, as I used to work in journalism back in the ’90s so got into that routine before switching to writing fiction full-time—although even now I keep my hand in doing some articles and reviews. Not many, but some. I just recently did a short piece on the Hellraiser theatrical sequels for Phantasmagoria magazine, but essentially my time’s taken up with writing and editing prose at the moment. I’m juggling several books at different stages, so that keeps me plenty busy.


What’s your favourite writing snack or drink? Do you play music while you write—and, if so, what’s your favourite?


I don’t snack, really… maybe some fruit in the afternoons, but I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth or anything. I do make lots of tea in the day for us both to give myself short breaks. I start off with coffee in the morning, then switch to herbal teas around midday so I don’t have too much caffeine. Marie just has ordinary tea throughout the day. I can usually sense when it’s time to make her another cuppa. As for music, I can’t write fiction while that’s on—I need to have peace and quiet to hear the words in my head—but strangely I can edit and do non-fiction while it’s playing. I like all kinds of music, my playlist is very eclectic. At the moment a lot of songs in our house are being played from The Greatest Showman.


How do you celebrate when you finish your book?


Just relaxing, a nice night in watching some TV or a movie with Marie, especially as the nights are drawing in. We’ve started having a meal and a few drinks if we sign a deal, just to celebrate. I think that’s important because it’s always an achievement when you do that. I remember when I first started writing, thinking I’d never get anything published, so every little win is cherished in this game. Fortunately we’re spoilt for choice where we live now, in terms of places to eat and drink. Indian, Italian, Chinese… and the all-important, for me anyway, real ale pubs!


When was the last time you Googled yourself and what did you find?


That sounds disgusting, I… Oh, I see what you mean! I don’t look myself up that much at all, unless it’s to see if there might be any reviews or whatever of the latest books. This year with the three anthologies, Twice Cursed, The Other Side of Never and In These Hallowed Halls, we’ve been featured on a lot of sites, or have just been tagged in posts, so I’ve tried to keep up to date with all that and share them or put them in the news sections of my Shadow Writer site—which incredibly has been running about 20 years or so now! I do know there are some of my quotes from various interviews floating around out there, which is a weird thing to me—putting little snippets of things I’ve said with a calming picture in the background or what have you. But perhaps they’ll be of interest to some folk, writing advice and such. I hope so, anyway.


Are you active on social media? How do you use it?


I’m fairly active on Facebook, Twitter—or X or whatever it’s called this week—Instagram, Mastodon, Bluesky… I usually put up what we’re watching or just work-related stuff. I never know how interested people are in what we’re doing—working on, reading or watching—because writing’s such an isolated thing. But then when we go to conventions, like we did to FantasyCon in Birmingham recently, and talk to people they always say ‘Oh, we watched such and such after seeing you posting about it, and loved it!’ So that’s nice, as we’ve had so many things recommended to us in the past that we’ve enjoyed. Even some that have become favourites. Of course, everyone likes different things so what we’ve loved other people might have hated, but that’s the same with anything. Music, sport… everyone has different tastes.


What do the words “literary success” mean to you? How do you picture it?


I try not to think about it. It’s such a subjective thing, and means different things to different people. I know I’m very fortunate to be making a living from my writing or from writing-related things, because not everyone can, but as I say I used to work in journalism so that transition wasn’t too difficult for me. I was used to being paid for an article or review, whether it was working for a newspaper or freelancing for magazines, so in my head writing fiction was like an extension of that. It took a while to build that side of it all up, which I did in the small presses first—but then when the mass market stuff started kicking in, things got a bit easier. I used to teach part-time as well, Film Studies at college, or writing and painting/drawing classes out in the community, sometimes privately, so that supplemented my income, but I saw it all as being part and parcel of the creative work. Not to mention helping folk, getting a kick out of seeing them develop; a lot of my writing students went on to be published, or award-winners, which was very gratifying.


Who has been the biggest supporter of your writing?


There have been loads over the years, it’s a case of how long’s a piece of string! A writer and editor called John B. Ford was one of the first people to take my fiction and take me under his wing. He invited me to some of my first gatherings of writers and there I met bestselling author Simon Clark, who was always giving me advice and is still a good friend today. I was delighted to see his second novel Blood Crazy get another outing through Darkness Visible Publishing and a launch at FCon. Clive Barker as well when I started working for the British Fantasy Society as Special Publications Editor, and of course after I wrote The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, which led to a long friendship and several projects working together. He famously and very generously gave us permission to do the Hellbound Hearts anthology, as well as writing the foreword, then looked over and approved Servants of Hell after that. He was very complimentary about my writing, which I’ve always appreciated. There are just so many people, if I start listing folk I’ll forget someone—but they all know who they are, and I’m truly grateful. In all honesty, my biggest supporter in the genre has always been Marie—and vice versa. We met because I’d read her stories and asked her to be a Guest Writer on my site, so we get each other and the whole crazy writing thing. We’ve co-edited so many anthologies together now that we have a shorthand, and it all works wonderfully. I love doing those with my better half, which is a good job as we have at least three more lined up currently.


Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know (yet)?


