Friday, January 20, 2017

The Antiquary and the Crocodile: M.R.James resources

As anyone who has read my blog before probably knows by now, I have been a big fan of the ghost story writer M.R.James since I was a child. I love the subtle and disturbing nature of his stories, expressed so restrainedly but often very gruesome when you look behind that elegant phrasing - face sucked off by tentacled creature, anyone?

One of MRJ's stories, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, was part of the inspiration for my novel The Glass Demon, which is about a set of haunted stained glass windows created by the same master craftsman who made the ones in MRJ's story. (MRJ's windows were real ones, however, from Steinfeld Abbey; mine are fictitious.)

I've also occasionally dabbled in Jamesian stories - Alberic de Mauleon, a prequel to Canon Alberic's Scrap-book, appeared in The Ghosts and Scholars Book of Shadows 1, and The Third Time, a sequel to A Neighbour's Landmark, appeared in The Ghosts and Scholars Book of Shadows 2. I have also written a completion to MRJ's unfinished tale The Game of Bear - it appeared in the M.R.James Ghosts and Scholars Newsletter and was later republished in my collection The Sea Change and Other Stories. So my love of MRJ's stories has been quite creatively stimulating for me.

What I never really envisaged was that I would also end up writing quite a lot of non-fiction articles about M.R.James! It came about because of an accident of geography. We moved to Germany in 2001 and found ourselves living very close to Steinfeld Abbey, so I visited it, and wrote an article about the ways in which the real-life abbey differs from the imagined version of it in The Treasure of Abbot Thomas. This led me to visit some of MRJ's other foreign story locations, and write about those too. One thing led to another, and by 2008 I had eight published articles about MRJ and his work, all of which appeared in the M.R.James Ghosts and Scholars Newsletter.

A large proportion - but not all - of my articles are still available on the Ghosts and Scholars website, and some of them are available on my blog. However, I have long had it in mind that it would be a great idea to collect them all into one inexpensive eBook, so that anyone who shares my unreasonable passion for the ghost stories of M.R.James can read them easily and conveniently. I finally found time recently to do this, and the result is a kindle book, The Antiquary and the Crocodile

Although The Antiquary and the Crocodile is a collection of non-fiction articles, I took the decision to include as a "fiction extra" my completion of MRJ's The Game of Bear. The story first appeared in the M.R.James Ghosts and Scholars Newsletter, and was later reprinted in The Sea Change and Other Stories. It was also republished in Weird Tales in 2014. Periodically I receive enquiries from people who have a particular interest in MRJ and would like to read my completion of it out of curiosity, so it seemed a good idea to include it in the eBook. I also feel that in some ways the story belongs with my other writings about M.R.James, because writing it was the one occasion when I consciously tried to meld my literary style with MRJ's (a task which, frankly, seems a bit terrifyingly ambitious in retrospect!).

Anyway, I very much hope that The Antiquary and the Crocodile will prove interesting and useful to both scholars and fans of M.R.James's ghost stories. The crocodile on the front cover, by the way, is the actual stuffed crocodile hanging on the cathedral wall at St. Bertrand de Comminges, as described in Canon Alberic's Scrap-book. My father William Bond took the photograph when we visited Comminges.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

In which I do the talking...

If you are part of a school, library, community or arts group, or any other organisation within Scotland who would like an author visit in 2017, I just thought I'd post a timely reminder of the Scottish Book Trust's fantastic Live Literature funding scheme.

Under the scheme, you can apply for a visit from any author on the Live Literature database (including me!), and if you are successful, the Scottish Book Trust will fund more than 50% of the cost, plus any travel and accommodation expenses. This makes an author event far more affordable as it limits your costs to £75.00 + VAT per session.

I can personally offer the following types of event:

  • Talks about writing - a popular one answers the question "Where do you get your ideas?" by talking about the scary and atmospheric locations I have visited (with photos!) and how they have inspired the plots of my books. It's not enough to have a thrilling setting - I talk about the nuts and bolts of how I turn that spooky feeling into an actual story. This talk is suitable for schools as it is very relevant for creative writing projects.
  • Ghost story writing workshops - I can tailor these to a school audience or an adult audience. Creating a good ghost story uses lots of writing skills - the aim is to send a shiver down the spine without straying into blood and guts territory. We cover things like setting, choosing the right words, and why creating rounded characters is important. 
  • A talk about the great classic ghost story writer M.R.James and specifically the real-life locations of some of his most famous stories, including Canon Alberic's Scrapbook and The Treasure of Abbot Thomas. I have personally visited the locations covered in the talks and have an array of photographs to share! This talk is suitable for adults. 
  • A talk about Getting Published - useful resources, maximising your chances of success, whether to try for an agent first, what to expect once you have a book deal. Again, this talk is more suited to adults. 
Although my entry on the Live Literature database lists Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Perth & Kinross as the local authorities where I can usually work, I'm happy to travel further afield, so if you are outside those areas but would like me to come and speak, I'm very prepared to consider it.

Finally, the reason for posting this reminder on my blog is that the deadline for applications for events between April and December 2017 is coming up - it's Wednesday 25th January 2017 at 12 noon. So if you think your school, library or other group here in Scotland might be interested in an author visit this year, now's the time to think about applying! 

I hope to see you in 2017!