Rune Rat Rune…

Some four years back I reviewed a book of interconnected short stories about a middle-aged paranormal detective and a ‘rat’, which you could at a stretch call his partner. I equated this to something along the lines of Jim Butchers Harry Dresden novels, but set in Teesside, with a talking (generally swearing) rat. It was my first foray into the alternative Teesside of Brennan and Riz. A place I have visited many times since in the form of the authors micro tweet stories (frankly if you don’t follow their author on twitter you should) and with Peter James Martin’s many contributions to the Harvey Duckman Anthologies featuring the unlikely duo.

Back then Peter told me he was working on a novel about Brennan and Riz which was in essence the origin story. I looked forward to it, and waited…

and waited…

and waited…

and hunker down due in a global pandemic…

and waited…

and came out of the other side of a global pandemic

and waited…

and waited…

Bloody authors, tell you they are writing something and then take an age to get it written, and don’t get me started on Patrick Rothfuss… If I wasn’t just as bad my self I would scream a little…

Then finally…

So you wait for years for a book to arrive and finally it does and it sits on your to read pile for months, because readers… But eventually I got around to reading it and I was not disappointed.

Riz, when he is not swearing, cursing and generally been a bit of a swine, is a rat. Actually he is a rat when he is doing all that as well. He is also something else. Very definitely something else, but want that is, is a question that gonna remain unresolved. We may be better not knowing, certainly Brennan is probably better off in the dark.

There is a fair chance Brennan would have been better off if the rat never hid in his backpack to avoid the spring-heeled goblin murders lead by Jack the Ripper, who’s working for a Fae lord who wishes to ‘Make humans believe in the fae again’

The the emphasis being very much on ‘Make’ as it is hard not to believe in mystical creatures when they start ripping your face off, and murdering everybody. The survivors will almost certainly believe…

Luckily for Brennan he and his best friend Merrick, along with Valarie who might be Brennan’s girlfriend at some point, with a little help from the rat, are sure to be more than a match for the ancient unspeakable evil Fae Lord and his army of murdering Zebedee impressionists… Just as long as they are all on the same side and none of them are too busy squabbling. Thankfully Riz is a calming influence and Bren’s parents are perfectly normal…

Peter writes with wit and charm on every page, there is also a sense of darkness and dread that seeps in at the seams (possibly that’s Riz). If this is the first time you have come across Brennan and Riz then you are in for a treat, if you have cross paths before you are not going to be disappointed.

Also, whats a littler mass murder between friends.

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Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 12

Also contains Lit’Plastic Santa’s which is a somewhat anti-Christmas story. Because who doesn’t like a little brutal murder in the Holiday season …

Ben Sawyer

“Saw Dickens do a reading once. My God, that man’s voice does things to me.”

– Holly Trinity

Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 12, in the snow with a Santa hat and UFOs flying past

Harvey Duckman Presents’ 2019 Christmas Special has been re-released just in time for the holidays, now folded into the series’ main range as Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 12. (Days of Christmas, that is…)

Among the fantastic festive tales of renegade fairies, festive dream worlds, nightmarish Santas and why elf on a shelf is just plain dystopian is my first contribution to the Harvey series, The Carol of the Bells. It’s also the first print appearance of Holly and Mira, who investigate the mystery of York Minster’s ghostly monk. Very happy to see this collection getting a new push.

Lurking inside are stories by Thomas Gregory, Andy Hill, Peter James Martin, Craig Hallam, Kate Baucherel, Cheryllynn Dyess, Marios Eracleous, Zack Brooks, Ben McQueeney, Maggie Kraus, Gerald Wiley, Lynne Lumsden Green, Mark Hayes…

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The Sad Cthulhu World Tour 2022 is over…

On the bookshelf of books ‘Wot I’ve Wrote’ sits Sad Cthulhu, usually… But on those occasions, when I venture out into the cruel cold world to sell books at events, he comes with me. Clearly this is merely an affectation on my part and in no way because of a deep-seated worry that if I left him behind, he might burn down the house and rampage through the village. Crashing through realities as he did so to harken the stars becoming right and the coming of Hastor, Azathoth and other being from the cold unforgiving cosmos…

Over the course of the year I’ve gotten around a fair bit with him, in fact there was only one bookish event he didn’t go with me to. Funnily enough the one that was actually just about books, specifically a book about the Apocalypse, he might of enjoyed that one…

The first event of the year was back in April at Scarborough SFI, then a nice local event in Stockton, before I dragged him along to a plethora of events in deepest darkest strangest Gloucestershire (which is a constant delight, as are the locals), in Shroud and Gloucester itself. Oddly the first doctors he met were in Scarborough… along with a Wookie…

Its been a busy year though I should do more events I know. Sad Cthulhu is home now on the bookshelf once more, and will be going no where for a while..,.

