Friday, October 31, 2008

Whitby Gothic Weekend

If you have a thing for Dracula (or vampires in general), or you're what might be termed as a Goth, or you're even just a fan of the North Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby, you might be interested to know that this weekend is Whitby Gothic Weekend.

Having visited Whitby a couple of times myself, I know how much Dracula-themed stuff is available there on a daily basis and the place is certainly something of a Mecca for fans of Bram Stoker's eponymous blood-sucker, so God-only-knows what it's like at the feast of Halloween.

The reason I mention this event in particular, however, is because two-thirds of Human Nature (my latest Pax Britannia adventure, out in December) is set in and around Whitby. The majority of places mentioned in the book also exist in real life, so if you can't get there this weekend, why not wait until the book's out and then check out the locations mentioned in the novel? And yes, there are a couple of nods to Stoker's Dracula, of course.

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Ghost Watch

Since it was first broadcast on the night of 31 October 1992, Ghost Watch has become something of a notorious television phenomenon. Although it was in reality a 90 minute TV drama, it was filmed as if it was a live television broadcast.

I didn't see it at the time, and I haven't seen it since, but even knowing that it was nothing but a work of fiction, just reading about it and watching clips on YouTube still leaves me feeling uneasy and unsettled, a cold knot of doubt in the pit of my stomach - and I write some pretty unpleasant stuff myself from time to time. But then that's the power of fiction for you!

Thanks to Steve Parker for putting me onto this one.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where the magic happens

This week I travelled up to Oxford to meet with the guys at Abaddon Books to talk about all things Pax Britannian. I had a good chat with editor Jon Oliver during which we discussed the next Ulysses Quicksilver novella, and story arcs for the next (censored!) books in the series. We also met with head honcho Jason Kingsley and talked about a possible Pax Britannia (censored!)! It was an inspiring conversation indeed.

Where the magic happens

While I was in Oxford I also took the opportunity to do a little research for the story I'm going to be writing next - yes, I do research my books, you know - which took me to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. If you've not been, you really should. It's an incredible building with some interesting exhibits, including one all about the Oxford Dodo. And even better than that, it is attached to the Pitt Rivers Museum (although that part closed until 2009 for refurbishment, as I only discovered when I got there on the day).

The main exhibition hall of the OUMNH, with a statue of the Prince Consort in view, along with the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex

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The 'To Read' Pile

Here's my current 'to read' pile.

In there you've got Tomes of the Dead: Anno Mortis by Rebecca Levene, Bitterwood by James Maxey, Horus Heresy: Fulgrim by Graham McNeill, The Witches and the Grinnygog by Dorothy Edwards, The Death Ship of Dartmouth by Michael Jecks, The Mythago Cycle (books 1 & 2) by Robert Holdstock, The Killing Ground by Graham McNeill, Nation by Terry Pratchett and Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell.

My current distraction is Titanicus by Dan Abnett, a tale of mighty war engines battling over the fate of a forge world in the far-flung future war-consumed universe of Warhammer 40,000.

Any suggestions from the books listed above as to what I should read next?

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dawn of War II - say 'Hello!' to the Tyranids

Back in July I let you know about the Warhammer 40,000 computer game Dawn of War II. Well, the full trailer for the game has now been released.

I saw it for myself back in September at Games Day, but you can now watch it at IGN Video. The general response to the twist that follows the dying Eldar's enigmatic words was along the lines of '**** me! Cool! ****** brilliant!'

Anyway, you get the idea. Go check it out for yourself and prepare to be enthralled!

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Channelling Clarkson

Today I shall be mostly working on a writing sample for a Top Gear book. Yes, even if you've had twenty books published already, when you tackle something a little bit different for a new publisher/editor, you need to produce a sample to prove that you are capable of producing the goods. That's the reality of writing for a living.

For my sample I have to write a car review, a short quiz and produce a Top Gear-related activity. I have chosen to use the following classic Top Gear moments to help me write my sample.

The Aston Martin DBS

The Bugatti Veyron vs the Eurofighter Typhoon

The Daihatsu Terios Fox-Hunt

I'll let you know how I get on - and whether I get the gig - at a later date (when I know myself). In the mean time you might be interested to know that Top Gear Live comes to London next weekend!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Age of Reckoning

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is here! You can watch the cinematic clip for it here. (How awesome are in-game CGI movie clips these days?)

If you've not seen it before, you're in for a treat. You've gotta love that Lord of Change and the Bright Wizard is just how I imagined Gerhart Brennend in Magestorm.

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What is Myrrh Anyway? hits the streets

As any regular reader of this blog will know, I have been busy promoting What is Myrrh Anyway? of late, but I'm not the only one.

I have to say a huge thank you to Mat Cooper for doing the same thing in and around Sheffield. On Monday morning he visited bookshops, libraries and art galleries asking staff if they would take some of the Moo MiniCards I have had made up to promote the book.

I hear that the staff of the Orchard Square branch of Waterstone's in Sheffield were particularly helpful. When Mat whipped out a copy of the book the kind gentleman on duty recognised it as recent stock, took a bundle of the cards and went to the actual area where the book was on sale to distribute the cards where readers would be looking.

So, thanks again to Mat and if anyone else would like to do the same thing in and around their area, drop me a line via this blog. And you will receive a gift in kind for your efforts. I am a great believer in the adage 'If you scratch my back...'

Here's Mat holding some of my MiniCards and his signed copy of What is Myrrh Anyway?

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Warhammer 40K Giveaway!

Fans of Warhammer 40,000 fiction might be interested to know that the website Fantasy Book Critic is giving away signed copies of Dan Abnett's latest blockbuster Titanicus, and Graham McNeill's The Killing Ground, the fourth novel to feature Ultramarine captain Uriel Ventris.

Titanicus by Dan Abnett

When the vital forge world of Orestes comes under attack by a legion of Chaos Titans, the planet is forced to appeal for help. Titan Legio Invicta, although fresh from combat and in desperate need of refit and repair, responds, committing its own force of war engines to the battle. As the god-machines stride to war, the world trembles, for the devastation they unleash could destroy the very world they have pledged to save.Savage Titan action on an apocalyptic scale and dark political intrigue meet head-on in this Warhammer 40,000 epic…

The Killing Ground by Graham McNeill

Having escaped from the Eye of Terror, Uriel Ventris and Pasanius now face an epic journey through a hostile universe in their quest to get home to Ultramar to safety and redemption. “The Killing Ground” picks up where "Dead Sky, Black Sun" leaves off…

To give yourself a chance of winning these two highly collectible items, click here.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Howl of the Werewolf - the Werebat


Okay? Got that?



Well, on your head be it...

In the Tower of Maun, in the cursed land of Lupravia, the hero of Howl of the Werewolf is likely to run into a Werebat. I was thrilled with Martin McKenna's rendition of this particular monster which I have reproduced for you here.

Of course, in a book about were-creatures, I was looking to include all sorts of variations on a familiar theme. Bats and vampires go together like toast and butter, so a werebat seemed like a suitable addition to the storyline.

While I was imaging this particular scene, I inevitably found the image of Dracula as bat-monster from Bram Stoker's Dracula coming to the fore in my mind. However, there was also another influence - that of the Man-Bat from Batman.

In the DC Universe, Dr. Kirk Langstrom is a scientist specializing in the study of bats. He develops an extract which is intended to give humans the bat's sonar sense and tests the formula on himself - of course - because he is becoming deaf. While it works, it has a horrific side-effect, transforming him into a hideous humanoid bat-like monster.

In case you were wondering, the Man-Bat's latest incarnation appears in the next Lego Batman: The Video Game.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Queen gets Googled!

An image of the Queen has been incorporated into the homepage logo of Internet search engine Google for the day. To find out more, click here.
By the way, did you know that where a million is 10 to the power 6 (1 followed by 6 noughts), a 'googol' is actually 10 to the power 100? Now that's a lot of noughts!

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My Myrrh Moo MiniCards

Having been hard at work on a novel for the last six weeks, I'm now taking some time to work at the other side of the writing business, as it were - that of self-promotion. Such is the lot of a freelancer; you have to learn to blow your own trumpet pretty fast if you don't want your latest publication to sink without trace among the other 399 new books published in Britain alone every day! Hence the renewed vigorous blogging and the latest promotional item I've had made up - Moo MiniCards, to help promote What is Myrrh Anyway?

Moo MiniCards are great. They come printed with an image on one side and six lines of text on the other. In my case, that's enough space to entice someone to look at the card with an intriguing question on one side along with the details of my latest book on the other. I'm going to make sure I've got a box of my minicards with me everywhere I go, so that I can hassle coffee shops, bookshops, and perhaps even libraries, to see if they wouldn't mind me leaving a handful around the place, on tables, by the till, wherever.

So, keep an eye out and you might just be able to snap one up for yourself.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

21 and counting...

Back in 1992 I was commissioned to write my first book, a Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebook entitled Spellbreaker. Last week I finished writing my twenty-first book, a steampunk science fiction horror thriller called Human Nature.

In between I have written everything from Sonic the Hedgehog and Doctor Who books for children to factual books for adults. The entire list reads something like this.

1. Spellbreaker (1993)
2. Knights of Doom (1994)
3. Curse of the Mummy (1995)
4. Theme Park Panic (1995)
5. Stormin' Sonic (1996)
6. Go Gos Are Go Go! (1997)
7. The Dead and the Damned (2002)
8. Crusade for Armageddon (2003)
9. Magestorm (2004)
10. Iron Hands (2004)
11. Necromancer (2005)
12. Conquest of Armageddon (2005)
13. Bloodbones (2006)
14. Unnatural History (2007)
15. Howl of the Werewolf (2007)
16. Leviathan Rising (2008)
17. The Horror of Howling Hill (2008)
18. Match Wits with the Kids: A Little Learning for All the Family (2008)
19. Go, Go Crazy For Those Bones (2008)
20. What is Myrrh Anyway? (2008)
21. Human Nature (2008)

Next up is...

22. Evolution Expects (2009)

... and there are more to come after that.

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Expect the unexpected

Having put Human Nature to bed, I'm now preparing to get started on my tenth - yes, tenth! - novel, the fourth of Ulysses Quicksilver's Pax Britannia adventures and the culmination of the first story arc. (Yes, there is a master plan behind the whole thing!)

And it's not only me who's been getting ready for the next alternative history Victorian-esque action thriller; ace Abaddon cover artist Mark Harrison has as well. He's produced four cover roughs for the next book Evolution Expects (out April 2009), featuring three very different characters from the book.
The powers that be at Abaddon Books and myself have mulled over Mark's designs, throwing ideas back and forth, and have settled on one, but I won't say which one just yet. However, I can give you a glimpse of each of the four cover concepts. (Mark's comments spoken by the various characters had me in stitches!)

On top of that, Mark has produced a concept sketch for one of the characters from the book which is phenomenal - good enough to be a cover all by itself, as it stands! And in time I hope to reveal more here, but again, not just yet.

In the meantime, it's certainly going to help me when it comes to having some visual reference when I come to write the relevant sections of the book.

So cheers, Mark!

Important note: Abaddon Books, the Pax Britannia setting, all text and artwork from the novels are © & ™ Rebellion A/S and reproduced here with kind permission.

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Michael Palin for President!

See more funny videos at Funny or Die UK

A weekend off!

I can't remember the last time I went for a whole weekend without doing any writing work whatsoever, whether it be finishing another chapter, editing one I've already written, or even plotting another adventure. But that's exactly what happened this weekend just gone.

At 11.45pm Friday night I emailed my editor the completed manuscript of Human Nature - my third Pax Britannia adventure, ninth novel and twenty-first book! A large motivating force was that it was my birthday this weekend, so I was able to commence the celebrations safe in the knowledge that I had put another one to bed and could really let my hair down. (How cool is Lego Batman on the Xbox?!?)

But now it's Monday morning and it's back to work. There's a new novel to start, short stories to plot and the more practical admin side of the business to catch up on. But for the moment I'm still basking in the warm afterglow of knowing that it's another job well done. (It also means that, come December, I will have passed the 1.3 million published words mark!)

Human Nature is out this December from Abaddon Books. You can reserve your copy here.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

What is Myrrh Anyway? Hits the ground running!

What is Myrrh Anyway?, published by Icon Books, is available from all good bookshops now!

I happened to be in the Richmond branch of Waterstone's today, so if you're passing that way tomorrow you'll find a festive message scribbled in the front accompanied by a scrawl that happened to be my signature.

Consider it an early Christmas present from yours truly. ;-)

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Howl of the Werewolf - The Malice


If you've not read Howl of the Werewolf yet - or you haven't finished it - and you intend to, stop reading now!

You have been warned!


During your exploration of the land of Lupravia you can happen upon some mysterious ruins where, in the past, an unroly rite was enacted. This event, and its consequences, were so appalling that they have left an indelible mark on the place. The longer you spent exploring the ruins, the greater your chance of meeting the Malice!

The Malice was inspired, in part, by the Malus, a malevolent alien entity from the Fifth Doctor Who story The Awakening. I certainly had the creature's distinctive gargoyle face in mind when I wrote that particular passage of the book.

In this particular Fifth Doctor adventure, the Malus (Latin for 'bad', in case you didn't know) was responsible for creating a time link between the year of 1984 and the events from the English Civil War.

As well as inspiring the Malice's ultimate malign form, another image of the Malus from The Awakening also appears in the book (although it was not illustrated separately), with the stone imps that you can encounter in the ruins - the Grinnygogs. And for anyone who was a child during the early 1980s, yes, I was also thinking of The Witches and the Grinnygog when I wrote this. Now that is a show I would like to see again!

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

What every lover of Lego and Doctor Who fan has been waiting for!

The Fourth Doctor (aka Tom Baker), Classic Cyberman and Ace

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), the Master and the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann)

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What is Myrrh Anyway? Released today!

Yes, it's like all your Christmases have come at once - What is Myrrh Anyway? is finally released today!

It should be in all good bookshops now or, failing that, you can buy it online.

And in case you're new to this blog and wondering where the title of the book comes from, click the video link below.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Ladybird Book of the Policeman

I found the following through David Bishop's blog, Vicious Imagery.

If you're of a certain age (like me) you probably remember the classic Ladybird books. They were slim hardbacks, I suppose, with beautifully painted watercolours throughout, designed for first readers. As well as re-telling traditional fairytales, they also had many factual books, including a series called 'People at Work'.

Well, now some wag has updated the Ladybird Book of the Policeman for a modern, adult readership. You have been warned.

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