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WILLIAM MEIKLE

Genre Fiction

Dark Regions Press – a statement

In the fallout from last night’s Brian Keene podcast I’ve been asked several times today about Dark Regions Press.

My dealings there are historical, in that the stand alone novels, novellas and collections I have published with them were all commissioned by Joe Morey before he handed over the company to Chris, and then again with Joe at Dark Renaissance before he folded that company back into Dark Regions when he retired.

So I have a whole heap of work there, mostly now only in ebooks as the small print runs are in the main sold, or not selling.

Apart from that, I have a handful of story sales to recent anthologies with Dark Regions.

So my dealings with them are, in the main, waiting for royalties to be paid.

Even back in Joe’s day, Dark Regions were never ones for paying strictly on time, and that has continued under Chris’ reign there.

Over the years there has been a degree of confusion over royalties, especially regarding the books that flitted in and out of Dark Renaissance’s catalog and back, then out, and in again, from Dark Regions. That was a logistical nightmare at times that caused headaches at both their end and mine.

But I’ve never not been paid — eventually.

This latest round was no different, and the gap between payments had been stretching.

After chasing Chris up, I got a royalty statement from them in December that covered Dec 2016 – Nov 2017. As far as I can tell it matches numbers I would have expected to see there. I got 1/2 of it paid just before Xmas, and the the 2nd half was paid this week.

So my experience is, he’s paid me, but needs to be chased, so I chase him.

I can’t speak for the other writers signed up with them. Those that haven’t been paid at all need to be paid, and that needs sorted fast. Similarly, there are books that people have paid for through Kickstarter campaigns and advance orders that are now years overdue, and that again speaks of a certain lack of organisation, or just plain overreaching, on Dark Regions’ part.

Dark Regions have been good for my career over the years, and I’d hate to see them crumble under disorganization, overreaching themselves and forgetting that their writers are their most important asset — I’ve seen it happen to too many presses now.

I hope Chris can sort this latest mess out. I wish him luck.

 



 

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Newfoundland and Me

Newfoundland is worming its way more and more into my soul, and out again in my writing.

We came over on holiday in 2005 and loved it. When my job in Edinburgh went tits-up in 2007, it was just when I was starting to get some serious pro-level story sales, and we knew we could get a nice house with a great view dirt cheap over here on The Rock. So we sold up in Scotland, whacked some money in the bank, bought a house on the shore here in a fishing village, and I tried writing full time. I’ve not starved us yet.

It’s not quite in the middle of nowhere. We have roads, a post office, a supermarket and some takeaway places. We even have running water and electricity. The people are very friendly, mostly of Irish descent around here, and it’s lovely and quiet, which suits me just fine.

It also seems to suit my writing. The third Derek Adams book, THE SKIN GAME was stalled in its opening act back in Scotland, but that first winter after we got here I realised that Derek could come here too, and after that the rest of that one fell quickly into place.

Since then I’ve been exploring various parts of the island and its culture in my novels. THE DUNFIELD TERROR takes place around Trinity, where I spent my first year here working on a whale tour boat (the reprint of that one is coming soon from Crossroad Press.), FUNGOID takes place in the island capital St. Johns, and also up this peninsula where I live while SONGS OF DREAMING GODS is set in a corner townhouse in St. John’s again.

I’ve got two more novels based here in the pipe at Crossroad Press, namely THE BOATHOUSE, set here in our home port of Catalina, and THE GREEN AND THE BLACK, set in a derelict Victorian mining colony in the island’s interior.

There will be more, as I haven’t covered the whole glorious gamut of this place yet.

And I need to get a moose in somewhere.

 

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Through a Mythos Darkly

Some stories fall through cracks. Some whole books do.

Getting a story in THROUGH A MYTHOS DARKLY was a big deal for me. It’s from PS Publishing, who were one of my white whale publishers, and my story in it is an alternative history Arthurian thing, influenced as much by Michael Moorcock as by H P Lovecraft. I had an awful lot of fun writing it, loose and racing, and it’s one of my favorites of all the stories I’ve written.

And yet… I’m not sure anybody’s read it. Sure, the book is out, and the hardcover in particular is a lovely, lovely thing. But I’ve yet to see a single review, not even on Amazon, and it’s as if the book’s invisible now that it’s out there in the wild.

