Thursday, 26 February 2015

Interview with Roy C Booth about Altered States

Roy C. Booth hails from Bemidji, MN where he manages Roy's Comics & Games with his wife and three sons. He is a published author, comedian, poet, journalist, essayist, screenwriter, and internationally awarded playwright with nearly 60 plays published (Samuel French, Heuer, et al) with 800+ productions worldwide in 29 countries in ten languages. He is also known for collaborations with R Thomas Riley, Brian Keene, Eric M. Heideman, William F. Wu, and others (along with his presence on the regional convention circuit). See his entry on Wikipedia, his Facebook page, and his publishers' sites for more.

Roy was also the recent w
inner of ten 17th Annual Preditors & Editors Awards including Best Poet, Best Poem, Best Editor, and Best Steam Punk Short Story for "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Man-Made Vacuum" (w/. Nicholas Johnson, Harren Press). 

My USA Amazon page:
My UK Amazon page: 
    Indie Authors Press: 

    We asked Roy a bunch of questions about Altered States

    Take a flight of the imagination to near-future cyberpunk worlds, travel beyond the stars, and to divergent universes like and unlike our own. Travel to the enigmas of science and time…travel to the altered states of the mind. 
    Stories by upcoming and established cyberpunk/sci- fi authors, curated by Roy C Booth and Jorge Salgado-Reyes. 

    This anthology represents the very first publication of science fiction by Indie Authors Press.

    Altered States: a cyberpunk sci-fi anthology…

    Wednesday, 25 February 2015

    North by Southwest writer John Hawkes-Reed guest post

    John Hawkes-Reed is a Unix hacker by day. By night, too, if it's been one of those sorts of weeks. His origin story involves finding the big yellow Gollancz hardbacks in Winchcome public library, the 'Making a transistor radio' Ladybird book and the John Peel programme. The 2006 Viable Paradise writer's workshop was something of a life-changing experience, and he has been quietly emitting stories of varying length since then. Some of those stories can be found in the anthologies 'Airship shape and Bristol fashion', 'Colinthology','Dark Spires' and 'Future Bristol'. He is fascinated by cold-war architecture, islands and stationary engines. John owns too many books, not enough tractors and is trivially Googleable.

    John wrote Miss Butler and the Industrial Automation Group  for the anthology and has dropped in to talk about ideas, amongst other things...

    Tuesday, 24 February 2015

    North by Southwest writer Justin Newland - New Story

    Justin Newland wrote the story Fisher of Men for North by Southwest and has written a new story exclusively for Bristol Book Blog in the run up to the release of the book. Justin can be found online here

    Monday, 23 February 2015

    3 reviews

    The Free by Will Vlautin

    The Free: A Novel by Willy Vlautin

    Leroy is an Iraq war veteran who, after a heartbreaking opening, lies in a coma, with a Sci-Fi story running through his head. Pauline is one of his nurses, who has to look after her father when she’s not at work. Freddie is the night-watchman at the care home that Leroy is in at the beginning of the story, he also works a day job as he is struggling to pay the medical bills for his sick daughter. This book is an indictment against the United States medical system, forcing people into impoverished, desperate lives. It made me very glad that we, in Britain, have the National Health Service, despite all its problems. And incredibly nervous about the fact that successive neoliberal governments here have pushed us closer and closer to the American system. Other folk have expressed that there is hope in this book, and to some extent there is, but the small glimmerings of hope do little to offset the often harrowing lives the book’s characters lead. The fact that they are unremarkable in their desperation is why the hope does little to alleviate things, there is a commonality to their suffering, lack of adequate medical insurance and jobs that don’t pay living wages. All too common situations.

    "...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. " ~ Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey

    Overall - Excellent, but depressing.

    The Enchanted by Rene Denfield

    The Enchanted: A Novel by Rene Denfeld

    he look in her eyes is of a person who drank from the end of a gun barrel and found it delicious. Her eyes are filled with a strange sort of wondrous sadness, as if marvelling at all the beauty and pain in the world.

    A poetic, magic realist book about Death Row? Well yes, a stunningly beautiful read. Denfield herself is a Death Row investigator, and this book obviously draws upon that. The book is set within a maximum security prison, where the prisoners awaiting execution are placed in the dungeon. They wait, often for many years, for the appeals procedure to be exhausted. The Lady delves into the history of the men who are on Death Row, looking to save them from execution. The Fallen Priest offers succour to them. The Warden wonders why people can object to retributive death but not to death by cancer, as he watches his wife suffer the indignities of terminal illness. The twilight world of the institution is narrated by a nameless prisoner, exposing thoughtless corruption, daily prisoner rape, the prison as enchanted place with little men hammering in the walls and golden horses racing underground. This is an exploration of the psychology of crime versus human decency, where beauty and hope contend with horror and despair. 

    Overall – Beautiful prose, heart rending subject

    The Sense of Style by Stephen Pinker

    The Sense of Style: The Thinking…

    The use of consistent grammar reassures a reader that the writer has exercised care in constructing his prose, which in turn increases her confidence that he has exercised care in the research and thinking behind the prose. It is also an act of courtesy.

    Pinker is a cognitive psychologist who has written several books about language. His starting position with this book is that, in being a student of language, he is an enthusiastic reader of style guides. However many style guides are stuck in the past, hence the sub-heading for this book The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century and so he sets out to correct this. The book is aimed mainly at the non-fiction writer, the academic, the essayist, the popular science writer but does have a wealth of good advice for any writer. The book is oddly structured, three short chapters which feel a little like an extended throat clearing, an extended stream of consciousness about several examples of good writing, and a very good exploration of the curse of knowledge (the fact that academics and scientists should assume that their audience is as smart as them, but maybe not familiar with the subject). There then follow three long chapters – one on sentence trees, that I must confess meant very little to me, a visual way of breaking sentences down into Object, subject, preposition etc, which all seemed a little overly technical and also to break the rules Pinker set down in the previous chapter on the curse of knowledge. The next chapter was better, being an examination of coherence, what every writer should aspire to, that the next three levels of writing, paragraphs, chapters and whole books should work towards a coherent vision. The last chapter examines many rules of grammar in the light of an intellectual war between prescriptivists, that there is an objective right and wrong in the way language is used versus the descriptivists, that language is organic and rules should reflect its actual use. He argues intelligently on behalf of the descriptive approach and demolishes some grammar myths like split infinitves and the use of that and which. This last section is a useful go to reference for any writer. 

    Overall – A little bit more dry and technical than is necessary, which is ironic as he is arguing that writers should use the classic style to eliminate overly technical and dry prose.

    Guest post from Ekta R Garg - Writing about relationships

    Since the start of her publishing career in 2005 Ekta has edited and written about everything from health care to home improvement to Hindi films. She has worked for: The Portland Physician Scribe, Portland, Oregon's premier medical newspaper; show magazines for home tours organized by the Portland Home Builders Association;; The Bollywood Ticket; The International Indian; and the annual anthologies published by the Avondale Inkslingers, based in Avondale, Arizona.

    In 2011 Ekta stepped off the ledge and became a freelancer. She edits short stories and novels for other writers, contributing to their writing dreams. She is also a part-time editor for aois21, and she reviews books for her own book review blog as well as NetGalley, TypeReel, and

    Prairie Sky Publishing( serves as the publishing arm of Ekta's professional writing blog, The Write Edge ( When she's not writing, Ekta is a domestic engineer--known in the vernacular as "a housewife." She's married, has two energetic daughters who keep her running, and she divides her time between keeping house and fulfilling her writing dreams.

