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Monday, August 13, 2007

Howl of the Werewolf

My fifteenth book is due to be published next month, fifteen years after I received my first commission as a freelance writer. That first commission was ‘Spellbreaker’ an adventure gamebook in the Fighting Fantasy series (number fifty-three, in fact) published at the time by Puffin Books. These books are unusual being (as their name might suggest) as much game as they are story. The reader becomes the hero of the book, which is then related in the second person present tense.

A few years ago, the Fighting Fantasy series (created by legendary games gurus Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone) saw print again, now licensed to Wizard Books. Having re-published all of Steve and Ian’s titles, those by some of the original series other authors started to see print. I was fortunate enough to be one of those writers, as a result of the interest garnered in the intervening years by ‘Bloodbones’, due to be the sixtieth book in the original series but which never saw print at the time.

To cut a long story short, ‘Bloodbones’ saw print last September, two more of the books I wrote for Puffin for the FF series – ‘Curse of the Mummy’ and ‘Spellbreaker’ – were re-printed and I was approached to write a brand new adventure gamebook for the newly re-vitalised series. The result is ‘Howl of the Werewolf’, which is already available for pre-order from Amazon. To give you a bit more of an idea of what the book is about, here’s the blurb I wrote for the back of the new paperback edition.

Lupravia is a cursed land; a chill place of snow-capped mountains, brooding forests and mist-shrouded moors, haunted by the spirits of the restless dead. Peasants struggle daily with survival, living in constant fear of attacks from ravenous wild beasts. Only the foolhardy or insane would willingly pass beyond its borders and enter that benighted realm of predators. But enter you must, after a vicious wolf attack sets you on the path to murder and madness. Steadily succumbing to the call of the wild and the beast within, YOU must seek out a cure to your condition before the next full moon. But how long can you survive in a land where the powers of darkness hold sway and all live in fear of the Howl of the Werewolf?


Two dice, a pencil and an eraser are all you need to immerse yourself in a world of dark fantasy adventure. And, even if I do say so myself, I’m really pleased with how this one has turned out.

The finished book wouldn’t be what it is without the very fine work done by illustrator Martin McKenna. He has illustrated numerous Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and I was delighted to be collaborating with him again. We are obviously inspired by similar brooding gothic imagery and he really took my picture descriptions and ran with them.

Martin has produced thirty-six original black-and-white internal illustrations for the book and he was also the artistic genius behind the fabulous, and very moody, cover. You can see many more examples of his work over at his own website,
here.

'Howl of the Werewolf' is due out on 6 September.

Ever wondered what would happen if Zorro went up against the Third Reich?


I know I have. And all the answers are here, in the second novel in Abaddon Books’ Pax Britannia line.

Available now is ‘El Sombra’, written by the inestimable Al Ewing, increasingly regular 2000AD scribe. In this blood-soaked tale of vengeance, insanity and Nazis, Al develops a completely different part of the Pax Britannia world.


Stormtroopers diving out of the sun to prey on the innocent! Engines of Mass Destruction tearing apart homes and families! The monstrous torture-parlours of Master Minus and his Palace Of Beautiful Thoughts! There is no escape from The Ultimate Reich!

Now the terrifying Luftwaffe, on their steam-driven wings, have torn apart the sleepy town of Pasito in the heart of Mexico, only to rebuild it as a terrifying clockwork-town where the people become human robots, furthering the nightmare dreams of Der Fuhrer.

General Eisenberg and his sociopathic son Alexis control this paradise of horrors. But they are unprepared for the return of a man the desert claimed nine long years ago, a man who has returned from the doors of death and the depths of madness to bring his terrible fury upon their world. With the slash of a sword and a laugh that lights up the night like a flash of lightning, the man in the bloodstained mask cuts his way through the hopeless, endless routines of the clockwork men to bring new hope to the people. He defies death! He defies man! No trap can hold the masked daredevil, the saint of ghosts men know as El Sombra!

As well as this belter of a tale, included in the back of the book is an original short story by yours truly. As series editor Jonathan Oliver puts it in the July edition of the Abaddon Books newsletter:

‘Fruiting Bodies’ details the further adventures of Ulysses Quicksilver in a thrilling tale of murder and mushrooms. Be sure to check out this superb extra in the latest Pax Britannia novel.

Gotta love the reference to ‘murder and mushrooms’!

Pick up a copy of ‘El Sombra’ and see how many nods to freaky science fiction flora you can spot in the ‘Fruiting Bodies’ bonus at the back.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Welcome

Well, I’ve only gone and done it!

A few weeks ago I gave up salaried full-time work to go part-time and embrace the life of a freelance writer.

I tried something similar straight out of university thirteen years ago. However, at the time I had only had two books published, with a third commissioned, and with no other prospects beyond that.

Fast forward to 2007, with numerous published short stories, comic strips, magazine articles, adventure gamebooks and novels to my name, and I’m having another go.

And now seemed like the ideal time to create a presence for myself on the Web, to let people know what I’ve done and what I’m going to be up to in the future. Hence the blog. But why ‘Unnatural History’?

Everything I write has elements of fantasy or science fiction to it so, in a sense, everything I write is an unnatural history of one kind or another, and with my latest project – the ‘Pax Britannia’ novel line I’ve developed for Abaddon Books – it seemed even more apt. But now you’re probably asking, ‘What’s Pax Britannia?’

Let me explain…



In the closing years of the 20th century the British Empire’s rule is still going strong. Queen Victoria is about to celebrate her 160th birthday, kept alive by advanced steam technology. London is a fantastical sprawling metropolis where dirigibles roam the skies, robot bobbies enforce the law and dinosaurs are on display in London Zoo. Welcome to Magna Britannia, a steam driven world full of fantastical creations and shady villains. Here dashing dandies and moustachioed villains battle for supremacy while below the city strange things stir in the flooded tunnels of the old London Underground.

The first book, which launched the ‘Pax Britannia’ series, is ‘Unnatural History’, a good old-fashioned action-adventure romp, featuring larger than life characters, set within this alternative history steampunk world.



The blurb on the back of the book reads as follows…

In two scant months the nation, and all her colonies, will celebrate 160 years of Queen Victoria's glorious reign. But all is not well at the heart of the empire of Magna Britannia. A chain of events is about to be set in motion that, if not stopped, could lead to a world-shattering conclusion.

It begins with a break-in at the Natural History Museum. A night watchman is murdered. An eminent Professor of Evolutionary Biology goes missing. Then a catastrophic Overground rail-crash unleashes the dinosaurs of London Zoo.

But how are all these events connected? Is it really the work of crazed revolutionaries, seeking the violent evolution of Magna Britannia? Or are there yet more sinister forces at work?

Enter Ulysses Quicksilver dandy, rogue and agent of the throne ­back from the dead. Aided by his ever-faithful manservant Nimrod, it is up to this dashing soldier of fortune to solve the mystery and uncover the truth before London degenerates into primitive madness and a villainous mastermind brings about the unthinkable. The downfall of the British Empire!

So there you have it. You can find out more about ‘Unnatural History’ and the ‘Pax Britannia’ series
here, at the Abaddon Books website.

And that just about wraps up my first post. I’ll be back soon to talk more about ‘Pax Britannia’ and to let you know what my next publication is going to be. But until then…