Short Story

Good morning readers! On this mild Friday morning, I am offering a short story.

I began writing in the genre commonly called Steampunk, some 4 years ago. Steampunk is one of those awkward to describe genres, occasionally referred to as, Speculative Fiction. The ‘founders’ of this style; Tim Powers, K.W. Jeter and James Blaylock write dissimilar stories, but the commonality in this kind of literature is the cross-over of timelines, that technology is often; but not strictly, driven by steam and a fantastical/fantasy/punk quality.

I wrote this piece for my daughter; and read it later at Wirral Writers group. She was studying for A Levels at the time and the pressure of handing in assignments on time was the prime influence. It is a light-hearted take on the theme of time travel;

 

The Milford Papers

The thing rose almost silently from the dark water. Tiny, oily bubbles accompanying the rising pale dome of a head streaked with filth. With what might be called a sense of intelligence, the thing headed for the steps built into the stone-faced quay, and began to climb.
“The Monster!” Came the shout from a steamship passenger; a pointed finger directing the gaze of the dark men along the ropey quay.
A cry of alarm from the dockside drew further spectators.
The dark men; burly men, sinewy men, hard labourers with grease and coal etched into their faces, advance upon the hapless thing. And with raised fists, bale hooks, picaroons and wood off-cuts, beat the now landed creature. It staggered and flailed, urged back under a flurry of blows and snarled curses, these men who were broad backed, with strong muscles, and of sharp eye, paid no heed to the bizarre waving of limbs and strange snaps of light the thing gave off. Its alien wings twitched spasmodically. It was quickly and efficiently sent back to where it came from; tumbling backwards into the dark water, fizzing and sparking all the while, enveloped in the darkness the thing was presumed dead, or as good as. The docker’s returned to their duties.
And below the surface of the river, the thing thrashed, its legs pumped frantically as its hands scrabbled about its own being. And then. It simply vanished.

*

“Christ Almighty!”
“Calm down Milford.”
“Calm down?! Calm down?” The young Milford screeched. “I almost got killed this time. I’m not bloody doing it again. Nothing is worth that kind of hammering. Have you seen me?!” He pointed at newly ripening marks on his upper body.
“Hm?” The older man was inspecting the limp skin of ‘The Monster’.
“Professor. I said have you seen these bruises? I’m black and blue thanks to those thugs.”
“Who was it this time? Hm? What did they look like? Is the phonology like ours? Yes? What about syntax? Do they –“
“Professor!” Milford yelled over the gush of questions. “I couldn’t hear them. I had my helmet on. My bloody head.” He rubbed the back of his neck and skull that had been rattled under the reign of blows.
“Well, the suit seems to have taken a fair old pounding.” The Professor said. Milford’s mouth dropped open. “But nothing we cannot repair, hm?” He fondled the slippery fabric, pale as the underbelly of a sea bass, now detached from its complicated helmet. “I think a few simple repairs and adjustments will have it working good as new, better even.” He studied the multi-beam antenna on the helmet and the hinged time-space array panels, drooping from the shoulders of the suit.
“Professor. I don’t know if you’re aware, but we, sorry, I, keep missing the place. Or the time. I don’t know which, I’ve never got beyond five steps before some hooligan attacks me! Oh, and thanks for asking how I am.”
Professor Arbutus waggled his finger. “No, no, no, hm, no my boy. Not the wrong time.” He gently laid the suit next to the weed and mud smeared helmet. “I am absolutely, one hundred percent certain that the time is correct. Just a matter of co-ordinates. All we need to do – “
“I’m not doing it.”
“Pardon?”
“I said. I. Am. Not. Doing. It.” Milford said, then added civilly, “Sir.”
“Well now. Hm, yes, no. I see. Well in that case.”
Milford squinted at his professor, lips tight, don’t you dare old man, he thought.
“I cannot pass your coursework.” Damn!

*

Milford worked closely with his tutor for the next few days. The Finals were looming and he still hadn’t completed his paper. He had made adjustments to the multi-beam antenna, adding Albertian Relativity Sensors, whilst the professor fashioned his personally designed Continuum Lures for the time-space array panels.
“Should work a treat, hm?” The Professor smiled his apparently vacant smile.
Milford scowled at his tutor. “I bloody hope so. It’s me who has to wear it.”
“Language Milford.” The kindly voice warned.
“Sorry sir, but, well you know it hasn’t been as successful as we hoped before.”
“Don’t you understand the enormity of what we’re attempting Milford? My word. You young people today take everything for granted- “
“No sir. We don’t. Look, I’m sorry but Tasker has already completed her dissertation, handed it in to the Board this morning. And Barnes’ thesis is practically complete.”
The professor patted his students shoulder awkwardly. “It’ll be fine boy. Trust me. One more time.”

*
The figure that came to stand before the lectern was greeted with a wild burst of applause that threatened to deafen Milford. He was astounded. People stamped their feet upon the marble floor, the applause and cheers rose to the ceiling and seemed to curl around the tunnel vault and wrap itself around the audience. Milford’s hand trembled as he jotted in the small, leather bound notebook. He had expected him to be shorter. And then he spoke.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Here we are…” The speaker paused, his eyes twinkled. “…again, in the most perfect room in the world, in this most rich and beautiful port.”
The audience erupted into laughter and cheers, causing Milford to furtively press a finger into one ear. And so the evening continued, the speaker read extracts from his past works, enacting the parts and portraying the voices of his characters so flawlessly, Milford imagined there were hidden players lending their voices. The man combined whimsy and pathos, joy and exuberance, the audience was spellbound. Great oratory and acting combined; Milford squirmed with delight thinking of the examiners reading his thesis. His professor would have loved to visit this evening. Milford had been studying Literature for a mere seven years, his tutor had devoted almost seventy of his years to it, Milford felt he owed it to the old man as much as himself. And so, Milford scribbled like he’d never done before. He enjoyed the evening immensely.
When the crowds eventually dispersed beyond St. George’s Hall, Milford made up his mind to speak to the great man. He found him in a rear room, glass of some deep, syrupy liquid in one hand, bottle at his elbow. He looked Milford up and down with his acute eye, shook his hand firmly, laughed bawdily at his own jokes, and Milford was twisted with anxiety inside – should he tell the great man he would die the following year? Complete that novel sir.
The writers hand came down companionably upon Milford’s shoulder. He proffered the other to shake. Time to go realised Milford.
“Sir?” He managed to mumble. “I…” His voice trailed away, flaccid, impotent, suddenly afraid.
“Son.” The writer smiled. “If I may be allowed to misquote myself, ‘It has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times, an age of wisdom, an age of foolishness, everything is before you.”
He took a brown, felt hat from a stand. Buttoned his heavy overcoat and turning at the doorway, smiled at Milford, winked and, swaying slightly, left the building.

*

The lights fizzed and hummed. Professor Arbutus looked up from his current project.
“Milford my boy!”.
He tottered forwards to release Milford from the Deep Time Suit. Removing the helmet, he was halted in his waffling by the glistening on his student’s cheeks. Milford sagged onto the nearest seat.
“He’s going to die Professor.”
The professor sat down opposite Milford. He noticed the suit was comparatively pristine this time. Milford yanked a small, leather bound notebook from inside the outfit. The professor took it gently, almost reverently. He thumbed through his student’s notes making exclamations of delight.
“Did you get the dialogue?” He pressed.
Milford began laboriously unfastening his one-piece, revealing the historical costume beneath. He unknotted the tie and from within its lining, pulled out the tiny recording device. Arbutus grabbed it and thrust it into the Vox Processor.
As the rich, deep voice filled the room, the Professor clenched his fists and almost jigged on the spot.
“He’s going to die Professor.” Repeated Milford morosely.
“Milford my boy.” Lectured the aged man before him. “Mr. Charles Dickens has been dead for five hundred years. Now pull yourself together, you have a thesis to write!”

END

*Dedicated to Erin
* In 1869 Charles Dickens gave his last speech at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. He died in 1870.

*Featured Image – Film still from La Jetee, 1962

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The Raven Dane Interview

Raven Dane is an award-winning author of steampunk, dark fantasy, alternative history and horror fiction. Her first novels were in the critically acclaimed Legacy of the Dark Kind series;
Blood Tears, Blood Lament, Blood Alliance. These are dark fantasy/alternative history/SF novels about a non human race of vampires who most definitely do not sparkle!

In 2009, Endaxi Press launched The Unwise Woman of Fuggis Mire, Raven’s scurrilous and most definitely adult spoof of all things High Fantasy. A fairy tale for grown ups with a sense of humour.        

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/287640.Raven_Dane

Described as The Gothmother, Raven Dane is all things Gothic. With a ‘taste’ for vampire’s and ghosts, poison and dark fantasy, she has entertained readers of all ages with creations from her inky quill (I’m absolutely convinced she uses a real quill and ink!). She also enjoys dressing up in Victorian Gothic clothing for Steampunk conventions, and has a wicked sense of humour.

 

RD6

Hi Raven, Welcome, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

 

  1. And talking about flailing; do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

Flailing?  Sounds very energetic …lol!   I used to find myself frantically plate-spinning, trying to balance work, bringing up my son, looking after my mares and writing. These days, I sort of crawl between time spent writing and  the necessities of real life and my ever welcome duvet. Wish I had the energy for flailing now!

 

  1. Raven, you’re well-known for writing supernatural stories. There is the Cyrus Darian series and Legacy of the Dark Kind series, plus many more. What draws you to this genre and what kind of horror do you prefer to read (or watch) yourself?

I have always loved SF and dark fantasy.   I was a precocious early reader as a child and devoured books at a fast rate. I used to sit on the floor by my parent’s book case and read works by Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, especially the Canterville Ghost.  That story terrified me; it wasn’t until I re-read it as an adult that I realised what a poignant, sweet story it really was. In those early days I was definitely drawn to the dark side. My brother and I used to sneak downstairs late at night and peak through a gap in the living room door and frighten ourselves with Quatermas, SF and old horror films. Later when we were older and could watch what we wanted, we loved the old black and white Twilight Zone and Outer Limits as well as Hammer horror  and old SF films like The Trollenberg Terror. And of course, Doctor Who which I have watched since the very first episode, usually from behind a cushion.   Today my love affair with horror and dark fantasy has not dimmed. I am not a fan of gory fiction (unless it is something by Sam Stone, who adds style and great characters to the genre). The same goes for torture porn like the Saw films and  the growing in popularity extreme horror books, they are not for me.  I do enjoy creepy ghost stories; I am a huge fan of Susan Hill and M R James novels and their film adaptations. Ghost stories in a Victorian setting are a favourite for me to write. Other favourites include dark fantasy like Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, his two Hellboy films and Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.

 

RD10

  1. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? And why?

That’s a tough one. I have a special affinity with horses and love cats, wolves and ravens.  I would have to choose a dragon though, for its magical nature, grandeur, its ability to soar to distant, exotic realms and to incinerate anything and anyone who gets in its way.

dragon-07
Editors beware!

 

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? What did you do with your first advance?

Did you splash out on something exotic with your first pay cheque?

Not my first pay cheque or advance. My other half has supported my writing all our married life and allowed me to work as full time writer for many years. It has been a struggle and we have gone without the material things that many people have thought essential in life, like holidays, big, new TVs and modern cars.  So anything I have earned has gone straight into the household running costs. I did however, treat myself to a huge golden velvet dragon made by a lovely lady in the US.  Total extravagance though!

Oh, and after a successful morning’s book sales at an Asylum weekend, I treated myself to a gorgeous black pirate ship hat, very steamgoth, very me. I have had so much fun and use out of that hat, it was worth every penny.

 

  1. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I was blessed to be taught English literature by a lovely lady called Miss Curry. She was not far off retirement when she had the tough job getting our lively class through the GCE’s for O and A levels but she introduced us to wonderful things. The powerful emotional impact of the War Poets like Rupert Brook and  Siegfried Sassoon, the ravishing beauty of the English language from  poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins.  I think the most powerful moment for me personally was the first book that made me cry, to really weep as if for a person I actually knew…and that was The Ship Who Sang by Anne MacCaffrey. If the fate of fictional characters can move me to mourn, than what better proof of the power of language?

 

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Research is vitally important to me, whatever I am writing. I tend to research as I write as I never plan a book in advance. Some writers are planners, others fly by the seat of their pants and get straight to work with no idea of where the story will go. I am a definite pantser. Research can take me more time than writing sometimes but I think it is essential.  I spent all afternoon recently researching a historical find that I mentioned in just one line of a book. Even in the most fantastical setting, research can give a depth and believability to a story , anything less is cheating the reader with shallow, implausible storytelling.

 

  1. Cyrus Darian is a rather unusual name, how do you select the names of your characters?

Some come to me instantly as if been channelled from another dimension. Others can be a nightmare and get changed many times throughout the writing process. Thank goodness for my friend, the search and replace thingie on Microsoft Word.  Cyrus Darian was a bit of a blend between the two. I decided he was Persian, so being named after a great Persian king of antiquity suited his vanity. Darian came into my head as a nice sounding name. I used my other friend, Google to see if it meant anything and discovered it was a town in Iran. Perfect. Mind you, it might not be his real name, Cyrus lies all the time and uses many aliases.

 

  1. To date, what has been your hardest scene to write?

The hardest was also the easiest…if that makes any sense.  The end of a story arc for one of my favourite characters was always going to end badly for him. He had become more than someone fictional but a very real presence in my life, so knowing how it had to end was deeply emotional for me. But the scene wrote itself, confirming it was the right plot thread for the culmination of a trilogy. Not saying any more…Spoilers!

 

  1. If you were not a writer, and you could be anything else in the world, what career/vocation would you choose?

I love any form of creativity so always drawn to arts and crafts but I have no talent and anything I do is just for the pleasure of making things.  I was always a good actor as a teenager, I was the annoying little madam who always got the main female role in all the school drama productions which were almost always Shakespeare. I was the only child for years that was encouraged by the teachers to go into acting much to the ongoing annoyance of my younger sister who was at the same school and  did become an actress. Her teachers suggested a career as a secretary for her.  A mixture of a sense of family duty and the need to earn regular money took me on another path, journalism and later fiction writing. I take part in amateur dramatics now and thoroughly enjoy being on stage…I love to make people laugh… or boo, when playing the baddie in Panto.

Or be one of those smiling ladies in sparkly clothes riding a dancing pure white Spanish stallion in a circus….

 

  1. Have you ever had what one might call, a supernatural experience or event occur in your life? If so, would you care to share it with us? If not, which figure from history would you like to receive a visit from?

So many!  I am very attuned to the presence of earth bound spirits since a child. I wish I wasn’t to be honest. It is not something I can switch off and has led to many uncomfortable times in the past. My present home is totally spirit free which is so relaxing!  The worse one was an encounter with an angry, aggressive spirit in an old farmhouse where I worked. Young students at the riding school lived there and though we never told them about it to avoid hysteria, he was always targeting the youngest females, trying to frighten them. One day, when the house was empty for a couple of hours, I went in and ended up being pushed down the stairs. I could feel the imprint of strong fingers digging into my shoulders.  In 1995, there was a big fire there, no one was hurt but the oldest part of the house was burnt down. All the spirit activity stopped and never returned.

 

11 And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?

Oooh….a tough one, I have so many. The first one that sprang to mind was  the fantasy novel, Elidor by Alan Garner. I loved it and he is an early influence on my writing.

RD elidor

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed Raven.

 

 

RD

 

Raven’s most recent work is included in, Trumpocalypse; an anthology of satirical horror from authors on both sides of ‘the pond’.

RDtrump

 

 

You can find Raven at   http://ravendane.blogspot.co.uk/  and her books to order from all good bookshops, on Amazon or direct from Telos Publishing. At the moment her books published by Endaxi Press are only available as eBooks.

The Jonathan Green Interview

Good morning to you readers!And I have another Monday Interview for your delectation.

Today, I am very pleased to have bagged Jonathan Green, ridiculously prolific writer who is well-known and well-regarded in the Fighting Fantasy and Steampunk worlds. After conducting this interview, I had to wonder if Mr Green is himself a Time Lord, for all the things he manages to fit into his life. He has over 60 published works, he is a family man, he attends conventions; meeting fans and signing books, he edits work for anthologies produced by Snowbooks AND he still finds time to do interviews!! What a guy, read on, some of his energy might rub off on you…

Jonathan Green is a freelance writer. He writes science fiction and fantasy novels for adults (Pax Britannia), adventure gamebooks for children (Fighting Fantasy), and non-fiction books for all ages. He has written for various franchises, from Sonic the Hedgehog and Doctor Who (The Horror of Howling Hill), to books set within Games Workshop‘s Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 game universes.

https://en.wikipedia.org

JG 1

Hi Jonathan, Welcome, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

 

  1. And talking about flailing; do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

 All the time! There always seems to be too much to do and never enough time to do it in. I have children, so a fair amount of my time seems to involve feeding them, cleaning up after them, or ferrying them to one place or another. I also have a conventional part-time job. The rest of the time is spent writing, promoting my writing, crowdfunding my writing, or coming up with ideas for things to write about.

Not that I have any trouble coming up with ideas – I already have more ideas than I’ll ever have time to write, I am sure – the trouble is that there’s always a new, shiny idea demanding my attention while I’m trying to finish off something else I’m already committed to. For example, at the moment I’m writing a book about the history of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks but my brain’s decided now would be the perfect time to throw up an idea for a new anthology, another gamebook, and a series of short stories.

JG 2  JG9

 

  1. What were you like as a child?

Bookish, creative, artistic. I’m an only child and so I grew up making my own entertainment. I can remember making little books, at age 6, and even before that drawing simple comic strips. But I think from the moment I realised someone actually had to write the stories in the books I enjoyed reading, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.

JG Alice

  1. To me, and many others, you are successful as a writer, would you agree? What does literary success look like to you?

That’s very kind of you to say so and I can’t deny that I have enjoyed some level of success as an author – just in terms of the number of books I’ve had published and the properties I’ve worked on, including Doctor Who, Robin of Sherwood and Star Wars – but there is still so much more to be achieved.

I’ve never made much money from my writing, so literary success to me would mean financial security, signing a significant deal with a large publishing house, having a title in the Sunday Times or New York Times best-seller lists, and maybe having one of my books made into a movie. But ultimately, at the moment I’m successful enough to keep doing what I’m doing, which is writing, which is what I love.

JG8

 

  1. You have written a huge number of books and contributions to collections, including the Pax Britannia series and the Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebooks. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both! When it’s going well writing gives you the greatest buzz, along with that satisfaction of seeing your book in print, thumbing through the pages and pointing it out to friends and family in bookshops. However, after a really good writing day I’m also useless the next.

Because of the nature of my working life at the moment, having a part-time job to go to in the afternoon, I rarely having amazing writing days as I have at times in the past (because I’m not able to work long enough for that to happen) but equally I don’t find myself wiped out the next day. I just keep plodding along, from one day to the next.

 

  1. Ulysses Quicksilver is dashing dandy, defender of ‘this green and pleasant land’, heroic, handsome (well I think so) from the Pax Britannia books; did anyone in the real world (apart from you) influence his formation and, if/when they get around to making the film, who would you like to play him?

Oh yes, he’s definitely handsome! But that’s funny that you should mention that I’m one of the character’s influences, because, intentionally or not, I think that’s true. It’s an occupational hazard for writers, imbuing their characters with their own qualities, and it’s almost inevitable when you develop one character over so many books. (I recently read a book by a friend, and I could see aspects of her in both the main protagonists in the story.)

I sometimes describe Ulysses Quicksilver as being a cross between Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Oscar Wilde, but there’s probably a little bit of Doctor Who in there too. In terms of who would play him in a film, I could envisage someone like Julian Rhind-Tutt or Paul Bettany being a good fit, although they’re getting a little old to play him now, as Ulysses is in his late thirties. I started writing the character when I was in my thirties, so he was about the same age as I was at the time of writing the first Pax Britannia novel. However, ten years have passed since then but only about two years have passed in the Pax Britannia universe.

Jg4

 

  1. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I have a bad habit of including all sorts of pop culture references in my books. For example, in the Pax Britannia novel Anno Frankenstein, a missing German zeppelin had the serial number NCC-1701, which is the registration number of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.

Another reference that I’m not sure if anyone has spotted appears in the Warhammer Path to Victory gamebook Shadows Over Sylvania, where a vampire queen quotes Sean Connery’s opening words from the movie Highlander.

 

  1. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I’m not sure that it changed it, but it definitely crystallised it. I hadn’t written a full-length book before I was actually commissioned to do so. After leaving school, and while I was at universe, I tried out for the Fighting Fantasy series. Two years, two completely different ideas and three re-writes later, I was commissioned to write Spellbreaker.

Thanks to the way the commissioning process worked, when you sent in a pitch for an FF book, you had to write the first quarter and outline the rest in detail. As a result, I have always planned my stories and books before I start writing them. I still do it, even if it’s for a short story that I am writing for myself.

 

  1. You write gamebooks, Doctor Who adventures, Christmas ‘infotainment’, colouring books, Speculative/Science Fiction, Fantasy. How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

 I remember an editor telling me once to trust the reader; you don’t have to spell everything out for them – let them do some of the heavy-lifting. However, when world-building you want to make sure you give your readers enough information so that know what’s going on, or where the action is taking place, but you don’t need to do that in the form of a massive info-dump. Reveal bits and pieces of information as necessary, maybe not explaining everything straight away, but expand upon it later.

You don’t actually need very much information to let the reader know where a scene is taking place, who the people involved are and what they’re like, what it is they need to do or what it is they’re after. But ultimately I feel that it’s better for a reader to be confused than bored; if they’re confused they’ll keep reading to find out what’s going on, but if they’re bored they’ll stop reading.

When it comes to adventure gamebooks, these days at least, I try hard to make sure that the game part of the book is fair, so that it one way I do try to take care of the reader.

 

  1. What can we expect next from your busy pen?

As I’ve already said, I’m currently writing YOU ARE THE HERO Part 2, which is a supplement to YOU ARE THE HERO – A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, but out in May/June is my new gamebook, The Wicked Wizard of Oz. I also have short stories appearing in several anthologies later this year – Clockwork Cairo, Further Associate of Sherlock Holmes and Tales of the Lost Isles – and I’ve contributed to another Doctor Who book which will out by Christmas.

JG10    JGClockwork Cairo

  1. And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?

That’s a tricky one. I don’t like ‘favourites’ style questions, because I like so many different things for so many reasons, and my answer can change depending on my mood. However, up there would have to be A Dictionary of Monsters and Mysterious Beasts (a non-fiction book by Carey Miller), the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Deathtrap Dungeon (by Ian Livingstone), Where the Wild Things Are (by Maurice Sendak), and Farmer Giles of Ham (by J R R Tolkien).

 

Thank you to Jonathan for ‘taking part’ today (You won a cuddly toy!) and if Mr Rhind-Tutt or Mr Bettany (or younger versions!) are available, someone get Ulysses Quicksilver onto the big screen please.

To find out more about his current projects visit http://www.JonathanGreenAuthor.com and follow him on Twitter @jonathangreen.

 

 

 

 

Join me next time for Sam Stone ‘Horror Queen’.

The Craig Hallam Interview

A former nurse, Craig Hallam has written about werewolves, bogeymen, a heroic street urchin, and a book about living with depression. A significant figure on the Steampunk scene who has been writing short stories since 2008, his tales have graced the pages of the British Fantasy Society, Misanthrope Press and Murky Depths. His debut novel, Greaveburn, was extremely well received by readers who regularly beg him for more of this murky, Gothic-inspired world of murderers, heroes, and a lonely girl. Will he oblige? Read on…

 

Greaveburn

“Greaveburn stood alone on this little circle of earth, the river running around and into itself like a snake eating its tail. And Abrasia was doomed to watch the sun and stars trade places for all eternity.”
Craig Hallam, Greaveburn

 

Hi Craig, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

Me: And talking about flailing; Do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

Craig: Every damned day! I think if you’re not flailing then you’re ignorant of how complex and magical life is. If your life is so simple that there’s no flailing to be had, then you’re not living it right 😊

 

Me: For readers who don’t know, Craig, you have been, like Kit Cox who was interviewed earlier, rather involved in the world of Steampunk –and your earlier books dipped into this genre; ‘Greaveburn’ and ‘The Adventures of Alan Shaw’. For readers who may not have heard of Steampunk (Still!), could you give a ‘general’ explanation in relation to your writing?

Craig: I like to describe it as Victorian-inspired fiction covering everything from Mary Shelley through Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. My personal favourites lean more toward the Gothic works of Robert Louis Stephenson, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker. It’s also an aesthetic movement that focuses on Victorian clothing and gadgetry.

 

Me: You were a nurse (*Take my hat off to you – if I wore one) prior to being released onto the world, as an author. How does being an author compare to being a nurse, and are there any similarities?

Craig: Being a nurse sets you in a very special position that allows you to observe humans at their most vulnerable (sounding slightly like serial killer, there). That vulnerability leads to the rawest human emotions; expressions of anger, fear and hope that, for a fledgling author, is invaluable. I always try to make my characters real for the reader. They are all flawed, which I believe is pivotal in what it means to be human. If your characters are too perfect, what is there to relate to? Those years of nursing really helped with that.

It also meant that I had a lot of night shifts to write on. My first novel, Greaveburn, was written exclusively in the wee hours of the morning. That probably explains a lot of the plot, actually.

So, as for similarities, I can’t think of two jobs more different, but one certainly feeds the other.

 

Me: What has been your hardest scene to write, so far? And why?

Craig: There’s a scene in the latest Alan Shaw novel (out later this year – *insert subtle marketing here*) that was quite tough. Alan returns home to London, after years of wandering the world and having no connection to everyone he knew, to find that everyone has long-since presumed him dead. The city has had a small statue erected to him in Covent Garden where he was pivotal in saving the city as a boy. For Alan, it was the realisation that perhaps the things he has done wrong in his life, and the guilt that he feels, don’t necessarily outweigh the good. That was a big turning point for Alan’s character. It had to be just right. I got a little teary writing that one.

alanshaw

Me: How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

Craig: About a year to a year and a half. It was always tough with working full time, writing, and then doing my degree work at the same time. Now a lot of that has settled down, I’m finding it much easier. I wrote Down Days, an insight into living with depression, in a month or so between other projects (its only 25k words, so hardly a tome). Other than that, I always have a few books on the go at once. I like to be able to skip between them as the inspiration strikes. Currently, I’m working on Alan Shaw 3, a cyberpunk novel, and a horror novella. I don’t make things easy for myself. Maybe if I was less attracted to every shiny story idea, I could write faster.

Me: Have you ever read a book that made you cry? If so, what was it? And have you ever shed a tear when writing one of your own novels?

Craig: I cry quite often when writing my novels. The previous example was just one of many. I really get invested in my characters. It’s happened more with Alan Shaw than ever before, but his experiences can be quite poignant and raw. At least, that’s how I try to write them. Maybe I just cry over anything.(Me: So I’m not the only one!)

I can’t think of any books that have made me cry. I did read an M.R. James short story that made me physically jump, though. I must have been really into the story because I leapt almost out of my seat. I then went back and tried to pick the story apart to find out how it worked. I always take tips from great authors.

 

Me: As a writer of Speculative Fiction, would you agree that it is the authors of this genre and Science Fiction who most clearly see the future of the human race?

Craig: I think that Sci-Fi authors have a special ability regarding balance. They have to be able to see the world as it truly is, create new worlds that mirror our own, and make the stories that they tell relevant to the now as well as the soon-to-be. That’s hard to do. Philip K. Dick is a personal favourite. Not in the way that the things he predicted have all happened, but in a way that he shows us a future where the meaning of what it is to be human and what it is to live in our reality are brought into sharp focus. His novels give me an insight into myself, and that is the true skill of a Sci-Fi author.

 

Me: How do you balance the demands of the reader with what you really want to create yourself?

Craig: I don’t, really. That sounds horrible, but it’s true. I write the story as it needs to be told. The story itself defines how it goes. I do very little planning, really, only having the broadest strokes of a story when I start to type. My writing is quite an organic thing. I’ll have the idea that, for instance, a group of main characters who are all villains in a Gothic city which no-one can escape. Then I think about the themes. Greaveburn was very much about the love of one girl, in an odd way. Abrasia’s character was loved by everyone in their own way; from the perspective of a father, a brother, as someone through which they might find redemption, or in a covetous love and a desire to control her. That gave every character a mutual point of reference for their dastardly deeds. Of course, that Abrasia herself is struggling to find people that she can trust makes the tension even more vibrant.

People have asked and asked for a sequel to Greaveburn, but there isn’t one. The fact that the story ends where it ends is indicative of the uncertain state of the city, the characters and their joint future. I love that people want more, it means that I’ve left them with that indefinite feeling, which was the point. But I won’t throw out a sequel just for the sake of it. If there ever comes a Greaveburn 2, in the distant future, you can be certain that it will be a strange one. Possibly even one that people seeking answers will hate.

It sounds a little pretentious, perhaps, but always giving the reader what they want is sometimes not what they want at all. Some of the best books I’ve ever read have left me thinking about the what-ifs for days and weeks, sometimes years later.

Me: If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better adult, what would you do?

Craig: That’s a tough one. I’ve been very lucky and had quite a varied life. I worry about the butterfly effect with questions like this. If I change something, would that make me a different me? What if the thing that I change led to the moment when I first set pen to paper?

I’ll change nothing, I think. I’ve seen too many incredible things in my every day kind of life, and made too many awesome mistakes. Every one of those things has informed the messed-up adult that I am. Without the mess, there might not be any stories. For good or ill, I’ll take what I’ve got.

Me: And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?

Craig: The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. I read that book until my eyes bled. I still read it now. And I think it was what got me first thinking creatively, and sparked my own stories. I never got to meet Mr Pratchett but I owe him a great debt of gratitude.

 

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed.

Thanks for having me!

children of the moon hallam      morpheus hallam

 

You can find Craig on Twitter at @craighallam84, at https://www.facebook.com/CraigHallamAuthor/. He also runs a blog on living with Depression at www.downdays.org.

 

Next time; Mehitobel Wilson on boots, fear and dolls! Join me then.

 

The Kit Cox Interview

Ladies and Gentlemen! Pull up a pew, pour yourself a jot of gin. For your delight and delectation, a Steampunk celebrity with a faithful following, a charming chap charading as compact killer cad. A pa, a pantomimist, a penman, I give you “your own, your very own”….Kit Cox!

Author, illustrator, creator of  the Steve Jackson game “Evil Ted”, stand-up comic, actor, and host for Hendrick’s Gin (!); Kit Cox writes under his own name and that of Major Jack Union – the title character of his sci-fi series. The Union-verse books are set in an alternate universe where history and literature exist alongside each other with the presence of monsters being kept secret by agents of the British Empire.

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Hi Kit, Good morning and Welcome, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

Me: And talking about flailing; Do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?  

Kit: I very rarely flail; as is the case with most creatives I have what is often referred to as a mental illness and in my case I am a sociopath. First off it’s one of those great mental illnesses that allow me to not see it as such, although I am aware my actions are sometimes hurtful or harmful to those around me it is difficult to connect those problems to myself. I also don’t panic or flail as I see no reason or point to it.
I’m a great fan of Procrastination but I avoid the flail.

 

Me: Kit, you’re very involved in the world of Steampunk – having hosted events at The Asylum, Lincoln, and your earlier books dipped into this genre. For readers who may not have heard of Steampunk (I know! Can you believe such beings exist!), could you give a ‘general’ explanation in relation to your writing?    

Kit: In my mind steampunk is a fantastical spirit of adventure and invention that manifests in a neo-Victorian aesthetic (is that suitably poncy enough? Me: Absolutely!) I do appreciate it means different things to different people but I do hate the idea that in certain minds literature has no place in the genre, which is a developing trend.

 

Me: When you’re working on a novel or idea, do you have a ‘special place’ you work in; like a shed at the bottom of the garden, or a ‘den’ in the deepest cellar of your house? And is it important to have such a place? 

Kit: I have two places I write, a very comfortable armchair that faces a picture window, because I love being able to just stare at the sky when I think (I’d prefer an ocean but that would mean the biblical flooding of my home town…or a move) the second place is my study, a subterranean man cave full of trinkets, Lego and reference books.

 

Me: I know that you’re a fan of the comic genre. Tell me, what is your writing Kryptonite?  

Kit: Procrastination is the main thing that stops me from writing; I get distracted by shiny objects.

 

Me: And do you ‘channel’ the spirit of anyone or thing when you write? (I’m thinking Harry Flashman) If not, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?  

Kit: When I wrote my Jack Union books I certainly had Flashman held tight to my thoughts but the Ben Gaul books are my life made fantasy and Dr Tripps’ my joy of Japanese B movies. My most recent books set on a fantasy 2nd earth are homage to Saturday morning cinema and Edger Rice Burroughs; so in short no single muse but always an inspiration lurks.

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Me: What is the first book (another author) that made you cry? And have you ever shed any tears when writing your own pieces?

Kit: I’ve never had a book make me cry before; sad certainly but never to the point of tears. Books for me often bring stupid amounts of laughter or that weird suppressed giggling you sometimes hear on trains (I used to love listening to my father laugh whilst he was reading Tom Sharpe books). Books have made me stupidly turned on and in one case one made me gag quite violently, i honestly thought I’d vomit but never tears.

 

Me: What other authors are you friends with, and do they help you become a better writer?

Kit: As authors you spend a lot of time talking to other authors; normally before panels. I don’t think any have actually helped me become a better author as I write books for me not others so take little advice (apart from on spelling and punctuation from my editors). I’ve actually taken umbrage at an author once trying to give me advice; the desire to tell them to make their own books more readable first was high in my mind. That being said I do occasionally adapt my writing based on what my readers tell me, as their words are often conversation rather than advice “I wish I knew what this character was thinking?” for instance as a comment made me start adding more internal dialogue for supporting cast rather than just the main cast.

 

Me: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Kit: I didn’t write as a youngster. I started writing out of illustrator frustration and a need to escape a job with a very serious agenda.

 

Me: So what advice would you give your ‘non-writing’ younger self?

Kit:  I’d tell my younger self. You won’t always be the cute little brother or the fugly teen, you’ll blossom into a handsome eagle and tear the throats out of your enemies. Also you won’t go blind and it won’t fall off…enjoy it. Me: smilie

 

Me: Which authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

Kit: Terry Pratchett  I certainly had to grow into; I hated the first two books (I don’t really do high fantasy. Never liked the Lord of the Rings either, read it twice thinking I was missing something. I still don’t believe I am; the hobbit was great but LotR needs a damn good edit in my opinion) that being said Mort became one of my all time favourites.

 

Me: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Kit: I have two unpublished and one half finished book. The First unpublished book was written by request of my publisher who then decided to release a different book of mine first and then they retired leaving the fully written and illustrated sequel to “How to Bag a Jabberwock” unwanted by other publishers (who rarely touch a sequel). The second unpublished book is my masterpiece; I love it so much and won’t let it go for anything other than to the highest bidder. I’m so proud of it I’d happily keep it to myself like a dragons hoard if the price isn’t right; I’ve released two books since its creation.

I wouldn’t be much of a writer if I didn’t always have a book on the go and at least three more ideas in waiting.

 

Me: And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?                                                          

Kit: Didn’t have one; I was a doodler not a reader, my brother was the reader. ‘2000AD’ was the only thing I read and this went well into my twenties.

blogKitCoxBGMH blogKitCoxBGMH2

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Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed, Kit Cox.

You can find Kit at http://cpeacey.wixsite.com/kitcox  and buy his books at Waterstones , Amazon and http://cpeacey.wixsite.com/kitcox/books .

 

Next time; join me for another chat with Craig Hallam; author of Greaveburn.

 

I still haven’t a clue – sometimes…

I am a little late updating my blog this week, apologies. I went shopping this morning. Yeah, I shop; too old for my mum to do it (and even if she did it would be all kilts and scone shoes!) I needed new jeans for work and a shirt; I had vouchers left from Christmas, I hate shopping, but it’s a necessary evil – wouldn’t want to subject the world to my naked, flabby torso!

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Anyhoo, one shop which I have patronised for about 20 years now, was extremely disappointing, the range was poor, and there was no style consistency that made it the brand I am used to. It looked like a hotchpotch of clothing from various stores. And it got me thinking about how authors write.

Who do you write for? Are you the kind of author who is so familiar with their audience that the stories just flow? Or are you so familiar with your audience that you daren’t stray from the style they like? Do you even have/know your audience? Are you writing in a fixed style/genre, even though you’re a ‘new’ writer? Is it bad to write different styles or should you stick to one?

I don’t know!

You’re you. I’m me.

But regarding my own writing – I’m relatively new to this ‘business’, having been applying myself to it seriously only for the past 4 years. I dove straight in with a novel. I was attending The Asylum in Lincoln; it is the largest annual Steampunk Convention in Europe. I attended a writing class run by Sam Stone, author of delights such as “Kat on a Hot Tin Airship. We all had to write the opening line of a story, I didn’t win the competition, but received some very encouraging responses and went home to continue writing. The story is finished, (it took three years) the manuscript doing the rounds! But afterwards I read “The Drowned World” by J.G Ballard; at the end of the book was a list of quotes from the author and one of them stuck with me – he advised new writers to NOT to go straight in with a novel, for how can you know what your style is? What genre suits you? He suggested writing lots of short stories in different genres and to keep doing it until you found your own.

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Faced with the plethora of genres to chose from, Alex sank into a state of lethargy.

 

I suppose these days, many people who think they want to write, do it because they want to write ‘that style of story’. I thought I wanted to write Steampunk. I have since written horror, sci-fi, dark humour, poetry, speculative fiction, children’s and more. I’m still not sure what my genre is, though I have very strong leaning to Speculative/science fiction.

So like that shop I visited this morning, I’m not sure what to put on my author ‘shelf’, so to speak. I am still learning, I have a HUGE amount to learn, I write daily. I write short stories, flash fiction, all genres, I enter competitions, I submit all over the place. I carry a notebook everywhere and write down lines, words or imagery that pops into my head; sometimes I listen in on peoples conversations and write down what they say. And sometimes, I really haven’t a clue what I am doing! HA!

It’s all grist for the mill.

Keep writing, reading, submitting and have a great day.

Wirral Writers in The Singularity

Nor sure if anyone is reading this -ho hum –

Resubmitted to The Singularity, you know, that magazine with the amazingly weird and wonderful first cover. They accepted my submission, so hopefully it will be in the January or February 2016 issue.

Also included should be fellow Wirral Writer member – Mike Wood – author of; “Travelling in a Box”,  http://travellinginabox.blogspot.co.uk/    “The Last Days of Dogger City” http://mjkewood.blogspot.co.uk/   and other sci fi delights.

The story of mine that The Singularity accepted is called “Spinning Jenny“; a mildly amusing romp through an alternate/steampunk 19th century Lancashire.

http://www.thesingularitymagazine.com/