As a follow-up to my post this morning, now I have confirmation my book is live on Kindle and here’s the link.
Please have a look and leave a review.
As a follow-up to my post this morning, now I have confirmation my book is live on Kindle and here’s the link.
Please have a look and leave a review.
The day has finally arrived, after a couple of false starts due to moving house, then having no internet for nearly a month, finally I’ve hit the PUBLISH button on Kindle Direct Publishing. My novella Brave New World which is the first part of the Life In The Fastlane series should be available later today (UK) and tomorrow (rest of the world).
Brave New World is set in the late 1940s and is an alternate history tale centered around the declining British Empire, a fractured United States locked in a decades old war between east and west, and the efforts of Professor Horatio Sykes to improve on his fathers invention in the hope of shortening the distance between countries and so bring them closer together.
Sykes is a dreamer, and idealist, and unfortunately for him whilst he dreams of a world where his fathers improved invention heals the wounds between nations, there are others who see his upgrades as just another tool to be used to impose their will on others.
Priced at £1.99 this novella is short and fast paced taking you from one side of the Atlantic to the other as the action alternates between the characters.
Hoping to have some reviews soon, but please take a look and if you feel the inspiration to write a few words about it then please do.
The end of April races ever closer and the final edit of my novella Life In The Fastlane: Brave New World is nearing its end. Initially tallying in at just over 16,500 ish words this final edit – due in part to Beta guidance from The Life Of Spike author Jodie Portugal jvoportugal.wordpress.com – has already gained just over 2,000 extra and I still have halfway to go.
As well as the final edit I’ve also been preparing for actual P-Day, and part of that preparation – along with all the work in the Kindle direct publishing back room (so to speak) – has been the cover. Now I’ve always had an idea or two of how I wanted the cover to look, what I wanted it to say about the story. But the problem is I’m no artist. So after putting a shout out on Twitter for guidance I was given the contact details of Susan Omand – www.omandoriginal.com – and contacted her about doing a proper job of my ideas.
Susan is very professional, she listened to what I wanted and set to work giving me a first draft with a week of initial contact.
I liked this from the off, I like that she has used the same sort of font used during the Next Generation years of Star Trek for the main series title and my name – something she did with no input from me. My idea for the cover was to show the two main forms of technology featured in the story, I also wanted to depict a scene that I enjoyed writing and introduces the ship on the cover. But after seeing the first draft I realized my idea to have both forms of technology present on the cover didn’t really work, the effect in the top right above the title drew my eyes away from the main image. An image I felt needed total attention. So I asked Susan for some changes.
I feel this second draft better captures the image I want, along with removing the effect above the title I also corrected an error in the ships designation, moved it more to the front. I feel these changes made the image I wanted on the cover clearer, more defined. This is not a war story but a story set during a war, that’s what I feel the cover tells any prospective reader. So with what I wanted locked in Susan did the tweaks needed to clean the image up and re-size for the Kindle.
So there we have it, the cover to my book and a damned fine cover if I say so. Susan has done a sterling job in doing this and if anyone ever wants someone to do a book, CD cover or any sort of artwork I recommend you contact her.
After a lot of faffing, re-reads, re-writes, abandoning, resurrecting and general wasting time dicking around on the internet, I’ve finally picked a date to publish my novella. It’s been an ongoing project for some time – in one form or another about 2 and a bit years – but I’m biting the proverbial bullet and going for it. Had the final beta readers feedback and am now editing based on their suggestions. Once that’s done its one more read through and I’m good to go.
I’ve also gone with a professional designer to do the cover – the wonderful Susan Omand over at Omand Original http://www.omandoriginal.com/ – who is working on the design based on my very rough sketched idea. I’ve gone for a retro looking cover a bit like the old 1950s movie posters, and chosen a couple of scenes from the story to highlight the technology present in the world I’ve created.
Once I have the finished cover I’ll do a post about the process and include my rough attempt and the proper version that will be uploaded to Kindle when done. I’ve already been on Amazon and created my account and put most of the details in I need to, all that remains is the novella.
