From whence I write…

The place I write from is not a happy place.

This was a lesson learn the hard way, but a lesson learned hard, is a lesson learned well.
But all the same it is a bitter kind of lesson.

Writing is not one of the things that take me away from the unhappy place. That too was a hard lesson to learn.

But the hardest lesson to learn was perhaps that in order to write I need that well of anger, that core of rage, that distrust of the world, that unrepentant cynicism with which I find I view the world, when I reside in my unhappy place.

If that all sound a tad dark, that is only because you need the dark to make sense of the light, and writing is how I make sense of the darkness.

It is a strange dichotomy, writing is my light. My beacon. Yet for it to exist I must first be in the dark, for it is there I find whatever it is that drives me to write, the hunger and need to express my thoughts and ideas all stem from there.

There is, I hope, humour, hope, and humanity in my writing, and when its good I know it is good. When it works it flows like water, ideas become babbling brooks and serpentine streams rivers ever flowing into oceans the wash on other shores.

But it all starts in the dark unhappy places of my soul, the dark well spring,  and my struggles to make sense of everything that life is …


Note. I stumbled over the above in an old note book, its probably ten years or more since I scribbled down those words, four novels ago, and a different time in my life. I have no misconception that it is profound to anyone but me. But writing has held the dark places at bay, for which I am ever grateful, and the words ring as true to me now as when I wrote them.


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Nanowrimo and stuff update…

November had been a busy month of writer stuff so far. Not least because its NaNoWriMo and I have been determined form the start to make a fist of it this year. Hence I have been too busy writing to spend time writing various post of the blog. So this is by way of an update on everything.

Last months October Indie fest of guest blogs was an amazing success, and everyone who took part have my thanks. I’ve had lots of great feedback on the weird and wonderful collection of posts from a whole range of writers. If you missed any of them I can’t recommend enough that you scroll back through Octobers posts and indulge yourself.

Also last month saw the release of not one but two books with which I have been involved. My own novel, From Russia With Tassels‘ the second in the Hannibal Smyth series came out to a modicum of acclaim. And the third of the Harvey Duckman Anthologies  was also release, featuring a bonus story from myself.

nano post

I’ve also written stories for the Christmas special and Harvey Duckman 4 and 5 which will be coming out in fairly quick succession. But I am sure I will mention them closer to there release…

Meanwhile in my NaNoWriMo  festival of scribbling I decided to try and finish off a novel with the working title of Maybes Daughter. Maybe is a first draft that has been sitting at 35k words for about three years. As I was writing it between the final draft of Passing Place and the first full draft of ‘A Spider In the Eye‘ the first Hannibal novel. I’ve always loved the characters and setting of Maybe, but the time has never been right to pick it back up and finish what i started. This year, as I need a short break from Hannibal before I pile into book 3, and NaNoWriMo to think of a project for, the timing seemed right, and I after a short, not quite a redraft, read through and edit at the end of October I have picked up where I left off with the hopes that come November 30th I will have a completed first draft, because chasing my NaNoWriMo word count target will be just the motivation I need to finally finish this fun little novel.

Eight days in and its going better than I could ever have expected. The word count that started at 35k is now just over 50k and that puts me a couple of days ahead schedule (hence I could take time out to write this blog post). In short, I am sailing it so far and if I keep this up I will hopefully have that first draft done by the end of November.

As a taster, because I can, here is a short excerpt of Maybe’s Daughter from a couple of days ago (remember this is a first draft, so it has rough edges…)


Well that’s everyone brought nicely up to date, good luck to any fellow NaNoWriMo writers out there and happy word counts to all


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Free Harvey Duckman

To celebrate the release of Harvey Duckman Presents Book 3 on Halloween. The Kindle edition of the first book in this wonderful series is available free on Kindle on the 30th and 31st. If you have not yet got a copy take this opportunity to get the first book free

Harvey Duckman presents is a series of collected works of suspense and mystery in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror and steampunkery, called, oddly enough Harvey Duckman Presents…

This anthology features work by exciting new voices in speculative fiction, including both established authors and previously unpublished writers.

These short stories give a glimpse into some fantastic worlds that are already out there for you to enjoy, as well as a taste of more to come.

Volume 1 includes stories by: Kate Baucherel, D.W. Blair, A.L. Buxton, R. Bruce Connelly, Nate Connor, Marios Eracleous, Craig Hallam, C.G. Hatton, Mark Hayes, Peter James Martin, Reino Tarihmen, J.L. Walton, Graeme Wilkinson and Amy Wilson.


Also available book 2

Volume 2 includes stories by: Phil Busby, A.L. Buxton, J.S. Collyer, R. Bruce Connelly, Phoebe Darqueling, Lynne Lumsden Green, Craig Hallam, Jon Hartless, Mark Hayes, Andy Hill, Fred Johnson, Peter James Martin, Ben McQueeney and A.D. Watts.


And out on the 31st the whole new volume 3

Volume 3 includes stories by: Peter James Martin, Ben McQueeney, A.L. Buxton, R. Bruce Connelly, Phoebe Darqueling, Melissa Wuidart Phillips, Marios Eracleous, Nate Connor, James Porter, Joseph Carrabis, Cheryllynn Dyess, Erudessa Gentian, Liz Tuckwell, JL Walton and Amy Wilson, as well as a bonus ‘Harvey Duckman’ story by Mark Hayes, and a foreword by Craig Hallam.


And for the writers out there, Harvey is always looking for more talent, if you write genre fiction.

Details can be found here 

(There are rumours that Henretta Duckman is putting together an anthology of Historical Romance writers as well if you write bodice ripping yarns, and can be contacted if you are interested in writing such via the same contact details from the link above. Rumours that Melissa Haze will be writing for that anthology are probably false…)

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NaNoWriMo: planning for the writing fest

‘Its the most wonderful time of the year…’

No not the one in December…

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us, and if you are planning to participate this year, you may be plotting already, even if your plotting to take the fly by the seat of your pants route, you’re probably scribbling down a few idea’s to set yourself up for the annual festival of writing. Of course it’s always possible you have no idea what i am talking about. Or you know what I am talking about and are planning to flee for the hills. But for some of us, me included despite having a fairly disastrous run at it last year, November means National Novel Writing Month, or to be more exact as this month long festival of writing is some what ubiquitous, International Novel Writing Month. Though InNoWriMo has never caught on as a hash-tag…

nano calider

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is based on a simple premise. The challenge is to write a 50000 word first draft novel over the course of November. Which works out at around 1667 words a day. The focus is not on creating a finely crafted work of art, but on getting words down on a page. The theory been that the first draft is the hardest part, and its in a way a collective effort, the NaNoWriMo organisation will point you in the direction of local groups of writers and forums with whom you can chat, and encourage each other and on occasion have someone to vent to about how your main character is utterly ignoring the plot you scribbled down on the back of a fag packet… For what is always an ostensibly introvert activity, the NaNoWriMo community is very supportive and inclusive and often just plain fun.

No one is going to judge your work. There is a participation trophy is you register with the NaNoWriMo website, and manage to hit the target. But ultimately the quality of the work is not a matter of question, or indeed the point. To paraphrase Stephen King , ‘To be a writer you need to write’ which is the point. NaNoWriMo encourages writing. Many NaNoWriMo writers never publish their work, or ever intend to. Some will put out their completed novels to the community via websites. And some will take what they wrote in the mad festival of literary insanity and polish or complete them and eventually they may well become published novels. Certainly that is the case with my first novel ‘Cider Lane’ for which the first draft was a NaNoWriMo project. And while none of my other novels started out as NaNoWriMo projects as such, there have been ideas, characters and whole sections of my NaNoWriMo projects which have. Mainly though, I start this every year for nothing more than fun. Though I tend to use it to work out some ideas or perhaps string out a first draft of something.

I have talked about NaNoWriMo before in far more detail in previous years, with plenty of bits of advice and suggestions, hence all the links below, I also attempted to blog about the whole thing on a day by day basis last year which went really well… Until it didn’t, but as I say last years run turned into a bit of a disaster.

NaNoWriMo Stuff

Last year I worked on a fresh story with a working title of  ‘The elf kings thingy’ but real work which had a busy period as it often does in november due to the industry I work in, and a whole bunch of other things combined to scupper that novel before it got beyond 20k words. that and blogging each day which had seemed such a good idea…

This year my plan is to use NaNoWriMo to try and finish a first draft of Maybe’s Daughter. Which is cheating to an extent, as currently that first draft is about 28000 words, but as my plot notes and planning for that novel means I expect it to run to about 80k, I have 50k words to play with. It been sat waiting for me to pick it up again for a couple of years now while the first two Hannibal novels were written, and as I plan to start the third Hannibal novel in earnest in the new year, maybe would continue to sit about waiting to be written otherwise. So this is a marriage of convenience for NaNoWriMo.

So that’s my plan, to get back to Maybe, Gothe and Benjamin West. I need to do some prep, I was halfway through an editing sweep of Maybe’s Daughter when I last picked at the manuscript, which needs to be finished before the 1st of November, then its tally ho and off we go for 50000 words of first drafting goodness…

To anyone else already planning for NaNoWriMo I wish you luck and good writing… To anyone inspired to give it a go for the first time , ‘welcome to the party punk’  enjoy


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Harvey The Third…

One of the most exciting things I have been involved in over the last year and a bit has been Sixth Element Publishing the Harvey Duckman Presents anthology’s. From it’s inception (reputably over a few beers in a pub one night) it has been a project which has grow and taken on a life of it’s own. I was lucky enough to be ask to contribute to the first volume before it even had a name, and having never been asked to write a short story for an anthology before I leapt at the chance.

hd banner

I had just released ‘A Scar of Avarice’ at the time, had a finished working draft of ‘A Spider In The Eye’ sitting with my friend and editor, who happens to be C G Hatton the editor in chief and driving force (along with Andy) behind 6E’s Harvey Anthologies. Back then however this was still an unnamed idea, and no one I believe really envisaged what it was to become. All the same with my usual mixture of naive enthusiasm, and coffee driven insomnia I decided to write a Hannibal Smyth story for the anthology, because I had a Hannibal novel that would be out in a month or two, building on a silly idea I’d flirted with about a younger Hannibal getting drawn into a dual over a slice of cheese cake while off his head on LSD.

It was of course six months before the Hannibal novel finally arrived, not two, and the anthology idea took longer still to come to fruition. Indeed I had sort of forgotten all about it  and ‘The Cheesecake Dichotomy’ slipped off my radar for a while, because these things take time, and if getting myself organised takes a while, imagine how much effort, time and sheer willpower it takes to get fifteen writers all corralled up and release an anthology… Frankly I remain amazed that 6E managed to pull off not only that first volume which was released at Scarborough Scifi convention back in at the beginning of April, but the second volume which came out in time for Kapow in Stockton a mere three months later.

For that second volume I wrote ‘The Strontium Thing’ a story based on all those scifi and fantasy heroes that litter both genre’s who lose the odd body part and have it replaced with something else, be it cybernetics or some alien body part or other. (trust me there are more of these than you might think), an idea I took to a logical if mildly extreme and frankly ridiculous extent… But then there is no much but strontium in the waste lads of Ka, so what else could they use…

The next few months were problematic for Harvey, as sometimes things crop up you can’t account for, occasionally some people are idiots, and I know due to one idiot it was tough going for a while for the 6E team. Frankly they could have walked away from the project and I for one would not have blamed them. I had a rant about it at the time, and while I could point you to that rant I won’t because its now in the past thankfully, and after delays and a lot of soul searching Harvey is back with a third volume to be released on the eve of all hallows, and the kindle version is available for pre-order right now. It packed with story’s by a host of talented new voices in speculative fiction, including both established authors many of whom have written guest posts for this blog and or been featured within its pages before, as well as  some previous contributors and as usual a few previously unpublished writers, just waiting for readers to discover them.

Harvey is a fabulous ride, and I remain proud to be a part of it and to that I keep been asked to contribute stories to the anthologies, long may it run and go from strength to strength, news on future volumes will be coming soon , but for right now, I’ll stick with volume three which I look forward to reading myself.

Volume 3 includes stories by: Peter James Martin, Ben McQueeney, A.L. Buxton, R. Bruce Connelly, Phoebe Darqueling, Melissa Wuidart Phillips, Marios Eracleous, Nate Connor, James Porter, Joseph Carrabis, Cheryllynn Dyess, Erudessa Gentian, Liz Tuckwell, JL Walton and Amy Wilson, and me. It also has a foreword by the esteemed man of fictitious scribbling Craig Hallam.

