‘Nowhere Hall’ by Cate Gardner Review

You may have heard of Cate Gardner, her name is mentioned in numerous blogs, twitter feeds and writing forums.  Her work is published in numerous magazines and books and her collection of short stories titled ‘Strange men in pinstripe suits’ has gained rave reviews and praise for its inventiveness and originality. I’m happy to say Cate isn’t one to rest on her laurels. ‘Nowhere Hall’ published by ‘Spectralpress’ more than fulfills the promise of her earlier work. The strangeness is still present (we wouldn’t want it any other way) so too is her ability to make unnatural events and characters seem as real as the very air we breathe, but this time she has added a layer of melancholy upon each page that is beautiful as it is heartbreaking.

‘Nowhere Hall’ begins with a broken man standing upon the kerb contemplating stepping in to the traffic in an attempt to end the many failures of his apparently pointless life. Ron, it seems is such a failure that even this task is beyond his capabilities. He dawdles, teetering on the edge between hopelessness and extinction, watching others around him, silently wanting to be seen, to be noticed and perhaps to be saved. He turns to look behind him, aware that his actions are being watched; the concierge of a hotel tips his hat in Ron’s direction, a silent gesture telling ‘I see you and your lack of conviction.’ The world it seems does notice him, it just doesn’t care. Feathers caught on the breeze, pulled from a passing woman’s dress rise into the sky and Ron’s eyes follow their ascent, it is here that he captures sight of a black umbrella tumbling down, apparently falling from the nearby hotel. He catches it, and sees a tag attached. Written upon it are the words ‘We want to live. Help us.’  He looks back to the hotel, a moment ago a monument of gleaming gold and polished brick, now it sits neglected, the concierge gone, its windows boarded up, it’s welcoming entrance lost to dust and time.

What follows is open to each reader’s interpretation. Is Ron hallucinating, is it a dream, or did he indeed step into the road and find himself in some strange after-life?  Each person will find their own answer and it is in this tight-rope walk of not giving too much away but just enough that makes ‘Nowhere Hall’ such a fantastic read.  It’s not the only reason of course. Cate’s writing is top notch here. The description is the kind that makes other writers wince at how good it is, the inventiveness imaginative and the prose elegant and intelligent. The ‘Vestibule hotel’ is beautifully rendered taking on a character of its own as Ron walks its halls and tries to uncover its secrets. Its wallpaper peels (revealing the disconcerting image of a spindly man holding an umbrella); its rooms hold ghosts and play out memories, desires, dreams?  And its staircases creak and groan as we (well Ron) move further up eager to understand more of its mystery.

And there is mystery here, just as there is terror and yes, even beauty. All it wrapped together in a dark yet heart wrenching atmosphere that is expertly created in Cates unique style. I’ve read a number of books lately, many by well know authors such as ‘John Connolly ‘, ‘Gary McMahon’ and ‘Ramsey Campbell’ each has been enjoyable and rewarding, yet it’s ‘Nowhere Hall’ that I keep returning to. I find myself thinking about it whilst at work, when I’m standing at the checkout and lazing on my sofa. I find myself haunted just as Ron is and it’s this perhaps that makes Cates outing so special. It stays with you long after you have turned the final page. I look forward to reading more of Cate’s work and advise you to do the same. If this is an indication of what’s to come from her in the future then we are in for a very enjoyable ride.

Right, now the bad news. ‘Nowhere Hall’ saw only a limited print run, all of which sold out very quickly, so unless you have been lucky enough to grab a copy, you’re going to be hard pressed to get your hands on it. Saying that, I have a feeling that it may be taken up by other publishers (I’m looking at you Ellen Daltrow and Stephen Jones) and re-printed elsewhere in the future. I hope this is the case as this deserves a wide audience. Failing that, if any of you out there do want to read it (and if not, why not) then email me directly at beckettbaron@btinternet.com and I will lend (my copy is special to me so I do want it back and failure to return it will mean I will send the demons of hell after your ass) you my copy along with postage for it to be returned. Can’t say fairer than that. See, I bet you’re glad you took the time to visit now.

Cate’s collection ‘strange men in pinstriped suits’ is available at Amazon and also check out her forthcoming Novella ‘Barbed wire hearts’ forthcoming from Delirium books. You can find all about Cate and her work at her website www.categardner.net

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Dreams and landscapes

Writing what is often termed Speculative fiction (though this is a very large umbrella under which numerous genres shelter), is enjoyable and sometimes frustrating, though never dull. There’s something very therapeutic about thinking up unusual events and characters, yet do we really create the things we write, or do they emerge from some other place other than our imagination?

I have a life separate to the one I present to the waking world. And although I have no photographs or mementos from my experiences there, I find it no less tangible than the one in which I currently reside. I have friends in this other realm, and places to which I have grown fond of. And before you begin to think that the place I speak of is all sweetness and light, know that whilst beauty and wonder is abundant there, just as in this physical world, so too is darkness and strife. And just as in life, it creeps unexpectedly, catching you unawares. I am of course speaking about dreams.

Throughout my time on this spinning rock I have had a number of what are known as recurring dreams. Though recurring is somewhat misleading as this indicates I have the same dream over and over, and that the details of them remain the same with each telling. True, whilst the places and people (though people is generalising, sometimes the personalities take on forms far from what could be termed human) are known to me, the events and actions experienced are always unique, and more often that not, a continuation of what has come before. For example: Continue reading

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Word counts and the forgotten scene

Word counts. I am in constant battle with them. I can see the reasoning behind them when it comes to publishers, but damn, they frustrate me.

At present I have a story titled ‘The progeny host’ out for submission. The maximum word count cited by the publisher (which will remain nameless at present) was a strict 6000 words. Plenty to play with you would think. Wrong. The word count on my laptop soon gets eaten up and upon completion of my story it was standing at 9500. Way over. I put the story away for a few days, then feeling refreshed, when to it with a large editing knife.

I cut and cut, re-arranged and re-wrote, and though I was now sitting in an abattoir of words, I had managed to squeeze it into the word count… just: 5998 words. Phew!

I sent the submission, but I felt a little disappointed in the story. Fitting it into the word count had meant I had to change quite a bit. My vision for it was diluted, the story now merely a promise of what could have been so much more. You see, by changing it, I had taken away the very essence of what I wanted to tell. I wanted the story; though a horror story, to be more than that. I wanted it to have some fantastical elements to it also. These parts; the fantastical moments, were lost. Only the horror remained.
I still like the story I sent. The writing is fairly tight, and I had fun working on it. But, still, it’s a shame isn’t it?
The ending in particular was hard to cut. The ending in the original version was nearer what I wanted. It was dark, yet beautiful. Horrific, yet comforting. Alas, it was too long. Way to long. It had to go. The re-write ending is simpler, shorter, and completely different. It works, but was it better?
For those few who have read the version I submitted, and for those who haven’t, but who just like to read this stuff anyway, I include the original ending here, in its first and only draft. Perhaps i should have cleaned it up, but then some things are best left as they are. How else are we to learn from our mistakes.

Continue reading

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The Act of Writing

The worlds of writing and acting share the same ground. Though each can present rules (rules often broken in the name of the very art practiced) pertaining to their craft, the writer and the actor’s paths often cross, and in some cases they may find themselves walking along the same road, or indeed treading the same boards.

A writer; and I’m speaking about fiction writing here, not Joseph Stone at the local paper, doesn’t just write; he inhabits. To make characters readers will care about, fear for, and in the case of some talented authors, come to love, it isn’t enough to breathe life into our creations. We have to be them for a time, don their skins, and see the world we have created through their eyes. In short, just as the fore-mentioned actor plays a part, we too have to know our role.

The roles may be abhorrent to us, the mask ugly, the skin uncomfortable, or they may give us a glimpse of a life that we had always hoped for, but for some turn of chance eluded us. We need to give them a voice, so we write phrases and responses. We read these words aloud (reciting dialogue is often said to be the best way to get it right), adding yet another layer to our imaginary characters skins. And if we are feeling passionate (or in most cases if we have the house to ourselves), we may mimic a tone or accent that is unnatural to our voice, breathing yet more life into our written creations. It is at this point we are no longer writers, but actors. And the better we play the part, the more believable our characters become.

For knowing each personality; we gain insight into what makes them tick, and this in-turn, will hopefully give them a life worth caring about.

Currently reading: The girl who played with fire by Stieg Larsson
Listening to: Smoke and mirrors by The Eden House

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Welcome Back!!

Welcome to the new website/blog.

We had some hosting issues with the last lot, so new we are trying a new company. So far so good (fingers crossed).

So, what’s new then I hear you ask. Well, as we lost EVERYTHING when the last host went down, we have had to start from nothing again.

But the site will be here to do it’s job, which Is keep you good people In the loop on what I’m up to with my stories, be it story samples for you to comment on, or any news on my stories being published, you will see it here first.

It’s basic, but it will serve it’s purpose well I can assure you all.

So keep visiting, keep commenting, and keep spreading the word about the new site/blog.

I thank you all.

**Oh, by the way. To leave a comment on ANY news/article we post, just click the news/article name, It will bring up the comment section. You MUST be logged in though**

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