I’m struggling here because I’ve done so many interviews that I don’t think there’s anything I haven’t said or disclosed in those, in fact I’m probably repeating myself a lot in this one. Just a consequence of having been on the scene for nearly 30 years… Actually, I can tell you that I’m planning on doing something special to celebrate three decades of being a writer, in the same way I did when we brought out the Shadow Casting hardback from SST in 2016. I can’t say what it is exactly, but I’ve started doing research and outlines and I know precisely what the cover is going to be. In a sense, it’s going to be bringing things back full circle. I just need to find time to put it all together.


Last but not least, are more dark reflections making an appearance in the future?


Oh, undoubtedly. But seeing as the first collection took about 20 years to write and compile, I wouldn’t hold your breath to see it anytime soon. I’ve already started doing more tales in the vein of ‘The Grey Room’—one for that general collection I was talking about. So those might end up being a separate collection themselves at some point. It’s the same with all the series I have on the go, there’ll be more Scary Tales – indeed, there are already two stories for the second volume done—more Monsters books, although the latest has only just come out from St Rooster called Even More Monsters. More Nailbiter books hopefully, which are my crime/psychological collections… Whenever I have enough stories for a themed collection, I’ll bring one out. That’s how I’ve been working for a good while now, and how I’ll probably carry on working till I drop off the perch.


Thanks for the taking the time to answer these questions, Paul. Not long to go now before Dark Reflections casts a delightful shadow over the festive season!


Paul Kane is the award-winning (including the British Fantasy Society’s Legends of FantasyCon Award 2022), bestselling author and editor of over a hundred books—such as the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts, Wonderland (a Shirley Jackson Award finalist) and Pain Cages (an Amazon #1 bestseller). His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014 and 2018, HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, The Dublin Ghost Story Festival and Sledge-Lit in 2016, IMATS Olympia and Celluloid Screams in 2017, Black Library Live and the UK Ghost Story Festival in 2019 and 2023, plus the WordCrafter virtual event 2021—where he delivered the keynote speech—as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention, and a fiction judge at the Sci-Fi London festival. A former British Fantasy Society Special Publications Editor, he has also served as co-chair for the UK chapter of The Horror Writers Association and co-chaired ChillerCon UK in May 2022. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network primetime television, and his novelette “Men of the Cloth” was turned into a feature by Loose Canon/Hydra Films, starring Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, You’re Next): Sacrifice, released by Epic Pictures/101 Films. His audio work includes the full cast drama adaptation of The Hellbound Heart for Bafflegab, starring Tom Meeten (The Ghoul), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who) and Alice Lowe (Prevenge), and the Robin of Sherwood adventure The Red Lord for Spiteful Puppet/ITV narrated by Ian Ogilvy (Return of the Saint). He has also contributed to the Warhammer 40k universe for Games Workshop. Paul’s latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the YA story The Rainbow Man (as PB Kane), the sequels to REDBlood RED & Deep RED; all compiled in an omnibus from Hellbound—the award-winning hit Sherlock Holmes & the Servants of Hell, Before (an Amazon Top 5 dark fantasy bestseller), Arcana and The Storm. In addition he writes thrillers for HQ/HarperCollins as PL Kane, the first of which, Her Last Secret and Her Husband’s Grave (a sellout on both Amazon and Waterstones.com), came out in 2020, with The Family Lie released the following year. Paul lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan. Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Catriona Ward, Dean Koontz, Olivie Blake and Guillermo del Toro.

Friday 24 November 2023

Paul Kane - The Grey Room

The dark reflections will be appearing soon. As you know by now, Dark Reflections, Paul Kane's latest anthology, will be published on the 15th of December. If you're active on social media, you'll have already glimpsed a number of sneak peeks and you'll have seen there's an interview with Paul coming up very shortly. Today, we'd like to share something particularly special with you - Paul reading an extract from one of the masterful stories featured in the collection. It's on our Youtube channel now. Enter the grey room, if you dare! 





Saturday 18 November 2023

Double FREE Download Weekend

Hey you! Yeah you! Thanks for being a loyal follower of the Black Beacon Books blog. To really thank you, we've made two of our ebooks FREE today only for Kindle. Well, we say FREE, but it's actually a drive for ratings and reviews, because they really do help readers decide to buy our books. So, what do we want you to do? Easy. Download one or both of the Kindle ebooks today, read them, and leave a rating and review on Amazon and/or Goodreads (or elsewhere) once you've finished them. It's that simple. Come play along! 


THE TUNNEL RUNNER

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KRWDKMA

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31573905


TALES FROM THE RUINS

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BQ3683HJ

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63851229


Oh, and consider buying another title while you're there. Quality indie press can only survive if readers buy our books. Thanks! 

Thursday 12 October 2023

Horror Anthology: Cameron Trost

The Black Beacon Book of Horror will be released on Friday the 13th of October; the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99 and you can add the anthology to your Goodreads list today. To get you in the mood for a particularly spooky Halloween this year, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. The first Black Beacon Book of Horror is bound to give you the creeps!

Hi Cameron,

Why do you write horror?

I don't write horror exclusively. In fact, most of my fiction is probably better described as suspense or mystery. What drives me is the idea that I'm keeping the reader guessing and that I've set up a shock or two along the way. Before reading the last word in the story, the reader will be lead down a winding path, and finding his way back home won't come easy. 

Is there a story behind your story in this anthology?

I mean, it's fiction... and it's important I make that clear. I live in Brittany and the contrast between summer and winter is quite dramatic here. Wealthy Parisians flock to their holiday homes along the coast in the summer and enjoy afternoons sunbathing followed by cocktail soirĂ©es. But their grand homes are soon abandoned. They lie dark and empty during the stormy winter months. I wanted to explore the idea of a Parisian coming to Brittany during the off-season, feeling lost, and receiving a hostile welcome. This is a classic folk horror scenario and this corner of the world is perfect for it. My horror stories tend to have an ambiguous ending and this one is no different. I find the uncertainty more disturbing, and it allows the reader to decide precisely want happened. 

Do you have an all-time favourite horror tale?

The easy answer is "No, there are just too many", but I'll play along. One story that probably isn't often cited as an outstanding horror story is The Snail Watcher by Patricia Highsmith. Have you read it? You really should.

What books did you grow up reading?

Where to start? Well, I devoured the Doctor Who novelisations as a kid because I loved the BBC series, and I soon became obsessed with Sherlock Holmes. Before long, I was hunting down all the gothic and ghostly classics, from Edgar Allan Poe to M.R. James.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not really. I like to be alone, preferably with a storm raging outside and a glass of decent whisky within easy reach. 

Where can we find you online? 


Thanks for answering our questions.

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Horror Anthology: Micah Castle

The Black Beacon Book of Horror will be released on Friday the 13th of October; the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99 and you can add the anthology to your Goodreads list today. To get you in the mood for a particularly spooky Halloween this year, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. The first Black Beacon Book of Horror is bound to give you the creeps!

Hi Micah,

Why do you write horror?

I don’t really know. It's just always been the most interesting and enjoyable to write.

Is there a story behind your story in this anthology?

I just had this image of a little girl with a violin standing in front of a lake at night that wouldn’t leave my mind. I also don’t write too many sea horror stories, so I didn’t want to put the idea aside like other story ideas.

Do you have an all-time favourite horror tale?

It’s hard to choose just one, but it’s probably The Picture of Dorian Gray.

What books did you grow up reading?

I wasn’t a huge reader growing up, but like most kids in the 90s, I read exclusively Goosebumps. I didn’t really get into reading until my late teens and early twenties.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not exactly a ritual, but a schedule. About an hour and a half to three hours in the morning every day. On weekdays, I’ll write for about an hour or so in the afternoon, and at night, for another thirty minutes to an hour. I’m privileged to be able to write as much as I do.

Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know yet?

I run the underground metal website/page/etc. Pig Squeals And Breakdowns. Not as much as I used to, though.

Where can we find you online?

I can found found on my website, www.micahcastle.com, Twitter, www.twitter.com/micah_castle, and Facebook, www.facebook.com/themicahcastle.

Thanks for answering our questions.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Horror Anthology: Greg Chapman

The Black Beacon Book of Horror will be released on Friday the 13th of October; the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99 and you can add the anthology to your Goodreads list today. To get you in the mood for a particularly spooky Halloween this year, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. The first Black Beacon Book of Horror is bound to give you the creeps!

Hi Greg,

Why do you write horror?

Because I have to. There’s an inherent instinct where I wonder about the dark side of the world, the darkness in ourselves and as a writer I find that fascinating.

Is there a story behind your story in this anthology?

I’ve always been curious about reincarnation and the idea of the souls of serial killers. The concept of them being born rather than made was too good to pass on.

Do you have an all-time favourite horror tale?

All-time favourite? That’s hard to narrow down, but my favourite collection of tales would have to be The Books of Blood by Clive Barker. In the Hills, The Cities is an astounding piece of literature. 

What books did you grow up reading?

Mostly comic books, and children’s books like The Big Friendly Giant by Roald Dahl and the like. I didn’t discover horror books and films until much later. 

Do you have any writing rituals?

The only one would be that I usually write a story longhand in a notebook every time and it has to be a black pen.

Where can we find you online? 


Thanks for answering our questions.

Sunday 8 October 2023

Horror Anthology: C.C. Adams

The Black Beacon Book of Horror will be released on Friday the 13th of October; the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99 and you can add the anthology to your Goodreads list today. To get you in the mood for a particularly spooky Halloween this year, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. The first Black Beacon Book of Horror is bound to give you the creeps!

Hi C.C.

Why do you write horror?

Villainy. I love the idea of "villainy" in a story - sure, you might get a protagonist with a dark past, or one that's somewhat flawed, but it’s the antagonist - the villain of the piece - that makes for a truly engaging narrative. What makes them so villainous, how do they tax the hero, etc. Think of a U-certificate film, like The Lion King. Arguably made with an audience of children in mind – but that doesn't stop Scar from murdering his own brother. Horror is where you take villainy to truly dark and insidious places. The appearance of the monster is only skin deep. What the monster does, how they do it, and what that does to the protagonist(s)? There’s your horror - all that good stuff; and more. It’s gratifying, humbling and cool to engage your audience. Wow them. And maybe scare the shit outta them.

Is there a story behind your story in this anthology?

