Sunday, August 31, 2008

Wayne Reynolds - Artist

I have a bit of a teaser and it goes like this:

At Gencon yesterday, Mark and I got chatting with Wayne Reynolds, artist and illustrator for various novels and role playing game books, and he has agreed to do an interview with MFB in the next few weeks. And in conjunction with this, I get to give away a signed print of one of his newest pieces he did for Paizo's new Pathfinder role playing game.

Below are some of the pieces from Pathfinder and Wayne's work can be found here.



Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sweet Scent of Blood - Suzanne McLeod




I am really excited to announce that Suzanne McLeod's book - Sweet Scent of Blood - is due for release next week! I cannot believe how the time has flown. I am pretty sure Suzanne is finding it equally surreal.
Good news though: Suzanne's announced that the first chapter is now available to read online - which, to be honest, is a very sneaky and much appreciated trick. The thing is: its addictive. You will not want to stop after the first chapter. Trust me.


Even my mate Gareth, over at Falcata Times is of this opinion. And he's a very tough customer to please and does not pull punches. This is part of his review that he did for Suzanne's book: As you may have seen in Falcata Times we tend to champion new authors as they appear, so it was to great delight when we opened the post and discovered Suzanne’s book. From the opening passage Suzanne’s characters jumped off the page and took the reader by the hand through a London that blended myth and legend with the modern world. What also worked very well was the author’s interpretation of the creatures of myth such as Vampires explaining their condition through believable medical terms and presented a tale that will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned. Definitely an author to watch in the Urban Fantasy category as the undead and fay face off in a no holds barred tale. The Falcata Times website can be found to the right hand of this page.


And not to be outdone by the above, I'd like to point out MY review from a few weeks ago.


So, go on, go ahead and read the first chapter of Sweet Scent of Blood which can be found here and do email Suzanne to wish her luck - good things like being published and taking the urban fantasy genre world by storm can't happen to a nicer girl. Erm, lady.


We'll do a big shout out next week - 4th September, please diarise - and I've decided to have an official "book day" to celebrate the release...this might even mean a competition....but more on that later.

Prince of Persia - Graphic Novel and Movie




Admittedly, not really about books...but it is, in a roundabout way. This article has been copied across from Publishers Weekly website which can be found here - the pictures are sourced by moi.


The multimillion-dollar video game franchise, Prince of Persia, is entering a new generation in November with a new game for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 and a forthcoming feature film adaptation from Disney Studios in 2009. But a graphic novel, created under the supervision of the game’s creator, Jordan Mechner, and published by Macmillan’s graphic novel imprint First Second, will kick off this new generation of the Prince of Persia franchise when it’s released in September.



First Second is rolling out the Prince of Persia graphic novel with a first print run of 125,000 copies and a $100,000 marketing campaign. First Second editorial director Mark Siegel expects a big sell-through and noted that the various editions of the video game sell millions of copies—each version sells "roughly three million copies, on the low end,” he said. The book has already been licensed to such European countries as France, Italy and Spain.



“Mechner really believes in storytelling,” said Siegel, who remembered playing the game himself back in 1989 on an Apple II computer. Mechner is the creator of both the original and newly updated Prince of Persia games, including Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, in addition to writing the screenplay for the forthcoming Prince of Persia movie. Video game developer Ubisoft picked up the game in 2003, and with Mechner have put out a series of Prince of Persia games serving a range of gaming consoles.



The Prince of Persia game is a first-person game similar to the "choose your own adventure" books of the same era. Heavily influenced by the book, One Thousand and One Nights, the game follows the story line of an orphaned prince who must rescue his imprisoned princess from the villain Jaffar. The game is played in real time, with the player given 60 minutes to save the princess.



For the graphic novel, First Second had Iranian poet A.B. Sina write the script, which Siegel described as "steeped in Iranian history and myth." The Prince of Persia graphic novel won’t follow any of the previous Prince of Persia story threads. Instead, the graphic novel will act as a wellspring for all the previous incarnations of Prince of Persia. The story follows two princes, is set in different time periods and ranges between 9th and 13th century Persia.



Illustration for the book was done by the husband and wife duo, LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland, both of whom work with Dreamworks studio. (Pham has since left Dreamworks to pursue children’s book illustration while Puvilland continues to work at the studio.) Siegel, an award-winning cartoonist himself, and Mechner both oversaw the process of adapting the franchise into a work of comics storytelling.



First Second marketing director Lauren Wohl said that the house is working with three different communities for selling the book. “We have a lot of different venues for marketing this book,” she said. The three she’s targeting include bookstores, both independent and chain retailers, with Mechner making appearances at BEA as well as at the Hollywood and Miami book fairs. Wohl is also working closely with Diamond Comics Distribution to reach the comics shop market, as well as such chain retailers as Game Stop, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target. “There is almost a feeding frenzy for the new Prince of Persia game.” she said.



First Second will also cross promote the book with video game developer UbiSoft, offering a limited edition Prince of Persia game, which will include a booklet containing exclusive material including an interview with Mechner and writer A.B. Sina There will also be an animated book “trailer” for online venues like game Web sites and book Web sites—including the First Second Web site.



Mechner told PWCW that working with First Second’s small creative team reminded him of the early days of developing the Prince of Persia game, in comparison with today’s video game development. “These days, the Prince of Persia games team ranges from 25 to 50 people, and it takes from one to three years to create. It’s a massive multimillion-dollar production similar to film production. You’ve got a team of artists, animators, sound designers, engineers and people in specialized positions like level designers, camera artists and textures artists.” But, Mechner said, “back in 1989, the game was me—programming the code, doing the animation and writing the story. That felt very much like doing a graphic novel, one person writing and drawing.”



Mechner, a die-hard fan of French comics, known as bande dessinĂ©e, said that he’s “loved comics for longer than video games have existed.” He even dreamed of creating his own comics before Apple computers came along and “diverted my attention for 25 years.” His next graphic novel, Solomon's Thieves, will also be illustrated by Pham and Puvilland. Sina is currently crafting his own new script for the duo as well, and both books will be published by First Second. “I want to keep working with this team as long as they want,” Siegel said.

The Prince of Persia movie is from Disney Studios, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Mike Newell, who also directed the blockbuster film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Actor Jake Gyllenhaal will play the prince, and the movie is slated to open in June of 2009.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Wheel of Darkness, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child



Synopsis:


Perched like a black crow on a crag in the most hostile depths of the Himalayas stands a monastery. For a thousand years the monks have kept guard. Now their sanctum has been violated, the secret carried off. After a millennium of hiding from the world, the guardians of the treasure will have to turn to an outsider for help. Luckily Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast is no stranger. Having trained body and mind in Tibet, he knows the land well. But neither he nor his ward, Constance, are prepared for the truth about what the monks have been protecting. The pursuit of the stolen artefact takes Pendergast and Constance far from the snowy wastes, to where the largest-ever ocean liner is preparing for her maiden voyage. As Pendergast and Constance board, they know they are joined by a cargo of secrets and murderers. As the ship slips into the night, it becomes a deadly race to recover the secret of the monks, or blackness to threaten to fall not just over the ship, but the wider world A stunning dance of death and mystery, THE WHEEL OF DARKNESS takes the most unusual investigator around on his most thrilling case yet.


I have personally never come across any of the Aloysius Pendergast novels before and didn't realise that there were others until I opened this book hastily purchased from Waterstones because the premise sounded so much fun.


I found it a fascinating read and did enjoy it, but it is not a book I felt connected to. I didn't like Pendergast of his niece Constance as I had no frame of reference for them. The dialogue was odd, outdated, whilst the story itself was set in modern times. It was as if these authors were doing their best to create someone and something so very unique that they lost sight of the fact that being a special investigator for the FBI was pretty darn unique in the first place.