He does not have a hat, thanks to The Octopus Lady, Who says “he just spoke to me…”

So that’s not worrying at all…

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Yule is coming…

Its that time of the year again, the nights are drawing in, there is a chill in the air, entities from beyond what we foolishly believe to be reality are seeping through the cracks…

It’s time to mull some wine, and roast innocent vegetables. Time to contemplate our nearest and dearest and how we should encourage them to read more books. Perhaps they are interested in the works of Lovecraft and need a guide on what not to read… Perhaps they hanker to visit a quiet little bar perched on the edge of oblivion staring out across a universe and asking the questions Why?

Maybe you should encourage them to indulge such splendid questions on love, death and the wisdom of cats. Give them the gift of Inuit saga’s, Horticultural demonology, flint-eyed gunslingers, wolf creation myths and the right way to drink brandy…

Or maybe just Maybe…

Other book are also available… Merry Yule…

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A special kind of purgatory…

Some of this is going to be a rant, however if you stick with the rant there is something mildly awesome at the other side. Also, let there be some honesty between us here, it’s hardly the first rant regular visitors to my blog have had to endure, and I suspect more than one of you mostly comes here for the rants.

You know who you are…

This particular post was inspired, in a roundabout way, by a couple of arseholes who deserves a very special kind of purgatory. One of them was an arsehole to another writer, the other an arsehole to me. Both of them were however the same kind of arse, the kind of arse that gives out a one-star review. Now as I promised this was a rant, so I will get the rant out of the way first. I got this review for Lexicromicon from an American on Amazon. I’ve blocked out his name out of politeness.

I don’t normally comment on the occasion shitty review, life is too short, and people are entitled to their shity unwarranted and ill-considered opinions. However, I do take exception to someone reviewing a book they have not read, clearly state they have not read it, and then put in a quote about Mr Lovecraft not writing for lazy readers…

Irony anyone one? Get your bag of irony here… Come get it while its fresh…

On that by the way, I read every piece of fiction Lovecraft ever wrote at least five times, including more than one story I utterly detest, while writing that book. Lazy reader I am not, unlike the reviewer clearly.

Okay that’s the rant done… Do I feel better for it. No not really, ranting about negative arseholes who give out one-star reviews and denigrate peoples work doesn’t achieve anything. I’ve had lots of great feedback and reviews from other people for that book and my fiction, so I chose not to let such things bother me (except they do every time, because of course they do, shity reviews are the ones we all remember no matter how many good ones we get… We laugh them other, but we die inside.)

While I was dealing with that little bit general background shit that comes an authors way, another author I vaguely follow-on twitter posted a picture of their very first review for a new book. The very first review they had received. Which wasn’t a review, as such, just a single solitary star. Think about that for a moment, someone took time out of their day to give someone a one-star review on their new book, just out of spite as they could not even be arsed to write a review.

The writer in question posted this and laughed it off. Which may have been entirely genuine laughter, but I suspect she was dying a little inside. Someone disliked her, or at least her books enough to just be an arsehole for the sake of being an arsehole… I hope there is a special kind of purgatory for people like that, I surely do… If she could laugh it off all power to her, but I for one was angry for her.

Now on the plus side this did mean I looked at the book in question, which may well be a fine book but didn’t grab me as a book for me, but hopefully it made some other look at it too. But while that book was not a book for me, I did actually look at what else the writer in question had written to see if anything appealed. I am a great believer in Karma, so I thought I could perhaps redress the balance of the universe a little and buy a book that appealed and give it a read, and if I liked it a review… And as it happened for serval reasons one novella written by the writer in question leapt out at me. Perhaps because I was thinking of people who deserved some kind of purgatory at the time…

So that’s what I did, I bought a copy of Barbara Avon’s novella Owl Eyes Motel in a fit of rage spite and with an urge to dress the balance of the universe a little because cretinous arseholes leaving shitty one-star reviews for another human being’s labours of love offends me…

I’m a messy complicated sort of entity who does things for messy complicated reasons, they don’t have to make sense to anyone but me… However, I was hopeful that the book would be good so I could write a nice review… It wasn’t good…

It was utterly awesome…

Owl Eyes Motel by Barbara Avon

We have all stayed at an odd Motel out on the edge of town that seems slightly off kilter and has a sense of wrongness about it that is hard to put your finger one at first. As someone who has spent far too many nights in that strange kind of purgatory over the years due to previous jobs and occasional wanderings, I don’t find it hard to imagine them as a rum and uncanny kind of netherworld. Neither clearly does Barbara Avon, who fictional creation is one part Hotel California, one part purgatory, and beautifully realised through out. Each chapter is a Room Number, and each room has its own story. Room 252 was a particular favourite, that particular story is so finally crafted I’m openly jealous of the author for pulling it off… But a story, within a story, within a story… Well, it is almost raison d’etre for me…

