I am currently editing and compiling a series of my own short stories.
They were begun in 2014, when I first became involved in the world of Steampunk, and continued until 2016. Initially posted on a, now closed, blog the first story having been published in a Steampunk magazine also, I have decided to compile them all into one volume.
The stories are based on the characters that my daughter and I assumed as part of the ‘costume’ for events, gatherings and annual Asylum Festival. These events involve people from all over the country, and in the case of The Asylum Festival, the world, dressing up in faux Victorian clothing; often hybridised from various literary characters, films, Industrial mechanisms and so forth.
This is not ‘serious’ literature – and was never meant to be; more a romp through various countries and continents with varying degrees of success. Lucy Lockhart and Theodora Doppler are a pair of adventurers, aka thieves, who collect treasures ostensibly for the Royal Society in London; think Harry Flashman crossed with Indiana Jones in female form! It is pulp fiction (no, not the film), in the style of the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and short-fiction magazines of the 19th century
The issue I have is that over the course of a writing career – especially at the beginning, one’s style and skill changes and grows – the earliest pieces reflect this, and can be seen as the development of these skills.
But do I publish? Of course, no actual publishing house is going to want to publish a set of stories about a philandering, thieving, amoral, (sometimes murdering), woman, set in an alternate 19th century, so it will be a self-published project – if it happens!
“ Abby Williams returns to the small town where she grew up. Now working as a successful environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has been tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s economic heart. Abby begins to find strange connections to a decade-old scandal involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.
As Abby attempts to find out what happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations.”
Krysten Ritter, star of American TV shows such as Jessica Jones and Don’t Trust The B**** in Apartment 23, has published her début novel, Bonfire.I have to admit I had mixed emotions; unsure whether this actor, who I have been a fan of for some years, would be skilled enough to pull off a novel ( I think it was J G Ballard who said one shouldn’t not write a full length novel for a first outing). Bonfire has been described as being ‘dark, disturbing and compulsively readable’ amongst the blurb.
I found the writing to be mature, I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. Ritter keeps the writing tight and moving along at a fair pace. The protagonist, Abby Williams, is deftly portrayed, she has a strong voice and reminded me a little of a cross between the two characters Ritter has played in the aforementioned shows; intelligent, forthright and possibly a little bit sexy. Other characters are portrayed well with sparse use of adjectives, yet we get to see them clearly.
Abby has tried hard to move away from the memories of her home-town. Memories dominated by the popular girl Kaycee Mitchell, memories of her bullying, of becoming her friend, of Kaycee’s clique of hangers on, like the appalling Misha, and ultimately the illness that gripped Kaycee and the others. To Abby, there is a connection between the illnesses and Optimal Plastics and she sets out to prove it.
Bonfire is dark and compulsive reading, but the disturbing not so much for me. I found myself thinking of The Virgin Suicides (1993), Mean Girls and a little Twin Peaks. So, not hugely original or with a shocking or surprising outcome. Maybe because I am British, but I found it quite difficult to relate to many of the characters; do high school students really behave like that in USA?! And I simply could not get my head around the idea that school-age Abby wanted to be friends with such a bitch! But maybe I’m not the target audience.
Although there are a couple of close moments between the protagonist and other character, there is no reason why this cannot be read by those aged 16 years.
Each month sees the release of hundreds of new book titles. Like the movie goers who queue outside the cinema for hours on the first day of a film’s release, I know many readers like to get their copies ASAP, like NOW!
Personally, I can wait, I like to be behind the curve; what can I say. But for those who can’t wait, here’s ten books you might like this month. I know I will be having a closer look at Philip Pullman’s ‘Book of Dust’.
1. Turtles All The Way Down by John Green – Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by Dutton Books for Young Readers.
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate.
2. Origin by Dan Brown – Published October 3rd 2017 by Doubleday Books.
Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbolism and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.”
3. The Ship of The Dead by Rick Riordan – Published October 3rd 2017 by Disney-Hyperion.
Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin’s chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn’t naturally inclined to fighting.
4. Without Merit by Colleen Hoover – Published October 3rd 2017 by Atria Books.
The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a re-purposed church, newly baptised Dollar Voss.
5. All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater – Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by Scholastic Press.
Here is a thing everyone wants: A miracle.Here is a thing everyone fears:What it takes to get one.
6. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan – Published October 3rd 2017 by Scribner.
Manhattan Beachopens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.
7. The Core by Peter V. Brett – Published October 3rd 2017 by Del Rey.
For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose…
8. The Silver Mask by Holly Black – Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by Scholastic Press.
A generation ago, Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn’t succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt.
9. Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao – Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by Philomel Books.
Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her.
10. The Book Of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman – Expected publication: October 19th 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them, a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .
I am one of those individuals who come up with lots of ideas and follow few of them through. I’m a ‘Scanner’, a dilettante, a jack-of-all-trades, but more on that another time.
A couple of ideas I came up with about 12 – 15 years ago were to do with sharing one’s own reading selection. I worked at a well-known book shop at the time and ran a Book Swap. So easy and free – everyone brings a book wrapped in paper, place it in a box, take another out. That’s it, but you often get something you may never have thought of purchasing, you may get exposed to a genre that previously you had avoided. The other idea never came to anything – it was to do with leaving books in public spaces; one’s own publications or some other author you really had enjoyed.
When I read it, I thought, well finally someone’s doing it, because I sure as hell am too lazy!!!
The basic gist is this, You leave out one of your own books or share a favourite book from another author. It’s a way of sharing literature, and what can be better than that.
There are a couple of things you need to take part; two stickers for each book, you can get them from The Book Fairies.
Next; you hide the book in a semi-obvious spot for someone to find. But as Goodreads states, watch the weather forecast as you don’t want your book to get soggy.
Then; take a picture and share it with your fellow Goodreads members and Book Fairies on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtags #goodreadsturns10 #hideabookday, #ibelieveinbookfairies.
I love this idea (not only because I thought of it , privately, yonks ago!), it incorporates two positive aspects of human behaviour – reading and sharing.
I know I will be keeping a lookout, though I cannot imagine anyone in my town will get involved.
I do have one quibble with the ‘event’. It is happening on a Monday, working people such as myself will possibly not have time to hide or look for books. I would have preferred it to be run on a weekend, but that’s just me.
Which book will you hide for other readers to find on September 18?
Well, writing per se is not hard. However, writing well is!
It is quite easy to put pen to paper, finger tips to keys, or quill to parchment; whatever takes your fancy, I do it all the time. It does not make what I write worthy of reading, or even particularly good.
As an adult who is fairly new to the world of writing, I realise how very little I was taught at school, and probably because teachers work to a curriculum which itself is about passing exams. I am not alone in this lack of education regarding how to write. I was not, for example, taught the difference between an essay and a story, an assignment, a dissertation, or a thesis. I have had to pick these up in the later years of my life – a huge indictment on the English Education system.
Writing is not hard because I am dull-witted; I am not.
Writing is a creative activity, it demands a skill with words that, sadly, many so-called authors do not have. Word-smiths work hard at compiling and re-arranging 26 letters (in English) into a plethora of ideas, and use the same 26 letters over again for completely different themes.
Writing well is demanding.
It requires practise. It requires persistence. It requires commitment. It requires creativity. It requires honesty. Anyone can produce word vomit – it’s recognising the good bits that makes the difference.
Recently, I have been asking myself – who cares? Or, So what?
Who cares if you wrote a tragedy about a lovelorn grass snake? So what if you ‘have a story inside’, do you really have to share it? What make you think anyone wants to read it? I have been guilty of producing some trite nonsense, I need to stop. And so do a lot of people.
Self criticism seems to be sorely lacking in many individuals. I blame the school system; everyone can be creative, everyone is a winner – no they can’t and no they are not. This lack of competition has created a society with a watery attitude to the arts; vapid outpourings of equally vapid individuals.
And this criticism is not only levelled at ‘young up and coming’ authors – there are many brilliant new writers – no, I have read some tosh from long established writers who seem to pump out vast quantities of barely edited text, in the infuriating belief that more is better. It is not.
Many authors have only ever produced one or two novels – would that the others had!!!!
If you’ve ever wondered what a ‘diabolic shrimp’ is, you’ve come to the right place! Imagine a James Bondy villain type living in his underwater lair, directing sea creatures with his super-duper-gonna-take-over-the-world-tech; Joshua Grant is the self-proclaimed leader of shrimp – I’m kidding, really (or am I?)
Seriously though, American author Josh has created his website under the name Diabolic Shrimp and with pretty altruistic reasons. He not only wanted to create a platform for writers to support one another, but he is giving 10% of his takings from his latest book to charity; one of which is oceanic research. Not such a diabolic chap at all. I invited Josh to share something of his life and his website with you.
Josh’s iconic shrimp brigade
1. Tell us something about yourself Josh.
I am a caring, compassionate guy with a moderate imagination and a mild case of misadventure. I have a huge passion for science (particularly space exploration) and for making a difference in the lives of kids.My favorite color [sic] is blue, I absolutely hate peanut butter (not allergic, just hate it), and I hope I live to see the day we colonize Mars.
2. Do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?
My walk through life has been a pretty turbulent one (hence the ‘mild case of misadventure’). I’ve suffered some major traumas in life, truly the worst things that anyone should have to go through, but God brought me through it and has allowed me to land on my feet a wiser and better person.I’ve also experienced some crazy things in life like surviving a major flash flood, encountering several bears, facing off with a mountain lion while ghost hunting, and weathering a vicious storm while sailing the ocean.So…maybe flailing?
3. What is Diabolic Shrimp and what are its origins?
Diabolic Shrimp is my author website that’s also designed to support other authors. I personally buy a book each week from the list of authors signed on to Shrimp.I then go on to review that book.I also buy a book each month to give away to readers for free.
I didn’t originally intend Shrimp to be an author support site. Shortly after I published, I realized how difficult it could be for authors to connect with readers, and just how many sites and venues out there took advantage of authors without providing much benefit.It was here that I saw a chance to make a difference for a group of people that needed it.I decided to step forward and create a free space that authors could come to for concrete support.It wasn’t very successful at first (I had 6 members for about half a year) but a belief in helping others and a bit of persistence has allowed us to grow to nearly a thousand members in the past four months.It has honestly been a wonderful experience that has allowed me to meet tons of interesting people and create a truly caring community.
4. Shrimp – why shrimp?!
Haha! It’s kind of an awkward story actually.My site wasn’t originally called Diabolic Shrimp.It had another name for about six hours.I chose that other zany name on a whim.It was only later when I was out with my friends that they told me it sounded kind of dirty.I was moderately mortified, ‘cause I could totally see what they were talking about!I then quickly changed it to Diabolic Shrimp.
It’s actually my little joke. The Diabolic stands for my diabolic plan to eventually get every single author on there and take over the world.The Shrimp is because individually we authors are the little guys, but when we band together we make a pretty impressive swarm.That, and shrimp are fun little creatures.
5. Would you describe yourself as an environmentalist? And do you believe that people like yourself can make a change for the positive in the world?
I’d say I’m an environmentalist to a degree. I believe all people have a responsibility to leave the world better than when they came into it.That applies to everything, environmentally, relationally, or otherwise.I know for certain I can make a positive difference in the world and will continually encourage others to do so.
6. Your latest publication, Pandora, is about a space leisure cruise ship that picks up the apparent survivor of an accident. Would it be right to describe it as sci-fi horror?
I sort of had a hard time classifying Pandora. I wanted to have a new take on the classic ‘ghost ship’ trope, but also capture all the actiony thrill of the 90s horror films I used to watch as a kid, and thencouple all that with a deep moral heart.So it’s really more of a Sci-Fi Thriller packed with strange creatures similar to films like Aliens or The Thing, with an emotional twist.
7. Are there any authors that influence your writing, who are they and why?
Several authors have made a big impact on me over the years. I always have to give a shout out to JRR Tolkien.The Fellowship of the Ring film came out when I was a freshman in high school and I became a huge Lord of the Rings fan.I read all the books (yes, even some of the Middle Earth histories), and that’s what really sparked my writing career.Then Lois Lowry’s works like The Giver and Number the Stars really taught me the power that books have to inspire emotions.
I came upon the Horror genre only a few years ago. S.D. Perry really blew me away with her fast paced, heart pounding novels.I then got onto the Dean Koontz train.Ultimately, I strive to make my writing a blend of these two masters.
8. What genre do you enjoy reading? And do you have a favourite book?
Oddly enough, Young Adult Fantasy is pretty much my favorite thing in the world to read. Basically anything Rick Riordan writes works for me (shout out to The Lightning Thief).
9. You’re a teacher I believe, what subject do you teach and do you ever bring your experience into the classroom or vice-versa?
I used to be an elementary teacher, so I taught all subjects. These days I just guest teach in both elementary and middle school.I also work with middle and high schoolers at church (more on the emotional side of things).I truly love getting to share my experience with the kiddos.It was always a goal of mine to use my writing to inspire the younger generation.I actually struggled with writing growing up so it’s empowering to show kids who also struggle that they can make it.The only downfall is that parents keep showing up and saying ‘hey, I bought your book for my kid!’I’m always a little mortified when I have to explain that it’s more for adults and watch them give me weird looks!I guess it’s more motivation to finish Silly Tales from Albanon! (AP: You have said it, and now it is public Josh, it’s got to be done!)
10. When working on a book, do you have a special place you like to write, i:e: a garden shed, a room with a view, an underwater lair?!!
Ooo, an underwater lair would be awesome! Oddly enough, my brain only likes to write at the kitchen table.I can’t seem to write anywhere else.Maybe I’m just hungry for more stories?(I know, cringe) (AP: well there goes my image of a watery lair with the high-tech-gadgety-thing going on!!)
11. Who or what has been your biggest influence to date?
I’ve had a few major influences in my life. My parents are the hardest working, kindest people I know.I dedicated my book to them for their endless care and selflessness.The kids I work with always inspire me to be a better, more creative person.God is a huge influence in making me the functional, altruistic person I am today.And on the business front, Elon Musk is a major role model.He likes to help others and is constantly pushing the envelope.
12. If you could tell your 11 year old self anything, what would you say?
I would probably tell myself some lottery numbers. JBut aside from that, I’d tell my 11 year old self that he’s a worthwhile, good person with a heart that has more love and endurance in it than even he knows.
13. And finally – if you could be any sea creature, what would you be and why?!
I would be a…drumroll…actually, not a shrimp. They get eaten by literally everything!I’d either be an otter or a squid.Otters are super cute and squid are some of the coolest animals ever.Hmmm, maybe I should have called it Diabolic Otter…
Thanks for the interview Josh, and good luck with your secret-domination-world-takeover, ahem, with your writers site.