Tentacles

Regular readers will be aware I review indie books when I read them. Or at least do if I love the books. If I don’t I keep quiet about it, because if I don’t like something it doesn’t mean others won’t and frankly life is too short for negative bullshit.

The world is a dark scary place full of evil corrupt things that seek to make peoples lives a misery, I’ll be damned before I add to that. If I review someones hard work, blood, sweet , tears and art, its because I love it and think more people need to know about it. If I don’t like something, I keep that to myself.

Of course, my innate paranoia means that whenever someone doesn’t post a review or tell me they love one of my own books I automatically assume everyone hated it… But such is the cross one bares when one puts slithers of your soul out into the world in the hope people will find some joy, or meaning, or whatever, in them. You just have to hope they do and try to ignore any negative bullshit that arises from doing so (because there are always people who will be negative about it).

Anyway, once in a while someone posts a review that helps make it all worth while. Sometimes I even feel the need to share such a review with a wider audience, despite been the worlds lest self focused self publisher who would rather talk about other great indie authors than myself. This is one such time, one of my piers the incomparable Mat McCall who’s books are an absolute joy btw and reviews for which can be found here, here and here, wrote this about my somewhat eccentric non-fiction work , the Lexinomicon.

The Lexicromicon by Mark Hayes

A review by Matt McCall

Okay, so I’m a Lovecraft… liker… I can’t say I’m a fan, but I have found myself drawn to his milieu over and over again.

I like most of my generation first encountered Lovecraft’s stories through the RPG “Call of Cthulhu,” and ever since, like so many authors, have found myself drawn into the dark insanity of the worlds he created. The reason I can’t say I’m a fan is that I have only read a few of his stories, in their original form. Oh yes, I’ve read the graphic novels, watched the films, read a biography, and watched a couple too, etc but not sat down and read everything he wrote in his short and generally unfulfilled and unhappy life.

Why? Because some of what I have read has been excellent and some of it is utter stodge, the story is lost in layers of extravagant verbosity and obscure rambling sentences.

I have always wanted a guide to the best of Lovecraft, something, as an author myself, that will point me to the ‘meaty bits.’ The really good ideas, the core of the Mythos, without having to wade through the chaff. I suppose there exists out there several worthy academic treatises that may have served as guides, but life is too short to wade through those things and they are often as dry as rice cakes with a topping of shredded cardboard.

And so, when Mark told me of his project and upcoming book, a The Lexicromicon A Bluffers Guide to the Writings of H.P. Lovecraft, I was truly interested. Mark, I hope he doesn’t mind me saying, is a fan. Not a blind adherent, he is more than able to cite the issues with old Howard Phillips’ work; his racism, insular attitudes, sexism, and repressed homosexuality, without it clouding his judgement of the quality of Lovecraft’s work. And how that quality varied throughout HP’s short writing life. There are gems of utter genius to be discovered deep in the piles of rat poo, and it is those gems that have kept HPL’s light alive throughout this century.

And so, Mark challenged himself to read all HPL’s published works and comment on each, an exploration over decades, that saw a blog evolve into a book. I fear Mark may have lost a few sanity points on the journey, but, like us all, he probably wasn’t playing with a full set, to begin with.

The result; well, it’s a triumph, as far as I am concerned. I loved it. Written in Mark’s inimitable accessible sardonic style it is a joy to read. This is a great guide to what should be read and what should be avoided at all costs. It’s full of titbits, asides, and meanderings, and is, in many places, laugh-out-loud funny. However, it is touched with sadness at what, or more rightly who, HP could have been having he been born at a later age outside of his musty cloistered environment in a more challenging age. In his short career, H P Lovecraft was a major innovator in Science Fiction and Horror, but born thirty or forty years later, in a more permissive and enlightened age, with that imagination, he could have been one of the great titans of both genres.

I would heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in Lovecraft’s works or just in the man himself.

I’d love Mark to write more guides like this to other authors, maybe King or the likes.

Wasn’t that lovely, I mean apart from the suggestion at the end that I read the complete works of Stephen King… I mean seriously that never going to happen… I love you Mr McCall but seriously King has as many 500 page novels as Lovecraft wrote short stories…

Edgar Alan Poe’s complete body of work on the other hand….

But anyway, you can buy the Lexinomicon on Amazon and elsewhere, if your interested. Its available on kindle, though the print version has all the fabulous artwork and graphics that the kindle doesn’t really allow for, so I recommend the print copy, for you, or the geek in your life.

Mat thinks it’s worthy a read, I’d be a fool to argue clearly, he has a pirate hat…

Posted in amreading, amwriting, blogging, book reviews, books, cthulhu, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, horror, indie, indie novels, indie writers, IndieApril, indiefriday, indiewriter, Lovecraft, mythos, novels, opinion, pirates, reads, steampunk, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dinosaur wisdom

When you grow up, people stop asking you what your favourite dinosaur is. They don’t even care.

This is perhaps the most heart breaking, horrific, and depressing things you can realise as an adult… Okay that maybe an exaggeration, but on the other hand, maybe not.

The world we must navigate as adults is a world of bills that need paying, which requires jobs to be done, budgets to figure out, choices to make that often are finding the lesser of several evils.  All the while, unless you’re a psychopath and an utter narcissist, or a tory minister, you are bombarded with the world’s problems and have to navigate a wealth of feelings about what is going on out there in the big nasty, non-play-safe world, almost all of them awful.

All in all being an adult has few compensations, and on top of that, no one ever asks you what your favorite dinosaur is…

This this in mind, even though nobody asked me, it’s Stegosaurus…

On this subject, it is my firm belief that the world is a better place if you ask people about their favorite dinosaurs and we all should make more of an effort to do so.

We should also indulge in other childish nonadult pursuits like art, poetry (yes even poetry), books, films and creative things of all kinds. And if you can, consider supporting an artist, a musician, a poet (yes even a poet) or a writer, or a couple, on something like patreon. Because frankly the world needs more childishness (or as you might know it fun) and less adultness (everything else).

I sponsor a couple, Nimue Brown and Craig Hallam I even occasionally go and look at the wonderful stuff they put up for pateron’s (well actually I almost never do as I forget to go look, been a very inattentive pateron, but I don’t patronise them for what I get out of it but because I have a little spare cash in my monthly budget and decided to do something useful to put back with it a couple of years ago, and then roundly forget about it most of the time, but get a warm glow on the odd occasion when I remember…)

You can support them, if you have a spare couple of quid each month, or someone else entirely, find an artist you love and give them a little help to keep being the artist you love

Artists of all kinds (even poets)  all need a little help sometimes As does the world…

Sometimes, the world just needs you to ask it what’s its favourite dinosaur is…

Posted in amreading, amwriting, dyslexia, errol the bookcase dragon, fantasy, fiction, humour, indie, indie novels, indie writers, indiewriter, mental-health, opinion, pointless things of wonderfulness, rights, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Apocalypso…

Occasionally when you write you are asked if you would like to write something specific for an extended project. Something outside the realms of the norm. Such invites are always gratifying, sometimes lead to other things, and tend to be interesting challenges. They also tend to come with the proviso that their is no money in it, but then since when did I write for the money…

I generally say yes, not least because it is nice to be asked.

I also, almost without fail, then forget about it until the last minute, then panic… It’s call a process. Last minute blind panic is mine… Which is why comes the Apocalypse I’m probably not going to survive very long. No one could ever accuse me of being prepared, or the cavalry sabre mounted above the telly would have a live blade, and I would have more tinned goods in the house. I’d also have a tin opener on my key chain as well as the bottle opener that is always there.

Side note: I once wrote a novel about the importance of tin-openers…

Actually that’s not entirely true, I wrote a novel about two people who were lost to, and broken by, a society they fled, finding solace and understanding in each other. It was in effect a tragic romance doomed at it’s inception, which spent much time on the matter of sharing silences and talking of stars, and love, loss, grief and horror. As well as coping with the worst things the world can throw at you by withdrawing both from yourself and away from the world…

It also featured a chapter of sorts on the importance of tin-openers.

Cider Lane, the novel in question , won awards and everything. I rarely mention it, as its neither steampunk, Lovecraft or scifi. But the rule about tin-openers would extend to the apocalypse, and to get back on track the apocalypse was what i was asked to write about…

The specific Apocalypse my friend, editor and occasional wrangler of writers C G Hatton roped me in to write about was a Lovecraft inspired one. My brief was more or less that in fact…

‘Can you write a short story about a Lovecraft inspired apocalypse in Teesside.’

Now for those who are unaware Teesside is a region on the north east coast of the UK, famous among other things for inspiring the opening to Blade-runner. This is because of the large ICI plant, with its large flaming towers that framed the skyline… This is to say there are parts of Teesside that have something in common with a grim post industrial wasteland and, through a certain lens, figuratively speaking, bits of it look a tad post apocalyse as well…

As it turns out, the reason CG Hatton was asking me to write a story, along with a group of other writers, was down to a not so figurative orange len, mounted on the camera of Ian Robinson a local Teesside artist, writer and photographer who CG had met last summer mutual acquaintance and Head-mistress/senior lecturer/dean/inspired, if questionably sane, arch-chancellor Lisa Lovebucket of The Post Apocalypse School of Teesside. (no I am not making any of this up)

The Post Apocalypse School of Teesside seeks to teach the youth of today how to survive the apocalypse of the future, with courses on making fires, throwing axes, foraging, making scrap journals, rudimentary crossbow design, cooking, generator repair, gas mask construction, water purification… And whatever else young adults need to survive the end of civilisation ( or Tuesday week as I like to think of it.)

Ian has a thing about urban decay and the apocalypse, and what happens when you use an orange filter. The results of which are frankly art. Beautifully disturbing art, but art none the less. CG suggested he take all his photos and make a coffee table art book out of them and then set about wrangling authors to write short pieces of poetry and story to go with Ian pictures. The result of which is just a thing of beauty that it is a pleasure to have been involved with….

And you know. it was fun to write a Lovecraft inspired walk down through a hell-scape version of the village I live to the famous transporter bridge in the company of ‘He who came out of Egypt.’ It was worrying how little I had to change however…

Ian’s art is inspired, as are the story by other writers. It is a little expensive, because its an art book with beautifully glossy pictures of the end of everything (or home as I call it) and you can find it on Amazon.

If you want to know more there is an interview with Ian HERE and you can follow both Ian Robinson and Archchancellor Lovebucket of The Post Apocalypse School of Teesside on twitter and else where.

Oh and in case your wondering about the importance of tin-openers, try being hungry to the point of near starvation, having nothing to eat but a tin of beans and no tin opener… There then is the importance of tin-openers, having one when you need one…

Posted in amreading, amwriting, book reviews, books, horror, indie, indie novels, indie writers, Nyarlathotep, reads, writes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The problem with Eddings

As is often the case my nightstand is looking slightly dishevelled with the number of books currently sprue across it in random piles. This is because, as well as been an eclectic reader in taste, I read eclectically. My life is a series of open books, many of them open at the same time, in various places around the house, or piled on top of each other waiting to be read.

This is, I will admit, not the best way to read books, the best way to read books is laying on the sofa, be it one in the front room or the one in the garden, just reading with some light music playing in the back ground, Kate Bush, Alanis Morrissette, The Dresden Dolls, Puke Sidon And The Zombie Plague Rabbits, etc… With a fresh coffee from the machine, or a tall margarita….

Sadly due to the complexity of life, long sofa days are few and far between, unlike margarita’s. So it is rare I read a whole book in entire isolation. That is to say I do not often read a whole book in one go, and without reading something else at the same time.

Currently, among several other books that are open on the night stand, I have just started rereading The Eddings fantasy series The Elenium Trilogy, the first of the two Sparhawk trilogy’s, which were less successful than his 12 book Belgariad series which I reread last year and love with a passion. Despite how much I love Eddings other series I’ve never actually finished the Sparhawk novels. I’ve always come unstuck with them somewhere around the middle of the second trilogy. Possibly because of the usual problem I have reading a long series. Possibly because the second Sparhawk trilogy is just the definition of an author wringing every last cent out of an idea and writing for money…

To be fair, my assessment of Eddings reasons for writing the second Sparhawk trilogy are somewhat backed up by another book on my bookshelves, The Rivan Codex. A book David and Leigh Eddings wrote about writing in general and the writing of their fantasy novels in particular. I highly recommend The Rivan Codex to any aspiring writer, as it is full of great advice. There is however also a certain amount of it I have always found a little dispiriting. First among which is in it the Edding’s explain the reason they started writing fantasy in the first place…

After writing a couple of not particularly successful contemporary novels the Edding’s were wondering around a book store and saw that LOTR’s was on its 50th printing and this inspired them. That is to say, they started writing fantasy novels for no other reason than they thought there was money to be made in doing so… A motivation that goes some way to explain why the Eddings also admit they ‘don’t read in the genre’ which they claim keeps their pallet cleansed, as it were. Which may well be true, but it and the ‘write for profit’ motivation possibly also explain why the second Sparhawk trilogy has never worked for me. Maybe its just not very good… But as its almost a couple of decades since I last read it I’ll withhold judgement on that and see how it goes.

The whole ‘don’t read in the genre’ argument may have some merit though. It’s possibly very easy to have your own idea polluted by other writers if you read extensively in the genre in which your write. Though personally I don’t think that’s the case, provided you don’t read exclusively in one genre. The advice of another writer who wrote a book about writing more or less bares out my point of view in this. In ‘on Writing’ Stephen King says , ‘To be a writer you have to do two things , write a lot, and read a lot.’ Which tends to be my view.

My view is read every genre, but then I also write in many genre’s for all a large portion of my output in the last few years has been Steampunk, it is not ‘my genre’ so much as one of them. I do however not read as much steampunk as people may imagine for someone who moves in steampunk circles. But then Steampunk in of itself is very eclectic, encompassing Victorian urban fantasy, romance, weird west, and many other weird and wonderful things.

All of which, somewhat long-windedly even for me brings me round to my point. Which is to say a review of a steampunk novel I recently read and read I may add in the best way. On the sofa, with coffee, and later a tall margarita or two, in one long sitting on a long lazy day of the kind I seldom get to spend due to life… Which got me thinking about the Eddings book on writing, as I had started The Dimond Throne the evening before and it was laying on my nightstand…

So yes, convoluted but I was reading in ‘my genre’ so to speak. Which is I must admit not always a rewarding experience. I have read too many bad steampunk books, which relies too heavily on ‘I’m a steampunk book look I have cogwheels and airships…’ That said, the good ones make up for it, and this one proved to be one of the good ones…

This is a good old-fashioned detective novel, following the rules of good old-fashioned detective novels. The hero is a ‘down on his luck’ ‘bit of rough’ who finds himself trying to unpick a murderous plot more by bad-luck than ill-judgement. There is an old-flame dredging up old feelings, and old enemies to contend with as the mystery deepens. The authorities and far from convinced there is even a case in the first place and the bloke who hired the hero doesn’t survive the first act. And finally like all good old-fashioned detective novels their is the sarcastic sidekick, who keeps the hero grounded, points them in the right direction and watches their back…

Admittedly the sidekick is a talking steam powered mechanical cat, who occasionally needs connecting to a hose to resupply them with steam…

The important thing is, while this is a very good steampunk novel, full of wit and humour as well as strange and wonderful inventions and oddities it is first and foremost a very good old fashioned detective novel. The kind that keeps you guessing, even when you’re sure your know who the villains are, because while you may be utterly sure, there is just enough doubt to keep you wondering.

Even if you turn out to be right about the villain having guessed it was them half way in, (which I did) you kept read because you can’t be completely sure, and besides the journey is worth it. Its a fun entertaining, humorous read full of clever jokes and well pitched observations.

In short its a really good read, a long lounge on the sofa with a tall margarita* read, I highly recommend it.

(*other cocktails and indeed non-alcoholic drinks are also available).

While this is a steampunk novel, if your not a fan of the genre in general its still well worth a read. At its heart its a humorous detective novel that just happens to have cogwheels, steampower and airships thrown in. In the same way the way the best steampunk generally is something else which just happens to be set in a steampunk environment.

But then steampunk is not really a genre in that respect so much as a setting against which you can pitch any other genre you want. Keith’s novel does that perfectly. or possibly purrrfectly with a slight grinding sound of gears…

Posted in amreading, books, fiction, indie novels, indie writers, novels, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, sci-fi, steampunk, writes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Anti-social Butterfly

I have jokingly referred to myself as an Anti-social Butterfly for years. It’s not really a joke of course, its is more of an apt description. I find people difficult at times because on some level I have always found I just don’t understand them. I mean really… who does?

Well some people do. Some people are just innately better at people and for that matter they are probably better at being people as well. I’ve never been an entirely rounded individual, or for that matter overly interested in becoming more round. I like to think of myself as more of a irregular icosagoned person, complete, or otherwise, with sides that are sometimes too long ,often too short, and generally stick out at unexpected angles. I am messy and complicated, and I kind of like it that way…

I remain therefore an anti-social butterfly, fluttering about avoiding conversations, avoiding eye contact, and generally feeling uncomfortable around people, while hoping that at a bare minimum I am at least not making other people uncomfortable in the process…

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I normally witter on more I know yet this feels like all that needs saying so I’ll pop off now.

Bye.

Posted in amwriting, big questions, writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Blaming the Poor

Some thoughts on the Poor from Regina Waterbury, Minister for Housing the Ungrateful Common Herd

“The trouble with the poor is they expect so much of the rich, like our respect, something called common decency, not to be blamed for the latest financial crisis, to be able to eat…”
“It’s clearly their fault we are in this mess, why it’s getting so the government can hardly afford a drinks party. Let alone get in some image consultants to help fix the problem of seeming like a bunch of out of touch gin swilling liars without a shred of common decency…
It’s their fault they are in this mess, they should not have wasted their trust funds, at the very least they should go ask daddy for bit of pin money to tide them over like I did last year when I need to find a new stable for Mr Waffle-bums. Can some one pass me the cake?”
“What? No Mr Waffle-bums isn’t a horse, why on earth do you think he’s a horse? He’s the Marques of Blamford.”
“Anyway, its all the fault of the poor, they should pull themselves up by their boot straps and cash in some shard in north-sea gas or something if they are that hard up.”
“Gerry be a dear and get the Marquess a new nose bag will you?”

(And now so more clear and coherent thoughts on ‘Blaming the poor’ from the wonderful Nimue Brown)

Druid Life

There’s nothing new about blaming the poor for poverty. To my knowledge, the same ideas have been doing the rounds in the UK for as long as anyone has been keeping notes on such things. It is (we are told) the fault of the poor for being lazy, careless, making bad decisions, drinking, smoking, having too many babies.

Somehow it is never the fault of the rich, who claim to be rich thanks to their own merits. The relationship between riches for some and destitution for others is something we have never talked about enough. Wealth is made by extracting profit. The choice to pay workers less, and charge them more is very much part of how capitalism works. Having the power to decide how much a person is worth, and how much they should be charged for essentials – food and shelter – is a decision that remains in…

View original post 274 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Levelling down…

I don’t do political posts very often. There are a number of reason for this, one of which this is a writing blog, not a political activism blog. I write escapist fiction, there are other places you can go to be better informed about political reality, if your one of my regular readers I suspect you don’t come here to be reminded what a shit place the world is at times….

However, on occasion, having a politics based degree and a social conscience does tap me on the shoulder and suggest I have a word with the world. Not that the world much cares what i have to say I’m sure, but still sometimes the urge to comment is too much…

Back in 2017, with an election on the horizon, was one of the occasions I was moved to ‘do politic’s’, and I put up a blog called ‘Selfish Desires and Taxation…’ A gripping title I am sure you will agree. I was I hope a better read than it was a title, but it had much to do with my principle opinion that as much as I like buying guitars to hang on my wall, if I had to pay a little more tax and so wait a little longer before I could buy another guitar for the wall under a labour (or as was my forlorn hope a Liberal) government, I wouldn’t mind if the money was going towards pushing back on poverty.

This is because the simple truth is that I am better off financially than a great many of my friends, I have a full-time job and earn more money than I need to live comfortably. In return for me being unable to buy another guitar ‘to hang on my wall’ for a week or so, friends of mine who are currently struggling to pay bills or put food on the table without going to food banks, cover the cost of rent, and just to get by week to week, stand half a chance if they have a government that cares about them.

I was prompted to this epiphany because of a simple statistic from the Trussel Trust in 2017

  • Over 1,182,000 three day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in past year – 436,000 to children

As I said at the time the UK, in case you’re unaware, is one of the largest and most successful economies in the world. Yet there we were in 2017 with families are struggling to feed themselves…

Of course, while in that post I was advocating people not vote for the Tory’s in 2017, I could well have been wrong to do so. For all I knew the Conservatives if they won (which they did) would do a great many thing to end poverty in the UK and reverse the trend. Certainly they claimed then , and since that this is exactly what they are doing…

I could have been wrong… After all the conservative government keep telling us they are ‘levelling up’ Britain etc…

Surprisingly, or not, however, when I looked back at the original post and thought I should go look at at what The Trussell Trust is saying now, 5 years later…

So, a million more, as near as damn doubled in 5 years. So not so much levelling up,. as levelling down…

As I said I have a politics based degree. Politics Philosophy and Economics, to be exact. So I know this is a single aspect of a complex system and the last few years have had unprecedented issues for the government to deal with. But as a barometer of this governments success in tackling poverty, I would argue, food bank use is as clear and indicator of their lack of success as it is possible to find.

Anyway, that is the end of politics on here for a while, I’ll go back to irreverence. I may even tune one of the guitars… But before I do that here is the link to The Trussell Trust an organisation dedicated to the aim of creating a UK without the need for food banks, Something you would have thought a UK government of any strip would support. Sadly the current one only support the need for The Trussell Trusts existence…

Posted in big questions, humanrights, politics, rant, rights | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Passing Affirmations…

Around three years ago in 2019, which was another age, I was convinced by a force of nature known as C.G Hatton to take my books, stand behind a stall in Scarborough at a Sci-fi convention and pretend that I knew what I was doing with all this writing nonsense… It was also my first big convention, well, convention full stop, as a writer. So for much of it I was a little wide-eyed and confused.

This was a simpler time, a happier time, a time before the great extinction event of 2020 killed off the convention circuit and caused us to spend two years shrugging our shoulders every time the possibility of a gathering of geeks cropped up anywhere…

Due to the inconvenient plague, it took me, and geekdom in general, three years to get back to Scarborough. Three long years for many of us, too long for some… Indeed only in the last six months or so have conventions started stumbling back to some kind of normality, though that ‘normality’ is the new and not quite normal, normality… It has in short been a journey, and we have lost too many along the way…

Strangely, or perhaps not all considered, Scarborough became the first event I’ve done twice last weekend. It just took a few more years than expected to get back there. But given the interluding years have been far from easy, and the water that has passed under the troll bridge I more or less expected no one to remember me.

I was wrong.

A number of readers, who bought books from me the first time did remembered me and surprisingly my books as well.

Now let me bring you in on a secret. A dark and scary secret. The kind of secret that should never be told… The kind of secret that is never told, because the only people who could tell it are all too scared to admit it to anyone… even, if they are completely honest, our selves…

The thing is, you see, every author thinks they are rubbish… Honestly, we are all convinced we are just winging it, and live in fear of the day they’ll come and tell us to stop… Every good review we get is just someone being kind, the words of friends willing to lie to protect our fragile egos. Meanwhile, every bad review is unvarnished honesty from strangers. They cut us to the quick, because inside, we all know the bad reviews speak the truth… Of course, that could just be me. Other authors may all be perfectly well rounded individuals with no great ravaging insecurities, who just brush off the negative shite for the merely mouthed bullshit that it is and know all words of praise are honest of intent and truly spoken…

One can hope…

But Lets get back to the point. This years Scarborough, as I said, was the first time I have returned to an event. Which also meant it was the first time I’d ever had a reader who had bought a book 3 years before come up to me table and tell me how much they enjoyed it and asks if I’d written a sequel yet… Which is an experience that is hard to fit into my internal narrative of self doubt…

So many books but never enough to hide behind

And then a luverly couple did the same… Then a timelord in full regalia turned up and smiled in my direction. Then a brown coat in a cunning hat… All of them with the same story, all people I sold a book 3 years ago . All of them effused for a sequel to my novel Passing Place, which is both my favourite of my novels and and to be frank the least successful novel I have so far written…

Passing Place is a difficult book to sell. Unlike the steampunk Hannibal and Maybe novels which are easy to pigeon hole and even Cider Lane a contempory romance come thriller with a little ‘t’… Passing Place doesn’t really have a genre as such beyond urban fantasy/Scifi. Its an odd book… It is also the kind of book I always wanted to write. I love all my novels with the equal love of a parent… But I love Passing Place more… But as I said its never sold well, because frankly its imposable to market…

Here through is a thing. The thing in fact… Back in 2019 at Scarborough I only sold about four copy’s of Passing Place. I sold a few of Hannibal’s first outing ‘A Spider in the Eye’. Sold a few copies of my novella ‘A Scar of Avarice’. I even sold a couple of Cider Lanes which I just happened to have copies of with me despite it being a sci-fi convention. But only about 4 copies of Passing Place

Last weekend the readers who bought all four of them came back to my stall and told me how much they enjoyed my own favourite among my literary children… They all asked after a sequel (long planned by far from written), bought other books of mine and wanted more from me as a writer…

Strangers who appreciated, valued, hell, just plain enjoyed my work, and told me so. It’s quite a thing… And sure, in a few days I’ll have forgotten this, I’ll be hiding that dark scary secret again and hoping no one comes and makes me stop writing… Because that’s how my brain works…

But for now I’ll bask a little in the passing affirmation… And smile a happy smile…

As did this pair of time-traveling gentleman who bought a copy this time round…

Posted in amreading, amwriting, book reviews, books, booksale, depression, fantasy, Hannibal Smyth, indie, indie novels, indie writers, indiewriter, novels, Passing Place, reads, sci-fi, steampunk, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Quick reviews (relatively speaking)

March, as you may have noticed, was a busy month for me. A new novel, a new non-fiction books as well, the 9th Harvey, the ide’s, and everything else… Thus I’m a tad behind on general blog related stuff and more specifically reviews.

As you know I have a habit of wittering on when I do a review, generally because books make me think about something and I will preamble along for half a blog before I mention the book that inspired the blog in the first place and actually write a review.

This charming, eccentric approach is what readers of my blogs have come to expect… he says, in the vain hope people find it charming and eccentric, not the ravings of a loony….

However, there is a downside to my charming eccentricity, some would say many, in that blogs take time to write and occasionally I fall behind with books I want to review… At which point I have to do some catching up without long eccentric preambles and just, you know, throw them out there in the way sane people do reviews… This should not be taken as to mean I think any less of the books or that they have not pasted my stringent critia ( ie, I read it and enjoyed it). They are just getting quick reviews so I can get back on an even keel… and nothing more.

So without further preamble… here a few relatively quick reviews of books you should be reading, other than my own, which you also clearly should be reading…

Stephen Palmers, Monica Orvan and Monica Hatherley (Conjuror Girl Books 2 and 3)

I read book 1 of this series Monique Orphan towards the back end of last year, and despite it been a ‘talented child novel’ I loved it. the sequels carry the story forward picking up where the previous one ended. The central character’s ambiguous morality, in a world of moral ambiguates lending it self to a dark brooding series unlike the normal fair of the talented child genre.

In the second book Monique has changed her name and identity having fled the orphanage and taken up life on the streets falling in with a street children gang. This is very Oliver Twist like but compared to the leader of this little gang Fagin was a saint. The world is as dark and nasty in places as it seemed in the first novel. But in many ways more twisted, and darker. Monique, now Monica, faces growing threats to self and the town of Shrobbesbury from her growing list of foes, as do her friends.

In the third and final book further dark plots take Monica to London and the heart of the dark sorcery enveloping this version of a Victorian England that never was. Now Monica Hatherley after a sham marriage she finds herself even more out of her depth and fighting back against a world twisted by heinous men.

There is a lot to unpack in these books, a lot to think about, but the strength and joy of Stephens writing is his characters, both the central Monica and all those around her. There are strange dark twists and unexpected turns and the reader never really knows where he is going to take the tale. Its not simple fare, there are questions you need to ask yourself along the way, and its challenging at times. but challenging in a good way, challenging of preconceptions, of the line between self-interest and selfishness. And in the end its a joy…

Amy Wilson, Vanishing Night

Amy is a fresh and always interesting new voice, who also writes for the Harvey Duckman series, and has occasion written guest posts on this old blog of mine. Last year she released a collection of flash fiction called Micro Moods, that I enjoyed despite micro fiction not being entirely my cup of Darjeeling. With Vanish Night she had moved up from micro fiction to short stories, with luck that means she’ll move on to a novel or two next.

Short stories are far more in my wheel house. I like a good short story and have been known to write a few myself. Having read some of Amy’s stories before I got this collection I knew what to expect. Excellent writing, careful but compelling descriptions, tight plots and the odd nasty little twist towards the end…

I wasn’t disappointed.

By far the best though was The Turning, which is the first story in this collection, which is just beautiful mysterious, evocative and perfectly pitched. When I say this is the best though, its is the stand out story among a wonderful collection, it is just the story that spoke to me personally the most. All the stories in this collection are equally strong and artfully written.

Everything a book of short stories should be.

I look forward to more, and to a novel in the near future.

Professor Elemental & Nimue Brown, Letters Between Gentlemen

I’ve yet to read anything Nimue Brown has written I have not loved, this is no exception. As for the good Professor, aside the fact he is clearly deranged, what he brings to the party is his own unique brand of joyous wonder.

This novel is, if novel is the right word, exactly what it says on the tin, a collection of letters between gentlemen… A format that allows for so much wonderful eccentricity. The letters are been investigated by Algernon Spoon at the behest of Maun, a Victorian fem-fetale, who believes her life is in danger due to the relationship between her brother and Professor Elemental. How much truth lays within these letters and how much of them is the Professor trying to swindle Maud’s brother out of his inheritance… Well thats an open question…

Not that I would question the good character of the Professor. Anyone inventing giant steam powered killer robots, over sized wasps and responsible in part for numerus accidental deaths, is clearly a person to be trusted… Preferably from some distant away, hiding behind a wall, wearing a solid hat.

It’s charming, wonderful, funny., barking mad, and delightfully weird

Frankly a joy, and the Professor, who I have only met once, on a drunken night in Gloucestershire, has in no way bribed me to say this, or threaten me with a badger.

Can you untie me now?

*Also includes art by Tom Brown, which is wonderful as well, as if you needed more reasons to read it….

** Tom also did the covers for the Conjurer Girl novels, which makes me wonder why Amy didn’t ask him to do hers as well if only so I could have had a constant thread through this blog post, honestly writers just don’t think about making my blogs better, really I despair sometimes…

The assorted links to all this joy

Posted in amreading, book reviews, books, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, humour, indie, indie novels, indie writers, indiewriter, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, steampunk, writes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You turn you back for one minute…

Honestly, the life of an author… (and yes I am going to be that pretentious, if you chose to read all this at face value.)

You go away for the weekend for a commemorative game of golf, drinking, a gig in a university student union by an aging 80’s rebel rousing rock band, shake the hand of a local radio football commentator, and go sit in a seat you haven’t sat in for ten years to watch a bunch of grown assed me kick an inflated pigs bladder about. And at some point while you’re distracted someone releases an anthology you happen to be in…

Some words of explanation may be in order…

Golf is not something I normally play. As witnessed by the healthy live app on my phone going ding and telling me I had completed my daily goal of 11000 steps towards the middle of the round. The app I wasn’t even aware I had, and that has never gone ping before… Golf was one of my dad’s sporting passions, and he was formally president, captain, treasurer and any other position that needed filling at his local golf club. This was after he decided to hang up his pads and cease to be a demon fast bowler…

Dad passed last year, so my cousin and brother arranged a commemorative game of golf at his old club in his memory, hence golf.

We were playing Friday because that was the night The Alarm were playing in Leeds, and well being a fan from way back, I was happy to be dragged kicking and screaming to a golf course, because I got to go to a gig afterwards. I did actually enjoyed the golf, though all that hitting balls with sticks did ruin the nice walk. The band were also good, but the company of my brother, two of my favourite cousins and my son made it all the more so. There was much drinking, laughing, and singing along, and occasional family emotional stuff, which I am ill equipped for at times.

Then the following day, with my body reminding me that I was no longer a teenager and exercise, followed by a lot of drinking, singing and dancing, came with a cost, I was not entirely dragged along to Eland Road for the football by my brother who had a spare season ticket, which also happened to be my old seat that I gave up my own ticket for ten years before. It was quite strange and oddly pleasant when a few of those sitting around us recognised me after a decade of absence.

In my youth, despite not really being a football fan, I started going to football matches, because I liked been part of the crowd. This is in danger of turning into a longer complex explanation, so I’ll jump to the clip notes… I was a complicated, overly intelligent, gawky, awkward teenager who didn’t fit in anywhere or with anybody. I dressed in black, read books, drank Guinness (because it was black and I liked the Rutger Hauer adverts…) listened to The Sisters of Mercy, read too much, and misunderstood my way through a bunch of relationships… I was a bit of a mess… Then one of what you might passingly call my mates dragged me along to a Leeds match and stood in the Kop and Eland Road none of the stuff that made me a misfit mattered. I was part of the crowd and accepted as one of them… It was a unique experience in my life up to that point and I have been a Leeds fan ever since, despite not actually being a football fan as such…

Over the years I dragged both my brother, and my dad along. Both far more sporty than I have ever been. It became the thing we did, my brother, dad, and me, they were both very different people but football became how we bridged the gap and when I moved away from Leeds a decade or so ago it was one of the things I missed most. But Dad and our kid kept going. So they still had that connection, and so did I because it was something we could always talk about even after I gave up my ticket…

In short, it has therefore, in all been a busy family orientated weekend and an emotional one.

Then I got home and discovered in my absence Harvey Duckman Volume 9 ( the eleventh Harvey Duckman book I have been involved it) was released.

Harvey Duckman presents… not the special plumbing edition. But kind of! The latest in the series of collected works of suspense and mystery in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror and steampunkery, called, oddly enough Harvey Duckman Presents… is, as it says on the cover, volume 9 but it may or may not feature a brilliant array of plumbing and plumber related tales, in amongst our usual offerings.

As always, 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 9 includes stories by: John Holmes-Carrington, Graeme Wilkinson, Mark Hayes, R. Bruce Connelly, Will Nett, Davia Sacks, Peter James Martin, Robin Moon, Joseph Carrabis, A.L. Buxton, C.K. Roebuck, Liam Hogan, Kate Baucherel, Liz Tuckwell and Ben Sawyer.

Now you may of noticed that this edition is the ‘not the special plumbing edition’. This is because of an in joke, some of our writers did not realise was a joke. When we were kicking about ideas for another special edition, after the Pirates one last year, someone suggested Plumbers as a joke, and people ran with it. So we ended up with a load of stories that involved plumbers or plumbing in some way… Roman baths, strange haunted pipes, space bypass’s. Octopi with plungers….

It’s a strange, remarkable and to be frank, fabulous mix… Give a bunch of authors a theme and its amazing what they will come up with… It’s also weirdly emotional for me, for reasons…

As for my story in this edition, well it involves the number 27 and no plumbing or plumbers what so ever. It is instead a story of life, death and is somewhat philosophical. The last sentence of which was in part inspired by something my dad said to me last summer, when he knew it would be his last… So its an emotional one for me personally. But defiantly not about plumbing… Just inspired, by a last piece of wisdom a retired plumber passed on to his son…

I miss my dad, who despite never been much of a reader until his later years, and then never really a reader of scifi and fantasy, been more of a Clive Cluster fan, read every Harvey book we put out. It’s a shame he won’t read this one. I suspect all the plumbing would have amused him, before he pointed out everything the writers had got wrong, winked at me and smiled.

Posted in amreading, amwriting, books, goodreads, Harvey Duckman, indie, indie novels, reads, sci-fi, supernatural | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment