Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Waving a Blood-Stained Flag for Old School Pulp Fantasy

Hello all, hope you had an excellent Yule and all that. I'm spending today eating too much chocolate and playing Skyrim (death to all giant spiders!) but I thought I'd just pop up to point you in the direction of this rather lovely review of The Copper Promise. 

I am tremendously proud to be described as a "successor to the Pulp authors of the 1920s and 30s"; it's a part of fantasy I love dearly, and I hope I'm doing it justice. 

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Wishing You a Fabulous Yule! With Optional Sprouts

It's that time - the first box of Matchmakers is already half finished, there's a giant piece of meat defrosting in the kitchen and the cat is trying to open the presents with the power of her mind. 

I hope you're all having a most excellent and joyous Christmas holiday, with the teeniest of hangovers and no sprouts (unless you like sprouts, in which case I hope everyone around the dinner table donates theirs to you).

And if you happen to be getting a Kindle for Christmas, I hope you might consider entering the universe of The Copper Promise for a bit of pulp fantasy action - it's here, and it wants to give your Kindle an xmas smooch.*

*apologies for the blatant plug, but the novelty of hearing people say "I've bought your book!" has yet to wear off. I doubt it will.  

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel is here!


Well, technically it was here yesterday, but Amazon were a little faster out of the block than I expected, and my book was all suddenly available and I had no time to write a blog post! Goodness me. So, you can buy it here. I hope you do, and I hope you like it. J

But yes! Very exciting. It was a strange feeling, seeing my cover up there on that big proper website, next to other books with proper covers, and now anyone can read it. Excitement! Terror! Snoopy dancing! I went through the whole range of writerly emotions (snoopy dancing is an emotion, shhhh).

So, what do I think you should know about The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel? 

It's a novella, and it's the first of a series of four. I wanted to write a sword and sorcery serial, one that would be a quick and fun read, full of adventure, peril and occasional scary bits. 

You can download it straight on to your kindle if you have one, or you can download various bits of kindle software from Amazon that will let you read it on your computer like a kindle. It's also possible, I am told, to get an "app" on your "super-intelligent awesome-phone", although that level of technology is a bit beyond me, to be honest.

I have been lucky enough to get a few good reviews already. There is this rather spectacular one over at Colin F. Barnes' website, which I am well chuffed about, Adam Christopher has done a marvellous blog post about it,  and there are a few great write-ups on Amazon now too. The reviews that are up are especially lovely for me as they all (so far) seem to really get what I was trying to do with this series; the novellas are, in their own small way, a love letter to Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, as well as the reams of adventurous fantasy they inspired, and it seems there is a great deal of love out there for this kind of “pulp” fiction.

And so, I must say a huge thank you to everyone who has bought a copy so far, and all those fabulous people leaving reviews and spreading the word; you are aces, and I owe you all some sort of fancy drink with an umbrella in. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Copper Promise: An Early Review


Part one of The Copper Promise will be with us tomorrow (probably around lunchtime, by my estimates) but until then here is a lovely review by Colin F. Barnes, a writer and editor responsible for many cool and scary things, such as The City of Hell anthology (a beautiful looking thing which is currently lurking on my kindle).

Now, I shall go back to staring anxiously at the amazon page, hoping I don't experience some sort of technical cock-uppery...

Monday, 19 December 2011

Beware, Here Be Covers: The Copper Promise has its face on


Here it is! Partly to stop myself from getting overexcited and plonking The Copper Promise up before everything is quite ready, and partly because it is so pretty... a little look at the cover. The Copper Promise Part 1: Ghosts of the Citadel will be available as an ebook on the 22nd of December, which is to say Thursday, which is to say the winter solstice, which is to say... soon.

 If you would like to receive exclusive news, stories and general blatherings about the series, drop me a line at copperpromise@sennydreadful.com

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Extract of The Copper Promise at GeekPlanetOnline! Snoopy Dance Ahoy!

A bit of late night news! The lovely people at GeekPlanetOnline are hosting an exclusive extract of The Copper Promise, giving you a sneaky peek at the world of the haunted Citadel. 

Choosing the extract was a tricky process: what can I put up without spoilerfication? How long should it be and what do I want to reveal? In the end I chose a sequence that I hope is fun but also poses a number of questions. I'd love to know what you all think!

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Copper Promise: Frivolous Anticipatory Post


It’s been a busy week or so, what with getting The Copper Promise ready for its Winter Solstice release date, and all the other December related nonsense that crops up at this time of year (bah, humbug) so I’ve been a bit light on the blog posts recently – many apologies.

            Hopefully, it will be worth it. This whole project has subjected me to a pretty steep learning curve; writing a serial, writing a serial made up of novellas, self-publishing, marketing, how to spread the word without being annoying... And in a way it’s a weirdly personal project too – ultimately, I have to trust my own judgement and hope that my eventual readers are as ready to embrace old school serial fantasy in the same way that I have done. I am very aware that I have taken certain risks… Sword and sorcery done for fun might not be very, well, fashionable, at the moment, and I’ll admit I’m not sure how people feel about novellas these days, especially novellas that are designed to leave you wanting to read the next one... is that annoying? Will everyone hate me? Will I receive tiny decapitated goblins in the post, with cut and paste notes demanding “UPDATE OR THE UNSEELIE GETS IT!”? Will people leave steaming piles of dragon dung on my doorstep? Will burly knights give me dirty looks outside Morrisons? I do not know.

            Oh well. The Copper Promise has been a lot of fun to write, regardless of supernatural vengeance, and either way it will be released out into the world kicking, screaming, and smelling faintly of mead on the 22nd of December (please address all dragon dung to my upstairs neighbour).

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Copper Promise Part 1: Release date!


I am pleased to announce that the ebook of The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel will be available to buy from Amazon on the 22nd of December.

The Citadel of Creos: silent, forbidden, haunted. No person in their right mind would attempt to explore it, but then, as Wydrin was fond of saying, adventurers are rarely in their right mind, especially when large amounts of coin are involved.
For the young Lord Frith, the secrets within are his key to a bloody revenge; for Sebastian, exiled from his order for crimes he’d rather not talk about, thank you very much, it is a distraction from his recent disgrace. And Wydrin? For Wydrin it means fortune and fame, or at least the seeds of a good story she can embellish later.
But something ancient and hungry lies restless in the hidden depths of the Citadel, and the long years of its imprisonment are nearly at an end. The three adventurers are about to find out that ghosts are the least of their problems.

The first in a four part novella series, The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel is a sword and sorcery adventure full of danger, discovery, and dubious ale.  


Ghosts of the Citadel is the first of four novellas, but it will not end there. Next year I will be releasing a number of short stories set in the same world, featuring events taking place before and after The Copper Promise storyline.

If you have any questions, thoughts, suggestions or sexy fanart (please send me your sexy fanart) then you can contact me at copperpromise@sennydreadful.com Email me also if you would like to be included in the Copper Promise mailing list; this way I can tell you exciting things, like when the second part is coming out, and sometimes send you lovely things, like snippets of artwork, competitions and exclusive short stories only available to people on the mailing list. Eventually, I hope there will be badges.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Cornwall Holipops

Back from a week in Cornwall, which we largely spent eating, moving very slowly from pub to pub, and taking rather Scooby-Doo-esque photos in the dark, whilst demons watched us from the inky night. 

I love the wildness of Cornwall, the on-the-edge-of-things feel to it. When you journey through the Cornish countryside and look out at the ominous rolling hills and the dark clusters of trees, you could well be looking out at Narnia, The Shire, or Westeros. In many ways these bits of England are the birthplace of Fantasy, and that pleases me.

Not only that, but the land at the very edges of this country feels old. I'm a sceptic down to my very bones, but when walking past a graveyard in the sort of dark you just don't get in London, it's all too easy to believe that a restless spirit might be haunting this tree or that stone. Ancient knights fight ghostly battles, over and over for the rest of eternity in these bleak fields. The shade of a drowned woman haunts the well at the local pub. And, you know, you get more serial killers where there's lots of grass. Fact. 


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Strong Female Character Wishlist


Blundering my way through The Copper Promise Part 2 for Nanowrimo (tentatively titled “Wydrin and the Bloody Helm”) – quite good fun so far, slightly behind, not consuming enough caffeine.


One of the characters in particular, the eponymous Wydrin, is a complete lark to write. She’s a mercenary, selling her sword for fortune and glory, and she is, I’m finding, great fun; brave, rude, tactless, irresponsible. In short she’s exactly the sort of female character I like to see, and last night I got to thinking about what it is I like in a strong female character.


(Marty likes to tease me by saying that I like no lady characters at all. That I prefer, in fact, a complete sausagefest, and that may be true to an extent, but this is mainly because so many female characters drive me barmy).


Here are 3 things that I require in a decent female character:


1) She has a purpose outside of being a love interest for the main, male character.


2) If she is the main character, then she must have a purpose besides trying to get off with someone.


3) She is more than simply a man with boobs and conditioned hair.


Take, for example, Being Human, the excellent supernatural drama series from the BBC. I adore Being Human, let me say that from the outset, but I felt that towards the end they managed to ruin Annie’s character by sending her off to the Love Interest stable in the last series. To begin with, Annie had one of the best storylines in the show – the mystery over who killed her in the first place swiftly became a tragedy, followed by a rousing conclusion where she stood up for herself and generally kicked arse. Brilliant stuff. In the last series, following a couple of years of slightly flirty looks being exchanged, she fell suddenly and obsessively in love with Mitchell (he is very pretty indeed, but really, bad choice). Her character became rather whingey and annoying, her main goal in “life” was to save Mitchell, and I found that I really didn’t care any more. Very sad.


In comparison, I always hold up Farscape as a fine example of How to Do Female Characters Well. It’s chock full of them, for a start, and they’re all wildly different. Zhaan and Chiana are vibrant, and weird, and they can kick your arse all over the shop. They also do not need men to drive their storylines. You might argue that Aeryn Sun comes close to being a Man with Boobs, but I would say that her peacekeeper background actually does a good job of making that an explainable, vital part of her character. AND the ship is a girl. Come on. More Farscapes please.


Perhaps I am terribly fussy. Perhaps a lot of female characters simply aren’t aimed at me (I don’t read romantic fiction and I don’t watch rom-coms) but I don’t think I’m asking for too much; give me ladies who have fully fledged personalities, and something to do other than writing their beau’s name on the back of their exercise book.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Gravefingers in Estronomicon

Three blog posts in one day? I can hear you spluttering from here, but I

Monday, 31 October 2011

Gravefingers in Estronomicon


Three blog posts in one day? I can hear you spluttering from here, but I have good reasons, honest (mainly posterous being peculiar). Anyway, I am very pleased to tell you that my story Gravefingers makes an appearance in the Halloween issue of Estronomicon, and you can go and read it for free here.

All feedback greatly appreciated, especially as this is one of my personal favourites.

Happy Short Story News: Estronomicon


I am very pleased to announce that my story Gravefingers will be appearing in the Halloween issue of Estronomicon. I'm particularly happy about this because this story is one of my personal favourites - as soon as it's up I shall provide the linkage.

(please excuse zombie photo.... any excuse)

Happy Short Story News: Estronomicon


I am very pleased to announce that my story Gravefingers will be appearing in the Halloween issue of Estronomicon. I'm particularly happy about this because this story is one of my personal favourites - as soon as it's up I shall provide the linkage.

(please excuse zombie photo.... any excuse)

Halloween Shorts: Wendigo by Jennifer Williams


And so our final Halloween Short is from... me! I hope you've enjoyed our mini-season of scary tales; I know our various authors would appreciate your feedback, so if you feel inclined please do give us a shout in the comments or on twitter or any of the other interweb taverns we tend to frequent. And Happy Halloween!

Wendigo_final.docx Download this file

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween Shorts: Light You to Bed by Matthew S. Dent

Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE By day, Matthew S. Dent is a mild mannered blogger, but by night he dons a mask and writes dark fiction. No one knows what the mask is for. Or the meat cleaver. But it's probably safer not to ask. His fiction has been published in a range of anthologies and magazines, and is forthcoming in the Blood Bound Books anthology "Night Terrors II"

Light_You_to_Bed.docx Download this file

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Halloween Shorts: What You Take With You by Kev Clark


Introducing your second helping of Halloween Shorts! Please do continue to share and enjoy.

Daring adventurer! Swashbuckler! Exiled Prince of a forgotten land! Kev Clark is none of these things and more! He is in no way a professional writer, but would very much love to be one day. In the meantime, he writes for his own entertainment as much as anything else.


That said, he finds bios much harder to write than fiction.

What_you_Take_With_You_-Kev.docx Download this file

Friday, 28 October 2011

Halloween Shorts: Charlie and the Goblin King by Andrew Reid


Welcome to the first ever Halloween Shorts post! And because Andrew is a generous chap, there's even a bonus story over at his blog. Who says we don't spoil you? Please do share and enjoy.

Andrew Reid is a displaced Scotsman who loves books, movies, computer games, cake, and writing.  He can be found lurking on Twitter as @mygoditsraining and if asked very nicely can be talked into baking tasty things.


Charlie_and_the_Goblin_King.docx Download this file

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

My Brief But Obligatory Nanowrimo Post

Far too many things going on this week for me to blog sensibly or in detail about anything, so given that we’re almost at the end of October, I would just like to salute those crazy novelists about to take part in a month of literary abandon, also known as Nanowrimo.


I’ve blogged about this many times before, and I know you’ll all have heard me hark on about how great I think the scheme is, and how useful, so I’ll keep it short. Today I came across Johanna Harness’ blog on “Telling Your Own Story”, and when I read it I nodded so hard in agreement my head nearly fell off (go read it, she is very wise). The fact is, every year at this time there’s always a flurry of anti-Nano types, talking about how Nano helps push into being a thousand rubbish books, how Wrimos don’t know the difference between a rough draft and a completed manuscript, or how outrageous it is that all these non-writers are writing.


Balls to that, I say. Not only is it snobbery of the highest order, it also ignores that fact that writing is often about different things for different people – a challenge completed, a way out of a rut, or just a bit of bloody good fun. Making things is one of the joys of human existence, after all. Aside from wanting to see my books in a bookshop one day, I also find writing stories the most marvellous form of escapism, and it gives me a sense of control that I crave in all other areas of my life (OCD does tend to make you a bit fond of controlling things). It’s very nearly therapy, is what it is, and Nanowrimo brings this fabulous and often frustrating activity to thousands of people every year. Yay for that, I say.


(If you didn’t guess, I am planning on participating again this year, with the intention of completing the next two parts of The Copper Promise. See you there, Wrimos!)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Halloween Shorts!


Exciting things! Next weekend, in celebration of the spooky season, sennydreadful.com will play host to a set of scary stories from some funky new writers (as well as one from me). Woot! So join me back here on Friday the 28th of October for the very first session of Halloween Shorts.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Samurai Jack - Probably the Greatest Cartoon Ever Made.


Cartoon Network have been repeating Samurai Jack over the last couple of weeks, so obviously this gives me a great excuse to write a blog post on how great it is, including lots of pretty pictures and general fangirling. I was a big fan of Samurai Jack when it first appeared on our tellies back in, oh jeezum cripes, 2001 (2001?! That’s ten years ago, my friends) and it coincided with my first forays on to the internet. In fact, my very first forum was a Samurai Jack fan forum, where I first learnt internet etiquette and the rules of fandom wank. It was run by a boy whom I always assumed was about 12 years old, but the forum itself was actually populated largely by older ladies, and I don’t think our administrator always appreciated our take on the cartoon. Ha. Good times.

 Anyway, here are a few reasons why Samurai Jack is Pretty Much the Greatest Cartoon Ever Made.

 It’s Beautiful: You could take any single frame of this cartoon and hang it on your wall, and people would come over to your house (probably people you’ve never met) to tell you what fantastic taste you have in modern art. Every backdrop is gorgeous, every character design clever and satisfying. Jack’s form is a brilliant collection of block colours and spare lines, every bit of it economical and right, and that’s all without even going into how everything moves – which is gracefully, and with perfect timing (both comedy and otherwise).

Samurai Jack Doesn’t Care About Your Attention Span: Everything in modern animation is fast, fast, fast. Look at this, now look at that, now over here… We’ve got to pack a billion things into this twenty minutes, so stay alert! Samurai Jack doesn’t do that. I convinced Marty to watch an episode with me the other week, and he was most amused by the drawn-out action sequences – amused and delighted, I think. In the episode we watched, a trio of arrows are approaching a target, all converging on the same tiny point. We switch views from arrow to arrow, to the faces of the archers, to Jack’s reaction, and then back again as they creep on to an inevitable doom.

            And it’s not afraid to do that in quieter scenes too. We sometimes see Jack travelling the beautiful landscape alone, his figure lost amongst the bizarre alien foliage… all so we can appreciate the weirdness of his journey, and how alone he is.




It’s Also Fucking Funny: While I waffle on about the gorgeous backdrops and the ineffable awesomeness of Jack’s quest, I should also point out that it’s very funny. Even the action episodes will have moments of humour, usually dialogue free: Jack is the perfect straight man, and it’s a shame not to use him as such, after all. There are also episodes that are just straight up funny too, and it certainly never takes itself seriously: there’s the episode where Jack is zapped by a wizard for instance, and he has to survive as a bad ass Samurai… chicken. Or the one where he loses his lovely sandals, and at one point ends up wearing a pair of stacked pimp shoes, complete with goldfish in the heels.




Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Speed vs. Quality, Or Writing Around Your Inner Editor

I’m thinking a lot about quality versus speed currently, especially as November lurks around the corner, ready to clobber us with cheap Halloween candy and miserable weather. November means NaNoWriMo, as I’m sure you know, and one of the chief lessons it has taught me over the years is to get the first draft out as quickly as possible and worry about making it pretty later. I’ve done Nano five times now, and succeeded each time (twice this year already, weirdly) so you’d think I’d have this lesson burnt into my brain tissue by now.


However, I’m working my way through the Copper Promise* at the moment, trundling along, reasonably happy, and suddenly my inner editor has started to get lairy. You want to go back, it insists, go back to the chapter before last and just fix that one bit where you forgot someone’s name. And go back to the part before that where one of the guards was a bit dopey and make him curious instead. Actually, sod it, go right back to the beginning and make it all fabulous and pretty and word-sexy, and then you can carry on to the final five chapters with peace in your heart and a smug look on your face.


I’m trying not to listen. But the Copper Promise is a novelette, about two thirds complete at this point, and it’s horribly tempting. What stops me is the certain knowledge that if I take my eyes off the ending I will lose it forever, and be lost in the world of word-sexy. I will be strong. I will finish. After all, this is only part 1 in a series…


* which may well now be The Sea-Glass Promise, or the Crosshaven Chronicles, or Tales from the Sea-Glass Road – I’m fluctuating at the moment. If you have a preference, do let me know!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Giant Worms! A brief note on playing Gears of War 2



This last week we have been mostly playing Gears of War 2. Yes, Gears of War 2. I liked the look of the trailer for the newest game, but being all shiny and new, and given that I have no idea what these games are like, I decided to opt for the decidedly cheaper GoW2, to see if I liked that sort of thing or not.


As it turns out, I like it very much so far. It’s sort of like all the running and shooting bits of Mass Effect, with all the complicated thinking and decision making removed. I adore Mass Effect (as you can see from my previous blog post) but sometimes it is quite nice to disengage brain slightly and be taken on what is essentially a very violent Disney World ride of a game (honestly, that’s what it reminds me of).


The real fun with Gears of War 2 (or Geezer Horse as it’s now known in our house. Or Cheesy Whores) starts when you play co-op. So far Marty & I haven’t really had a game where we can both play together, meaning we’d have to take turns with the controller and try to avoid spoilers. With this we can shout at the screen together, feeling very manly and team-like: “I’m bleeding here, dude, medic me!”, “There’s a ticker behind you, yep, just there, behind the…*KABOOOOM*...  nevermind” and “IT’S GIANT WORMS!!”.


In conclusion, it’s good, explodey fun, and I may even keep an eye on the price of Geezer Horse 3.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

3 Reasons Why Mass Effect is the Greatest of All Video Games*


I’m playing Mass Effect 2 again at the moment. Yes, again. I think this might be roughly my fourth or fifth play-through, but I do have an obsessive need to unlock all possible happenings, and this means it's time to play as super-ass-kicking-space-bitch Shepard, ramp up my renegade bar to the max and punch a few mercs through windows. In which case, I present to you three reasons why Mass Effect is the greatest video game series ever made.


All the Stories in the ‘Verse: It is enormous, and the attention to detail is staggering. Each civilisation, from the Asari to the Krogan to the Volus, has a complicated history, tricksy political problems and a unique outlook on the universe at large. On a smaller scale, every bit-part character you meet will have a decent voice actor and a wee story of their own to tell. Get absorbed into the story and you’ll soon start recognising ME’s own little in-jokes (Krogan have four testicles, so they’re referred to as “quads”, a certain part of the Asari body is nicknamed “azure”- because they’re blue, get it? And Issac Newton is the deadliest son of a bitch in the galaxy).



The Horizontal Charleston, Alien-style: At the heart of Mass Effect are the relationships between the characters, or, in other words, the “which of these fine sprites will I be boinking by the end of the game?” element. In the first instalment your choice was a little limited – for the boys there was poetry quoting xenophobe Ashley Williams, the girls had the easily embarrassed Kaidan Alenko, or for both there was Liara, the quiet and reserved archaeologist who was secretly the Normandy bike. In ME2 Bioware have very wisely thrown all caution to the wind and now practically everyone is bionkable, even your PA, and the Doctor seems quite willing to get you drunk too. Even Garrus, easily the coolest character in the entire Mass Effect universe, can be awkwardly chatted up in the battery array- is it bad that I find it all the more amusing because it’s a little bit weird? I secretly think even the writers of ME2 have decided Shepard and Garrus are BFFs foreverz. Just don’t ingest his fluids.



To Be a Shit, or Not to Be a Shit: Complex moral choices. Bioware seem to specialise in making the sort of games where you have to put the controller down for a bit & have a really good think about the consequences of your actions. Shepard is continually confronted with decisions that are actually morally very tough: whether or not to allow genocide for the greater good (a theme that turns up over and over in ME), which of your team to sacrifice, whether or not to buy those fish you know perfectly well you’ll forget to feed… It’s choices like these that add to Shepard’s heroic status- she may well be able to take down a charging Krogan with one well placed kick to the quads, but she also makes some hard decisions for the sake of the universe, and that makes her the greatest of galactic heroes.


*Other than Dragon Age: Origins... Look, you and I both know I'm too obsessed with that game to make a sensible judgement, so let's just drink the tainted blood and move on.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Campaign for Real Fear Review

Just a quick note to flag up a nifty happening: Peter Tennant has been reviewing all the stories published in Black Static, including the Campaign for Real Fear competition. If you go here, you can read a lovely little summary of my flash fiction piece, The Price.

I'm so proud of that story, and it's appearance in Black Static- I remember being all excited at Alt:Fiction because they were selling copies in the dealer's room; the first time I'd seen my work in print.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

On Finishing The Snake House and the Nature of Evil


With all the stuff that’s been happening lately I haven’t had much of a chance to talk about finishing The Snake House. It’s interesting for me (if no one else) to look back on a project afterwards, especially one as fast-paced as this one, and have a think about what I learned from the experience and what I’ll take with me into the next book.

            In terms of prep, this time round I wrote a big old plan over three pieces of A4 paper (I wrote most of it while on holiday in Conwy, scribbling away, huddled under a blanket- Wales is cold, yo), made some character notes, and then dived straight in at the beginning of July. In the end, I wrote the entire novel (around 100,000 words) in two months, which is definitely something of a record for me. The story wandered away from the set course a few times, and various nasty scenes I wasn’t expecting popped up here and there, which was nice (Snake House is a horror novel, after all) but mostly it went according to plan. I think what I will remember from this noveling experience – other than the faint squealing of my sanity as I raced to finish before the end of August – is how I was trying to consciously say something with this story.

Most of the time, themes and meanings grow with a book organically, and often I only notice them on the second read-through; Ink for Thieves is about change and responsibility, I realise now, and Bird and Tower is about growing up. These issues, for me, are usually bubbling under, to be brought out further in re-writes and edits, but this last book was slightly different.

            The Snake House is asking questions about the nature of evil- whether it is a real, malevolent presence in human lives, or an absence of something that leaves the human animal easy prey to horrendous appetites (blimey, that’s a bit much. It’s something like that, anyway). When doing my research for TSH I inevitably had to read a lot about serial killers, and aside from being generally depressing and wildly unpleasant, such reading leads you to a number of uncomfortable questions. What makes these people kill repeatedly? Is such behaviour always born of a childhood of abuse, or do they come in to the world that way? Where can you draw the line that divides the sane from the insane in cases like this? Jeffrey Dahmer was thought by some to be experiencing severe psychotic episodes when he was torturing his victims, and maybe it’s easier to think of Ted Bundy as a monster possessed by a demonic presence, yet this was a man willing to drive for hours in a calm and rational state to spend the night with the bodies of the women he murdered.

            Obviously I have no answers to these questions – perhaps no one does, or will – but when I started writing The Snake House those were the issues I wanted to explore; it is undoubtedly my darkest book, and in lots of ways it was the hardest to write. I grew up on Stephen King books, so you’d think I’d be fairly immune to the wibblies at this stage, yet there were times where I questioned whether I even wanted to carry on with the story. It seems that reading a book that deals with monsters, and inviting monsters to come and play in your head, are two very different things.


Friday, 9 September 2011

A Round Up: Dark Fiction Magazine, Pseudopod and the Cambridge Film Festival

All right, not a very catchy title for the blog today, but a lot of stuff has happened this week and I’ve utterly failed to write about it, so it’s time for a quick catch up.


First of all, the finalists for Dark Fiction Magazine’s Epic Flash Competition have been announced - a big ol’ congratulations and a hearty huzzah to all those picked. I helped out with reading the submissions this time round and it was an amazingly difficult process. There were so many cool ideas and top stories, sorting out which ones should go forward to be judged by James Barclay was very tough indeed. Well done to everyone who sent in a story - you all rock. If you want to read the (officially "woobie") little short I wrote when inspired by the competition, it's still up on the blog over here.


I’ve been on the narration duties over at Pseudopod, the podcast that brings scary fiction to your lugholes. If you would like to experience the extra creepy thrill of listening to my sarf-lahdan accent read a story, Blue Eyes by Jay Caselberg is up at the moment, and a very unsettling piece of fiction it is too. Go listen!


In a change from all the short stories and editing, I wrote a little article about Silent Running and WALL-E for Take One, the magazine of the Cambridge Film Festival. It’s out now and you can read it here, or if you happen to inhabit the actual Cambridge, you should probably be able to pick up a print copy! This pleases me enormously.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Final Submissions for Epic Fantasy at Dark Fiction Magazine! (plus one small celebratory short story)

So, I finally finished the first draft of The Snake House! Huzzah, hooray, calloo callay and so on. I’ll do a proper blog post about that over the next few days, detailing the highs and lows of writing about a haunted Elephant and Castle, but for today I wanted to draw your attention to the date. It’s August the 31st! This means you only have until midnight to get your submissions in for Dark Fiction Magazine’s Epic Fantasy Flash Competition of Epicness!


So in celebration of finishing my first draft, and to show solidarity to all of those brave fictioneers putting the last bit of polish on their flash fiction stories, I present to you the little story I wrote when inspired by the competition myself. Beware: this story is the woobiest* thing I have ever written.


*Shhh, I’m not sure what it means, but it feels right.


Skin_and_Scales.doc Download this file

Friday, 26 August 2011

Free Short Story at Hub Magazine!

Snoopy dancing and general rejoicing! I am very proud to tell you that my short horror story “Wallflower” is in the current issue of Hub magazine. As I’m sure you know, Hub is totally excellent and totally free to read, so please do pop along here to have a butcher’s, and if you feel like making me super happy today, pop back here afterwards and let me know what you thought of it.


“Wallflower” was one of those oddly blessed stories, the ones that come out all in one piece and in a hell of a hurry, so that I found myself scribbling into a notebook on a train coming back from the SFX Weekender. I was hideously hungover and tired, but the story didn’t care if my brain was trying to crawl out of my ear, or that my mouth tasted like a dead badger’s armpit. If only all stories were so persistent.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Epic Fantasy Competition at Dark Fiction Magazine, and the Art of the Very Very Short Story

Pop on over to Dark Fiction Magazine and you'll see a rather nifty flash fiction competition has just been announced: they’re looking for epic fantasy stories of a thousand words or under, and there are actual cash prizes! So you are cordially invited to dust off your broadswords, polish up those magical artefacts and get your dragon on. Full details (and a rather excellent picture) can be found here.


I do love the perversity of fitting an “epic” fantasy tale into less than 1000 words. I was lucky enough to have my flash fiction piece “Milk” selected for DFM’s Twelve Days of Christmas Special. I had to work really hard to get the story down to a very zippy 1000 words and because of this it remains one of my favourites- it’s as tight as it can possibly be, and every small piece of it pleases me. It doesn’t hurt of course that the very lovely Kim Lakin-Smith read it out for me and did a fantastic job. If you’d like to hear it (don’t worry, it isn’t actually that Christmassy) nip over here and press play.


Being a big fantasy fan I’d love to give this competition a go myself, but since I’m helping out DFM with their slush reading at the moment, I suspect I’m not really allowed. ;) However, I am very excited to see what people can cram into that neat little word-space, and I think we’re going to see some very interesting stories.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

News From Dark Fiction Magazine


As some of you will know, I've worked with Dark Fiction Magazine a number of times in the past, both as a narrator and as a writer with stories featured in a couple of episodes (the flash fiction short "Milk" read with grace and aplomb by Kim Lakin-Smith remains one of my proudest moments). These days I'm helping out a bit more, so I'm here to tell you that the magazine is open again for submissions of previously published stories- fantasy, horror, science-fiction, weirdness and terror and thrills, they're after them all!

I also have this message sent direct from the Dark Fiction offices themselves (carved into the bare rock of a mountain, you know, and staffed by the evil flying monkeys who thought the Wicked Witch wasn't wicked enough)

You already know that Dark Fiction Magazine are always on the look out for fiction of the creepy and fantastical variety- did you also know that we’re after artwork, too? And voices. Not in a steal-your-voice-in-exchange-for-a-nice-pair-of-legs way (we’re not Hans Christian Anderson) but we do like to have a good variety of interesting voices for our stories, so if you’re an artist or a narrator who could see their work being featured on DFM, please do send us examples of your work via our submissions site.

Hurrah! Get submitting.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Normal Service Will Be Resumed Shortly

I had plans for a sensible update today but the violence and nastiness happening in London at the moment has pretty much consumed all my attention. Anyone who knows me will know how dearly I love the city, and it pains me to see it put through the wringer like this. Here’s hoping for a quiet night and a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A Number of Small Updates Ultimately Signifying Nothing


It occurred to me that I haven’t done one of those straight-forward, what’s going on at the minute sort of posts for a while, so here we go; prepare your ears for my latest escapades!




At the weekend I went to see Spirited Away on the big screen with my lovely friend Jenni. Spirited Away is one of my favourite movies (and I suspect one of Jenni’s too) so it was a real treat to see it in all its glory, and with an audience full of equally appreciative fans. Obviously Studio Ghibli have produced a lot of truly excellent films, but Spirited Away remains special to me for reasons that I can’t really put my finger on. Part of it, I think, is demonstrated by the picture above- the film makes me feel oddly peaceful, even in the midst of stink gods, No-faces eating everyone, and other weirdness. It’s impossible to watch this film and not feel quietly happy at the end of it.


Also at the weekend, I finished Camp Nanowrimo with a day to spare. Hurrah! And I appear to be doing the whole thing again this month, because I apparently want to test my sanity to the limits. This is good though, because it means I’ll have a complete first draft of The Snake House in two months, which I’m pretty certain would be something of a record for me. Dead Zoo Shuffle was almost that fast, but I wrote a Steampunk novella in the middle of it and that confused matters somewhat.


As for The Snake House itself, I will cautiously say it is going well. I’ve had to write about some very dark and nasty stuff, which has been more challenging than I expected, and in many ways I miss the freedom that straight-up fantasy books give you in terms of world-building and making up your own rules. However, my three old lady characters have been enormous fun to write and I’m finding out more and more about them every day, via that wonderful habit characters sometimes have of going off and doing whatever they like, or saying the wrong thing at exactly the wrong moment. This seems to happen even more with old lady characters.


I’m re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire. I know, I know, I only just finished A Dance With Dragons, but after a brief break to read Full Dark, No Stars (which was pretty good) I’ve decided to throw myself straight back in. There is a certain delicious fangirl joy in knowing what will be significant later, so you can pay extra special attention to certain events, and what this character says to that character at this time. I’ve got the first four books all together on a kindle edition, so I’ve been reading for a day and a half and I’m still only 1% in. Hmm.



And that’s it for now. There is other stuff to talk about coming up on the horizon, but I shall leave it where it is for the time being, like Chihiro’s distant lights. See you on the other side of Nano!


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

On Finishing A Dance With Dragons (no spoilers)

So, that’s it. I have moved A Dance With Dragons from my “currently reading” file to my “finished” file (after having ritualistically read through the index of character names and houses- am I the only one to do that?) and I am bereft of book. I won’t do a big lengthy review or anything, but I will say it was great, I enjoyed it immensely, and that George Double R’d Martin is a wily sod. Despite the horrendously painful cliff-hangers he likes to torture us with, I can genuinely say that it was more than worth the wait. Big books take a long time to write (even small books can take a while, let’s be honest) and big excellent books with huge character histories, complicated intrigues and rollicking adventures… yes, they can take years to write. And I’m fine with that.


I expect I shall sulk for a while now, as I listlessly pick up other books and put them back down again, finding them lacking in some vital way (dragons, mainly) until I eventually have to accept the fact that A Song of Ice and Fire is pretty damn special, and I will have to read something else as we begin the agonizing wait for the next book.


Unless I just read them all again from the beginning. Then I can make a little folder on my kindle just for ASOIAF! Woot!

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Pea Roast Post: Manticores and Mondays

Manticores and Mondays is an odd little story. It was one of the first written in what I like to think of as my “grown-up writing” period (that is to say, I wrote it in my twenties and actually managed to finish it) and it owes an awful lot to one of my favourite books, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I wanted to write something about how children behave when they are free of the watchful eyes of their parents. It’s also loosely based around tales my mum would tell me of her summer days spent in the fields behind my nan’s house.


It originally appeared in the Farrago Anthology.



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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Heroic Bastards


Jon Snow


George Double R’d Martin’s most obviously heroic character in the Song of Ice and Fire series, Jon stands out for being relentlessly honourable and good amongst a cast of characters where even your favourites *cough* Tyrion *cough* could be considered “a bit dodgy”. As Lord Eddard Stark’s bastard he takes a lot of flack from Lady Catelyn and in a move worthy of a sulky teenager huffs off to the Wall, where he becomes a Brother of the Night’s Watch. However, thanks to being a good chap deep down and very handy with a sword, he soon gains allies and fancier weapons.

            Jon is a particularly enjoyable character because there are so many question marks hanging over him (does he have a destiny? Is he really Ned’s bastard?) But I worry for him too; honourable characters who try to do the right thing often come a cropper in Westeros.





Yes, alright, if you read this blog with any regularity then you are probably very sick of hearing about Alistair, bastard Prince and potential main squeeze of the Grey Warden in Dragon Age: Origins, but in terms of heroic bastards he has to be included. When he’s not doing relentlessly cute things like giving the main character roses or arguing with the Mabari hound, Alistair’s main function is to barrage into the centre of a crowd of darkspawn and kick the ever living shit out of them with a giant sword. He’s brave, unendingly loyal and utterly devoted to the kingdom of Ferelden, to the extent that he will quite aggravatingly dump the main character if he becomes King and feels that their relationship will get in the way of his kingly duties. Still, at least he's suitably angsty about it.



FitzChivalry Farseer


Another bastard with a thing for wolves, Fitz is the narrator of Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy, a young man gifted with both the Wit and the Skill, and a horrendously complicated and backstabby royal family. Fitz stands out for me as a fantastically likeable character, someone who you can’t help but suffer with as he grows up through the books (and wow, does he suffer. Hobb knows how to put her characters through it). He’s also a trained assassin, which makes him 20% cooler than your usual royal bastard.


Friday, 15 July 2011

The Pea Roast Post: Lights

Lights came about because I wanted to write something about the family holidays I went on as a kid, specifically the very particular atmosphere you get in a caravan park at night. The place where Charley is staying, and indeed the shower block she visits is ripped straight from my childhood; I was even told the same story Charley is listening to at the beginning, although I think it was a mischievous older cousin that passed the tale on to me.

            I sometimes think that our early childhoods become our mythologies, reinforced by the stories told again and again by family members at Christmases and weddings- “Do you remember when Daniel got us thrown out the slots?” or “Were you there when we saw the lights in the sky, and Nan fell in the ditch laughing?”. I look back on those days, and particularly the holidays we took in that caravan, and they seem both impossibly distant and gloriously strange.



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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

An Unexpectedly Sentimental Post

As a result of recent events there’s been a lot of talk online recently about whether or not writing is a business or an art, or if one takes precedence over the other. In lots of ways writing for a living (in that you get paid for it and need those cheques to pay your bills) is very much a 9 to 5 job, with as many deadlines and commitments and consequences as any other occupation. In the end, there needs to be money coming from somewhere, and when money is involved, it’s a business.


However, I still believe it is an art first and foremost. This occurred to me yesterday when I finished reading Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Trilogy. These books have been a happy surprise for me- a romping dark ages adventure with romance, betrayal, bloody violence and all that good stuff, but also curiously moving. The books talk a lot about legends and humankind’s need to believe in something, even if it is a fallible man who happens to good with a sword, and I find myself still thinking about that book and those characters today. I’m sure, in fact, that they’ll stay with me for a long time, and that’s art, if you ask me.


I’ve mentioned it on here before, but Lemony Snickett summed up how I feel about writing in an especially excellent Nanowrimo peptalk- the full version of which you can read here. When I’m feeling troubled about why exactly we do this and how I can possibly drag myself through another page of editing, I read those words and remember that I do it because making things feeds my soul.


“Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it.”

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Pea Roast Post: Barleycorn

There are two main influences behind Barleycorn, a story which is quite short, not so sweet, and one of my favourites.

            The first is Jeff Noon’s wonderfully strange novel Vurt, which my brother bought me for my birthday when I was about 16 or 17 I think. It was a book unlike anything I’d read before and it left me feeling both exhilarated and slightly ill; if you’ve never read it, I highly recommend you grab a copy, although don’t blame me if you feel woozy afterwards. I was fascinated by Vurt’s mixture of dreams, drugs and mythology, and a lot of that stayed with me.

            The story is also based around some trips to the countryside I made as a kid, although I don’t think I was ever quite as sulky as the narrator (I hope not, anyway). For me the countryside seemed tremendously wild and green, and we did indeed make little dens within the crops, which I imagine cheesed off the local farmers no end.


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Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Pea Roast Post


I have decided to do a series of re-posts (or pea roasts, if you will) of older stories- stories that have popped up in other locations, or haven't been seen for a few years, or perhaps have just been hanging around on other pages of this website, loitering and causing trouble. I'll do one story each Friday, with a bit of a dvd extras introduction (where the story came from, influences etc) and it shall appear in a slightly more readable format.

This is mainly because I want to give some older stuff a bit of an airing, but also because... Pea Roast! Post! Love that title. So see you tomorrow for the first Pea Roast!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Women and Wizards- The Warlord Trilogy by Bernard Cornwell (potential spoilers for the first two books!)


I’ve just finished the second book in Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord trilogy (a gutsy and gritty retelling of the Arthur mythos) and a bloody good read it is too. I’ve still got Excalibur to go, which I shall be reading as swiftly as possible before A Dance With Dragons comes out, and indeed these tales of swords, beards and heroism make a lovely almost-fantasy appetizer for the next George R.R Martin book.


What has impressed me in particular is the quality of female characters in the first two books (The Winter King and Enemy of God, go and grab copies) – previously my only experience of Cornwell was via the TV series Sharpe, which my partner is a big fan of (I rather like it myself), but it has to be said the ladies in the series don’t have a lot going for them. His first wife, sure, the Spanish rebel who kicked ass in her own right, she was excellent but inevitably she didn’t quite last the whole series, and then after her most of the female characters in Sharpe (the TV series, at least) are consigned to breathing heavily in garments not made to stand such stresses and throwing themselves (understandably, perhaps) at the eponymous hero. Even worse, one of his wives turns out to be an absolute rotter, who simpers and faints and gets off with Wesley Wyndham-Price instead.


However, in his King Arthur stories Bernard Cornwell has given us a cast full of extraordinary and interesting ladies; characters who are perhaps more memorable even than the male characters you remember from the Arthur mythology. There is Nimue, Merlin’s high priestess and childhood friend of our narrator- she is clever, ruthless, intermittently mad, and utterly determined. The portrayal of Guinevere is a fascinating one, as we meet a woman who is beautiful and knows it, and has infinitely more ambition than even Arthur himself- a woman constrained by the times she lives in, and looking for ways to break out. Even Ceinwyn, who could easily have been a winsome blond princess with little else to do but be the caring one, keeps things a little subversive by taking a vow never to marry, and instead takes her own path through life.


This is more like it. And there’s tons of other stuff to admire about the books of course, particularly Merlin, who is devious beyond measure and very, very funny, and Cornwell gives us a portrayal of pagan Britain that feels real, even if it is nearly impossible to know exactly how it all went down. I’m expecting to zoom through the third book now, and only partly because I know Westeros is waiting for me at the end of it.


Oh, and if you haven’t done so yet, please do check out the short story I posted below… it’s not Arthurian Fantasy but I am very close to 100 views and every plug helps! ;)


Monday, 27 June 2011

Alt.Fiction 2011: Cakes, Raffles and the Shepard Shuffle

Things I learnt about at this weekend’s Alt.Fiction: the direction of modern science-fiction, John Wayne, 1980s toy related comics, memetic theory in relation to religion and mythology, the Gordon the Gopher novel, waxed moustaches, Thai food, and… lots of other great stuff.


Alt.Fiction is like that. It’s a whirling multicoloured pinball machine of an event, where you bounce wildly from one interesting talk to another- whether that’s in a panel, a podcast or just by the bar while you’re drinking a cider. I think this is why it is regarded as one of the friendliest of conventions, the one where you make new friends in a short space of time and have more giggles over the drawing of a raffle than is strictly healthy.


In my opinion the real heroes of Alt.Fiction* are those writerly people (I’m including all manner of authors, publishers and publicists here) who probably were amazingly busy and probably did have a hundred people they had to meet up with but still stopped to say hello and have a natter. It’s easy for the writer at the beginning of his or her career to feel like publishing is a big exclusive circus on the moon with clowns made of gold, where everyone already knows each other and you are a tiny orphan child with a homemade t-shirt saying “I luv cirkuses”: the publishing people who pause to make the experience an inclusive, positive one are absolute stars and I cannot praise them enough.


I was involved in two podcasts this weekend and was pleased (and slightly alarmed) at the number of people who turned up for both, even the one on Sunday when we must all have had thumping headaches and delicate stomachs. Big thanks to Adam Christopher and Kim Lakin-Smith who spoke more sense about steampunk than I was capable of, and much slightly hungover gratitude to the lovely Jenni Hill, Mark Charon Newton and Graham McNeill who were all utterly charming and gave me an excuse to blather on about video games. Adele Wearing and Vincent Holland-Keen kept the whole thing running smoothly with style and panache, and indeed were true podcasting heroes.


Other highlights include meeting up with twitter buddies Andrew Reid (@mygoditsraining) and Hollie Chapman (@holliechapman86); talking to Graham McNeill about Dragon Age 2; the Mythology in Writing podcast where a brass band attempted to upstage the panel; and Dave Moore’s impromptu grammar demonstration over sticky rice. There were loads of other great moments but I think I’ll need a few days for my brain to process them all, and indeed I wish I’d had the good sense to bring a camera- a few pictures would have helped me remember everything beyond the haze of coffee and alcohol.


Looking forward to next year already!


*the bar staff were also heroes.