But Room 252 is not alone in being well crafted, the whole novella is wonderfully crafted. Even after the first room, when you have gained a reasonable idea what you are in for, each room that follows has new twists and surprises within them. The stories manage to be nasty at times, sexy at times and always intriguing. It’s hard not to fall a little in love with some of the staff, Tawny the longue singer, Fredrick the bartender and Milton himself, the proprietor and ‘beating’ heart of the Owl Eyes Motel…

It is frankly a brilliant bit of creativity, wonderfully structured, wonderfully written and if it has a flaw, it is only that it is a novella because it left me wanting more.

Just do yourself a favour and read it. If you have read and enjoyed Passing Place, then defiantly read it, I can’t really praise anything higher than that…

Anyway, having redressed the balance of the universe, I am probably going to end up having to read more of Barbara’s novels now.

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NaNoWriMo: Or how to first draft 2022 edition

With the 1st of November a week away here is my usual mildly self-aggrandising of attempting to offer some advice to budding writers, or as it is otherwise known the story of how I wrote my first novel. It is also the story of how I wrote my nineteenth novel.

They just happen to be the same book. The other eighteen are still sat on hard drives, in paper copies or in one case on an old Amiga floppy disc I can’t access as the format is ancient. This is because the only reason my first novel Cider Lane became my ‘first’ novel is because I actually finish writing it, but more importantly, perhaps, I actually finished a first draft.

Like most writers I suspect, I have started a lot of projects over the years, I have endless notebooks, scrap ends and one-off chapters of unwritten masterpieces (or utter drivel in all likelihood). Plenty oof those projects got past 20000 words or more before for one reason or another they ground to a halt. Some are a lot longer, other scrape over that line, but all of them have one thing in common, all of them (until Cider Lane) never got completed. Which is to say until then I wrote none of these to a complete first draft.

There were always reasons for this, sometimes I just lost interest in the story. Sometimes I found myself inspired by something else, launched myself into it and left the earlier work behind in the ‘get back to this later’ tray. Quite often life just took a turn to the left as life does that on occasion. I have been writing for nearly forty years, in that time there have been children, relationships, depressions, different jobs and a whole lot of other stuff that made writing seem unimportant. Life has a way of happening to us all… However, if I was asked to nail down one main reason that all these manuscripts fell by the wayside it is this, I used to edit as I went along…

Editing as you go works for some writers, it has however never worked for me. Editing as you go is going back to chapter one and rewrite it again and again. Then you work through everything you have written so far, write a bit further, and then you feel the need to revise things again. Edit, edit edit. Re-write, re-write, re-write… In essence I could write 100000 words, but the actual manuscript would still be only around 10000 words. Highly polished words perhaps… But six months of work to get to the perhaps an eighth of a novel… And I’m gonna edit it again before I write any further…

I know I am not alone n this experience…

It is also one of the reasons why I would get stalled with a story.

Generally, I would go back to a previous chapter because something had made a little light bulb come on in my mind and I would realise that whatever I had just written would work better it ist had a bit of foreshadowing, perhaps just if it was alluded to by a character in an earlier chapter. Then I would go back to add it, or change something and find myself sucked into revising the whole chapter from the start, yet again… And eventually you write yourself into a ditch. Meanwhile there was NaNoWriMo.

its like a cult

NaNoWriMo come around every year. Unfortunately I am always busy, November my job is the worst, long hours, tight deadlines. Added to which I would always be in the middle of something writing-wise. Because of this while I always liked the idea of NaNoWriMo, I never actually did it.

NaNoWriMo, for those who do not know, is ‘National Novel Writing Month’. It’s well organised, but you don’t necessarily need to go down the organised route, indeed you don’t need to sign up to anything in order to try it yourself. The idea is to write a 50000 novel in the 30 days of November. There are Facebook and twitters groups who cheerleader each other along. Calendars to track your writing with. A whole lot of social engagement and help from other sources, you can register here, and find a local group via the main website. Importantly they also have a couple of guiding principles they suggest you stick to if possible.

  • Write every day… and stick to your targets
  • Don’t edit just write… editing is for December…

Its the latter one that really makes the difference for me, so one year I decided to try it. In July …

As I said, November is always a busy month for me. But other than getting the date wrong I used the word count guides, the forums, and (against the habits of a life time) not editing as I went along. A month later, I had done it, not a 50000-word novel, but at the time a 69000-word novel. I overshot because it went so well.

Now in fairness this was still bare bones, there was almost a year of redrafting ahead of me and editing, and more redrafting, and more edit etc, before the manuscript was somewhere near its final stage. But what I did have after that month was a complete first draft and therein lays the trick… I had something real, and complete to work with. I knew the story I was telling, I knew where it went and I knew how I was going to get there.

