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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Space Marine

WARNING! Engage Warhammer 40K geek mode...

How. Cool. Is. This?

Karen Gillan to boldly go where many an attractive young woman has gone before

The new (eleventh) Doctor's accompanying assistant has been announced. Her name's Karen Gillan, she's 21, Scottish (like new show runner Steven Moffat), a redhead and has been in New Who before (rather like Frema Agyeman and, when you put it like that, Catherine Tate). Anybody see a pattern forming here? For more, click here.

The Pitch is the Thing!

Writing a novel is one thing. Being able to get someone else to read it or even, heaven forbid, publish it is another thing entirely.

Many doubtless fantastic writers never get to see their dream of becoming a published author realised (remember - there's no such thing as an unpublished author) because they don't make it easy enough for the Powers That Be (i.e. editors) to see how good they are. In other words, they don't pitch their Pitch properly. (Did you see what I did there?)

Lee Harris, one of the editorial team at Angry Robot Books, has written a piece for SFX Magazine about how to help yourself on the road to authordom (if that's a word), outlining twelve handy hints (a.k.a. The Twelve Commandments Of Preparing A Pitch That Thou Shalt Stick To) to make sure that you do all in your power to get someone else to read the labours of countless hours of blood, sweat and tears-style toil.

Then it's up to The Work itself to sell you The Writer. Gulp!

Calling Antarctica

As anybody who has spent any time looking at any of my blogs will be able to tell you, on each one I have a handy little widget installed called sitemeter. This allows me to see how many people are checking out what I've written and where they can be found within the world.

This particular blog is well past the 10,000 visitor mark now and I've had people drop by from all corners of the globe (if a globe can be said to have corners). As an example, here's today's world map representation of where this blog's last 100 visitors came from.


I have had people from South America read this blog, regularly in fact, just not in the last 100 people. However, I don't think any penguins with broadband Internet, or the scientists observing said penguins have ever paid a visit. So, if you know anyone posted to Antarctica tell them I said 'Hi!' and asked them to pop by soon and leave a message.

Thanks. Over and out.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Helping you through a summer without Doctor Who

Those of you suffering withdrawal symptoms from the fact that there is no regular series of Doctor Who this summer should note that the The Official Doctor Who Annual 2010 will be available to buy from August, and is already listed on Amazon.

This official Doctor Who annual is the perfect gift for any budding Time Lord. Packed with exclusive comics, stories, features and activities, the Doctor Who Annual is the one book no fan should be without!

I mention this mainly because I ended up contributing about a third of it, including a feature on the CyberKing as well as various other activities and games. In the meantime, fans of the Cybermen might also like to see this, which is currently adorning my desktop.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

'Missing' Fighting Fantasy titles re-discovered

When the Fighting Fantasy phenomenon was at its height during the 1980s it was big enough to support its own magazine, entitled Warlock. One of the highlights was a mini version of the gamebooks that had spawned the magazine, usually running to 200 paragraphs. The third issue of the publication included the short Fighting Fantasy adventure story The House of Hell by Steve Jackson, which was later expanded into a full gamebook.

Some enterprising soul has gathered together a number of these adventures and produced PDFs of them as if they were old-style Fighting Fantasy gamebooks as published by Puffin Books back in the day.

If you log on to the Yahoo! group Rebuilding Titan and join, you too can download these 'missing' adventures. They are The Dervish Stone - which also includes the mini adventures Dungeon of Justice and The Dark Chronicles of Anakendis - and Dark Usurper - which also includes Deadline to Destruction and The Temple of the Pharaoh.

I'm not entirely sure what the copyright issues or legal ramifications might be surrounding these creations so enjoy them while you can.

Solaris For Sale

I seem to be a little slow in catching up on this piece of news, but in case you haven't heard yourself, Games Workshop's BL Publishing division has put their Solaris Books imprint up for sale.

In a statement George Mann, head of publishing at BL Publishing, said: "In recent years our Black Library imprint has more than doubled in size and scope and we have decided that we should focus all our attention in growing this core part of our business. While we see plenty of growth potential with Solaris, we are looking for a buyer who is interested in developing this global brand."

Apparently all books commissioned up to 2010 will still go ahead, but don't quote me on that! I wonder how Marc Gascoigne - formerly head of of BL Publishing and Solaris but now of Angry Robot Books - took the news.

I don't expect it helped Solaris' situation any that Angry Robot snapped Dan Abnett up for a three book deal, when there's been talk for some years now that he was going to write original fiction for Solaris. Apparently the BL editors kept pushing for him to do more stuff for them first. Oops.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Match Wits quizzes available for download!

I am very pleased to announce that Icon Books have posted a series of brand new quizzes for Match Wits with the Kids on their website.

To access this entirely free, downloadable material, simply click on the appropriate link below.

















And for the ANSWERS to all of the above, click here.

A Christmas Miscellany

Coming this Christmas from Skyhorse Publishing...

A new edition of What is Myrrh Anyway? for the American market.

Now entitled A Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas, the book is going to be chock full of photographs and illustrations along with a full colour design throughout.

Click here to visit Skyhorse Publishing's website to find out more.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

In praise of the novella

There is an interesting opinion piece in the latest issue of Death Ray magazine (#19) about the novella. Longer than a short story and not as long as a novel (obviously), according to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the novella is a work of fiction 17,500 - 39,999 words in length.

Staff writer Thom Hutchinson goes on to argue that it is the ideal form for fiction. I am certainly a fan of the novella, having just finished one. Entitled Conqueror Worm, it is to be published along with Evolution Expects (my fourth Pax Britannia novel), and comes in at 17,527 words.

For me, the novella presents me with the opportunity to tell a story that wouldn't stretch to a whole novel. The world of Pax Britannia has generated a host of ideas for stories, but not all of them warrant a 90,000 word novel, but I can still indulge in writing of many more of them through the novella. In the past, people have praised my short fiction, sometimes over the long form stuff, so in the novella I think I have found a happy medium.

As it happens, I'm also enjoying the novellas of another writer at the moment, reading as I am The Taint and Other Novellas by Brian Lumley (published by Solaris Books). And considering the subject matter of these Cthulhu Mythos stories, who's to say that Ulysses Quicksilver and his friends might not one day uncover hints of a world beyond our own inhabited by the Other Gods?

15 Ways to Trash New York

I came across this the other day on the old Interweb-thingy. You might find it diverting yourself so why not check it out?

Dan Abnett on writing

I came upon this series of videos of Dan Abnett talking about his craft at the Black Library website via Angry Robot books (bizarrely). If you're interested in Warhammer, 40K, writing in general or even Ghostbusters, sit back and have a listen.







Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Mystery of Démonlovagok

Quite by chance, I came across this the other day.


As far as I can work out, it's the Hungarian version of my second Fighting Fantasy gamebook Knights of Doom. Here's how my computer translated the page:

Vérkrétakő kingdom scary things happen. Famine, epidemic, riot reward for the head of the country. The chaos and the destruction of a massive storm was preceded by a court of the wise men of the evil herald were coming. Or perhaps the return? Tela generations since the kingdom of the preservative, the holy order of knights centuries ago legendáriuma a claimant of the Crown retains the memory of actions and history. He Belgroth who serve the Chaos gentlemen and established a distorted mirror image of the Templar order. Caere Skal Démonlovagjainak system. Although Belgaroth fell Caere Skal siege, but it seems that he is now back behind the events. Who can to fight holtából feltámadott boszorkánymesterrel? To win one of the legions of demonic kingdom ambitious? The king's advisors that only a well-trained fighters Tela, there is a chance - for someone like you!

Two dice, a pencil and an eraser, some with no luck: this is all you need to belevágj in this exciting adventure. YOU decide when to choose what path, what is a threat vállalsz, which will trick out of the trap and what küdesz against it. The solution is in your hand!


Now, strange as this might sound, I knew nothing about this Hungarian version until I came across it accidentally on the Web.

It looks like it was published after Puffin Books finished publishing the Fighting Fantasy series back in the mid 1990s and certainly nobody ever wrote to me about the book (and consequently I've not been paid anything from its sales either).

But what I would like most of all, quite simply, is a copy of the book. I have all the other foreign editions of any of my published books (I think!) and would just like to be able to add this to the collection.

So, if anyone can help, knows any more about the book or even, perhaps, where I can get hold of a copy, please respond to this post and let me know. If your information leads anywhere, I'll send you a few favours in return by way of a thank you.

So, fingers crossed!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

2008 Sidewise Awards

SfSignal have recently announced the nominees for the 2008 Sidewise Awards.

The Sidewise Awards for Alternate History were established in 1995 to recognize excellence in alternate history fiction. The 2008 Sidewise Awards will be presented at Anticipation, the 67th Worldcon, to be held in Montreal, Canada from August 6-10, 2009. The winners are selected from a panel of judges that currently includes Stephen Baxter, Evelyn Leeper, Jim Rittenhouse, Stuart Shiffman, Kurt Sidaway, and Steven H Silver.

Unfortunately, none of my Pax Britannia books appear on the list of nominees, although another quite-possibly-very-much-inspired-by-even-down-to-the-final-battle-aboard-an-airship title, George Mann's The Affinity Bridge has been. I didn't particularly rate it myself, but good luck to him.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bloodbones Redux

Now, don't get too excited. According to my dictionary, redux is an adjective meaning 'brought back' or 'restored' (from the Latin reducere, 'to bring back'). So let's just get one thing straight, Bloodbones isn't coming back... at least, not just yet... at least, not as far as I know... It's just a cool title for a blog post, okay?

However, some of the illustrations from the aforementioned Fighting Fantasy gamebook about voodoo pirates have recently been given a new lease of life by illustrator extraordinaire Tony Hough. Tony has sent me three images from the book that he has re-worked in Photoshop, painting over the original rotring pen illustrations.

I present them for you here, with Tony's kind permission, alongside the originals so you can really see the difference. I think you'll agree that together, they are an amazing piece of work.





I think my favourite has to be Ramatu the Witchdoctor. That said, I love the detailing on the Preying Mantis.

If you like what you see here, or you would like Tony to work for you, follow this link to his own website.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Books a plenty... from Abaddon

There's more news on the Abaddon Books blog about upcoming titles for the Tomes of the Dead series, Twilight of Kerberos and Pax Britannia (of course).

Until next time...

George and the Dracorex

So I finally caught up with this week's episode of Primeval...

I feel that overall, the current series of Primeval (series 3) has been the best. It's grown from what appeared to simply start out as a time-travelling Doctor Who wannabe into very much its own monster, with some fun family friendly sci-fi (rather than the magical realism that DW relies upon) and an ever-increasing mythology tied up with a whole range of conspiracy theories that would make the X-Files proud. But back to this week's episode...

Still a very cool image, even if the episode wasn't the best.

Knights and dinosaurs - how could it go wrong? Well, in many ways, apparently. Knights and dinosaurs is an idea I've tried to sell in the past (and hope to again, more successfully, one day) but the problem with this week's Primeval (easily the weakest of the series so far) is that there wasn't enough of the knight vs the dinosaur.

There were some nice ideas (I liked how Sir William spoke of being in 'the world to come' thinking that he was talking about the afterlife, when in fact he was in the future, as far as he was concerned) but there was too much that jarred. A medieval knight speaking perfect modern English, rather than French or even Middle English, Sarah casually popping back into the past (having done a tidy bit of shoplifting) with no fear of the anomaly shutting at some inconvenient point, the hardened medieval mercenary not actually killing anything, the 'dragon' turning out to be a herbivore and yet having a set of gnashers Esther Rantzen would have been proud of... I could go on.

I was amused, however, to discover that the dragon of the piece, Dracorex (a dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of North America) was only discovered by palaeontologists in 2006 and that it's full name is Dracorex Hogwartsia, meaning 'dragon king of Hogwarts'. And I wonder if there'll be any more guest appearances from Jason Flemyng's old mates (Tony Curran, who played the knight, was The Invisible Man to Flemyng's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

The episode seemed particularly poor coming, as it did, after the nerve-shredding terror of the Terror Birds and the fantastic future Killer Fungus (although this one did make me wonder if anyone has been inspired by my own work, just as I am inspired by that of others). Fortunately, next week's episode (featuring a creature designed by 16 year-old Carim Nahaboo from Essex) looks much better. I'll be staying in for that one!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Legend of the Lambton Worm

I am currently working on a novella, for Abaddon Books, entitled Conqueror Worm. The story, set in 1797, was inspired by the Legend of the Lambton Worm and I have researched various versions of the story to help create mine. On top of that, yesterday I found myself re-telling the original legend myself for the self-same story.

I first came across the legend in Carey Miller's A Dictionary of Monsters and Mysterious Beasts first published in 1974. This book provided me with my initial experience of many well-known monster legends, including that of Grendel and Beowulf, but the one story which has always stuck with me is that of the Lambton Worm. I can still clearly visualise the the rather naive illustration of the worm (shown as a giant earthworm as opposed to a dragon) wrapped around a tree, and this has certainly influenced the story I'm currently writing.

And it's not only influenced this story, it also made an appearance in my very first published work Spellbreaker, this time in the guise of the Devilworm. I often find myself returning to familiar themes or sources of inspiration in my writing. The upcoming Pax Britannia novel Evolution Expects and the new Fighting Fantasy adventure Stormslayer share more than a few passing similarities (while still being completely different stories), and The Horror of Howling Hill shares aspects of both Spellbreaker and Howl of the Werewolf (if you know where to look).

If you don't know the Romance of the Worm of Lambton yourself (or you'd like a quick refresher), click here. Alternatively, there's a fantastic comic strip version in Bryan Talbot's magnum opus Alice in Sunderland (18 pages worth!).

Monday, May 4, 2009

May the fourth be with you


It's an oldie, but it's a goodie

And the reason for reminding you that today is Star Wars Day? I'm studying aspects of a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away for a potential new project. It's too early to say more at the moment, but fingers crossed and the Force may yet be strong in this one.

Current workload includes the aforementioned Star Wars-related research, completing the Pax Britannia short story Conqueror Worm (which takes the Pax Britannia universe in a whole new direction) and concluding my work on Stormslayer. (The illustrations are all in for this one and, I have to say, there are some doosies amongst them. I'll try to give you a sneak preview of some, if and when I'm allowed.) Oh and there are the next three - yes, three! - Pax Britannia novels to plot out.

That should give me busy through May.

Until next time...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Free Comic Book Day!


Today is Free Comic Book Day - hurray! Yes, it's true - today participating comic stores around the world are giving away free comic books. I know, it sounds unbelievable, but it's true!

Click here
to find out how Forbidden Planet are helping those who can't easily get into one of their stores to participate. And this is what my local comic store They Walk Among Us of Richmond is up to.

To find out more about the event in general, click here.