Radio Silence

You may be wondering why there has been an extended period of silence? There’s not been much writing news to share. I’ve got stories coming in a couple of anthologies this year – but nothing I can share at this stage.

I’m now waiting on the copyedit for Seven Deadly Sins and have signed off on the art for the cover so hope to have a series of newsworthy items in the next couple of months.

In the meantime I did an interview with The Speucluative Fiction Showcase here

Writing without Rules -a review

Writing without Rules 

Publisher Blurb:

Stop What You’re Doing and Write! Yes, You; Write!

Most writing guides imply–or outright state–that there’s a fixed, specific formula or list of rules you must follow to achieve writing and publishing success. And all of them are phonies. Well, not completely. There are real, applicable techniques and strategies in any writing reference to help you.

But the idea that there’s only one way of writing? Nuts!

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I was sent this book in return for a review. It’s interesting that I’ve never heard of Jeffrey Somers (sorry) or read any of his books – but now I’m tempted to do so after reading this book. Somers was asked to write this book after some successful lectures and articles for Writers Digest 

As I have written (here) I have somewhat of a penchant for writing books and therefore it is no great chore for me to have to read one for review. I really enjoyed this one – it’s entertainingly written and is from a very similar place to how I approach writing. My first writing book was, like so many others, Stephen Kings’s On Writing and, well, I thought I’d been doing it wrong (I also did a couple of posts about doing it wrong – here & here and I may do more in the future) because he was a writing guru and what he was describing was ‘how you MUST write’ (it wasn’t but that’s how I read it).  I wish I’d read this book first – it would have saved a bunch of heartache…

“There is no ‘right’ way. You have to do things the way you want to, learn your lessons, and take your wins… The fact is, there will be plenty of times when you feel like a fraud or an amateur, convinced that every other writer knows more than you do and is playing the game better. They don’t, and they aren’t. It just seems that way from the outside.”

Somers also introduced me (or re-introduced, although I do wonder if it was his article on Writers Digest I originally read) to Plantsing – Plotting and Pantsing using whatever works from both strategies.

So this is a great first writing book to grab as a starting out writer and reminds you as an experienced writer that there are no rules (I still get hung up on that occasionally) and I’d thoroughly recommend it – not least for the entertaining way it’s written, and the many, many amusing footnotes.

Radio Silence

I’m diving deeper into edits and full days in the word mines for both Seven Deadly Swords and Certainty of Dust so there will probably be radio silence here for a while.

I have seen a mock up of the cover for SDS and that’s very exciting!

It’s likely that the next thing of mine out will be Infinite Dysmorphia (hopefully in May) which I edited for Grimbold:

infinite dysmorphia

Embers of War – Review

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Published by Titan on 20th February.

Ever since I heard Gareth reading from this book I’ve been waiting for it to come out. I was very lucky to receive an ARC from Titan before publication.

He’s given himself a difficult task here – a multi 1st person POV (at least 6 narrative voices), including the ship Trouble Dog and an alien called Nod. It’s worth noting that this is the first book in a trilogy – so has the added complication of giving enough of the universe away to be interesting but not too much so that you don’t feel you want to explore more.

There is a fabulous conceit here that an ancient alien civilisation carved an entire solar system (called the Gallery) into planet-sized sculptures that have since, in the absence of any knowledge of their true function, become a tourist destination.

When a starliner visiting the Gallery is shot down with acclaimed war poet Ona Sudak on board the Trouble Dog, a reclamation vessel, is sent to provide aid. We follow Sal Konstanz and her crew as they dash across the universe on a mission of mercy.

This is a space opera that the author has tackled with gusto and evident enjoyment. He’s very good at keeping you turning the pages and I predict that this will be a very popular series.

What’s happening

One month into 2018 and already time seems to be flying past. I’ve been working on Seven Deadly Swords – responding to the latest edit, and that’s coming along. I’ve also been writing the first draft of Certainty of Dust and writing a few short stories – some speculatively, some in response to requests. I think I’ll have more published this year than last but at this point I am standing at the bottom of a mountain of words that is daunting to climb…

I have already launched one book this year: The Hotwells Horror & Other Stories –

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This volume pays tribute to the memory and talent of David J Rodger, presenting a number of his short stories alongside new stories by friends and admirers; tales we believe would have raised a crooked smile

All the proceeds from the sales of this book will go to the charity Mind.

Talking about charity I have a story in another charity anthology, Voices Along the Road, which will be launched at Weston-Super-Mare Literature festival on 23rd February. Details on Facebook here:

Also in February is a Small Press Big Stories event at Forbidden Planet on 24th where you can come and meet the authors of many small press books, buy their books and get things signed. On the same day, just around the corner in Foyles, is an SFX event which if you’re clever about timings you could also do. I’ll be attempting to appear at both – one in my capacity as a forthcoming Grimbold author and the other with my LitFest hat on.

Further afield and a few months away is Llandeilo Litfest where I’ll be appearing alongside the Bristol Climate Writers on Sunday April 29th. More details of that one when I get them.

I’m hoping to get a few short stories published this year and be in a few anthologies but time to work on shorts is tight whilst there is still substantial amounts to do on both novels.

 

Review Memento Mori

As discussed in other blog posts Birlinn are releasing all of Muriel Sparks’s novels this year on the hundreth anniversary of her birth and they sent me the first 4 for review, as well as Appointment in Arezzo, a new biography.

Next up for review is Memento Mori

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Described by David Lodge as ‘her first masterpiece’, Memento Mori opens with a telephone call and the words ‘Remember you must die’. Over several months, a circle of elderly men and women receive similar calls and everyone becomes a suspect. As the investigating police inspector muses: ‘Death, when it approaches, ought not to take one by surprise. It should be part of the full expectancy of life. Without an ever-present sense of death, life is insipid. You might as well live on the whites of eggs.’ While immersed in the indignities of old age, dementia and death, this novel is both profoundly compassionate and entertaining.

This is one of the 22 novels written by Muriel Spark in her lifetime. All are being published by Polygon in hardback Centenary Editions between November 2017 and September 2018.

This gives you an overiew of a lost world, that of being old-aged in the 1950’s as Sparks’s cast of characters are a bunch of septagenarians (and older). The plot device of the mystery calls is the thread that is meant to draw you through the book, as per the murder in Robinson.

For me this one didn’t work quite so well, as the characters just didn’t grab me as well as those in the first two books. Although there is plenty of Sparks’s ascerbic wit the novel somehow felt more dated than the first two. I’m not sure why this is.

It is full of great lines though like:

“Being over seventy is like being engaged in a war. All our friends are going or gone and we survive amongst the dead and the dying as on a battlefield.”

or

“Mrs. Anthony knew instinctively that Mrs. Pettigrew was a kindly woman. Her instinct was wrong.”

Apparently Sparks had to look after an ailing grandmother and this gave her lots of material for the book. It is unflinching in its depiction of the vicissitudes of growing old and post-war anxieties about class and death. As such it’s an odd little book and it’s difficult, at this remove, to see what a lot of the fuss is about – like it is hard for me to understand exactly what was so scandalous about putting washing out on a non-prescribed day of the week…

My least favourite of the books so far. But still an entertaining read.

Next up is The Ballad of Peckham Rye

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