The settings were interesting, but again, very hard to believe. You can spot a lot of influences here: James Bond shenanigans, Agatha Christie classic murders and situations not too far different from the Titanic with a bit of Mutiny on the Bounty thrown in. You never actually find out why it is that Pendergast has so much cash to throw around or why Constance is such a miserable person. All hooks for earlier novels and other novels yet to come, no doubt! And therefore a bit sneaky, making me feel cheated.


I don't regret buying the book - it will stay on the bookshelf and I will probably get the other preceeding novels, just to assauge my own curiosity, but sadly I can't wholeheartedly recommend this as a good standalone novel to read. The references escape me and I find the odd way they deal with a crisis - sink into deep trance-like meditation - a bit hard to swallow.


Therefore, a warning: read the other Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child books first before tackling this, their eight novel. It will probably make more sense and the superior Agent Pendergast might be less annoying by then.


This is the Preston Child website.

Daughter of the Flames, Zoe Marriott


Synopsis:


A sweeping fantasy chronicling a courageous girl’s fight for freedom in a world ravaged by war and religious fanaticism.


Zahira is a young woman of the conquered Rua people, their country occupied by another, very different culture – the Sedorne. Zahira is an orphan and has been raised to despise and distrust the occupying population, as well as to be a devout follower of the native religion. But everything changes for Zahira when her home and foster family are destroyed and she finds out some shocking truths about her heritage and real family. Realizing that it is up to her to do something about the violence and upheaval that are tearing her country apart, she must learn to accept her Sedorne origins and try to bridge the gap between the warring cultures. But when her own people suspect her of treachery for her ideas – especially after she saves the life of a Sedorne nobleman and begins to fall in love – the epic task ahead of her seems insurmountable...


This book roars with action, a heroine who knows how to use swords and kick butt, an insane king, a handsome noble and an impossible mission: overthrow the Insane King and somehow create peace between two peoples who have no reason to like one another.


I thought the book would be part of a trilogy. I did not expect the amazing Zoe Marriott to pull off all of the above in one book. And she does - she pulls it off wonderfully well. And I can only bow to her storytelling skills. This is a young adult novel with tremendous heart and soul.


The main character, Zira is such a nice girl with her head in the right place, that you root for her right from the start. Her actions ring true and once she discovers her true heritage I thought that the author was going to give us some deep and heavy introspection which would have slowed this racey novel down unnecessarily. But there was no sign of that - Zira's introspection is quick, logical and apt, suiting what we learn about her as a character. She is clever, resourceful and decisive, being able to take the good with the bad.


The king, the man behind the terror in the lands, is conveyed with diabolical ease and you almost like him. His explanation as to why he is the monster he is, makes you almost feel bad for him. But you get over it pretty sharpish as he is indeed a Bad Man.


Zira and her partner Sorin have a lot to cope with in this lone novel and I am reminded by Charles de Lint's words on one of the slender books he wrote : you don't have to write volumes and volumes to convey an epic story. Daughter of the Flames is the case in point.


It is an epic story, with battle scenes, political intrigue, tests of friendship and having to do the right thing, no matter what.


It reminded me of Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori - of which I am a big fan. The story would find favour with readers who liked the above or who enjoy the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and House of Flying Dagger movies/graphic novels. There is an element of stories within stories here and like in CTHD, there is much more to the heroine than what you first see.


Daughter of the Flames is a thrilling action packed read. I've visited the Zoe Marriott's site (here) and I'm happy to see that there is a follow-up novel in the works to Daughter of the Fire - it is not a sequel, as such, but it is set a few years after the events of DOTF. I will make a note to check back regularly to see when it is released.

Sophia's Secret, Susanna Kearsley



Synopsis:


Carolyn McClelland, a writer of historical novels, finds herself with a familiar enemy; writer's block. A change of scenery leads her, and her book, in a whole new direction. Writing about the attempted Jacobite invasion of 1707, Carolyn takes up residence in a cottage in Edinburgh. Inexplicably drawn to Slains Castle, and not so inexplicably drawn to the charming, but somehow familiar, Stuart Keith, Carolyn is soon writing with an unusual speed and imagery which leads her to wonder whether her 'fictional' character of Sophia is really so fictional after all. Carolyn soon realises that she is somehow channelling the memories of her distant relative and that her story has a life of its own.


What I loved the most about Sophia's Secret is it's readability. It was like sitting down with a good friend who had a fantastic storytelling voice and settling in, calling forth the "campfire" gene and just letting the story wash over you.


A lot of cross-over historical novels are so boring you want to claw your eyes out and you skip long pages of deep introspection and description. This is not the case with Ms. Kearsley's work. The story is well crafted with the two main characters, Carrie and Sophia, each playing prominent roles in their respective time-frames.


The characters are fantastically indivdual. There is a bit of a creepy element as all of us have suffered deja vu and felt like we've come across someone we recognise from a time before, even if you've never met that person. There is an interesting section in which they discuss genetic memory as a scientific possibility and come to think about it, it is a pretty spectacular idea.


If the idea of reading a romance puts you off, be at ease: it isn't a bodice ripper. There is some good intrigue as we follow the machinations of the Jacobites, desperate to put the young King James on the throne of Scotland. The books deals with a very dark part of Scottish history and I found it fascinating.


I know a friend, Walton, would hate this description and will no doubt shout at me for it, but the information dump is never that. The author explains the setting and era with great skill and supreme ease which speaks of a familiarity with the time period. In tackling the "past" story, we aren't stifled by stilted dialogue and the action moves along at a good pace. The characters are drawn to be colourful, fleshing out their historical personas, making them real, bringing the history home.


In the now, Carrie comes across as a genuine person, someone who writes for a living and who relies on her own imagination to fill in the bits that she can't get out of history books. But in this we see her flounder and she is confronted with the seeming genuine memories of one of her ancestors, Sophia. I enjoyed sitting back to see the bits get pieced together.


The romance is light and written with a deft hand. I genuinely enjoyed reading Sophia's Secret and will happily be buying copies for friends. This is a perfect read for a holiday as it is an entertaining and interesting read. I can't reiterate it enough: don't be put off by either its historical or romance tag - it is both of these and more. A genuinely good read!


Competition News:


And I'm happy to say, somewhere along the line that gremlins crept into the postal system and I got a spare copy of Sophia's Secret published by Allison and Busby to give away - exciting, yes? Please note that I can only send this onto UK entrants this time around.


The competition is as follows: what is the other name the author writes under? Answers via email to me at the address on the right.


The book is out on the 22nd of September and I will give this competition one week to run - last day for entries will be Monday, 1st September.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sam Enthoven Interview or How he plans to take over the World


I apologise hugely to the amazing Sam about not posting this interview sooner - real life intervened but I am now very pleased to host this fun and entertaining interview.

Writing The Black Tattoo must have been great fun as it is a brilliant read. What made you decide to write the story?

Aw, thanks Liz! Glad you liked it!

Actually I remember the point when I first started thinking about Black Tat very well. It was about five years after I'd decided to go part-time at my job as a bookseller at Blackwell's on London's Charing Cross Road. I hadn't exactly been earning a fortune to begin with, and only working there evenings and weekends meant living off even less, but it did at least give me the rest of the day to concentrate on my writing. The thing was, at that point, five years in, I just didn't have very much to show for it.

I had written three books, but they had all been rejected – justifiably, with hindsight, as they were awful. But I used to count my rejection slips for my books and stories, and not long before I started Black Tat I'd passed the triple figures mark – something like a hundred and twenty! The windows in my flat wouldn't shut properly, so in winter I had to type in gloves. I was living mostly off instant noodles, plus whatever was being flogged off cheap before they chucked it out of the supermarket. My relatives all thought I was mental. They were probably right.


It was at that point that I came across an interview with Lee Child (who, by the way, I think is terrific). He was asked for the single best piece of advice he could give to an aspiring writer:

'Write the exact book that you yourself would be thrilled to read,' was his answer.



When I read that, it was like a door opened in my head. Up until that point, what I'd been doing with my stories, essentially, was second-guessing – trying to write something like what I thought books for young people were supposed to be, based on what I found in the kids' department of the bookshop. But all that this cautious desire to imitate others had brought me so far was failure. Now I bundled up that approach, threw it out of my drafty window, and instead started asking myself what I believe is the single best question anyone sitting down to plan a book should ask themselves. It goes something like this:


If you, individual, were to come across a book, in a bookshop or library, that had everything you wanted in a book – that was so engrossing that once you started reading you'd be helplessly unable to eat, sleep or do anything else until you finished it – what would that book be? What would the elements of it be?


One of the beauties of this question is that the answers can be different with every book you write. But that winter, I stopped thinking about what I thought 'might sell', and started thinking instead about what I would most love to read. In my case, at that point, it was… monsters, swordfights, flying kung fu, demonic possession, vomiting bats, a seven-way gladiatorial monster fight to the death set in Hell – etcetera! Black Tat essentially started out as a kind of wish list. Then I set about working out how I could make these elements come together, and off I went.

It took me five years to write – five more years of instant noodles and the rest of it (and even a few more rejection letters, at first). But now, crucially, I had passion and excitement about the story to help get me through the tough bits. And eventually, the other good stuff started to happen!


Do you have a favourite character in TBT and why?

I'm fond of Jack, of course – partly because he and I have a lot in common! But there's only one answer to this question, and I think you probably know who I'm going to say. It's Esme.


I knew from the start that Black Tat was going to be full of fights. But when I worked out that most of them were going to involve a fourteen-year-old girl, that's when I really started to get excited. There's a definite lineage of female warriors that you can trace in thrilling fiction. Buffy is a great example, of course. There's Trinity from The Matrix and The Bride from Kill Bill. My personal absolute favourite is Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise (have you read those books? Do! They're AMAZING!) But it has to be said that – these glowing exceptions aside – genuinely arse-kicking heroines are oddly thin on the ground. Instead, the big buzz-word that always gets used about female characters who can handle themselves is 'feisty'. Now: to me, 'feisty' implies that, underneath whatever front they're projecting, a heroine is quite charming and ordinary and nice once you get to know her. I knew that wasn't what I wanted with Esme at all.

I wanted a heroine who was scary – a female character whose inhuman single-mindedness made her a terror to anyone who crossed her. Once I started thinking about Esme the ideas started popping straight away. Esme has hobbies, but they're weird and obsessive ones. Esme wants to be nice, but she's better at hurting people than she is at talking to them – and so forth. I knew that Jack was the hero but, damn, any scene that had Esme in it was a joy to write.

Oh, and I also like the alligator dude who yells 'Riches! Riches!' after the Akachash.

I get the impression that you enjoyed setting the story in London. Do you think London is an underrated setting for storytelling?

All my books right now are set in London. It's a brilliant place for stories – particularly, I think, fantastical ones like mine.


It's a truism that fantasy stories need some kind of anchor in reality. Usually, in Tolkien-esque 'classic' fantasy anyway, authors compensate for the distancing effect of an imaginary setting by providing reams of detail – world-building. But for me, though there are exceptions (Scott Lynch's brilliant The Lies of Locke Lamora, or China Mieville's gob-smacking Perdido Street Station, or, well, pretty much anything by Chris Wooding, for instance!) I sometimes find I'm just not quite able to make the leap into fully immersing myself in that type of writing. It's not that I don't crave weirdness, wildness and adventure – on the contrary, I'm an addict! But to follow an author into all that, I need something to hang on to. A real-life location like London is just the ticket.


Partly it's the fame of the place: people all over the world know what London looks like (and as someone – glee! – who is starting to be published internationally, that's important). But mostly, it's the age of the city – all the layers of history that have been packed on top of each other here down the centuries. London is crammed with eccentricities and mysteries, all sorts of mad pockets of story-inspiring strangeness, but at the same time it's a real place – you can stand in it. That just seems like the ultimate winning combination for a story-setting to me. And I'm lucky enough to live here!


You have an awesome quote on the back of TBT by Neil Gaiman: “Vomiting bats? I’m sold”. What was your first reaction when you saw that quote and are you a fan of his work?





Neil "The God" Gaiman

I've been a fan of Neil Gaiman's writing for something like fifteen years, ever since first picking up some Sandman while I was at university. When my publishers started wondering about blurbs for Black Tat I knew I'd have to ask him – or try, at least!


I'd met Neil at a reading and signing of his, organized by Blackwell's. At a time when his encouragement was definitely appreciated (see above re noodles) he'd drawn a rat in an overcoat on the title page of my proof copy of Coraline, with the words 'Never give up! Keep writing!' I wrote to him via his website, reminding him of this and explaining a bit about Black Tat. To my absolute astonishment and delight, back came those words you quoted.


I ran straight out to the post office and sent him a proof of Black Tat, wrapped up in a picture of a bat. Some time passed, then I bumped into him again, at a press night for the stage musical of his and Dave McKean's Wolves in the Walls (which was great, by the way).

Casually as I could – which probably wasn't, very! – I asked Neil if he'd had a chance to read Black Tat. He gently and kindly explained something that, if I'd thought about it, ought perhaps to have been rather obvious.

Right now it seems almost everyone who has written a book would love to get a quote from Neil Gaiman on its cover. As a result, he said, he had a pile of proofs to read that was 'several times bigger than him.'


'Well…' I began, with a lack of shame that I can only slightly blame on the Belgian beer I'd consumed to get my nerve up to speak to him: 'Please can I put "Vomiting bats? I'm sold – Neil Gaiman" on my cover, anyway?'

'Yes,' he answered, 'but only if you put an asterisk and the message "Neil Gaiman has not actually read this book."'

The wording on the back cover of the Black Tat UK paperback is almost exactly as he instructed, with one tiny addition – the word 'yet'.

You never know! - grin -


Do you have any favourite authors or books that influenced your own writing?

LOTS! I've mentioned some here in this interview but I've listed, um, about five hundred more(!) on the website LibraryThing. You can reach the list (and some reviews and whatnot) through my LibraryThing profile, here.

I love recommending books to people, it's the main thing I miss about being a bookseller. I put that list together partly to scratch that itch, but also so young readers who like my stuff can find suggestions for other things they might want to check out next. Help yourself!

What is your writerly day like?

Over the ten years I worked part-time at Blackwell's I settled into a pretty good routine: basically on weekdays I would work on my writing until about four pm, then grab a sandwich and head out for my shift at the shop. This year will be my fourth 'non-retail Christmas' – that's still how I count 'em! But my routine (on days I'm not out doing events, of course) is substantially the same. The day's writing comes first – and no internet until it's done, either! Then after that, which still usually takes me until something like four pm, comes other stuff.

It's this 'other stuff' that has changed and grown – which, really, is why I finally gave up the bookselling. From four 'til around half eight/nine (my compulsory knocking-off time) I'm engaged in the other business that goes with being a full-time, self-employed writer – or does in my case, anyway. This consists of answering correspondence; keeping track of finances and admin; working on promotional activities; maintaining my websites (though I have Katie WebSphinx, who is a genius, to help me with that!) and – particularly – arranging visits to schools. I love getting the chance to be a visiting author in schools, it's one of my favourite parts of this job. But that and the other things can take up almost as much of my day as my actual writing does.

I'm not complaining. Far from it: this is my dream and I'm chasing after it as hard as I can! I would say, however, that managing my time has turned out to be one of the most useful 'writing skills' I've learned so far. I'd recommend it to anyone.

How do you unwind after a day of writing?

One of the great things about the routine above, for me, is that it takes the edge off the 'decompression stage' I seem to need to go through after I've spent any serious length of time sitting here making stuff up. My girlfriend might disagree with me on this(-!) but I don't think I'm half as weird and spacey after answering emails as I am right after, say, writing about monsters. - grin -

For me it's the winding up for a day's writing that's the hard bit. Among other things, every morning I have an exercise routine that I put myself through: a warm-up, followed by alternating days of t'ai chi or time on a rowing machine. I hate it – especially the rowing machine – but since my commute from bed to desk is about three feet, and I'm going to be sitting still there pretty much all day, it's essential. Plus, once it's out of the way the rest of the day often somehow seems to look easier!

Have you considered writing for adults?

Sure. In fact I did more than 'consider': I assumed I was always going to write for adults – right up until I stopped! But now I write for eleven- to fifteen-year-olds, and have been doing so for more than twelve years. I love it so much that, at present, I just can't see myself ever going back.

I love all kinds of storytelling: films, games, comics, animation, whatever. But books are one of the central passions and pleasures of my life. Reading's like food, like breathing, to me: I read first thing in the morning while I'm cleaning my teeth (it's boring otherwise!); I read last thing at night before I sleep – and any spare minute I get in between those times, odds are I'll be reading then, too. If I'm on a train, and the train stops, and the announcer says we're going to be stuck there for a while, everyone else in the carriage huffs and puffs. I smile – time for another chapter!

But it wasn't always that way. In fact I don't think I would ever have come to feel the way I do about reading if it hadn't been for the particular stories that I found and loved when I was eleven to fifteen.

The age for which I write is the age at which I became a reader. I'm not talking about the books taught in school – those were work. I'm talking about the stories that first showed me that books could be fun.

They were fast-paced books, with a rigorous focus on story. They had exciting things happen in them – confrontations, narrow escapes, and the tantalizing possibility that one person's decision at a crucial moment could make a difference. They also (heh! surprise!) tended to include things like monsters, explosions, monsters, fiendish schemes, chases, fights, and monsters.

Sometimes I had to dig quite hard to find those kinds of books. As far as ones specifically aimed at young people were concerned, back when I was eleven there was Douglas Hill and John Christopher (both of whom I adored) but that was about it. After that it was books for grownups. Thrillers. SF. Crime. Horror.


Now: sometimes adults would tell me that I shouldn't be reading those books. They said I should read things that were more 'improving' – stories about people in rooms talking to each other, written by authors who died long ago. You know: great works of literature! Eventually I did read those books. Eventually I even enjoyed them – and now, as I say, I read pretty much everything I can get my hands on. But I believe that I would not have read these so-called 'better' books, if I had not first been engaged by books that some people consider 'trashy'. If 'trashy' means stories that are fast and thrilling and full of action (and monsters!) then it's my belief that there are not enough 'trashy' books for young people in the world.

It's an honour to do my best to fill that gap. Because the possibility that one of my stories might catch someone at the age where they might become a lover of books and reading forever… wow. That's an incredibly inspiring goal to aim for, it seems to me. And it's one that writing for adults just doesn't offer.

You used to be a bookseller. Imagine yourself back to then: how would you sell The Black Tattoo to a parent or child? And how about Tim, Defender of the Earth?
I don't think Tim or Black Tat would be tough to sell, because in my experience customers in the kids' section ask booksellers for my type of writing (or something like it) all the time:

'What can we get for him [and it's usually "him"!] to read?' they ask. 'He thinks books are boring.'

Hearing back from young people who've felt this way and been proved wrong is, I'm thrilled to be able to tell you, immensely satisfying. HEE HEE HEE!

Can you tell us a bit more about Tim, Defender of the Earth?

It's a giant monster story – a gleeful tribute to cinematic city-stomping classics like Godzilla, Gamera, Kong and the Harryhausen movies. When I was touring around schools and libraries and bookshops with Black Tat, I asked my young audiences a particular question: which famous parts of London would they most like to see destroyed in a book? As you can imagine, I received a lot of highly enthusiastic answers to that, and I'm proud to say I managed to work pretty much all of them in. If you've ever had a yearning to read a story in which Big Ben gets snapped off and tossed like a caber (for instance!) then give Tim a wallop, I think you'll like it. For a free taste of the opening chapter, plus some other bits and pieces, take a look at my special Tim website: http://www.timdefenderoftheearth.com/

What is next on your writing schedule?

I'm currently (July '08) up to my eyeballs in what I modestly call Phase Three of my Sinister Masterplan to Conquer the Universe: the quickest way to describe the new project is that it's kind of like Alien meets Night of the Living Dead – for kids! I'm aiming to discover exactly how much menace, tension and horror I can get away with in a book that's aimed at young readers. Of course, it's not the readers I'm worried about giving nightmares to: it's their gatekeepers – reviewers, parents, and so forth (some adults can be so squeamish, don't you find? - grin - If all goes well, the book should be out in late 2009 or early 2010. I'll be sure to keep you posted. But now I'd better get back to it…!

Do you have any advice to young authors out there?

If I can get this far, that proves it can happen to you. Slog on. You can do it!

Best wishes to everyone who reads this.

Sam,
http://www.samenthoven.com/


The Black Tattoo, Sam Enthoven


Synopsis:


AN ANCIENT EVIL HAS BEEN UNLEASHED. NOW ONE BOY'S RAGE COULD DESTROY US ALL...


Jack's best mate, Charlie, has always been effortlessly cool. When Charlie wakes up one day and finds a mysterious, moving BLACK TATTOO on his back, it's a clear sign that he's even cooler than Jack thought. To top it off, Charlie is suddenly able to fight like a kung fu master, fly, and control the minds of others. Yes, he's got super powers.

Or does he?

Jack soon learns the terrifying truth: Charlie's incredible powers come from an age-old demon called the Scourge, who is using Charlie to bring about its evil masterplan. To stop the Scourge, Jack and Charlie join forces with Esme, a girl with super powers of her own, trained from birth to fight the demon. But time is running out, as Charlie falls deeper under the Scourge's dark spell.

When the Scourge vanishes with Charlie, Jack and Esme follow their friend from the streets of London into Hell itself, where they face horrors that may well cost them their lives. Can they survive to outwit the Scourge, save Charlie, and stop an even greater evil?


I picked up The Black Tattoo last year from Waterstones purely because of the incredible cover. I had to have it. And I'm glad I bought it as reading it was tremendous fun.


It is a YA book set in modern times and more specifically it is set in London, all around the West End. Even more points scored on my little card.


The story starts with Charlie going to meet his dad in China Town, dragging Jack with as a buffer. Charlie's dad has moved out and Charlie is genuinely struggling to cope. He is angry, he feels betrayed and he wants to hurt someone right back. Jack hangs back, unsure of how to react in this situation. He is torn between supporting his friend and his respect for Charlie's dad and his own concerns.


Charlie's anger calls to the dark powers and in a bit of tricky writing, worthy of Hollywood theatrics, Charlie's chosen to host the Scourge. Jack and newly made friend Esme decide to follow Charlie into Hell to save him from the Scourge and to somehow try and destroy it.


The book genuinely tears along at a tremendous pace. It starts a bit self-consciously, admittedly, but then you fall into the way the Charlie and Jack interact with one another and you realise that it is because of these two characters that the writing seems a bit self-conscious. They are two young lads, aged fourteen, with the world at their feet, the troubles of the world on their shoulders, because no one has ever been through the amount of crap they've been through. Sam Enthoven, the author, takes these boys in a time of high emotional volatality and dumps them in the worst possible situation, testing their friendship and their mettle. Throw in the mysterious butt-kicking Esme and rivalry rears its ugly head.


The scenes set in Hell are hilarious and written very tongue in cheek. I quote the back of the book, to give you an idea:


The creature had reared up in its true form, a frozen man-sized explosion of pink custard-like stuff. It wobbled and shook. Big bubbles formed and popped on its skin, belching out words.

"Fresh!" it burped. "Fresh meat! Fresh meat!"

"Whatever." Said Jack - and sighed. Yep, he thought. Gang up on the new guy. In some ways, when it came down to it. Hell was really predictable...


Need I say more? And I have to say, this is one of the coolest marketing gimmicks I had seen for a while: http://www.theblacktattoo.com/images/scarytatpic.jpg

I was lucky enough to secure a fantastic interview with Sam, please see the next post.

Meat, Jospeh d'Lacey - Movie News



I think the girls and boys over at the smaller indy publishers are really taking their time to find good quality horror and thriller fiction and for a lack of a better word, alternative fiction.


Case in point is Joseph d'Lacey's book Meat which has been published to critical acclaim by Bloody Books. People have a strong reaction to it - they either love it, or they hate it - either way Joseph's work is getting a strong reaction and it has people talking. I, personally, have not had a chanced to read it yet - but I will.


Joseph and I have been chatting via Facebook and he comes across as a funny guy with oodles of talent and he shared some incredible news: Meat has been optioned for a movie.


This is the article over at his Myspace page if you want to read it and comment, but below is the text copied across from there for those who might have problems accessing Myspace.


The movie situation

The situation is this:

About six months ago, when MEAT first hit the shelves, I was approached by an independent UK filmmaker who wanted to option the novel. Believing the book was going to be HUGE, I told him I'd think about it. On the one hand, I hoped someone in Hollywood might get wind of it – rumours at the time were that a player in LA had a copy and was spreading the idea around. On the other hand, I felt that if a screen version of the novel was to be made, I wanted it to be a British movie: grim locations, grim actors and grim realism.

So, for a long time, I did nothing. Perfectly normal behaviour for me.

I soon realised no interest was coming from the States – not even for publication rights. The UK producer, the scriptwriter and I met again. And then again. They seemed very serious and I told the producer to make me an offer. There was another long wait and then another meeting. The offer was on the table.

At that point I decided I needed a lawyer and found myself a heavy hitter. We made a counter-proposal which was counter-proposed. We then ironed out the final wrinkles. Today, I met the producer and scriptwriter again and we popped the champagne. The deal is finalised.

Details:

Production Company: Antshake Ltd
Producer: Sean Kelly
Screenwriter: John Costello

What happens next:

By the end of November we'll have a first draft treatment. The hunt for financiers has already begun, as has the compiling of lists of possible directors and the cast. Sales agent and visits to film festivals to follow…

I really do wish him the best of luck!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Hobbit Movie News - aka Geekgasm


My RSS feed has just cropped up with this story - his Highness, Peter Jackson has decided to co-write the screenplay for The Hobbit! Guilermo del Toro will be directing TH and giving Peter Jackson a hand with the screenplay, along with the amazing Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.


Frankly, with these guys on board, I do not see anything going awry. But then I am not a rabid Tolkien reader/fan. I love the books, the world, the mythology and the movies but appreciate the differences in having to tell the story on the screen and reading it.


Apparently, TH will be filmed in one long shoot, and then released two years consecutively a la LOTR.


I thank the heavens that we live just around the corner from Leicester Square! TH needs the massive screens they have at these movie houses. I remember - she says nostalgically, pinching a tear - going to see the various LOTR movies on their premiere days, how the audience cheered Bilbo deciding to take up the quest, and how everyone cried out in pain when Boromir had the bad grace to die, leaving Scrummy Vigo to kill Lurtz or the fight for Eisengard with the ents...ah, the goode olde days.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

ITV3 - Crime Thriller Awards


The Bookseller reported that twelve novels have been shortlisted for the three fiction prizes at ITV3’s inaugural Crime Thriller Awards.


Retailers such as Waterstones, Tesco and WH Smith have all signed up to help promote the initiative and one of the organisers said: "It is likely to be the most successful campaign in terms of promoting crime and thriller writing that there has ever been."


The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on 3rd October, which will be broadcast on ITV3 on the 6th. The 12 novels fall into three categories: breakthrough author award, international author of the year and author of the year.


They are listed as follows:


The shortlists in full:


Breakthrough Author Award


Chelsea Cain, Heartsick (Pan)

Stuart MacBride, Broken Skin (Harper)

Michael Robotham, Shatter (Sphere)

Anne Zouroudi, The Messenger of Athens (Bloomsbury)


International Author of the Year


Jeffery Deaver, The Sleeping Doll (Hodder & Stoughton)

Stieg Larsson, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Quercus)

Karin Slaughter, Skin Privilege (Arrow)

PJ Tracy, Snow Blind (Penguin)


Author of the Year


Lee Child, Bad Luck and Trouble (Bantam)

Robert Harris, The Ghost (Hutchinson)

Peter James, Not Dead Enough (Pan)

Ian Rankin, Exit Music (Orion)

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Man With The Golden Torc, Simon R Green



I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book with a title like this – my worst fear was that it was going to end up being the literary equivalent of the ‘Scary Movie’ franchise, a spineless rehashing somebody else’s ideas.

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. While giving a nod to the over the top antics of 007, Golden Torc is a clever, action packed adventure with a very interesting take on things.

The main character, Eddie Drood, is a field operative for the secretive and powerful Drood family, which he firmly believes is sworn to protect mankind from the evil and /or otherworldly, a task made easier by their supernatural ‘living metal’ armour and array of fantastic weapons.

Then, for no reason, his world is turned upside down- declared rogue by the Droods, he’s a wanted, hunted man, pursued by enemies powerful enough to level city blocks without breaking a sweat. He needs answers – fast- and to do that, he’s going to have to cross lines he thought were inviolate, to find shades of grey in what used to be a black and white world.

His road to the startling revelations that await is littered with enough bullet casings, bodies and burning wreckage to make John Woo’s films look like a Blue Peter presentation. Accept Golden Torc for the rampaging beast it is and you’ll enjoy the ride- I did and I can’t wait to lay my mitts on the follow up (it's part 1 of The Secret Histories), Demons Are Forever!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Stephen Cole Interview


Stephen is the author of numerous young adult novels and was
the project editor of Dr Who books, video and audio in the late 90s. This is the link to his Wikipedia page. I reviewed one of Stephen's books: The Bloodline Cipher a little while ago (here) and managed to track him down for an interview. This is what he wrote back to my questions:


You have written numerous books, from your Astrosaurs books to the Wereling trilogy to numerous TV tie-in books, to name but a few. How do you sustain your pace and what do you do to relax on those rare occasions when you aren’t writing?

I do seem to be writing most of the time, it’s true, but that’s because I always want to seize opportunities when they arise rather than say no and hope someone asks me again someday. It helps that I write different things, from audio plays to chapter books, so I don’t ever feel in a rut. I relax by making music with my band and reading stacks of old Marvel comics. My office is overflowing with them…


What is your process for putting together a series like The Wereling books or even the Joshua Wish books? Do you take one book at a time or do you sit down and plan an overall bigger story and create each book to fit in with that, with other bits of plot thrown in for good measure?

With the Wereling, it was conceived very much as a trilogy from the beginning so I planned out the basic story arc of all three at quite an early stage. With Thieves, I was never sure if it was going to be a series or a standalone. I did the first one, and then decided to do another. And after that, I agreed to one more because I wanted to find out what Coldhardt was really up to – I hadn’t decided at that point!


Having asked the above question, and linked in with that, are you a meticulous plotter or do you allow your characters to stray a bit when you write the story?

I like to be sure I have a plot that works before I begin – kind of a statement of intent – but inevitably you change it as you go through. Bloodline was a bit nerve-racking because I had one character a traitor and it suddenly seemed way too obvious - so I had to give her a different destiny and change tack halfway through… I also decided to change the nature of the cipher itself, to make it more exciting. I’m a great believer that the subconscious leads us in the right direction without us realising it, especially in something like writing, and I found little bits I’d written early on that seemed to point the way towards what on some level I must have wanted to happen all along. So yes, all kinds of characters and plot points strayed in TBC but I enjoyed getting them back under control and it’s my favourite book in the trilogy.

In The Bloodline Cipher (TBC), you have Joshua and his team come up against a pretty ruthless group of people. Did you purposefully create the bad guys to be so very shocking?