At present it stands at just shy of 17,000 words, but I have the feeling it could be gaining some with this final beta readers input. I already have the 2nd draft of the second novella done – and is already longer than the first – I’ll be looking to get that out to beta readers once part one is published.
I’ll be doing updates from now to P-Day, and there will be some serious pimping as well.
Oh yeah, what’s it called? Ha, ha, see not as organised as I thought. The overall series title is Life in the Fastlane and part one is called Brave New World.
Beauty is the retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, all the elements are here, the impenetrable forest, the cursed princess, the handsome prince. This final story in Sarah Pinborough’s trilogy of fairy tale retellings closes the circle started in Poison, but whilst being the last book released, chronologically it is the first story in the sequence. I’d long suspected – after events and comments made by two characters in Poison – that this trilogy would follow along the same non-linear lines as the film Sin City. This disjointed way of telling the story has built over the previous two books making this first story a brilliant ending.
From the title it’s easy to assume what this book is all about. Already we’ve had Snow White in Poison and Cinderella in Charm, so going into this I was expecting the trademark slantways take that Sarah has given us many time before, but this time focused on the Sleeping Beauty story. Whilst this is mainly what we get – in a roundabout way – we also get a lot more. I did think everything and the kitchen sink once I’d finished, counting at least three separate fairy tales blended into the mix, and possible nod’s to more. It’s a nice piece of plotting pulling all these threads into one story and not making it looked crowded. But as well as telling this story Sarah had to also tie off loose ends carried over from the previous two. I’ve read some full novels where too many threads have made the story bloated and incoherent, but Sarah has managed this with some sparkling prose and a cracking pace.
Sometimes novellas can be a little like a Chinese takeaway, a quick meal and soon after you are feeling hungry again. But here Sarah has managed to make a novella that feels like a full novel, you get given a full blown world full of character’s all of which are fully formed and three dimensional, and whilst they may feel familiar, they all have uniqueness to them that sets them apart from what may be the accepted image of the characters. Here you also get very much the view that the separate kingdoms already visited in the previous two books are very tightly linked together. Whilst the cast comes from different parts, they have a common past, one that brings them together whether they wanted to or not.
As with the previous two stories this is very much a Sarah Pinborough book, full of devious twists on character traits and healthy dollops of sexual tension. Whilst not as blazingly sexy as the previous two – though there is a pretty wild party – this time there is more underlying tension, a hint that at any moment bodices will be ripped and breaches dropped to the floor. As a standalone this would work on many levels, added to the whole it makes a perfect episode in the overall story arc.
According to my account on Goodreads I’ve read 32 books this year, well 33 as I’ve just finished one that is not currently listed on the site. So that’s 2.75 books a month, and I wonder sometimes what I spend all my time doing!
So this year, for the first time, I decided to look through what I had read and list my top 10. I’m not usually a fan of best of lists purely because tastes change on a regular basis. What might be the best today may not be tomorrow simply because something better comes along. But seeing as 2013 is in its last few hours, and the books I have read during the last 12 months will not be repeated, I thought it was fairly safe to put a list together, because even if something better does come along tomorrow, it’ll be 2014 by then.
I should point out this is a list of books I have read in 2013, not a list of books published in 2013.
So to kick things off…
No. 10: Ace Of Skulls by Chris Wooding – whilst I was not totally blow away by this final instalment in the Tales Of The Ketty Jay series it gets a placing simply because it is the final instalment. The series as a whole has been brilliant, with a mix of fantasy, horror and steampunk it was something different and entertaining. The mixed crew of misfits were instantly likeable and grew on you with each book. Was it original, maybe not. A lot of people likened it to Firefly, but having never seen the show I had no comparison to make.
No. 9: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig – a mix of organised crime, fantasy and horror, this is the story of Mookie Pearl. Pearl is a hard man, an enforcer, a killer. He is also privy to the knowledge of the dark forbidden underbelly of the city where monsters lurk and death is ready for the unwilling. Along with Wendig’s trademark no-holds-barred style of story telling this is a great tale full of wit, blood and kick-ass action.
No. 8: Exit Kingdom by Alden Bell – the sequel/prequel to the excellent The Angels Are The Reapers. Set in a post apocalyptic world where humanity has fallen to the zombie hordes. But unlike your run-of-the-mill zombie tale here the walking dead are mere bit part players. Carrying on the tale of Moses Todd this story flashes back to his days on the road with his psychotic brother Abraham, as he tries to find some form of peace in a broken world. Along the way they encounter a gifted woman who may very well be the cure everyone has dreamt of.
No. 7: Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell – Ack-Ack Macaque is a cigar chomping, whisky swilling one-eyed spitfire pilot, he is also a Monkey. Fighting the hordes of ninja-Nazi paratroopers is what he does, but he is beginning to think everything is not as real as he thinks. This is a unique tale of a sentient ape and his part in the saving of a prince and battle against the coming apocalypse. There is a twist, and its a very inventive twist that allows Ack-Ack to bridge the gap between the 1940s war and the 21st century workd where most of the story is set. Look out for the sequel Hive Monkey due out soon.
No. 6: Age Atomic by Adam Christopher – this is the follow-up to the brilliant Empire State and carries on the story of the Pocket universe that is the mirror of Manhattan. This time round the Empire State is in danger of being destroyed as earth tremors and a freezing winter threaten to tear the fabric of the Pocket apart. On top of that someone is building an army of nuclear powered robots and plan to invade New York.
No. 5: The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell – this is the latest in the Saxon Stories and continues the tale of Uhtred. King Alfred is dead, Edward now sits on the throne and his advisor’s and the church have distanced him from his fathers greatest warlord, the pagan Uhtred. After an ill advised trip to punish a wayward son, Uhtred finds himself banished from Wessex, penniless and with only a few faithful warriors still at his side he heads north to finally retake his ancestral home. But the long peace between Wessex and the Danes is about to come to a crashing end, and when the Danes strike, and blood is spilt, Wessex as always will only have one man to turn to to save them.
No. 4: The Split Worlds Trilogy (Between Two Thorns/Any Other Name/All Is Fair) by Emma Newman – the Nether is home to the Fae-touched and is a mirror to Mundanus (Earth). There is a treaty in place that forbids the Fae and their puppets from interfering in the lives of the Mundanes, a treaty enforced by the Sorcerers and their Arbitors. But someone has corrupted one of the Chapters and Mundanes are being snatched from the streets of London. This trilogy is a debut fantasy series and if you didn’t know that you’d be hard pressed to notice. Emma’s writing is pitch perfect, her characters vibrant and three dimensional. The story is one of adventure, conspiracy and rebellion. But in amongst this there is also dark subjects including murder, marital rape and slavery.
No. 3: The Copper Promise: Let Sleeping Gods Lie by Jen Williams – I reviewed this in the previous post to this, so most everything I have to say can be read there. But I will say this is a debut fantasy novel that breathes life into the pulp style of story telling that I grew up reading. brilliantly paced, great characters and a plot that carries you through a breathtakingly imagined fantasy world.
No. 2: The Broken Empire Trilogy (Prince Of Thorns/King Of Thorns/Emperor Of Thorns) by Mark Lawrence – another debut fantasy trilogy, and another breath of fresh aired breathed into a genre stuffed full of grim and dark. Jorg of Ancarth has to be one of the darkest characters I’ve come across in a while. Haunted by a childhood tragedy that saw his brother and mother brutally slain, and treated with scorn by an unloving father Jorg does what many boys have done before and runs away. But in running away he joins a troop of road brothers and embarks on a killing spree that would be seen as bloody by any counts, but is made more so because Jorg is barely into his teens at the time. Through the course of the three books Jorg cuts his way from road brother, to King to the Empire Throne, the body count is countless, no-one is safe, including those who ride with him. Does Jorg have redeeming qualities, yes, he is not a mindless killing machine, he does what he does for a reason. But those reasons are not always as clear as you might think.
No. 1: Sarah Pinborough’s Modern Fairy Tales (Poison/Charm/Beauty) by Sarah Pinborough – the title I made up, not sure this series of three novellas actually has an overall title? But still, Sarah’s re-imaging/retelling/modern interpretation (call them what you will) of classic fairy tales are brilliant and by far the best thing I’ve read this year. These are fairy tales for grown-ups, Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty all come under the spotlight and are given the Pinborough treatment. These are not suitable reading for children, some adults of a sensible nature may want to steer clear as well. Sarah has taken the core of each story and given it a twist, added ingredients and also brought in elements from other fairy stories to make original stories that intrigued and delight.
Bubbling under and worthy a mention…
Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough – a fresh new take on the Jack the Ripper legend that isn’t about Jack the Ripper.
NOS4R2 by Joe Hill – twisted serial killer Charlie Manx kidnaps children and takes them off to Christmasland where he feeds off their fun.
The Shinning Girls by Lauren Beukes – another serial killer but this time one that can time travel between the 1920s and 1990s killing girls that show some spark of greatness.
Space Danger by Doug Strider – a series of self published novellas set about a starship captained by Kurt Dangler. To sum this up its a mix of Monty Python, Douglas Adams and Ripping Yarns, in space.
Author: Emma Newman
Publisher: Angry Robot
Published: Out Now
The Duke of Londinium is dead, long live the Duke. The dust has barely settled, and Will enthroned as head of the court before events threaten to overtake everyone. Cathy is gravely wounded and recovering, Will begins to realise he’s been duped and perhaps an innocent man has paid for it with his life.
Sam, an innocent to the ways of the Fae and the Split Worlds, is made an unexpected offer by one of the Elemental Courts most powerful Lords, an offer he has little choice to refuse, an offer that he realises he can put to some good.
Max, the last surviving Arbiter of the Bath Chapter, draws ever closer to finding out the truth behind the destruction of his order. But can he stay true to his oath without being destroyed by his master, who’s insanity threatens the stability of all the wolrds.
There is a definite feeling, with this third book in the Split Worlds series, of things coming to an end. Threads, that started with Sam veering from the walk home to take a drunken piss, and finding himself embroiled in the schemes of the Fae and their puppets, have reached a sort of conclusion. But things are not that clear cut with this story, whilst everyone – Cathy, Will, Sam, Max and the Gargoyle – all come to the fore and have their moment to shine. The ending we get to this opening trilogy in what looks to be an epic tale is more of a beginning. Due to the events in the closing half of the book the balance of power across the Split Worlds shifts, old institutions fall and the treaty that holds everything together seems to be paper thin, leading me to think that open war is not that far away.
It’s been a slow build up, Emma has taken her time to establish her world, and the characters that inhabit it. Whilst some authors might have been tempted to have had certain major events take place earlier in the series, Emma has held back and let the story unfold naturally, let circumstances evolve so the characters find themselves in the right place – physically and mentally – to force the major events to happen, and to live through them. I’d been hoping for a while that Max and his soul-locked Gargoyle would have more to do, here finally they do, and in some ways are instrumental in events enfolding as they do.
There has been little to fault along the way, Emma has a gift at creating a colourful world out of the drab, monochrome world of the Nether. She has also chosen characters that can be moulded into something more than your run-of-the-mill heroes and heroines. Like the previous book she also covers some dark themes within the narrative, slavery, persecution, rape and murder. Not what anyone would have expected after events in the first book, where Society and the puppets seemed twee and time-locked in a gentler way of life. It was a great piece of misdirection, whilst Lord Poppy was obviously not someone to be messed with, he was by far the lesser of the evils that would follow. The hierarchy of the Fae is still unclear, but the schemes and games they play through their puppets are equally as dangerous to them as everyone else.
In this third book we also get a better insight into the Sorcerers, as Erkstrand continues his investigations to what happened at the Moot. And we get to meet another of his kind (or two), whose way of doing things differs so much from Erkstrand’s that they are chalk and cheese. The subplot surrounding these two characters highlights the problems in policing the Split Worlds, and making sure the treaty is enforced. It also helps to highlight what a disjointed group the Sorcerers are, and also how their power is subverted so easily.
All the characters have grown from our initial introduction to them, but one more than others. Will started out as every inch the product of his culture, and after his marriage to Cathy, and dalliance with Amelia, seemed to be heading towards becoming the sort of man that Cathy had been trying to run away from all her life. But Will’s eyes are opened in this third book, I’m not saying he changes his colours totally but there are glimmers that perhaps the union between him and Cathy may be the most important – and pivotal – in the history of the Split Worlds. For whilst this third book has many endings, to threads that begun in book one, it also has many beginnings. Two new characters introduced – I’m sure – will prove to be important as the series continues. Their very nature makes them important as, in a way, they are the last of their kind. And in order for the Split Worlds to survive, and for Mundanus not to be overrun, they will have to come forwards and make their stand.
On top of all this there is Sam, who has come across as the comic relief for much of the story so far. Always in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Sam may well be the only person that can link all the worlds together, he inherits a position and power that seems to be able to trump everything else, he becomes something the Fae cannot deal with, but something they will have to because Sam has set himself a mission, and he intends to see it through no-matter who tries to get in his way. After having been the stooge for Lord Poppy’s schemes and games it was good to see Sam make him cringe and get some form of payback for all the suffering he has endured.
As a debut fantasy the Split Worlds nails it, and Emma pins her colours to the mast as someone who can weave a great story, that can grow and evolve as events within the story dictate.
Title: Any Other Name
Author: Emma Newman
Publisher: Angry Robot
Published: Out Now
RRP: Print – £8.99 / Kindle – £5.49
Lady Rose has fallen, all those associated to her were taken by the Agency, and the lucky ones have escaped into hiding. Londinium is in turmoil, the Duke – a Rosa – is gone along with his Patroon, leaving a power vacuum. William Reticulata-Iris is told upon his wedding that he has been chosen to take residence in Londinium and take the throne. But William has doubt his new wife – Catherine – is up for the task. Catherine knows she isn’t, she has been forced into an arranged marriage, sent to a city she does not know, and finds herself part of a family that expects its members to follow orders unfalteringly, no matter what.
The Arbiter Max, along with the gargoyle that houses his soul, continues his investigations into the murder of everyone in his Chapter House. Those investigations take him north and the secret base of the Agency, where he uncovers deeper mysteries surrounding fallen houses, and those that do not conform to what is seen to be acceptable in Society.
Sam, the unwitting Mundane who seems to have the protection of the mysterious Lord Iron, sees his life implode, his marriage fail and his job gone. Becoming embroiled in the events surrounding the Master of Ceremonies of Aquae Sulis kidnapping have left him a man unsure what is real and what is not. And also leads him to once again become involved in the plots and games the Fae and their Puppets enjoy.
With this second story set in the Split Worlds Emma has upped the stakes considerably, she has also altered the tone, highlighting the plight of women in the patriarchal society of the Fae touched. Arranged marriages, suppression of expression, hints at honour crimes and the disturbing subject of marital rape. This is a much darker tale, gone are the whimsical fairies who took such joy at making the Fae touched puppets dance, now we are presented with a society where women have no rights, except the right to perform properly for their husbands, and uphold the standing of the family in Society.
As much as I’d like to think of William, on some levels, as a sort of good guy, overall I can’t get away from the fact he’s every inch the product of his society as Catherine’s abusive father. He may not have physically hurt her, but he still expects the devotion to Society, and family, her father expected. Also his reaction to the possibility she may love another – despite him having a mistress – showed how he views Catherine, and his mistress come to that. Despite this he is still the only one of all the Fae touched male characters who shows any indication that he could change, his experiences on his Grand Tour seem to have opened his eyes to the larger world, beyond the Nether. But there is a long way to go for the William now to become anywhere near the hero of the piece he could be.
As for Catherine, she is a different character from the one first encountered in Between Two Thorns, she is less confident, in fact for the first part of the book this change in her did become testing, but I can see why it was done. Emma had to get Cathy into a place where she realised something had to be done for all the women of the Nether, and not be selfish and only think of her own needs. Her arc in this book is the most striking, we see her grow into her role, realising that in order for there to be change, change has to come from within.
But events are working against everyone – mainly William and Cathy – and no matter what they both feel and want forces outside of their control are moving pieces into position for a conflict that may have been in the planning for a long time. This time round we see that maybe the Sorcerer’s are not as all-powerful as first suggested, in fact Erkstrand seems even more distant, out of touch, than he did last time. There are some serious turns of events for the Sorcerer of Wessex, and Max and the gargoyle. In fact the gargoyle is fast becoming my favourite character, his childlike enthusiasm to believe the best in people is infectious. But I do feel he is wasted, there are several times when I wished he would bash heads, but perhaps Emma is saving that for the coming conflict?
This time out Emma has opened up the world of the Fae touched, there are glimpses of the power struggles, the schemes and hints at the dark deeds driving this story along. As with her first book don’t expect a tidy package, this is so evidently part of a wider story, a story we have yet to pass the opening section of. She is sparing in the information she shares, but gives you enough to keep going, and when you turn that last page enough to make you think “damn, that’s it!” For cliff-hangers to work – whether on TV, or in comics and books – they need to give enough to grab the reader, but hold back enough to make you come back. You get that in spades in the closing chapters.
Great news in my inbox yesterday, after the sad demise of Pill Hill Press earlier this year the newly formed Embry Press have now released Use Enough Gun: Legend Of The Monster Hunter III
Originally due for publication late 2012 by Pill Hill, the Monster Hunter series is now under the Embry Press umbrella. Miles Boothe – who runs Embry – also plans to release another anthology – Both Barrels – later in 2014 that will feature stories from parts I and II of the Monster Hunter series. This collection will feature my first published short story Groundhog Day. As and when I have publication news I’ll share.
Use Enough Gun features stories about hunts that have gone wrong, hunts where the hunter has to visit dark places within themselves to survive. My short story titled Jack features with its pages.
Really pleased to be published again.
Author: Joe Hill
Published: Out Now
RRP: Print £18.99 – Kindle £9.49
No matter what Joe Hill does he’ll always be compared to his father, and those comparisons in NOS4R2 are there for all to see, highlighted by big neon signs with arrows pointing to them. But this is not a bad thing, I’ve been a Stephen King fan for a lot of years (OK we did fall out over that ending to The Dark Tower but that’s in the past now), and to date I’ve read and enjoyed all of Joe’s work because of the comparisons to his dad. That’s not to say you’re getting a clone of something that has been done before, Joe’s work is unique, the stories original, but they all have that magical “King” ingredient.
With NOS4R2 I feel Joe Hill has found his stride, whilst Heart Shaped Box and Horns were great stories with fantastic characters, here you have a story with a grand vista, a rich history and characters that will be with you long after you put the book down. Also there are seeds sown, subtle single line seeds that begin the process of joining the worlds Joe has so far created together in their own multiverse. This is the most striking comparison to what his father has already so brilliantly done, and it’s left me wondering if – maybe – in Charlie Talent Manx III Joe has found his Randall Flagg?
In Charlie – and his associate Bing Partridge, aka the Gasmask Man – Joe has created dark twisted characters to rival any that have gone before. Both have no redeeming qualities, they are totally rotten to the core and no act, no depravity, is beyond them. And the depravities they relish are there for all to see, in glorious technicolour. Manx is old, over a hundred years old, he drives around the country in his vintage 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith – with the vanity plate of NOS4R2 – taking children and transporting them to his own personal wonderland, called Christmasland, where they never grow old and slowly lose their humanity.
To counterpoint the bad we have the good, in the shape of Victoria McQueen, child of a broken home, with a gift that enables her to travel across The Shorter Way Bridge – a bridge that was destroyed years before – to find that which is lost, objects, people and ultimately someone else who shares her gift. But a gift can be a curse, especially when she asks the Bridge to take her to find a person no-one else has been able to find, someone no other sane person would not want to find.
Vic McQueen became famous at an early age, she was the only child to escape the clutches of Charlie Manx. But that escape was only the start, a quarter decade later Vic must again face the horror, must again travel the United Inscape of America, and visit Christmasland to try to finally end the horror that is Charles Talent Manx III.