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Sunday, June 29, 2008

BL bloggers

For those of you who might have come to my work through the Black Library, or equally, if you've discovered the Black Library off the back of discovering my blog, you might be interested to know that a number of the BL's authors are also keen bloggers.

It is often at about this time of day (10.30pm) that I find myself checking my computer before turning in for the night and inevitably end up reading the latest post on a number of blogs I regularly visit.

The blogs I check most regularly, and which I look forward to reading the most, would have to be those belonging to Dan Abnett, David Bishop, Graham McNeill, James Swallow, Nick Kyme, Si Spurrier and C L Werner.

Then there are those that I dip into from time to time. The authors of these are Gav Thorpe, Nathan Long and Steven Savile.

I'm sure there must be others (and apologies if I've not mentioned you here) but those ten seem to take up quite enough of my time as it is.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Art of Clint Langley

I know it's been out for a while now, but I just have to tell you how good The Art of Clint Langley is! It's a Black Library publication devoted to the CG artwork of the man himself.

Long time readers of this blog will already know that I am a long time fan of Clint's work, ever since his fully-painted stuff appeared in 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic, many moons ago. For a long time now, Clint has contributed probably hundreds of illustrations (if not more) to Games Workshop products, whether novel covers, collectible card game art or comic strips.

He is well-known for the fantastic covers he has produced for a whole range of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 novels, including my very first novel The Dead and the Damned.

The text of the book (which is written by Clint himself along with various BL writers and editors) gives a greater insight into his work and his working methods. But the best thing about the book is that it is packed full of sumptuous Clint Langley images, which cover the whole range of the GW's intellectual properties.

To give you a taster, here are just a few of the choice morsels you will find inside. If you want to see more, and I'm sure you do, you can check out Clint's website here or, even better, buy the book here.

Alex Milway on blogging

Fellow regular Internet blogger Alex Milway - author of The Mousehunter and the soon to be published The Curse of Mousebeard (both from Faber Children's Books) - has recently written a piece for The Bookseller.com about the worth, to an author, of writing a blog.

You can read what he has to say here, and his regularly updated blog here.

Martin McKenna and Misterstourworm

My sometime Fighting Fantasy collaborator Martin McKenna (who has illustrated two of my FF gamebooks to date and produced the covers for all four of the Wizard editions) has recently been working on a project that involves erstwhile hobbit Billy Boyd and a full orchestra!

Martin has illustrated the book that accompanies the CD Misterstourworm and the Kelpie’s Gift, a magical, Scottish project by composer Savourna Stevenson and writer Stuart Paterson.

The CD tells the story of a young hero who embarks on a magical quest to free his people from a fearsome and terrible monster, known as Misterstourworm. On his journey he meets various supernatural companions who help him in his quest, but will our hero have the strength and courage to triumph? The tale is narrated by Billy Boyd against a musical backdrop, which brings classical music to life for children.

To find out more, go to http://www.misterstourworm.com/.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gaining momentum

Graham McNeill (Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines author) has really written about the need to gain momentum when starting a new book. You can read about his recent trials and tribulations at his blog.

I know exactly what Graham means. I am the same; whenever I start a new project it takes a little while for me to really get into it. Once I get the momentum going, I can write at a much quicker pace and build characters and plot more effectively. However, until that happens it can be a struggle at times to crack on with a new chapter.

I'm pleased to say that I've really got the ball rolling now with Human Nature, the next Ulysses Quicksilver adventure (due to be published this December by Abaddon Books) and I am nearing the first milestone, as I approach the end of the first Act of the book (as they have come to be called).

I have been spurred on today by the arrival of Mark Harrison's fantastically grotesque finished cover for the book. I'm not going to reveal the full image just yet, but to keep up on the edge of your seats, here's a teaser snippet.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The origins of Shiversprite

As part of the ongoing discussions about my last published Fighting Fantasy gamebook (to date) Howl of the Werewolf, a forum member over at the FFG Forum posted this the other day.