Good question! - a couple, in fact. One; when I’d written this story, it was to be very nuanced and menacing - which is my wheelhouse. There’s a nod in this tale to a short story written over 100 years ago (if memory serves) that appears in Aidan Chambers' Book of Ghosts and Hauntings. This is a book I got when leaving primary school, aged 11, and this is important, because this book is the gateway drug that got me into enjoying – and writing – horror. Along with films like Phantasm, Halloween, and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Two; when I’d entered this in a Midnight Echo competition several years ; you were VP of the AHWA (Australian Horror Writers Association) back then. And while the story didn’t win, it got an honourable mention. Fitting, I guess, that after how many years and how many submissions, it should finally land here.

Do you have an all-time favourite horror tale?

Not possible. There are some noteworthy tales though: Incubus by Joe Donnelly is a favourite; to date it’s the only book that made my skin crawl when reading it. Plus it’s got one of the illest taglines: “What kind of baby steals a mother?” Props are also given to Rare Breeds by Erik Hofstatter, which is truly macabre, twisted – and captures the essence of things going horribly wrong in a way that so many other works would like to. Thor by Wayne Smith, The Rising by Brian Keene, Pet Semetary by Stephen King, etc. No way can I pick just one.

What books did you grow up reading?

A variety. Wildlife encyclopaedias. Horror novels; Alien, The Thing, Incubus (the Ray Russell version), Salem's Lot, to name a few. I guess there were some books where I'd taken in the screen iteration first: Jaws, Piranha, Enter The Dragon, Oh Heavenly Dog. Martin Caidin’s Cyborg; the source material for The Six Million Dollar Man – what’s the latest on the reboot? Asterix books. Spider-Man comics. Books on martial arts, weight training, IQ. And some books aimed more at children. The Adventures Of A Two-Minute Werewolf. The Demon Headmaster. Mog And The Rectifier. I took in a whole variety. I probably read more as a kid; one, because kids were encouraged to do so and two, as a grown man, I don’t get that much time to read now.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Sure do. I guess the most elaborate one is that before I start writing a new story (which is usually long fiction) is that I’ll toast the muse and the work to be with a glass of Jack & Coke. To be specific, it’s the honey blend of Jack Daniel’s, Diet Coke – and served in a whisky glass engraved with ‘Get Shit Done.’ I got that glass from a couple of Canadian friends (who I love to bits), because they know what I’m like when it’s time to put in work. I keep meaning to get an additional glass engraved with ‘Got Shit Done’, but I haven’t gotten around to it. So for now, it’s the same glass used to toast the beginning and the end of each story. The usual rituals are less elaborate; it may be listening to a film/TV score beforehand to get me in the zone. The piano theme from Phantasm, for example. Opening credit theme from The Evil Dead, by Joseph LoDuca. I can’t write to music, but it gets me into that zone of creativity and flow. I need quiet and solitude to not just write, but to truly craft something. Doing so at night – when the house and the neighbourhood are still – is when the nuances really stir, creeping to life. Make no mistake, I’m writing to engage, disturb and unsettle the reader. Isn’t that what you came for?

Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know yet?

Just in case anyone’s missed it, I don’t watch horror any more. I get the irony of that, but as much as I was raised on a diet of Rabid, Poltergeist, Salem’s Lot, The Evil Dead, Phantasm, et al, there’s no pleasure I get in experiencing that pulse-pounding dread; it’s unpleasant. That tension before someone goes yellow-eyed with a mouthful of fangs, a little girl with an inhumanly deep voice, a rotting face jibbering and grinning at you. You know, I had to work up courage to watch Werewolf By Night (the Marvel short film from a year or so ago) and watch the transformation scene frame by frame to make sure it wouldn’t rattle me? Ditto for when I first watched Lucifer (the TV show with Tom Ellis). And I have no shame in saying this; I can read this stuff, I can write it – but it’s generally unpleasant/disturbing/etc. to watch. There are exceptions though – slasher films, maybe a zombie film or two. I love Shaun Of The Dead; very clever. Dawn Of The Dead (with Ving Rhames) was decent. Scream VI is one I saw recently; was impressed by that for the subway scene alone.

Where can we find you online?

Website is www.ccadams.com . On Facebook at www.facebook.com/MrAdamsWrites and Twitter at www.twitter.com/MrAdamsWrites. But definitely hit me up to talk this, that and the third on the genre; that’s always cool.

Thanks for answering our questions.

Friday 6 October 2023

Fortitude and Courage - Announcement and Interview - Part Two

Hello there, avid reader. You've read part one of the Fortitude and Courage announcement and you're back for the next round of steampunk tennis between Karen Bayly and Cameron Trost. Glad you could make it. Just give us a minute to warm up a little first... Okay, are you ready, Karen? Great! Let's play! 

C: What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?

K: I do a basic plot, so I know what plot points to hit to reach the end. After that, I’m a pantser. If I were to plot every little thing, I would never write a novel. I can get too tied up in the details and end up strangling the story. I also find that within the plot, the interaction of the characters drives some aspects of the story. Artemis and Nathaniel are the perfect examples. How they end up is not what I planned.

K: What’s your editing process?