Now I should point out that I am an exception. Few NaNoWriMo novels ever get published, because for most people who do this every year that’s not really the aim. But plenty do, if not in the in the form in which they are first written (when I say Cider Lane had a lot of editing afterwards I mean a lot.) But plenty of NaNoWriMo novels prove to be the ground stones on which final novel is built.

Its an exercise in creativity, not perfection.

NaNoWriMo forces people, in a gentle way self policed way, to write with a certain amount of self-discipline. No one ever really fails, because success is not the be all and end all of the challenge. No one will say you failed if you don’t succeed in completing your 50000 words, not in any real terms, no one will look down on you for failing, but if you succeed they will all cheer when you cross the finish line on November the 30th.

Even if you fail, you still have words on a page, something you might be able to take further, or you can just treat the whole things as practice in the craft. But it can do wonders for your self-discipline, teaching you not to edit as you go, as well as how to work to deadlines no matter how self-imposed and do so just the pure love of writing.

nanowrimo_calendar_by_migratory

What I got out of NaNoWriMo the first time I did it was my first real novel, but mostly the realisation that the only thing stop me writing a novel was me, and I did not have to edit as I went because a first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. A realisation which has helped me no end in the years since. I am a better writer for it, not just in terms of productivity.

Its October, you have all month to register at https://nanowrimo.org/ you can plan and plot your novel as well if you want, or just wait until November the 1st and start writing.

As for myself the current ‘working’ titles I have under consideration for myself are:

  • Maybes daughter part dux ( actually an on going project that is 30k done , but is planned for around 50k more and as I say nanowrimo is a great way to get a first draft down)
  • Like a Bad Penny  (a spin-off of a spider in the eye with a female protagonist, guess what her name is…)
  • The Droitwich Horror (spoof Lovecraft horror set in the west midlands…)
  • The Elf Kings Thingy (which is also at about 15k but I expect to run to 65k in the end so the same get the first draft thing applies )

I may keep you informed, or I may not make it past the first day

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The Guest Runes…

Somehow I have ended up hosting a discussion panel on Runes, there relevance to dark age culture, what the Victorians did with them and the difference between New Age pseudo-mythology and actual historical facts and ancient cultures… This is fascinating stuff.

I personally have, an occasionally purple, beard that is long enough and scraggly enough to require some care and maintenance at times so I have some silver beads with runes on them. Beard runes… that is my level of expertise, runes on beads you put in your beard… Luckily my ‘Guests’ know a little more than me, by which I mean a lot more…

All this came about because I read, enjoyed and reviewed Kieth Hearings fascinating book Wyrd a week or so ago, and as is my want I put links to the blog up in a few places. It was at this point my friend and fellow writer Mat McCall piped up with a few thoughts of his own on the subject…

So welcome to my guest panel post on Runes…

Just an addition for those interested in Runes…. By Mat McCall

Just an addition for those interested in Runes…. Okay, let’s put my cards on the table first. As anyone who has read my book The Goddess of Sorrows will be aware, I have a lifelong interest in mythology, religion, and magical systems of the ancient Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and Proto-Norse and Norse societies. My background is early British Medieval Archaeology and History, and I spent a long time teaching the history, social structures, religions, and mythologies of those cultures, to groups from community education to University level.

So, of course, the Futharks – to call them ‘Runic alphabets’ is like calling an iPad a ‘calculator’ – of peoples like the Vendel culture of Sweden right through the Ogham script of the western Celtic peoples, have been of great interest to me, both academically and spiritually.

I find myself rolling up my sleeves at this point.

In truth there was never one Futhark nor was it ever really used as an extensive writing system. To massively simplify; there is as modern scholars identify, the Elder Futhark and the various versions of the Younger Futhark, plus a lot of nonsense perpetrated by the ‘Melody Goldtwinkles’ of pop cod New Age pseudo-mythology.

The Elder Futhark, (EF) as a kind of alphabet, is not as old as you might think. EF has its earliest roots in the migration period, with some examples on stone carvings, from the 2nd Century. Ogham is almost as old. Making it less than two thousand years old. Of course, that would make it relatively young compared to Greek or Roman Latin, and a stripling babe compared to Sanskrit or Cuneiform. And it was not a ‘written language’ as you might imagine by reading this. One thing is that although current scholars list 24 runes in the EF, the use of some or all of them across the whole plethora of archaeological evidence of the period suggests that often some were highly limited in use. This suggests that some may have been local variations or additions and not all were widely used or accepted. Simply there was no ‘Dr Johnson’ of the EF. Not only was the use of the runes then open to local, cultural, and individual interpretation but so would have been their ‘supernatural,’ for want of a better word, use and meaning.

To imagine every early North-western Germanic could read or write in the Runic script is as ridiculous as suggesting that because Caxton invented the modern printing press every peasant in Europe could not only read but print. The existence of EF does not mean that those cultures were literate in a way we could comprehend by today’s standards. There are no books in EF, no love letters, no letters from sons to mothers thanking her for the cake and asking if she can send him some socks.

Imagine how difficult it would be to learn EF? Imagine that not only did every letter of what you are reading have its own vowel or consonant sound, and the changes it has when in conjunction with other letters, but each letter had complex spiritual and esoteric meanings, again both singularly and in conjunction with other letters. Dear God! Speaking as a dyslexic, English is hard enough to manage.

Now, this Elder Futhark would change over time, and diversify, somewhere in the 8th C into what some scholars call the Younger Futhark (YF) of the Scandinavians. But that too is a misnomer.

There were no such peoples as the ‘Scandinavians,’ like there were no such peoples as the Celts or Anglo-Saxons, they are ‘lump’ categories, modern broad generalisations and labels for people who shared some geographic and cultural similarities. It’s a shorthand that on close examination is meaningless and certainly utterly meaningless to the people themselves at the time. If you could pop back and ask Penda himself if he knew what an ‘Anglo-Saxon’ was, he would not even accept the concept let alone understand the term. Once you took the time to explain it, he probably would find it rather insulting.

So, no ‘Scandinavians’ then no Scandinavian shared Futhark. Here’s where things truly get diverse, even our modern ideas of Sweden, Norway, Denmark etc, were meaningless (and most had not even been conceived of) to the peoples of the age. Each culture, even regional group would have evolved a slightly different version and use of the so-called (YF), just as they evolved different regional accents and eventually different languages.

Then of course we have the so-called Anglo-Saxon Futhorc. Well now, there’s a lot of wishful thinking here. Firstly, its origins are massively confused. The suggestion that it originates from Frisia (That’s the Netherlands to you) is questionable, as there were numerous larger groups in the Anglo-Saxon model and their cultural dispersal and intermixture in the British isles is really hard to differentiate clearly. Remember Raedwald of the Wuffingas, Bretwalda and King of the East Angles (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, a smattering of Franks, other Germanics and Romano-Celtic peoples,*), the guy with the cool helmet at Sutton Hoo, his family were probably of Swedish origin and that helm is Vendel culture.

Also, by the time this Futhorc was in extremely limited use from its archaeological examples, (I know I’ve actually seen and held most of them) the process of both Christianisation and Latinisation was well underway. Most of the wealthy and the powerful, like Raedwald, were nominally Christian and could read and write in Latin – the ‘lingua franca’ of the political and clerical ruling class.

There is a clear argument that what has been labelled by ‘scholars’ as a distinct subset of the YF, this ‘Futhorc,’ is not in reality anything more than a random collection of diverse examples originating from all over North-western Europe. As someone who studied and taught Anglo-Saxon and Norse history in these islands, I believe there was an Anglo-Saxon Futhorc in limited use, possibly by traditionalists trying to hang on to vestiges of their old cultures or by those who saw their Runic system as having far more potent power (especially mystical) than the Latin alphabet.

However, by that time it may have fallen into the position of little more than decoration, the kind of thing where we see young people with Chinese characters tattooed on themselves. They tell you it means “Health, Wealth and Prosperity” and in fact it reads “No.23, with dumplings.”

Yes, I know, before anyone screams, I have deliberately left out Iceland. That is another story.

*Angles from the area of Germany just below Denmark. Saxons from central Germany. Jutes from Denmark. Frisians from the Netherlands. Franks from France and Germany. Swedes. Romano Celtics being culturally Roman peoples (origins from all over the late Roman Empire) and Indigenous Latinised Celtic peoples. And lots of others. The predominate language of these people was some form of Germanic lingua franca and the predominate written form, for the few who were literate, would have been Latin, not runic.

I agree completely with everything By Kieth Healing

I agree completely with everything you have said. What I tried to do was write a simple little book that described, in very basic terms, what runes are and the importance of trying to look at original sources as much as possible. Many books follow on from Ralph Blum’s Book of Runes which introduced the Blank rune and ignored the traditional meanings as written in the rune poems.

Now, the poems themselves are not, of course, contemporary with the development of the futhark(s), but they give the best interpretation without having to try and understand them by learning ancient Scandinavian languages.

I make it clear that the runes are absolutely open to interpretation and are a fascinating way in to a spirituality that is sorely overlooked, what with the amount of books dedicated to “Celtic” ideas which were largely invented by the Victorians.

I actually spend most of the book discussing Wyrd and trying to get a sense of it.

Thank you to both Mat and Kieth for that wonderfully informed discussion, though frankly begining your reply with ‘I completely agree with everything you have said,’ lacks something in the good argument department…

As a side note from me, Annis: The Goddess of Sorrows is a marvellous proto-iron age mythological fantasy I reviewed at the back end of last year after my annual books of the year post, so it wasn’t listed in my books of the year in the year I reviewed it. Currently it is a strong contender for book of the year for this year and is certainly in the list. But don’t tell Mat that, it will go to his head.

Anyway read their books I have reviewed all of them previously, and of course read mine, because some people like them…

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Return of the Revenge of the creature from the Friday Reviews

Ardent followers of this fine ongoing series of ever more obscure ramblings of the paranoid conglomerate of emotional baggage that collectively refers to itself as Mark Hayes, will be aware I have a regular feature on a Friday where I do a few quick reviews of several books all in one go. If your definition of regular is once in a blue moon, probably twice a year at best, and frankly not always on a Friday.

I am nothing if not consistent…

Regular readers will also be aware that my normal style with reviews is somewhat long winded, wanders a merry path, and eventually gets to the point and starts actually talking about whatever it is I have felt compelled to review after something in the region of five hundred to a thousand words of vague and occasionally mildly vulgar waffling on. However, as I have three reviews of four books to get through, I shall decline to waffle to my usual degree. Regular reader’s please accept this apology for the lack of popularist interpretations of Physics, references to obscure goth bands, wild wittering’s on subjects such as narrative structure and general waffle, but you know the kind of thing I mutter on about by now. Instead, I will do the whittering mid reviews. Such wittering should not be taken too seriously…

Moonsleep and Other Stories By Liz Tuckwell

Liz is a fellow Harvey Duckman writer, but one who has spread her short story wings far wider than I. As a member of the British Fantasy Society (who refused my membership on account of me never applying) she has also written for their monthly publications (which I was unaware existed) As well as a number of other publications, (which I have also never heard of), Elizabeth is therefore quite successful at getting people to publish her short stories. There is a reason for this…

The reason can be found bound within this book, which is regather collection of her short stories from all the various publications they first appeared in. The reason she is so successful is because her stories are witty, intelligent and brilliantly written, they also process a certain charm to them that many short stories writers fail to put into their work.

So, if you want to know how to write great short stores reading this book would be a great start. Or, if you just like stories, as I do.

Salam Switch by Jessica Lucci

One of the wonderful things about the modern world is the internet. I mean clearly it is also terrible and responsible for a lot of crap in the world. But it is good at one thing, bringing people into each other orbit who would otherwise never meet, figuratively speaking. Jessica Lucci is one such person I would never have heard of and her work but for the internet. Life would be poorer without coming into contact with such people I suspect as Jessica is one of those utterly adorable enthusiasts for life who seem determined to jolly up the world by sheer force of personality alone. (Oddly she reminds me of Henretta Clarkhurst, except Jessica isn’t fictional, or currently hurtling towards the moon with Elonis Musk)

Admittedly she is also American, which is cheating as they don’t have to cope with inbreed cynicism and sense of inferiority due to the class system that is the bane of the British. Damn treacherous colonials with their upbeat optimist view of the world…

Her novella Salem Switch is an extremely fast paced read and one I enjoyed for exactly what it is a rapid roller-coaster of a story not meant to be taken any more seriously than it was written but meant to be enjoyed for everything it is. It is just lots of fun. Well not lots, but plenty.

If there is a flaw, it’s that I felt there was a novel in this novella, but occasionally a tale is best told with exuberance, pace and this certainly works just as it is written. A joyous romp of magic, steampunk and the odd sapphic interlude.

Boston Metaphysical Society Volume 1 and 2 by Holly Rosing et al

One of the wonderful things about the modern world is the internet. I mean clearly it is…. Arh, yes, I said all that in the last bit didn’t I, sorry. But anyway, another of those people I would never have interacted with and who’s work I would have probably never come across but for the internet is Madeleine Holly-Rosing. Who has written the odd guest post for this blog (and made my wittering’s seem pointless in comparison to her insightful post) Who’s prose novel A Storm of Secrets I reviewed way back in 2019. That novel is a prequal to her graphic novel series Boston Metaphysical Society, which I have been meaning to read ever since… Then Madeleine did a Kickstarter for volume two of the series in trade paperback, which was actually a collection of four shortish sequels to the original series published in volume one.

I hate Kickstarters, they hide on the edge of Facebook groups and twitter posts until I am feeling vulnerable but slightly flush with cash, then leap out at me and corner me when my will is weakest… This one was particularly sly, it told me I could get both volumes of a graphic novel series I have wanted to read for ages and some fridge magnets. I have no idea why anyone would think I needed fridge magnets. (The magnets are now on my fridge)

As for my signed copies of Boston Met, they have been a joyous read, Hollys writing and the collection of talented artists, colourists, letterer and other people needed to make a graphic novel have done an enviable job (what do I know, I do prose, so I don’t generally collaborate…) The art of all the artiest is fabulous. The story engaging, brilliantly written and constantly intriguing… I was not disappointed even after nearly four years of waiting to get my hands on these books…

There is a lot more to Holly-Rosing’s BMS universe, including an audio drama I mean to listen to at some point. She’ll probably have another Kickstarter lurking around to leap out at me at some point if I aren’t careful, I am sure. But sometimes being pounced on by great fiction is worth it… And always if Madeleine is involved as I love her writing.

Anyway, that’s all I have time for in this edition of the Friday reviews. Tune in next Friday, when I will forget to do them but hope springs eternal. To sum up, read these books, read more books in general is always my advice but these are a good start… Or, mine too I guess, they are rather good as well, so people tell me.

Now links to the books reviewed here with amazon preview things

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Wyrd particles and Spooky Runes

A while ago, partly simply because the idea amused me, and partly because making a logical argument linking physics to ancient beliefs and magic is a bit of intellectual juggling I enjoy, I put foreword the argument that Physics could explain how a Voodoo doll could actually work. This was in a blog post cunning called Physic’s and the Voodoo Doll. I spent a lot of time on that title…

The blog was just a bit of intellectual tomfoolery on my part. It speculated that the quantum entanglement of spooky particles could be considered as a basis for sympathetic magic. According to quantum physics, entangled particles remain connected so that actions performed on one affect the other, even when separated by great distances. The phenomenon so riled Albert Einstein he called it “spooky action at a distance.”

Sympathetic magic is a basic school of magic in many ways. The Voodoo doll is the most well known example of this form of magic. An action on a doll , linked to the subject of the doll , will cause the subject to be effected in the same way. A link made all the more powerful with finger nail clippings or hairs etc from the subject infused with the doll.

It was a fun idea, I got a short blog post out of it that has been one of those that has retained a degree of popularity, as it was written 5 years ago and still gets regular hits. It is safe to say that the basic idea at least holds appeal beyond itinerant authors in the north of England who were bored on a Tuesday five years ago and started throwing ideas around. But it was no more than a blog post based on my workaday understanding of Quantum theory, and ritual magic. I don’t really know enough about either subject to go deeper into the subject than a short blog post… Which brings me to Wyrd by Kieth Healing or to give it its full title Wyrd: An Exploration of Connections and Handbook of the Runes.

In Wyrd, Kieth Healing explores both the concept of the Wyrd and the ancient Anglo Saxon Runic alphabet, its use in divination, as well as the runes connections to the Wyrd. All in of itself fascinating stuff. It is however a book of two half’s. The first half I will come back to in a monument, the latter is a list of runes, what they are call, what they mean and what can be derived from them thanks to the rune rhymes.

I found this latter section fascinating because of my beard runes. Yes I have beads with runes on them I wear in my beard, what of it? This I suspect was not the main driving force behind Kieth’s desire to write about runes, but still it is nice to know the name of the runes your putting in your beard…

The second half of the book fascinating though it is, wains in comparison to the first which is a truly fascinating read marrying Kieth’s broad knowledge of quantum theory with the more ancient concepts of the wyrd. Kieth managed to explain, theoretically at least, how the wyrd, can be understood better as a concept through the lens of modern thought in terms of string theory. It also goes into how this could be used to explain how some places feel different and are connected in different ways to the world in a web like weave of….

And I will stop there. Trying to sum up what Keith has to say on the subject of the Wyrd in a blog post is pointless. It is a fascinating read that is all I have to say. It is both thoughtful and thought provoking. You may end up reading bits of it twice as you’ll want to get your head around some of the complexity’s but that is because it is complex, not because of the way it is written. Keith manages to make all this accessible and entertaining at the same time.

Does it convince me of the power of runic divination? Or indeed that the wyrd exists as a thing other than a new-age mysticism concept? Well no, but it does leave me as open to the ideas and concepts as I was when I started reading and better versed in the ideas and concepts involved. As such I can recommend it to both sceptics of new-age thought and the faithful.

I also lover the idea of Ball of String Theory, but that’s just me

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The Complete Misadventures of Hannibal Smyth

For reasons, not least of which was because I could, I have published the first three Hannibal Smyth novels in a single Hardback volume. Because I am entirely sane I have done so in E-book and paperback editions. It is entirely, however, possible the book only exists because of my desire to have the hardback on my bookshelf…

No one who ever dreamed of being a writer dreamed of the day their book was available on Kindle… E-books are a very fine thing, you can carry a library in your pocket, take it anywhere you go, and you seldom leave a half finished e-book on a train by mistake… But, as I say, no one ever dreams of writing an E-book. Want to be writers don’t even dream of holding their work in a paperback, though we might tell you different the first time we do.

When you have the writers dream, you dream of writing and then holding your work in hardback, and any writer who tells you different is a liar… (or it’s just me, how would I know)

In any regard as I seldom doing things by half this required completely reformatting the original three novels. I also added a short story and a novella into the mix because they all combine to tell the greater story of ‘The Misadventures Cycle’ which may sound pretentious (because it is) but both Hannibal and I are a pair of pretentious sods at times. It is also true that the three novels, the novella and the short story do form the basis of a redemption arc, of sorts. As much as you can redeem someone as irredeemably a cad as Hannibal Smyth…

The three novels combined also make for something of a weighty tome… I draft regular paperbacks in 5×8, (or the size of an average trade paperback) the last hardback I did for Passing Place is slightly bigger than the paperback at 6×9 (or the size of an average trade hardback). I intended to do the same with this one, however, due to imposed page limits, I had to move up a size to 7×10…

In any regard, I accept there is every chance there will only ever be one copy in Hardback, because most of my loyal readers, loyal though they are, already have the original books. And as most people are not quite a mad as I am I don’t really think any of them are going to by the collected edition in hardback, that’s the writers dream not theirs… However here is the blurb from the amazon listing anyway for any of you who have yet to become loyal readers 🙂 …

The year is a week last Tuesday and Queen Victoria has been on the throne for two hundred years or more thanks to her clockwork heart. William Gates is a mad scientist obsessed with spiders and windows. His rival Stephen Jobs is obsessed with optics, “It’s all eye this and eye that…” and what Elonis Musk is up to in the South Pacific is anyone’s guess, but that volcano looks a bit odd. There is a woman who definitely isn’t the maid who keeps turning up like a Bad Penny and something has gone wrong with time. those bounders HG Wells and Jules Verne are probably at the heart of it.
The Ministry need someone to sort it all out, unfortunately who they get is Hannibal Smyth, and he would rather they got someone else… Though the alternative was being hung as a murderous traitor, on the whole he’s not sure if that might have been the better option.

This collection contains the first three Hannibal Smyth Novels which between them comprise ‘The Misadventures Cycle’ a complete trilogy in the old-fashioned sense. That is to say, the Hannibal Smyth who emerges from the end of the final book in the trilogy ‘A Squid on the Shoulder’ is not the same man who started out in the first ‘A Spider in the Eye’. By the end of the trilogy, he has been on quite a journey both figuratively and emotionally. Some might say he is a better man for it.

Well, they might…

Of course, the narrator of Hannibal’s story is Hannibal himself. An older, if not wiser, Hannibal Smyth sat in a large leather armchair, by a smouldering fire, drinking his way through a particularly fine bottle of single malt scotch he may have paid for, and smoking rare, probably illegal, Cuban cigars.
From this nugget of knowledge, the reader can determine two important facts.
The first being that no matter what happens and no matter how many times people try to kill him, Hannibal survives…
The second being that the narrator is a tad drunk, which readers may feel explains a lot.

The Complete Misadventures contains: ~
The short story: The Cheesecake Dichotomy
The Novella: A Scar of Avarice
And the Novels:
A Spider in the Eye,
From Russia with Tassels,
A Squid on the Shoulder

Almost all of stories here in are told by Hannibal himself, in his own idiomatic way, which is to say are quite possibly all lies, half-truths, and misdirection’s, or they are the complete and unabashed truth… Who knows.

As I said, its also available on Kindle… here is a handy link …

Finally… A small request. Many a lovely reader has read the Hannibal novels, loved them and been kind enough to leave a review. You are lovely people… Some of you reading this may have done just that with the original separate editions having read them on your Kindle Unlimited accounts…

IF so, and you still have kindle unlimited accounts and you are feeling generous you could always grab a copy of The Complete Hannibal Smyth Misadventures on your unlimited accounts .. Flick through to the end a day or so latter and leave a short review and give it some stars…

Yes of course asking you to do this is a tad caddish, but then so is Hannibal, and sometimes we need to ask ourselves, “What would Hannibal do?” (and normally I would advise, you to do the opposite at this point but hey there are exceptions to every rule…)

Of course if you hated the orginal and gave it a crap review and one star then please ignore this request:)

Love and happiness to all , not least because I have a hardback on my shelf and this makes me happy…

Posted in amreading, amwriting, book reviews, books, fantasy, goodreads, Hannibal Smyth, indie novels, indie writers, indiewriter, novels, opinion, Passing Place, pointless things of wonderfulness, publication, reads, sci-fi, steampunk, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment