Kallisto's Tales

A moodboard of inspirations, interests and ideas that link to Emma Whitehall's self-published Weird Tales collection, Kallisto's Tales.

http://kallistotales.m1inet.co.uk/

John Ajvide Lindqvist is one of my favourite authors of all time. His first novel, the vampire story “Let The Right One In” is, in my opinion, one of the best Horror books of the last ten years.  

I feel the need to preface this article with a calm version of that statement; usually my discussions of modern Horror end with my shaking someone by the shoulders, screaming “READ IT”, before wandering off into the distance, muttering something vaguely threatening about the US film adaptation. 

But, because I feel the need to present some veneer of being professional, I will not be reviewing one of my favourite books of all time, but rather Lindqvist’s collection of short stories, “Let The Old Dreams Die” - which does feature a short companion piece to both “Let The Right One In” and his zombie novel, “Handling The Undead.”

The first thing you notice while reading these stories is that they are unapologetically Swedish - they take place in an anchored location, written by a native. There is no way audiences could assume these stories took place in some vague part of America, the default Horror landscape. This is clear not only in the way Lindqvist uses both names and the pop culture that his characters consume, but in the lore of the stories themselves. The best example is the first story in this collection, “Border” - A lot of non-Swedish readers will be savvy when faced with clues leading up to a vampire or a werewolf, but the use of myths that have not translated into mainstream fantasy or horror makes the story all the stranger. 

The next thing you notice is the reality of these stories. They take place in real places; run-down, backwater villages, apartment blocks and holiday communities. Places which are inhabited by real people, with real thoughts and real fears and regrets and real, dark, twisted thoughts going on inside their heads. Of course, this makes the unreality of their situation all the more pronounced. 

Overall, the stories are beautiful, in that messed-up way that only Horror fiction can be beautiful. Lindqvist’s work has the most impact when he gets back to exploring the two fundamental parts of human emotion - love and death. “Border” is the true standout in this collection, but stories like “Eternal/Love” - where a couple battles with the idea of death coming between them, in more ways than one - are gorgeously written - Lindqvist’s fleshed-out characters and original, impossibly dark situations meshing perfectly to form a sickening, tragic story.

Of course, no collection can be perfect. “Substitutes” has a really interesting idea at its core, but is far too vague and meandering to keep my attention, and, in the afterword, the author himself admits he is the only person who likes “To hold you while the music plays”…but they are still worth the time it takes to read them. They aren’t brilliant, but they are still fascinating. 

A lot of Horror fiction gets gleeful kicks out of eviscerating its hapless victims, describing every loving detail of the blood splattering off the walls - and there can be a place for that. But they don’t chill me the way that reading about an apartment block that is leaning slightly to one side (the vaguely Lovecraftian “The village on the hill”) can. Because, before the horror starts, I’ve spent time learning about these characters, why they do the things they do and what their world is like. I’m invested, therefore I am horrified, instead of waiting for the body parts to start flying.

There is one huge reason why a lot of Lindqvist’s previous readers picked up this book, and I’d be wrong not to address it - the title story, “Let The Old Dreams Die”, is a continuation of the “Let The Right One In” story. Though, thankfully, not in the way most people expected - this story runs alongside and after the original novel, and deals with a very different set of people than Oskar and Eli, the main characters of “Let The Right One In”. I obviously can’t speak for people who have not read the novel, but when I finished “Let The Old Dreams Die”, I stared into space for about ten minutes, just letting what I’d read process in my mind. This is Lindqvist at his best - discussing love, and fear, and darkness, and the terrible, almost insane things it drives people to do. 

(Yet again, this cover is prettier than mine. Sigh.)

John Ajvide Lindqvist is one of my favourite authors of all time. His first novel, the vampire story “Let The Right One In” is, in my opinion, one of the best Horror books of the last ten years.

I feel the need to preface this article with a calm version of that statement; usually my discussions of modern Horror end with my shaking someone by the shoulders, screaming “READ IT”, before wandering off into the distance, muttering something vaguely threatening about the US film adaptation.

But, because I feel the need to present some veneer of being professional, I will not be reviewing one of my favourite books of all time, but rather Lindqvist’s collection of short stories, “Let The Old Dreams Die” - which does feature a short companion piece to both “Let The Right One In” and his zombie novel, “Handling The Undead.”

The first thing you notice while reading these stories is that they are unapologetically Swedish - they take place in an anchored location, written by a native. There is no way audiences could assume these stories took place in some vague part of America, the default Horror landscape. This is clear not only in the way Lindqvist uses both names and the pop culture that his characters consume, but in the lore of the stories themselves. The best example is the first story in this collection, “Border” - A lot of non-Swedish readers will be savvy when faced with clues leading up to a vampire or a werewolf, but the use of myths that have not translated into mainstream fantasy or horror makes the story all the stranger.

The next thing you notice is the reality of these stories. They take place in real places; run-down, backwater villages, apartment blocks and holiday communities. Places which are inhabited by real people, with real thoughts and real fears and regrets and real, dark, twisted thoughts going on inside their heads. Of course, this makes the unreality of their situation all the more pronounced.

Overall, the stories are beautiful, in that messed-up way that only Horror fiction can be beautiful. Lindqvist’s work has the most impact when he gets back to exploring the two fundamental parts of human emotion - love and death. “Border” is the true standout in this collection, but stories like “Eternal/Love” - where a couple battles with the idea of death coming between them, in more ways than one - are gorgeously written - Lindqvist’s fleshed-out characters and original, impossibly dark situations meshing perfectly to form a sickening, tragic story.

Of course, no collection can be perfect. “Substitutes” has a really interesting idea at its core, but is far too vague and meandering to keep my attention, and, in the afterword, the author himself admits he is the only person who likes “To hold you while the music plays”…but they are still worth the time it takes to read them. They aren’t brilliant, but they are still fascinating.

A lot of Horror fiction gets gleeful kicks out of eviscerating its hapless victims, describing every loving detail of the blood splattering off the walls - and there can be a place for that. But they don’t chill me the way that reading about an apartment block that is leaning slightly to one side (the vaguely Lovecraftian “The village on the hill”) can. Because, before the horror starts, I’ve spent time learning about these characters, why they do the things they do and what their world is like. I’m invested, therefore I am horrified, instead of waiting for the body parts to start flying.

There is one huge reason why a lot of Lindqvist’s previous readers picked up this book, and I’d be wrong not to address it - the title story, “Let The Old Dreams Die”, is a continuation of the “Let The Right One In” story. Though, thankfully, not in the way most people expected - this story runs alongside and after the original novel, and deals with a very different set of people than Oskar and Eli, the main characters of “Let The Right One In”. I obviously can’t speak for people who have not read the novel, but when I finished “Let The Old Dreams Die”, I stared into space for about ten minutes, just letting what I’d read process in my mind. This is Lindqvist at his best - discussing love, and fear, and darkness, and the terrible, almost insane things it drives people to do.

(Yet again, this cover is prettier than mine. Sigh.)

Gushy Gushy Gush Gush.

I had two smaller but still incredibly worthwhile publications recently; my black comedy “Bargain Hunting” got into issue 8 of Material, and my animal rights rant posing as a story “Tilikum” got into Alliterati 14.

It just really hit me how exciting and important and supportive the North East publishing scene has been for my career. So I needed to blog about it.

Material is run by my very good friends Asa J. Maddison and John Baker. Material is a very small operation, but the quality of poetry and prose in each issue is always the best the North East has to offer. But, for me, the greatest attraction to Material is the launch night. Each magazine has its own launch, with open mic slots and performances from people featured in the magazine. I performed “Muses”, one of my favourite pieces, at the last one, and it was such a warm, happy atmosphere. There’s always such a range of performances at these nights, its so great to see. I saw some new faces there, too - hopefully the warm reception spurs them on to perform at other places, too!

The day after the Material launch, I found out that “Tilikum” had been accepted into Alliterati. The A-Team have a very, very special place in my heart - they published me for the very first time, with “Bitter Taste.” They’ve always been enthusiastic about having me back in the magazine, and have been there for every step of my writing journey so far. If it hadn’t been for them, I wonder sometimes, would I be published in other places, let alone other countries?!

I owe this little magazine a lot.

Material Magazine is an indie prose-and-poetry magazine, put together by my good friends Asa J. Maddison and John Baker. Material celebrates everything written/spoken word related, and each magazine has a launch, with performers and open mic slots.

My more-dark-than-comedy short story “Bargain Hunting” made it into Issue number 8, and I was thrilled to be accepted. The North East writing and performing scene has always been so welcoming and inclusive to me, it’s great to be able to celebrate that - especially since “Bargain Hunting” is up there in the darkest stories I’ve ever written!

The night itself was fantastic! A ton of the performers were people I know, but haven’t seen perform for a long while, so it was so nice to see them all again. I also got up onstage, and performed one of my favourite pieces, “Muses”. (Originally called “Letters From My Muse”, but it more often than not just gets called “The Muses Piece”…)

Unfortunately, Material, being such a small magazine, has a very limited run. But I feel so honoured to have been chosen to be a part of it.

The Settle Down Cafe, together with The Writer’s Cafe, is putting on a month long exhibition of poetry and artwork from local writers and performers.

I collaborated with my good friend Averil White on a piece called “Fire Trial” - I provided the words, she the imagery. If I say so myself, it’s come out fantastically, and I can’t wait to see it in the flesh!

Tomorrow night (from 5-7) is the opening of the exhibition - there’s going to be live performances, live art, and a chance to meet some of the creative people involved in the project - myself included!

(Because I am terrible at directions, there is also a map)

I feel the need to gush…

As a few people will know, I was really a performer before I was a writer. Even though it’s not a part of my life in the way it was when I was at college, being onstage still means a hell of a lot to me. There’s nothing like the rush of performing and getting a good reaction from your audience - especially when it’s your own work.

For me, Scratch Club runs a perfect line between satisfying the writer and the performer in me.

Scratch is a once-a-month spoken word/rehearsal/creative space club, put on by Apples and Snakes, and run by the lovely Kirsten (and, as of next month, the equally lovely Rowan).

Each month is different - sometimes we just perform our work to each other for critique, sometimes we have mini workshops with special guests. But every month, I come away feeling like I am a better person creatively for having gone along.

Scratch, to me, is a perfect “safe place” to work on your craft. There’s this weird cyclical feeling among the regulars; we feel comfortable around each other, so we can help each other through our creative struggles and triumphs…so we feel comfortable around each other, so…

I will admit, a lot of the time we are just a bunch of shouty, slightly naughty idiots. Yesterday we were dancing around the room and slapping each other’s hands. If one person starts giggling during an activity, we will probably all get set off by it. But when we actually get to work, we always find out something about our art, and we always support each other. I’ve never, ever seen anyone at Scratch get shot down, or told their work is shit. No one is better than anyone else, we all are there to learn. 

Sometimes, I feel like I’m waiting to be “caught out” at Scratch - because it’s technically a poet’s workshop, and I am not really a poet. My few stabs at poetry are more like prose with line breaks.

But when I think about it, we have so many different genres of spoken word - feminist ranting, surreal poetry about chickens, quirky wordplay pieces, emotional rawness, hysterical comedy - all coming together in the same room, having fun together, and working together to improve. It’s probably the best place for a weird little writer like me to thrive.

I feel the need to gush…

As a few people will know, I was really a performer before I was a writer. Even though it’s not a part of my life in the way it was when I was at college, being onstage still means a hell of a lot to me. There’s nothing like the rush of performing and getting a good reaction from your audience - especially when it’s your own work.

For me, Scratch Club runs a perfect line between satisfying the writer and the performer in me.

Scratch is a once-a-month spoken word/rehearsal/creative space club, put on by Apples and Snakes, and run by the lovely Kirsten (and, as of next month, the equally lovely Rowan).

Each month is different - sometimes we just perform our work to each other for critique, sometimes we have mini workshops with special guests. But every month, I come away feeling like I am a better person creatively for having gone along.

Scratch, to me, is a perfect “safe place” to work on your craft. There’s this weird cyclical feeling among the regulars; we feel comfortable around each other, so we can help each other through our creative struggles and triumphs…so we feel comfortable around each other, so…

I will admit, a lot of the time we are just a bunch of shouty, slightly naughty idiots. Yesterday we were dancing around the room and slapping each other’s hands. If one person starts giggling during an activity, we will probably all get set off by it. But when we actually get to work, we always find out something about our art, and we always support each other. I’ve never, ever seen anyone at Scratch get shot down, or told their work is shit. No one is better than anyone else, we all are there to learn.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m waiting to be “caught out” at Scratch - because it’s technically a poet’s workshop, and I am not really a poet. My few stabs at poetry are more like prose with line breaks.

But when I think about it, we have so many different genres of spoken word - feminist ranting, surreal poetry about chickens, quirky wordplay pieces, emotional rawness, hysterical comedy - all coming together in the same room, having fun together, and working together to improve. It’s probably the best place for a weird little writer like me to thrive.

The view from the rehearsal room at Scratch Club yesterday. 