C: I get the book formatted the way I want it first so that it’s print-ready, then I do a quick edit on the laptop, fixing up typos, punctuation mistakes, and aiming for consistency. The idea is to remove simple errors that will distract me from diving into the book. Once it looks fairly clean, I order a print copy, grab a red pen, and make myself comfortable so I can scribble away, adding notes and scratching out words or entire sentences that need to be removed or rewritten. The final step in editing an anthology is usually adding the page numbers, because this is what inevitably changes until everything is in the right place, and no editor wants a reader to point out that the story supposed to start on page twenty-seven actually starts on page twenty-eight!

C: What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused? 

K: Quiet. 

K: What keeps you focused on editing?

C: Quiet or music of my choosing. I love editing, so as long as I have no external distractions or disturbances, I’m in the zone.

C: How do you celebrate when you finish your book? 

K: I don’t! I probably should. I’m partial to good peaty whisky. And champagne. Or a fine red wine.

K: How do you celebrate when you publish a book? 

C: By plastering posts all over social media! Then the peaty whisky. ;)

C: What is your kryptonite as a writer?

K: Self-doubt. It can be crippling.

K: What frustrates Black Beacon Books as a publisher?

C: What annoys me is when I receive a submission from an author and it’s immediately clear the guidelines haven’t been followed. It’s rude and it dramatically reduces your chances of getting an acceptance. But more than that, what really frustrates me is not selling hundreds of books each week—or even each month! We publish books for people to read, and we want as many readers as we can get!

C: Are you active on social media? How do you use it?

K: I’m relatively active. I share upcoming publications and posts from valued authors and publishers. When I have a long enough lead time, I share my writing process for a story and snippets of what inspired me.

K: What’s your social media strategy?

C: I try to repeat what I notice works and I try to post regularly with the aim of making our loyal fans feel appreciated while at the same time reaching new potential fans. I lean more heavily towards Facebook and Instagram, because they seem to work, and I promote Goodreads page as it’s a book-specific platform. We’re still on Twitter for the moment but it looks like Bluesky might be slowly gaining ground. There’s no big strategy. The idea is to have fun and include others in our adventure. We publish a lot of dark fiction but I try to keep our social media interactions positive and engaging. That’s what readers seem to want.

C: Do you play music while you write—and, if so, what’s your favourite?

K: No, I find music distracting as I tend to listen to it rather than write. The exception is Philip Glass’s Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra 2nd Movement, which always evoked a strong sense of the Fortitudo and Nathaniel and Artemis’s troubled relationship.

K: What does Black Beacon Books need to get down to the business of publishing?

C: I guess this question can be understood a number of ways. Keeping in mind that Black Beacon Books is essentially me—Cameron Trost—running the show from my cottage in Brittany in my free time. At the nuts-and-bolts level, I need time alone to run things—that includes keeping the website and social media platforms updated, reading submissions, editing and formatting books, choosing cover artists or designing covers in-house, and much more. Beyond my laptop, however, Black Beacon Books becomes a team effort. Our aim is to sell copies so we can keep publishing more books, and we need our contributing authors to help us. We expect them to play an active role in promoting our titles so that we can succeed together. 

C: What books did you grow up reading?

K: The classics – Dickens, Austen, the Brontes, Lewis Carrol, Kenneth Grahame, lots of horse stories (!), fairy tales (I have an excellent book of fairy tales which is over 80 years old and passed down from my mother), and Greek and Norse mythology. I moved into science fiction and horror in my teens – starting with “The Chrysalids”, which we read in the first year of high school and progressing to the Pan Books of Horror. There are still stories from that series that haunt me - The Copper Bowl, The Emissary, Man Skin {shiver}.

K: What books have influenced Black Beacon Books in the development of its catalogue?

C: A tough question. None specifically and countless books more generally. Our anthologies are designed to intrigue, entertain, and thrill. If you take the Pan Books of Horror and mash them up with the Alfred Hitchcock anthologies, you’ll get an idea of the foundations we’re built on.

C: Have you ever tried to write a novel for a genre you rarely or never read? 

K: I haven’t written whole novels, but I’ve written short stories in genres I rarely read. Apparently, I can write decent romance and erotica, which is weird because I have zero interest in either. However, people like that stuff, so I work elements of both into my novels when appropriate.

K: What genres would you never publish?

C: It’s important to think about brand—I know, uncool business concept as opposed to cool artist term, but it’s not going to help us if we spread ourselves too thin. Our bread and butter—well, we’re stilling working on the butter—is suspenseful fiction and all the genres it encompasses. While a hint of romance and a dash of eroticism can spice up a gripping tale, we’re not interested in giving Mills & Boon (they still around?) a run for their money, and “50 Grades of Shay”...well, no comment. We’re not planning on branching out into high fantasy or hard sci-fi either. 

C: What book (or books) are you currently reading? 

K: This changes every five days or so, so it will be outdated by the time anyone reads this. I’ve just finished Dervla McTiernan’s “The Murder Rule” and am now reading Sylvain Neuvel’s “A History of What Comes Next”.

K: What are the top five books in your To Be Read list?

C: I have two lists of books to read; one mostly made up of print books I’ve ordered (living in rural Brittany means my books in English are ordered online) and the other made up of ebooks I’ve been asked to review by fellow authors. Of the latter, my priorities are reviewing “A Vindication of Monsters”, edited by Claire Fitzpatrick, and “Cretaceous Canyon” by Deborah Sheldon. Of the former, well, I’m currently reading “Charlotte Sometimes” by Penelope Farmer, which is the book one of my favourite songs is based on, then there’s “Consider Her Ways and Others” by John Wyndham, “L’Affaire Saint-Fiacre” by Georges Simenon, “The Last Man” by Mary Shelley, and short stories by M.R. James, Ian Rankin, and Val McDermid. Of course, most of my time is spent reading submissions and editing our future publications. 

C: What’s the trickiest thing about writing characters of the opposite gender?

K: Making my male characters appealing to men! I don’t think I write the type of men that men are impressed by. However, one of my more geeky characters has proved popular with male readers.

K: Do your publications appeal to all genders, or do you find your sales are skewed?

C: We have no way of knowing the gender of people buying our books, but our typical social media follower is a female in her forties. Since women are known to be far more discerning than men, I take this as a huge thumbs-up. The question remains, is it the quality of our books they love, or the sexiness of the man publishing then...one likes to think a little from column A and a little from column B! ;) A terrible sense of humour is sexy, right? (K: Umm…) In any case, we aim to please readers regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. All you need to love our books is fantastic taste!

C: What do the words “literary success” mean to you? How do you picture it?

K: When I first started writing, it meant being well-known by readers, well-regarded by peers, and making a living from my work. Nowadays, I consider myself a literary success if I get paid for something I’ve written. That’s not meant to sound like I’m devaluing my writing. But it is tough to get noticed, so adjusting your expectations helps you stay hopeful as you inch your way up the literary ladder.

K: What are Black Beacon Books’ ambitions for the future?

C: Our modest ambition is to keep putting out a handful of books per year, gain new readers every month, and keep breaking even. Let’s be more ambitious now so you have an exciting answer to your question—I’d say, somewhere between breaking even and eating a Penguin burger. I’d love to do this full-time and be able to pay our contributing authors and cover artists a better rate. That would be great. We’re a talented bunch who deserves to live from our passion and receive shiploads of letters and underwear from fans and stalkers. Not there just yet. NB. Clean underwear only, please! 

K: No underwear from fans or stalkers for me. Just putting that out there.

C: Who has been the biggest supporter of your writing?

K: Me. And a handful of friends (they know who they are).

K: What is the biggest difficulty you face as an indie publisher?

C: Getting people to put their money where their mouths are and buy our books. As simple as that. Do it! ;)

C: Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know yet?

K: I used to be an actor and a musician.

K: And would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know yet?

C: No. Oops, I mean—yes, of course! Well, I’m not sure we have any dark secrets beyond the ones in our books, but readers may not be aware that Halloween 2023 marks our tenth anniversary as a publisher, and this means that there will be plenty of celebrations taking place as we head into the month of October. In fact, they’ve already kicked off! Follow us all over the interwebs: linktr.ee/blackbeaconbooks 

More news coming soon, including the cover reveals! In the meantime, you can find Karen online here: https://karenbayly.com

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Horror Anthology: Jeff Wood

The Black Beacon Book of Horror will be released on Friday the 13th of October; the Kindle version is available for pre-order at just $1.99 instead of $3.99 and you can add the anthology to your Goodreads list today. To get you in the mood for a particularly spooky Halloween this year, we’re interviewing the contributing authors. The first Black Beacon Book of Horror is bound to give you the creeps!

Hi Jeff,

Why do you write horror?

I’ve written in several genres, and horror may be the most elastic. It allows me to shape a story to fit any number of traumas and tropes. I can write about my life and the world around me, and grapple with my own fears and desires within the context of fiction.

Is there a story behind your story in this anthology?

I was raised Southern Baptist, but my family left the church when I was a kid. What I was left with was a conflict between a desire for religion and a deep distrust of it. The story comes from that ongoing battle. I was also raised in the Midwestern US in the 60s and 70s, when there was a casual cruelty toward animals, and insects in particular. That easy way of guiltlessly snuffing out the lives of other living things is an influence on the story as well.

Do you have an all-time favourite horror tale?

I remember two stories as being particularly influential. My sister brought home Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery" after school one day, and made me sit down and read it immediately. My memory is of sitting on her bed, cross-legged, realizing for the first time that somebody wrote this. Meaning, it wasn’t just a story, there was a sensibility behind the story. Someone had thought about what story they wanted to tell, and the best way to tell it, and then wrote it. I had a similar reaction to Bradbury’s "A Sound of Thunder", and the description of the T. Rex specifically. Somebody wrote this. They wanted to tell the reader this story, and figured out the best way to present it.

What books did you grow up reading?

I loved Bradbury and Jackson, as I have mentioned. I also devoured H.G. Wells (I got a hardback collection of his sci-fi novels as a kid) and those goofy Tom Swift Jr. books (“Tom Swift and His Atomic Earth Blaster”!). There was a short story called “Wide O–” that had a huge impact, and I thought about it all the time.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I really don’t. I write 1000 words nearly every day, but it can be anywhere, any time, regardless of what chaos might be surrounding me. The only ritual is the writing itself.

Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know yet?

I hitchhiked from Iowa to New York City twice, once by way of Canada. The second time I hitchhiked to NYC, I stayed there for 12 years.

Where can we find you online?


Thanks for answering our questions.

