Monday, 21 December 2015

Have Yourselves a Spooky Little Christmas

This will be the last blog before Christmas, and possibly before New Year, so I'd like to take the opportunity to wish all my friends, family, followers and readers all the joy of the season.

Art by Robin Carey, (c) 2015

Quick round-up, including the cutomary blowing of trumpet: 2015 has been a great year: My debut novel is out (The Lazarus Gate, in case you haven't heard!), and I'm hard at work on the first of two follow-ups right now. I self-published my first novelette, the Ghost Writer, and I've also had two books published by Osprey, among other things. Quite a lot of work has borne fruit all at once!

It doesn't stop there - in 2016 I should be seeing various projects either beginning or brought to fruition. I've been working hard on top secret projects with Mantic Games, Knight Models and Osprey, to name but three. I'll also be starting work on a Sherlock Holmes novel, another Holmes short story, and I have several other long-form fiction pitches to work on. I really appreciate all your support - without you, I'd have to grow up and get a proper job. I can only hope to repay you by writing more cool stuff that you'll love!

So yes, have a great Yuletide and a happy New Year, and rest assured that you'll be seeing more from me very soon (that's not a threat, honest).

Friday, 11 December 2015

The (Mis)Adventures of a Gentleman Thief

If you've read The Lazarus Gate and are hungry for more, there's a festive short story over on the Titan Books blog right now! Set some six years before the events of the Lazarus Gate, this spooky Christmas tale focuses on everyone's favourite rogue, Ambrose Hanlocke. It's free - go check it out!

A warning: This story does contain spoilers, so if you haven't read the Lazarus Gate yet (and why not?), save this one for later.

Signed Books now in NYC!

Last week I visited New York City, and while I was there I was invited to the rather excellent Mysterious Bookshop in TriBeCa. There, I signed a big box full of The Lazarus Gate. As far as I know, it's the only place in the US presently where you can get signed copies, so do drop them a line if you want one!

If you're in the city, do visit The Mysterious Bookshop. It's truly one of the best indie bookstores around, and has the enviable position of housing one of the largest selections of Sherlock Holmes books and periodicals in America!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Lazarus Gate Blog Tour Roundup

With another interview going live today, I thought I’d take the opportunity to consolidate the links to all the promotional stuff I’ve being doing of late. If you’re looking for Lazarus Gate-related blogs, interviews and essays, then here’s where to find them on the web:

Blogs & Interviews:

Villainous Visions – the inspiration behind the Artist:

And I’ve also been lucky enough to receive some really lovely interviews. Check a few of them out:

Friday, 30 October 2015

The Ghost Writer: Out Now!

Albert Brownlow is a collector of ghost stories, although he has never found one that has rung true. Until now.

In the village of Amblesford lies a house, known for miles around as a place of ill omen, where the stench of death hangs in the air and the shadow of the hanging tree can be seen by the light of the full moon. Into this fell place comes the ghost writer, an antiquarian and writer of tall tales, whose curiosity leads him to darker places than even his imagination can conjure…

This is a story of hubris, loneliness, and friendship. It is a story of dark deeds and darker souls that can haunt a place beyond all reason.

It is a story of death.

Earlier this year, I wrote a ghost story.

This wasn’t for any particular reason, other than the fact that I wanted to write something a bit scary, and short-form, for my own enjoyment rather than on-commission, as so many short stories are. There was an element of an academic exercise to it, too, because I really wanted to write something in the style of my horror hero, M. R. James. For that reason, the story is set in days gone by (I plumped for the 1920s), and features an antiquarian getting himself into a spot of supernatural bother.

As I wrote, the story took on a life of its own. It went through seven iterations, eventually becoming rather long—too long, in fact, to be considered a short story any more. And so my novelette was born. I call it The Ghost Writer.

The Ghost Writer is an English ghost story in the classic style, albeit with a hard edge that might be more impactful to the modern reader. I’ve gone for atmosphere rather than blood and guts, suggestion rather than reveal, and a dash of ambiguity that I hope will have people discussing the truth of the protagonist’s tale long after Halloween is passed.

Indeed, as Halloween is now upon us, and the season for reading ghost stories is nigh, I’ve formatted and uploaded The Ghost Writer to various online booksellers (links to follow). It’s at this time of the year that I always dig out my copy of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary or Walter de la Mare’s Short Stories, and I’d encourage all of my readers to do the same, because those gents really are the masters of an art form that has many imitators but no true rivals. If The Ghost Writer were to appear on your winter reading list alongside one of those greats, I would be honoured indeed!

You can buy The Ghost Writer from Amazon here, or Smashwords here, in various digital formats.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Farewell to Fantasy Con

Well, Fantasy Con 2015 has come and gone. It was my first ever convention, and it was an absolute blast. I had no idea what to expect, but it’s fair to say that I did not expect to be hanging out at the bar with the likes of Joe Hill and Sarah Pinborough within half an hour of stepping through the door (they were both lovely, and ignored the fact that I was a bit shell-shocked I think)!

Less than two hours later I was very nervously speaking on a panel about writing within franchises. More nervous because, where I’d expected a small-ish room with a table at one end, we were actually on a stage in a rather large lecture theatre. I was up there with Mark Morris, Paul Kane, Rebecca Levene, and one of the con’s heavy hitters, Wheel of Time author Brandon Sanderson.

I was later to be cursing Brandon (light-heartedly of course), as his signing clashed with my reading, which meant I almost had to read to three people, all of whom I knew! Thankfully, you can always rely on your friends to whip up an audience at the last minute, and when those friends include agent Jamie Cowen, and Black Library favourites Gav Thorpe and GuyHaley, you’re a fortunate chap indeed!

The launch of The Lazarus Gate went well (apart from being interrupted by a fire alarm!), with a fair gathering of industry professionals, and a publicist on hand to ply me with wine so that my hands would stop shaking as I signed books. It helped that Mark Morris was beside me once again, and he proved quite a draw – he’s a real pro, that chap!

Pre-signing smiles!
The Dark Lord, Adam Nevill
(aka The Nicest Man in Horror).
Totally goobering;
fan selfie with S G Volk!
A con is a strange affair for a newbie. So many industry professionals, so many famous writers, and dozens upon dozens of not-so-famous ones like me, all rubbing shoulders together. I learned an awful lot just by chatting to fellow authors, and from attending panels on a variety of subjects, such as ‘the future of genre publishing’ and ‘writing short fiction’. I had dinner with the fabulous Titan crew (editors Cath Trechman and Natalie Laverick, publicist Lydia Gittins, and writers Marc Turner, Mark Morris, Dan Godfrey, Tim Lebbon and Nina Allan), hung out with Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane (the latter of whom provided the highlight of my weekend with his brilliant play on Saturday night), and also got to meet my two horror heroes: Adam Nevill and Stephen Volk, who really did make me lose my cool and go all fanboy… oh dear!

Big shout out to the Redcloaks for making the event go so smoothly.

There are less Latham-centric reviews of the event around, such as here. In all, a fantastic time was had, I came away with some new friends (and a sore head), and I’m already looking into my accommodation for next year’s event, this time in sunny(ish) Scarborough!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Darker Side of (Alt) History

An obligatory promo post today. My second book for Osprey Dark, Bug Hunts, is out now, so it seems a fitting time to take a look at both titles that are currently on the shelves.

Osprey Dark is an alt-history imprint of the famous military history publisher. Along with their Osprey Adventures range, each title delves into a fictionalized version of historical (or mythological and even future) events, presenting fun-packed ride into the realms of the fantastical.

The first of the two books is The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. This narrative looks at a version of events where the famous Washington Irving story was fact instead of fiction, and the writer was actually a hunter of headless revenants, taking his battle against the supernatural around the globe. The artwork by Alan Lathwell is just lush. It’s a great read for Halloween – but don’t just take my word for it, check out this review

The second book is Bug Hunts: Surviving and Combating the Alien Menace. This was great fun to write – at its heart, it’s a 23rd century tactical handbook for the intrepid STAR Industries Marine Corps, battling against alien ‘bugs’ inspired by a variety of cinematic tropes. It’s a homage to the SF horror that I’ve loved forever, although of particular fun was the chance to write an original future timeline, galactic history, and devise a technical weapons manual for my marines. There’s a review for that one, too!


Want to be in with the chance of winning a signed copy of Sleepy Hollow for Halloween? Check out my Facebook and Twitter pages for details.


Monday, 19 October 2015

Fantasy Con 2015

Where does the time go, eh? Just a few weeks ago I was celebrating the launch of The Lazarus Gate and frantically writing posts for my promotional blog tour, and now suddenly we're in con season and Fantasy Con 2015 is upon us!

This will be the first time I've ever attended a literary convention as a guest, and it's fair to say I have no idea what to expect (I have, however, received several offers of drunken tomfoolery from editors, publicists, my agent and fellow writers, so I can guess what I'll be doing 5:30-midnight each day...)
For the more serious business, however, I'll be part of a panel on Friday 23rd, at 5:00pm in the conference theatre, moderated by David Thomas Moore, and featuring Paul Kane, Rebecca Levene, Mark Morris, and Brandon Sanderson. Called ‘Someone Else’s World: Writing in a Franchise’, this is essentially about earning a living working inside already established parameters. I'll be sharing a bit about my experience working on Sherlock Holmes fiction, and writing within the gaming industry for properties as varied as Batman, The Lord of the Rings, Warhammer 40,000, and Android: Netrunner.

On the Saturday, there are two helpings of yours truly – first, I’ll be officially launching The Lazarus Gate at 2:00pm with the Titan Books crew, alongside Mark Morris, who’ll be launching The Society of Blood. And if that’s not enough, I’m doing a reading (in genuine Stoke accent) from the book at 3:20 in the Reading Room, straight after Jo Fletcher’s Kaffeeklatsch! (Nope, not nervous about that at all. Not me. No sir).

The rest of the time I’ll be wandering around either hung over, getting excited about books in the Dealers room, or kicking back in panels (excited to see Adam Neville, Joe Hill, and Ramsey Campbell are all there launching new books)! So, if you see me around, or make the effort to come to one of my little gigs, please do say hi. But be gentle, it’s my first time!

Full events list here.

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Authenticity Conundrum

A few very kind souls who’ve said nice things about The Lazarus Gate have referenced its ‘authenticity’. That’s a peculiar word when talking about a 21st century book set in the 19th century, but it’s rather gratifying to know that the book feels authentic, as I put an inordinate amount of work into making it that way.

Victorian Google. AKA, about 1/4
of my collection of reference books.
I need help...
I’ve blogged previously on my love of Victorian reference material, and my collection of history, topographical, sociological and political books, not to mention maps, has grown considerably since then. I also found it really important to visit many of the locations I wrote about, particularly those parts of London that have remained largely unchanged for the last couple of centuries, such as Pall Mall.

But knowing the difference between a growler and a hansom, or a bowler and a homburg, isn’t quite enough to make a Victorian tale convincing. For the two years I spent writing the first draft of The Lazarus Gate, I read Victorian literature almost exclusively – novelists such as Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, Arnold Bennett, as well as a host of short ghost stories – all in an attempt to capture the Victorian literary ‘voice’. In fact, when asked by both my agent and editor about certain word choices and archaic language, I replied that the book is as close to Victorian language as possible without alienating the modern reader. (Seriously, I learned to love the semi-colon during the writing of this book, although I just can’t summon a run-on sentence quite like Dickens). In the end, there was a fair bit of compromise on the subject, and I hope the balance we’ve struck is to the liking of my gentle readers. (Incidentally, there are a few literary ‘easter eggs’ in the prose, some of which are obscure, some just truly nerdy – I’ll do a blog on those in the future for anyone interested. See what you can spot in the meantime).

The Lazarus Gate is by no stretch a historical novel, but it’s close – I wanted to conjure the idea that, if you removed the supernatural and sci-fi elements, you’d end up with a fairly authentic-feeling Victorian thriller. To this end I set aside specific stages of the editing process to remove anachronistic language, and to check for Americanisms and idioms that have changed meaning between then and now.

Lastly, one thing that didn’t quite make the final edit was the glossary of terms that I’d originally intended for the back of the book. This might be of some use to my readers, or at least of academic interest, so I figured I’d make it available here.

Victorian Vernacular: A Glossary of Terms

Afflictions: Black mourning clothes.
Air one’s heels, to: To loiter/ dawdle about.
Apothecary: A chemist. In Victorian times, apothecaries often carried out unofficial, rudimentary medical care to those who could not afford to visit a physician or surgeon.
Back-to-backs: Rows of terraced houses, literally built back-to-back. Originally built for industrial workers, and found mainly in impoverished areas.
Black-coach: A hearse.
Black Maria: A police coach, used either to transport police constables to a crime scene, or to transport prisoners to the police station.
Bobby: a police constable.
Bog-trotter: Disrespectful/vulgar slang for an Irishman.
Chiv: slang – a blade. Also used as a verb ‘to stab’.
Chive: slang – to stab.
Clubmen: Paid-up members of a gentlemen’s club.
Coffee Houses: Popular meeting places for men of various social levels to drink exotic coffee and exchange ideas.
Collar: Police slang for arrest.
Costermonger: A street seller, usually specialising in fruit and vegetables.
Dilettante: A person of independent means pursuing a specialist interest for leisure rather than occupation; usually a patron of the arts.
Down-at-heel: an unfortunate man, lacking funds; scruffy. Often applied to destitute gamblers.
Fence: receiver of stolen goods.
Fenian(s): Common name of members of the Fenian Brotherhood and Irish Republican Brotherhood, who believed that Ireland had a right to independence from British rule, and that right should be secured by means of an armed revolution.
Frowst: A smoky or ‘concentrated’ atmosphere, as in a smoking room or thick smog.
Gentlemen’s Clubs: Social meeting places for gentlemen of means, usually exclusive in their membership and restricted to particular careers, political affiliations or interests.
Gig: A two-wheeled, one-horse cart, usually for two passengers.
Growler: Colloquial term for a Clarence or Brougham carriage; a four-wheeled, two-horse carriage seating up to four passengers.
Hansom Cab: A light, single-horse carriage seating two passengers.
Ha’penny: Half a penny, or two farthings.
Ha’penny Bumper: Slang for a two-farthing omnibus ride.
Home Rule: The idea of Irish independence through a self-governing body within the greater organisation of the British government.
Illustrateds, the: One of the many illustrated newspapers available in Victorian Britain, such as the Illustrated Daily News, the Police Gazette and the Pictorial Times.
Jack-tar: a sailor.
Jigger-gin: a potent alcoholic drink; quite lethal in large quantities. Jigger is also used to describe a measure of gin.
Lamplighters/Lampmen: Men whose job is light the gaslights of the city at dusk, and put out the lights at dawn.
Long Peace, the: ‘Pax Britannica’ – referring to Britain’s peaceful relations with Europe 1815-1914. A misnomer, as Britain was engaged in many wars against non-European powers at this time.
Muckworm: Vulgar slang for a miser.
Mudlark: A scavenger, particularly of the mud-banks of the Thames.
Neck or Nothing: slang – a desperate gambit; also used to mean 'swift'. Possibly has origins in steeplechase.
Neddy: slang – blackjack; cosh.
Omnibus: A horse-drawn bus or wagonette – affordable and somewhat crowded public transportation.
Penny Dreadful: A novella of dubious quality, usually containing sensational or unsavoury content. Purchased for the cover price of one penny, hence the name.
Penny-a-liners: Derogative term for a jobbing journalist, paid pittance for his work on the gossip columns.
Pinch of the game, the: Crucial moment, the crux of the matter. Colonial slang.
Punch: A popular satirical magazine, formerly ‘Punchinello’.
Quod: slang – prison.
Rag-and-famish: The Army & Navy Club. Coined by Captain Willliam Higginson Duff when offered the infamously Spartan food at the club.
Rum/ a ‘rum do’: slang – an unsavoury or suspicious turn of events.
Sharpish: slang – quickly. also Quick-sharpish: Make haste.
Smug: slang – to arrest a crook.
Table-rapper: A medium who conducts a séance by means of ‘table-tipping’ or ‘table-rapping’, whereby the legs of the table lift from the floor and bang out a yes-or-no answer to a question.
Tokay: A sweet, Hungarian wine, often consumed in the evenings after dinner by gentlemen.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Launch Day: The Lazarus Gate!

I sensed something new and strange. The air in the room seemed to change—even now I find it difficult to describe, but it seemed to cloy, moving like a vista shimmering in intense heat. The shadows around the corners of the room began to grow thicker, and the entire room appeared to ‘bend’, as if viewed through aged glass. The hairs on the back of my hands and wrists were on end, and the velvet drapes began to rise gently, as though being pulled by some unseen force. My eyes were drawn towards the far end of the room, to where the curtains were being attracted; there I saw, as if for the first time, a closed door, which I assumed must lead to a closet of some sort. Incredible as it sounds, I cannot be certain that the door was even there before. Around the edge of the door shone a faint, golden light that spilled from every crack. Worse, as the trilling noise ebbed and flowed in horrid, ululating waves, the door appeared to distort and heave, as though it were breathing.
- The Lazarus Gate

The Lazarus Gate is out today in the US and Canada, with its UK release to follow later (October 2nd), and it represents the single most exciting product I’ve ever worked on. Largely because, unlike all my other ventures in the public domain, this represents not a product per se, but a labour of love, a very long time in the making.

