And now for something completely different.

 

Let us wander back a bit.

It is the year 340AD, we are in The Bishop of Rome’s Residence. In the private office of Pope Julius I a lackey approaches the man writing at the desk. Pope Julius I,  like all good business men,  had decided there was an opportunity being missed.

Lackey: Excuse me,  Your Holiness, but you asked me to remind you about the Nativity issue.

Julius: Oh yes, the date.

Julius covers his eyes and jabs at the calendar on his desk with his index finger.

Julius: 25th of December, how does that fit in?

Lackey consults his papers: That is the Pagan Mid- Winter Festival Your Holiness.

Julius: Bonus Points! Another one bites the dust.

Lackey: Your Holiness, Isn’t that also around the Feast Day of St Nicholas of Turkey?

Julius: Yes I believe it is. Even better, we have a Mascot for the event.

And so it was that St Nicholas,  patron saint of boys, sailors and unmarried girls (is it just me or is that a bit suspect?), aka Sinter Klass,  aka Santa Claus like all good mascots became as important, if not more so than the superstar team  he was supporting.

And they all lived happily ever after and made lots of money, corrupted millions, destroyed lives all in the name of religion and greed.

The End

Bit harsh you say? No not at all. The above scene is based on Vatican History. Don’t get me wrong, I love the diversity of humanity’s many faiths. I can spend hours reading about the many Gods, Prophets, and Deities mankind prays to. I weep with joy at the peace others find in their devotions. I just don’t feel the need to partake of any myself.  If pressed I would probably call myself a Humanist crossed with a good old fashioned Pagan, but I can’t stand being pigeonholed.

Its Christmas time again and I have the worst case of Bah Humbug yet.  Tis the season to be jolly! Why can’t you be jolly the other fifty odd weeks of the year? Peace on earth and goodwill to all men! Why isn’t this the normal way to exist? Can’t we be joyful, charitable and loving all year? Are our attention spans so short?  Are our hearts so small and brittle? The hypocrisy of it all drives me spare.

It’s the whole seasonal sideshow that irks me and every year it’s starting earlier. The stores have been full of tinsel and toys since August. The sounds of Northern Hemisphere Christmas Carols and Sleigh Bells haunt my every step. ( It’s bloody 40 degrees Celsius outside people ),  The TV runs a loop reel of Great Deals 24/7 and if I get one more Christmas Sale Brochure in my letterbox I will gleefully skewer the Postman.

I, under protest,  attend end of year work parties where before the drunken groping and fights begin, vain and stupid adults complain (read brag),  about how much money they had to spend on their little Johnny for Christmas. I’m sorry, but on what planet do you spend $1,000.00 plus on your brat of a child? Oh he had to have the latest Apple Appliance because all his friends have one and he has to fit in. Your child knows you are gullible morons and is playing you for all he is worth.

Then there is the Political Correctness of Happy Holidays. To quote author Zig Zag Claybourne who says it far more eloquently than I can :

Folks get bent out of shape every year around this time about people saying “Happy Holidays!” Happy Holidays ain’t anti-Christmas. I don’t think Christmas has anything to worry about. As a holiday, I’m pretty sure it’s caught on. Be cool. It’s not even political correctness (which, when I find who coined that annoying bit of fearful drivel, I—-completely against the spirit of peace and good will—-will smack him or her hard enough to release their DNA); “Happy Holidays” just sounds a lot better than “Happy Kwanzmakah!”

All I am saying is wake up people. We need to start loving and caring for each other 365 days of the year, not just when the multi-nationals tell us to. Not just because it’s in scripture. But because we are all in this together and some of us need a bit of help to have a chance at happiness. Instead of spending that extra $100 on cheap schlock at the checkout, go online and donate to World Vision, Medicins Sans Frontiers or whatever charity tugs at your heart. But don’t just do it once, do it all year every year. Give some food or your time to your local shelters. Smile and talk to a stranger, you may be the only human they interact with that day. It’s not much and the backwash of joy is like manna.

Have quality time with your friends or family however you choose to celebrate. Do it through- out the year, not just in December. Give them all an extra hug and smile this year, and tell them that you love them and really mean it when you say it. I know that families can be a trial, but accept we are all flawed beings and if it’s possible make it happen.

My love, blessings and best wishes to all of you.

 

Christmas is not a time or a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.

Calvin Coolidge.

_______________

Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t  come from a store.

Dr Seuss

 

My thanks to Zig Zag Claybourne for allowing me to share his wisdom.

More on : http://thingsididatworktoday.blogspot.com.au/

 

By Leanne Ellis.

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SYNOPSIS:

Set in a richly-imagined world, this action-heavy fantasy epic and series opener is like a sword-and-sorcery Spartacus.

It starts with a shipwreck following a magical storm at sea. Horace, a soldier from the west, had joined the Great Crusade against the heathens of Akeshia after the deaths of his wife and son from plague. When he washes ashore, he finds himself at the mercy of the very people he was sent to kill, who speak a language and have a culture and customs he doesn’t even begin to understand.

Not long after, Horace is pressed into service as a house slave. But this doesn’t last. The Akeshians discover that Horace was a latent sorcerer, and he is catapulted from the chains of a slave to the halls of power in the queen’s court. Together with Jirom, an ex-mercenary and gladiator, and Alyra, a spy in the court, he will seek a path to free himself and the empire’s caste of slaves from a system where every man and woman must pay the price of blood or iron. Before the end, Horace will have paid dearly in both.

BLOOD and IRON: Review.

Rating 4/5 Stars.

Horace Delrosa is a broken man. Running from his pain and past he takes work with the Etonian military on a supply vessel, he alone survives the storm that wrecks his ship. Rescued and then enslaved by the Akeshian Empire his life as a foreigner lost in a strange and harsh land looks bleak.

Boulanger-gustave-clarence-rudolphe-french-1824-1888-the-slave-marketBut then he meets the warrior Jirom and a friendship is formed based on respect and a mutual  drive to gain their freedom from this cruel race. But strange events drag them both into the danger and intrigues of the Keshians, off in opposite directions they are soon struggling to survive. Jon has imagined a wonderfully unique world full of magic, warfare, twists and turns, cruelty and love. His characters are well formed and relatable. The Queen is delicious, Alyra clever and resourceful, Lord Mulcibar the mentor, and all the other dark and light personalities who populate this world.

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What I really enjoyed was the magic. Jon has dealt well with what is often a mistreated fantasy tool. His descriptions of the processes required and the different forms taken by the magic of this world is fresh and believable.

There is great humour, piercing sadness and some horror aspects. I enjoyed Blood and Iron a lot and look forward to Storm and Steel in 2015.

 

JON SPRUNK: Profile.

I grew up in central Pennsylvania. The eldest of four children, I attended Lock Haven University and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1992. Athough I had always been an avid reader of speculative fiction, it was during my college years that I developed a broader passion for literature and began my first awkward forays into fiction writing. Encouraged by my professors and peers, I set out after graduation to become a “Serious Writer.” Unfortunately, I had failed to notice the specter of Reality stalking at my back. When my disastrous first fantasy novel failed to find a publisher, I bent my knee to the Real World and sought gainful employment. Crushed, I thought my dreams were over.

Over the next decade I married (twice), changed jobs (numerous times), and after much soul-searching, returned to writing. Like most writers, I suspect, I tried to go it alone, seeking to pound my head through the glass ceiling of my innate talent through sheer willpower and effort. Finally, after many more rejections, I joined Pennwriters and attended their annual conference in 2004. I am both proud and ashamed to admit that I learned more in those two days about the business of writing than I had in the previous ten years. I was also getting the first inklings of why my fiction had not yet made me a household name. Up till then, I hadn’t known how to fashion a true story.

So, I did what any Serious Writer would do. I joined a writers’ group (Pennwriters, to be exact). And I read about the art of writing, a lot. I started to admit to myself that perhaps I could use a little help, that the next Great American Novel wasn’t going to spring from my head, full-grown and ready for world acclaim like some literary Athena.

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Since then I have seen some success. I’ve had several short stories published and in June 2009 I signed a multi-book contract with Pyr Books. Best of all, I have the love and support of my wife, and that makes all the difference in the world.

INTERVIEW:

BCN: When did you first feel the need to write? Is it something you have always done, or did you come to it later?

JS: I started playing around with writing in middle school. Mostly poems with a fantasy flavour and isolated scenes. That developed into a desire to actually write novels sometime during high school. I started my first full-length fantasy novel in my junior year, and finished it shortly after graduating college (5-6 years total).

BCN: Are there any books or authors in particular that you find inspirational?

JS: Oh, yes. Tons! As far as author, there’s Robert E. Howard, Tolkien, Leiber, C. Ashton Smith, Cook, Lovecraft, and so many others. Some of my favourite novels are LoTR, Anna Karenina, Stranger in a Strange Land. One of my gifts, if you will, is that I find inspiration in so many different things and people.

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robert e howardanna karen

BCN:  Where do you find your characters? Do you use people, personalities you like/loath you see or know? Or see something on TV or other places? Or do they appear as the story unfolds?

JS: For the most part, they come from within. That is to say, I write the characters that feel right for each particular story. In that sense, I’m not really a “trained” writer. I work from instinct.

BCN: Do you have a writing routine? Or is it something that when inspiration strikes you write non stop till you have it all out? How does being a family man fit into your creative world?

JS: I used to write willy-nilly, but having a job and a family means there are time constraints. Currently, I write while my son is in school.

BCN: I liked the magic and battles in Blood and Iron, do you think there is a move away from traditional fantasy/ sword and sorcery books by authors and readers?

 JS: I think everything comes and goes in waves. I’m currently reading the Malazan series by Steven Erikson, which features plenty of magic and battles. And from the feedback I get, fantasy readers still love those classic elements. But in the end, I have to write what appeals to me. That may not always be the most consumer-friendly thing to do, but it remains true to me.

moonBCN: I was impressed with the way you handled Jirom’s sexuality. Do you feel there is an honesty starting to filter through fantasy/ sci-fi writing about characters whose tastes may not be the so called normal?

JS: I see it happening more and more, whereas in the past it might have been hidden. Mainstream culture is starting to embrace diversity in all its flavors. I hope it’s clear that I didn’t “make” Jirom that way to serve an agenda. That’s simply the way the character revealed himself to me as I wrote the book.

BCN: What is next for your readers? I know I am looking forward to the next book in The Black Earth series.

JS: The second book in the Black Earth series is with the publisher, and I think we’re aiming for an early summer 2015 release. I’ve been working on the storyline for book three and hope to actually begin writing it  soon. The series will wrap up with book four. After that . . . who knows? I have a few ideas for different books/series.

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BCN: And finally, what is your favourite cake?

JS: Yellow cake with chocolate frosting, with those little crunchy candy letters.

Thank you Jon for your time.

If you want to contact Jon or find out more about his books his website is http://www.jonsprunk.com/

He is also on twitter http://www.twitter.com/JonSprunk

and facebook https://www.facebook.com/JonSprunkAuthor/

 

By Leanne Ellis Aka BR

wow cover sean rodden

SYNOPSIS

Book one in The War for the North.

WAR IS DESCENDING UPON SECOND EARTH. Red winds howl. Monstrous armies march. Foul powers from the past rise……… In Druintir, ancient city of the Fiannar, a dashing young Ambassador from the Erelian Republic finds himself embroiled in both the preparations for war and the fiery heart of a beautiful Fiannian Shield Maiden. From Druintir three legendary heroes are selected. WAR IS DESCENDING UPON SECOND EARTH. Red winds howl. Monstrous armies march. Foul powers from the past rise……… In Druintir, ancient city of the Fiannar, a dashing young Ambassador from the Erelian Republic finds himself embroiled in both the preparations for war and the fiery heart of a beautiful Fiannian Shield Maiden. From Druintir three legendary heroes are selected and sent on a final desperate quest of destruction. Upon Druintir marches the torrential tide of the Blood King’s army; at its head the horrid demonic creatures called Waif and Urchin, the formidable Halflord and his indomitable Bloodspawn…….. Beneath banners bright and beautiful, and aided by allies old and new, the doughty yet dwindled Fiannar ready for a war they know may very well be their last………. Drawing from history, mythology, philosophy and theology, the story is exquisitely layered, extremely well-written, with strong plot, sub-plot and character developments. Humour, horror and heroism abound, and the places, people and relationships are compellingly believable and captivating. Comparisons to classics like Lord of the Rings and to modern popular fantasy epics such as Game of Thrones are inevitable, but the author has certainly carved his own distinct niche between the two with his unique style and fearless deviation from the standard tried and true formulaic fantasy tale. Brilliantly done

REVIEW

5 /5 Stars

This book is one of those lovely surprises I receive occasionally in my book reading travels. No hyped publicity telling me how wonderful this book is and I must buy it, no author’s face / cover art all over my media feed. This book and it’s author came to my attention through friends and I believe that can be the best way to discover new things.

Sean Rodden writes in a lyrical almost old fashioned style. There is lots of wonderful imagery and the author is a very competent with his play of language. As it says in the synopsis there is definitely LOTR comparisons but the author has his own unique style and his creation of Second Earth is all his own. The history and mythology are detailed and well constructed. The quotes and verse at the beginning of each chapter are an extra treat. There are horror elements, written deftly, subtly, but still dark and shocking. There are places and people of magic and beauty shimmering amongst the demonic forces destroying their world. Multiple layers of secrets, both political and personal to intrigue the reader. And there is great humour, droll and dry just the way I like it.

But the characters are the stars of this book. Axennus & Bronnus Teagh, the Erelian brothers, Ambassador and Captain, leaders of the North March Mounted Reserve. The interactions between these two had me chuckling as I read. Teji Nashi the Dice man healer who is so much more. Runningwolf the Rheln man, outcast and spirit warrior. The other members of the North March Mounted Reserve. The majestic Fiannar. The unyielding Daradur. The Athair Sun Knights. Kor ben Dor  leader of the Bloodspawn and his Black Shield warriors. There are so many more. All well fleshed, compelling and well written characters.

I will finish with this quote from Chapter 7.

 

“Few are the sorrows that surpass

that of a good tale gone untold”

Old Erelian Toast

There is no sorrow, the good tale is told.

 

SEAN RODDEN : PROFILE & INTERVIEW.

 

Sean Rodden is a native of Ontario. He shares his home with one cat, two dogs, five turtles and three children. When he isn’t writing Sean runs a Specialty Steel Business, enjoys the great outdoors and follows the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Team. He collects Belleek Pottery from Ireland, likes his food Hot ( extra sauce on Double Suicide Wings) and his music to be in the  Melodic Metal and Hard Rock genres. His favourite band is ACCEPT. He has happily found a near perfect work, writing, leisure formula that is envied by many.

mu29BCN: When did you first feel the need to write? Is it something you have always done, or  did you come to it later?

SR: I was always an avid reader, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I started writing.  My first real effort came in the second half of grade eight.  My best buddy and I were so far ahead of the rest of the Language Arts class that the teacher suggested we each use the time to write a story.  Mine was a mythological fantasy set in post-Iliad ancient Greece called ‘The Aster’ (yeah, I was a little nerdy).  As I remember, it was quite the tale, but the teacher failed to return the story, and she quit teaching at the end of the year (because our class was just THAT bad), so the story is long lost now.  Since that time I’ve written several short and long stories, hundreds of poems, and a few abandoned efforts at novels, until finally completing ‘Whispers of War’.  So yeah, writing has been with me most of my life.

BCN:  Are there any books or authors in particular that you find inspirational?

SR: My inspiration comes from all over – mythology, history, life experience – but I often feel pumped to write after reading a good book, especially good epic fantasy.  The great Canadian writers Guy Gavriel Kay, R. Scott Bakker and Steven Erikson often leave me drooling to write.  And, of course, anything Tolkien can cause me to make a mad dash for the pen or ‘puter.

r scott stev erik

BCN:   Where do you find your characters?  Do you use people, personalities you like/loath you see or know? Or see something on TV or other places? Or do they appear as the story unfolds?

SR: I tend to take the easy road and  write about things I know.  The story creates the characters, but the writer gives them their personalities.  I often apply aspects of personalities of people I know or with whom I am familiar, and exaggerate or downplay these as necessary.  I usually have a good sense of each character beforehand, but sometimes I feel the need to go back and adjust somewhat as the story fills itself out on the page.  And yeah, I’ve even been known to slip myself in there a time or two…

BCN: Do you have a writing routine? Or is it something that when inspiration strikes you write non stop till you have it all out?

SR: I have absolutely no writing routine whatsoever.  It comes when it comes, and when inspiration strikes, it tends not to last very long – an hour or two, tops.  I usually write one to three pages at a go, then leave it for a least a day, usually more.  If I try to force it, it turns out like shit, only worse.  I don’t control it, it controls me.

BCN: I know I liked the fantasy aspects in Whispers of War, do you think there is a move away from traditional fantasy by authors and readers ?

SR: Yeah, and I don’t like it.  But to each his or her own.  I prefer classic epic fantasy with a strong poetic foundation.  I do find the drift into graphic sex and violence, and especially pedophelia, in modern fantasy to be very disturbing.  I believe the author has a responsibility to his reader.  Apparently, the traditional publishing world and some of its most successful writers disagree.  Oh well.

BCN: What is next for your readers? I know I am looking forward to the next book Roars of War.

SR: ‘Roars of War’ is coming along nicely…shooting for early 2016.  Following the release of ROW there will be larger single volume version of ‘The War for the North’, which will include WOW, ROW, a related short story or two, and an expanded glossary of sorts.  Should make for one big-ass book!

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BCN: What is your favourite cake?

SR: Well, before this it would have been cherry cheesecake – I always asked for cheesecake for my birthday when I was a kid ( just another reason for my friends to think me weird)…but now I guess it has to be Bloody Cake!  Just hope it doesn’t have too many calories…the old metabolism  isn’t what it once was…

Thank you Sean for your time and the confectionery flattery.

By Leanne Ellis

Sean Rodden can be contacted through facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=806265726&fref=ts

and has profiles on both Goodreads and Amazon.

 

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SYNOPSIS

Edward the Third stands in the burnt ruin of an English church. He is beset on all sides. He needs a victory against the French to rescue his Kingship. Or he will die trying. Philip of Valois can put 50,000 men in the field. He has sent his priests to summon the very Angels themselves to fight for France. Edward could call on God for aid but he is an usurper. What if God truly is on the side of the French? But for a price, Edward could open the gates of Hell and take an unholy war to France . . . Mark Alder has brought the epic fantasy of George R.R. Martin to the vivid historical adventure of Bernard Cornwell and has a created a fantasy that will sweep you to a new vision of the Hundred Years War.

 

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REVIEW

Rating 5/5 Stars          

 

 

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, 

and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”   

Isaiah 45: 7 King James Bible

___________

” Shall I tell you a story?”

” Tell me about the making of the world”

” Again?”

” I like the story”

 Nan squeezed him to her.

And what a story it is. Son of the Morning takes everything you know about good and evil, heaven and hell and throws it on its ear, then gives it a kick while it’s lying there wondering what happened.

We are in England, the year is 1330 and King Edward III is having a rough time of it. He needs to win a war against Philip VI of France to retain his crown. Edward has no money, less men than Philip, a black mark against how he came into his kingship, and no heavenly support because of it. He is lying, dealing, mortgaging everything he has and has not to keep his position.

Philip has a huge fortune, large numbers of men, and the support of the church and it’s angels and banners to aid him in his war against Edward. But he is paranoid and untrusting of his own family and the power struggles that are building. With good reason. There are plots within plots. Alliances with evil forces and shifting loyalties.

The characters are wonderful. Dowzabel the boy Luciferist. The antichrist. Holder of the key to open Hell. Bardi the banker, only looking out for himself. The Mortimer, the usurper . Isabella she of dark magic, Montagu the Kings man who lost his faith. They are all entertaining and intriguing. Mark Alder’s descriptions of the people, the smells, the filth and the cruelty,  and the actions taken bring you right into the world of his making. I found myself totally caught up in events.

The battle and conflict scenes are well written. The dark and bloody scenes are well done, graphic and effective. The creatures are imaginative and quite grotesque in some cases. The angels magnificent and alien.

For me the theology is what sets this book apart though. The concepts put forward are intriguing and relatable. I admit to being a avid Mythology and Theology fan, reading anything I can on all cultures and faiths. I found this books version of Heaven and Hell to be just brilliant. Son of the Morning is like an alternate reality that runs parallel to historical text.

Some have said its a bit long (731 pages), that isn’t an issue when a book is this good. I will be reading the rest of this series as it is released and I will also be looking for other books written by this author. Bravo!

 

AUTHOR PROFILE

Mark Alder

Aka: M D Lachlan,  Aka: Mark Barrowcliffe,  Aka: Mark Daniel

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He grew up in Coventry and studied at the University of Sussex. He worked as a journalist and also as a stand-up comedian before he started writing his first novel, Girlfriend 44 under the name Mark Barrowcliffe. He lives and writes in Brighton, England and South Cambridgeshire. Ron Howard secured the film rights for Girlfriend 44 and Infidelity for First Time Fathers is in development with 2929.

Mark achieved early success in the late 1990s as part of the Lad Lit movement, although his writing has little in common with other writers who were bracketed under that heading. He is nearer to Terry Southern, Jonathan Coe and Martin Amis than he is to Nick Hornby or Mike Gayle.This is more than likely a matter of presentation, as most of the British versions of his novels have appeared in the candy-coloured covers favoured by lad and chick lit publishers. Mark’s  early work was noted for its cynicism and black humour, although Lucky Dog strikes a lighter tone, that of comedic magic realism. The Elfish Gene is a memoir of growing up uncool, confused, and obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games.

As M D Lachlan Mark is writing the Wolfsangel Cycle Books. These are a  historical fantasy/horror hybrid that reflects Mark’s childhood reading on the occult and witchcraft. ‘If it makes you laugh, I’ve done something wrong’ says Mark.
The MD in MD Lachlan stands for Mark Daniel – Mark’s real name. He went with initials instead of a name because, as so often in his life, he didn’t really think things through. Now he attends publishing events where people don’t know what to call him. He wishes he’d gone with Mark Lachlan but it’s too late now.

Now as Mark Alder he has begun a new series starting with Son of the Morning. Also historical fantasy/ horror based on a fascinating time in European history.

The man has more aliases than a cold war espionage agent.

INTERVIEW.

BCN: When did you first feel the need to write? Is it something you have always done, or did you come to it later?

MA: I’ve done it since I was able to. Most of the time at school I was writing comic stuff and I remember it as very rewarding to hear people laughing at what I’d written. I wrote several books of comedy before I came to fantasy.

BCN: Are there any books or authors in particular that you find inspirational?

MA: Too many! I am a bit of a style-hound. I love a good story but I also like someone who can really form interesting, original and arresting sentences. I started with PG Wodehouse when I was very young and loved Raymond Chandler too. Then it was Anthony Burgess – clearly Clockwork Orange in particular and Shakespeare. I remember the first time I saw Macbeth I was swept away by it. In fantasy Tolkien was a major influence, Ursula Le Guinn, Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber and more recently Robert Holdstock, Philip Pullman, GRRM and Joe Abercrombie. When I write a book I try to read around the area to get into the feel. With Son of the Morning it was Chaucer (in modern translation) because I wanted that real 14th century earthy, funny, violent and strange feel to the book.

Chaucer

I don’t look to modern writing for direct inspiration because, if you do that, you’re stuff can end up as a pale copy. Some people are excellent at writing typical genre pieces, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. I’m not, so I try to come up with something a bit different.

BCN : There are so many great characters in Son of the Morning. Where do you find the characters? I know there is a historical base but do you use people, personalities you like/loathe you see or know? Or see something on TV or other places?

MA: If the characters work, they just start talking to me and arrive fully formed. However, I do sometimes see someone who I think bears a strong physical resemblance to how I imagine a character. I picture the Florentine mercenary Orsino, for instance, as the Italian footballer Andrea Pirlo.

pirloI don’t have a very visual imagination so most of the characters I see in glimpses, like memories of people you met a long time ago. They come alive in the writing for me.

BCN: Do you have a writing routine? Or is it something that when inspiration strikes you write non stop till you have it all out?

MA: I did have a writing routine and then I had two kids. Nowadays I fit it around child responsibilities, the administrative super-gravity of modern life and teaching fencing (insert pun here). Last night I started writing at 10 at night and finished at 4 in the morning. That seems to work best for me, though it may well lead me to a ‘pretty much when we expected it’ grave.

BCN: How have people taken the contradictions of faith described in your book? Have they been receptive to this alternate history?

MA: Some people have clearly not understood it’s fiction. I am not saying that Lucifer made the world. I have no idea who, if anyone, made the world and my opinions on the birth of the universe are not informed enough to be worth committing to print. I’m just playing with the contradictions of faith as it was understood by medieval people. If you say God ordains the social order, appoints kings and gives them his power and similarly that fixes the poor in poverty and that social mobility is a sin against his, will then who do the poor turn to if they want to improve their lot? The theology of the book emerged as I wrote it and was a surprise to me – particularly the Luciferian view of the identity of Christ!

BCN: What is next for your readers? I know I am looking forward to the next book.

God-Speed19201080MA: The sequel to Son of the Morning is underway, with Isabella (She Wolf Of France), the Black Prince and a couple of other characters having more prominent roles. The pardoner is back, as is Dowzabel. The angels have gone and now devils and demons vie for control of Europe!

BCN: What is your favourite cake?

MA:  Coconut Rock Cake from the Pavilion Café Brighton.

 

Thank You Mark for a great interview.

Mark can be contacted on:

facebook  https://www.facebook.com/md.lachlan

and https://twitter.com/aldermark

 

 

 

jeremy pic jeremy award

A Dome of Chrome.

A Dome of Chrome is an award winning short story. It is a Sci-fi tale of human expansion in new worlds, making contact and forming relationships with other races and how there will always be people who lose their humanity. I have read this and many other short stories produced by Jeremy Szal and I absolutely agree that he is a young man who will do great things with his writing. Please click on the link to read this great story.

 On The Premises Magazine, Issue #23, Honourable Mention (read)

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Profile:

My name is Jeremy Szal, a 19 year old university student in Sydney, Australia who spends far too much time reading and writing science-fiction and fantasy stories when he really should be studying.

If it wasn’t obvious, I love stories. I love writing ‘em, I love watching ‘em, I love reading ‘em, I love playing ‘em, the list goes on and on. Science fiction, fantasy and horror draw me in more than the other genres do, particularly in literature. I’m also someone who writes them.

Interview:

BCN: When did you first feel the need to write? Is it something you have always done, or  did you come to it later?

JS: Not sure, really. My earliest memories are from reading books that my mum would give me on holidays. Then a weekly trip to a bookshop was quite a regular thing, and I’d pick out my own choices. I just loved stories, and I remember reading the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in a single car trip, and then re-reading them on the way back.

And since I loved to read the stories, I always wanted to write them. I remember sitting on my computer and just pounding way, writing whatever came to mind. I was 14 or so then, and I had no clue what I was doing. My work was a cross between faux neo-noir and urban sci-fi. And of course it was dark – darker than someone my age had any right to be writing about. But I was dedicated; I’d write after school, on holidays…hell, I’d get up at 6 and start writing. Can’t do that anymore – I’m getting old.

It never went anywhere, and looking back I’m glad that it didn’t. I felt discouraged and stopped for a while. I was busying with studying and didn’t have the time. Then in Year 12 (or last year of school for you Brits and Americans) we studied science-fiction as a genre. I was introduced to books like Dune, Neuromancer, Frankenstein, Brave New World and A Princess of Mars. We watched cinematic masterpieces like Blade Runner, 2001 and The Martrx, along others. I was enthralled. I loved every second of that class, and would retake it in a heartbeat. But it really inspired me to dig deeper into science-fiction, so I started buying sci-fi novels and coming up with my own ideas.

A few days later I finished my studies, I started writing my first proper novel. I finished it during the summer holidays, and I’ve never looked back.

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BCN: Are there any books or authors in particular that you find inspirational?

JS: Far, far too many. The unapologetic and brilliant pulpy John Carter novels. The gritty space opera of Iain M. Banks and his truly alien aliens. The lavishly dark and epic work of Joe Abercrombie. The fantastic prose and characters of Mark Lawrence. The poetic and magnificent work of Robin Hobb. George R. R. Martin’s world of unparalleled scope and brutality. The galaxy spanning space opera of Peter F. Hamilition. The down to earth urban grittiness of Michael Grant. Peter Watts, Brandon Sanderson, Karen Traviss, Greg Bear…we could be here all day. Suffice to say that I find many, many authors to be inspirational. But if I had to narrow it down, I’d say that Abercrombie, Banks, Traviss and Martin had the biggest influence on me and my writing style.

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BCN:  I loved your charcters in your short stories.  Where do you find the characters? Do you use people, personalities you like/loath you see or know? Or see something on TV or other places?

JS: Thanks for that. And honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I really, really couldn’t. They just come to me whenever they feel like it, and I put them down in words. It’s as simple as that.

Of course, there’s always someone who I’ve despised over the years. I give them little cameos in my stories, and they always die horrible deaths. It’s rather fun.

BCN: Do you have a writing routine? Or is it something that when inspiration strikes you write non stop till you have it all out?

JS: Tricky. I try to write every single day. I don’t always manage to do so, but I still make it my goal. But there are certain times that I do, like late at night or in the evenings. The majority of my spare time is spent reading, and that always gives me a boost to plunk myself down at the desk and let the words trickle out. We all build off each other in a way. I read an awesome story, and I also want to churn something good.

At the same time, I’m also a university student, have a part time job, amoung other things, as much as I’d like to, I can’t just reject my responsibilities, wear pyjamas, drink coffee and write all day. One day, perhaps…

jeremy QFT_no7BCN: Do you think a lot of life experience, of mixed occupations, travel, study  helps your writing? Are people surprised when they learn your age?

JS: Hmm. I’ll break this down in two. I’ve lived in Europe, Thailand, and my birthplace of Australia. I’ve travelled almost every year to somewhere new (I just came back from Thailand). I’ve visited ancient castles, old moats, torture chambers, temples, etc. And while they definitely do give inspiration for writing, I wouldn’t say they help in a significant way. Sci-fi and fantasy isn’t restricted by time, place or location. One short story was partially written in blizzard winter of Austria, partially in sweltering Thailand, and partially on the plane. Although there’s definitely inspiration to be found, I wouldn’t say that living in suburbia would largely effect how you describe a military war ship or an abandoned planet anymore then if you were living in a palace. The galaxy’s the limit. That’s the beauty of it. Although I will admit the torture chamber gave me a few ideas…

And yes, I get a few people surprised at my age. I was 18 when I sold my first short story, (six months ago now) although Gear Bear did it when he was 15. I’ve been told by many people that 18 is an exceptionally young age, but I don’t think so. You have to start somewhere, and I didn’t want to wait until I was fifty-five with a wife (ha!) and a few kids running around.

I’ve even had people tell me that I may even be too young, which I also vehemently disagree with. You can only get better. Every rejection letter helps you know you’ve got to improve, so you do just that. So my advice: don’t wait! Get those quills out and start scratching away. You have no idea how many people I’ve met that claim to be ‘writers’, but admit that they just need to figure out a way to get the words down on paper…

BCN:  What else is on the horizon from Jeremy Szal? A book deal? A short story Anthology?

JS: I originally decided to write short stories because my original novel wasn’t going anywhere. Since then I’ve had nearly twenty published. It’s a gold mine, and I’m not going to quit writing them anytime soon. And although I am going to be in several upcoming anthologies, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever publish one. I don’t self publish, and I never will. As I said, rejection letters are good. If it’s not good enough for traditional publishers, then you’re doing something wrong.

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And about a book deal, I’ve nearly finished a novel of mine. An editor from one of the “big five” has already shown interest in it, which is enthralling. We met at a SF/F convention, and we exchanged details. I keep the business card on my desk while I write, and it really helps me out. I don’t know if it’ll go anywhere, but I’m praying that it will. And if it doesn’t, I’ll write another. And another, and another. Until I strike oil. Just make sure to be there to buy ‘em when it happens, eh?

BCN: What is your favourite cake?

JS: Pfft. That’s easy. Black Forest cake. Or anything with lots and lots of berries.

 

 

Thank you Jeremy.

This is the link for more on Jeremy’s short stories:  http://jeremyszal.wordpress.com/short-stories/

Jeremy can be contacted through his blog :  http://jeremyszal.wordpress.com/

he is also on facebook and twitter @JeremySzal

By Leanne Ellis.

They say everything happens for a reason, but they never tell you what that reason is. As if they have just given you the first part of a story and it is now up to you to finish it.

10600600_10152642472232156_4451562379486677766_nIt’s half past six on the evening of 12th August as I join a seemingly never-ending queue in Forbidden Planet, London.  I’m standing there meekly, surrounded by fans enthusiastically conversing about Robin Hobb, who is signing her new book, Fools Assassin, out on the day.  The sad truth is, I haven’t read any of her books… Yet.

What’s more, the fact that she has already read an interview I did with her editor, Jane Johnson, makes my position even more embarrassing. Hence I arrived here this evening trying to get her first book, Assassin’s Apprentice, as advised and strongly recommended by Gemmell Legend award-winning author and friend, Mark Lawrence. Mark is also known as the creator of super villain Jorg Ancrath, so there can be no messing around here.  I steel myself. I might never have been to a book signing before, but I know my bookstore. If only I could just push past these few hundred people to get to the shelves. And I do.

The Forbidden Planet Megastore is an enormous piece of amazing sci-fi/fantasy heaven. They have a huge selection of signed books, an amazing collection of graphic novels and geeky merchandise. They have regular events, signings and very helpful, lovely people working for them. If you’re ever in London, I very highly recommend a visit.

1622253_10152642473047156_3170623516283231441_nSo, anyway, a little later I’m standing meekly in the queue, pretending I’m not that crazy woman who just waded through an entire crowd to discover that ALL Robin Hobb books have been previously removed from the shelves and transported to a big table near the signing. I compose myself, trying hard not to show how completely out of place I feel amongst her readers, avoiding eye contact, in case they start chatting to me and asking questions, as if I am in some sort of danger of being found out and immediately evicted from the premises. But as I’m trying, rather unsuccessfully, to hide I catch sight of a friendly woman with long brown hair, waving to me from the front, near the signing desk. I know her.  She is Jaime Frost, HarperCollins publicist. But for all I know she might be waving at someone else, right? Behind me? No. She’s calling out my name now, giving me an amused look upon seeing my utter confusion. And that’s me, right there, very neatly captured: Crash-landing, as usual, right into the middle of things from another planet, but getting the green light to go, even so.

10603223_10152642488822156_7922945227500356246_nTime passes. Eventually I’m ready to leave the store some time just after eight, happily posting on Facebook about my dedicated copy. Despite being one of the last in the queue, I don’t get to talk much to the author as she has another billion copies carried to her table to be quickly signed, so instead I have a quick chat with Jane Johnson. She spots and compliments me on the thorn rune necklace I’m wearing and I inquire about her time at the Edinburgh Festival with George R.R. Martin. I also ask her to sign two of her own wonderful books that I’d brought with me – The Salt Road and The Sultan’s Wife.

After this I walk through a rainy Covent Garden to check out another event I’d booked a ticket for: ‘Fantasy in the Court’. All I know is that there are supposedly many authors taking part and you can get your books signed. I arrive there (already bearing no less than three signed books) to find people happily chatting away in Cecil Court and as far as I can tell no signings going on whatsoever. The little bookshop is absolutely packed and it’s almost impossible to get close to the shelves and choose anything. I only truly recognise one person in the crowd, who also notices me and very kindly turns to say hello – Joe Abercrombie. Although I had briefly met him here just about a month previously, he has since been on a US signing tour, where he presumably met many readers, so inside I’m somewhatCapture flattered he recognises me – even if I had given him a bloody huge chocolate-whiskey cake on that occasion. (It was the launch party of his new book, Half a King, after all.)

Right now I’d like to buy one of the other books of his that I haven’t read yet. I decide on The Heroes, but I’m told at the till that they only have his old books at higher prices, and Heroes would be around £60. Knowing I’m seeing him the next day at Fantasy Faction’s Grim Gathering I choose not to proceed and finding the crowded, loud bookshop a little too much, I decide that perhaps this event is not for me after all and that I should leave.

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I’m just stepping out of the door when I suddenly come face to face with fantasy author / military officer Myke Cole, with whom we did a quick interview last year for our Facebook page (back then we hadn’t created this blog yet), and since I follow him on social media we interact online every now and then. He’s very friendly and quickly introduces me to his beautiful girlfriend, Mallory O’Meara and various other people he’s chatting with. One thing leads to another and I end up having a great night out, meeting both new people and ones I already know, rounding it all up in a nice tapas bar in good company, including Viking expert fantasy author Snorri Kristjansson and two of the loveliest people I ever met in publishing, Jo Fletcher books’ very own Andrew Turner and Nicola Budd.

The next day is Grim Gathering day. It’s actually the sunniest, warmest day we’ve had all week, as if even the Gods from above would want a clear, pleasant view of the proceedings. And we’re all in for a treat!

10386822_10152593784847156_6119224580918034098_nFantasy Faction, led by Marc Aplin, somehow manages to bring together four gritty fantasy authors we all want to see in the same panel: Peter V. Brett, Myke Cole, Mark Lawrence and Joe Abercrombie. There is a happy, excited buzz downstairs in Waterstone’s Kensington Bookshop as we gather, filling up the space completely. And though I cannot claim to be a big expert on panels, I would say this one works like magic. It’s intelligent, interesting, funny and most of all, highly entertaining. A fellow blogger, Jaco van der Byl, captures it perfectly when he writes:

“Their personalities are unique and quite complimentary. Peter V Brett is thoughtful, confident, and well-spoken. Myke Cole is a philosophical motivational speaker with a shotgun. He’s a veteran—thank you for your service, sir— and still works for a police department and the Coast Guard while being a god in his “spare” time. So, his personality makes sense. Mark Lawrence is soft-spoken, and commands a great deal of wit. Joe Abercrombie is the loud-mouth, but in a good way. He’s charming, charismatic, and naturally funny. Good best man material.”

10620664_10152598594332156_2111127467290802827_nMany times, when Myke Cole says something, I find it so inspirational; I feel like wildly clapping afterwards. I feel especially motivated when he talks about how arts should never be restricted and that you should always head towards things you are scared of. I think there might be a video online about all this soon, so I won’t go into great detail. Suffice to say, that we enjoy it a lot and it seems to come to an end all too soon. The panel is followed by a book signing, where all four of them are awesome enough not to just sign, but even doodle in my books.

For my part I prefer dedications in copies I’m currently reading or about to read to having them in perfect hardbacks destined to sit on bookshelves untouched. For this reason I ask Mark to sign a David Gemmell book for me I haven’t read yet (and since I often see people commenting on how their styles are similar and given that he’s won the David Gemmell award this year, this just feels appropriate). The store doesn’t have Myke’s first book I’m yet to read, so I get the most recent one, Breach Zone. Once again I almost get The HeroBu_KHwiCMAA3R6f.jpg largees by Joe Abercrombie, but a guardian angel presses a Half the World ARC into my hands while I’m queuing, which having just read and reviewed Half a King, it’s prequel, I’m most pleased and excited to receive.

As for Peter V. Brett I buy his first book, The Painted Man, and as a little story on the side I explain to him how I couldn’t really get into it before, but I want to give it a second try. Basically last year, after I finished King of Thorns and entered the ranks of Mark Lawrence’s more serious fanatics, I was looking for something to distract myself with. This was a time when I felt like murdering every single cheerful reviewer of the Emperor of Thorns ARCs, (THE BASTARDS!!!), while I was brooding at home about the unfairness of the world, most terribly EoT ARC-less. The Painted Man was the first of many books I picked up to soothe the pain. Nothing helped. But this is all fine, because I’m ready now and I know that this is an exceptionally good fantasy series (all my friends who have read it tell me so). And really, he’s a very popular author, if not the most popular out of the four and being honest, I’m nobody. So there is no harm in telling him all this with an apologetic smile, it’s not something that is likely to bother him, after all.

But as I finish my piece I see something behind those eyes. I couldn’t call it hurt or even disappointment. It’s like a dark shadow flying swiftly past the sun. It’s the tiniest, unconscious flicker that breaks my heart on the spot and makes me feel like running away to find a quiet corner and reading the book immediately, so I can tell him how much I loved it.
I feel really bad even later, as we’re all in a pub, but when Mark hears about it, he still gives me a powerful little speech on how good The Painted Man is, as only someone who repeatedly broke my heart with his own books can. He loves Peat’s books and I’m really not sure how to reassure him that this negligence on my part will soon be rectified.
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During this event I meet a number of other people I was looking forward to seeing in person. Author T.O. Munro, whose excellent Lady of the Helm I’m currently reading, is definitely one of them. I also get introduced to Ace Books legend, Ginjer Buchanan, who I have huge respect for. It’s great to chat with other readers I only ever see online and the evening goes by too quickly.

Something I will never forget, though, is watching Mark Lawrence talking with his readers, who stand around him in a circle in front of the pub. To be more precise it’s him talking endlessly, enthusiastically and his audience drinking it all in, mesmerised, their smiles reaching their big, bright eyes as they listen.

10505305_10152597996922156_6014794854944548550_nOnly the previous day Mark tells me how he himself was always anti-social. ‘I knew a guy,’ he reflects, ‘a math genius, completely hostile to company, but when he needed to “turn it on” the whole room focused on him – he held everyone in his hand… a kind of magic…”. Bullshit, Mark, I think to myself smiling, since he IS that guy, right there! It’s like watching precisely a kind of magic you cannot name, but it touches your soul and you know it to be true. You know it to be right. Our ancestors were sitting around the storyteller a long time ago at the fireplace, enchanted just like this. I try to take some photos of them, but the pictures fail to give back any of this. As if modern technology still hasn’t really learned to capture what’s important to the heart.

 

Two days later I’m accepting an invite to a birthday party not to be missed. Apparently there will be a magician, face painting, cake and everything. We are to celebrate Jo Fletcher books’ fourth year anniversary party.

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That evening I walk into The Fox at Excel, which I find to be a massive pub, full of folks, convinced that I cannot know more than five of them at most, but as it happens I find one of them, Michelle Herbert, almost straight away. We soon find Andrew Turner together, who to my great disappointment decided against dressing up as Batman as originally planned, and other friends we met earlier this week.

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Having said that, my general impression throughout the night is that people are very friendly and easily approachable. They are all happy to make your acquaintance and network. In fact, if you tell them you’re a blogger, they give you their cards straight away. Seriously. You fancy an author/publishing person and want to find out more about them? Just say you’re a blogger. I swear, it works like a charm.

10577076_10152644819292156_7955568161357785121_nVery soon, on my way to the bar, I bump into an American novelist friend, Daniel Polansky, who is the author of the excellent noir fantasy trilogy, Low Town. He gives me the last copy of his new short story, ‘A Drink Before We Die’ (fittingly, while we wait to be served at the bar) and then introduces me to a number of other authors, including Robert Bennett and John Hornor Jacobs, while in turn I introduce him to Wesley Chu, I’d also just met.

I manage to chat a little with all of them. Robert’s much acclaimed book, City of Stairs is coming out in hardback here, in the UK. We get an excerpt at the party, which I quickly get signed. Also, he’s one of the most hilarious guys I follow on Twitter.

10509635_10152602667122156_691702019259820734_nAbout two hours later Dan tells me that he’s leaving soon, so I ask him to look after my bag for a few minutes while I quickly look around to see if I can find Jane Johnson and her husband to say hello. I do a few circles and eventually come back to the table disappointed, at which point someone tells me to check outside as many people are out there.

I walk through the downstairs area once more, through the doors and eventually make my way towards the tables. It’s fairly dark outside and I cannot see Jane anywhere, but suddenly I spot one of her authors sitting right in front of me.

Capture12I hesitate to ask him, but there is Dave Lally, a BSFA membership officer I had met earlier at the bar (and whose card I’d received, ha!) sitting with him at the table, and he’s inviting me to come closer, saying it was OK. So I walk on, looking at an author I would recognise anywhere, and tell him ‘Sorry, I’m looking for Jane Johnson. I really didn’t think it was going to be you I’d find here instead.’ He smiles as we shake hands and informs me that he’s definitely not Jane. Not that I cannot see that the person who seems to find my introduction so amusing is in fact none other than George R. R. Martin.

Damn, I think to myself as I remember my bag being with Daniel, who is leaving soon, so I explain the situatio10450344_10152602666397156_888260720994202861_nn and politely ask if I can come back and sit down once I have retrieved it. An artist sitting at the table turns to me and tells me that they don’t want people hanging around. But George, ever so kindly, doesn’t even let her finish her sentence and reassures me that it is fine.

So I walk back to Dan a little dazed and end up returning with my bag and him. I quickly introduce him to George, they shake hands and it feels like we are just two kids thoroughly excited by the prospect of being allowed to sit with and listen to the grown-ups talk. I feel fine. And calm. But truly I’m still in some sort of shock as I tell George about my previous interview with Jane, emphasising how I think it’s fascinating to see authors through their publisher’s eyes, that an interview with them can be sometimes even more interesting than what you’d hear from the author, himself. He really doesn’t know what to say to this revelation. I expect by now he has a wide range of polite answers to being asked for interviews, but perhaps he’s yet to find one to this new kind of approach I’m so enthusiastically presenting him with.

Capture2For the next hour or probably more I mainly just sit there quietly, watching him curiously and listen to the conversations.  I decide I like George. There is just this fantastic positive energy to him, matched by fierce intelligence behind those eyes, mixed with joy and a fair amount of mischief. There is a line about J. R. R. Tolkien in The Pitkin Guide to Tolkien by Robert S. Blackham, which says:

“Tolkien often demonstrated high spirits – sometimes on New Year’s Eve, he would dress up as an Anglo-Saxon warrior or a polar bear and chase his neighbours.”

Somehow, observing George, I wouldn’t really be surprised, if I heard similar stories about him.

For now he sits there like a Godfather of modern fantasy, while people keep appearing every five minutes to pay their respects. The closer ‘associates’ get to sit down and stay longer and as such, Lord Grimdark himself appears after a while and joins the table. I cannot help but grin as I shake Joe’s hand the third time in four days. This ‘bloody’ woman is just everywhere.12502_10152602148427156_6890661494926746059_n

As Daniel has left some time ago, it’s actually quite nice to have someone else around who I already know and whose books I read. I understand more from their conversation as I observe the two men, who undoubtedly have a mutual respect and appreciation for each other’s works, blithely interacting.  I also sneakily take a picture of them, each, as surely no one is going to believe this of me otherwise.

Once Joe leaves too I end up talking to George’s friend, Melinda M. Snodgrass, who sits between the two of us. Melinda, who has known George for a long time and also created the Wild Card Series with him talks to me a bit about herself and both her and his influences. She’s absolutely lovely and supportive as she asks me about myself and patiently listens to me rambling on about my impossible journey that within a year saw me being pulled into the very heart of SFF from absolutely nowhere.

10378068_10152602148702156_3945394066408435692_nI passionately talk to her about The Broken Empire series that changed my life so completely and my friend, Mark Lawrence, at which point George looks up at us, too and asks: ‘Is this that thorn guy?’ A simple question in a London pub that triggers immense joy and wild enthusiasm in fans across half the world as Mark posts about it online the next day.

The evening eventually comes to an end and as we’re standing up George steps towards me to shake hands again and say good-bye. I’m absolutely melted by the gentle kindness he’s showing to me, something I will remember and carry with me for the rest of my life – like a token woven into my own story as a reminder when I next read a story of his or write mine.

 

10606113_10152606817702156_6250926248343987928_nEncouraged by all these events I decide to actually buy a day ticket for the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention for Sunday and see what a WoldCon is all about.  I’ve heard somewhere that it is the biggest in Britain to date, even that it is the biggest so far full stop, but one thing is certain, it is huge. Just the pocket programme guide is 240 pages long.  I’ve never been to the Excel (Exhibition Centre London) before either and the only thing I can compare it to as I’m walking through its large main corridor punctuated by many cafes is an airport.

Arriving at my first ever convention day after attending the Jo Fletcher party on Friday also makes me feel like I’m now here for school. There is a vast timetable and the first class I pick is with Myke Cole, who takes part in a panel discussing drones. He’s being his own charismatic self, his explanations both interesting and enjoyable. He has a certain air of command to him, confidence and thoughtfulness, which all makes me think he must be really great to work with.

10380293_10152606817332156_2367692495115720131_nNext I go and attend another panel with Mike Carey on it. Mike Carey is a British writer, author of the Felix Castor novels, writer of Hellblazer, adapter of Gaiman’s Neverwhere and writer on X-Men Legacy and Ultimate Fantastic Four for Marvel Comics. Earlier this year I reviewed his book, The Girl with All the Gifts, which was most excellent and I cannot recommend it enough.  Today he’s talking about writing and pitching comics with Maura McHugh, Paul Cornell, Debbie Lynn Smith and Mary Talbot. It is fascinating to hear about creating comic books from a writer’s perspective and the collaborations between writers and artists.

Once the panel has finished I go and say hello to Mike, but as we’re both bound elsewhere we decide to meet up later in the afternoon. I leave the room and attempt to find in the programme guide where Scott Lynch’s reading will take place. Except it’s not there. Though I’m pretty sure there is one in two minutes because I’d seen it online the previous night.

10613017_10152606812947156_7213671811388501467_nI’m hurriedly flipping through the pages but I just can’t see it anywhere. Maybe there is a separate section somewhere for readings? To get out of others’ way, as they are all rushing to their own things, I slump into an empty chair and spend the next five minutes searching for the damn location in vain. By this time I’m quite annoyed because I’m certain I’ve missed it. In the end I solemnly resign myself to doing something else instead and look up briefly for inspiration. But as it happens there is no need to look any further. Scott Lynch, himself, is less than a metre away, right in front of me.

At least I think it’s him, as I’ve only seen him in pictures before. He stops briefly at a water cooler on my right to get some water as I’m staring at him in disbelief, then he rushes on with three people around him which in turn makes me shoot up from the chair and dart after him. It’s not easy but I somehow manage to overtake him as we’re all speeding through the corridor, so I can see his face again and ask if he is indeed Scott Lynch.

10419606_10152606815127156_4734703559370553989_nHe confirms my suspicion and I inform him happily how I’m coming to his reading. ‘That’s great, then you can maybe show me where it is!’ He says with some clear frustration in his voice. It turns out they went into the wrong room by mistake and were now also looking for the right place. Someone in his team, however, seems to know where we’re supposed to be, so we’re just all following the person hoping she’s right.

We rush through corridors, stairs, go out of the building through one door, come back in again through another, all the while I just can’t believe my luck and start enthusiastically babbling to him randomly about mutual friends and acquaintances, how I’m supposed to know how great his hair is and God knows what. To his credit he endures it with remarkable patience while he’s clearly annoyed by running late and as we’re racing through the massive building side by side in such a peculiar manner, it’s not unlike one of those hilarious scenes you see in television comedies.

Finally we come to a small corridor with doors on both sides and lots of people waiting outside. For a heartbeat I hesitate. Maybe they haven’t gone in yet? But I’m not going to lose sight of him now and I fling myself after him through the last door. It’s full of people. Definitely the right place. There are no more free seats but I can stand at the wall, just next to the door. He apologises for a sore throat as he sits down to the desk and starts reading. I can’t help grinning as I take a few pictures of him, broadcasting my good fortune online and eventually happily melt into his keen audience.

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Half an hour later it’s Joe Abercrombie’s turn to take over and read from his own book. To my astonishment a few people stand up and leave with Scott. I have no idea why they are going or what those noisy people still outside are waiting for, (what else can be more interesting?), but I take one of the seats quickly, so when Joe walks in I’m already smugly sitting in the middle of the first row (where else?).

10615633_10152644971037156_5407350372727254647_nThere is some discussion taking place at the door regarding the lack of free seats and that is the moment when it dawns on me that all those people waiting outside are there, because with no more free seats left they were not allowed in. I silently gulp as I realise how I would have never made it in had I known where the reading was going to be in the first place. Funny how sometimes only by being lost you can get to the place you were meant to be.

Joe very generously offers his chair to a person, so one more fan can be let in and proceeds to read standing from his upcoming book, Half the World. I feel the title ‘Joe Abercrombie reading’ does not do credit to the business we are being presented with and it should be immediately renamed as ‘The Joe Abercrombie Show’ – in the best possible meaning of the phrase. Joe Abercrombie is a natural entertainer, who seems to enjoy the attention and we are all happy to give it to him. He is captivating, he’s funny, he’s energetic. He hardly looks into the book as we are treated to a highly enjoyable theatrical performance. He reads the first chapter, then answers a few questions and the half an hour flies by quickly.

10580062_10152605728857156_450188842900895895_nIf at this point, you are still with me reading this, you are doing great! And I’m impressed! With both of us!🙂 So let me tell you how I make my way to the Second Stage where Jane Johnson is about to interview Robin Hobb. No one is getting lost this time. There is a huge queue in the middle of the building in front of the auditorium, indicating where everybody is heading. I join the end of the queue fifteen minutes before it starts and, guess what, somehow I still end up in the first row. Maybe only because I’m alone, but to be fair no, I don’t know how. The acoustics are very good however and there is a huge screen, too, so everyone can see and hear every word of the superb conversation very well.

10505309_10152605744952156_6642667652763471374_nThere are a lot of interesting things mentioned during the good hour we all sit there and what strikes me the most, having yet to read her books, is the extraordinary planning work cleverly reflected in the series. Robin Hobb tells us how she is very fond of puzzles and how seeds of storylines are carefully planted throughout the books to grow, flourish and bear fruits at much later stages. They also talk about the importance of the editing process and how much work is still being done once Jane points out parts she feels need more clarification.

I have recently written my own little first short story, which I have shown to a friend, who pointed out a handful of things needing further explanations. At that point I felt a little disheartened for not realising those things myself before and not entirely sure if I can even break up my precious writing now and stick in ‘stuff’ for further clarification, but their honest account of the serious work they do together when editing a book comes as a great comfort and encouragement.

1511634_10152606812382156_4374397100216983968_n

I leave the auditorium feeling motivated and much taken with Robin Hobb, as a person, to go and find another one of the coolest authors I’ve ever known, Mike Carey. The X-Men comics were amongst my favourites back when I was just a teenager and the thought of meeting and chatting with someone who actually wrote the series for a while is amazing. However, once I find him and we sit down in one of the eateries, it’s The Girl with All the Gifts that I start talking about. He tells me that the movie they are making from the book is coming along nicely. He also tells me what he’s writing about currently, which I’m not sure I’m allowed to say, so I won’t, but the concept leaves me with the same feeling The Girl with All the Gifts had on me – chilled to the bone by the very idea but wanting to know more.

10432127_10152645116362156_3628546419922942910_nWe talk a lot about writing and I listen to him awestruck. He makes me realise something I guess I have already known, though we all sometimes just need to have things thoroughly spelled out for us. As he speaks he reminds me that fantasy as such has no limits and through the many books and stories he mentions I become more and more aware that when it comes to my own writing, I’m holding back. Somewhere on the way I’ve built walls around my imagination that feel safe and grown-up, despite the fact that some of the best stories have the craziest ideas behind them, and I feel my eyes are re-opening to a world full of possibilities.

10641022_10152645114137156_5575933674226902178_nAlso, not that I’m not impressed with him writing another novel, being involved in movie making, television series making, comic writing, taking part in events and I don’t even know what else, what I consider a particularly amazing achievement is finding out he wrote two novels together with his wife, Linda and their daughter, Louise. He laughs, as he tells me, that of course there were many arguments, but this collaboration helped him immensely to be able to write Melanie’s character so convincingly later in The Girl with All the Gifts and also taught them a few things about each other and themselves.

10310666_10152606817537156_7690730003113502267_nAfter a while we leave the café and walk to the market, which is set up within one of the huge halls. While we are both looking at books at one of the stalls, he finds a copy of the first novel he wrote with his wife and daughter, The City of Silk and Steel, buys it and dedicates it for me on the spot as we stare on, lost for words, with the Forbidden Planet staff. Of course, when he hands me the book I cannot thank him enough for the kind gesture. I feel very humbled by the generosity and benevolence that he and so many other people throughout these events have treated me to. I share some of the highlights with friends in the upcoming days, who in turn encourage me to write about the seemingly incredible and very fortunate events.  So I arrange the new books on the shelves, my thoughts on the paper, all the while pondering where to take things from here.

They say everything happens for a reason, but they never tell you what that reason is. As if they have just given you the first part of a story and it is now up to you to finish it. Every step I take becomes a sentence in it, every decision a turn. This is my story. What’s yours?

by Mitriel

 

 

 

 

Rough Magic Cover alt - OutlinesSynopsis:

Niksabella the gnome has tinkered in the shadows for years, developing an invention that might change the world, even if she doesn’t know it yet. She has few friends and even fewer allies in the city of Hightower, where social and academic status is quite important. Her brother, Nikselpik, is a cantankerous wizard who drinks too much, sings dirty songs, and makes rude passes at gnomestresses. A dark addiction consumes him, a habit called bugging, which gives him increased power and feelings of euphoria while pushing him closer to death. Dark creatures from the ultraworlds have come calling. Niksabella must fight to protect her life and her invention, while Nikselpik engages the enemy as an unlikely guest of Hightower’s military elite. Niksabella and Nikselpik must find their true powers together, or perish apart. Will they heal the wounds of their childhood before it’s too late?

Review:

4/5 Stars.

This book was a really lovely surprise. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nasty, dark and deliciously twisted. But its also a story about the love between family and how no matter how much they annoy us, abuse us we still stand by them and come when they need us. It’s also about how one young female can make a difference. Niksabella and Nikselpik are sister and brother gnomes. They have had a hard upbringing and have been left to themselves by a non existent family. Niksabella has locked herself away, an eccentric recluse, tinkering with her inventions, exploring the forbidden and avoiding life. Nikselpik is ambitious, magically powerful, unfeeling and addicted, socially awkward,  he cares for only himself, money and prestige. He is a troubled, young gnome whose time is running out.

The landscapes and concept of different worlds that are accessable through magic works well and adds to the threats from within and without. I loved the humour and absurdity. Niksabella”s  conversations with Termund and pushing the First Wizards buttons in the court scenes are very well done.

The baddies are wonderful, Raulnock the First Wizard is the sort of guy you want to punch. He is obnoxious, magically strong and probably a psychopath. The General and his army of amorph controlled, animated hosts are scary. The imagery used to describe the victims of the parasites and their actions is quite graphic and confronting.

I was struck by Niksabella though. She is an amazing female character. Her strengths and weaknesses are so relatable. Her cheeky, tough, clever personality had me grinning. I look forward to reading The Tinkermage and seeing what powers and mayhem Niksabella and Nikselpik unleash..

 

Kenny Soward Profile:

Kenny Soward greCapturew up in Crescent Park, Kentucky, a small suburb just south of Cincinnati, Ohio, listening to hard rock and playing outdoors. In those quiet 1970’s streets, he jumped bikes, played Nerf football, and acquired many a childhood scar.

Kenny’s love for books flourished early, a habit passed down to him by his uncles. He burned through his grade school library, and in high school spent many days in detention for reading fantasy fiction during class. The transition to author was a natural one for Kenny. His sixth grade teacher encouraged him to start a journal, and he later began jotting down pieces of stories, mostly the outcomes of D&D gaming sessions. At the University of Kentucky, Kenny took creative writing classes under Gurny Norman, former Kentucky Poet Laureate and author of Divine Rights Trip (1971). Kenny’s latest releases are ROUGH MAGIC (GnomeSaga #1) and THOSE POOR, POOR BASTARDS (Dead West #1) with Tim Marquitz and J.M. Martin. By day, Kenny works as a Unix professional, and at night he writes and sips bourbon. Kenny lives in Independence, Kentucky, with three cats and a gal who thinks she’s a cat.

Interview:

BCN: When did you first feel the need to write? Is it something you have always done, or  did you come to it later?

KYKENNYKS: My need to write came hand-in-hand with a need to play music. At age six I was reading heavy horror and sci-fi books and playing air guitar to Monkeys and Beatles records. While I kept up with both, music seemed to provide the more immediate gratification, so I spent a good portion of my 20’s and 30’s trying to “make it.” I guess that’s why a part of me still wants to be in the spotlight, and probably why I make YouTube videos, as hideous as they are. But writing began to take over as I approached forty. It provides a broader emotional spectrum to play with, a deeper sense of discovery, and that seems incredibly important to me now. Plus it’s easier on the back.

BCN: Are there any books or authors in particular that you find inspirational?

KS: Indeed. China Mieville. Because trains. Two of his books, the Iron Council and Railsea, both feature those magnificent  iron beasts. I’m slightly obsessed with them, which is why I couldn’t resist creating the train chapters in The Ten Thousand Things. There’s actually a set of train tracks less than a mile from my house Drowning_Girl_book_coverrunning between two hills, and sometimes the distant squalls lull me to sleep at night. Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah, China Mieville. I don’t agree with all his political beliefs, but he writes with a flare that ignites my imagination. I love his characters, poor, hopeless bastards that they are.

Caitlin R. Kiernan. Brilliant curmudgeon. I only say that because she talks about her issues with the world quite freely and honestly on her blog. And I have personal experience with her less-than-pleasant disposition. But I think her personification (and realization) of the typical ‘crazy’ writer gives her prose a deadly sharp edge. There are times when I’m reading a Kiernan passage and I have to stop and think about the depth of what I just read. As a writer, she surpasses me in just about every way, and I admit I’m a little envious of that level of insight. Anyway, enough fawning.

Mist2007I most relate with Stephen King because he seems like a regular dude. Loves Red Sox baseball, steaks, and rock n roll. He’s gone off his rocker on more than one occasion, but he’s still the King. Timeless. He has always had his finger on the pulse of the American culture. Take the Mist, for example. He captures a fair spectrum of American personalities about as perfectly as anyone I’ve ever read – minus LGBT issues, of course. We’re a crazy lot, to be sure, full of contradictions and strife. He captures the good things, too; our bravery, doggedness, and a willingness to help those in need. One of my favourite recent books of his is 11/22/63 which is an epic King story complete with time travel, history, mystery, and tear-jerking moments which break your heart. Ah, I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

BCN: I loved your characters in Rough Magic.  Where do you find the characters for your books? Do you use people, personalities you like/loath you see or know? Or see something on TV or other places?

KS: Thanks! I’m glad you liked them. Nik and Nika, the main protagonists in Rough Magick, evolved from some Everquest Online adventures back in 2001. As I started to develop the actual story, they took on real qualities. They capture two sides of my own personality. Nika, for example, personifies my work ethic and insecurities as an ‘inventor.’ Nik, on the other hand, represents my willingness to ‘wing it’ and my love for good beer and conversation; my sarcastic sense of humor as well. The one big difference between me and Nik is that I’m an ass man, and Nik clearly favors breasts.

As far as my other characters go, I draw from real life people who I may either sympathize with or hate. I work in corporate America, so there’s no shortage of asshole personalities to draw from. TV is also a big influence on potential characters. For me, the Netflix era has helped a lot of things click. The ability to watch episodes of a series back-to-back sheds light on character development and plot weaving like never before.

kenny blissBCN: Do you have a writing routine? Or is it something that when inspiration strikes you write non-stop till you have it all out?

KS: I’ve tried a million different things by now. The day-to-day I have down. I’m a 1 to 2k-a-day type of guy. The ‘big picture’ has been more elusive, like, what can I realistically accomplish in a year? The pattern I’m starting to see is to write and revise for three months, outline for one. That gives me breaks in August, December, and April. I’m constantly inspired, which is frustrating because the day job always gets in the way. I have to pay the bills – I haven’t had the courage or the book sales to ever quit – so the day job comes first. Unfortunately, it often leaves me drained when it comes to producing good words.

BCN: Do you think a lot of life experience, of mixed occupations, experiences helps your writing?

tinkermageKS: Strangely enough, much of the banter in my stories comes from years working in a restaurant washing dishes or waiting tables. From the relationships I developed with co-workers comes some interesting conversations, especially at the most hectic moments.

Me (at Dennis the gay waiter): Hey, quit throwing plates at me. Just set them on the edge there.

Dennis the gay waiter: How about I shove them up your ass next time?

Me (laughing): Oh, you’d like that.

Dennis the gay waiter (with a sideways grin): You’re not my type. I’d get no pleasure out of that.

or

dead westGail the salad wench: Hey Kenny, we need more salad plates.

Me (ducking a thrown crouton): Ask nice.

Gail the salad wench: Don’t make me come over there.

Me (ducking a thrown olive): What? No magic words?

Gail the salad wench: Hey Kenny, get me some fucking clean salad plates or I will destroy you.

Me: Love you too, Gail. Plates coming right up.

It’s trite, but funny, and helps me quickly establish a character’s personality within a few sentences. I’d almost say I’m a bit of an expert in banter. Of course, I haven’t worked in a restaurant in a long time, but that’s where I learned the art of verbal jousting. I still have a lot to learn.

There are the deep depressing life experiences too, which I hate to dwell on, but are necessary for personal and professional growth. Funerals always leave me sort of shocked and speechless. Drug addiction and the resulting deaths from it seem to be a big part of my life for some reason. I’ve known (and still know) a lot of addicted people, so that certainly lends some perspective, especially in the case of Nikselpik and his bugging addiction in Rough Magick. When you have a heroin addict at your house trying to help them recover … it certainly is an eye-opening experience.

BCN: What else is on the horizon from Kenny Soward? The Tinkermage? Any other Kenny Soward Delights in the pipeline we can gnaw on?

18040285KS: I’m always open to be gnawed on. A good gnawing goes a long way with me. I’ve always thought people don’t gnaw on me enough, but maybe after this interview they’ll get hungry for some Kennah.

First thing is that Ragnarok is going to release the entire GnomeSaga series within a six-month time frame. I’m not sure if that’s ever been done before. Rough Magick in September (we hope), Tinkermage in November, and Cogweaver in February 2015. I still have to write Cogweaver but the outline is done so, barring difficulties, I should have it done by December. The announcements have been slow in coming but we’re working feverishly in the background to make this happen.

In December, I’ll be working on an outline to expand upon a novella I completed but never tried to get published. I can’t really discuss the details other than it will be more in the vein of China Mieville’s strange fantasy. I’ll be exploring an incredible new world and more diverse characters than ever before. I’m chomping at the bit to get started, but my heart must remain in Sullenor (GnomeSaga) for a few more months.

After all that, I have some ideas, but nothing solid. Maybe more Dead West?

BCN: Instead of the cake question, I know you are a man who likes his Pizza, what is your favourite type?

KS: As you already know, I’m a simple, ass man. I have no problems with a straight up cheese pizza, especially if the cheese is unprocessed and the sauce is good. My other favorite lands all the way across the spectrum, and is what we call in America the ranch pizza. Green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and bacon with a white ranch sauce. Nothing like a Sam Adams Boston Lager to go with it.

BCN: Thank you Kenny, that was an amazing, funny and informative interview.

Kenny can be contacted through his website: http://www.kennysoward.com
Facebook
Twitter: @KennySoward
Also check him out on Youtube, he is a very funny guy: Kenny Soward Youtube.

 

By Leanne Ellis.