Podcast Rec – Mysterium Tremendum (Pseudopod)

Continuing my series of recommendations of things I have enjoyed recently, this week’s recommendation is a freebie and comes from the marvellous Pseudopod.

Pseudopod have been around for over ten years and have showcased some of the best short horror fiction around. They have featured stories from Orren Grey, Thomas Ligotti Simon Bestwick and many other brilliant writers. The podcast is presented by Alasdair Stuart.

The episode(s) I am recommending here are the first time Pseudopod have hosted a three-part story. Mysterium Tremendum was written by Laird Barron and featured in his 2010 collection Occultation. It is the story of two couples, Willem and Glenn and Dane and Victor, who go on a camping and hiking holiday in the Pacific Northwest. While they are there, they stumble across The Black Guide, a sinister book that begins to shape their trip from that point on.

I’m always reluctant to give too much away regarding the plot of a story but it has to be said, Barron does a great of establishing not only horror nice and early but his characterisation is superb. He delivers characters that are gay but do not conform to cliche, nor are they used as a mouthpiece for a particular political stance. This take on sexuality is refreshing, and much needed across all genres.

The horror in the story is layered and peeled back slowly. A creeping sense of dread grows with each episode before culminating in a nightmarish final episode. One of Barron’s many strengths as a writer is his skill with description. His work does not shy away from detail, not necessarily gore, but the horrific detail of creatures or situations. Barron gives a full, frank picture of the horrors faced by the characters in this story and dares them (and us) to look away,

The story is narrated by Jon Padgett, a fantastic writer and Ligotti scholar. His narration is both dramatic and accessible. Lending emphasis in the right places and dialing down the drama where necessary to allow the words to speak for themselves. Being a good narrator is a skill (check out the wealth of reviews on Audible slamming audiobook narrators) and Padgett is among the best I’ve heard.

Check out this three-part epic production over at the Pseudopod website.

Round Here

This week I completed a significant achievement in my writing. I finished a novel.

As I said in my post, The First Cut, I’ve always struggled with imposter syndrome and not feeling like a “real writer”. Today I feel like I’ve made a breakthrough. I’ve always written stories and since I was a kid, I’d imagined myself writing a novel in the future. Yet the older I got, the more out of touch the achievement seemed. A combination of work commitments and general life stuff always made that ambition seem impossible.

But in the last year or so, I’ve started to take my writing a lot more seriously. Check out the podcast I guested on over at This Is Horror for further details around this. But, I realised that life wasn’t going to present me with time to write, I had to take it. So I did. This novel was written in stolen hours. It was largely written in the library opposite my office, where I spend most of my lunch breaks. It was written in silence as my daughter slept. It was written as notes in the back of notebooks that I typed up.

This novel is proof to myself that I can do it. That I have the discipline to finish a long project and the chops to make a coherent story along the way. Today I feel like I have earned some validation as a writer. It’s a good feeling.

So, the novel. The book is titled Round Here. The title comes from some lyrics by one of my favourite bands, Counting Crows. Check out the studio version from their amazing album, August and Everything After. The first chorus has a line that inspired me : –

“Round here, we always stand up straight.

Round here, something radiates.”

Round Here is set in a small town in northern England blighted by a spate of teenage suicides. As distraught parents close ranks, Natalie Hounslow returns home to help her parents keep her sister, Cate on the rails. As she explores her hometown, Natalie realises there is something far worse than death waiting for the residents of Upheath.

There is no publisher attached yet, primarily because I am yet to approach one, but today is a day to celebrate. The book is done. I’ve achieved one goal, now it’s on to the next – publication.