Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Ding Dong!

In what has become my customary final blog of the year, I'd like to wish all my friends, family, fans, readers, supporters and clients all the compliments of the season. 2017 has been a pretty good year at Lost Victorian Towers, and I think next year will be better still, with at least two novels, a few short stories, and some stonkingly exciting top-secret gaming projects all in the works.

And it's you lovely people who make it all possible. So Gawd bless yer, ev'ry one!


(This year's Lost Victorian Christmas card created by Dom Murray - @sinistersnowmen on Twitter. (c) 2017.)

Friday, 15 December 2017

Festive Frighteners

Every year, I carp on about spooky short stories for the festive season, but I realise I haven’t talked about another little tradition in my house: spooky films for Christmas! Not necessarily Christmas movies, you understand, but the celluloid equivalent of that old English tradition, the Christmas ghost story. I have sort of an essential viewing list for the Yuletide period. Some of my festive favourites aren’t scary movies at all (for instance the Peter Cushing version of The Blue Carbuncle), but the following list represents my top five, must-see haunting films for the season.

Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968)
For me, this 1968 film from the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas series is one of the finest adaptations of a Jamesian story ever committed to celluloid. The haunting location and amazing soundscape create an unsettling atmosphere throughout, offset by the comedic bumbling of Michael Horden’s Parkins. The finale, whilst not quite [ahem...] meeting modern standards of special effects and execution, is still as fine a portrayal of someone being scared witless as you’ll ever see.

An honourable mention should go to the Nunkie Theatre company’s dramatic reading of this story, which is really masterfully done, and is available here.

The Signalman (1976)
Adapted from the 1866 Dickens short story, this is another of Andrew Davies’ BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas, and one that I love more than is reasonable. This is the film I watch in front of a fire, with a glass of scotch in hand and the dog curled up next to me. It’s an intimate performance, carried by two brilliant actors in Denholm Elliott and Bernard Lloyd, with such a great atmosphere. Like most of the series, it’s quite a slow, gentle haunter, with just a few momentary blasts of violence.

The Children of Green Knowe (1986)
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat, as it’s a kid’s BBC mini-series, and isn’t really that frightening for grown-ups. But god, it’s great! I loved this as a child, and the scene of a statue of St Christopher coming to life and wandering about the grounds of the spooky old house haunted me for years, until finally I tracked the series down and rewatched it. Now it’s a firm favourite, although it by no means meets the flashy standards demanded by the youth of today. Don’t know they’re born, etc. Until recently, Youtube was the only way to watch this children's classic, but it now finally has a DVD release.

The Woman in Black (1989)
Regular readers of the blog will know already that I really like this ITV adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel (far more than the big-budget Hammer remake). It doesn’t have the money for flashy effects, so it uses great locations, costumes, music and camerawork to promote a really chilling atmosphere – it’s certainly the most outright scary movie on this list. And it contains, of course, ‘that’ scene, which gave me nightmares as a kid. Sadly, due to a dispute with Susan Hill, this version is no longer available to buy, but you can watch it here.


Scrooge (1951)
Alright, this one isn’t really renowned as a scary movie, despite it being all about ghosts, but it is an all-time classic. It also does contain some rather unsettling scenes (particularly in the segment of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) that set this classic movie aside from the rest of the over-sentimental, mushy adaptations of the tale. If you only watch one version of A Christmas Carol, make it the Alistair Sim one.

Honourable Mentions
You can have pretty much any of the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas if I’m honest – I only listed my favourites above, but I also watch The Number 13, A View from a Hill and The Stalls of Barchester (starring the late Robert Hardy) every year without fail. There’s also a wonderful collection of M R James dramatic readings by Robert Powell, which I’d highly recommend.

If you fancy something a bit more modern and sensational as a seasonal frightener, the recent(ish) movie Krampus isn’t terrible (now there’s an endorsement). But the real gem for me in recent years was the William Shatner-fronted anthology movie, A Christmas Horror Story. A few missteps in the collection, but overall a great little horror movie that’ll make you block up your chimney.

Finally, if you're after general scary movie recommendations, rather than just my seasonal favourites, try this list.



Monday, 20 November 2017

A Foot in the Door

Recently I took part in an event at the University of Derby called ‘Foot in the Door’, a panel-based workshop aimed at aspiring writers, with a view to providing practical information on making writing a career.

It was a really cool event, and I think a lot of the students (not just from the university) got something very worthwhile out of it.

Some of the questions put to the panel crop up regularly in any writer’s life, and I think it’s worth sharing some of the discussion here. Note that these aren’t just my responses, but a general consensus between myself and fellow panellists Anne Zouroudi and Jane Linfoot.


How did you first come to be published?
There are quite a few variations on this theme, and we all agreed that you can ditch the usual protocols if you plan on exploring digital routes to market, or even if you’d rather work on licenced fiction (like novelizations of movies, or Games Workshop’s Black Library imprint, for instance). But the usual way to get published is this:
1.      Write a full manuscript. Finished, edited, polished as best as you can make it, and make sure other people have read it and that you’ve listened to their feedback.
2.      Only when that’s done can you start to look for an agent. Buy the latest copy of the Writers & Artists’ Yearbook. Identify a handful of agents (maybe half a dozen to start with) who are specialists in your chosen genre. Follow their submission guidelines VERY carefully to avoid ending up in the trash. If they want a covering letter/email, spellcheck it to death. If they want 3 chapters, don’t send them the whole book, and so on.
3.      Give the first batch of agents a reasonable length of time (up to 3 months) before submitting to further agents.
4.      Do not take rejection personally – fiction is subjective, and it’s all part of the learning curve. I had one well-known agent tell me the Lazarus Gate was ‘boring’. The very next week I had two other agents say they loved it and were interested in seeing more.
5.      If you have more than one offer, pick the agent you like the best, but also bear in mind their stable of authors. Check the contract. Sign on the line. And wait… The agent will go away and sell your book. It might take a week. It might take a year. You might get offered a six-figure sum. Most likely it’ll be four. Patience, padawan. Your time will come.

Was there a change in attitude – necessary or voluntary – that you had to take once your first book was out?
God, yes. Once book one is edited and prepping for publication, there’s a very good chance you’ll already be writing book two. Now it all gets very real: whether you’re a full-time writer, or propping up the writing with a full-time job, you need to hit your deadlines. Worst-case scenario, there are financial penalties for being late (although they are rarely enforced, best not push it by being unreliable).

Most people write their first book in their spare time. It takes ages (Lazarus took me 2 years). But when you sign a multi-book deal, publishers want one book a year, same time every year. No excuses. Get cracking. NOW!

I worked in magazines for nearly 15 years before becoming a full-time writer. That means I feed off the energy of deadline week. But if you’re the kind of person who hates pressure, then the best favour you can do yourself is to get organised, and write steadily rather than do it all in a frenzy at the end.

How did you find that marketing side of things once the book was released? Is there any advice you would give to aspiring authors in that respect?
Be prepared to spend a *lot* of time promoting the book. Publicists might support and facilitate, but they won’t do it for you. In this day and age writers need a social media presence. You’ll probably be invited to panels, and readings, and book launches. As most writers are introverts at heart, this bit can be terrifying. Thankfully, event organisers and more experienced writers will almost always take you under their wing, and honestly, you might never grow to love it, but you’ll learn how to do it, and that’s nine tenths of the battle.

One note that came up: Also be prepared for sales department pressure on your book content, sometimes more so than editorial. Comments like ‘readers really liked that character, can you bring him back from the dead in the next book please?’ are sadly all-too common. And not always negotiable…

Is there anything about being a professional, published author that has come as a real surprise?
Multiple contracts are no guarantee of further contracts – it’s absolutely true that you’re only as good as your last book. Think several books ahead – where is your next sale going to come from?

What words of advice you would give to authors looking to get published and established?
My word of advice was this: It’s very hard to get rich in the writing game these days. The days of the ‘mid-list-author' are pretty much finished, and it’s quite telling that many of the superstar novelists we know today have been superstar novelists for decades – they made it big when it was still fairly commonplace to do so, and the marketplace wasn’t so packed. This isn’t meant to be negative: there’s still room to carve your niche. But don’t write just to make money. You’ll only end up following trends and writing stuff you think will sell, rather than make good art. Write what you’d like to read, and what you’re inspired by, and you’ll find an agent and editor who love it and are also inspired by it.


There you have it – a whistle-stop round-up of the discussion, and only my personal recollections. Similar events take place up and down the country on a fairly regular basis. If you’ve been thinking seriously about turning writing into a career, I’d highly recommend checking them out. 

Monday, 6 November 2017

The Lazarus Gate Easter Egg Hunt

In an interview earlier this year, I was asked about ‘easter eggs’ hidden in my books – those little nods to pop culture, historical figures and wry in-jokes that many writers like to seed into their work. And as I’m no exception to those writers, it got me to thinking just how many times I insert some vague references, or make myself smile with a line that calls to mind some classic Victorian novel. Now, a lot of these references get edited out. Some are unconscious, and I end up removing them when I realise what I’ve done. Some, however, are obscure enough and personal enough to me to make the final cut.

For this blog, I’ve gone right back to book one, the Lazarus Gate, and picked out my top five easter eggs. There are lots of others – if you spot them, drop me a line here. There’s literally a No-Prize for guessing…

Charles Dickens References
There are many Dickens riffs in the Lazarus Gate, because more than one character has a passion for his work – notably Rosanna. Ever the one for an oblique reference, for example, I adapted two lines from the short story ‘The Queer Chair’ as simple descriptors in the text. The originals are: ‘If any Bagman of that day could have caught sight of the little neck-or-nothing sort of gig…’ and ‘The wind blew… sending the rain slanting down like the lines they used to rule in the copy-books at school, to make the boys slope well.’


 John’s Boarding House
It won’t come as much of a shock to learn that Hardwick is inspired by several Victorian characters, notably Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson (he has a little of both in him). I wanted a Sherlockian nod in the book, and decided to have him staying at a boarding house, run by a Mrs Hudson-esque housekeeper. The address, however, is the fun bit. Because the real-world 11 George Street is situated next door to the building used as 221B Baker Street in the BBC Sherlock TV series, better known today as ‘Speedy’s’ sandwich shop.

You Can Take the Boy out of Stoke…
When I was a youngster growing up in Stoke-on-Trent, I was a big fan of Stoke City Football Club, and even though I live in a different city now, I still follow their fortunes (and, mostly, misfortunes). But I’ll never forget my first match, which was at the old Victoria ground in Stoke during the 92/93 championship-winning season, which saw us promoted to the first division (later ‘the Championship’, for reasons). The point of this story? Well, the winning team comprised players such as Regis, Gleghorn, and Cranson – and a whole bunch of other names that have cropped up throughout the Apollonian Casefiles trilogy as hard-pressed policemen.

Big Dave Regis, right; one of my boyhood heroes.

Tsun Pen
The Artist’s true name is Tsun Pen, and his namesake is Ts’ui Pên, the ancestor of Doctor Yu Tsun from The Garden of Forking Paths. This story had a profound influence on The Lazarus Gate far beyond the character of the Artist; the uncanny string of coincidences that leads John to the Artist, the circle of circumstance that makes the Artist able to interpret all fates but for his own, and the strange environs of the House of Zhengming, are all inspired by Ts’ui Pên’s great work—a hypertextual novel that represents his unnavigable, infinite labyrinth. It’s a strange and wondrous short story, as trippy as a trip to Tsun Pen’s opium den…

The USS Helen B. Jackson
The ship name comes from the four-masted schooner in the F. Marion Crawford novella, ‘Man Overboard!’, a supernatural tale that centres on the story of identical twins putting out to sea. This is a really great story, and some of the themes were just too perfect, so I knew I had to give a wink to it in the Apollonian Casefiles.


Friday, 15 September 2017

The Blog Tour Was Foreseen...

To accompany the imminent release of The Legion Prophecy, I'm delighted to announce the latest blog tour! Please do check out these wonderful friends of the Apollonian Club and join us on a walk between worlds...


Thursday, 24 August 2017

Review: The Blackcoat's Daughter


Today’s horror movie review is an odd fish and, to be honest, not really what I expected from the blurb or the trailer. Read on…

I actually watched this one as an import under the alternative title ‘February’ – a far better name, actually, because as far as I could tell the ‘Blackcoat’ only really appears in the first few minutes of the film, and it’s never made clear if the girl at the centre of proceedings is his (or maybe her) daughter or not.

The setup has great potential. Two girls at a religious boarding school are left behind when school breaks up for the holidays, because their parents don’t collect them. The older girl, Rose, is instructed to babysit the younger, Kat, until their parents turn up. The remote location, and the idea of these two kids being alone in a huge empty school with something sinister roaming the halls is a great premise. Elsewhere, we have a mysterious, troubled girl, Joan, hitching a ride toward the school, although it’s not explained at first what her connection is.

What we have here is a slow-burn, psychological movie, which may or may not be supernatural in nature. In fact, nothing much is made very clear to the viewer at all, with the movie’s predilection for non-linear narrative, jumbled, juxtaposed images, and very little dialogue. It’s almost art-house at times, beautifully shot, and sometimes poignant. In style and atmosphere, themes and location, and certainly in terms of the soundtrack, it’s very similar to one of my favourites, Session9. However, although not a terrible film, it does fall a long way short of that particular horror gem.

Where Session 9 genuinely fills every frame with a sense of unease, The Blackcoat’s Daughter attempts to artificially wring that sense from its scenes through a jarring soundtrack overlaid onto the most mundane shots. It’s only later when director Osgood Perkins fills in the blanks through flashbacks that we see what he was driving at, but by then I fear a few people may have switched off because, aside from a few truly creepy moments, the movie is almost unforgivably dull. It’s not helped by the fact that the biggest twist is rather clumsily handled – the only reason you don’t guess it right from the start is because the on-screen captioning – the thing you look to for concrete information such as location, character name and/or timeframe – deliberately misleads you. That doesn’t sit well with me – I’d rather have no captions than ones that fib. And sadly, it’s not an original twist – it’s been done much more successfully elsewhere, and very recently (not wanting to post spoilers, but see HBO’s Westworld).


The Blackcoat’s Daughter is eerie, hauntingly beautiful in parts, and does have a rather poignant ending, with serious questions about diminished responsibility. The possession aspect is pretty original, and rarely resorts to tired tropes. While she doesn’t have a huge amount to do, Emma Roberts further cements her acting credentials, and I reckon it’s a matter of time before she becomes a box office draw in her own right. It’s just a shame the pacing is so cretaceous, and the whole doesn’t mesh slightly better.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Red Tower

Very pleased to reveal the rather spiffing cover of my next Sherlock Holmes novel for Titan Books. Released in spring 2018, Sherlock Holmes: The Red Tower is a Gothic mystery for Holmes and Watson, featuring a medieval tower, a ghostly red lady presaging a family curse, a seance on a stormy night, and dark deeds afoot.



Coming in Your Ears

With Alan Clifford in the studio.
So here's a thing: yesterday, I was on the radio. I know, right?!

Thanks to the attention drawn to my Victorian scribblings in my Left Lion Magazine interview, I was contacted by the peeps at BBC Radio Nottingham to do a live chat spot on their Afternoon Show with Alan Clifford.

We had a good chinwag about Victoriana, Sherlock Holmes, the difference between Victorian SF and Steampunk, whether people talk to their dogs, and other random musings. You can find the segment here (starting at about 3:07:30).

And yes, as my agent tells me, the dictionary definition of 'cringe' is 'hearing your own voice on a recording', but I'll make this small sacrifice for you, dear readers!

Friday, 4 August 2017

The Silver Scream



Like most nerds, I’m a massive movie fan, undoubtedly spending too much of my precious time slobbing out on the sofa in front of the latest films. My particular penchant, as regular followers will know, is horror movies (and TV series) – preferably, although not limited to, atmospheric ghost stories rather than crazy slasher flicks. I realised the other day that I’ve started to binge on horror movies of late, old and new, and because I’m a huge fan of the genre I’ve decided to start publishing short reviews on the blog.

Reviews are really subjective, and I certainly won’t be doing star ratings, but hopefully you’ll find my musings useful, especially if you like the same sorts of movies as me. For a quick primer on what I consider to be great horror, check out a previousblog post on the subject here. One of the things I find interesting about the horror genre is that it usually gets a lower critical rating overall when compared to other genres – on IMDB for example, the best horror struggles to reach a 7.0 rating, while the poorest superhero movie will easily surpass that. This leads to specialist horror movie reviewers giving their genre a bit of an easy ride, whereas actually in some cases horror really needs to up its game and steer away from formulaic tropes in order to be, well, scarier!

To get up-to-date on my watch list, I’m going to kick off with three mini-reviews.

The Void

In a nutshell, this much-hyped movie is a mash-up of Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing, which are about the finest influences a pseudo-80s horror flick could have. Here we have a bunch of misfits trapped in a hospital, with knife-wielding cultists outside, and something horrendous inside. The movie has a great look and feel, from the design of the cultist robes (pictured) to the Lovecraftian horrors we encounter in the basement of the hospital. The body horror moments are well handled, the practical effects impressive, and the performances are generally solid.

Where The Void falls down is that it wears its influences too readily on its sleeve. There is the germ of a really cool story here, about dark magic helping humans to the next stage of evolution. But it gets a little lost in the blood and gore, which starts very early and doesn’t really let up. Too much of the emotional connection between protagonist Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) and his nurse ex-girlfriend Allison (Kathleen Munroe) seems forced and contrived, lacking the time required to grow our attachment for these characters organically.

This movie wants really badly to be John Carpenter’s The Thing, but lacks the character studies, nuance and sense of paranoia it needs to pull that feat off. It’s a worthy effort, and well worth a look, but I doubt it’ll stand the test of time half as well as its inspiration.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

I was inspired to check this one out on the recommendation of horror maestro Adam Nevill, which is certainly enough for me. The last time I checked out a movie he recommended it was the Taking of Deborah Logan, which I really enjoyed. But I digress.

Autopsy’ revolves around a mysterious body – a ‘Jane Doe’ – that is brought to a coroner (the excellent Brian Cox) and his assistant son (the slightly less excellent Emile Hirsch) to identify. The setup is really effective – it’s a remote location, after hours, the father is a stickler for procedure, the son just wants to go catch a movie with his girlfriend but agrees to stay. The body is a real enigma, showing signs of internal trauma and burning simply not possible for its flawless external condition, and having a suppleness that a long-dead corpse really shouldn’t have.

When the really weird stuff starts happening, we’re embroiled in a tense, panicky battle with dark forces, witchcraft and the walking dead. Unfortunately, that’s when the movie also starts getting a bit silly. There’s no real rhyme or reason to Jane Doe’s vendetta against the two coroners, and no real explanation of the extent (or limitations) of her powers. So what follows is really a collection of excellent horror set-pieces that don’t quite gel. There are a few annoying plot holes and inconsistencies, including one obvious error that had me shouting at the screen, but for all its faults Autopsy remains one of the best horror movies of the year. Well worth a watch.

Jordskott (TV series)

Part Scandi-noir crime, part folkloric horror, part environmental think-piece, Jordskott is a really unusual piece of television, and one of the weirdest and most absorbing things I’ve watched in a long time.

Detective Inspector Eva Thörnblad (Moa Gammel) returns to Silver Height seven years after her daughter Josefine disappeared by a lake in the woods. The body was never found and the girl was believed to have drowned. Now a boy has vanished without a trace and Thörnblad wants to find out if there is a link to her daughter's disappearance. That in itself might be intriguing, but when you throw in a corporate conspiracy spanning decades, the monsters who live in the woods (some in human form), and a sinister hitman with a vendetta against said monsters, you have a recipe for a wild ride.

The writing and acting in Jordskott is uniformly excellent, although quite often character points will be dragged out for far too long for little reason other than that the narrative requires it. The characters are well-rounded – even minor characters get a chance to shine, and all have believable backstories. There does come a point where the show could very easily tip into superhero territory, but it just about manages to tread that particular tightropes without becoming ridiculous. And the ending… well, as a crime drama, it wraps up nicely, but the deeper mystery about the titular Jordskott is left open. Lucky they’ve announced season 2 already…



That’s all for now. Let me know if you like this sort of content, and if so I’ll try to make it a little more frequent. In the meantime, don’t have nightmares…

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Chosen Men: Austria


I've been working on some extra content for Chosen Men for a while now, and I'm pleased to announce the first fruits of my labours is ready for public consumption. The Austrian army is ready to take to the field!

You can download the list for free here.

If you want to see more free wargames downloads from me, please do consider supporting me on Patreon. No one pays me for the continued support of these games, and as my ongoing titles expand, it gets harder and harder to devote time to bonus content.

And finally, a bit of historical background for those who like that sort of thing...

Often defeated, and sometimes bowed into submission, Austria’s army were nonetheless always ready to renew the fight. Each time, they learned from past mistakes; each time, they were that much more experienced. From the time of Napoleon’s first campaign in Italy to his surrender almost two decades later, Austria remained the staunchest threat to his aspirations.

The Austrian army that fought Napoleon in 1796 was a relic. Its troops paid dearly for their officers’ lack of ability and the conservatism of their commanders-in-chief. After their defeat in the Italian campaign, Archduke Charles reformed the army, switching the emphasis from linear tactics to manageable battlefield formations. When the army was defeated again in 1800 and 1805, those reforms had still not taken full effect, leaving the commanders frustrated.


It was a very different case in 1809, when the reorganised and rejuvenated Austrian army – the largest army in the world at that time – inflicted a humiliating defeat on Napoleon at Aspern-Essling, before succumbing to the French juggernaut at Wagram. However, emboldened by its partial success, the army introduced further reforms, creating Army Corps in the French style. For a time the Austrians fought alongside the French, marching with Napoleon into Russia in 1812, though their hearts were never in the fight. In 1813, the Austrians declared war again, and their commitment was not in question. The Austrian army harried the French all the way back to Paris, and their efforts were instrumental in Napoleon’s final defeat.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Propping up a Story

EDIT, 29/05/18: Thanks to the closure of Storify.com, this blog post was down for a while. I've decided to resurrect it, tweet by tweet. You can view the original thread here.

----------------------------------------

Just found my old Cthulhu by Gaslight RPG campaign journal. Stuffed full of ideas. Had to share. #WhatsInTheBox?



The basic premise was my players were paranormal investigators working for a weird gentlemen's club. Sound familiar?

And because I'm mad I created hundreds of period Victorian props. Including maps like this one from Cassini Maps


The first adventure was set in Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, & involved a murderous bronze statue.


After each session, the players would write up their notes in character. Some were brave enough to write directly into the journal.

Gav Thorpe played a Psychical Investigator. Every game he’d submit his findings to the SPR, Kolchak-style, & they'd always reject him.


Soon, the investigators stumbled upon an Egyptian conspiracy, complete with mummies, codes and brain-eating scarabs.


My props became increasingly elaborate. I bought a perferator blade for my paper cutter so I could make unique tear-off train tickets. Have to mention: every ticket had a unique number, and was individually distressed in Photoshop before printing in a strip and perforating. I’d ask the players who was purchasing the tickets, give them the whole strip, and they'd tear them off themselves. Tactile props!


My players wouldn't know if the props were anachronistic. But I would. I had a compulsion to make everything as authentic as possible. So I contacted local history groups, bought vintage typefaces and stock graphics, scoured antiquarian bookshops... I provided exact train timetables for the date of the adventure. Players would have to plan their journeys in real time.


Spent ages looking for all sorts of official documents from the period I could doctor, like this telegram form.


This death certificate was constructed from various sources. A tricky one, this.


I had to create this asylum tag from scratch. The character was based on Bellingham from Conan Doyle's Lot No 249.


I even had a go at book-binding, recreating a book from Mark Frost's The List of Seven, on which I based an adventure.



This was my hand drawn map of Osea, for an adventure inspired by The Woman in Black (but with spider-demons). (That was a good one. The roguish Ambrose Hanlocke, later of Lazarus Gate fame, played by former GW colleague Andy Hall, almost met a sticky end).


The journal also contains all the floorplans, later redesigned and printed on parchment for posterity.


As well as fragments of sanity-blasting texts, rescued from a fire by investigators who should have known better...


These blasphemous writings were adapted from passages in Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor.


(Top tip. When making newspaper cuttings, print adverts on the back so the newsprint shows through.)


The campaign ended with a battle against master villain Thomas Neill Cream. He was badass.


Luckily the investigators had help against the dark forces arrayed before them...







Friday, 19 May 2017

Carthago Delenda Est

One of the things I've been working on in the background of late is a collection of new rules and content for Broken Legions. Aimed at tying together my Cthulhu Campaigns: Ancient Rome sourcebook with the Broken Legions wargame, this project includes new warbands, wandering monsters and special rules galore.

You'll be seeing these efforts in various formats over the coming months, but for now, have a free warband, on me.

The Scions of Hannibal are the last remnants of old Carthage, sworn enemies of Rome, and followers of sinister gods. They might have nowhere to call home any more, but with War Elephants and hideous Behemoths to call upon, however, they are not to be sniffed at!

You can download the rules here!


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Cover Reveal: It is Foreseen

The cover for the third book in the Apollonian Casefiles is up now!



From the Jacket:

1893. Colonel John Hardwick is an embittered veteran of the secret war against the Othersiders, and lives a life of reclusive solitude away from London. But when members of his old unit are killed at the hands of monstrous creatures, and whispers abound that the Artist, Tsun Pen, has returned from the grave, fears spread for Hardwick’s life.
     John’s former friend, Captain Jim Denny, and the American adventuress Marie Furnival, must persuade John to come out of self-imposed exile, and help them discover this impostor who carries the Artist’s name. But defeating this new threat will lead them to discover dark secrets at the heart of the Order of Apollo – secrets that could shake the fabric of the world just as surely as the Lazarus Gate. 

This is the big one – the book that binds The Lazarus Gate and The Iscariot Sanction together, and introduces some new characters, too. The Legion Prophecy hits stores in September.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Writing Like There's No Tomorrow

A bit quiet on the blog front again, primarily because I'm so darned busy I can barely keep up! A few recent releases to keep you informed about though, well worth a plug on here for posterity.


First up, my first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Betrayal in Blood, is in all good bookshops now. Published by Titan, this feature-length Holmes story is actually based on some research I did years ago when I was studying Bram Stoker's Dracula, and asks the question, what if Dracula was innocent of all charges? This book was great fun, and it was a real challenge trying to capture not only the voice of Watson, but also of the key players in Dracula. Early reviews indicate I was pretty successful, so do check it out!


Secondly, I just received my author copy of the charming A Clockwork Iris, a collection of Iris Wildthyme short stories which includes my tale, Petit Fours, Petite Mort. For those who don't know, Iris Wildthyme is a time-travelling adventuress sort-of-but-not-quite in the Dr Who universe, made famous by Whovian companion Katy Manning in the popular audio series. It's the first time I've had a comedy tale published, and really enjoyed writing it.



The other week I was delighted to receive a new edition of my Sleepy Hollow book. Originally written for Osprey Dark, it's been re-released as Hunting the Headless Horseman, with a lovely library-edition hardcover in the US, by Rosen Publishing. It might be a year old, but it felt pretty special to get a hardback release!


Finally, for the wargaming crowd, I received my author samples of the Arkham Knight Campaign Book from Knight Models. This was my first contribution to the Batman Miniature Game as author rather than editor, and I'm very proud of this. Big shout out to Luis at Knight for his incredible graphic design work - he makes us writers look good!

It doesn't stop there: keep your eyes peeled in the very near future for some Broken Legions articles in the venerable pages of Wargames Illustrated, a feature on the Apollonian Case Files in the Nottingham arts magazine Left Lion, and a short story in the forthcoming Ghost Archipelago anthology from Osprey Publishing.

My very own Hound of the Baskervilles, #bdog,
helping out with editing the Legion Prophecy.
I'll be blogging on a few of these titles, and more, in the near future. For now, I need to finish editing the third Apollonian book, The Legion Prophecy, start my second Sherlock Holmes novel, finish a Holmes short story for a forthcoming Gothic anthology, and get to work on several top secret licensed games (keep an eye out on my Facebook page for more details as they emerge). Busy busy busy!