It is once again edited by the ever wonderful C.G. Hatton, and I offer my thanks (and probably another bottle for rum) to her and Andy Hatton, without whom none of this would be possible and the world would be a poorer place…

harvey 3

Click on this book cover to go to amazon, treat yourself  and pre-order a copy

This time round, I should probably mention, I have a story, that is a story within a story, a biography of sorts, the tale of how the idea of the Harvey Duckman Anthologies first came into being. It is of course entirely accurate and 100% the true story of how Harvey came up with the idea in the first place… Well some-where and some-when in the multiverse anyway, there maybe a monochrome individual, a doorman who drinks brandy the correct way, and a multidimensional entity who is occasionally a cat or a piano bar and grill or both involved, but that would be telling…

Adios for now


PS. I got through all that and utterly failed to mention that Book tow of Hannibal Smyths Misadventures, ‘From Russia With Tassels’ is now available on kindle and in paperback. Really I am rubbish at this self-publicity lark…  Click on the banner below , go on do it you know you want to….

hannibal new banner


Posted in amreading, amwriting, book reviews, books, fantasy, fiction, Hannibal Smyth, Harvey Duckman, horror, humour, indie, indie novels, indie writers, indieoctober, indiewriter, novels, Passing Place, reads, sci-fi, steampunk, supernatural, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Sense Of Wonder: Indie October guest post by Karen J Carlisle

indie october 10

Bear with me, Dear Reader.

I’m about to tell you a tale –one that will offer you a glimpse into the circuitous route to my present mindset and how steampunk has made my life better by restoring a sense of wonder to my life.

I’m a research addict. I crave it. I accumulate it. I hoard it. You can often find me spiralling down endless rabbit holes, in search of that one elusive fact, that last piece of a puzzle I’ve been chasing. The one thing that makes everything fall into place. It’s the curse of a writer (or scientist, or quiz night-o’holic, or…).

But there’s more to it than that.

Imagine you’re an explorer of uncharted lands:

Dust whips your face, lodging in your nostrils, scratching your eyes. You dig your fingers into the rock, ignoring the stinging pain as blood beads on your palm. You drag yourself up the precipice, thrust your arm over the crest of the mountain and spy the wonders of an undiscovered landscape.

Imagine the pure delight of such endless new discoveries. Researching my books is not unlike being an explorer. It starts me on my journey, inspires the landscape (setting) and encourages me to explore for new worlds, complete with wondrous gadgets for my characters to discover.


But there’s still more.

It seems Sir Francis Bacon predicted our future: Knowledge is power(Meditationes Sacrae and Human Philosophy,1597) . Everyone wants a bit of the action. No one is willing to share.

Let’s face it. Life can be a grind: Wake up. Go to work. Come home. Sleep. Repeat.(Though waking up can be optional). Endless days of monotony, in a seemingly uncaring world where we are either invisible and insignificant or vying for control.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Empire may have wanted to plunder the spoils of exploration but we – the explorers – can revel in the pursuit of knowledge. We can search for understanding and inspire wonder for others. We can trek into the unknown, searching for the wonder and mystery of life, of people, of experiences. And we can share them.


So how has steampunk made my life better?

It has inspired my research beyond the confines of my writer’s chair, beyond the internet, beyond the library. It has encouraged me to discover the wonders of a community of supportive people. It has inspired me to explore the wonders of my world – past and present. It has given me the courage to wrench myself (sometimes literally), from the safety of my comfort zone onto that mountain side, defying my anxiety – to try new things, a new career and to experience life as I search for the hidden wonders in our broken but beautiful world.


Two years after writing this original post, (Originally posted for STEAMPUNK HANDS AROUND THE WORLD, 2017) the wonder has not ceased. I’m creating and expanding new worlds in my writing, with the latest (book 5) being ‘The Department of Curiosities’.

Photos copyright Karen J Carlisle.

Definitions of Wonder(Oxford Dictionary):

  • A feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar.
  • A thing or a quality of something that causes wonder.
  • A surprising event or situation
  • Having remarkable properties or abilities.A Sense Of Wonder

About Karen J Carlisle

karenKaren J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, was published in 2015 and her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.

Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat. She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.


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Them That Ask No Questions…

Readers are seldom aware of just how much research can go into writing a novel. It’s a neat trick of smoke and mirrors most writers perform, in that the research gets hidden beyond plain sight, so the reader never see the depth of the research that has gone into a book. Nor indeed should they, generally at least, not unless they sit and think about it for a while. A good book should draw you into the narratives world, the characters stories should take you through those worlds. Just like those Hollywood back-lot western towns that seem so real in the movies, you need to see the saloon, and the jail house, the brothel and the livery stables, what you don’t need to see is the work of the carpenters  round the back, the scaffolds that the one-sided facades of the street are hung upon. The magic lays in the lighting and camera angles.

That’s what a well written novel is like, a literary movie for the reader. They don’t see the research that is the scaffolding on which the story is hung. As a writer myself I think I’m more adept than most at spotting the scaffolding, but that is because I can’t help but go looking for it. That is to say I can spot good research. It doesn’t mean that when I do so it detracts from a story. Quite the opposite in fact, because I appreciate good research, and in all honesty I am a sucker for the ‘behind the scenes documentaries’ extra’s on DVD’s when it comes to movies, and ‘about this story’ extras in a book. Not least because I know just how much research goes into my own novels, even the entirely made up world of Hannibal Smyth that diverged from our own history around 1870, has had far more research involved that anyone who is not a writer could probably countenance, hopefully to the good of those novels. Even if Hannibal has a habit of giving his own twist on everything, the truth behind his corruption of that truth has to be based on solid ground to start with. I may not want the reader to see the scaffold, but it still needs to be there to start with…

Now this may seem a bit of random wittering on my part, but mention of all this brings me to talk about an utterly charming Sunday evening I just spent in the company of  a young Alice Kittyhawk, aka Alice Gunn, aka Liss Hawkeye, NIls Nisse Visser’s heroine from his Sussex Steampunk tales. More specifically an evening spent reading his latest Novella ‘Them That Ask No Questions’.

I make no apologise for being a fan of Nils work, he has a gift for story telling, and a gift for language. Both his character and the narration of his tales use words of Sussex dialect which should seem alien to those not raised within the folds of that county, yet within a few pages those odd words and strange expressions just slip over you and feel right. Drawing you further into his Sussex world of smugglers, pickpockets, and free traders. Its a neat trick when the reader (like myself) is not from anywhere near Sussex, and probably couldn’t pick a Sussex accent out from any other southern dialect, because somehow those words echo in your mind as you read and the characters voices just feel right. Those voices and the sense of place is beautifully drawn within this novella, just as it was in the first of this series The Rottingdean Rhyme which I reviewed earlier this year.

But there is more to Nils stories than just good story telling, they are researched impeccably. The Sussex of his stories lives and breaths, despite airships and questionable fashions among the wealthy, because it is the very real Brighton and Sussex coast of the 1870’s that is the canvas upon which it is pasted. Alice lives in ‘The Lanes’ a slum district of tenements, alleyways or ‘Twittens’ and yards or ‘Mews’, scratching out a living on the grey side of the law in order to keep her and her mother clear of brooding spectre of the workhouse. All the while avoiding being nabbed by the ‘Rozzers’, or being pawed at by any ‘gentlemen gone a slumming’ who might take a fancy to a young girl, and taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves despite draconian vagrancy laws (which are  still on the statute I was appalled to learn) The Brighton slums are not a place for faint hearts, ingrained as they are with the nastier side of Victorian society, something other steampunk writers occasionally gloss over in favour of tales of the moneyed classes which have a more romanticised appeal. This is a dirty, nasty little world, but despite this and perhaps because of it the heroes of this world are those trying to make it a little better despite everything stacked up against the poor and disenfranchised who inhabit the slums, which makes it a rather uplifting tale and well as just a damn fine read.

kick off add VERSION TWO

The bonus tale at the end of this novella (which is wonderfully grim, twisted and yet entirely believable), and the behind the scenes extras in which Nils gives the reader a mere glimpse of the studious research that has gone into this story,  adds an extra dimension to this novella that just add to the joy of reading this novella.

I find myself now waiting in some anticipation for the third of these novella, due later in the year, ‘Fair Weather For Foul Folk’. Not least because Nils gives me some small credit for the inspiration behind it due to my review of the first. Though I doubt any such credit is due, it is still nice to believe it maybe, and if so I point out that review was inspired by the first novella to start. Nils wrote a guest post for this blog last week on that very subject as you may be aware, but if not give it a read… 

As for ‘Them That Ask No Questions’, clicking on the picture below might just take you to it, as if by magic…


Posted in amreading, amwriting, book reviews, books, fiction, Hannibal Smyth, indie, indie novels, indie writers, indieoctober, indiewriter, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, sci-fi, steampunk, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment