My short story 'The Chimes of Graig Trewyddfa' is published today on New Gothic Review. A ghost story set in my hometown Morriston, it's accompanied by this incredible illustration by Joseph Gough. Diolch to all at New Gothic Review for publishing it! You can read it for free at the link below:
Tan-y-Lan Terrace is the street my Gran actually lived on, and the idea for the story came from me walking her dog late at night and hearing an unseen ice-cream van. Everything else is mostly fiction, but I can't promise you won't see a robed figure if you ever visit Graig Trewyddfa...
The new issue of New Gothic Review is now online and features my short story 'Passengers': a gothic tale set on the banks of the River Severn. This is the first short story I've finished in about seven years, so I'm thrilled that it found a home with New Gothic Review. Thanks so much to the editors for working on it with me, and also to Zuzanna Kwiecień for the incredible accompanying illustration.
To celebrate its publication, yesterday I took a trip the place on the River Severn where the story is set. For centuries, Black Rock was an important ferry crossing point on the tidal river that divides Wales and England.
I began writing this story after a train journey on the line near the River Severn a few years ago. When I decided to finally complete it earlier this year we were in the midst of a national lockdown, so Black Rock as a setting came from researching the area online.
The towering Second Severn Crossing road bridge (1996) makes an appearance in the story, though elsewhere I’ve slightly altered the Severn estuary’s geography – making some places closer to each other, and creating a disused station called ‘Porthsgiwed Halt’ (named after the nearby village of Portskewett).
Portskewett did once have a station that served the Black Rock ferry: Portskewett Pier. It's definitely the most unusual train station I’ve ever heard of. Trains would stop on a wooden pier and passengers would descend to a ferry. After making the crossing by boat they’d then be met by a new train on the English side. Opened in 1863, Portskewett Pier was demolished once the Severn Railway Tunnel (1886) had been carved beneath the estuary. It’s such an interesting station, but I decided it was too complicated to include it in the story and so created a disused Halt on the main line instead.
Wales has begun to open back up now after our winter lockdown, and yesterday’s trip to Black Rock marks the furthest I’ve been from my home in Swansea since March 2020. It was so odd to arrive at a place that I’d extensively explored, but only via photos and Google Street View. Yesterday was stormy, and Black Rock was exactly as I’d imagined it: bleak, moody, ethereal. However, in the picnic area and along the path there are statues, sculptures and information boards, and on a brighter day I imagine it’s a very welcoming place. This seems to be down to the hard work of a project called Living Levels.
I know I'll return to Black Rock many times, in person and on the page. To that rusted lighthouse floating above the water, the rock it sits on only exposed as the tide moves out. There’s so much hidden beneath the surface there.
You can read 'Passengers' and the other five stories in the issue for free on the New Gothic Review website: newgothicreview.com
New Gothic Review are open for submissions twice a year, with the next submissions window opening in a few months' time. If you'd like to submit a story then take a look at their submission guidelines and keep an eye on their social media channels for announcements.
The Lonely Crowd is an exciting new magazine that celebrates the short story, and they've just been kind enough to publish one of mine – 'Give a Dog a Bone' – on their website. Here's an extract:
I wanted the sun to come out, to dry up all the rain so I could go out and play on the hillside, instead of being stuck indoors. That side of the hill was always green and welcoming. Familiar. This side is cold and black, burnt by a forest fire that marched its way to the top before the firefighters smothered it. The sun is disappearing behind it now, turning late afternoon into evening. The drizzle has turned heavy.
Read the rest of the story here:
Image © Jo Mazelis 2016
My short story 'The Office Block' has been selected as one of thirteen stories for Parthian's new contemporary gothic anthology A Flock of Shadows.
Returning home the next evening, Mr. Owen paused at his front gate. The office block, stained by rainwater, loomed through the mist. It interrogated him, posing questions without words. On his way to work that morning he had not been able to shake the image of it from his mind, its silent laughter echoing through his skull like footsteps on wrought iron. Something had to be done.
Edited by Claire Houguez and Rebecca Parfitt, in partnership with The Ghastling magazine, A Flock of Shadows is a response to "the namby-pampy vampires and hipster witches [of] mainstream fiction." It includes new stories from Howard Ingham, Carly Holmes, Mark Blayney, Bethany W. Pope, Laura Wilkinson, Jo Mazelis, Morgan Downie, Shirley Golden, Amanda Mason and myself.
"Between these pages, blurring the lines of good and evil, the monstrous reality and the monstrous imagine, are gothic stories for modern times. Here, buildings pursue their own malevolent intents; a grieving father and daughter receive an unexpected and grisly visitor; a man is unravelled by strange symbolism in a twilit park; and a botanist will stop at nothing to safeguard her borders."
Though the anthology won't be available in bookshops until February next year, I will be reading alongside other contributors at a special Halloween preview event at Mozart's Bar, Swansea, on Thursday 30th October (7pm), where advance copies of the book will be available to buy. Hope to see you there!