So if this is your first time hearing about it, seek it out and give it a chance. There’s plenty in there to reward you.

Get the shiny hardcover here  ( ebook is also available)

Here’s the TOC

Cody Goodfellow . . . The Roadrunners
Jeffrey Thomas . . . Scrimshaw
John Langan . . . Sweet Angie Tailor in: Subterranean Showdown
Robert M. Price . . . An Old and Secret Cult
Pete Rawlik . . . Stewert Behr–Deanimator
Don Webb . . . To Kill a King
William Meikle . . . The Last Quest
Christine Morgan . . . Fate of the World
Konstantine Paradias . . . Red in the Water, Salt on the Earth
D.A. Madigan . . . The Night They Drove Cro Magnon Down
Sam Stone . . . Sacrifice
Edward Morris . . . Get Off Your Knees, I’m Not Your God
Stephen Mark Rainey . . . Excerpts from the Diaries of Henry P. Linklatter
Tim Waggoner . . . Plague Doctor
Lee Clark Zumpe . . . Amidst the Blighted Swathes of Grey Desolation
Nick Mamatas & Molly Tanzer . . . Cognac, Communism, and Cocaine
Damien Angelica Walters . . . Kai Monstrai Ateik (When the Monsters Come)

 

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The Seton family

Regular readers of mine know that I like to seed Seton family Easter eggs in my books. They’re generally wee red-haired Scotsmen and women who either dabble in alchemy, know more than they’re telling, might or might not be immortal, or have sold their souls for a shiny sword and a way with the ladies — they crop up all over the place.

Recently a young member of the family (and another cousin of his too) has turned up in the Rowan Casey / Veil Knights series, an elder statesman is in Ramskull, Occult Detective Quarterly #1, and Sherlock Holmes: The Dreaming Man. Alexander, who was the first to make himself known to me, is in The Concordances of the Red Serpent, and his granddaughter turns up in a new Derek Adams story coming soon in Occult Detective Quarterly Presents.

Then there’s Augustus, still hacking his violent way through late 16th Century Scotland in a sequence of sword and sorcery stories — he’ll be back I’m sure.

They’re also tied to an ancient mystical book, THE TWELVE CONCORDANCES OF THE RED SERPENT, an alchemical tome written by an elder Seton at the time of Bannockburn. There’s a copy in Carnacki’s library in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, Sherlock Holmes has seen a copy too, as has Derek Adams, and one turned up in my recent novella, THE JOB.

The family, and the book are also in the process of being tied in to my Sigils and Totems mythos, so everything is all spinning around in one big happy dance of chaos.

It gives readers who read a lot of my books something to look out for, a wee wink and secret handshake between them and me as reward for their time spent in my worlds.

Plus, it’s fun.

Fun is good.

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Genre gear change. Maybe.

I’ve tried my hand at several works of fantasy over the years, and they almost always come out the same way — pulpy, with swords, sorcery, monsters and bloody battles to the fore. It’s the way I roll.

I may start with good intentions, of writing high fantasy with political intrigue and courtly goings on but, as in the Watchers series or Berserker, or some of the stories in the Samurai collection, my inner barbarian muscles to the fore, says Bugger this for a lark, and starts hacking.

The blame for my enthusiasm can be laid squarely at several doors.

There’s Conan, of course, and Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon and the whole pantheon of Eternal Champions; there’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Solomon Kane, Jon Shannow, Druss, the princes of Amber and the shades of a thousand more by the likes of Poul Anderson, A E Merritt, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H Rider Haggard and many others.

I’ve just come out of a months-long stint on another one, a historical trilogy set in 14th C Paris, with Templar mysteries, desert magic and more swashes than you can buckle, and it’s off to my co-writer Steve Savile for him to weave some more magic into it.

Up next for me is another creature feature for SEVERED PRESS, but I’m already thinking ahead — this might be the year for my own fantasy epic, which will likely be dark, and feature my SIGILS AND TOTEMS mythos in a Stone Age fantasy setting. I’ve got an outline that involves tattoos, flightless birds, thylacines, lost cities, pirates, whale cults, crocodile gods, the dreamtime, a big black bird, mad sorcerors, sea battles and love lost, found, and lost again. It’s been in my head for years. As I say, it might be time for it to come out.

