Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 Gratitude List

A lot people on my Twitter stream are giving thanks for the great things that happened in 2012. It would be churlish not to get in on the Feel Good Action, so here’s mine:

Number one with a bullet has to be a three book deal I signed with Gollancz (July) . I’d always hoped to get some fiction published but never dared think I might make a publisher as prestigious as Gollancz. Thanks to Simon Spanton, Gillian Redfearn, Jon Weir and the team for the warmest welcome.

Hot the heels of the book deal came an agent (Sept). Juliet Mushens has since helped  turn my novel The Boy with the Porcelain Ears into something I’m truly proud of. Her structural and line edit notes were great, as is the energy and enthusiasm she brings to the project.

I’d be remiss for not mentioning the test readers for my novel. Round of applause for Matt Rowan, Lizzie Barratt and especially Matt Lyons. Thanks guys.

Being asked to contribute a story to any anthology by Anne Perry and Jared Shurin is always a pleasure. Admittedly it’s usually a pleasure mixed with a certain amount of stage fright. A Town Called Pandemonium boasted some serious talent but I’m pleased to say my story, Red Hot Hate, is one I’m really proud of. I can’t explain why, just that I really like it, which is an odd thing for writer to say about their own work (we’re notoriously self-critical and cagey as a species).

The Fizzy Pop Vampire was unleashed on the world. As if all the other projects weren’t enough I also saw the first of my children’s books released (iPad only so far). A second one is in the works, all thanks to Sarah Langton for art duties and her tireless work getting Fizz off the ground.

Being adopted by the Young Adult writers of London Town – borne largely out of my friendship with Tom Pollock, I’ve gone on to befriend James Dawson, Kim Curran, Tanya Byrne, Liz de Jager and Amy McCulloch. They’ve all been lovely, supportive and encouraging to me. I hope to spend more time with you guys in 2013.

My mum. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. But my mum (aside from her usual levels of awesomeness) gave me a place to get my head down and do some serious editing during the final stages of writing the War Manuals for Gollancz.

FantasyCon (Sept) – I went to this convention with few to no expectations and had a great time. Thanks to everyone who had a hand in managing this event.

November saw confirmation of French foreign rights for the War Manuals, further reasons to be cheerful. C'est fantastique!

I should probably mention Blackwell’s bookshop on the Charing Cross Road, who let me scale back my hours to four days a week. A very large part of the reason I turned in the aforementioned War Manuals before deadline (Humble brag).

Cool books – Joe Abercrmobie’s ‘Red Country’ and Daniel Polansky’s ‘Tomorrow the Killing’ are my two favourite reads this year. Tom Pollock’s ‘The City’s Son’ has to be one of the most vibrant debuts of recent times. 

Music saw releases from Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man, Nest – Body Pilot (EP), Holy Other – Held, Brambles – Charcoal, and my favourite film had to be The Artist, which was probably the most charming thing I’ll ever see on a cinema screen.

Lots to be grateful for, and hopefully more to come in 2013. See you on the other side.

Monday, 3 December 2012

A Town Called Pandemonium

It gives me huge pleasure to say that those lovable scamps at Pandemonium Fiction (or Pornokitsch, as they are more widely known) have released yet another one of their fine anthologies.

This time the theme is the Wild West, and it has more than a dash of Weird, so I’m told. I’ve contributed a story, called Red Hot Hate, to the ten tales within. You can acquire a paperback copy of the book from Blackwell on Charing Cross Road, direct from the publishers, also on the Kindle in the UK and US/International.

Other authors in this rootin’ tootin’ tome include: Will Hill, Archie Black, Scott Andrews, Joseph D’Lacey, Jonathan Oliver, Chysanthy Balis, Sam Sykes, Sam Wilson and Osgood Vance.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Where Did November Go?

Where did November go? Have you seen it? There is a large cash reward for any information leading to the safe return of November. If November happens to be reading this please get in touch and let us know that you are safe.

Seriously. Where did November go?

I’ve been hard at work on a structural edit for The Boy With The Porcelain Ears. A structural edit (in my experience) is the work you do after getting feedback in a top down down sense. Not a sentence by sentence by analysis, that comes later.

A major part of the structural edit for me was dividing one chapter into two and filling them out. I also had to create an entirely new chapter from scratch, which was surprisingly fun. I was also told to up my world building, (the information about the world the characters live in). This element of the book was sparse to the point of non-existent, so it was a pleasure to go back and embroider the story with more detail. Most of my editing is done whilst listening to Ambient, Drone of film soundtracks. The album that sums up The Boy With The Porcelain Ears best for me is Retold by Nest. Here’s one of my favourites –

Having completed the edit I immediately plunged into the follow up novel, because I appear to have morphed into a workaholic lately. The follow up (working title Blood) is set eight years after the first book and focuses on a different protagonist. I’m hoping these books work as stand alone stories in the way of Daniel Polansky’s excellent Low Town series.

In other news, my short story Red Hot Hate, a western, is released in A Town Called Pandemonium anthology. The launch event is at the Royal George pub on Charing Cross Road this Thursday, and I’ll be reading an extract along with some of the co-authors. See you there?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Achievement Unlocked – Vive La France

So, I’ve been cleared to share this nugget of information with you by Dark Lord Sir Spanton of Gollancz. Yes, it’s official. I am invading France. I may even rename it when I’m done. The Republic of Den is looking good. Or Doris. I haven’t decided which. All the pain au chocolat are mine incidentally. So no looting before I get there.

What I actually mean is that The War Manuals have been bought by the French company Le Livre do Poche for release next year (2013). These three mighty tomes are due for release in the UK in autumn, which still seems a horribly long way away.

It’s quite a strange feeling to know something you’ve written will be translated into a language you can barely understand (I was top set for French at school, but that was a long time ago). I’m hoping I’ll finally have the opportunity to visit Paris, once the books start selling.

Thanks to everyone at Gollancz who clearly worked very hard at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and also to my agent, Juliet Mushens, for sorting out the fine print.

Allez, allez, allez! (Seriously, that’s all the French I know anymore. Tragic)

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Next Big Thing

I thought it was time I got around to filling this out as the very lovely Kim Curran tagged me in her blog post here. Kim writes Young Adult Fiction for Strange Chemistry, an imprint of Angry Robot. I had the good fortune to meet Kim at the Blackwell YA Day, and have since thrown some shapes with her at the FantasyCon disco.

The following questions all relate to my project for Gollancz, which you can read about here, and here from Dark Lord Sir Simon of Spanton (Note: not actually a Dark Lord, is in fact my editor).

What is the working title of your book?

Well, there are three. The Elven Art of War, The Orc Harrowing: A Verbal Tradition and The Dwarven Field Manual. They are known collectively as ‘The War Manuals.’

Where did the idea come from for the book?

At the bar in a very hot hotel during the Gollancz 50th Birthday party. Simon Spanton and I started kicking the idea around. We met up for a drink a few weeks later in the Phoenix (where else?). I hit upon the idea of introducing a translator character who’d add footnotes and pithy opinions.

What genre does your book fall under?

100% High Fantasy. Elves, dwarves, orcs, magic, heroic destinies, possibly even dragons and shadowy nameless evil, all served with dash of sarcasm and (hopefully) wryly observed wit.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Due to the nature of the manuals there aren’t that many characters. However –

La Darielle Daellen Staern (Elf) – I’d have to go with Katee Sackhoff. She was excellent as Kara Thrace in Battlestar Galactica, and she comes with that recognition of ‘here is a woman who can handle herself’. She also has that slightly maverick vibe that is essential for La Darielle. Plus, you know, Katee Sackhoof with elf ears... excuse me a moment.

Kani Breakspear (Orc) – would have to be Ron Pearlman. He’s well used to prosthetics after Hellboy, so going orc will be no problem for the big guy. Plus he’s superb in Sons of Anarchy. He has that fantastic physicality you’d need for a orc Khagan (leader) and good comic timing too.

Sudnin Hallstøm (Dwarf) –  I’m going to go back to Battlestar Galactica again. Can you imagine Edward James Olmos in a huge beard being surly? It’s working for me. He has the right mix of grizzled veteran and steady-as-you-go charisma that would suit a dwarf down to the ground. Bonus points for rousing speeches (So say we all!).

Sebastian Venghaus – would have to be Johnny Depp. He’s very good at foppish characters (Sleepy Hollow, Pirates of the Caribbean), whilst still retaining an edge. He knows one end from a sword from the other and makes a convincing academic. Perfect really.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as written by the three major High Fantasy races.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I lost track to be honest. The Elven Art of War came together very quickly, the orc book took a little longer. The dwarves gave me the most trouble. It was a case of staring at the screen until blood started to form on my forehead, to use the old cliché.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

My editor, Simon Spanton initially, but other factors would include:
– All the Dungeons & Dragons I’ve played
– Not forgetting Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Three years in the trenches for Games Workshop
The Hobbit, it would be criminal not to mention it
The Prose Edda, because you need to go to the source if you’re writing pseudo-Norse Fantasy
– Sun Tzu’s Art of War, much of it is fairly abstract but it did spark some ideas
– The elves borrow ideas from Zen Buddhism, so props to Yamamoto Tsunetomo for Hagakure, and Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki for Zen Mind, Beginners Mind.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The illustrations. Each book is lovingly brought to life by the very talented Andrew James, who I count myself lucky to call a friend. He’s a ferociously gifted chap and kindly agreed to lend his skills to the project. I was delighted to have him aboard.

Over to the next big things:

Tom Pollock – debut author of The City’s Son, steadily working on the rest of the sequence. All round Gentleman, and winner of the Fantasy Con Dance Off

Will Hill – writer of the Department 19 series. I was lucky enough to sit in at Will’s Masterclass on YA at FantasyCon.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Thoughts on FantasyCon 2012

When I was initially told about FantasyCon I was a little dubious. A con made up of professionals with very few fans in attendance? That seemed like putting the cart before the horse to my mind. And my mind was firmly in fan mode. It’s difficult for me to admit that I’m a writer when the books aren’t on the shelves yet; the war manuals I’m writing for Gollancz aren’t out until next Autumn/Fall. This minor detail aside I figured I could go once and see what all the fuss was about. I’m glad I did.

The Friday began with a long overdue catch up with Tom Pollock on the train journey down to Brighton. Tom has been blazing a critically acclaimed trail with his debut The City’s Son.  Impressive. Worth noting: Tom had people queuing in the corridor trying to get into his reading that evening.

Two handsome Gollancz devils at the mass signing.
Joe Abercrombie (L) and James Barclay (R).
Arriving at FantasyCon was a little surreal. You couldn’t turn around without setting eyes on someone familiar, from bloggers to writers and editors too. Naturally I caught up with my favourite Geek culture terrorists Jared Shurin and Anne Perry (from Pornokitsch). Anne was there in her official guise as Editor for Hodder and Stoughton. I also chewed the fat with fellow Pandemonium contributor Glen Mehn.

The Royal Albion Hotel seemed determined to disappoint. Miserable food, surly staff and barely drinkable lager all served as a huge incentive to wander off, which I duly did. Fortunately I wasn’t alone and enjoyed some Japanese food with Jared, Anne Clark (from Orbit) and Jon Courtenay Grimwood. Fellow diners are rarely more interesting, or more charming than these.

Saturday was particularly important for me as I announced my signing with an agent, one Juliet Mushens of Peters, Fraser and Dunlop. You can read more about that here. ‘Announced’ sounds quite formal, suffice to say we goofed around at the bar taking pictures to upload to Twitter, then hung out with my editor Simon Spanton and Ed Wilson, an agent with Johnson and Alcock.

Saturday morning was a markedly fuzzy affair.
Determined not loaf around entirely I made sure I got myself along to a couple of Masterclasses and a panel. ‘Ask The Editor’ kicked off at 11:00am and was hosted by Nicola Budd from Jo Fletcher Books. The panelists were Simon Spanton, Gillian Redfearn (both from Gollancz), Oliver Johnson (from Hodder and Stoughton) and Duncan Proudfoot (from Constable and Robinson). It was a packed and rather hot room, and plenty of useful areas were covered, from trying to jump a trend bandwagon (don’t), to what to expect from structural and lines edits.

My main take away from the panel, and indeed the whole weekend was succinctly put by Oliver Johnson. ‘Everything is advocacy in a publishing office’ – if people aren’t passionate about the manuscript they aren’t going to talk about it, and they aren’t going to champion it at that all important pitch meeting.

It might seem a little redundant for a Gollancz author to go to a Masterclass on the editorial process, but I was determined to spend my time as a newbie with my ears open and my brain switched on. The class was neatly divided into two sections. The first covered the editors role as a project manager, and what that entailed. The second half was  dedicated to the manuscript itself and the intricacies of structural editing, developing characters, and avoiding the cursed info dump.

Will Hill, author of the Department 19 series.
My second Masterclass was with Will Hill, as I was keen to discover if my novel The Boy with the Porcelain Ears fitted the genre parameters for a Young Adult (YA) Novel. This might sound disingenuous, but I didn’t write Porcelain with YA in mind, despite it being a bildungsroman and covering much of the ground one could expect to find in a YA book. It was a pleasure to hear Will talk about his experiences as a YA writer. The take away from this class was that a writer should essentially tell the story they want to tell, rather than try and second guess what the YA market wants, or what would appeal to an editor. The integrity of the story is paramount.

After a quick power nap (absolutely nothing wrong with it) I was taken to dinner with my new agent and was delighted to spend time with Suzanne Mcleod, Kim Curran, Amy McCulloch and Adam Christopher. And then it was time for that disco, which may go down in history for having the most gladiatorial dance off in the history of dance offs. The guilty parties were one Joe Abercrombie and Tom Pollock (yeah, him again). Some of the moves were too fast to see, other perhaps quantum, shapes were thrown.

Sunday was mainly focused on breakfast (at the excellent JB’s Diner on the King’s Road) and saying goodbye to the people I’d met, including Twitter folk such as @mygoditsraining @babelfishwars and @ktscribbles

I’d just like to thank everyone who had a hand in putting FantasyCon together, and look forward to seeing you again at the next one. I’m a convert through and through.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Achievement Unlocked – Peters, Fraser and Dunlop

I had a superb time at FantasyCon this week, which I will cover in another post very soon. The big news is that I finally bagged myself an agent. Or I should say that she bagged me. The tiny, leopard-print tornado that is Juliet Mushens of Peters, Fraser and Dunlop invited me in for a chat. She has an office and everything. I had to pretend to be a grown up, and not some lunatic that enjoys wearing pajamas until noon. 

Juliet is the perfect combination of unrelenting enthusiasm and serious fiction skills. She oversees a dissertation on the Kingston University Creative Writing Course. She was in the Bookseller recently as a ‘Rising Star of Publishing’. So that’s a thing. I sent her the first eight chapters of my novel and she still insisted on being my agent. Peters, Fraser and Dunlop have been causing trouble since 1924, and have a client list made up of politicians, people from the telly, writers of all stripes, and now, me. God help them.

Those of you keeping score will notice that I managed to get a three book deal before I had an agent. Further proof, as if any were needed, that I can’t do anything in the right order. It's a gift.

I am, of course undeniably anxious that my novel The Boy with the Porcelain Ears is double plus not good. My good friend Jared Shurin, over at Pornokitsch, finds my trepidation hilarious. Worth noting he and his good wife Anne published me first in Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse (which goes off sale at the end of October). Anne and Jared kindly invited me to submit another story for their new anthology, A Town Called Pandemonium, released this November. To say I am fiendishly excited about it would be an understatement.

So, thank you to Juliet, thank you to Peters, Fraser and Dunlop, and thanks to Anne and Jared.


Monday, 20 August 2012

Remembering Geoff

I’ve known Jesse since I was four. We sat opposite each other in the first class at primary school and shared a bunch of classes at High School. I’m not exaggerating when I call Jesse my Jedi Master. There’s not many people that can calmly persuade you to see a situation from a different angle, but Jesse is one of those. He got me started on graphic novels, let me read his 2000ADs, and was just a cold stone solid dude.

My family went through various iterations and recreations, occasionally tearing itself apart over the years. It was good to be able to go to Jesse’s place and forget about it. And the more that I think about it, the more I’m convinced there is a kind of magic at Jesse’s house. 

His mum, six feet of Swiss German matriarch, was ever welcoming, with an easy smile and tolerant approach to our teenage antics. It was one of those houses featuring a guitar leaning in the corner; distinctly bohemian compared to my working class, non-musical upbringing. We cried with laughter listing to Victor Borge, played mutant versions of Scrabble in the kitchen, and worshipped at the alter of Jesse’s floor-to-ceiling bookshelf  (where the aforementioned graphic novels appeared in greater and greater numbers).

And of course there was Geoff, Jesse’s dad. He had a good throaty laugh that seemed on the verge of ending up as a coughing fit; unsurprising given the roll-ups he smoked. Geoff was a fine deliverer of jokes, often recounting bits and pieces of Monty Python to the teenagers who sprawled in his lounge drinking tea and talking shit. Politically incorrect just enough to scandalize, but never falling foul of being crude. Well, not much. And not often. He would sup cider and watch late night TV, chipping in small nuggets of wisdom in a voice sandpapered by the passage of years. And those endless roll-ups.

Our little gang of friends went our separate ways, rarely straying far from each other. Even now I write this knowing my oldest friends are in Southampton and Brighton respectively (and knowing this makes me wonder why I don’t see more of them). There were times when we would re-unite, and it was a rare Christmas that passed without a visit to the house. We’d stumble in, beered up, warmed by the buzz of nostalgia and familiarity. Geoff would us bid us sit down on the couch, and we’d quickly slip into the old routine of jokes and one liners of our teenage years. Now in our twenties we traded quips, savouring our long friendship, sharing good times, sharing our victories. And sometimes our defeats too.

Geoff passed away recently. Those god-damn roll-ups got him in the end. I’d not seen him for a few years, and knowing I won’t again is a hard thing to accept. A bright star from my childhood now darkened.

Goodbye Geoff.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Thoughts on Joe Abercrombie

It seemed like a good time to pull this review out of storage,  what with Mr Abercrombie visiting London soon for an event with Myke Cole and Peter V. Brett. Find out about that HERE.

This interview originally appeared at TotalSciFi.Com

Seems like the entire army of the Union is piled into one valley, and Black Dow has assembled the hardest Named Men, the toughest Carls and every boy who can lift a blade to see them off. Outnumbered, plagued by petty rivalries and operating on fear, rather than loyalty, they don’t stand a chance, but those are the times…

Joe Abercrombie performed a rather charming subversion of the classic fantasy tropes with The First Law Trilogy. Since then he’s been writing masterfully crafted standalone stories, which is almost a subversion of the genre itself. The Heroes is refreshing in that it doesn’t need to be told over three (or more) books.

Furthermore it doesn’t matter if you’re already part of the Abercrombie bandwagon, or have just signed up; the book is rewarding to the new and returning reader alike. All high fantasy heroics and moralising go out the window from the start. This is Abercrombie territory, where men who kill don’t do so because they love it, but because they’re not really good at anything else. If you want dashing elves riding unicorns to save virginal princesses from demons, turn back now, this book is not for you.

The Heroes has a stellar cast of troubled, frequently shady or outright unhinged characters that are a joy to read and will have you frantically turning the pages to see if they survive. And survival is about as much as anyone can hope for in this grim tome. Cutting back between the army of the Union and the hordes of the Northmen, we see that petty rivalries, naked ambition and internecine hostility are as much a danger to the soldiers as their enemies on the battlefield.

Far from bringing the nobler aspects of the men to the fore, this battle only serves to put everyone’s motivations under the microscope – the findings are rarely pretty. It’s not all dark, gritty bloodshed though. Abercrombie’s trademark gallows humour elevates this from misery-fest to wryly-observed war story.

VERDICT: 10/10
Once again Abercrombie rewards readers with a novel you will not want to put down. A fast-moving plot, memorable characters and an epic sweep all combine to make The Heroes a fine example of the genre.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Fiction Uncovered Podcast

I was on the radio with Fiction Uncovered a few weeks back. I was a guest along with John Berlyne from the Zeno Agency and Bella Pagan, Senior Commisioning Editor for Tor. Not intimidating at all.  So intimdating in fact I forget to say who I am during the introductions. *Facepalm*.

Check it out here. We're the seventeenth podcast down.

The topic was 'Advice for Aspiring Writers of Sci-Fi', although I was very much there in Bookseller mode, as opposed to my recent incarnation as signed writer.

Note: This was before the announcement of my deal with Gollancz, so I'm not being coy, I was just keeping that particular cat in the bag. No cats were hurt during the recording of this radio program, it was just a figure of speech. I have no idea where I got my accent from if you're wondering. Probably a cereal packet.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Guest Posting

Worth mentioning that I'm guest blogging over at Pornokitsch, which among other things is my favourite blog on the interwebs (bar perhaps ).

Why not head over there and stick around for a bit. They've even got an interview with K.J. Parker, who wrote The Folding Knife, my favourite novel in 2010. And this post by Adam Roberts is pure heaven... so get to it. Go on.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

On Social Media

My Xbox Live alter ego
 is TobiasMourn.
We live in linked in times. Social media is the digital glue that holds the world together. It’s also the platform for endless snark and possible Life Fail. I’m a private person by nature, my dirty laundry stays in the basket, my meltdowns occur in padded rooms. As such I’ve made the decision to make my Facebook account a ‘Close Friends and Family’ affair. 

If you want a 24/7 fill of my wry wisdom I suggest you follow my Twitter account. I will stun you with inane babbling about the spice melange and the Tyrell Corporation. I also surface on Google+ very occasionally. And there is this blog, which serves as my own wee soap box to the world. It has a comments section and I will always reply, although I can’t guarantee how timely the responses will be.

So, in short, don’t be offended if I don’t accept your Friend request on Facebook, it’s nothing personal.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Achievement Unlocked

I first started writing when I was twenty-five. I didn’t have a clue, or a plan, I just started writing. I’d worked at Forbidden Planet in Southampton and was lumbered with the book department because no one else wanted it. It was around that time a guy called China Miéville released a book called Perdido Street Station. You may have heard of him, he’s pretty good.

A few years later I found myself having a cup of tea with said author who asked me if I wrote. I shrugged my shoulders and made a joke about writing ‘bad Blade Runner’ type Science Fiction before giving up. But I did start writing again.

After a brief spell of redundancy I found myself working an admin position in a magazine publisher. I wasted no time and quickly started harassing people to give me freelance work  reviewing books. I wasn’t earning much, so free books and a bit of pocket money were all to the good. After 18 months I persuaded someone to let me hustle over to editorial and was introduced to Andrew James, who was always enthusiastic and helpful.

I then did all those things people in publishing take for granted: I started a blog, wrote short stories (largely inspired by Jon Courtenay Grimwood) and started going to conventions. I even ended up shooting the breeze with Pat Mills, Tony Lee and Brian Talbot on a panel. In 2009 I started and finished a full-length novel for the first time. This after three attempts where I ran out of steam.

Then disaster struck; I was made redundant. I applied for jobs in the mornings and wrote in the afternoons. Finances aside, I was perhaps the happiest I’ve ever been. And then I was lucky enough to be invited to the Gollancz 50th anniversary party.

‘Hello Den, are you writing anything at the moment,’ said Simon Spanton, Deputy Publishing Director of one of my favourite SFF imprints.
‘Well, you’ve caught me at a good time’ I squeaked in my most manly and professional tones, ‘I’ve just finished a short story for Jurassic and I’m coming to the end of a novel.'
‘I’ve got this idea for three books,’ he said. 
‘Sure,’ I replied, nodding as if it were the most natural thing in the world for Simon Spanton to be asking some half-arsed blogger to write three books for him.
And that’s how I found myself writing three volumes on the approaches to warfare by the classic fantasy races. Three tomes of elves, orcs and dwarves, an entire world world to create, histories to write, and battles to evoke.

Needless to say I’m out of my tiny mind with excitement.

A huge thank you to the entire Gollancz team, especially Simon for taking a chance on me.
Yeah, I know. I can’t quite believe it myself.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Night Driving

A rare confluence of Dylan Thomas, Richard Burton, and Cliff Martinez (along with a huge marketing budget) produce this wonderful glimpse of the nocturnal.

Stumbling across this video started a long love affair with the Solaris soundtrack for me. It's a curiously minimalist piece of work that builds gently in places. At other times there are dream-like ambient sculptures of sound, rescued from becoming obscure by lush orchestral (yet suitably sombre) strings.

Night music. For the times when sleep doesn't come and all that's left are the introspections of a restless mind.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Plate Spinning

I’ve been tinkering away at various creative projects for the last few years and now find myself in the unusual spot of seeing them come to fruition. Here’s a quick catch-up:

First and foremost of these is The Fizzy Pop Vampire, which I wrote about Here. I never really intended to be a children’s book author, but I had an idea and ran with it. Then Sarah Anne Langton got hold of the idea and she ran with it too. You can buy it from the Apple Store. And of course there is the obligatory Faceache Page, where you should ‘Like’ it, naturally.

The second project has recently shown the faint stirrings of life after a spell of hibernation. DECONSTRUCTED is a five issue Science Fiction comics series I wrote back in 2010 and the early part of 2011. It follows the fortunes of a salvage crew (and their Engineer Sophie in particular) as they embark on a mission to an icy planet shrouded in mystery.

DECONSTRUCTED has its own blogger site, which is worth checking out for the art. I chunter on about the obvious influences that informed the script in various posts, which allows me to wax lyrical about film too. 
I’m not unusual in being a massive Geek and wanting to write comics. I’m possibly a little different in that I opted for creator owned instead of wanting to write about men in spandex for DC and Marvel. I’ve always preferred my own worlds to the ones other people create.

There’s more sketchy goodness over at the Faceache page too, set up to largely encourage Chris Christon to get scribbling. Shannon Gallant and Andie Tong have also contributed art to the project, along with character designs by Julian Parry.

One plate that seems to be spinning quite nicely all by itself is the ebook edition of Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse. This impressive (digital) tome features great stories from Lauren Beukes, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Tom Pollock, Lou Morgan, Andy Remic and Kim-Laikin Smith (along with a few others, including yours truly).
Pandemonium is available from the Amazon Store.

Anne and Jared (who are my favourite Geek Culture terrorists bar none) edited Pandemonium. If you enjoy their work why not check out other releases from Jurassic Publishing such as Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke and the Pandemonium Stocking Stuffer 2011.

And then there’s The Boy With The Porcelain Ears, that I’ve been writing, reading, re-reading, tinkering and teasing into shape for over a year now. Porcelain is set within a medieval setting where things are not quite what they seem. There’s a distinct absence of High Fantasy races and magic, think instead Gormenghast with a great deal more sword fights and bad language. You can read a first draft of the first chapter here. Not content with writing one novel set in this world I’ve also started the follow up, which is intensely fun. No agent, publisher or plans for these novels just yet.

Lastly, there is the secret project, which I can’t talk about just yet, but is a total game changer for me. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that ‘secret project’ has been taking up quite a lot of 2012. What you might not know is how much fun I’ve had whilst writing it. Which is to say, plenty.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Fizzy Pop Vampire Is Go

Sometime ago I mentioned that I had a children’s book in production with the artist Sarah Anne Langton.  You can read how that creative process occurred here.

Hmmm, spoiler alert.

And now, the day has come. The Fizzy Pop Vampire is winging his way to an iPad (or iPhone, or iPod touch) near you, right now. If you’d like to get in on the confectionary-related madness you can obtain a copy for yourself over at the iTunes store.

Anne C. Perry of Pornokitsch says it's "The cutest book about the importance of good dental hygiene you'll ever find." 


Monday, 19 March 2012

The Fizzy Pop Vampire – Story of a Creative Process

Seven years ago I summoned a strange creature from my brain meats and gave him a tiny story of love, loss and redemption. The love was for lemonade, the loss was... well, I won’t spoil the story, and the redemption was sadly lacking. I’m no illustrator, and so the tale of Fizz (as I call him) was purely a written affair.

I got a job at Titan shortly after and met someone who I thought was a good fit for the project. I pitched the idea at her and crossed my fingers. Nothing happened and I busied myself writing reviews and scraping together an RPG supplement, forgetting about Fizz altogether.

Time passed.

Then, one day, Fizz came up in conversation with the Web Mistress at Forbidden Planet, one Sarah Langton. She rather liked the idea and asked me if she could have a crack at bringing the sweet-toothed nocturnal terror to the printed page. Sure, I said, not realising that I’d misplaced the original story.

Fangs for the memories.

I re-wrote the whole thing from memory, which is to say I started over and hoped it would be as good as I’d remembered. Sarah started on a concept for Fizz and things were underway. Fitting in illustration around a full time job, an addiction to Portal 2, and an irrational shoe obsession (seriously, she has loads) is no mean feet, erm, I mean feat.

Waiting for art to materialise has to be one of my least favourite things in the world, so I got on with other projects. Stuff like Tales of Japan over at Weaponizer, The Boy With the Porcelain Ears, and a short story for those awesome kids over at Pornokitsch.

And then suddenly, without my realising, Sarah had completed the book. She even made little proof copies and we had interest from a publisher.

What could go wrong?

The publisher got cold feet, deciding they couldn’t distribute a children’s book (a concern of mine from the get go). We brushed down our respective egos and started hitting up agents and even directly approaching children’s publishers.

We heard nothing. No one was taking a chance on new projects that didn’t come from established authors. Or so we were told. I shrugged my shoulders and went back to writing about people with swords and nice jackets. Sarah didn’t get mad, so much as get even.

Screw the publishers, was her rationale, I’ll go straight to iPad. Which is what is happening this week, all due to Sarah’s hard work.

So the take away from this short (and possibly uninteresting) blog post is this: nothing ever comes easy. If you’re working in a creative environment it’s likely to be damn near impossible, but you should not give up.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Thoughts on Viriconium by M. John Harrison

Viriconium is a collection of work based around the titular city and is often cited by China Miéville as a work of particular importance. By chance fate conspired to throw me a free copy, and so I’ve worked my way steadily through the Masterworks edition, which collects together Viriconium Knights, The Pastel City, Lords of Misrule, Strange Great Sins, A Storm of Wings, The Danser from the Dance, The Luck in the Head, The Lamia and Lord Cromis, In Viriconium and A Young Man’s Journey to Viriconium. The first piece was written back in 1971 and subsequent novels and short stories were spawned over the next fifteen or so years.

There’s a certain pugnacious quality to the various works that defy categorization. They throw out their chin and square up to the reader, willfully weird and standing against any preconceptions we fragile readers of SFF might be clinging to. Gone is the idea one simply  illustrates Mordor or Rivendell. Viriconium will not be pinned down by such a prosaic thing  as a map. There’s a determined and well-executed ideal that systematizing the unreal is a wholly pointless endeavor, and so Harrison makes the Pastel City unmappable.

Viriconium is no static thing, but often fought over and made anew. Much of it stands derelict and whole portions pre-date memory. The surrounding landscape is littered with technology of bygone eras. The city is a mystery to the very citizens who depend on it, for Viriconium is the last of the great cities. True, this would seem to be a quasi-renaissance era secondary world at first glance, but the rusting detritus of past civilizations in the deserts and ferocious weapons quickly reveal a world that is in its twilight years, and long past its best.

It’s not just this post-modern approach to the Fantastic that marks Viriconium out as one to watch, but the prose itself, which is as rich and complex as any ‘proper’ literary movement.  This powerful writing coupled with an eye for the surreal and ridiculous makes for curious and exciting reading. Take for example Tomb the Iron dwarf, who spends much of the stories towering over his friends (despite his short stature) with the aid of a mechanical skeleton he pilots to war, cleaving all asunder with his axe.

Harrison's treatment of his characters echoes his attitude toward the city. There are allusions to reincarnation, many change and are altered from story to story, succumbing to madness, war or simply old age.

These stories are challenging oddities that really stretch the limits of storytelling and I fully expect to return to them in a few years and re-discover another facet of the Pastel City I missed on my first reading.

For more on Viriconium why not follow the link?