Wow! I finally got it and it doesn't disappoint. Atmospheric and immersive, and somehow believable. I like the reference to a certain alcohol advert a few years ago (the Shiversprite poem!) and the various werewolfy stuff . I managed to make it to Varcolac on my first go (but no further, alas).

To my knowledge, this is the first time that someone has made the connection with the original inspiration behind the winter elemental that appears in the book (or at least the first time they've put their thoughts down anywhere). Here's Shiversprite as realised by the book's illustrator Martin McKenna.


Shiversprite

And here's the advert (quite correctly spotted by tweetygwee, as mentioned in the post above,) that inspired its creation.




The Judderman

One last snippet of information for those who might be interested, I believe that it was Clint Langley (the artist who produced the artwork for my first Black Library novel) who was behind the conceptual designs for the Metz Judderman.

And I've just spotted another subconscious connection between the Judderman and Howl of the Werewolf, involving the last scene from the ad. Anyone else spot it?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fighting Fantasy is alive and well

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you have heard me mention Fighting Fantasy from time to time. But it occurred to me that the casual reader may not know what Fighting Fantasy or thought that it was only something that was around when they were a child.

To put it simply, Fighting Fantasy was (and still is) the definitive solo adventure gamebook series, created by those demigods of the gaming industry Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. In other words, it's a book in which you are the hero and in which you have to battle terrible monsters, figure out fiendish conundrums and make challenging choices. Inspired by games like Dungeons & Dragons, and yet so much more than that, it was the first such series, the best-selling and the longest lived.


The first FF adventure gamebook, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, was published in 1982 by Puffin Books and the most recent, Howl of the Werewolf, was published in September 2007 by Wizard Books. That means that, in terms of solo adventure gamebooks alone (so ignoring those which appeared in other books and magazines, advanced rules and novels) there have been 62 published to date.

And Fighting Fantasy is still alive and well today, 26 years on! Last year a special 25th anniversary edition of Warlock was published and its success proved that there is still a dedicated fan base out there as well as a burgeoning new readership.

To keep up to date with all things FF, and to discuss old favourites with other nostalgia lovers, as well as the new crop of classics in the making, why not pop over to the Fighting Fantasy Forum, here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Simon Davis and the BP Portrait Award

I am grateful to writer David Bishop's blog Vicious Imagery for bringing this snippet of good news to my attention.

Artist Simon Davis won second prize in the world's most prestigious portrait competition, the BP Portrait Award, with nearly 1,750 artists from around the world submitting work to the competition. What this means is that Simon receives £8,000 in prize money for his piece, Amanda Smith at Vincent Avenue, and the portrait will now be on show in the National Portrait Gallery.


Amanda Smith at Vincent Avenue

As long-term readers of this blog will know, Simon once illustrated one of my short stories (Mark of the Beast, Black Library, 2003), so this is my moment to bathe in a slither of some totally undeserved reflected glory.
Mark of the Beast

What's your number one Christmas song?

Over at this blog's sister site What is Myrrh Anyway? there is the chance to take part in an online poll to decide which of all the Christmas number one songs is - well - number one.

Why not follow this link and take part?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Match Wits Google Search

I'm told by those people whose business it is to know such things that companies put a lot of effort and money into having their names at the top of the list when anybody puts the relevant search into Google.

However, I have also been told that with a little canny use of the Internet yourself, a writer can achieve the same results without having the big budget to back them up.

So, you can see why I'm understandably very happy that when you type 'Match Wits with the Kids' into Google UK, that the first ten items on the search results page are all to do with my book! This is thanks in part to an Amazon listing, my publisher Icon Books arranging for me to be filmed by the people at Meet the Author, and my own blogging efforts.



It just goes to show, that a little effort in the right place at the right time can work wonders! A lesson for us all, I feel.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Good evening, Mr Green

I have just been to see The Incredible Hulk and, having done so, felt strangely compelled to post something of a review of it here (but don't worry, I'm not going to give away any major spoilers here).

As most people already know, the movie is something of a reboot of the franchise rather than a complete starting over, so in the title credit sequence we get a flashback to how the Hulk was created in the first film (a la Spider-Man 3).
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Without further delay we get into the film and are introduced to all the main protagonists, and before long the not-so-jolly green giant makes an appearance.
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The film certainly delivers in a way that Ang Lee's misguided, angst-ridden, more cerebral and ultimately confusing Hulk didn't, but is a much simpler and less satisfying movie as a result. Tim Roth's Abomination turns up rather late in the game and the final denouement of the film left me feeling a little like... is that it?


However, there's plenty to please the fan boy. There are references to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury, a not-so-secret cameo appearance by a character from Marvel Studios' other comic book movie outing this summer, Samuel Sterns makes an appearance (who becomes the super-villainous Leader in the comic books), as does the future Doc Samson, the Lonely Man theme from the TV show gets a play and Banner's eyes glow green when he's about to change, and (best of all) our hero/anti-hero gets to utter the immortal words, 'HULK SMASH!'

As an aside, weirdly a number of scenes from both trailers for the film (the first released ages ago and the current one) don't actually appear in the film (although there is a scene lifted straight out of The Ultimates comic book by Millar and Hitch), but at least there isn't a gamma-irradiated poodle in this one! And both Stan Lee and Lou Ferringo (the transformed Hulk from the 1970s TV show) both make an appearance, just as they did in the first Hulk movie.
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So, not as satisfying or exciting as Iron Man and not as funny, or relentless in the action stakes, as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but a diverting hour and fifty minutes if you're up for a bit of mindless escapism.

Now I just have to wait until July for The Dark Knight and I will have seen all of the big four action movies of Summer 2008.

Imagine if you worked here...

One of the things that I've had to adjust to again over the last year is working from home for half the week. It has much to recommend it but then there are downsides too, and one of these is not having the company of others.

A ex-colleague of mine, from my days of full-time gainful employment, sent me the following video. Its a brilliant lip dub of Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger, which is also used as the theme music to Channel 4's equally brilliant (and disgusting) Peep Show.

The dub below is performed by a company called Connected Ventures, which is basically a group of friends who work for, Vimeo, CollegeHumor, Busted Tees, and Defunker. And I think the 'group of friends' tag says it all. That's what you lose when you make the break from full-time, office-based employment (or the equivalent). That and a guaranteed income, sick pay, incremental pay increases...



Lip Dub - Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger from amandalynferri on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

All we hear is Radio Ga Ga

I was on the radio last night. No, not sitting on top of it, talking on it, on BBC London's Late Show with Tessa Dunlop to be precise.

To find out more, follow this link.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Match Wits in the Sunday Times

Match Wits with the Kids got a mention in the Sunday Times, as part of an article about books aimed at adults to remind them of what they once learnt when they were at school.

If you missed it yourself, follow this link to read more at Times Online.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Author interview

Graeme Flory, a fan of my Pax Britannia stories, recently interviewed me over the Internet for his own blog Graeme's Fantasy Book Review. Follow this link to find out more for yourself.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Match Wits in WHSmith

I popped into my local WHSmith today and was pleasantly surprised to not only find Match Wits with the Kids on sale there, but also a whole shelf of the books on display.


I still get a thrill when I see one of my books in print and in the shops, and seeing so many of them just made that thrill all the more exhilarating.

Coming soon

Regular readers of this blog (as well as first-time visitors - Hello there!) may be interested to hear about a couple of forthcoming publicity items concerning my fun learning book Match Wits with the Kids.

This Sunday, all things being well, a major national newspaper will hopefully be running a feature about Match Wits with the Kids, while on Monday night (at around 11.40pm) I am going to be on The Late Show on BBC London radio, talking about the book.

So why not pick up a copy or tune in to find out more?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pax Britannia Competition Winner!

I am pleased to announce that we have a winner! Head over to the Pax Britannia blog to discover who has won a walk-on part in the next Ulysses Quicksilver adventure Human Nature (out this December from Abaddon Books).

Watch and learn

As some of you may know, a couple of weeks ago I recorded a video to accompany the release of Match Wits with the Kids. Well, if you follow this link you can now see it for yourself.

PS - This also happens to be my one-hundredth post to this blog. Unnatural History is a century old and still going strong!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Perplexing Puzzle of the Pickled Dragon

As part of my preparation for writing Human Nature (my latest Pax Britannia offering) I have been researching Jenny Hanivers, or, to put it another way, faked fantastical creatures.

Whilst trawling the Internet for information on this subject I came across the following article from 2004. Some of you may have heard this one yourselves already but it was new to me. As I looked into this subject further, I came across this.

It's interesting because it demonstrates what lengths people will go to to get their work published and there's also a parallel with my own work. The whole thing was a hoax (of course) set up by a struggling author whose book, Unearthly History, in now in print.

Out with the old...

I've started a new project this week, my next Ulysses Quicksilver Pax Britannia adventure Human Nature, due to be published by Abaddon Books this December. It's great to get back to Pax Britannia after a bit of a break. I've written three books since Leviathan Rising (although I did have two weeks 'off' to write the Ulysses Quicksilver novella Vanishing Point) and it's good to immerse myself in the steampunk setting once again.

But a new project means a whole new set of research materials and other notes cluttering up my desk, so before commencing, I had a bit of a sort out, putting away all my books about Christmas, and the like, which I used in the writing of What is Myrrh Anyway? (out in October from Icon Books). You can see how things have changed in these before and after shots.


My desk whilst after writing What is Myrrh Anyway?


A tidied workspace, ready to start on Human Nature.

There's that old adage, a tidy desk is a sign of a tidy mind (or a sick mind, depending on your own personal philosophy), but for me, my workspace has to reflect what I'm working on, to help keep me focused on the project in hand. I find this particularly important when juggling so many different balls in the air at the same time, writing books for widely varying genres.

So, while I was penning The Horror of Howling Hill, I had my Doctor Who Encyclopedia out, other Decide your Destiny books available to check style and an inflatable Dalek. With Match Wits with the Kids I was surrounded by all manner of reference books, diagrams and miscellanies. And now? Well, there are guide books of Whitby, a map of the North York Moors, postcards of Whitby Abbey and pictures of dried fish carcasses... and it's all the name of research.

So, until next time...

Leviathan Rising reviewed in Death Ray magazine

The long-delayed Death Ray magazine issue #13 (unlucky for some, eh?) is now out and inside there is a review of my most recent Pax Britannia outing, Leviathan Rising. The review combines it with another Abaddon Books release, Shadowmage by Matthew Sprange.

And, to be honest, with three and a half stars I think Leviathan Rising hasn't come off too badly. The reviewer, Guy Haley, has some stylistic issues with the novel but on the whole seemed to have enjoyed the adventure aspect of the book. I shall certainly bear in mind what Haley says, as I do any reviewer's comments (apart from those posted as spam to this blog - you know who you are) as I get down to writing Human Nature, which is due for release this December.


In the mean time, why not pick up a copy of Death Ray yourself - it's a stonking read this month.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The competition is now closed!

The deadline to submit entries for the Pax Britannia competition I've been running has been and gone.

Thank you to everyone who entered. I will be going through the entries and deciding a winner shortly.

I will let everyone here know the results as soon as I have them.

A timely lesson on counting chickens

Some of you may recall that I was rather excited a couple of weeks ago about the prospect of appearing in a national newspaper today. Well, I duly went out this morning and bought said paper, only to find that I'm not in it.

Hopefully, the feature may appear at a later date, and I'll be sure to let you know if it does, but for the time being I've learnt a valuable lesson regarding the totting up of farmyard fowls.

You shouldn't count your chickens before they're hatched, as you may end up with egg on your face if you do.