Monday, 19 December 2016

Christmas - Boxing Day Dip Update

Well, those freezing cold waves are getting ever closer. Just 7 more days until I join hundreds of
others in the annual Boxing Day Dip.

I'm delighted to announce that I have exceeded my target - my sponsorship money now standing at £155. Which is absolutely excellent, but I'd really like to raise more!

But it's not too late to sponsor me. You still have plenty of time!!

Please do try and give something. Doesn't have to be much, just a couple of quid is fine. It all adds up! Just click on the link below.

It's all for a good cause - with money going to the RSPCA!


Friday, 16 December 2016

Anthology Update - Guest Post by Jacqueline Rayner

Over the coming weeks and months, in the run up to the publication of the anthologies Lost Tales and Frontier Worlds, I will be inviting all the writers who have contributed a brand new story to each of the books to write a Guest Post here on my blog, in which I will ask them to throw back the curtain and reveal to us their private writing world: see exactly what makes them tick as a writer, and asking the questions such as what inspired them growing up, and what they enjoy about other writers' works!

Up next is SF, Fantasy and Doctor Who author Jacqueline Rayner, who has written a story for Frontier Worlds...

Well, of course I read loads as a child, and always wanted to write – but I guess that’s a given, isn’t it? I doubt there are many people who just slipped into writing books by accident, 
especially in the SF or fantasy fields because you tend to be quite deep in those worlds already. Growing up, I quite often had people thinking it odd that a girl – a girl! – should love SF, with its macho men and laser guns and big spaceships and monsters, but of course (a) why should they not love those things? and (b) SF is not just those things. I was a voracious reader of comics, and many of those aimed at the girls of the late 70s and early 80s had huge doses of SF (and horror, and fantasy) alongside the traditional ballet and ponies, so I knew it wasn’t just me who liked such stuff. My favourite children’s author is Monica Hughes, a Canadian writer, whose SF books absorbed me into their worlds like no others – I vividly remember the sensation of finishing her books and coming out, blinking, into our world again, realising with a shock that you were suddenly elsewhere. As a child I also loved Nicholas Fisk, Robert Westall, Margaret Mahy, John Wyndham, all writers whose books burrow into your mind. Other books can draw you into their worlds – I desperately wanted to be a member of the Famous Five, for example – but nothing does it quite as well as SF or fantasy. 

I think my greatest literary achievement was when we had to write a book for English class in my second year at senior school, and the teacher kept hold of mine (yes, it was SF, although I can remember nothing about it except I think it might have had a dystopian setting), and years later I found out that she’d been using it as an example in lessons when some younger children came and told me they’d been reading my book in English and loved it. That felt amazing. My entire career has probably been about trying to recreate that moment – not the praise (although that was rather lovely), but the fact I’d created a world for other people to go into. One day I’ll do it again! I think my story for Frontier Worlds is creeping closer to the sort of thing I’ve always wanted to write – I loved writing it, in any case.

I think proper writers are supposed to write either at a desk or in a coffee shop, but because of health issues I actually write in (or on – depending how good a day it is) bed with a laptop, and so sadly don’t count as a proper writer, although on the plus side it’s quite comfy and I don’t have to worry about making one coffee last an entire day. Sometimes I wear long velvet dresses to write in, which either makes me feel all writerly and creative or makes me point and laugh at myself as I realise just how pretentious it is when basically I’m just doing a job of work where I press lots of keys on a computer and hope someone gives me some money at the end of it. To be honest, though, I’m pretty sure there are few jobs that couldn’t be improved just by wearing a velvet frock to do them in. Apart from deep-sea diver, when it’d really weigh you down.

Jacqueline has written numerous novels, audio plays and comic strips. Her recent releases include the Doctor Who comic book The Highgate Horror (which includes her comic strip Witch Hunt) and the anthology The Twelves Doctors of Christmas (which includes two of her short stories). She regularly writes for the Doctor Who Magazine.

Check out Jacqueline's blog HERE

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Incoming - New Book Day - Star Trek: Outside In

There's nothing more exciting than when a lovely brand spanking new copy of a book, CD or comic
book I've written comes through my letterbox and plops onto the doormat.

And today is no exception.

This morning, old postie delivered the Star Trek anthology Outside In Boldly Goes, which was published a few weeks ago in paperback. The book contains over 100 essays on all TOS live action and animated episodes, plus all six original movies, the three new reboots and episodes of Deep Space Nine, Voyage and Next Generation that feature original crew members.

My piece is on the season two episode The Changeling.

You can buy your copy from ATB Publishing's website HERE

5% of the full retail price of all sales of the book will be donated to the Avert HIV/AIDS charity in the UK.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Sci-Fi Bulletin Christine Review

Being a big fan of John Carpenter's movies (in fact, The Thing is one of my Top 10 Films of All Time), I recently got my hands on a copy of the Powerhouse Films limited edition dual format 2-disc set of Christine.

Christine is one of those films that's not as well known or as highly regarded as most of Carpenter's other works, but it was one I grew up with. I used to own a copy on VHS ( when it was released as part of the Hollywood Horror Collection label) and watched it regularly growing up. I threw it out some time around the early Naughties when I replaced my old video recorder with a DVD player, so this blu-ray release is the first time I've actually sat down and watched the film in about seventeen or eighteen years.

What do I think of it after all these years?

Well, you can read my review of the blu-ray set over on Sci-Fi Bulletin right HERE.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Anthology Update - Guest Post by Eric Brown

Over the coming weeks and months, in the run up to the publication of the anthologies Lost Tales and Frontier Worlds, I will be inviting all the writers who have contributed a brand new story to each of the books to write a Guest Post here on my blog in which I will ask them to throw back the curtain and reveal to us their private writing world: seeing what exactly makes them tick as a writer, and asking them questions such as what inspired them growing up, and what they enjoy about other writers' works!

The second guest post is by my friend and best-selling SF author Eric Brown, who has written a story for Frontier Worlds...

I didn’t read as a child. In a way, I regret this as I missed out on all the children’s classics that are hard to read in quite the same way as an adult. On the plus side, it did mean that when I finally did discover the wonder of books, and especially fiction, the discovery hit me with the force of a revelation.

I was fourteen and recently arrived in Australia. At that time, the mid-Seventies, you could leave school down under at fifteen, and as I was fourteen and a half, and had shown no academic aptitude whatsoever, I grasped the opportunity with both hands. Before I began work in my parent’s corner shop, I had a long hot summer to kill, with no friends, strange TV, and temperatures in the nineties to endure. Bored to distraction one day, I was given Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table and told by my mother, “Get out from under my feet and read this!”

I did, and the book changed my life.

It’s hard to describe quite what an impact this rather ordinary novel had on the psyche of that naive young man I was then. I’d never read a novel in my life – managing to skive with extraordinary skill when called to do any work at school – and to be allowed into the head of another human being via the medium of fiction, of experiencing albeit vicariously the plush, upper-class London on the 1930s, pole-axed me with wonder. I read every Agatha Christie whodunit I could lay my hands on and then, in an epiphany even greater, one day in Mordialloc public library discovered a paperback of Robert Silverberg’s short stories: Sundance. If Christie was revelatory, you can imagine what Silverberg’s SF did to my young mind. I was hooked. I read everything by the Master I could find, then discovered H. G. Wells and others, and it wasn’t long before I decided that being a writer must be the finest thing in the world. I began writing.

I’d also discovered Roald Dahl’s marvellous short stories around the same time, and my first tales were influenced by his macabre, twist-in-the-tail masterpieces – though without any real macabre element, and lacking the final, telling twist. The very first story I bashed out on a Kovack portable typewriter, bought for me by my parents, came to almost a thousand words – and I felt proud at writing something that long. It was a two-hander about a walker who comes upon an old yokel sitting by the side of a lane in Dorset. (I was very homesick at the time, and set my tales in an idealised rural Britain, green and lush, unlike the parched Australia where I was living.) The yokel warns the walker from going to the nearby village, as it’s full of strange folk, and he proceeds to recount how the village has its own draconian laws; a wrong-doer forfeits a body-part for a crime committed. The tale ends with the yokel wishing the walker good day, reaching behind him for a crutch, and hobbling off down the lane on one leg. A very poor tale clearly influenced by Dahl’s “A Man from the South”. I still have the yellow, foxed ms, and I see that for some reason it’s written entirely in capital letters.

That was the first short story I finished, and I wrote a hundred or so more before I made my first sale, “Krash-Bangg Joe and the Pineal Zen Equation” to interzone in 1987, some twelve years later. I was back in Britain by then, and had taken a year out from work (labouring in a factory) to travel and write novels. I was in Greece when I was contacted by an agent who’d read my first three tales in Interzone and wanted to know if I’d written a novel. Well, I’d written thirty of the things – all too short and very, very bad. (They were short because I’d read a lot of Ace Double novels, and thought this was the required length). I wrote back to him that I was working on a novel, but in the interim would he be interested in seeing a collection of short stories? He was and, miraculously, so were Pan Macmillan. I look back in wonder at my fortune. Which big publisher these days would take a chance on publishing a collection of short stories by an unknown writer? Answer: not one.

The Time-Lapsed Man
and other stories came out in 1990, followed in ’92 by my first novel, Meridian Days.

Around this time I gave up my job and became – rashly, in retrospect – a freelance writer. Looking back, I should have taken an apprenticeship in carpentry (they were still being offered in Yorkshire at the time) to tide me over the lean times that were to lie ahead. But I didn’t know that then, and wrote feverishly with the blind optimism of youthful enthusiasm. Over the course of the next ten years I published just three or four novels, a couple of kids’ books, and loads of short stories (I was still living at home, so could exist frugally). I was dumped by Pan Macmillan after four books, Gollancz after six, and then changed agents: John Jarrold took me on and found me a home with Solaris, the company I’m still with. I’ve done thirteen novels for Solaris, with two in the pipeline, as well as four murder-mysterious for Seven House (a harking back to my first love, the whodunit) and a raft of novellas for PS Publishing and others. I love writing novellas – a form perfectly suited for the SF genre – and still write the occasional short story.

I write on a PC using Office Libre, and start work around 8.45, five days a week. I write for around two and a half hours (this dictated by the capacity of my dog’s bladder, as by then he’s demanding his second walk of the day). After lunch I put in another shift, and find that in a typical writing day I turn out a little over four thousand words. This means I can complete the first draft of a novel inside a month. Then comes the hard and ruthless work of rewriting the thing. I cut a lot. I find I write a lot of waffle in the first draft, with characters talking to each other at needless length, and I over-describe, finding my way into the novel. Around three or four months after first setting digit to keyboard, the novel is done, having been read by a few trusted and valued readers.

I've just finished the first draft of a time-travel novel. Next up, after Xmas, is a novella for Ian Whates at NewCon Press; his only remit: "Set it on Mars." After that I'm looking forward to writing the fourth Langham and 
Dupré mystery, whodunits set in 1950s Britain. I find that writing in a world known to the reader is a great antidote to writing SF, where the future is made up. I find I have greater stylistic freedom writing the crime novels, and relish writing eccentric characters, which don't lend themselves to the SF genre (for reasons I've gone into elsewhere).

Next year it will be thirty years since David Pringle and Simon Ounsley accepted my very first SF short story; I’ve written almost sixty books in that time, and a hundred and fifty short stories, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. (Well, almost… There are downsides to a writer’s life, but that’s another story.)

Eric'c next novel, Binary System, will be released next summer from Solaris, while the fourth novel in his 'Langham & Dupre' 1950s crime series, Murder Makes Three, will be published next April by Severn House. He is also collaborating on a short story collection with Tony Ballantyne called Microcosms.

He is currently working on an SF novella for Newcon Pres set on Mars.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Thirteen Horror Anthology - CD Release

It was announced recently that the splendid chaps at Fantom Films had released the portmanteau horror anthology, Thirteen, as a shiny CD box set. Something we’d always eventually intended, right from the beginning.

This got me idly thinking about the anthology – remembering it’s creation and working with the writers, etc, etc…and then it suddenly hit me.

Has it really been 3 years since Thirteen was released?

Shockingly, the answer is yes!

Actually, I’ve just checked my emails and it’s nearer 3 and a half years (it was August 2013 when that little beauty was originally released into the world as a downloadable album.)

I remember the moment I had the idea for the anthology – it was December 2010, about a week before Christmas, and I was living in a small village out on the edge of the moors. It had been snowing heavily for a day or two and there was about two foot of snow on the ground. Naturally my wife couldn’t get into work with the car, so we had to pull on our Wellington boots and walk down to the train station at the bottom end of the village.

The journey into town was only 25 minutes or so, but if the track had been covered in snow then they tended to be a little overly cautious, sometimes not even allowing passenger on until they made the journey into town once, just to check that the rails weren’t blocked or impassable. Thankfully that morning they were allowing people on board the train, so my wife got on and I began to make my slow, careful way back up the hill through the deep snow towards our house.

The sky was just starting to get properly light, and there was no one about but me - the only sound was the twittering of the birds in the trees and the steady crunch crunch crunch of my wellies in the snow.

All of a sudden I heard someone speak. Not out loud and not with my ears, but inside my head, loud and clear, I heard the voice of a man. The words were a confession, a confession of guilt. The voice was neither contrite nor boastful, but simply speaking the truth. It said…

“My name is Hamilton James Macauley and I am a murderer!”

Then, in my mind’s eye, I saw the image of this man, tall and lean and dressed in an old fashioned suit. He was standing in a shop surrounded on all sides by piles of books, boxes of records, magazines, antiquated machinery…

By the time I got home 15 minutes later I had the basic idea for a portmanteau horror anthology, with Macauley’s story as the framing device for the rest of the stories in the anthology.

Our house was an old fisherman’s cottage (at least 150 years old) and the porous brickwork had started to let the cold and the damp seep in, especially when there was a howling northerly wind coming in over the moors, so it was a bit of a devil to heat in the Winter months. As a result I’d taken to carrying my laptop downstairs into the large kitchen/dining room and setting up a work-space on the dining table – there were two large radiators and an oil fire in there, so it was always nice and toasty.

So, the moment I got home I struggled out of my big coat, scarf, gloves, jumper and wellies, sat down at the dining room table and immediately got in contact with Neil Gardner, pitching him my audio anthology idea. We’d been looking for a project to work on together for a while, and Thirteen seemed like the ideal one.

I’m still enormously proud of Thirteen – it remains one of my favourite pieces of work, and I still listen to it from time to time. It even went on to win an Audie Award for Best Original Work in 2014!

At the time I became incredibly fascinated by the characters of Hamilton James Macauley and the old shopkeeper, Fleetwood. So much so that I even began to make notes on a back-story for each of the characters, just in case I ever decided to revisit them in a later project.

I started thinking…what if they’d actually met before, under different circumstances, only Macauley didn’t know it, or even remember?

I still haven’t given up on that idea. Who knows, perhaps we will see them again in the not too distant future.

Thirteen is now available as a 3-CD set and can be ordered HERE at the Fantom Films website.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Christmas Update - The Boxing Day Dip Charity Plunge!

Along with a hundred or so other brave loonies this Christmas, I'll be running headlong into the freezing waters, all in the name of charity!!

Yes, as the excitement and madness of the festive season hits us, I've taken leave of my senses and decided to take part in the annual Boxing Day Dip. Which means, on the 26th of December, in the very depths of Winter, I'll be climbing into my swimming shorts and running like a lunatic into the cold, cold ocean.

But it's all in the name of charity!! I'll be raising money for the RSPCA.

So please sponsor me a little something, doesn't have to be much, just 50p or a £1 - it all adds up! Just click on the link below and it'll take you to my official Just Giving sponsor page.