    Social Media links:

    Blog: The Write Edge,
    Twitter: @EktaRGarg
    Goodreads: Goodreads:
    Amazon Author Page:

    Two for the Heart: Stories in Pairs, Set 1 available for your Kindle on Amazon at:

    Two for the Heart: Stories in Pairs, Set 1 available for your iPad, Nook, Kobo, or other ereader at:

    Ekta has stopped by to talk about writing about relationships

    Saturday, 21 February 2015

    Guns of the Dawn - review & interview with the author

    Guns of the Dawn

    If you look Adrian Tchaikovsky up on Wikipedia it says - "Adrian Czajkowski is a British fantasy author. His best known work is the Shadows of the Apt series. Tor Books has announced it would publish a new science fiction book by Tchaikovsky after Shadows of the Apt has finished." Guns of the Dawn is that book.

    The Bristol Book Blog has been lucky to get an advanced copy of the book and an interview with the author. The book is now launched and available from all good book shops.

    Interview with the author:

    Friday, 20 February 2015

    Three reviews

    The best American nonrequired reading 2014 edited by Daniel Handler

    The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014…

    These pieces of fiction, a couple of graphic art pieces and non-fiction are chosen by a group of high school students and as such are highly eclectic with no underlying theme. It’s a very mixed bag, some pieces I dropped after a few paragraphs, some pieces I followed up with finding out more about the author as someone to read more from. It’s hard to choose any outstanding ones, the man who saves you from yourself and a non-fiction piece by a journalist who undertook to experience illegal immigration from the immigrants perspective are memorable. However there were, for me, just as many unappealing pieces as there were appealing and being such an eclectic mix it all felt a little arbitrary, hence the “Average” rating. However I think this is probably the books strength as well, as probably most readers would find something of interest to them in the pages.

    Overall – Hit & Miss

    The Moth edited by Catherine Burns

    The Moth by Catherine Burns

    The Moth is a storytelling event, aiming to take folk back to a time before TV and radio, before mass market paperbacks, back to a time when people would gather on their porch and tell tales. The Moth refers to the moths that would fly around the lights, on said porches, when the storyteller was doing their thing. More details of the Moth can be seen on its website - This book collects 50 of the best stories. As with all anthologies it’s a mixed bag, and these are transcribed stories, meant to be experienced out loud, so a bit odd to read occasionally. However saying that the quality is very high and there are a great many very interesting and entertaining stories within. There is a huge range from comic to tragic and since all the stories are true the tragic ones really are tragic. This is a worthwhile collection I dipped into over a period of weeks, which I think is probably the best way to approach it.

    Overall – Storytelling needs an audience but this is a good selection of reading material

    Screenwriting 101 by Film Crit Hulk

    Screenwriting 101 by Film Crit Hulk! by FILM…

    If you’re not familiar with Film Crit Hulk you should head on over to his website as he’s one of the most insightful film critics out there - and now he’s written a book. Hulk works in Hollywood and has written a great many scripts himself and has a deep understanding of cinema. This book is a screenwriting masterclass but along the way you’ll get a great grounding in what makes a good story. Hulk demolishes the three act structure and the heroes journey and sets up alternatives that make a lot more sense. Throughout are examples from films good and bad. Want to know why Cowboys and Aliens was a poor movie? Hulk explains it so that you’ll find yourself nodding and thinking “oh yeah, of course”. If you’re interested in film, and don’t necessarily want to be a scriptwriter, there is a lot in here for you anyway, if you are a writer of any format then there’s a lot in here for you and if you are an aspiring scriptwriter this should be essential reading. 

    Overall – Hulk is one of those smart people you read and wish to be like. 

    Thursday, 12 February 2015

    Jean Luc Picard and me

    Last night I went to see Ellen Waddell's fabulous one woman show Jean-Luc Picard and me. It was funny, and sad, and enlightening, it featured the Seattle Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Neil Gaiman, Los Campesinos and, of course, a lot of Jean-Luc Picard.

    Ellen talks honestly, and often hilariously, about her relationship to her father and the show and how one is affected by the other. It's also a very personal story of growing up a nerd, playing in a band, travelling the world and love's lost. All using an entertaining powerpoint show.

    Highly recommended, if you get the chance, go and see it.

    There's an interview with Ellen here

    Details of the show are here

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015

    Guest post from North by Southwest writer - Ian Millsted

    Now that North by Southwest is imminent I've asked the contributors to provide me with a guest post each.

    The first is from Ian Millsted 

    Ian Millsted is a writer and teacher who lives in Bristol with his wife and daughter. His fiction has appeared in the likes of Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion and Colinthology. He has been short listed for the Bristol Short Story Prize. His non fiction has appeared in Back Issue and the Times Educational Supplement. He's scripted comic strips for Comics International. Despite having migrated to Bristol some years ago he still supports Essex in cricket and West Ham in football.

    Ian has written about boys reading

    Tuesday, 10 February 2015

    Weirder shadows over Innsmouth Giveaway winners

    Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth by Stephen…

    Congratulations to Ian Millsted and Seb Smith for winning copies of "Weirder Shadows over Innsmouth" edited by Stephen Jones, published by Titan books.

    Readers were asked to provide us a mail titled  - "I need a copy of Weirder shadows over Innsmouth" and telling us in the body of the mail why they needed a copy. The two most entertaining entries would win a copy of the book (if you make us laugh or scream in terror whilst simultaneously losing our minds, that will automatically put you on the shortlist).

    Ian's entry - "Because an anthology of weird fiction set in isolated communities of inbred folk will bring back fond memories of my two years teaching at a rural school in East Anglia."

    Seb's entry - "Shadows draw closer; a deeper fear clutches at the wretched tatters of sanity... Had I received that blasphemous tome and been forewarned of the horrors which stride between worlds, my mind might have been spared the horror which lead to incarceration in this institution where only the damned dare tread..."

    Well done guys - copies will be in your hands very soon!

    some reviews

    Deadly companions by Dorothy H Crawford

    Deadly Companions: How Microbes Shaped Our…

    A non-expert guide to the microbes that cause disease and what effect they have had on human evolution. Crawford does a good job of explaining the science and casting her gaze over history to see what effects infectious diseases have had. Our fight against them, both ancient and modern. For me, having done microbiology at university, it was a bit of a high level refresher but I think it’s a very good introduction to the subject and the social effects of disease was a fascinating take.

    Overall – A good primer on infectious microbes.

    The Honey month by Amal Al-Mohtar

    The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar

    The author decides to write a story or poem every day one February to go with the samples of honey she is receiving. There are notes on the honey – colour, smell & taste, that are sensual descriptions and then there are poems and stories inspired by that day’s honey. This is a slight book but interesting. It kept me entertained for part of a long flight but I think it probably would be best as a dipping book.

    Overall – Interesting poetry and poetic prose.

    The Beauty by Aliya Whitely

    The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley

    A post-apocalyptic novella set in a wold where a fungal disease has wiped out all women, or certainly all women in the nearby area to where the story is set. The tale follows Nathan, who has been given the task of keeping the group’s stories alive. When strange fungal entities, in female shapes, come to the group of men, everything changes.

    The Beauty is written in a sparse style that is also somewhat poetic. There are large themes at play here – gender is an obvious one that is explored in several ways but also hope is a thread woven throughout. There is an almost Vandermeerian focus on fungus but the story stands alone but alongside other gender role reversal stories. It is short but proves that good things come in small packages.

    Overall – Small but perfectly formed. Recommended.

    Feral: Rewilding the land by George Monbiot

    Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and…

    Monbiot acknowledges that the Green movement has, so far, been about telling us what we shouldn’t do. This is a manifesto for what we should be doing. We should leave nature alone, in as many places as we can, and let it get on with things. Re-introducing some key species (and there is a long table of species he grades as potential re-introductions) especially wolves and beavers. He makes the case for rewilding eloquently and passionately but there is an element of blindness and monomania involved. For example he excoriates the sheep farming industry and ably demonstrates that sheep, and to a lesser extent goats, are a major ecological menace, when farmed as they are in e.g. Wales. But his contention that people could just switch from sheep farming to eco-tourism, or that they’d even want to ignores human nature. Similarly he is a fisherman, going out in a sea kayak, he at least eats his catch, and yet  we may all bewail the fact that we are emptying the oceans. He suggests that we allow some areas of the seas to rewild, which would require international co-operation.

    It seems the UK is well behind its European neighbours when it comes to rewilding and he spends a little time trying to work out why, and concludes that it may be because we industrialised first or that we have an island mentality. Where the book shines is in leaps of imagination when it comes to anthopogenic climate change and historical effects of man on nature. For example, using the example of Serbia, which rewilded after the second world war when the ethnic Germans were either expelled or left, who happened to be sheep and goat farmers, he makes the point that removing human effects on the land cause rewilding. He then covers the native American’s genocide and posits that the amazing abundance of nature, passenger pigeon flocks in their millions, massive bison herds etc. were an effect of the depopulation of the Americas, rather than a natural occurrence.

    Monbiot is a journalist and his prose is clear and entices you ever onwards and he is never less than entertaining. But I’m not convinced that his vision is not just another nostalgia for a past that either didn’t exist, or exist in the way he seems to think it does.  In the end how easy is it to go against the powerful farming and fishing lobby and is it possible to remove man’s influence from large areas of our country?

    Overall – A fascinating and thought provoking read

    Friday, 6 February 2015

    Guns of the Dawn Giveaway

    Guns of the Dawn

    Bristol Book Blog has one copy of Adrian Tchaikovsky's new book, Guns of the Dawn, to give away to one lucky reader.

    As it's such a chunky book, and hardback, the give away will take place at BristolCon Fringe on February 16th.

    Come along and put your name in the hat if you want the chance to win!

    Denland and Lascanne have been allies for generations, but now the Denlanders have assassinated their king, overthrown the monarchy and marched on their northern neighbour. At the border, the war rages; Lascanne's brave redcoats against the revolutionaries of Denland.

    Emily Marshwic has watched the war take her brother-in-law and now her young brother. Then comes the call for more soldiers, to a land already drained of husbands, fathers and sons. Every household must give up one woman to the army and Emily has no choice but to join the ranks of young women marching to the front.
    In the midst of warfare, with just enough training to hold a musket, Emily comes face to face with the reality: the senseless slaughter; the weary cynicism of the Survivor's Club; the swamp's own natives hiding from the conflict.

    As the war worsens, and Emily begins to have doubts about the justice of Lascanne's cause, she finds herself in a position where her choices will make or destroy both her own future and that of her nation.

    A standalone, action-packed     

    Adrian has been wanting to write this book for a long time:

    ‘There is only one book – specifically conceived and started as a book – which has never let go of me, and has shadowed me all the way to the present day. It is Emily Marshwic’s book, the story of her war for her king, her country and her truth, however hard to reconcile those may be. I am happier than I can say that, after all her perseverance (a character trait that appears to have preceded her actual realisation as a character), she is finally seeing the light of day.’ Adrian Tchaikovsky 

    Thursday, 5 February 2015

    Sparse new website

    So after being asked, again, if I had a website dedicated to my writing I thought I'd make one:

    It's a bit sparse there at the moment & I'm sure someone with wordpress skillz would be able to make it look MUCH better but, well, there it is - an actual writing website listing.

    Never fear Bristol Book Blog will continue with reviews, interviews and blogging!

    The Ship - Review

    The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

    The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

    Lalage Paul, known as Lalla, 16, lives in (a very changed) London but has been sheltered from the chaos of a dystopian post-collapse world by her parents. Her mother, who tries to give her an education via the British Museum, despite it being colonised by a ragtag group of survivors; and her father, Michael, part of the establishment, architect of the Dove, a program to “save” Britain. Now the Nazareth Act has been put in place everyone must produce an identity card, or they will be shot. Michael has a plan to escape, he has bought a large ocean going ship and stocked it with food that is rapidly becoming scarce in London. He has invited a group of people who all, in one way or another, represent hope in the future. 500 people. When the chaos on the streets of London becomes too much and a shocking event causes them to escape immediately Lalla is full of hope. But where is the ship going? What is Paul’s plan for escape? Why is the escapees devotion to him disturbingly cult-like?

    This is a rollercoaster of a book that wraps itself around you at the beginning and doesn’t let go. Lalla is often annoying and spoiled, but utterly believable and, as narrator the tension between naïveté, teenage angst and slowly dawning comprehension is a difficult trick to pull off but Honeywell does it with aplomb. Lalla is an insufferable spoiled brat, immature and irritating and yet you can’t help but be on her side, which throws into sharp relief the question at the heart of the book (imho) what is freedom? There are labyrinths here to explore and like all good books a wealth to ponder and discuss, this would make a good book club read.

    As those who follow my reviews will know, I am not a fan of YA, and this is possibly going to be marketed as such, teenage protagonist = YA right? However I think there is enough here to satisfy any reader, it didn’t suffer from all the things I dislike about YA fiction. It is also a dystopia and the problems that sometimes occur with that genre, either over-explaining the world, or trying to justify unbelievable worlds just doesn’t occur here. It is over the top, Regent’s Park is bombed to remove undesirable non-ID’d people for example, but a light touch from Honeywell makes you accept and move on. The world of the book is seen through a glass darkly, but that enhances rather than detracts. Post-collapse books usually take a “people are mostly bad” or “people are mostly good” stance but Honeywell eschews this in favour of “people react in different ways” which is refreshingly shades of grey.

    The plot relies on Lalla being a bit dense, which is a big no no for me usually, and yet, here, it works. Honeywell’s accomplishment is to be applauded, taking several elements that all, at face value, will turn off readers and making of them a compelling tale that you don’t want to put down.

    Overall - In short, this is a book you ought to read.

    Wednesday, 4 February 2015

    Small Stories

    Small Stories

    When Small Stories burst onto the scene back at the Bird Cage, just a few short months ago, not even a year, I was hooked. I attended all but one (and I was out of the country for the one I couldn't attend.) I watched, listened and joined in as the events got ever better.

    On Monday the last chapter of this remarkable event happened & I started things off with Hater, from North by Southwest (coming very soon from Tangent books)

    Final chapter of Small Stories Bristol story-telling event featuring incredible talent of Nathan Williams, Pete Sutton and David J Rodger
    As usual there was a live drawing, this time of Tim Popple's memorably dark tale Instagraham by Small's very own Natalie Burns.

    It was a break up event, appropriate to the anti-Valentines theme many of the readers took. I know that it will be sorely missed and the lit scene is poorer without it. But I'm hoping the team will be back & working with Bristol festival of literature later in the year.

    This last chapter, like the last chapter of a book you have loved, ended leaving us wanting more, and yet satisfied with the way it ended. On a high, with a full room, a great mix of readers, many of whom have found friends through this set of events, and a storming set of performances.

    My favourites on the night were Nathan Williams with a characteristically comic modern tale about ISIS, Christopher Fielden's unforgettable Batman themed story and also worth a mention was David Rodger's Fast Love Die and the extremely long titled story from Ellen Waddell.

    I hope to see the readers around the Bristol Lit Scene again soon. Maybe at Let Me Tell You a Story Jack

    Ellen is doing a one woman show which still has tickets available & looks great.

    A huge, and heartfelt thankyou to Sian & Nat for putting on an excellent set of events and for all their hard work last year for Small Stories: Big Books, taking my rather woolly idea and making it work!

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