Yeah, the ‘anti-talent’ are a pretty vile bunch, and I think a bit of a wake-up call to Jonah and the others that this is so easily what they could have become – what they might yet become – if they stay in that kind of life too long, get used to the violence of it.


The team fits together quite well, even if there is friction between them on occasion. Did you have any external inspiration for creating them and putting together their various and very diverse backgrounds?

I was looking for a mix of people who would be a real ragbag of ages, cultures and backgrounds, thrown together and forced to get on. It’s like, you don’t get to choose the people in your family… So I had fun imagining the past lives of these people and how that would have honed their talents and affected their behaviour. That was done before I started writing anything else.

Your writing is very visual with strong imagery throughout. Do you think that Thieves Like Us, The Aztec Code, The Bloodline Cipher, would translate well into movies? And if you did, do you have a favourite director that you think might do them justice?

When I write, I tend to imagine the action as though I’m seeing it on a cinema screen… There’s been some film interest in the books but nothing definite as yet, so if Sam Raimi wanted a look, LOL…

In TBC there is quite a bit of fighting and violence, have you ever trained in any marital arts yourself and have you ever been in a fight yourself?

No, I’m a total coward and don’t exercise anything like enough! I was attacked in the street as a teenager once but luckily escaped into a nearby pub… I grew up loving chase and fight scenes on TV, in everything from The Avengers to The Sweeney, so I enjoy sticking them into books.

Where did your idea for Coldhardt running this crack team of thieves come from?

In the third Wereling book a character is mentioned who’s a burglar specialising in ripping off supernatural residences. I quite liked the idea and Coldhardt came from there. I started wondering what happens to uber-burglars who get too old to do their thing but don’t want to retire – and decided they’d have to get young experts to help out. So really it’s the classic thing of one idea leading to another.


The research into the concept behind TBC (the ancient grimoire) must have lead you down some very interesting paths. How much research do you do for your books?

Loads! God bless the internet and the library. The grimoire I found a fascinating idea, and I read a lot about the Voynich manuscript which was all very creepy, and approaches taken to translating it, and also research into code-breaking, dialect, Chinese handwriting, all kinds of arcane stuff. I love researching things, especially as a bit of research puts off having to actually write the book! With the Jonah adventures, there’s lots of globetrotting too; and while I tried to pick locations in the three books that I’ve actually been to, there are a few I haven’t and I had to absorb no end of backpackers’ blogs, guide books, missionary diaries, etc etc to get enough convincing detail to make it a real place for me.

Away from Joshua and his gang, and back to your Dr. Who background – do you have a favourite Doctor Who?

I think Tom Baker will always be my favourite, as he’s the one I grew up with. But David Tennant is great and I’ve enjoyed writing for his Doctor in the books and comic strips a lot.

Do you have any literary heroes and in the same vein, have you ever read a book and gone “I wish I had written that!”?

I guess Stan Lee is my biggest literary hero, not for his prose – which is incredibly patchy - but for the colour of his imagination and for the way he’s inspired so many people to write, myself included. Other comic book writers like Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway spring to mind as heroes. I wish I had written the whole ‘Death of Gwen Stacy’ sequence and its aftermath in Amazing Spider-Man back in the early 1970s. I can still quote chunks of that…

Do you find that writing to background music helps you set the pace for your writing and novels?

I can’t listen to music while writing, I get too distracted. Which makes it very dull for me sitting at the computer!

And finally, you have a big following, both young and old and I am sure you have inspired a lot of them to want to write. Do you have any words of wisdom for any aspiring authors out there?

Be persistent, but be realistic. Don’t cling to treasured ideas that aren’t working. Grow a thick skin and listen to criticism. And enjoy what you do – if you’re writing for personal fulfilment first, you’re getting something out of it, whether or not publishers and plaudits follow.

Gotham Writers' Workshop: Writing Fiction


I was really flattered by A&C Black deciding to send me some writing books to review. I know a lot of the MFB readers are writers themselves, either published or hopefuls and thought that covering some of the newer writing reference books on MFB would be of help.

Here then is my first review:

Gotham Writer's Workshop - Writing Fiction

Gotham Writers Workshop is America's leading private creative writing school. This is their website: http://www.writingclasses.com/.

Writing fiction walks you through the fundamentals of writing fiction - character, plot, point of view, description, dialogue, setting, amongst others. Not so different from many other writing guide books out there, you would think. And you are right - it covers a lot of similar ground to others but it presents these subjects afresh and therein lies the fun.


It is one of the most accessible books I've read on the craft of writing. You can literally jump between chapters and each chapter in itself is broken down into informative and informal lessons giving advice and guidance on matters such as Chapter 10 - Revision: Real Writers Revise


It is broken down into the following:


First Drafts

Prelude to Revision

The Revision Process

The Big Picture

Plot

Point of View

Description

Dialogue


amongst others.


It is a concise and thorough guide and one that I enjoyed as an aspiring writer. The book deals with many questions and the thing is: they don't dolly up writing into something amazing and wonderful. They clearly state that it is hard work, they give examples of well known books to look at and there is a short story, Cathedral by Raymond Carver which they refer to during the course of the book which is included in the Appendix.


Each chapter is written by a different tutor and it is interesting to read through - you can tell they sourced the best of their course to put together this book and unlike some other writerly books, this one does not intimidate or talk "down" to the prospective writer. I would rate this very highly, and it has taken space next to my all-time favourite writers guide, On Writing by Stephen King.


There are bits of excercise you can do, after each chapter and section and these are aimed to help and make you consider your own thinking. Again, not so new, you might think, compared to some other writing guides. These excercised however are focussed entirely on you and your writing, as an example, in the chapter: The Business of Writing: Driving yourself nuts for fun and profit, the "Your Turn" excercise made me hesitate a bit and I felt guilty because I examined my own life and fell way short. This is what it says: Make a list of ten things that you can do to make writing more a priority in your life. This can include anything from waking up earlier to hiring a baby-sitter to excercising (to give yourself more energy) to signing up for a writing class. Post this list somewhere, above your desk or on the regrigerator. Then really do those things, at least some of them. The best way to become a writer is to get serious about being a writer. And the best time to start is right now.


More direct encouragement, you surely do not need. I'm signing off now, to go and write whilst my Sunday roast is cooking. Happy writing and reading!

The Mozart Conspiracy, Scott Mariani


Synopsis:


Who really murdered Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1790s Vienna? Was he poisoned by a jealous rival composer? Was he killed for breaking the Freemasons’ code of silence? Or was a shadowy historical Order somehow involved in his death? Was the bizarre and brutal murder of pianist Oliver Llewellyn two centuries later somehow connected?


These are the questions facing troubled former SAS soldier Ben Hope in a breathless quest to find the killers of his friend Oliver. At the centre of the mystery lies an old letter, rediscovered after many years, which may or may not have been written by Mozart himself.

From the city of Oxford to Ravenna, Venice, Vienna and the snowy mountains of Slovenia, Ben and his old flame the world-famous opera singer Leigh Llewellyn must race across Europe to uncover the truth and stay one step ahead of a determined group of killers bent on erasing all trace of THE MOZART CONSPIRACY…


I received my second Ben Hope adventure from Avon recently and this week, finding myself in an adventure reading mood, because of the new job, I couldn't resist this attractive looking book and it's premise.

I genuinely thought, in Scott Mariani's first book, that he dropped his main character into a whole world of trouble. I expected The Mozart Conspiracy to start of slowly and build up. I thought Scott would take it easy on Ben.

He doesn't. Boy, does he pull the rug from underneath Ben's feet and literally have him on adventure mode right from the start. I loved it! I seriously did - I'm not saying this out of loyalty to the author or the brand or anything of the kind. It is written in a filmic way, with short concise scenes that move the story along at a cracking pace.

Scott's writing, although it was good in the first Ben Hope adventure, has lost it's bit of hesitancy in this, the second adventure. You immediately pick up how comfortable he is with Ben, the storyline and the surroundings. He seems to sit back and let the story flow, like a good writer and ref should.
The plot is tight and puts paid to the rambling adventure novels like the Bourne books. Here you know exactly what's what and you can't help but enjoy it. I knew Mozart used to be a Freemason, mostly because of Falco's song back when I was growing up called "Rock me Amadeus". I've never watched the movie, Amadeus and knew little enough about the composer or his life. The way Scott Mariani conveys the story, bit by bit, as you watch the characters put it all together is good fun - the suspense and thrilling adventure is cranked up to a scale of John Woo.
Again, this is very filmic and if you are a fan of adventure stories, be they movies or books, this is definitely someting for you. There are "boy bits" to the book - expounding on guns and fight scenes - but then there is the mystery, suspense and research bits to it. It really forms up very well into a strong read and I'm even more in love with the tortured Ben Hope who, you have to say, sounds like he could put the world to rights, if he had the chance to. We leave Ben at the end of the book in quite a state and I have to say, I was shocked. Shocked by what happened at the end and the twist in the tale. But it did not detract from my enjoyment.

All in all, a worthy follow up of The Alchemist's Secret. The supporting cast is brilliantly chosen and Leigh, Ben's first love, is a pleasant surprise and I genuinely enjoyed reading her. The grumpy cop, Kinski, excells at being what a cop in these novels should be: stubborn, grumpy, good at what he does, and prepared to walk that very thin line between being a bad man for a good reason or just plainly being a bad man.

At the end of the novel is a fun interview with Scott Mariani and I am happy to report, the next Ben Hope adventure is in the process of being put together. Hurrah! Again, this is Scott's website and you can find Avon's site here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer


I'm not going to worry about a preamble. If you don't know the background behind Breaking Dawn or the debacle surrounding it and it's author, Stephenie Meyer, then you must have been hiding in a outer Mongolia the past few months not to have been swept up in the sensation that is Stephenie Meyer's meteorotic climb to stardom in the world of amazing book sales.


I received my copy from Atom and couldn't wait to get stuck into it. Before I knew it, I was three hundred pages in, shouting at the characters. I had to put the book down and walk away. I was taking it too personally. I was wanting to write the book. I left it alone the whole weekend, not being able to go near it, giving myself time to cool off. Instead I read other books, but I dreamed Bella and Edward and Jacob. It was not healthy, to say the least.


The story concludes the three previous books, Twilight, Eclipse and New Moon in a way that the author clearly felt she wanted to end Bella and Edward's story. I've not read a single other review, but I know, from others telling me, that Breaking Dawn's received a very mixed response. Some loved it, some hated - there doesn't seem to be a middle ground. I suppose, it is, like the (dreaded HP analogy here) last book in the HP saga - JKR clearly felt that she needed to drawn a line under all these characters so many of her readers have come to love and share their lives with. It had to stop, no matter what! And she gave them closure.


I finished reading Breaking Dawn last night and put it aside. And cried. I cried because the book still spoke of that almost unattainable thing in real life: true love with someone you initially thought so completely unattainable you would never consider taking the chance. It spoke of the author's desire to tie up loose ends and make everyone happy.


We have Jacob who will now forever be part of Bella's life and Bella's father Charlie has to cope with a helluva lot of things that come his way but he gets through the trauma sufficiently to remain his usual dry self. The biggest change of course is in Bella but the story doesn't just centre on her change - we see it a lot of the story more clearly from Jacob's perspective and from some of the other vampires' perspectives and it gives you a feel of a bigger story being told.

Official MFB verdict: I loved it. I also hated it. Team Jacob did not win. Not in the way I wanted it to. But in the end, I could see why it was done this way and I chose (notice the choice of words here) to bow out with good grace, like Jacob, and to consider the impact of the story and the author's decision making process.


Breaking Dawn is a fitting end of this series. Everyone is happy. It all ends on a fairytale ending. The ending is bittersweet ... and yet, yet, I somehow can't shake the feeling that that's not all she wrote, to be honest. There is this feeling of lingering malice...because isn't that what fairytale endings are all about? The fact that the big bad wolf (or vampire) is lurking in the forest, ready to take advantage...or maybe it's wishful thinking on my part?


I apologise - this is not the type of review I usually write. I'm giving scant information about the storyline and am harping on about how it made me feel. Which, to be honest, is where the success in any book lies - how it makes you feel. I laughed, I cried, I sobbed, I tossed the book aside in anger and disgust and I picked it up again and I read it to the very end, because I loved it, irrevocably. This is what storytelling is about - taking a pack of cards, tossing 'em into the air and putting them back together again, to form the perfect package. I genuinely don't mind what other reviews say about BD - it has done what the author set out to do - it drew a line under Jacob, Bella and Edward.


There is a new generation now, afterall, in the Cullens household... who knows what's going to happen next?

Tom Scatterhorn and The Museum’s Secret by Henry Chancellor




About the novel: Welcome to the Scatterhorn Museum! But don't get too excited - it's a cold and dingy place, crammed full of tatty stuffed animals and junk. Nobody much wants to visit any more, and its days are surely numbered. But when Tom is sent to live here he soon finds there is more to this museum than meets the eye. The animals may be shabby and moth-eaten - but they possess an incredible secret. And when Tom discovers he can go right back to the time of their making, a hundred years earlier, he embarks on a journey full of unimaginable terrors...Join Tom in his breathtaking adventure in and out of time, from an Edwardian ice fair to the wastes of Mongolia, the jungles of India, and beyond...


Tom Scatterhorn and The Museum’s Secret is an all out boys adventure. Poor Tom, I really did feel sorry for him. He gets fobbed off to his aunt and uncle, who look after the Scatterhorn museum, by his mother who goes on a quest to discover what had happened to his father who had disappeared off to Mongolia to do research about bugs.

Ech. Is all I can say. Bugs. And I am happy to say, it doesn’t just stay at bugs. We have a menagerie of wild animals at the Scatterhorn Museum. A mysterious Bad Man by the name of Don Gervase and his daughter Lotus. They are all involved in something dark and very weird – so weird that it really took me by surprise.

The story itself is well written and Tom is a likeable character. I was not entirely fond of his aunt and uncle who really both did deserve a slap against the head as they took very bad care of the museum, letting it fall into bad disrepair and they don’t take much care of Tom either. This of course allows Tom to have several adventures and he quickly realises that all is not as it seems - nothing about his life or the museum.
Who is the mysterious Don Gervase and his odd daughter, why is there such enmity between the Catchers and Scatterhorns and is there really a fantastic jewel hidden away somewhere in the museum.

Combined with time-travel to the past, where Tom meets an ancestor and the chap who had created the now moulding stuffed animals in the Museum. The author teases the story out with an adept hand and drops poor Tom into several scrapes and adventures right through from the Museum to the jungles of India. The story rushes along at a good pace and I genuinely enjoyed it for its matinee goodness. It is a bit odd and quirky, with just enough of a skewed slant, to be filmed by the likes of Tim Burton or Guilermo Del Toro or, on a good day, Terry Gilliam.

I loved the story, the style of writing is easy to read and Tom is a good fun character to follow on his adventures. My only gripe is the aunt and uncle who are a bit irritating. The Bad Man is indeed very evil, deliciously so and I am looking forward to finding out what else he’s going to throw at Tom in the novels that are yet to come. The story is however, very much a read for youngsters. I am keen to see Tom grow in character as his adventures develop and to see him grow up.

Tom Scatterhorn and the Secret of the Museum is released on the 4th of September and is published by Oxford Univeristy Press.

Sold by Patricia McCormick


Synopsis:

Thirteen-year-old Lakshmi lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though they are desperately poor, Lakshmi’s life is full of simple pleasures: playing hopscotch with her best friend, looking after her black-and-white speckled goat, having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when Lakshmi’s family lose all that remains of their crops in a monsoon, her stepfather says she must leave home and take a job in the city. Lakshmi undertakes the long journey to India full of hope for her new life, proud to be able to earn, daring to hope that she will make enough money to make her mother proud too. Then she learns the unthinkable truth: for 10,000 rupees she has been sold into prostitution.

Sold is a story about human survival, injustices done to women who are still treated as cattle, and about the continuous struggle of people in abject poverty whowill do anything to survive

I realised from the word “go” that this book is going to be wildly different to anything I had ever read before. The chapters are short, written in Lakshmi’s strong singular voice. We meet her as a young girl living in a mountain village in Nepal. Her life is hard but hers is a voice of optimism, a naivety which is charming rather than annoying. Her father sells her to go and work for a rich family, to wash and clean for them. This seems to be the euphemism for being sold into the sex trade.

Lakshmi has no idea, until it is too late, what it is that’s been done with her future, her life. And it is heartbreaking to see her go through the struggle of trying to cope with it all and how she still tries her best to survive, to be her, and not to lose her sense of being.

I know I always carry on about the style of writing and the character’s voice, but these are tremendously important to me as a reader. I am sure it resonates the same way with other readers. I copy, with permission of both author and Walker Books the following short excerpt to illustrate the strong voice and imagery used in telling Lakshmi’s story:

WHAT I CARRY

Inside the bundle Ama packed for me are:
My bowl,
My hairbrush,
The notebook my teacher gave me for being the number one girl in school,
And my bedroll.

Inside my head I carry:
My baby goat,
My baby brother,
My ama’s face,
Our family’s future.

My bundle is light.
My burden is heavy.

I would urge everyone, especially if you are female, to buy a copy of Sold. Although it is supposed to be a young adult novel, it speaks to people of both sexes and all ages in a vibrant and honest voice that is hard to deny.

The story is amazing – it is beautifully told, the horror of Lakshmi’s life is illustrated in such a restrained way which says a lot about the author’s skill. She could have gone for violent descriptive passages but she doesn’t. She reigns it in, keeping to these spare strong chapters that leave you reeling with the power of the story and the sheer inner strength of the main character and those surrounding her.

It is not an easy read, I have to be honest, but it's style and the grace of the main character really carries the story beyond the mundane.

The novel is endorsed by Amnesty International UK as contributing to a better understanding of human rights and the values that underpin them.

More about the author here and more about Walker Books here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mummy Winner and Mummy Movie News


Congrats to Gareth - he's won the Mummy poster! Does a little dance - well done to you, G!


We've been to see the The Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon King this morning. Okay, I swear, no spoilers here. So, read on: if you are after tremendous action, explosions, yetis, dragons, mummy's, sword fights, gun fights - in other words, a matinee movie, then this is it.


Don't look too closely to the storyline, as there are some problems, but the photography is really good, as are the set pieces. My biggest gripe - the fight scene between Michelle Yeoh's character and that of Jet Li's character - they did not have enough screen time at all - these are some of the world's biggest action stars who have tremendous fighting skills and they maybe have five minutes on screen, including their fight scene. I hope when the DVD comes out, that they decide to put in an enhanced fight scene, because eventhough the movie is good fun and will rake in the money, it lacks that something...


I was pleasantly surprised to see how much Brendan Fraser has buffed up - he is a big lad and he shed a lot of chubby weight and it shows...there was an obligatory bare chest scene, just for the girls and it is not too bad, at all. *ahem*


I can say a lot more, but I won't except: it is simply a summer blockbuster which entertains and thrills.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Snippets of News

Announcement from Sarah Singleton:
I am happy to say that The Amethyst Child has been long-listed for the Manchester Book Award 2009. There are 24 books on the list - the short-list will be announced in November.

Emma Bull’s response to being nominated in the World Fantasy Awards:
Reaction #1: SQUEEEEEEEE!


Reaction #2: But...what about all those other books that came out this year? Glowing, dazzling, brilliant books? How do you pick just five?The thought of the books that didn't make the list tempers my squee. But I'm still pleased and proud. And I'm pleased and proud that Will's Gospel of the Knife made the list, as well.

More World Fantasy Award News:
Special Award
Non-professional:Midori Snyder and Terri Windling for Endicott Studios Website – I sometimes wonder if these ladies realise the influence Endicott Studios exerts over its readers. I am absolutely thrilled for them.

Life Achievement Award are: Leo & Diane Dillon, and Patricia McKillip – again Patricia’s work is groundbreaking and she is an amazing person. So well done to all those nominated. This is a full list of everyone nominated.


Cassandra Clare has an official pic over at her LJ of three of her books together and they do look very pretty, indeed. I can’t wait to get started on the second instalment!

The guys and girls over at Bloody Books, the new imprint of Beautiful Books must be so vastly proud of Joseph D’Lacy who launched the imprint – he’s had a real genuine dinkum offer come through to make his novel, Meat, into a movie. I naturally belong to his Facebook group for Meat.

The book The Picture of Dorian Gray is being made into a movie. This is the snippet over at Empire Magazine.

Chris at The Book Swede is running a competition to win The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan over at his blog . He’s also done a very interesting interview with Richard on The Steel Remains as well as some general gabbing about writing and his other books.

Patrick over at Fantasy Booklist is running a ten book Solaris competition which is making me tremendously jealous in its coolness. You can find it here .
And! the best news of all, our favourite artist, the amazing Chris McGrath is doing a 2009 Dresden Files Calendar. The link is here.

Exam Results News

I am happy to report my exam results for the year 2007 /2008 on year one of my property course:
3 merits
1 distinction

I totally aced it!

The Fantastic Appeal of Fantasy


Back in the baby days of this blog, January 2007, I gushed madly about Mark Chadbourn's work here . You can tell it was the baby days - the formatting wouldn't work, no matter what I did!

Since then I've become an advocator to his fantastic works and I was a member of his Forum until quite recently when my computer died and I lost all my cookies and passwords. So now I visit vicariously and lurk. However, I've had a chance to catch up with Mark through the amazing site Wonderlands (link) which is, like Stephen Hunt's SF Crowsnest Hivemind site, a place for writers, fantasy fans and artists to network and chat.

This is an article which Mark Chadbourn wrote for the Telegraph about the ongoing appeal of Fantasy which I know a lot of you out there in the blogosphere will enjoy.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, Chris Priestley



It seems quite fitting that I’m here writing this with thunder stalking the night and dead leaves whispering their secrets in the backyard. Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror is a deliciously dark and wonderfully macabre collection of stories that deserve to be read by candlelight ..when you’re alone.

Sitting by the fire in the study of his old and very dark house, the enigmatic uncle Montague regales young Edgar with fantastic stories of wonder and terror, bringing the oddities lining the walls to life, while the wind tugs at the shutters and strange thumps resound from the deserted rooms above.

More than a collection of classically gothic horror, a darker undercurrent runs through uncle Montague’s stories, inexorably dragging something dreadful to the surface, something that will make his uncle’s warning ring very true..

“You would not like it here after dark…”

Chris Priestley has done a great job – I absolutely loved this book, devouring it in two sessions. His stories are fresh and served with generous lashings of atmosphere; any one of them could be expanded into an enthralling novel on it’s own. For me, Winter Pruning takes the prize –top notch! It brings elements of Grimm and Poe and classic, black-and-white horror together beautifully.

More! More!



You can visit the website here.

Breaking Dawn News


I got this link sent through to me by one of the lovely people at Orbit this morning regarding the amazing sales and fanbase surrounding Breaking Dawn: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/aug/05/booksforchildrenandteenagers .

I am thrilled that it is doing so well. I have purposefully not read any reviews or opinions about the book, at all. In fact, as I was writing this, my copy has just appeared thanks to my amazing little Postie!

I am not sure how the book will end but I am totally Team Jacob!

Competition - Traitor Game by B R Collins


The Bookwitch over at her Wordpress blog has let me know she is running a competition of this lovely YA book that's only recently been released by Bloomsbury.


It is a fun competition - go count the sweeties! This is her site: http://bookwitch.wordpress.com .