Fortitude and Courage - Announcement and Interview - Part One

Breaking news of the steampunk kind! Or should that be—Extra, extra! Read all about it? Either way, Black Beacon Books is jolly well thrilled to announce that Karen Bayly (you'll remember her from Murder and Machinery and Tales from the Ruins) has signed with us for a double-release. In February 2024, we’ll be publishing both Fortitude, her fantastic steampunk adventure which was originally published by Mary Celeste Press, and Courage, the splendiferous sequel, going to print for the first time. To celebrate, we’re playing not one, but two, games of tennis. Yes, you heard us! Our editor-in-chief, Cameron Trost, will ask Karen a question, and after answering it, she’ll hit one right back at us. Ready for the first match? Let’s play!

C: Why do you write steampunk?

K: *I’m fascinated by the ‘what if ?’ premise the genre proposes. What if steam and analogue could deliver everything petrol and digital could as well or better? What if we never went down the petrol / digital path? What alternate steampunk worlds can I create? Although it is usually thought of as belonging to the Victorian era, steampunk set in Edwardian and other eras has allowed a move from restrictive Victorian ideals to more exciting interpretations.

K: Why do you publish steampunk?

C: For those unfamiliar with the Black Beacon Books range, we have published or are in the process of publishing books in the genres of mystery, suspense, adventure, horror, ghost stories, post-apocalyptic, and steampunk. To that, you could even add a touch of sci-fi and historical fiction. Quite a broad range perhaps, but in a way, the three overriding genres of mystery, suspense, and horror cover the others. Steampunk isn’t so much a genre as a setting. It provides a canvas for tales of all different kinds, with eccentric characters, spectacular styles, and mindboggling technology. Having grown up reading Victorian classics like the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells, the prospect of contemporary fiction taking the rich cultural and technological features of this period and applying them to an endless world of possibility based on the idea that the twentieth century took a different route is so compelling. This is what makes steampunk so fascinating... so tantalising.

C: What Victorian characteristics do you find in yourself?

K: I’m interested in science and technology and fascinated by death (although memento mori photography is a step too far). The era also spawned several ground-breaking women, for example, the female private detectives Kate Warne (a Pinkerton!) and Kate West. Emmeline Pankhurst started her suffragette crusade in the late Victorian era. In Australia, Viva Goldstein pioneered the women’s suffrage movement. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Constance Stone became the first women to practice medicine in the UK and Australia, respectively. These women were rebellious in positive ways. I’ve been called rebellious, and I’d like to think I’ve done so in a positive way.

K: Which Victorian author would you publish?

C: I like to think my role as editor at Black Beacon Books is to bring talent that may otherwise have been overlooked to as broad a readership as possible. So, if I’d been alive in the Victorian era and not condemned to working in a factory or coal mine, I would have loved to publish the work of unknown writers. I sometimes wonder if there are wonderful manuscripts out there from the period that the world never got to discover. But to answer your question with a name everybody knows—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Imagine that—Black Beacon Books presents The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes! 

C: What is it about airships that fascinates you?

K: Their elegance and grace. Except when they exploded. But that is where steampunk comes to the rescue. No exploding airships, thank you very much.

K: If you owned an airship, what would you name it?

C: Living in Brittany, and in a steampunk world in which Breton had remained the dominant language over French, I’d have to choose a dark but graceful name evoking both the air and the sea. Give me a minute... okay, I’d go with Morvran Du... Black Cormorant. 

K: I love that name SO much!

C: Tell the readers out there who have never read steampunk why they should.

K: It’s a fun genre ranging from humorous to dystopian and everything in between. Nothing is sacred. Anything goes as long as you have the basic elements of steam, contraptions, a retro feel in fashion and style, and a sense of nostalgia (even if that nostalgia is for something that never existed).

K: What about steampunk attracts Black Beacon Books?

C: As mentioned above, steampunk goes hand in glove with our main genres of mystery, suspense, horror, and post-apocalyptic. There are different ways to consider fiction genres and how they overlap. In a way, mystery is really a genre in the strongest sense of the word, with clear plot elements, character stereotypes, and a handful of hard and fast rules. There has to be a puzzle to be solved, a leading character—typically a detective—we can rely on to eventually provide (confirm) the solution, and there needs to be at least one culprit. The other genres we published are more atmospheres or settings. Both suspense and horror are really about the atmosphere, with a great deal of plot diversity and an almost endless array of settings available to the author, from a mediaeval village to a space station in another galaxy, even if they’re both (particularly suspense) more commonly associated with familiar settings—urban, suburban, or rural. Where then does steampunk fit in? Well, almost anywhere, really. Like post-apocalyptic, steampunk requires neither specific plot elements nor a specific feel. Both are based almost entirely on setting and they are both particularly speculative in nature. While both steampunk and post-apocalyptic fiction are generally considered subgenres of science-fiction, they can in fact overlap with just about any genre. Can you imagine a steampunk story without a heavy dose of suspense? Not really. Are there elements of horror in steampunk? Almost invariably. What about mystery? Not, perhaps, in the strictest sense, but there’s usually a puzzle or two in a steampunk story. In your novels, Karen, we definitely have bucketloads of mystery, suspense, and horror. This is what attracts us to steampunk. There’s so much freedom in terms of worldbuilding and the author can explore storylines that wouldn’t be plausible in the world we know today. 

C: What is the most difficult part of your writing process? 

K: Time. I juggle a couple of jobs requiring a lot of problem-solving and technical details and find that my brain is fried by the end of the day. But in the morning, my time is limited. I’ve learned to write in short bursts.

K: What is your process for picking stories for an anthology?

C: This is top-secret stuff, Karen—how dare you ask! ;) Okay, I’ll bite. It’s pretty simple at first; I put out a call, read the stories as they come in, and put each story into a folder named “under consideration”. Stories that don’t follow the guidelines (far too many) or simply won’t make the cut are either immediately rejected or end up going into a folder named “to be rejected”. Once submissions have closed, I’ll do a double-check—in theory, a story sent to the rejected folder can do a Lazarus, but it’s highly unusual. I’ll typically have thirty or so stories that make the initial short list. I’ll then go through all the stories under consideration and send the ones I intend to accept into a file named “to be accepted”. This is where what is generally the toughest part of the process begins (as you know, Karen) because there are some great stories that don’t quite fit the way the anthology is starting to shape up. These stories will have to be rejected. In the rejection email to these authors, I say the story made the final short list and that the decision not to accept the story was a tough one. While submissions are open to all writers, we want these ones especially to submit again in the future. These are serious writers who have talent, have followed the guidelines, and have thoroughly edited their work as best they can. These are writers who have a strong chance of making it next time around. These writers often work at developing and maintaining a strong social media presence as well, and while I aim to choose a story solely on its merit, when it comes down to choosing between two equally strong submissions, I’ll often look at the author’s social media presence. Publishing is a partnership and we need authors we can work with before and long after an anthology is published. We want people to read our books, and we want authors who want that too, and will work with us to that end. 

C: What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

K: A solid grasp of grammar and spelling, an understanding of story structure and character arcs, thoughtful world-building, and a desire to weave a spell that draws a reader into the story.

K: And what, to Black Beacon Books, are the most important elements of good writing?

C: What you said, Karen. Good writing entertains and engages the reader, and it respects the reader. We want to publish great stories, and great stories require great writing. You can’t have one without the other. A ripping tale that’s poorly written is of no interest to the reader, just as perfect grammar and spelling without a story that holds the reader’s interest is of no interest. We want the whole package. I would add to that, a touch of originality. We want a surprise or two for our readers, whether it be a clever twist at the end or a new take on an old trope. Rearranging words isn’t enough. We need to know that a particular story belongs to a particular author. We want to know, for example, that this is Karen Bayly’s story even without seeing her name printed on the cover—although we’ll do that too, of course!   

C: How do you develop your plot and characters?

K: I usually follow a standard three-act, nine-point structure, which I put into Scrivener. I’ve tried other formats like the Hero’s Journey and various plotting software, but these tend to tie me in knots. I create character sheets for my characters but keep these basic as I find they change as I write. I also plot an arc for characters. Who are they when they start? Who will they be when this is finished?

K: What types of plots and characters intrigue Black Beacon Books?

C: Like I said, we love originality. Admittedly, that’s easier said than done. In terms of the standard plot types, we love a combination of the ‘overcoming the monster’, ‘quest’, and ‘voyage and return’. These are extremely general plot types that can be shaken up and even turned on their heads. Take the first one, for example. Plenty of great horror novels—the scariest ones—have the monster win at the end, and a really engaging mystery can have the reader sympathising with the culprit when the motive is revealed. As for characters, we want them to be believable, which means that they can be stereotypes, but they still need a quirk or two. The hero needs to have a flaw or two—or at least an annoying habit—and we need a glimpse at the antagonist’s backstory—we need to understand what motivates the character. 

C: How did you come up with the title for your books?

K: Both titles tell the theme that links the characters. In “Fortitude”, every character demonstrates their brand of fortitude. In “Courage”, every character faces challenges which lead to change and, you guessed it, reveals their brand of courage.

K: What’s your all-time favourite book title?

C: That’s a really good question. For the sake of fairness, I’ll limit myself to the title of a book I’ve actually read. I recently read and absolutely loved “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane, and while it’s a simple title, I think it evokes the suspenseful setting perfectly. That, however, is not my answer. Let’s see... Here’s the short list: Le Fanu’s “In a Glass Darkly”, James Henry’s “The Turn of the Screw”, Richard Matheson’s “A Stir of Echoes”—though I thought the film was far better than the book, “The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks, “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess, “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, “Piranha to Scurfy and Other Stories” by Ruth Rendell (her titles are as amazing as her books—“The Crocodile Bird”, “Master of the Moor”, “To Fear a Painted Devil”), “Switch Bitch” by Roald Dahl—so snappy, “When the World Screamed” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “They Do It With Mirrors” by Agatha Christie, “The House on the Borderland” by William Hope Hodgson, “Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village” by Maureen Johnson, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway. It’s so hard to choose just one—do I really have to?—I think “A Clockwork Orange” might take the cake. It’s so ambiguous and incongruous at first, but once you read the book, you come to understand how the clockwork orange is in fact so symbolic of the book’s central theme.

Who won, Karen? Looks like 6-6! Let's take a break and then come back for the tiebreak...