The rather stonking cover,
designed by Titan's Julia Lloyd.
I can hardly remember when I started working on The Lazarus Gate. From concept to proper draft, it probably took me two years of evenings and weekends while I worked full time. It passed before the eyes of several trusted alpha readers, and went through four rounds of edits before finally I felt able to dangle it in front of literary agents like a fishing lure, hoping it was a gem-like fly rather than a mouldy old maggot. Since securing an agent (the rather dapper Jamie Cowen at the Ampersand Agency), and selling it to the wonderful peeps at Titan, the book has gone through further major revisions, which themselves have taken almost a year to complete, until finally here we are at the launch. You’d think after over three years of working on The Lazarus Gate at some stage or another, my enthusiasm may have waned, but honestly I’m like a big kid at Christmas time right now. My baby is out in the world at last!

So, what’s The Lazarus Gate all about? Well, at its simplest, it’s a parallel universe science fiction story set in the Victorian era (1890 to be exact). A cursory look over this blog will tell you why I chose that particular setting; it’s been a lifelong obsession of mine. The history, the literature, the language… I like to think that if I got sucked through a time portal right now and ended up in the 1890s, I’d fit right in (probably as a chimney sweep or mudlark, but beggars can’t be choosers).

Like pretty much all of my stories, The Lazarus Gate includes elements of horror and the Gothic alongside the weird science, and that’s something that will continue as a common thread through the series. The story follows John Hardwick, a soldier who has spent most of his adult life fighting in India and Burma, returning to London after being held captive by Burmese rebels. He’s a recovering opium addict, and a fish out of water in swirling London society, but is soon drawn into a confounding mystery involving dynamiters, psychics, high-falutin’ gentlemen’s clubs, and underworld gangsters. There’s detective work in the smog-shrouded streets of Victorian London, desperate battles of wills in a sinister opium den, a roguish gentleman thief, dashing officers and smoldering gypsy princesses, fights on the deck of an ironclad, and nefarious plots aplenty.

If you pick up The Lazarus Gate, then you have my eternal gratitude. If you like it, and I really hope you do, then you’ll be pleased to know that the second book in the series is nearing completion, slated for an Autumn 2016 release. For future developments, please do keep a weather eye on the blog; you can also follow me on Twitter, and Like my Facebook page, if you’re so inclined!

The Lazarus Gate is out now, and is available in all good bookshops and online stores.

UPDATE (2/10/2015): The UK Launch day is here! And the first review has been sighted here

Thursday, 17 September 2015

More Wargaming Forays

This week, several announcements went live with my name attached, which was all very gratifying! It’s probably worth giving those things a bit of a mention, for those interested in my games design projects as opposed to literary endeavours.

First up is Mantic Games’ Warpath: Firefight (official announcement here). This is an interesting one, because rather than design a new game from scratch, I have the tricky job of taking a ruleset that’s been developed for quite some time, with substantial input from a hard core of fans, and develop a variation on the system. Essentially, I’m taking the large-scale, free-flowing strategic game and transforming it into a smaller-scale, squad-based tactical game. The brief, however, is to keep as many concepts as possible so that it’s familiar to existing players, while introducing lots of nuances and tactical elements to scratch that smaller-scale itch. No pressure then. This game will be developed during the forthcoming Kickstarter, with feedback from fans coming in even as I write, which is a very different way of working for me!

Next up, we have two games published by Osprey, due to hit the shelves in 2016 (announcement here). The first, and the one in the best shape currently, is Broken Legions, a game of fantastical skirmishes in the Roman Empire. The idea behind the game is that the Roman Empire teeters on a gladius-edge, and has sent out hard-bitten bands of legionnaires under the watchful eye of the Frumentarii (Roman secret service) to retrieve occult artefacts of great power. This, they believe, will stop ancient, foreign gods from threatening the supremacy of Rome, and secure Roman rule for a thousand years. Of course, the servants of those ancient gods aren’t best pleased, and so everyone from Egyptian cultists to druidic warbands are out to stop the Romans. There are even secret cults within Rome who believe that dabbling in the affairs of gods is unwise, and so they too oppose the legion.

This is a fantasy skirmish game, which has at its heart a granular D10 system, with a campaign play mode reminiscent of my old Legends of the Old West game. The faction-building rules are pretty freeing, drawing upon a wide range of ancients and fantasy ranges, and it occupies an ‘alternate history’ space, allowing you to field werewolves in your band of Germanic barbarians, and khopesh-wielding mummies with your Settites. Oh, and in some scenarios, you might encounter wandering monsters controlled by a simple ‘AI’ – anything from Minotaurs to flocks of Harpies.

The other game, which is farther off, is Chosen Men. No more details on this yet, save that it’s a Napoleonic skirmish game, where you control a small company of skirmishers, either operating under their own initiative, or fighting on the advance lines of a wider army, with various rules in place to represent the big battalions that are advancing ‘off-table’.

Phew! I actually have a couple more wargame announcements to hit later this year, but for now I think I’ve got rather enough on my plate…

Friday, 28 August 2015

Opening the Lazarus Gate

Today was a momentous occasion in my writing career. I guess many people wouldn't totally understand the thrill of receiving a carton of books in the mail, and just how exciting that can be. This, however, was no ordinary parcel for me.

More than two years in the making, from sketches on the back of a notepad to getting physical copies printed, The Lazarus Gate author samples have arrived.

I feel a bit like a proud dad today. No matter how the book is received or how it sells, having a debut novel in print (especially with that awesome cover, designed by Julia Lloyd at Titan Books), really is the culmination of a boyhood dream. Sure, it's not the first time a product has been released with my name on it, but it is the most special to date by a country mile.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about future blogs, particularly because The Lazarus Gate is nearing it's October 2nd launch date (UK - the USA gets it a week earlier). I'll be presenting some blogs later this year about the writing and publication process, as well as some excerpts and outtakes from 'Lazarus'.

Fantasy Con
I'm also pleased to announce that I'll be at Fantasy Con 2015 in Nottingham, where I'll be appearing on a panel (Friday 23rd October) about writing in other worlds (i.e. franchised properties, such as Sherlock Holmes). I should also be doing a reading, possibly a signing, and hanging around the bar. Details to follow. It's my first con, so please do swing by and say hi!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Can't Stop, I'm Double Busy!

Just lately I've taken on a few commissions from one Osprey Publishing, who I'm sure many of you will know from their military history series. What you may not know is that they also produce a series of 'fictional-non-fiction' books called Osprey Adventures (exploring the lines where fact and fiction meet), and a tabletop wargames division.

Contributor copies of the first two products that I've worked on dropped through my letterbox on Saturday, and I'm very pleased with the results.

The first is the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow - a book exploring alternate history, assuming that Washington Irving did battle with the eponymous Horseman, and took up a sideline hunting their ilk. Illustrated by Alan Lathwell, it's out in September, and you can pre-order it here if you're of a mind.

The second is Tales of Frostgrave, an anthology of fantasy short stories set in the world of the Frostgrave game, which is taking the wargaming community by storm. It's an atmospheric setting, in which a lost city steeped in powerful magic has resurfaced amidst a permanent snowstorm, attracting bands of adventurers from across the world to find fortune in its ruins. This is a lovely little book, featuring stories by myself, Mat Ward, David A, McIntee, Graeme Davis and others. Tales of Frostgrave is out now in both physical and digital formats.

Not only that, but the next book I've done for Osprey - Bug Hunts - has also just gone up for pre-order here!

So, a busy old time, hence I've been neglecting blogging a fair bit. In fact, I have two other Osprey books in development - both wargames - so more on that in the future...

Edit: Just a day after posting this blog, another parcel arrived. This time it was the Cthulhu Britannica London box set from Cubicle 7, to which I also contributed. Everything's coming out at once!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Finally Facing My Waterloo

It's quite a momentous day in history today (18 June 2015), as today marks the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, one of the most pivotal battles in European history. Events and re-enactments are set to continue until the 21st.

Waterloo holds a special place in my heart, not least because of the tabletop wargame I wrote back in 2011. Though sadly out of print, to this day it stands as one of the largest and most comprehensive Napoleonic rulebooks published, and I'm very proud of the final product - for its history section, artwork, photography (by Matt Hutson of White Dwarf fame) and intro to the hobby, as much as the rules themselves.

When Warhammer Historical came to an end and the book dropped out of print, a few players were left hanging, as there was a fair amount of promised content that was never forthcoming. I went some way to rectifying this last year with the Russia Army List, and now, finally, I've completed the set, much belatedly. If you're one of the stalwarts who bought and enjoyed the game, and perhaps still does, then I present to you the Austria army list.

Austria Army List Link.

And yes, I'm fully aware that Austria weren't at Waterloo. However, the bicentenary has given me the motivation I needed to finish the job I started back in 2011. My Waterloo.

But that's not all! As this is a celebration, I decided to offer something up a little less conventional, just for fun. If anyone has been following the wonderful BBC drama Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, you'll have seen some pretty inspirational Napoleonic battle scenes, featuring Strange - Wellesley's magician - performing his magic in the peninsula and at Waterloo. The Hougoumont scenes were particularly well done, I thought. And so, I present to you also the rules for fielding Jonathan Strange, England's Second Magician, in your British army. Well, it is a Warhammer Historical book, after all...

Monday, 15 June 2015

Do Not Adjust Your Sets...

I've been neglecting the blog of late (bad Mark). This is not due to laziness - quite the contrary - it is down to being extremely busy. The Lazarus Gate has taken up a goodly chunk of my time of late, as the revisions have come in (and are still being batted back and forth). As this is the first time I've been on the receiving end of major edits, a blog about the editing process will probably follow in the near future! On top of that, I have several other projects to deliver, some of which are Top Secret, so expect news on those at a later date.

In other words, do not adjust your sets: Normal service will resume. In the meantime, don't forget to follow me on Facebook for more regular updates.

Monday, 2 February 2015

No Time like the Present

Over the last week, I’ve been writing flash fiction. This is pretty new for me, but I had a whale of a time doing it – hopefully once the pieces find their way to publication I’ll be able to share one or two on here.

As part of writing those pieces (five in all), I had a bit of an epiphany about tenses. The choice of tense (usually past or present) is often key to a piece of writing. A few years ago, the present tense became so trendy (especially in SF), that it went full circle and has started to become frowned upon again. Past tense, in the third person, has always been the ‘default’ for fiction, and to be honest has always been my favourite mode of writing. In fact, fiction written in the present tense put me off. Fiction written in the first person present would cause me to drop any given book like a hot (and mouldy) potato.

Although these prejudices still stand on the novel, to a point, my mind was opened by flash fiction.

I began to write these pieces – which amount to around 1,000 words or so – in the usual third person past. I varied it up by writing one in the first person (I’m such a rebel). But then a weird thing happened. I slipped into present tense. I didn’t realize it until the pieces was almost done – it was subconscious. The story wanted to be written in the present tense. At the risk of sounding arty-farty, I listened to the story, and rewrote parts of it accordingly.

This made me go back over the other pieces. Sure enough, it suddenly made sense to me, in the framework of flash fiction, to write a few more of them in the present tense. It lent the stories a sense of immediacy. It restricted the viewpoint and forced me not to delve into backstory or external events (integral if you want to keep the word count low). It forced me to think about my character’s voice. I even wrote on in the first person present, feeling a little sullied at first, but warming to the idea with every cool phrase that my protagonist uttered ‘in the moment’.

Now, all of those benefits, which work so well for flash fiction, have equal and opposite drawbacks. Present tense novels always feel disjointed to me – each chapter reads like a short story, not revealing as much of the world or history as you’d like. The dénouement of each scene is rammed home more forcefully, because it’s compensating for its own relentless immediacy. And if you also write in the first person, this is only exacerbated. Despite this, I have recently started to read the acclaimed novel, Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway, which is written in the present tense. The style is almost alienating, and it took me about fifty pages before I got to grips with it and started to engage with the story, but I'm glad I did. It's like retraining your brain!

My experiences this week have taught me not to be so judgemental about my own style and voice. Listen to your own stories. Be flexible as a reed in the wind, and hopefully your work will remain fresh and engaging as a result.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Lazarus Cake

A bit of a belated one this, but I thought it'd be fun to post the pictures of the cake I had made for my recent birthday. Let's gloss over the fact that I turned 36 this year, and focus more on the fact that my first book is out in October, with more to follow!

The Lazarus Cake is a two-tiered sponge, with my book cover (The Lazarus Gate) sitting atop the first edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula. It was huge - despite a large party present to scoff it, there's still some cake in the freezer.

The cake was made by my very good friend and pro cake artisan Emma James, and brought to Nottingham all the way from Llanrwst in North Wales. Lurvely!