I spent a fair amount of yesterday thinking about cities in the rain, and pretty much this image (but, you know…raining) is what I want to get across in a piece I’m writing at the moment.
rinadoes1x1:

Masterpost of Tips and Inspiration for Horror Writers
This isn’t a comprehensive list - only the ones I actually found helpful and worth the time it took to read them. None of the original posts are mine; I just collected them. Feel free to send me other links if you find any and want me to add them.
The bare bones: horror writing tips
how do I start writing horror fiction?
what makes horror horrifying?
the seeds of horror
25 things you should know about writing horror
13 tips for writing horror fiction
5 elements of a good horror story
20 tips for writing the perfect horror short story
creating an environment for a horror story
getting the best out of your bad guys
leaving your monster in the closet
plot and character in horror fiction
horror plot cliches and top 5 overused horror settings
how to write horror
classic structure of the horror novel
generic horror vs. innovative horror
8 ways to pile on the fear in your horror fiction
what makes for a great thriller?
Genre tips (only listen to these if you care more about your audience than being a literary writer)
the line between horror and dark fantasy
what today’s readers want and what today’s readers don’t want
horror subgenres
Not horror-specific, but helpful nonetheless
25 ways to fuck with your characters
25 steps to edit the unmerciful suck out of your story
5 ways to make your novel hopelessly addictive
Prompts and inspiration, in case you’re stuck on your plot or need motivation for a scene
masterlist of speculative fiction writing prompts
barton’s character meme: death-related prompts, skin and bone, bruises and blood
okayophelia’s archetype series
southern gothic playlists, anyone?

rinadoes1x1:

Masterpost of Tips and Inspiration for Horror Writers

This isn’t a comprehensive list - only the ones I actually found helpful and worth the time it took to read them. None of the original posts are mine; I just collected them. Feel free to send me other links if you find any and want me to add them.

The bare bones: horror writing tips

Genre tips (only listen to these if you care more about your audience than being a literary writer)

Not horror-specific, but helpful nonetheless

Prompts and inspiration, in case you’re stuck on your plot or need motivation for a scene

The Kallisto’s Tales Store!!

Not only can you pick up a copy of my self-published collection, but you can also buy copies of nearly everything I’ve been published in in the past - including the international stuff! (One or two of the North East magazines were a very limited run as was the )

There’s also a handful of my earlier work up there for your perusal, as well as a news section to keep you updated with when I’m published and what I’m up to. 

http://kallistotales.m1inet.co.uk/?page_id=505
Jesus, I hope this is worth reading. It got loooong…

This isn’t something that has inspired me, per se, but I just finished this book and felt like I needed to talk about it - and since I apparently need to update my professional Tumblr more, I might as well do it here. And I suppose it did inspire me to write something…

It may not be a surprise to know I enjoy books about twisted minds, fucked up situations and (since I also write the stuff) sexuality. So when I found “Forbidden” - a story about a brother and sister who fall in love - I was intrigued and in the mood for something a bit weird.

What I got was actually a genuinely heart-wrenching romance between two incredibly messed up, sad, lonely people. 

Seventeen year old Lochan and sixteen year old Maya are essentially responsible for the running of their household - their father left them, and their mother has gone off the rails, trying to recapture her youth - leaving her five children, ranging from five to seventeen, alone for weeks at a time while she drinks and courts new boyfriends. Lochan and Maya spend their days cooking, cleaning, trying to corral their three younger siblings, trying to keep their head above water at school during the run up to their GCSE’s - as well as struggling to keep themselves from falling apart from the pressure of their own psychological scars. They rely on each other to keep going when they falter. And, over time, their feelings develop into something far deeper…

This book is incredibly emotional. Everyone in this story is broken. There is always a crisis. If the younger children aren’t disappearing from school, the older children - especially Lochan and his brother, the angsty, angry teenager Kit - are lashing out at each other…just in time for their absentee mother to drift back through their lives and cause chaos, only to drift back out again as soon as she gets bored of her “bunnies”. This makes it all the more realistic that Maya and Lochan draw so much from each other. They are both so desperate for love, and only one person is giving it. And yet, even that brings more heartache for the little family. If you are familiar with any tragic love story - especially Romeo and Juliet - you will see the moment of the young couple’s undoing coming a mile off. 

My only critique is that sometimes the prose gets in the way of the story. Sometimes when we are seeing the world through Lochan’s eyes, especially near the beginning, when we don’t know him very well, his internal monologue feels a little overwritten. And the book has a bad habit of asking the “big questions” of consensual incest literally, breaking the fourth wall. I’m invested in your love, guys, you don’t need to ask me to think about it!

The beauty of this story is in the characters. I’ve read incest stories before - Ian McEwan’s “The Cement Garden” comes to mind. However, aside from a few key scenes, I can remember very little about what made those characters tick, or even their names. They were just sociopathic, end of story. I have a feeling these lonely, broken children will be with me for a long time. Even Kit, who is essentially the antagonist for a good portion of the novel, is an interesting character, and you can understand totally why he is the way he is. You can’t help feeling for him as his anger and directionless hate become his downfall at the end of the novel. And I can say that he is a perfectly written bratty teenage boy! 

That sums this story up for me. You may not agree with some of the actions of the characters, or even really like them - the mother is one of the most disgusting parents in modern fiction…but you understand them.

 I’ve read a lot of critique of this story that runs along the lines of “Why did this story have to be so sad?! Why couldn’t it have had a happy ending?” I disagree with this entirely. We read fiction to feel things. Just because we get invested in characters doesn’t mean we are entitled to a happy ending. And, as it is said throughout the novel, there is absolutely no way of this ending without casualties. “Happily ever after” is not an option. 

I sat in Starbucks today, reading the last chapter of “Forbidden”, sobbing. It’s a bitterly, bitterly sad book. But I don’t regret reading it.

Jesus, I hope this is worth reading. It got loooong…

This isn’t something that has inspired me, per se, but I just finished this book and felt like I needed to talk about it - and since I apparently need to update my professional Tumblr more, I might as well do it here. And I suppose it did inspire me to write something…

It may not be a surprise to know I enjoy books about twisted minds, fucked up situations and (since I also write the stuff) sexuality. So when I found “Forbidden” - a story about a brother and sister who fall in love - I was intrigued and in the mood for something a bit weird.

What I got was actually a genuinely heart-wrenching romance between two incredibly messed up, sad, lonely people.

Seventeen year old Lochan and sixteen year old Maya are essentially responsible for the running of their household - their father left them, and their mother has gone off the rails, trying to recapture her youth - leaving her five children, ranging from five to seventeen, alone for weeks at a time while she drinks and courts new boyfriends. Lochan and Maya spend their days cooking, cleaning, trying to corral their three younger siblings, trying to keep their head above water at school during the run up to their GCSE’s - as well as struggling to keep themselves from falling apart from the pressure of their own psychological scars. They rely on each other to keep going when they falter. And, over time, their feelings develop into something far deeper…

This book is incredibly emotional. Everyone in this story is broken. There is always a crisis. If the younger children aren’t disappearing from school, the older children - especially Lochan and his brother, the angsty, angry teenager Kit - are lashing out at each other…just in time for their absentee mother to drift back through their lives and cause chaos, only to drift back out again as soon as she gets bored of her “bunnies”. This makes it all the more realistic that Maya and Lochan draw so much from each other. They are both so desperate for love, and only one person is giving it. And yet, even that brings more heartache for the little family. If you are familiar with any tragic love story - especially Romeo and Juliet - you will see the moment of the young couple’s undoing coming a mile off.

My only critique is that sometimes the prose gets in the way of the story. Sometimes when we are seeing the world through Lochan’s eyes, especially near the beginning, when we don’t know him very well, his internal monologue feels a little overwritten. And the book has a bad habit of asking the “big questions” of consensual incest literally, breaking the fourth wall. I’m invested in your love, guys, you don’t need to ask me to think about it!

The beauty of this story is in the characters. I’ve read incest stories before - Ian McEwan’s “The Cement Garden” comes to mind. However, aside from a few key scenes, I can remember very little about what made those characters tick, or even their names. They were just sociopathic, end of story. I have a feeling these lonely, broken children will be with me for a long time. Even Kit, who is essentially the antagonist for a good portion of the novel, is an interesting character, and you can understand totally why he is the way he is. You can’t help feeling for him as his anger and directionless hate become his downfall at the end of the novel. And I can say that he is a perfectly written bratty teenage boy!

That sums this story up for me. You may not agree with some of the actions of the characters, or even really like them - the mother is one of the most disgusting parents in modern fiction…but you understand them.

I’ve read a lot of critique of this story that runs along the lines of “Why did this story have to be so sad?! Why couldn’t it have had a happy ending?” I disagree with this entirely. We read fiction to feel things. Just because we get invested in characters doesn’t mean we are entitled to a happy ending. And, as it is said throughout the novel, there is absolutely no way of this ending without casualties. “Happily ever after” is not an option.

I sat in Starbucks today, reading the last chapter of “Forbidden”, sobbing. It’s a bitterly, bitterly sad book. But I don’t regret reading it.