Friday, 21 October 2016

Review - David Tallerman & Anthony Summey C21st Gods

21st Century Gods by David Tallerman & Anthony Summey

I was so happy to be able to snag a copy of this from Netgalley. I've been a big fan of Tallerman's since I read Giant Thief and have enjoyed everything I've read from him so far. So when he announced he was tackling a comic (a format I'm a big fan of) involving noir (a genre I like) and Call of Cthulhu I was so keen to grab hold.

And it doesn't disappoint. The art is crisp and reminded me a little of Dave Gibbons and fit the story well. The trenchcoated, bearded detective instantly likeable and the horror built well in this first issue.

There are some well-drawn tableaux's of murders towards the end of the issue that are a morbid pleasure to see. This is a nice little introduction and my appetite is definitely whetted for the next one...

Overall - This is going to be a series to look out for - take yourself over to Tallerman's blog to see what he says about it - it's worth reading

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Guest post - Rosemary Dun

Rosemary Dun is a lover of words and a performer of poetry – she’s been known to whip out her ukulele (unless you ask her very nicely not to!) The Trouble With Love is her debut novel with Sphere, Little Brown, and she couldn't be more delighted. She’s also a creative writing tutor, mother to two grownup daughters (how did that happen?) and she lives close to Bristol’s historic harbourside with her bonkers labrador Tallulah.

I asked Rosemary to provide a blog on one of three possible topics - she's gone above and beyond and provided info on all three topics 9and every interesting it is too)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Reviews - Two by Teodor Reljic & Starve better by Nick Mamatas

Two books of two halves

Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror…

Nick Mamatas has written a book in two halves - Lies and Life. I read this for the Lies part - his advice to writers and there was plenty of inteersting advice from the writer and editor. I like that some of it chimed with my own writing, a celebration of ambiguity for example. Mamatas gained a bit of notoriety for earning money from writing term papers for students for money and the second half of the book, the starve better part, was how to earn fast cash as a writer. Some of which was morally er, ambiguous and I enjoyed that section a lot less.

Overall - if you are a writer you can live without this, but if you do happen to pick it up you may find something inside of use.

Cover by Pierre Portelli

Two by Teodor Reljic

Full disclosure - I was introduced to Teo by a mutual friend at the recent Fantasycon where he gave me a copy of his book.

 First things first - this is a beautiful book - the cover, the designs, the red tint to the pages - it's a visual delight. Luckily the story lives up to the promise of the outside - Reljic tells two tales (hence the title) at once, but in interspersed chapters - those following William and those following Vermillion, the protagonist of a story William's mother has been telling him. William and his parents are on their annual trip to Malta and when things go awry William retreats more and more into the Vermillion stories. The writing is dreamy, and poetic and often exquisite:

She lets words fall one by one, like they’re meant to die after they leave her mouth to be reborn in your mind.

William's POV is convincing and the story feels both complete and open, and there’s that ambiguity that I mentioned as recommended by Mamatas and I often explore in my own writing.

Overall - this is a book that will reward re-reading and is in a very appealing style. I really enjoyed it and look forward to seeing more from this author.

It is worth me stating, since there is a personal connection here, that plenty of people give me books to review, or I obtain books written by friends but I don't always fall in love with them enough to write a review.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

On being a complicated writer

A Tiding Of Magpies by Peter Sutton

So reviews are trickling in for my short story collection - A Tiding of Magpies and I'm pondering the ramifications of the following:

"His writing is difficult to categorise:"


"Pete Sutton is a charismatic and complicated writer"

and from the introduction by Paul Cornell

"a number of them could be called magical realism. They fit into that gap between rationality and magic." Although Cheryl Morgan, when she interviewed me on her radio show, said that I can't be Magic Realisat as I'm  not Spanish - she has a point!

On the one hand it's nice to be hard to classify, that means I must have an individual voice. But on the other it means having to build my own audience?

In this post-book lull, (Sick City Syndrome is finished, writing & editing wise - but now needs lots of marketing) I've got a number of directions I can possibly go.

Sick City Syndrome by Peter Sutton

Since signing for Kristell Ink for my novel Seven Deadly Swords work on the edit has commenced - it needs a bit of a structural rebuild before addressing the other issues in a closer edit so still some work to do on that.

But I find myself wondering what's next.

I wrote Seven Deadly Swords as an exercise in how to write a novel (I learn by doing mainly -but also I think that's probably the only way to learn to write a novel) and Sick City was written as KGHH took Magpies with a deal to also give them a novel which I then had to write quick smart!

Now I have a list of possible projects to pursue and wonder which way to go. And in the background is this feedback - hard to categorise, complicated etc.

I've never really thought about doing a series and I'm not one of those writers that has a variety of pseudonyms (I'd get confused - I can't compartmentalise my life) and I have ideas for a second world fantasy novel as well as a novella in the same world which I'd like to get on and write and another contemporary (dare I say more magic realist) novel as well as another historical fantasy (set in the 17th Century rather than the 12th like Seven Deadly Swords) and I expect I'll pursue each of these ideas in good time

But which one first? The 2nd world fantasy one will place me in that - "each of his books is different to the last category" for sure...

Or do I go for same, same but different? 

In the meantime I'm working on some smaller projects - a piece for the Body Horror Book as well as two short stories for North Bristol Writers - one for a chapbook called Flying Cities and the other for a set of Ghost Tales called - The Dark Half of the Year.

Nothing much will progress this month though as I'm going to be busy at HorrorCon, Unsung Live, Bristol Festival of Literature and BristolCon

Do sign up to all those great events!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Reviews - Good Immigrant, City of Blades, Europe in Winter

So what ties up three apparently disconnected books? A non-fiction collection of essays, a fantasy novel and a near-future SF novel? Apart from the fact they are all new this year and all came across my desk so I'd read and review them?

Well I think they have all been written with an understanding that the world works a certain way, but it need not do so. Stories make the world. We should all tell better ones...

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The Good Immigrant Edited by Nikesh Shukla

From the back - "What's it like to live in a country that doesn't trust you and doesn't want you unless you win an Olympic gold medal or a national baking competition." This Unbound book was inspired by a comment on a Guardian article (don't they always tell you to never read the comments?) The commenter wondered why a more prominent author wasn't interviewed in a piece by an Asian journalist who had interviewed five or six people of colour. The commentator supposed that they were all friends of the journalist just because they were mostly Asian too.So the editor got together twenty writers of colour to talk about what it felt like to be a person of colour in modern day Britain. This was written before the Referendum though, so I can only imagine that it has got worse.

Hence there are personal stories about anglicisation of names, the treatment of Muslims at airports, what it felt like to have no good role models and therefore to choose Kendo Nagasacki as one, why stories have to be about white people and many more.

This is good writing and it is important writing. Representation is massively important and in today's social climate needed more than ever. I was very happy to support this on Unbound and glad it was such a great read, as well as being something I'd like to place in the hands of nearly everyone. Read this, it's important, I'd say...

If you want an idea of the quality & type of writing then you can read this piece by Riz Ahmed.

City of Blades (The Divine Cities) by Robert…

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

What does it mean to be a soldier? This question lies at the heart of the second book from Robert Jackson Bennet in the series. A glittering, multi-faceted gem of a book it is too. I seldom invest in series, the author has to be just damn good to get me to buy more than one book in the same world and few make the mark. Bennett is one of them (Dave Hutchinson is another - see below). City of Stairs was bold, it felt fresh, it ticked all the epic fantasy boxes that I wanted to be ticked (caveat - I'm not a massive epic fantasy fan, you have to do something special in the genre to make me want to read it) and it was just a rollicking good read.

So I approached City of Blades with some nerves - I knew Bennett hadn't planned to write a sequel, I knew it wasn't going to be about exactly the same characters (although Mulaghesh is the main protagonist - and a fabulous kick-ass character too) and, although set in the same world, wasn't going to be in enchanting Bulikov.

Once I'd read a few pages any reservations I had were blown away. Bennett has the knack of grounding you in the story, you are immediately with the characters, absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of the world he's transmitting into your brain via the written word. It's a skill I am totally envious of.

General Turyin Mulaghesh has quit but is persuaded to come back for one last mission on behalf of now PM Ashara. The mission? To find a missing member of the government, someone who was investigating a new type of ore found beneath Voortyashtan, the home city of the former god of war and death. And so Bennett pulls out of the hat a second, brilliantly imagined, city in the same world as City of Stairs with an engaging plot, a new cast, with some cameos by old favourites, and a book that builds up to a page-turning second half.

I highly recommend this series to all, but especially to fantasy fans

Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson

Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson

To reveal any of the plot would just involve massive spoilers at this, the third book, so suffice to say we are back with Rudi and the Coureurs and we get to explore some of the loose ends of the previous two novels and get engaged in exciting new plots and plot twists.

If you haven't read the first two books then you need to remedy that! Set in a fractured Europe where the EU has mostly failed and the countries of Europe are breaking into ever smaller kingdoms and polities these books have a thriller/spycraft feel but with a healthy dose of near-future SF.

Hutchinson is a master of the splintered novel with a great many moving parts that in a lesser writer's hands would feel chaotic and random. If you've got this far however you'll know to trust that everything, all the various twits, turns, apparent digressions (that aren't) sub-plots and minor characters are there for a purpose that makes a coherent and quite brilliant whole.

I love that Hutchinson explores parts of Europe that are under-represented in other fiction - places like Poland and Estonia. I really enjoyed the Polish section as I've spent some time in that country working and Hutchinson's description gelled very much with that.

The fact that the first two books made the Clarke Award shortlist should tell you that this is an author to watch and watch I will.

Another highly recommended book.

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