It’s fermenting. The warmer weather this summer might see it develop.

 

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On London – a relationship with an old lady

I went to London to seek my fortune back in early 1982. My relationship with the Old Lady proved to be a love affair that I still carry with me even though it lasted less than ten years.

For the first few months I was living and working outside the main city while making forays into the museums, cinemas and pubs of the city center at weekends. But the love only came after I started working in the old city itself. I got a job in a converted warehouse in Devonshire Square near Liverpool Street Railway Station. My desk looked out over Petticoat Lane Market, my lunchtime wanderings took me to the curry cafes of Brick Lane and the bars of Whitechapel in the footsteps of the Ripper. I was supporting computer systems down in the financial sector, and my wanderings down there took me to Bank and Monument, to indoor markets and gorgeous old pubs, to tiny churches and cemeteries hidden away in courtyards, and across the river, to Borough Market and even older pubs, like The George and The Market Porter. If you’re after a true whiff of old London, there’s few finer places to seek it.

A few years later we moved office to Farringdon Road and more old markets, Guardian journalists in the pubs and forays into the area between there and Euston. Then we settled in High Holborn which for me meant Skoob Bookshop, the British Museum and yes, more pubs, in the Victorian splendor of The Princess Louise, the high gothic weirdness of The City of Yorke and many more, including forays down to Fleet Street for some Dickensian musings in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, and the Strand for The George and the Coal Hole under The Savoy for some slices of theatrical history, and many other bars, too numerous to mention or too lost to memory in alcoholic poisoning of the brain cells.

For a while London got into my soul. I got able to find my way around from just about anywhere inside the M25, I lived south of the river in Bromley, Beckenham and Ladywell, where I discovered that the flat I’d bought didn’t just have a bogeyman in the stairwell, but that the Old Lady’s Well bubbled up in the cellar, to my eventual enormous financial cost, But at least I got to know the similarly drunken patrons of a variety of night buses after concerts or drinking sessions during my time there.

London is indeed a fine old city. Almost, but not quite, the equal of Edinburgh or Glasgow in my heart. My real love for it came from not just the place, but from the people I met there. I met many Londoners, but I also met people from all over the UK, people from India, Pakistan, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Poland, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Greece, Turkey and many other far flung spots. I made great friends and a lot of them are still friends today, 35 years on. We spent many happy hours in those aforementioned old bars, telling each other stories. They heard mine, and I heard theirs, and the telling of them bound, and binds us in friendship all across the globe to this day. That’s been better than any fortune to me over the years.

Towards the end of my time in the Old Lady, I met my wife there too, in another of the old bars, and our courtship was spent over beer, film and theatre around Covent Garden and in the West End.

We left London and I returned to Scotland in 1991, but some of the Old Lady came with me, in my friends and, eventually, in my own writing. When I started to drift into writing Victoriana, it was London that called loudest to me, from Baker Street and Cheyne Walk, from Bank to Embankment and yes, from bar to bar.

In my most recent collection, THE GHOST CLUB, most of the stories don’t take place in London. But they are all told there, over a meal and a drink, by Doyle and Stoker, Stevenson and Oliphant, Tolstoy and Wilde and others, all drawn, like me, by the tales to be told, and heard, in the arms of the Old Lady, and in her bars.

 

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I’m Willie, I’m a Scotsman, and I like horror fiction.

I’m Willie, I’m a Scotsman, and I like horror fiction.

A lot of my work, long and short form, has been set in Scotland, and a lot of it uses the history and folklore. There’s just something about the misty landscapes and old buildings that speaks straight to my soul. (Bloody Celts… we get all sentimental at the least wee thing).

Scottish history goes deep. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a castle or a historic monument or, from further back, a burial mound or standing stone. Five thousand years of living in mist and dampness, wind and snow, lashing rain and high seas leads to the telling of many tales of eldritch beings abroad in the dark nights. Add in the constant risk of invasion and war from Romans, Danes, Irishmen, Vikings and English and you can see that there’s plenty of fertile ground for both fact and fiction to merge into a rich and varied mythology.

I grew up in the West Coast of Scotland in an environment where the supernatural was almost commonplace. My grannie certainly had a touch of “the sight”, always knowing when someone in the family was in trouble. There are numerous stories told of family members meeting other, long dead, family in their dreams, and I myself have had more than a few encounters, with dead family, plus meetings with what I can only class as residents of faerie. I have had several precognitive dreams, one of which saved me from a potentially fatal car crash.

What with all of that, it was only natural that my taste in reading would take a turn towards the spooky.

I think my first close encounter of the Scottish kind must have been with Rabbie Burns. I’m from Ayrshire like Rabbie, and we share a birthday, so he was ever present in my early schooling. I remember learning a recital of the galloping frenzy of Tam o’ Shanter as drunken Tam escapes the witches Sabbath by the skin of his teeth. Walter Scott too wasn’t above slipping wraiths and fairies and fey folk into his romances, and he too was an early sight for me of some old Scots preoccupations with the darker side.

When I started reading seriously for myself, Treasure Island was one of my early favorites, and it led me directly to the man who would be a lifelong companion. Robert Louis Stevenson didn’t just anchor a whole sub-culture of horror with Doctor Jeckyll and his alter-ego — he also wrote some of the greatest adventure novels of all time, and some of the most beautifuly constructed short stories you ever did read. He also introduced me to Scottish history in a way that school books had never managed, and through him I was led to Victorian Edinburgh and London, and directly into the arms of another great Scotsman.

Yes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was Scottish. No, he wasn’t an English gentleman. Now that’s out of the way… I fell in love with Doyle through Challenger more than Holmes at first, from a love of The Lost World that persists to this day. Holmes came along later, and when I started writing Holmes stories of my own, the supernatural kept creeping into them, which gets me castigated by Sherlockian purists, but I don’t care; as a Scotsman, like Doyle, steeped in the stories told in the mists and dark rooms in old buildings, it feels as natural to me as breathing. Doyle also wrote some top notch horror shorts that were a big favorite of mine in those early years.

Also writing at the same time was Margaret Oliphant, a prolific Scotswoman better known for romantic dramas than supernatural works, but in later years I discovered a ghost stories collection of hers and was delighted to discover that she too shared our kinfolk’s love for the things that live in the dark and foggy nights in the auld country.

My later reading in my early teens before I found Moorcock then Lovecraft then King was almost all sci-fi or thriller based, but there too I found Scots with a taste for the darkside, in John Buchan and especially Alistair MacLean, a man who would have made a great pulp horror writer in different circumstances.

Later still William McIllvaney and Ian Rankin, while ostensibly working in the crime field also showed me more than a few glimpses of their familiarity with the dark and the ways of things that creep in the shadows.

And then, in the Eighties, horror came back to Scotland in full measure, in Ian Banks’ The Wasp Factory, in Jonathan Aycliffe’s Edinburgh ghost story, The Matrix, and in the many works of Joe Donnelly, a much missed genre writer who gave us a whole range of Scottish spooks, spectres, bogey-men and monsters in his short horror career during the boom years.

Which brings us round to when I started writing for myself, in the early ’90s. I’ve tried over the years since then to explain in a variety of works what the rich history of Scottish supernatural writing has given me. In my new book, THE GHOST CLUB, I’ve gone right back to basics, and provided as part of it three tales as if told by Stevenson, Oliphant and Doyle, and a wee cameo by Rabbie Burns in another story for good measure. I hope I’ve done them justice.

I’m Willie, I’m a Scotsman, and I write horror fiction.

 

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The Midnight Eye Files

I read widely, both in the crime and horror genres, but my crime fiction in particular keeps returning to older, pulpier, bases.

My series character, Glasgow PI Derek Adams, is a Bogart and Chandler fan, and it is the movies and Americana of the ’40s that I find a lot of my inspiration for him, rather than in the modern procedural.

That, and the old city, are the two main drivers for the Midnight Eye stories.

When I was a lad, back in the early 1960s, we lived in a town 20 miles south of Glasgow, and it was an adventure to the big city when I went with my family on shopping trips. Back then the city was a Victorian giant going slowly to seed.

It is often said that the British Empire was built in Glasgow on the banks of the river Clyde. Back when I was young, the shipyards were still going strong, and the city centre itself still held on to some of its past glories.

It was a warren of tall sandstone buildings and narrow streets, with Edwardian trams still running through them. The big stores still had pneumatic delivery systems for billing, every man wore a hat, collar and tie, and steam trains ran into grand vaulted railway stations filled with smoke.

Also by the time I was a student, a lot of the tall sandstone buildings had been pulled down to make way for tower blocks. Back then they were the new shiny future, taking the people out of the Victorian ghettos and into the present day.

Fast forward to the present day and there are all new ghettos. The tower blocks are ruled by drug gangs and pimps. Meanwhile there have been many attempts to gentrify the city centre, with designer shops being built in old warehouses, with docklands developments building expensive apartments where sailors used to get services from hard faced girls, and with shiny, trendy bars full of glossy expensively dressed bankers.

And underneath it all, the old Glasgow still lies, slumbering, a dreaming god waiting for the stars to be right again.

Derek Adams, The Midnight Eye, knows the ways of the old city. And, if truth be told, he prefers them to the new.

There are antecedents – occult detectives who may seem to use the trappings of crime solvers, but get involved in the supernatural. William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel (the book that led to the movie Angel Heart) is a fine example, an expert blending of gumshoe and deviltry that is one of my favorite books. Likewise, in the movies, we have cops facing a demon in Denzel Washington’s Fallen that plays like a police procedural taken to a very dark place.

But I think it’s the people that influence me most. Everybody in Scotland’s got stories to tell, and once you get them going, you can’t stop them. I love chatting to people, (usually in pubs) and finding out the -weird- shit they’ve experienced. Derek is mainly based on a bloke I met years ago in a bar in Partick, and quite a few of the characters that turn up and talk too much in my books can be found in real life in bars in Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews.

He’s turned up in three novels so far, THE AMULET, THE SIRENS and THE SKIN GAME, all out now in ebook at all the usual online stores and in shiny new paperback and audiobook editions from Gryphonwood Press.

THE AMULET is also out in a Portuguese language edition from Retropunk Publicadoes (with the other 2 to follow) and there’s a German language edition of THE AMULET from Blitz Verlag.

There’s also an ever growing list of Midnight Eye short stories, a novella, DEAL OR NO DEAL from Gryphonwood Press, and a new novella, FARSIDE coming in OCCULT DETECTIVE QUARTERLY PRESENTS.

Derek has developed a life of his own, and I’m along for the ride.

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The way ahead for a pulpy pensioner

My pulp fiction sells better than my attempts at weird, more literary short fiction.

There’s no beating about the bush about that, it just does. Over the years my heart has been in trying to make a break through in the weird short story field, and I’ve pushed myself hard in attempts to leave a mark in that area.

But after nearly thirty years at it, it’s not got me where I want to be, and to some in the weird fiction arena I’m still–I’ll always be–‘That hack. That pulp guy’.

They see it as an insult. I wear it with pride.

My pulp fiction sells much better than my weird short fiction.

So, now that I’m in my Sixties, and a pensioner to boot, I’ve been thinking about the way ahead again. I had been planning to write another collection of Victorian supernatural stories this year, and even had an editor interested, but on consideration, my heart is no longer in it. I think I’ve said all I have to say in that area in THE GHOST CLUB, which is what I’ll point to if anybody asks why I’m not doing any more. That collection has picked up great reviews, and is selling relatively well. But INFESTATION, my recent pulpy, big-bug short novel is outselling it, and all my other books, by a long way.

So what with that, and my attempts to sell recent short stories to new weird markets not getting me any joy, this year I’m sticking to what works for me. I’ve got a contract to write another pulpy thriller for SEVERED PRESS, my third with these characters, and I’m having a lot of fun with them.

So there’s that, and the fact I want to write another Derek Adams book sometime this year. I’ll be back in the ghost story arena with CARNACKI at some point too, as that’s a love I can’t shun, and I’d like to get a fourth collection done that has some new stories and also collects some published stories that haven’t yet been collected together.

So I choose fun.

Fun is good. It’s better than angst, especially when you’re a pensioner.

Besides, my pulp fiction sells better than my weird short fiction.

 

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